Lately I've noticed something odd on errands to Harp's and the post office. Given the growth in the area, it's not surprising. Stopped at any traffic light along Bentonville's Walton Boulevard, it's common to see late-model SUVs with de rigueur multiple bicycle racks on the hatches and icons of previous habitation. They take the form of decals from University of California system campuses or, surrounding new Arkansas license plates, frames promoting dealerships near the San Francisco Bay. All markers of where hearts were left. It's like last century when retirees from up north immigrated here and staked their claims in the Ozarks with their old Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska car plates -- edges rusted from ice-melt salt -- nailed to Bella Vista mailbox posts.
Today we have "The Grapes of Wrath" in reverse. But this time the Joad family is traveling with a ton of down-payment cash for a four-bedroom total re-do in Hidden Springs or a chichi condo off the Bentonville Square.
I've shared such observations of street-level demographics with my daughter who lives in Sonoma County, Calif. She has chuckled. In return, she shared an opinion piece from a Californian, Brett Alder, who had moved his family to Austin, Texas, where West Coast folks by the thousands have relocated for tech jobs and a presumed laid-back lifestyle. The case is similar here in Bentonville.
The Lone Star State didn't work for Alder. I could have saved him the trouble. Austin is the worst of Texas with the worst of California. He moved back. Beyond mere disappointment, in his Business Insider piece Alder offered post-ordeal therapy. He listed Austin's defects, including that it wasn't so cheap in the Texas boomtown as expected and among other things, his kids' schools were all about regimentation and football (had he never seen a "Young Sheldon" episode?). Even the beloved Hill Country's Enchanted Rock Park was disenchanting. Texas is a "conservative dystopia" and a "monoculture that doesn't seem to be aware of its own blandness," he concluded. And then there's the horrible weather. Even meeting Matthew McConaughey couldn't compensate for the shortcomings.
So the other day, while waiting at a traffic light with a guy from San Mateo stopped in front of me, I wondered what such folks might write home to the Golden State if they decided to leave Northwest Arkansas. Maybe an email with bullet points:
Hey, Nancy and Jeff,
We've had enough of Northwest Arkansas. We're heading back. Why?
• The people here are Razorback Hog football crazy. Of course it's the South and all, but do these well-off people in a pristine stadium need to feign dirt-poor farmers by calling droves of pigs to the slop trough?
• More football! Everyone's astir because one big state university here will be playing some other big state university. But not till 2025! The monumental event to play out in some old Little Rock stadium is the biggest news since 1836 statehood.
• Bicycles! Everyone has a rack on the back of a Land Rover holding four or five high-end bicycles. But they drive to parking lots to hit the trails instead of cycling there in the first place. And it seems few actually ride their bikes to work or even downtown to the square to nosh or shop.
• And about that Bentonville Square. It's too perfect, like a Stephen King narrative about to unfold. It's all very nice, but a bit too much a movie set with brew pubs -- in a former dry county no less -- bistros, a bagel shop and artisan dog treats for good measure. We have Disneyland Main Street back in Anaheim if we want it.
• To be fair, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and everything arty and ancillary to it have attracted some progressive types to town (the family guy down the street has a pony tail), but the politics around here are still very much Elvis painted on black velvet and posters of poker-playing dogs. Just Google "Nancy Pelosi desk Gravette" and you'll see.
• And then, of course, there's Walmart. Oh, my God. Anything and everything of importance around here has a "W" connected to it from old Sam Walton, who pillaged small town retail last century. Not anything like forward-thinking Jeff Bezos' trendy West Coast Amazon operation that has done so much for small towns ... Oh, wait. Never mind.
Anyway, we're listing the house. Based on uninformed masses still moving here, it should sell in 36 hours. Westward Ho! The Prius is packed.
See y'all soon,
Heather and Brad