7/18/08: Hard Times at Fairfield Bay

Arkansas, Record Stores, Recreation, Restaurants, Travel

I took a vacation day from work, and headed out I-40 into Arkansas on a very hot day indeed. I had decided to drive up to Greer’s Ferry Lake and check out Fairfield Bay, but I wanted to stop off in Little Rock at Arkansas Record Exchange and browse for some new music. Amongst the 45 singles, I found a copy of the Adolph and the Entertainers “Old Folks Shuffle” on the Alarm label out of Shreveport, a record that I had been looking for for some time. Then I headed on to Conway, where I stopped at the Marketplace Grill and enjoyed a late lunch. It was about 3:30 PM when I left Conway, heading north on Highway 65, which was an endless string of flea markets and antique malls. I would have liked to have stopped at all of them, but the day was rapidly getting away from me, so I only stopped at one that featured a big sign announcing “RECORDS”. They did indeed have records, although nothing much that I cared to purchase, so I continued north into Clinton, and from there headed east toward Shirley and Fairfield Bay. The terrain was more mountainous than I had expected, and the road made quite a few twists and turns before I came to the main entrance of Fairfield Bay. When I was young, Fairfield Bay had been a new resort development, always offering people from Memphis a free vacation if they would agree to take a one-hour tour/seminar about purchasing real estate, condominiums or timeshares. I always wanted us to do it, and my parents never wanted to, so I was surprised to see the rather desolate look of the place as I entered it on Dave Creek Parkway. In the intervening years, Fairfield Bay had changed from a development to an incorporated town, with a mayor and local government, but the first thing I noticed was miles of streets that were little more than gravel tracks leading deep into the woods, with no sign of habitation whatsoever. I had seen on billboards that Wyndham Hotels had taken over the rental management of the resort facilities, but the first thing I saw was an assisted living home, and then gradually I came to the Village Mall, which was supposed to be the business center of town. But here too, an air of tired desolation prevailed, for the Village Mall was almost totally vacant, and the Conference Center across the street had clearly been abandoned, with grass growing through numerous cracks in its empty parking lot pavement. There was a rental office in the area with cars out front, and I had seen a couple of open convenience stores, but back on Dave Creek Parkway were two abandoned restaurants, one of them a Pizza Hut with a “For Sale” sign out in front. Fairfield Bay was beginning to look like a venture that had obviously failed. As I headed further south toward the lake, I noticed a community park with miniature golf, and a farmer’s market, and there were people around there, but the wholse community had an eery, empty feel. I followed a sign off the main road toward the Bay View Club, which was in a beautiful, Old-English-style lodge, with a large, crowded swimming pool behind it. The club was primarily a restaurant, but restricted to members and guests, and I could not determine whether memberships were sold at the door, as they are at so many Arkansas establishments. At the road’s dead end, there was a beautiful vista of the lake and mountains to the south, but it was too obstructed by houses for me to photograph. Heading back to the main road and further south, there were more houses (almost neighborhoods, finally), and I kept heading toward the lakefront, following signs for Hampton Cove Marina. The roads were quite hilly even inside the community, and there were some beautiful lake views, but no public overlook, so I was unable to photograph anything, since I would have had to walk on private property. At Hampton Cove, there was another swimming pool, and it too was crowded with kids and parents, but there was also a walking trail down to the lake, but I soon found that much of it was under water due to abnormally high lake levels. I took some pictures there, and then headed back west toward the main marina area, but there, once again, lake levels had wreaked havoc, and roads were closed. I walked out to the marina store, and took pictures from there, noticing Sugarloaf Mountain coming up out of the lake to the southeast. There had been a snack bar at the marina, but a sign said it was closed due to high water. The beach area nearby was also underwater, but people were still swimming at the places where roads dropped off into the lake, and at that point I took some of the best pictures of the lake. It was getting late, however, and the sun was disappearing behind some clouds, so I headed up Highway 330 looking for a restaurant called the Back In The Day Cafe, but when I found it, it was closed and for sale. I decided to head on around the lake, wondering what economic holocaust had hit Fairfield Bay so hard. Summer should have been the busy season there. At the village of Edgemont, the road came close to the lake, and I came upon a restaurant called Jannsen’s Lakefront Restaurant, where a large crowd was milling around outside. I expected quite a wait, but I was taking a sort of one-day vacation, and was in no hurry, so I stopped there and put my name in for a table. The crowd of waiting people had spilled over into some formal gardens behind what seemed to be a motel or some apartment buildings. There had once been steps down to the lake, but high water earlier in the year had destroyed them. Nearby was a boatdock, where a pontoon boat had pulled up to the shore, and some kids were having a lot of fun in a mudbog nearby, although their parents weren’t too happy about it. I walked down to an old bridge in the woods that must have once been part of the main road, and took some photographs there, but my table was soon ready. I ordered a dinner of pacific rockfish, which was excellent, although I was tempted by the steak offerings on the menu. While waiting for my table, I had seen the homemade chocolate mousse pie, so I tried that as well, and was very pleased. Afterwards, with the sun setting on the lake, I parked at a gravel road on the other side of the bridge, and walked out on the bridge to take photographs. Then I headed out toward Batesville, heading back to Memphis. When I came to Concord, I remembered reading about an old pressing plant there, so I stopped at a gas station and asked the girl there if she knew anything about an old record pressing plant, or where it had been. She was young, but she did know about it, and told me that I had already passed the building down the road, but that the record in it had been given to a museum. Batesville was a beautiful town, lit up in a dark valley and visible for several miles, and from there I passed through Newport, which was a steamy, dark river town with nearly nobody on the streets. When I got to Memphis, it was about 11 PM, and I headed straight to the house.

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The Memphis Statement

leadership, Memphis, racism

Most companies have a mission statement these days, a statement of principles that set forth the image they want to uphold. Perhaps Memphis needs a mission statement. This is one I would like to see.

#1. Although Memphis has been blessed with strategic location, decent climate, beautiful setting, and an old and venerable history, and, although Memphis has a diverse population of many talents and gifts, and, although Memphis has produced many great men and women in many fields, as a city, Memphis has consistently failed to reach her potential.

#2. This failure has in large part been the result of a failure in leadership, which, in turn has led to factionalism, not only between the races, but also between classes, and between neighborhoods.

#3. These factions and divisions have wasted our energy and retarded the growth of our city and its various communities, and have created bitterness and discord.

#4. Although our city has many communities of faith they have been largely ineffective in addressing these problems.

#5. Our city has severe image problems, both from its own citizens, and from those who live outside.

#6. Therefore, we are committed to the improvement of Memphis and its surrounding region.

#7. We pledge to remove race as a consideration for our decisions, or our treatment of others in our personal and public lives.

#8. We resolve to use our influence to convince others to make the same pledge.

#9. We are determined to talk positively of Memphis and to encourage others to do so, having no illusions as to the many problems that need solving.

#10. We promise to vote for the best and most capable leadership, without regard to race.

#11. We believe that if the majority of Memphians and suburban residents agree to the above-named principles, there is no problem that our city and region cannot conquer.

If you agree with these principles, forward them to your friends, relatives and neighbors.

No Time for Experiments on the Youth

Education, Memphis, police, Schools

The Memphis City School Board comes up with rather dumb ideas on a regular basis, so this new one shouldn’t really surprise anyone. But board member Kenneth Whalum outdid himself this time when he suggested that we build and open a high school to prepare young people for law enforcement. Apparently, it is apparent to Whalum that the only growth industry in Memphis’ future is crime, and therefore, to deal with the shortage of police and fire personnel (brought on in part by low pay and the city’s stupid residency rules), he proposes this law enforcement academy. Actually, the idea of trying to convince Black youth to join the ranks of law enforcement is nothing new, having been first proposed by Richard Nixon during his first term as president. That effort was a notable failure, as has been every effort since, for the simple fact that many Black youth have grown up in an environment where they see the world (rightly or wrongly) as a war between the police and Black people, and they have no interest in abandoning one side for the other. Perception becomes reality, and this attitude on the part of young Black Americans didn’t develop out of thin air, having received all too much credence from the behavior of SOME police officers. But my objection is more that, once again, we are accepting at face value the theory that Black youth cannot be expected to do academic work and prepare for a college career. Instead, we are told, we must lead them into some vocation, whether it be police work, or fire, or welding, or some other blue collar trade. None of these occupations is necessarily bad. All are needed and they pay well. The point is, we need to be giving Memphis’ inner city youth a general education to prepare them for whatever task they want to pursue in life, not a narrow education aimed at some specific field. Nothing is going to fix the Memphis City Schools short of adequate funding, encouraging integration, firing incompetent teachers, maintaining a safe school environment, and demanding accountability from both students and teachers. This has not been done in that district for years (if ever), and I see no signs that it’s about to start now. As for Memphis parents, let’s hope they send a clear message to the school board that they want no such experiments with their children as the guinea pigs.

Jonesville, LA: Ominous Warnings of A Storm to Come

Civil Rights, Jena, racism, revival

While revival and reconciliation has taken place in Jena and LaSalle Parish, authorities in neighboring Catahoula Parish have been investigating a noose-hanging incident near Jonesville, in which the letters “K.K.K.” were also left under the tree in toilet paper. Law enforcement officials there suggested that the incident was a prank since the community in which the nooses and message were found is predominantly white. Two things come to mind. First, Satan does not like revival, because revival is people turning to Jesus Christ and being saved. When there is true revival in an area, watch out for the devil’s counterattack. But the other, more frightening thought, is that when nooses were hung at Jena High School in August of 2006, authorities there dismissed it as a prank. The tragic effects of that miscalcualtion are now known to everyone in the world, and the reputation of the town of Jena suffered, to some extent unfairly, as a result. Young people in LaSalle Parish, Catahoula Parish, or anywhere else, must be made to understand that hanging nooses in the yards of others, or on public property, is never just a prank, anymore than would be calling a high school and warning that a bomb is there. Catahoula authorities (and parents) need to take this threat seriously, before the young people who hung the nooses escalate to a violent act and Jonesville gets added to Jasper and Jena as towns where racism is alive and well.