A study in contrasts: Fayetteville, Arkansas and Elk City, Oklahoma | Street Jazz

Friday, May 11, 2012

A study in contrasts: Fayetteville, Arkansas and Elk City, Oklahoma

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2012 at 1:48 PM

A guy in a wheelchair, stuck in the suicide lane, just trying to get to the other side of the street.

Back to him in a moment. The 17 or so committed readers of this blog know that my wife and I have spent a few weeks in Elk City, Oklahoma, a city which puts your strength and moral fiber to the test every walking moment.

And it isn’t just that I don’t like being trapped in a small town, though that is bad enough. What is truly worthy of discussion are the differences on finds upon coming from Fayetteville to this tiny hamlet.

It isn’t just the missing Comedy Central; I can understand why that would be deemed more dangerous to a certain mind set than MTV, particularly if you take into account Jon Stewart and Robert Colbert.

Think about the things you really like about your community. For myself, I like living in a city that has public access, sidewalk ordinances and elected officials who are concerned with what the public thinks.

Oh, and I like recycling, too.

Elk City is one of those towns which surely must have heard of the above, but just decided that they weren’t for them.

In Northwest Arkansas, it has been a long time since an elected official has dared to dismiss the concerns of citizens - such as a county commissioner here did about increased truck traffic along their roads - because “ . . . you can’t stop progress.”

Citizen involvement in civic affairs? Not here, not now.

And crosswalks, or pedestrian lights? Sidewalks in residential areas?

Crosswalks are a sort of sign of advanced civilization, bowing to the concept that some people might actually need to cross the street at some point.

Elk City is Social Darwinism at its finest, a lost island living in the 21st Century. Think of a sort of Spartan Brigadoon, but without the atmosphere and songs. No doubt an Elk Citian, should they suddenly find themselves in Fayetteville, might find it overwhelming.

It might be either everything they have ever feared happening to their town, or a dream come true.

Which brings us once more to the guy in the wheelchair.

He looked to be in his 40s or 50s, and his chair was equipped with an American flag, leading one to suppose that he may have been a veteran.

Attempting to get from one side of the street to another, trapped in what is popularly known as the suicide lane, it looked as though he was there for the duration.

Because there were no crosswalks or pedestrian lights to enable him to get across, he was stuck there, and that was one of the last images we have of Elk City as we left on our journey back to Arkansas and the New York City of the Ozarks.

One guy in a wheelchair, stuck in a place he shouldn’t be, because there was no other way to cross the street.

******

Appreciating Fayetteville all the more and yet . . .

If you think that little trip into the Forbidden Zone was enough to stop me from ever being critical about anything in Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas again, well, we didn’t stay all that long.

*****

Quote of the Day

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." ~ Ray Bradbury

sdrake@cox.net

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