Say goodbye

A last look at the pre-apocalyptic downtown Little Rock skyline.

A last look at the pre-apocalyptic downtown Little Rock skyline.
Dec 18
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Get it while it lasts — the things we’ll miss about central Arkansas.

With the end of the world approaching in a matter of mere days, are you prepared to say goodbye to all that you hold near and dear in the world? We sure aren’t, so we’ve taken a little time to pay homage to those things in central Arkansas that we love most: parts of town new and old, traditions, parks, food, and a few others that, even though they sometimes rub us the wrong way, we didn’t realize we were all that attached to. Like they say, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, and we just wish we’d just had a little more time with central Arkansas. Here’s what we’ll miss most after the world ends:

Maumelle

I admit to being a little bit of a homer on this one, as I lived and worked in Maumelle for a few years right out of college. I found it to be an adorable community — and that was in the Dark Ages. By that I mean the city was, at the time, without a Wal-Mart, coffee shop or high school.

Since then, a Neighborhood Market has sprung up in town, along with a Supercenter on the outskirts. There’s a Starbucks, which will sure do for an afternoon fix. And there are two public high schools, one county and one charter. And all that after I left.

Still, there’s only one road in or out of town, and that’s a problem. I never had to fight the traffic, so it’s hard to say I’ll miss it. But I’m not so sure there aren’t a few people there who would be willing to trade an apocalypse for an unsnarled boulevard. Or a third entrance, for that matter.

Knoop Park

Right in the heart of Hillcrest, at the end of Ozark Point with another entrance off Martin Street, there’s a little half-mile loop of trail that has the curious distinction of being downhill both ways. At the end is a tiny little recreational area, and if there’s a better view of the Little Rock skyline, I’m not sure where to find it.

It’s a place to jog, if you don’t mind an uphill battle (literally) when you leave. It’s a place to sit. It’s a place to picnic, particularly if you’ve got someone special by your side. On that note, it’s also a place to get married — or at least take some wedding pictures. Just ask any photographer, and they’ll probably know the place.

I’ll miss that spot and the people I see there, as I almost always make it a point to drop by when walking or jogging around the neighborhood.

The romanticism

Remember back in October when Little Rock made Yahoo! Travel’s list of 10 unexpectedly romantic travel destinations? It sure will be a shame to see all that lovebirdery go away.

The copy read like it had been written for a tourism brochure rather than by someone who had actually ever been to the city, but who can deny the amorous stirrings a trip to the Clinton Presidential Center undoubtedly brings about? Nothing says true love like the Elvis at the Piano Cookie Jar.

Add river walks and carriage rides and yummy dining to that and it’s basically like you’re in Paris. Granted, there’s no Eiffel Tower, but maybe the Broadway Bridge would kind of be close. And with the world ending, no need to fuss about tearing it down and rebuilding it. Though that’s a shame, because the suggestion to paint it red, white and blue could, in the right mindset, add to the ambiance as those are French colors, too.

Main Street

Man, just when you think you’ve got it good. I mean, we all know Little Rock’s Main Street has had its ups and downs. Once upon a time, it was a roaring center of commerce. For a good many years now, it’s been anything but, with shuttered and empty storefronts.

And just when that started to change, when redevelopment and renovation spread south from the River Market and people started to take interest from Third down to Sixth (where The Rep has held strong for years), the Mayans have to go and ruin everything. Thanks a lot, Mayans.

Seriously, I’ve wondered for years what the facades of some of those buildings around Main and Capitol really looked like — and wondered even more what they’ll look like when the hard hats are done and the gussying up is complete. I guess now we’ll never know.

— spencer watson

The beer

Word has it a new beer brewery is starting up. And by word, I mean Stone’s Throw Brewing has been approved by the Alcoholic Beverage Control for a permit to brew beer. I can’t wait. If there’s one thing that central Arkansas does really well, it’s brew beer. In fact, there are a few beers made around town that I’ll definitely miss if the world ends Friday. I’m talking Diamond Bear Brewing Company’s Two-Term Double IPA. Vino’s Rainbow Wheat and Rock Hopera Imperial IPA. And Boscos’ Bombay IPA and Hefeweizen.

Cheeseburgers

Back in the summer I wrote about my favorite seven cheeseburgers in central Arkansas. Here’s that “always-incomplete, always-in-progress” list: Arkansas Burger Company, Capital Bar and Grill, David’s Burgers, Frostop, Midtown Billiards, Mojo’s Dairy Bar and Reno’s Argenta Cafe. Yes, I left off The Pantry’s cheeseburger. Yes, I left out The Sports Page’s cheeseburger. Yes, I left off The Box’s cheeseburger. (It hadn’t reopened yet.) Yes, I left out insert-your-favorite-central-Arkansas-cheeseburger-here. Listing my favorite cheeseburgers here in central Arkansas is an impossible task that I tried making possible. I think I came close. As close as I could in 1,100 words. The fact is, there are more than seven great cheeseburgers in central Arkansas. And if the world ends Friday, I’ll miss all the great ones.

People

Full disclosure: I’m not a people person. In fact, some might say I’m downright antisocial. But I really have met some exceptionally friendly and interesting people while living here in central Arkansas. And not just people who I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing or have formed friendships with. From fellow Little Rock Kickball Association players to homeless people asking for money, bartenders who know me by name to people who see me on the street or out and about and ask, “Hey, are you Shea Stewart?” — the people of central Arkansas are some of the finest around.

The downtown tornado siren

Oh, downtown tornado siren test every Wednesday at noon, how I will miss you. How else would I know it’s Wednesday at noon? I understand the siren is a test, a test of the tornado siren, which is a good thing because tornadoes frequent the area, but — and not to sound too much like an old sorehead — the siren is ungodly loud. And the siren is so anti-climatic. Not that I want a tornado coming right after the Wednesday-at-noon siren, but how about at least a street duel every two months or something? Maybe a playing of Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful”? Now, that would be worth getting everyone’s attention.

— shea stewart

The Governor’s Mansion

I’ll be sad to see the Governor’s Mansion and its surrounding historic district go. When I was a kid, the governor was kind enough to let The Cathedral School use his backyard for its annual Field Day. We marched the two and a half blocks around the corner to the Governor’s Mansion and spent the day competing in three-legged races, 50-yard dashes and egg tosses, and all went home with armloads of pink and orange ribbons. Ok, some kids got blue and red ribbons, but that’s really not the point.

I loved the expanse of that huge, manicured lawn, the sprawling 200-year old oak trees all around, the ornate Victorian homes surrounding the mansion.

A recent trip into the Governor’s Mansion gardens while on the ALFN’s Local Food Tour allowed me a glimpse of those gated grounds and I realized how fond of them I still am. What a shame it’ll be to see it all go.

Porches

Anywhere, any time, put me on a good porch in nice weather and I’m happy, and central Arkansas homes, restaurants and bars have their fair share of this staple of Southern architecture. Here’s a sample of the best porch-sitting scenarios: snuggled up in a rocking chair in the fall, with a good book and a cup of coffee; during happy hour, catching up with friends; drying off from the lake on a swing in a screened-in porch on a hot, Arkansas summer day. See? You can’t beat it. Take any mediocre activity, change the location to “a porch,” and it becomes unbeatable.

I’m lucky enough to be living in a house right now with an awesome front porch. It’s not huge, but has room enough for two adirondack chairs and a porch swing, and overlooks Allsopp Park, the river and North Little Rock. The weather is nice enough here in Little Rock to put it to use most months out of the year. Why would you want to say so long to that?

Riverfest

Right. So I know what you’re thinking — Riverfest? The crowds, the people, the parking, the fried food, the cost, the Riverbucks, the hassle, the torture! But you’re wrong in thinking like that. Love it or hate it, Riverfest is something to be missed post-apocalypse.

First, all great cities are built on great rivers. Cairo has the Nile, London has the Thames, and we have the Arkansas River. It’s only fitting that we should have an annual festival alongside to honor it.

And besides the crafts, food and family fun, it’s all about the music. Let’s not forget that we’ve seen some outright legends grace the Riverfront Amphitheatre and Bud Light stages: B.B. King, Al Green, John Prine, Buddy Guy and Willie Nelson come to mind. There’s also been a wide range of artists represented in past years, from Nappy Roots to Brad Paisley, Seether to Carrie Underwood, Snoop Dogg to Cheap Trick. But what I think I’ll miss most at Riverfest is the yearly tribute to ‘90s rock. No more Hootie, no more Everclear, no more The Wallflowers, The Spin Doctors or Third Eye Blind to be heard along the Arkansas River on Memorial Day weekend. RIP.

The 430/ 630 Interchange

Did you know that the interchange between I-430 and I-630 in west Little Rock is called the Big Rock Interchange? The name comes from a big ol’ rock in the area that was discovered during construction. That sounds familiar — oh, that’s right, the city was named in a similar fashion, except that eponymous rock was small. Are we winning in the rock department, or what?

I can’t seem to get anywhere without taking the clover-ly loops of this interchange, and lately I’ve felt more like a player in a video game than a veteran driver in my hometown — lane shifts? Closed lanes? More orange barrels? I’m dodging left and right and just hoping I can make it a few more laps before Bowser drops another banana peel in my path.

I trust that the end result of this construction would be worth it, I really do. But it’s not projected to be complete until 2014 and, obviously, the world will have ended by then. Since we’ll never get to enjoy the final product of this smoother-running interchange, I suppose I’ll simply miss cursing it, as so many other central Arkansans will, too.

— stephanie maxwell

What will you miss most about central Arkansas? Share with us on Facebook (facebook.com/syncweekly) or Twitter (@syncweekly).

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