Arkansas Times Recommends: Spring things 

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My only springtime ritual — other than illegally importing huge quantities of pseudoephedrine from nearby states more casual about that stuff (legalize it!) — is to annually revisit the masterful, criminally unreleased Ghostface Killah song "The Sun," featuring Raekwon, RZA and the illustrious Slick Rick. To my knowledge, this is the only rap song that claims to be about the sun and is actually, literally, only about the sun — no metaphors here. It's just an awestruck tribute to a beautiful, crucial part of our solar system we often take for granted. ("Look who's shining again," Ghostface raps cheekily on the hook, sounding like a proud parent.) The song was supposed to be included on Ghostface's 2001 album "Bulletproof Wallets," but, the story goes, RZA was stoned when he made the beat, and later couldn't remember what the sample was. No sample clearance, no dice. And it was our loss, pre-YouTube.

Will Stephenson

Let me begin defensively by saying that I, like you, resent the spandexed, graying fraternity of the well-off that's connoted by the word cyclist. I like riding my bike; I hate the consumer culture of cycling, with its weird brand obsessions and monomaniacal fascination with high-end gear. Nonetheless, I've come around to the conclusion that if you commute by bike, it's only wise to save up for a sturdy bag. In my experience, the shoulder strap on a cheap laptop bag is often the first component to fail, and if that strap is the sole thing suspending your computer several feet off the ground, you'd do well to minimize your risk. (By the way — if this logic makes sense to you, wear a helmet.) A few weeks ago, I shelled out $130 for a very nice messenger bag from some San Francisco-based (sigh) company called Timbuk2. I may respect myself less now, but the bag's workmanship makes me confident that it'll remain cinched tightly to my body even after I'm flattened by the inevitable cement truck on some (hopefully) distant spring morning.

Benjamin Hardy

This is the season that birdwatchers live for. First, in March, you hear the upward zzzzip of the parula warbler, the weezy-weezy-weezy of the black and white, the high-pitched spee! of the blue-gray gnatcatcher (a mockingbird in miniature whose abundance can get on your nerves). Then the black-throated greens, and, on or about April 14, beee-buzz tells you the blue-winged warbler is right overhead. The yellow-breasted chat is easy to find, thanks to its size — a bit larger than the teeny warblers — and its conversational whistles and chups. Deliciously challenging shorebirds — all those little peeps that look just alike — and dowitchers and plovers and so forth — move through. Only a dullard would not thrill to the sight of dozens of bobolinks probing the mud in a field in May. Migration means you get up early to stroll through the woods and arrive late to work. It means trips to sewer ponds, drained minnow ponds, grasslands, plowed fields. Your heart breaks a little as the redstarts and Wilson's come through, because they are bringing up the warbler rear. You may utter profanity if once more you missed the two-day tour of the black-billed cuckoo in Boyle Park. But here come the painted buntings and they stay to nest, and if that isn't solace enough for you, I don't know what is.

Leslie Newell Peacock

Go to a high school track meet. In spring, the "thinclads" go outside to run, jump and throw. It is the purest of competitions. Concussions are rare unless a competitor walks in front of a flying shot put. It's simply man and woman against each other and the clock and the tape measure. No balls. Little contact. But plenty of drama. Look for schools with good mile relay teams, the men hitting close to 20 miles an hour around the quarter-mile (or 400-meter) oval. The track teams are always under-appreciated. Fewer college scholarships are available. Professional careers are rare. But there are plenty of good seats, of that you may be sure.

Max Brantley



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