10 Stray Observations About Arkansas
1. Civic engagement is…low.
I was the only voter present when I voted during the most recent primary. The poll workers were giddy with excitement when I walked in because they finally had something to do. Turns out less than 10% of eligible voters in my county went to the polls.
2. And on a side note, you don’t have to vote along party lines.
Yes, you aren’t required to pick a political party when you register to vote. It’s a red state (obviously), but you can choose to vote as a Democrat, Republican, or neutral party when you show up. I guess it all depends on how you feel that day.
3. The culture scene is kinda lit.
My expectations for cultural activity were low. But in the last two months, I’ve attended a screening of Man Made, a documentary about trans bodybuilders, attended Soul of a Nation, an art exhibit about black art during the civil rights era, and we just scored tickets to Janet Jackson in July…here in Northwest Arkansas.
4. It’s expensive AF to fly here.
Our local airport, XNA, is regional. So, you need a connection to fly anywhere worth visiting. For example, a ticket from XNA to LGA right now is $750. Bring on the road trips.
5. There’s a writer’s residency nearby.
Eureka Springs is a quaint town about an hour away from Bentonville. It’s another liberal pocket of Arkansas that’s home to The Writer’s Colony, a writer’s residency where local scribes can sneak away for a week at a time to finish up those passion projects.
6. No one waters their grass.
We had a consultation with a local business for a sprinkler install. It costs about $4,000 to have the irrigation system put in. We opted for a long hose and an oscillating sprinkler instead. But I think we’re the only people on our street that actually water our lawn. Everyone else is just waiting for Mother Nature.
7. There aren’t many gym options.
I reluctantly joined Planet Fitness because it’s the best option. There’s a gym that I liked—Fitness One. It has the amenities of an Equinox for the price of a Crunch, but I’d practically have to drive to Missouri to get there. I don’t have a commute for work; I didn’t want a 40-minute gym commute.
8. People go to bed early…or maybe they’re all drinking at home.
It’s easy to get a reservation at 7 p.m. here because everyone’s already heading home. People in NW Arkansas eat dinner early. If you find yourself in a restaurant around 9 p.m., you’ll probably be one of the only people there. Even on a Saturday.
9. The Wal-Marts are nice.
Bentonville is home to some of the cleanest and most technologically advanced Wal-Marts I’ve ever seen. The clientele is the same but the facilities are top notch. However, I must note that they only sell one brand of kimchi, and I have to drive to the next town to buy paté. #firstworldproblems
10. Everyone is friendly…like, really friendly.
People wave when you drive by in our neighborhood. Cashiers ask how you’re doing…and listen to your answer. And people don’t seem to have any issues with my blackness or our gayness. Not that I expected to encounter a bunch of racists or homophobes, but come on, Arkansas? You thought it, too.
Two months in, Arkansas has pleasantly surprised me as a place full of life, culture, acceptance, and clean Wal-Marts. I can’t wait to see what the coming months bring.