Crystal Bridges Museum of Art. The museum—recently founded by Alice Walton (as in the daughter of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart)—focuses on American art. In addition to seeing the Moshe Safdie designed museum and its permanent collection, we’d get to see the State of the Art exhibition, for which curators visited 44 of 50 states to find new work that was outside the NY/LA art scene. Close friends had visited Crystal Bridges and came back with good things to say, so the three of us booked tickets for The Natural State.
the hip hop group from Compton, California rather than Northwest Arkansas. Call me a slow learner.
My first inkling that something was up was that you can’t park your own car. There’s just the valet option, at $12/day plus tipping. Even the over-the-top hotels of Las Vegas have a self-park option. But unlike the 21C, there’s nothing discreet about them---they’re out and proud as hotels, welcoming the hoi polloi, that is, as long as their credit cards aren’t maxed out.
Ack!! (That’s a direct quote.)
The last time I stayed in a hotel—let alone a boutique hotel slash museum—that didn’t have a bar was pretty much never. They told me that there were a couple of licensed establishments a block away. And no, they didn’t offer me a coupon for a free drink from my hotel room mini-bar for the inconvenience. So much for Southern hospitality!
My room was on the second floor. There was a “Pardon Our Dust” sign taped to the wall of the second floor elevator lobby. It briefly occurred to me that it could be art, but my guess was that it was a real sign. I couldn’t figure out where they were working but the hallway plaster was battered here and there and needed a few dabs of paint. I’m all for the 21C’s somewhat minimalist esthetic, but it requires the management to be on its toes maintenance-wise, or else every blemish shows.
I was reminded of a story told to me by a friend who works in the high end (think the Four Seasons chain) hotel industry. It seems that when rooms are cleaned by the housekeeping staff, a supervisor has to go over them on what they call “pube patrol” to make sure that everything is perfect for the next guest. I looked at the stain and thought, “So much for the pube patrol.”
In and Out Burger) but the Freedom Fries (Freedom Toast was on the breakfast menu) were very tasty, especially when accompanied by a bit of ketchup from the Paul Bunyan scaled squeeze bottle. Apparently they really like ketchup in NWA.
A bunch of business types in what are now called “dress pants” came in and sat at the table next to my booth. One of them looked a lot like Tony Romo, whom I find strangely attractive when he sports his usual backwards baseball cap look, even if he does play for the Dallas Cowboys. The burger wasn’t that good but the eye candy was excellent.
On my way out, I ordered the small twist cone. It was horrible. I didn’t know that soft ice cream could be so bad. I tossed it into the first garbage can I found. I didn’t need those calories anyway.
When M & B arrived at the hotel at 10:45 we made a bee line for a bar suggested to us by the desk clerk. They couldn’t believe we were forking over a pile for a hotel with no bar.
We crossed the town square—complete w Confederate monument—to the nearest licensed establishment. We arrived at that perfect moment between the band finishing and last call. B thinks about 95 percent of live music is too loud.
On Friday morning the hotel restaurant was still out of commission. The hotel had put a couple of Keurig coffeemakers on a table in the lobby. They'd also put out a bowl of bananas and apples, and a box of donuts with pink icing and sprinkles. I couldn’t figure out if the donuts were there to be ironic, or if someone really thought the hotel’s guest would want to chow down on some off-brand Krispy Kremes.
After our breakfast at the bar (in theory tasty; in reality cold) we headed out to see architect E. Fay Jones’ masterwork, Thorncrown Chapel, about an hour from the hotel. While we were there to see the Crystal Bridges museum, it was open over the weekend while the chapel wasn’t.
How Great Thou Art, indeed.
Christ of the Ozarks was just a couple of miles away—I don’t know about you, but to me, nothing says Arkansas like a 67’ tall statue of Jesus, so we headed over there right as soon as we left Thorncrown Chapel.
The Great Passion Play, a biblical tableau that happens in the summer. The grounds consisted of a bunch of ramshackle buildings, built without benefit of designer, arrayed around a parking lot, built without benefit of contractor. My guess is that the Angel Eddie Joe told some guy in a dump truck to drop concrete blocks and some macadam right there--hence Christ of the Ozarks.
After driving around the parking lot not knowing where to go, we went into the gift shoppe (always open) to ask where the statue was. The two staffers—who by their hair and clothes stopped getting Vogue in, well, um, a LONG time ago, suggested that our very first stop should be the Bible Museum in the back of the gift shop.
|Pictures of CHRIST. Look closely.|
Gerald L.K. Smith, an associate of Huey Long, turned out to be even better than I expected. It’s one huge piece of whackadoodle outsider art; allegedly the third tallest statue of Jesus in the world. The work has been described as looking like a milk carton with a tennis ball stuffed on top, and whoever it was who said that, well, they were on to something.
The sculptor, Emmett Sullivan, went on to do Dinosaur World, which, unfortunately we somehow missed.
After our fill of Christ of the Ozarks, it was time for a bite to eat in Eureka Springs, followed by a tour of the Pea Ridge Battlefield.
Battle of Pea Ridge, it took place in March 1862. Though Union forces were outnumbered by Confederate forces, the still carried the day, cementing the Union's control of Missouri. We were the only tourists there, though we did run into a guy who was counting deer as a part of a research project.
Dinner that evening was at the Monte Ne Inn, a restaurant recommended by a friend, but also endorsed by Caleb the Dishwasher. It was one of the coolest places I’ve eaten in eons. There’s no menu. They serve one thing, a fried chicken dinner. And that’s bean soup, followed by fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, cole slaw, and hot bread. And the keep bringing the food until you tell them to stop. If you have room, there are homemade cobblers for dessert. The chicken is someplace between quite possibly the best fried chicken you’ve ever had and a religious experience. Yes, it’s that good. We had a great time talking to the owner, who shared the history of the place and what it’s like to own a restaurant that serves only one thing. He seemed like a good egg, and if you’re ever in NWA, make it a point to go there to eat.
OK, this is getting pretty long, so I'll close right here and save Crystal Bridges, The Walmart Museum, and what happens when your hotel room is across the hall from one of The Real Housewives of Arkansas for the next post.