On its east was another apartment building owned and managed by the same company. It was newer, unfurnished, and more expensive. I wasn’t quite there yet, financially, and far from one of the fancy places with a swimming pool.
I was happy, but I did have to drive to work. It was close enough to Downtown that I could walk on a nice crisp fall day, but I had to find a to place to park on most of the time. I chose a lot on East Sixth Street where a person could park for 25 cents a day. It was six or seven blocks from the office, but I didn’t mind. I procured a couple of rolls of quarters and was in business.
Actually, I enjoyed the walk. On morning, as I stood at the traffic light at Main and Fifth Streets, a man taking the morning air joined me, both of us waiting for the light to change. I looked over at him and my breath caught.
It was Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. He was one of the few senators who had expressed concern about escalating the war in Vietnam. He also enjoyed the reputation of a true statesman, having initiated the Fulbright scholarship program that awarded thousands of scholarships to American and International students each year, designed to promote international relations. He was the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
And he was standing alongside me, just another benefit of walking the streets of a great city. I mumbled a hello. He nodded toward the two new high-rise office buildings and said, “This is a becoming a nice city, isn’t it?”
I agreed as the light changed. “It’s an honor to see you, sir,” I mumbled, so much for making a great impression. He took off in a slow “fast-walk” and faded into the urban fabric, a giant among Americans. We mourn the increasing dearth of his type.
On a more entertaining scale, I was walking on another day when an old, beat-up car painted in the historic fashion of an Arkansas State Trooper vehicle pulled up to a traffic signal. As its hood bounced on long-dead springs, I looked inside. There, to my amazement, were actors Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty, along with Dinah Shore, who was the then-girlfriend of Reynolds.
Odd? Not really. I knew they were in town for the filming of the movie, White Lightening. Still, it made a morning walk more interesting.
Time passed. As I continued to learn my craft, a young, newly-graduated young woman with long red hair and a royal smile was undertaking her first year as a teacher in her hometown of Lonoke, Arkansas, about 20 miles from where I lived.
As for me, as the year rolled by, I was keeping the sometime company of an odd-featured woman who could sing like Carol King, drink beer like a sailor, and wasn’t above providing additional benefits to special friends if and when she chose. She lived nearby, on a small and notorious strip of neglected street that led west from our apartment past a small white church, then past a row of modest but charming rental houses, eventually curving back to where Lincoln Boulevard transitioned into Cantrell Road.
Riverside Drive I think they called it, a strange place out of the view of prying eyes, maybe four or five hundred feet in total length, and strangely populated. It would play a minor, but nostalgia-producing part in my life.
|J. William Fulbright|
We won't see his likes
again anytime soon.