Getting to El Dorado No Simple Task

Print this entry

EL DORADO, ARKANSAS — From East Texas, one has to work at getting to this town of 18,000 just north of the Louisiana border. This is especially true if trying to avoid the long-running construction project on Interstate 20 at the Texas-Louisiana border. As we headed east into Shreveport, traffic was backed up for miles on the westbound side, while we moved sluggishly past the now-closed Louisiana Welcome Center. Soon we left the familiar confines of this aged interstate and headed north, relying solely on the Maps app on the phone.

I weaned myself off paper maps a dozen years ago after getting hopelessly lost trying to find a hotel/conference center in the dark near the DFW airport. It took me well over an hour to find the venue despite several calls to the concierge. In the dark, all chain hotels look pretty much the same. The next day I headed to a Big Box store and bought a GPS. The technology has advanced to this handy smart-phone app. An entire generation has grown up not knowing how to properly fold a map, but this is a skill civilization ought to be able to do without — at least while driving.

Sometimes, I ignore the map app’s instructions, especially if I’m familiar with shortcuts. This is especially true when driving in Austin, where I religiously follow Molly Ivins’ dictum, which I paraphrase here: The course to true happiness in Austin is to never, ever get on I-35. This upsets the map app, but the quickest route between two points is not necessarily the shortest. However, I have never been to El Dorado, so I relied completely on the app. My Beautiful Mystery Companion ably served as navigator as we wandered the woods of north Louisiana, on one two-lane highway after another — LA-160E to LA-2E to LA-2 ALT to the Haynesville Highway. At one point, signs warned: “Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers — Prison Nearby.”

We were headed to El Dorado to hear two of our favorite singer-songwriters perform an acoustic set — Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt. We were celebrating my BMC’s birthday in fine style. The venue for this event was the Murphy Arts District in downtown El Dorado. The 2,000-seat music hall opened in 2017, and is flanked by The Griffin, an upscale restaurant housed in the 1928 Griffin Auto Co. Building. The Rialto Theater next door is being renovated as well. Downtown El Dorado is a hopping place these days.

Lovett and Hiatt enter the stage about 15 minutes late, as the announcer apologizes. Seems the crowd at The Griffin needed a bit more time to finish their meals and hustle over to the show. They walk onstage and sit down, two Collings acoustic guitars next to Lovett, while Hiatt ably plays a single beat-up but great sounding 1947 Gibson LG-2. It is a far cry from when we saw Jackson Browne play a solo set nearly a decade ago at Bass Hall in Austin. Lined up on the stage were 16 guitars, all of which he used during his performance.

Though the hall was nearly full, the venue had an intimate atmosphere. Lovett and Hiatt traded songs, played licks, harmonized for each other, and told stories. Lovett, 61, is known for his wild hair sticking up rathe like a bird’s nest on top of his head. His face has grown even craggier since I last saw him a dozen or so years ago. So has mine, I suppose. But his voice is still pure, strong and distinctive, and he has a funny, deadpan delivery on stage.

Hiatt, 66, author of many songs made famous by others – Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton – to name a few, is more expressive and clearly a superior guitar player, as Lovett readily admits during the show. Together, they provided an appreciative crowd, including us, two hours of fine music.

The outing was well worth the drive, and we did not pick up any hitchhikers. We managed to return home without getting on I-20, though I couldn’t tell you how we achieved that. The Maps app gets all the credit.


Print this entry

Leave a reply

Fields marked with * are required