It is with a bitter note of irony that I marked the first of October in the Dark Heart of America, far from the city I have learned to call home.
Born a military brat, my answer, when people would ask where I was from, was invariably a tortured explanation of my roots and travels over the years. But I have since refined my answer into a simple response:
“I come from Fayetteville, Arkansas.”
Though I was physically a grown man when my family first arrived at he city limits of Fayetteville on October 1, 1974, I was as yet unformed. Still living at home, I hadn’t ventured out alone into the world-at-large, naked and afraid, so to speak.
For a young person, evolution while living at home is next to impossible. How many of your thoughts, your opinions, your very views on life, may simply mirror those of your fellow family members?
You have to get out into the garden of life, and not only learn to smell the roses, but have your skin torn apart by heir thorns.
My way of leaving the cocoon of family life and entering the world-at-large was to get married – a disastrous marriage that lasted seven glorious months, as I like to say.
But where God may close one door, he may knock down a wall, so speak, so that one can see other opportunities. And so it was for me. I stepped over the rubble of my marriage and entered the world of . . . possibilities.
For a man to grow he needs partners who won’t let him stagnate, or simply dog paddle in the waters of life. Before my marriage, I was mostly attracted to women who were like me – only prettier – who lived a version of Viktor Frankl’s “existential vacuum,” working hard all week, and living for for weekend, and not having long-term goals.
But like like a man taking path he never suspected existed before, I discovered women who called themselves “feminists” – women who wouldn’t accept my immature crap or attitudes about life.
Slowly, almost against my will, I began to see myself as the women in my life saw me – embryonic.
Some of my long-time male friends didn’t care for the women I was admitting into my life; they saw no need to grow, or change. For them, once you turned 21, you were pretty much set for life. To talk of change was sacrilegious.
I have always had trouble falling asleep. As a result, I have taken many midnight (or much later) walks around the New York City of the Ozarks. There are things you can only learn about a city at night, when everyone else has gone to sleep.
Some of my most creative thinking has come from walking the streets of Fayetteville; the trails may be nice for a short cut on occasion, but I’d go mad if I had to try to muster up any inspiration, walking along them.
I’m sorry, but they are just sort of boring. Give me a nice city street, at any time of the day or night, for true creative inspiration.
In the late 1980s, I dipped my toe into local politics. I had been writing letters to newspapers on many subjects since the 1970s, but in 1988 I ran for Fayetteville’s Board of Directors.
I also lost in 1990, when I ran for Washington County Quorum Court, and in 1992, when I ran for City Council.
Having received my Mandate from the People, I decided never to run for office again. I’d go out while I was still on the bottom, so to speak.
In 1990, I began writing for a local alternive newspaper, Grapevine. This led, over the years, to writing for the Fayetteville Begin, Ozark Gazette, and the Little Rock Free Press – which was renamed he Arkansas Free Press sometime in its final days.
And, of course, writing this blog.
I have written a couple of books – my sex-and-violence filled unknown science fiction cult classic, and a modern history of Fayetteville. I am working on a second book about Fayetteville.
And, since July 1, 1991, I have been involved with People’s Revolutionary Television in Fayetteville, which has officially been known by several names – Fayetteville Open Channel, Access 4 Fayetteville, Community Access Television, and the rather boring current name, Fayetteville Public Access Television.
For a long time I used to tell people that I was a writer who had a TV show, but I have dropped that line. I am proud of the work that I and my fellow producers have created over the years.
And my show has afforded me the opportunity to sit down with some amazingly smart people over the years. And because they are smart, I sound smart – at least for 45 minutes or so a week.
And through my show and my writing, I have met some of the best that Fayetteville has to offer. People who put themselves on the line for what they believe in, people who inspire me.
I used to tell folks that I was from all over the place, but now, when people ask me where I am from, I simply say, “I am from Fayetteville, Arkansas.”
There’s lots of worse places to be from.
Quote of the Day
The advice of the elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.