a weekend in the south. Little Rock, Arkansas. As a girl from the west, I’ve come to associate November with snow, sweaters, trees void of foliage.
not down south. no. here, it rains in december. the grass is as green as the mistletoe. and the scent of wood roasting on an open fire? far too rare, too elusive. oh, and it’s filled with cornbread. lots of beans n’ cornbread.
on saturday, i took photos for the Arkansas Cornbread Festival on South Main, an “up-and-coming” neighborhood. and by “up-and-coming” we mean: “the white people have started to move in.”
the neighborhood is lovely. the street, while scant with newly renovated storefronts, is a brilliant attempt at revival. a small soda fountain opened on the corner a few years ago. it sells handcrafted creamy treats, just like the person who owned that storefront fifty years ago did. the scant smell of caramelizing sugar pulls patrons in by, nostril by nostril unit, zombie like and stimulated, they place their orders.
the festival was scantily clad with patrons, vendors scattered about, but perfectly sparse with customers and handcrafted goods and mass produced goods and nuts spiced with cinnamon and cloves and faces of color – finally i’m in a city where the color is a welcome change in scenery, cultural scenery.
when they finally got into the cornbread sampling tent, folks seemed miffed. perhaps the long-ass wait didn’t quite justify the cornbread topped paper dixie cup. the vendors sliced and served, sliced and served, sliced and served like ladies on the sewing line, hands racing to get the uniforms made before the boys shipped off to the beaches of Normandy. Slice, slice, place into paper cup, hand to customer. smile. repeat. keep smiling, this is a festival and it’s fun.
i saw a girl there i’ve been avoiding for the better part of 2 years. she threatens me. i see her as everything i think i should want to be, but i really don’t want to be that. i just think i should. she reminds me of the girls i wanted to be when i was in 6th grade. it took me almost a decade to realize the brilliance and strength of my individual, and i know in 8 years, this girl will be everything i will not – and i will be eternally grateful.
i can’t spend any more of my time worrying about the threats she poses. after all, we’re falsely competing for the love of a man we both know we don’t really want. but he sure is close to everything you want in a partner. close. but the zsa zsa zsu ain’t there. will it ever be?
house-made pickles. smoked vinegar. buttermilk & blueberry cream. jalepeno cornbread, turnip soup & curry glaze. cast iron skillet cornbread. browned butter. miso honey cream and gingerbread. an ice cream truck, a slow moving line, a begging dog, kids with balloons and two elderly black women settin in the shade of an oak tree, fanning themselves in matching jumpsuits.
this girl, she and i smoked cigarettes behind a building. we talked about the hills of tennessee and the mountains of central Arkansas and i stared at my hatred as if in a mirror. we build our enemies up in our minds. we build toy monkeys into king kong, we build a war out of a wee fistfight. it’s all in your head, i think to myself.
sometimes that matters. sometimes that matters a lot.