When I was a kid, we went to Little Rock for almost every purchase we had to make. England, Ark., as you can imagine, just isn’t the Mecca for, well, anything at all.
Weekends were often planned around these trips. Need shoes? Can’t get them in England. Sub sandwich? Won’t find it there. Baseball bat? You guessed it – nope.
Back then, there was a hardware store, a dollar store I was afraid to enter for fear of preteen peer ridicule, and a grocery store that my mom swore was overpriced even though it was (and still is) part of a national chain.
Now there are two dollar stores and the one grocery store. But a good pair of pants still can’t be found within a 20-mile radius.
We took the trip north to the big city so much that North Little Rock and Little Rock were synonymous. I think I was about 13 before I figured out they were separate places.
We went so much that I consider it sort of my second hometown, and I’ve been harboring that small affinity for it ever since I came here.
My boyfriend isn’t from central Arkansas. He’s held this weird grudge against Little Rock for as long as I’ve known him. I don’t really understand it.
But last weekend, we came to a consensus.
Whenever he goes home with me, he HAS to go out. I never was quite a part of the late-night scene in the capitol because I was 18 when I moved to Fayetteville.
That’s too young to drink, and too young to get in, well, much of anywhere else that’s cool. I haven’t really hung out there since I left home, and so I have no knowledge of where to go.
But for the past two years, we’ve been exploring it. Our familiar retreat is a bar in the River Market. There’s never a cover charge, the atmosphere is great and there are about 87,546 different beers to choose from.
Last Friday, however, it was a completely different story.
They started charging a cover at our place. And that was totally unacceptable. What on earth were we to do?
Well, first things first: drive around aimlessly trying to find Juanita’s because I couldn’t remember where it was.
There were plenty of raised voices, hastily crossed arms and screechy tires.
After all that foolishness, I offered the name of a place in North Little Rock I heard someone talking about last semester.
I thought it was a billiards bar. Surely there wouldn’t be a charge to enter.
I was excited because we were finally going to get to sit down and relax. We drove up to the place, walked in the door and were informed of the most absurd thing ever.
Not only was there a cover charge, for both of us, but there was a membership fee. In a wet county.
We were so exhausted and irritated that we forked it over. The door guy said our membership fee also served as a $5 coupon toward our tab.
Great, I thought. We were getting two free beers. You’d have thought I would’ve remembered the pattern of the evening and where my instincts fit into that.
Beers were roughly $5 a piece, pool was *cough* $8 an hour and the suckiest cover band EVER was just starting up.
The musical aspect of the place highlighted its dreadfulness like nothing else could. First of all, out of about eight songs we were exposed to, only one was original. And it was a sweet little pukey love ballad.
Despite their pasty whiteness, these guys decided they could play funk, rap and hip-hop.
We heard “Sexual Healing,” 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” (the acoustic guitar version – oh yeah), and some song where a recurring lyric was “bring the funk.” It sounded like this:
Pale, freckled lead singer: (insert painfully soulful voice) “Brayh-ay-ayh-aaang the fu-huh-uh-huh-unkkk!”
Only adding to the mania was a girl in front of us dancing in her seat with her serious face on (eyebrows furrowed, lips stuck out) and a guy in a tie monkey-jumping and soliciting EVERY TABLE to buy the band’s CD.
It was pretty bad. When they started playing Prince classics, it was definitely over.
It was a ridiculous experience, no doubt. I don’t hate Little Rock. I just don’t know if I’ll be enjoying the nightlife much anymore. I’ll have to go there again sometime.
Because one of these days I’ll be in England, and I might need a light bulb.
Emily Hughes is lifestyles editor. Her column appears on Wednesdays.