It’s Friday the 13th as The Observer writes, the Dow Jones is a dumpster fire, a deadly virus is sweeping across the land and a 73-year-old, truth-phobic toddler is flying the jumbo jet on which we are all passengers for at least the next 10 months. Given that, allow Your Old Pal to hopefully brighten your quarantine cell, secluded cabin or hermetically sealed containment unit with a tale of the good ol’ days.
We've got a deal for you!
For a limited time, when you purchase an annual Digital Subscription to the Arkansas Times, you’ll have your choice of a one-year subscription to the Oxford American magazine or a six-month concert membership to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
The Observer is about to hit the back slope of our 40s come this July, and as our dear old Pa and Granny and every other well-seasoned adult in our life tried to tell us back when we were in the carefree summer grasshopper portion of our existence, the idiot lights to our body are starting to wink on, one by one.
True story: Heaven is a bar where the World Series is always on TV, it’s always happy hour, and “Lay Lady Lay,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” or “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is eternally playing on the jukebox. An old bubblefront Wurlitzer, maybe, or one of those early ’60s jobs full of 45s, glowing like the command console of the U.S.S. Enterprise next to the squat battleship of the cigarette machine. Quarter for three plays. Make your choices and take your chances, kid.
In 2020, we will answer one call per month from a number we don’t recognize, just to help keep our spirit of adventure alive. In that same vein, we will also tell the woman down at the haircutting place, “Just work your magic,” by way of instructions on every third haircut, then just close our eyes and let the locks and eyebrow notches fall where they may.
The Observer is a movie buff of some renown, even though the ticket prices and fees and concession prices and all the other stuff that pays for Brad Pitt and our local theater owner to live in the style he is accustomed to can really rack up.
For us, Halloween has become the greatest thing one can do with underpants on, a chance for adults to be kids again and for kids to consider an insulated-by-fun glimpse of all those things that you must confront as an adult: the unknown, the macabre, the unsettling.
As of this writing, both wars are still going on, if you can believe it, with children born on Sept. 11, 2001, now old enough to legally join the military and fight in the wars that day spawned.
Like you, your cousin, your Dutch uncle, Meryl Streep, the guy at the corner store and your ol’ dog Blue, The Observer ain’t getting any younger.
The Observer was a weird little shit who has since grown into a weird old fart, and for several years there in our teens and 20s, serial killers happened to be one of the things in which we were interested — the real-life equivalent of the monsters that haunt the darkest fairy tales, and maybe even the original, unspeakable inspiration for the Big Bad Wolf and Rumpelstiltskin, the Wicked Queen and the Boogeyman, and all the other baddies that lurk in the darkness of closets and under kids’ beds when mom and dad say goodnight and the lights go out.
“It is not a lack of talent that keeps most people from becoming artists.”
The Observer first saw an alligator snapping turtle in the wild when we were about 5 — a massive old sumbitch one of our distant kinfolks had transferred from the Arkansas River to a 6-acre stock pond up near Quitman as a kind of joke a few years before John Kennedy was felled in Dallas.
I believe there is no better smell in all the world than old books, a lifelong addiction that keeps The Observer rifling through pages at pretty much every moment when we're not rifling through old bookstores and haunting book sales, even though our shelves back home in the parlor and study and specially constructed Reading Toilet of The Observatory are already groaning with enough tomes that I'll never get 'em all read unless I live to a well-seasoned 306.
It's been 10 months since The Observer hung up our cleats after 15 years as a reporter and took a job with a little more pay, a little less stress and a lot better insurance to take care of our various health bugaboos.
If you're reading a paper copy of this esteemed publication right now, you're holding something special in your hands: the last weekly print edition of the Arkansas Times, the end of an unbroken chain that goes back and back, week by week, every week, to May 1992, when the Times became what the hep cats call an "alternative newsweekly."
The Observer, like a lot of folks, is drawn to the real places: barbecue joints and honky-tonks, seedy truck stops and greasy little diners where the waitresses and clerks still call you "Hun," used bookstores that have been there since Faulkner was still drinking mint juleps, bait shops hung with dusty-eyed bass pulled up from the deep when Eisenhower was in the White House.
After many years of faithful service, it seems as if the transmission in Black Phillip — our trusty 2006 Honda CRV — is in the process of giving up the ghost.
Thanksgiving in the rearview, with all the leftovers either consumed or thrown out to the dogs and/or opportunistic raccoons, we slide, inexorably, into December.
It's that time of year again, when we are supposed to turn a bit inward to find and count our blessings.