Podcast-Convenience Store Chains & Religion: First Impressions of Arkansas
You’re listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast.
I’m your host, Jefferey Spivey.
Let’s be weird, snobby, and intellectual together.
This week, I want to talk about Arkansas.
“Relax, refresh, reenergize with a trip Arkansas, The Natural State.”
That was a snippet from an official Arkansas tourism video.
Not at all—because I’m moving there. In fact, the next Uptown Bourgeois podcast you hear will be recorded in The Natural State. That’s the state nickname. You know, Florida is the Sunshine State, California is the Golden State. Not sure why it’s called the Natural State but I guess I’ll find out.
In the last episode, I spent a lot of time exploring my feelings about leaving New York City, but I didn’t really talk about Arkansas. I don’t really know a lot about it.
The population is just under 3 million people. To put that in perspective, New York City alone has almost 9 million people.
Bentonville, the city in which I’ll be living, is home to Wal-Mart’s headquarters and one of its major distribution centers.
I spent all of last week exploring the area. My husband and I viewed 25 houses in 3 days. We initially went into this expecting to rent until we learned more about our new city, but from a cost standpoint, it just doesn’t make sense. We’ve opted to buy a house (yes, I’m going to be a first-time homeowner-yasssss), and our mortgage payment is less than half of our current New York rent.
Everything is cheaper. Dining out, buying groceries…breathing
I admit, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about moving to Arkansas. I was blinded by red (get it, a red state?). I’m black, I’m gay, and I’m in an interracial marriage. When I think of this state, I can’t imagine running into anyone like myself. In fact, I can picture myself running…across the state line as I escape an angry mob of intolerant locals with pitchforks.
But after spending a week meeting people, I don’t think I have to worry about that.
My biggest observations from my trip?
“Okay this is for real. I'm gonna just go, focusing over there, you can see, can come back here. We are in Kum & Go. This is a real facility here. I'm actually in Oklahoma, Kum & Go does a lot of things. I mean you can see, we've got there Kum & Go cups here, over here we've got Kum & Go muffin and coffee and of course we've got Kum & Go Java, you know well coffee; we’ve got the buttons over here. We've even got the Kum & Go coolly, you can put it in one of these cups. Kum & Go, basically when you're driving down the freeway and you’ve got to come in and then you got to go, but it's been a lot of confusion here on, on the origin of the name and I'm gonna see if we can get some detail on this right now.”
That’s right. There’s a convenience store chain in Arkansas called Kum and Go. And Kum is spelled K-U-M. One of my close friends joked that this was a decision made while drinking cheap American beer. And you know what? She’s probably right. This place seems like the result of a midnight fraternity dare. “If you lose this bet, you have to name your company Kum & Go.” I mean, I just can’t imagine someone legitimately, and soberly, deciding that this is a good name for a business.
But apparently, it’s like the 5th largest convenience store chain in the country. So, love it or loathe it, it’s making money.
But aside from Kum & Go, I noticed some other stuff.
Religion is everywhere. That’s not surprising to me—both of my parents are from Mississippi, and I went to high school and college in Florida. Not Miami Florida, almost in Alabama Florida. So, I’m familiar with the Bible Belt, and a more aggressive application of religion in every facet of life. There are businesses that are named after Jesus or religious symbols. There are long Bible verses included in email signatures. There is church after church after church as you drive through town.
I’m not saying any of this is a bad thing. I’m not an atheist, though there’s nothing wrong with being one. I consider myself a spiritual person with a bit of an aversion to organized religion. I appreciate that people are so passionate about something that they want to share it with anyone who will listen. However, coming from 11 years in New York, it’s a bit jarring. In the last decade, the closest I’ve been to God is the sermon from a schizophrenic evangelist on the 2 train.
Also, there aren’t a lot of black people. There is diversity. But just from what I observed, and from the census information I’ve pulled, this is a majority-white place. I’m used to that. Because, Florida. But again, it’s jarring. My husband and I walked into a TGI Friday’s, and a woman at one of the tables sized me up. Not in a sexual way. It was kind of like I was an alien. I couldn’t tell if it was my hair, my skinny jeans, or my blackness. Either way, hope she enjoyed.
And speaking of TGI Friday’s, there are so many chains. My whole life, I’ve only seen Red Robin advertised during the TODAY show. But I actually saw one in Arkansas! Live and in the flesh. And P.F. Chang’s, and Chili’s, and Logan’s Roadhouse, and Bonefish Grille and…you get the picture.
In other words, I noticed that Arkansas is not New York. But I’m not going to be a Debbie Downer. What’s the male equivalent of that? Is there a Donald Downer? Maybe a black version like Dante Downer? Anyway, there are some cool, non-suburban things happening in Bentonville.
Like the upcoming Bentonville Film Festival, sponsored by Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola.
And Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week, which happens twice a year.
There’s the Crystal Bridges Art Museum, which is currently hosting a black power art exhibit (one time for diversity).
There’s a gym, called FitnessOne, that’s about four times the size of my New York gym, and half the price.
And we’re buying a house!
I can’t get specific about pricing. But let’s just say, what we’re paying for this house would probably get us an old studio in Inwood. And for those who don’t know New York well, Inwood is as far north as you can go in Manhattan before you reach the Bronx.
In short, this is a HUGE lifestyle change, but mostly for the good.
And let’s be real, I’ve moved a lot in life. I’ve lived in Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, Florida, and New York. I’m accustomed to packing up and leaving, to making new friends, to creating a new routine, to learning a new way of life. This is familiar territory.
And just wait, the material Arkansas is going to inspire…
If you love Uptown Bourgeois, this podcast isn’t the only way to consume content.
Monday through Friday, you can read the Bourgeois Brief, a summary of headlines and news about creators of color.
Each week, I publish one new essay or think piece; always personal, but always through a universal lens.
And every two weeks, I send out the Uptown Bourgeois newsletter, just in case you missed something.
To find out more, visit www.uptownbourgeois.com.
I want to give you all a status update.
The next couple weeks of my life will be pretty unstable.
Next week, I’m only in New York for 3 days. My movers come to pack up the apartment Thursday, and I fly to Arkansas the next day.
For the next 30 days, I’ll be living in corporate housing. At some point in the mix, we’ll close on our house and I need to buy a car.
So, there’s a lot going on.
As you can imagine, that will affect my creative output, namely this podcast.
I’m a one-man show: I write and produce this podcast on my own, I write a daily brief for my website, a weekly essay, a biweekly newsletter, and I run several social media accounts. Plus, I write and edit for up to 20 clients in a given week.
Now that I’m moving, and still working, something’s gotta give.
So, the next UB podcast will be May 4.
Think of this as the Spring finale.
In that time, I’ll be pulling together funny stories, adjusting to life in Arkansas, and sharpening my wit and storytelling skills. I’m also working on a YouTube series about the move. So stay tuned!
A month might seem like a long time, but the show will be back bigger and better than ever in May.
New on the blog this week, I’ve pulled together my first impressions of Arkansas. Take a moment to read it. I heard from a little birdie that it’s a good read. That little birdie may or may not have been me.
Thanks so much for listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast. Check back for new episodes every week, and subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, Google Play, Stitcher, Overcast, PocketCast, and now iHearRadio so you never miss out. If you love it, share it with your friends. If not, shoot me an email at email@example.com and let me know what you’d like me to talk about. Until next week…
The Uptown Bourgeois podcast is written, produced, and edited by Jefferey Spivey, and is an official property of Uptown Bourgeois, LLC. All original music is provided courtesy of RMVD.