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In praise of urban living in Little Rock 

Living in the core of downtown Little Rock is the ultimate reverse commute. I'm here when few others are. And while thousands are spending their 8-to-5 Mondays through Fridays downtown, I'm gone. The masses and I pass on our ways in and out, but as they head to Chenal or Bryant or Cabot or Maumelle or wherever, I feel a little sorry for them. I've lived in Bryant. I've lived in Maumelle. But I much prefer living in downtown Little Rock.

Kidless, petless, with no longing for planting daffodils, mulching shrubs or stringing Christmas lights on eaves, my wife and I live in a thoroughly modern, affordable 1,660-square-foot condo on the seventh floor of Lafayette Square, the refurbished Lafayette Hotel at Sixth and Louisiana streets. Our living room, dining room and master bathroom windows overlook the Cathedral of St. Andrew, the oldest place of continuing worship in Little Rock. It is a beautiful church; we gaze at the glow of its stained glass windows; we hear its bells; we see its parishioners come and go.

Our bedroom and office overlook the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. We can also see Acxiom's headquarters and three much-higher-dollar mixed-use condo towers: River Market Tower, 300 Third and the Capital Commerce Center. Ours is one of the few "urban" views available in Arkansas.

And we love "urban." I am fortunate to have a sister and brother-in-law with homes in Paris and New York, two of the world's greatest cities — and even more fortunate that they open their doors for us when we find the time and money to visit. It's exhilarating to walk out the doors of their buildings and immediately be caught up in the vibrant hustle/bustle of Parisians and New Yorkers going about their business. And it's liberating to spend time in cities where feet are one of the primary modes of transportation.

Little Rock doesn't feel much like New York or Paris when we pass through the restored, ornate, circa 1925 Lafayette lobby and out the door for our 6 a.m. weekday walks. But we've come to know and appreciate the city-waking-up activities along Capitol Avenue. As we head west along Arkansas's grandest avenue we see the state van zip by on its way to pick up commuters; CAT buses full of workers headed to jobs performing the various services a white-collar downtown work force requires; and the food service truck driver unloading cases of goods at Rx Catering, whose employees we see preparing their customers' meals. We climb the steps to the state Capitol, touch the shiny brass doorknobs and pause briefly, gazing east at the sunrise's warm glow. It is often a magnificent view.

On weekend mornings, we often walk down Louisiana Street, hang a right on East Markham, greet the Capital Hotel doorman, look in longingly on the fabulous fare Ashley's breakfasters are enjoying and watch the crew clean the River Market sidewalks littered with evidence of last night's crowds. We head over the new Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, pause long enough to enjoy Little Rock's only bridge-free view downriver, often with the sun's shimmery reflection in the Arkansas River, walk on into North Little Rock's Riverfront Park and head west along the North Shore river walk. Other times we'll walk to MacArthur Park and stroll along its trails or throw a baseball back and forth in the grand lawn along Ninth Street. We try not to miss an exhibit at the Arkansas Arts Center.

We walk and we walk: to the River Market area for food, drinks, concerts and general revelry; out the Lafayette's side door and a half-block to the Rep, happy first-time season ticket holders; half a block for the cheap Wednesday wine tastings at Lulav; half a block further for sandwiches and a cold draft beer at EJ's; three blocks to Ciao, one of the city's friendliest, best, least heralded restaurants; today we'll walk a block and a half to catch the final show in the Community Theater of Little Rock's production of "It's a Wonderful Life" at the Public Theatre.

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