If I begin every post with an observation on how quickly time passes, I’m pretty sure it’ll either become a tired trope, a tired meme, or just plain boring. So I won’t necessarily remark on the fact that a month’s gone by since my last post, despite all my best intentions to post more regularly.
Here, have a selfie of me and a goat:
And a photo of Libra and Gemini feeding baby goats at a petting zoo with their Lala:
We’ve been visiting with her, you see, four hours away by two planes in northwest Arkansas, for the past couple of weeks. It was a bit of a magical time, the plane rides notwithstanding – on the return trip, I opted not to take anti-nausea pills, and paid the humiliating price of having my head in an airsick bag for twenty minutes while my entirely unsympathetic children laughed at me and pretended to duck out of the way – and we had a great time playing tourist in a very beautiful part of the country.
We visited a local cave, which is the first real cave either Libra or Gemini had visited. I’ve been to Merrimac Caverns a little further north, and this was quite a different experience, much more hemmed-in and small, although this cave system has the untried benefit of offering spelunking tours for private groups. They didn’t take photos until after they’d shut off and then restored the lights, to give folks an idea of true darkness, which explains the unhappy faces on both my little ones.
We visited downtown Betonville, home of the very first store Sam Walton opened, a statue and fountain dedicated to the fallen Confederate soldiers of the Civil War, and a restaurant called Table Table (okay, Table Mesa, but really now), and also a really great pop-up crepe shop run out of what we assume are the owners’ backyard/driveway. Libra’s happily digging into his dark chocolate and salted caramel crepe:
While Gemini opts for a deliciously seasonal strawberry and Nutella crepe, possibly also with salted caramel and whipped cream:
Poppy – my grandfather, the kids’ great-grandfather – opted for barbecue instead. I don’t blame him. My partner double-dipped and got a crepe and bbq and that shit is bananas.
The real highlight, of course, was buying fireworks, which have probably been outlawed in California since forever. Even sparklers. So the kids have never had any experience with them directly, save for watching them break over the bay during the Fourth of July. They were super-excited. Hell, I was super-excited; even as a kid growing up, we were never allowed anything more exciting than sparklers, and where we were visiting there were no restrictions on sale or use of anything. For nearly two thousand dollars we could have bought a “professional-grade” fireworks display that included explosives that soared up half a mile and shot out sparks over 200 feet, and then set them off from our back porch!
They were even more excited to set them off, naturally, which we did in the street in front of their Lala’s house. Mostly we stuck to hand-held sparklers, little smoke bombs, little cars and tanks and pyramids that shot sparks in one direction or another – nothing truly spectacular or dangerous after all, despite all the kids we witnessed in the local park actually firing small bottle rockets at each other. EXCEPT for a three-pack of ladybugs, which I bought because for some reason I thought the packaging explained that they’d spin three to six feet into the air, emit sparks and a report, and then be done.
We were accordingly shocked and awed and not a little bit terrified when we lit the damn thing and it squealed like a stuck pig and exploded upward some sixty feet, eventually landing in a neighbor’s front lawn.
We also ate lots of dessert. LOTS. Dessert for breakfast, dessert after lunch, dessert after dinner: cookies, cobblers, ice cream, milkshakes, pie, flan. It was exhausting. And delicious.
We found wildlife in some very unexpected places. That little brown spot on the wall? It’s a bat, which Gemini discovered by virtue of being exactly the right height to spot it clinging onto this wall beneath a half-stair and porch as we walked to the Fayetteville farmers’ market.
And yes, these are a lot of photos, but this isn’t even half of our trip, really. There are plenty more moments I didn’t capture, including the tantrums and swollen chigger bites I hope to forget quite soon, but not limited to that. The visit to the nature center of the local preserve, the beautiful sunrise over the lake. Driving through a safari park that lets you take your own car through several hundred acres of free-roaming antelope, bison, camels, emu, water buffalo, and barking deer; we had to stop twice for animals that would simply not move off the road. Visiting with my dad and his family, who drove down to spend time with us from their home five hours’ drive away, and losing spectacularly to him at go-karts because I had to lie to get Gemini in and then he spent the whole ride clinging to me and white as a sheet. And also I couldn’t reach the accelerator. Which, yes, is probably just a chickenshit way to avoid admitting I was too afraid to floor it all the way and never once let up, which is how Gramps nearly lapped us.
The photos also don’t capture what I’ve heard referred to several times but have never before actually experienced: Southern hospitality. I’ve never had half so many small, intimate conversations with strangers in ten years living here on the coast as I did in ten days in small-town Arkansas! It’s completely different from anything I’ve known. Even having grown up in a small Midwestern town, I didn’t experience the same level of general good-neighborliness. I think we met and chatted to nearly every family in the subdivision, and I couldn’t buy anything from anywhere without stopping to make small talk with the cashier or proprietor.
And aside from that awkward tribute statue, I didn’t experience near the level of racism I’d feared. I did get some staring from a little white girl in the a restroom, but that could have been a number of factors, I suppose, but otherwise the kids and I practically blended in! The area is surprisingly ethnically diverse, so after a few days of counting and continuing to run out of fingers each time, I was able to relax.
I’m not sure the rest of the summer will measure up, now, but we’re gonna try. Hoping to get some camping and hiking in over the next few weekends, and eventually I’ll get around to updating my sad start to a regular gaming feature.