Camping, unbothered, hopefully, in Hazen, AR., another one of those small towns with little more than a single main street running straight through its heart, on one side of which is nothing, and on the other side of which is really nothing. Well, there are a series of brick buildings, inside one of which is an antique store, but everything else is vacant. I found a lovely spot for my tent—a grass plot with a few small trees situated between two old buildings, one of which being the aforementioned antique store. It is much less obvious than many a camping spot I’ve chosen, I must say.
I’m setup alongside one of the buildings, beneath a Mulberry tree which, fortunately or unfortunately, is laden with berries that are not yet ripe. I say fortunately because they won’t be dropping and making a mess all over the ground and my tent, but unfortunately because they’re not available yet to be eaten.
Earlier, upon arriving in town, after observing what there was around me, and taking a few pictures of whatever happened to catch my interest up and down the main thoroughfare, I found my way to a small grocery and picked up some fruit as well as extra veggies for my lentil & rice dinner. After leaving, and about to be on my way to find an appropriate spot to camp—where I am now writing this— I was approached by a young man who was curious about my rig—he, actually, unlike many, had some idea of what I was doing, as he himself was interested in doing something similar. This boy and I got to talking when his friend came out and joined our conversation. To make a short, uninteresting story even shorter, I may have two new blog readers, but, perhaps more importantly, they gave me something like two quarts of water when I mentioned that was next on my to-do list. Very grateful to them for their generosity and the pleasant conversation.
This morning I’ve decided to eat at the only diner in town. They like to call themselves a cafe but the coffee is the worst thing here. Mainly it tastes like it was brewed through a mildewed sock, and the packets of non-dairy creamer (one actually has to request half and half) and sugar don’t in any way improve it. It is only $.91, though. Ninety-one cents! Free refills to boot, though why anyone would want a second cup, let alone a third or fourth, is beyond my understanding. Even at that price, and with the refills it’s still overpriced. At least the food is somewhat palatable, though everything tastes a bit like it was cooked on a greasy, dirty griddle, and is obviously of low quality, probably trucked in from a warehouse somewhere.
At the table behind me sits an ancient man. He’s only just toddled in a moment ago. He is trying to say something to his waitress about an employee who offered to pay for his meal on a previous occasion, however, he doesn’t know her name, and he is having an awful problem attempting to spit out what it is he is trying to communicate to the girl. His way of talking is a combination mumble and stutter. He sounds as though he’s had a topical anesthetic applied to his tongue and lips, and so is incapable of moving them in any coordinated action, thus making it impossible to give voice to his request that would seem likely to go unheeded perhaps, anyway. His voice and way of speaking sound a bit like a tumble of rocks bounding down a slope of loose scree—each individual sound of rock hitting rock melded together to create one, single, indecipherable sound.
This is a diner full of locals, all come together at one place—this tiny, no-account town, like so many others of its kind, could only support one place like this. Many of them come and go singly, yet sit at various tables joining friends who are already seated. I like that. The men are all bearded or mustached, and relatively progressed in age—I would estimate most of them to be in their sixties, though some, perhaps, are even older than that. The youngest I see here would have to be in his fifties. All are grossly overweight and mainly farmers I would guess, as that’s the predominant industry around these parts. “These parts,” being the Arkansas Delta, which, thank God, I am nearly free of, as it’s a flat and featureless area most known for growing rice, cotton and soy.
I like the relaxed, comforting, friendly, homey feel of the place, but deplore the low quality of food. Of course this isn’t the only small town in the nation serving bad food from ingredients that may have been grown here, but were then shipped elsewhere to be processed into a food item, then shipped back in a state that is supposedly fit for eating and requiring very little further processing, i.e., cooking, in order that they may be listed on a menu and served to hungry guests.
Finally, this old man, gripping his check in his bony paw, has meandered over, and is staring into the kitchen, irately inquiring about this mysterious woman who has offered to buy him a meal, but no one on staff seems to know to whom he might be referring. Neither does anyone seem to know what to make of this man, nor what to do about the issue. There doesn’t seem to be a manager in.