The Engima of Arkansas

I was in Little Rock, Ark., last week. I just recently came back to my hometown of Bellingham, Wash.

My girlfriend’s parents bought both of us plane tickets to fly down south for 11 days. This was both exciting and terrifying since I have never really been in “the South” and I have never met her parents.

The trip started off with our arrival in New Orleans on the opening weekend of the football season. We were there for about three days and enjoyed all kinds of touristy activities like graveyard tours, voodoo tours, airboat rides in alligator infested lakes and, of course, Cajun dining.

I had a long list of writing on my to-do list by the time we left New Orleans (along with a couple books that sat idle in my suitcase). We stayed one night in Monroe, La., the hometown of Duck Dynasty, and made our way to Little Rock.

I’ve lived in Washington most of my life, so I have a pretty strong idea of how Washingtonians identify themselves. That is, somewhat outdoorsy, eco-friendly, liberal-leaning and –in the case of Bellingham – subdued. Coming to Louisiana I had a similar notion of how people identified themselves (however stereotypical as it might have been). But I did not know what to expect of Arkansas.

Arkansas is an enigma. It is one of those middle states – like Kansas, for which its name is derived. From a northern point of view, I can only tell you a few things about Arkansas.

–          My girlfriend’s parents live there.

–          It’s muggy.

–          There aren’t any cafés (excluding Starbucks).

–          The population of North Little Rock is about 60,000

The rest of the details are pretty generic. Arkansas has highways, shopping malls, big bugs and a lot of Southern drawls. The culture shock wasn’t as big as I anticipated, and even though that was a bit of a let-down, I’m glad I wasn’t perceived as “the other,” with my hiking boots, “accent” and northern pallor.

A couple things that should have happened:

–          A deer strapped to the hood of a pickup should have flown by on the highway.

–          An old grisly man should have said to me: “you ain’t from around here, are ya boy?”

–          A string band should have asked me to tour with them as their lead banjo player.

I digress. Arkansas and Louisiana were both fun, and so was meeting my girlfriend’s parents. They were extremely kind and very laid back. I was happy to find that I could speak my mind and make crappy jokes around them.

Finally, I’m back home. I can play video games in my underwear until 4 a.m. and poop in my own toilet. Hooray for that. Time for some writing.

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