The Last Word
While recently dining at a popular local eatery, my friends Mac and Ann Caruso, John and Helen Selig, and I enjoyed a light repast and then turned our conversation to various aspects of our community.
It was an animated exchange, a lively discourse involving five individuals who have called Hot Springs home for a collectively lengthy period.
Our in-person, two-hour chat was wide ranging but eventually came to focus on arts and entertainment and the myriad things there are to see and do here if one is only willing to look around and consider the opportunities.
After this pleasant get-together, I smiled — albeit a bit bemusedly — at all the times when my mother gently chided me for complaining that there was nothing to do here and I was just plain bored. Perhaps some of our readers will recall those formative years and their youthful assertions that everything that was truly exciting or intriguing was just over the horizon.
Of course, being curious about what's happening elsewhere is just a natural part of growing up and wanting to learn more about other people and places. When a student asks about a change of scene, I always say, “Go, spread your wings, and one of these days you might return to your roots with a whole new appreciation for the old hometown.”
I certainly did and now I marvel at how Hot Springs still revitalizes itself and draw more and more individuals and families who add their talents and energies to our diverse human resource pool.
In perusing the Spa City calendar of events for any given month, I see true affirmation of progress, of creative vision, of thinking big, of pushing forward with confidence.
Among my mementos is a poster from the 1997 Hot Springs Jazz Festival. This September, we celebrated JazzFest 2015. Kudos to the Hot Springs Jazz Society for not only preserving this iconic musical genre but for making it such an integral part of our cultural landscape.
After work took me to live in southern California, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the mid-to-late 1960s, I made it a personal mission to promote the positive assets of Hot Springs.
When an associate would boast about his or her locale's outstanding attractions, I would talk about the mountains and lakes that surround our berg; I would point to the interesting members of our artists' colony; I would enumerate the theater productions, the fine arts venues, the eclectic mix of recreational activities and aesthetic offerings.
And today, when I consider the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the revival of Oktoberfest, the sound of more music — everything from blues to opera to country to showstopping tunes — all finding their niches and their audiences among us with great style and passion, I am certain the Renaissance will persist.
I am just as certain that when other Hot Springs residents gather to share a meal and toast an anniversary, mark special occasions, or just find conviviality in the company of like-minded friends, that the conversations will go on in earnest about how we can make our little part of the world even better.
During the summer, I engaged in just such an ongoing discussion — via telephone and email — with a Chi Omega sorority sister and journalism school mentor. Dee McRae hails from Alabama, but career choices long ago took her to points East. She wrote for Smithsonian magazine and now busies herself with editorial services, composing verses, putting together an impressive newsletter, and serving as a homilist for St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Maryland.
When I mentioned all the talk about a performing arts center downtown, a new upscale hotel, or even a classy movie theater, too, she replied, ” Would it be possible to combine a cultural center with a hotel? It would no doubt take more space than the original hotel footprint, but it seems to me it might be appealing for people who come to town to take advantage of the arts center.”
So many ideas to ponder. So many reasons to be thankful for all that we already have.