Many mornings for the past year and a half have been an adventure. These mornings often fill me with optimism, and since 2016 is a-dawning I thought I might share some of the things that make me want to look on the bright side of life.
I pegged the time element to the past 18 months or so, because that’s how long I have been driving my daughter Abby to school at Little Rock Central High. We live in North Little Rock, so each morning as we come down off Park Hill via John F. Kennedy Boulevard, I assess whether it would be better to take Interstate 30 or Main Street to cross the river.
Usually we take Main Street. The rare exception is when there’s a government holiday, in which case we find it quicker to take the highway; you’d be amazed how uncongested I-30 is when government employees have the day off in the capital city.
(Hmm, not to get all political here, but, plans are on the drawing boards to widen the interstate from six to 10 lanes. The interstate is congested just a few hours a day. Wouldn’t it be far cheaper to reward folks for carpooling, to improve mass transit, and to encourage government agencies to stagger their office hours? Just a thought.)
Anyway, before veering into the ditch, I’ll get back on track here.
The morning commute takes us past North Little Rock High School, which, along with schools throughout the district, has been undergoing extensive construction thanks to a millage increase that is financing hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements. We’ve watched, wondered and sometimes marveled about what the workers and construction equipment were doing: “Gee, now what’s THAT new building going to be?” and “Can you BELIEVE the size of that crane!”
Continuing on through downtown North Little Rock, otherwise known as the Argenta Arts District, we’ve seen a few businesses go and new ones come in. We’ve watched tulips bloom by the thousands. We’ve seen new housing go up.
Crossing the Main Street Bridge, we’ve beheld the continuing massive renovation of Robinson Center Music Hall, aka Robinson Auditorium, and watched preparations commence for the new Broadway Bridge.
We’ve also watched the progress on Little Rock’s Creative Corridor, and have been pleased to watch artists as they completed murals that add to the area’s changing good looks.
We’ve progressed on through the Southside Main Street Project (SoMa) before turning onto Daisy Gatson Bates Drive for the last leg of the journey to Central, where it’s always refreshing to see young people walking from all directions onto the grounds of this historic high school.
But I’ve gotten a little bit ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the intersection of Main and Bates. I can’t turn at that intersection without looking over toward its southeast corner at Bernice Garden, which has a great collection of outdoor art and plays host to a farmers market every Sunday from mid-April to mid-November. One of the vendors is my son, Jeremy, who produces hummus, pesto and granola.
He has sold his products at farmers markets and retail outlets for several years, and through him I have developed a great appreciation for the work that goes into these markets. I’ve even helped him sell his products occasionally. In doing so, I’ve met families who rise well before dawn and travel long distances to sell their corn, honey, beef, bread, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, strawberries, blueberries … you name it.
I met one young man who typically worked until the farmers market closed for the day and then would work well into the evening at a food truck. He epitomized the idea of industriousness. And I’ve learned he’s hardly alone — I’ve come to know a number of hard-working, 20- and 30-something entrepreneurs.
This leads me back to my optimism. It’s been highly gratifying and encouraging to meet so many young people with great work ethics. They are going to change a lot of things when all is said and done.
Add in the other things I’ve mentioned — school improvements, renovation of a grand performance hall, enhancements in the Little Rock-North Little Rock downtown areas, abounding examples of art — and you have some fine ingredients for a better overall quality of life.
I’ll end by mentioning my grandchild, Ben, my son’s son. He’ll be 2 in June. I’m excited about the world in which he’ll grow up. I look forward to taking him to a play at Robinson someday.