I awakened this morning at 4:06 with only a few of things on my mind. First was the normal morning publication and then getting Ivy up and to the bus. These are daily activities that the whole world, give or take, can get behind. But the thing that made a morning in Northwest Arkansas unique is the opening of early voting for Ordinance #5781. This is a civil rights ordinance for my hometown, Fayetteville Arkansas, with its primary focus on the LGBT community, which is a part of our community. I know many writers from the area are focused on what the ordinance means for the area in regards to local business owners, rental properties, and employees. Seeing as those perspectives are well covered, I figured I would take a more personal stand on what it means to me, a single, white male from the heart of The Bible Belt in the good ole U.S. of A.
Let it first be said that I love this town. I have been a few places and couldn’t possibly discuss how this city ranks in the world at large. I am sure there are statistics, but they are irrelevant in the context of how I feel about it right now. I bleed red like most humans, but I have little white Razorbacks mixed within. When I walk across the main campus of the University of Arkansas, I am struck with pride. And when I drive its streets, I am connected to every molecule floating in the air and filling each and every yard I pass.
I have been a few places: stood in the World Trade Centers, dodged tornadoes from Amarillo to Wichita, looked off the bridge at the Royal Gorge, resisted picking flowers from atop the continental divide, lost my wallet on the white sand beaches of Destin, and gambled at the Silver Star. All that said, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Like most places, we have do have a few issues here.
There are more churches in this town and the surrounding areas than just about anywhere else on Earth. And I am not talking free thinking, progressive churches, I mean bigoted and simple minded congregations. The kind of organizations which actually had banners on their lawns telling people to vote against a civil rights ordinance. That seems bad, but what is worse, is an ordinance very similar passed last year, but the local government held a special election that killed it after the fact. How embarrassing for The University and the citizens here. Our local population is so scared (don’t even know if that is the right word, but I will continue regardless) of the LGBT community that they will vote down a civil rights ordinance that protects everyone, not just minorities, because prejudice is so ingrained into the local population. I remember while growing up here, it being pretty bad in the smaller communities. “Fags” and “niggers” were something to avoid. “Tranny” is slang I wouldn’t even hear until I was in my twenties following the first watching of Eddie Izzard’s “Dressed to Kill” stand up. Seriously, I didn’t know that people could even have a gender issue. Hell, I didn’t even completely understand what people meant when they would insult each other with “homo.” It meant that you were being ostracized and made fun of, I know that, but I was a fat kid, so that didn’t mean much to me. I dealt with that daily. Where I graduated from, Prairie Grove, there were no openly gay or trans citizens because that might have been a death sentence, torture at the minimum.
Yet, I never suffered from internal bigotry on a serious level. Admittedly, I participated in the language and the culture to maintain some of my social currency. I am not ashamed, as I was a child, but it wasn’t healthy. Once I got a little older, and rap music made its way to NWA (a little pun intended), these habits began to fade. Pretty soon there were arguments on return trips from football games of which tape would get played, country or rap. I lost that battle often. “It’s the bulls and blood…” *clearing throat* I digress.
Now, I am an adult with a daughter. The zeitgeist in this area is profoundly important to me, as I have decided to raise my daughter here for as long as I am able, or until she is ready to take wing. This morning gave me an opportunity to have a voice for the kind of city I want this to be. So, I parked in the Shulertown parking lot behind Common Grounds to take the walk up Dickson Street. On my way to the court house I passed the old Dickson Street Theater. A quick tangent.
The Dickson Street Theater opened in the spring of 2004 if memory serves me correctly. The band I played in at the time named Without A Whisper played that opening weekend. It was a great show with tons of local support and our singer, Dee, had a radio interview and everything. Packed house, no pay, but so goes the original musician here in Fayettenam. It is no longer a music venue or club, it’s now a church (Dickson Street Liquor is its neighbor *giggle*). The church has a vinyl banner hung in front of the old bar signage which makes me smile every time I walk past.
I noticed as I walked by, a green beer bottle had been broken on the sidewalk from the night before. Pieces of it had fallen underneath the black metal fence that surrounds The Theater’s courtyard. A blue Solo cup had also been deposited as litter next to the fragmented glass. Now my daughter and I have a policy of cleaning up litter on our walks. We’ll carry nasty garbage six blocks if we have to, love this place. Yet, I did not stop because I was practicing walking meditation and in doing that one must let go of things, even when action may be the right thing to do. I carried on my way until I got to the courthouse. Went through the metal detector and voted. I don’t mind telling everyone, I voted for civil rights. Left the courthouse, snapped a picture with a sticker, and made my way back down The Street (my nickname for Dickson). I passed a few others headed to vote as well and gave morning pleasantries. Not thinking about much other than warm goodness that voting locally always gives me.
I walked passed The Theater turned church catching the green and blue litter out of the corner of my eye. I literally stopped in my tracks.
Spinning around, I looked at the garbage and knew what I would do. I began dropping the smaller pieces of broken glass into the part of the bottle still intact. At some point I needed to balance myself with my right hand on the sidewalk. As soon as I put pressure on my palm I felt a pain shoot into my extremity. I stood and looked at the location of pain. I little green shard had embedded itself into my skin. I don’t know if I rolled my eyes, but the thought, “This is why I clean this shit up, so that nobody will have to deal with this exact thing” rolled through my mind. I pulled the little chunk from my palm and placed it in the broken bottle. Looking down at my hand, a large droplet of that Razorback blood replaced the green glass. It was then I decided to write this blog entry. I didn’t want to get the blood on my clothes, or anything else someone might touch, so I pressed my tiny wound onto the concrete and finished the clean up. There is a public trash can on the corner in front of the liquor store which held the garbage just fine.
The little bubble of blood kept returning, so periodically I would kneel, use the sidewalk as my towel, and eventually walked into CG to wash my hands. I grabbed a paper towel to prevent any further leaking of vital fluids.
I chuckled to myself after arriving home at how cool it is to love the town one calls home. Not only did I get to bleed for the health of my fair city, but also had the opportunity to vote for something that could better the quality of life for a few friends and fellow citizens. It makes me so happy that I became inspired to contribute to the day, as well as personal writing goals, with this very testimony. I don’t write about Fayetteville enough, and I hope this entry changes that, inspiring me to give F-town a louder, more persistent voice. If you live here, and haven’t voted on Ordinance #5781, please do. I don’t care what your position is, there is no sacrifice to getting your voice heard. And if you see some litter on the way to the courthouse, I invite you to pick it up and trash it. Keeping Fayetteville fresh, funky, and beautiful is every citizen’s opportunity. Don’t let another pass you by.