The Observer went to the city gym in War Memorial Park last Sunday to work out. He was greeted as he left by a young boy, maybe 8 or 9, wearing swim trunks and a T-shirt.
Could I spare $2 so he could join the shrieking crowds happily splashing in the War Memorial swimming pool across the way? The Observer doesn't take money to the gym, only a membership card. What a sinking feeling, being unable to help a kid cool off on a hot July day, a kid reduced to begging at far too young an age. It reminded me of the streets of Mumbai. The kid turned away and hopped into the front seat of a Ford Explorer parked nearby. A young woman was at the wheel. I left.
The experience undoubtedly played a role in a subsequent encounter the next morning. This time The Observer was leaving his car in the parking lot by the Bernice Garden on South Main. He was heading to Boulevard Bread. A young man, 20s maybe, stopped to say hello. "Haven't I seen you on TV?" the young man asked. Before The Observer could answer, he nailed it. "Yes, I've seen you on that news commentary show on AETN." Niceties out of the way, he continued: "I'm hungry. Could you buy me something to eat?"
Oldest panhandling trick in the book, right? Claim hunger and then take any offering and apply it directly to something to drink. The Observer was too smart to bite on that.
"Sure, I'll buy you some something to eat. Come on with me."
To The Observer's surprise, the young man followed.
Inside, after careful consideration of the menu, the young man ordered a breakfast sandwich — including pancetta, heirloom tomato and other good things on some of Boulevard's fine artisanal bread. Something to drink? Of course.
"I'll have a cafe mocha," the young man said.
The Observer, got a bagel and coffee and left Boulevard some $10 lighter and a touch wiser than expected. And still feeling badly about that hot little kid.
Speaking of War Memorial Park. We were driving down Markham Street by the stadium on a recent Saturday when we noticed a line of youth walking on the path where the tennis courts used to be, carrying extraordinarily bright silver objects, all of them exactly the same size (the objects, not the youth). But the person in the car with us asked, "Why are all those people in their bathing suits?"
The Observer whipped into the parking lot of the stadium to see what our passenger was talking about and almost drove into a circle of young people, all holding what we thought were silver trumpets. Indeed, all were in bathing suits as well. They were rehearsing, but stopped when we rolled down our window to ask why they were wearing bathing suits and blowing horns and who were they, anyway? They were the "Blue Coats," a very tan young woman explained, and they always practice in swimsuits — two piece for the girls — when it's hot.
We looked up the Blue Coats, which is a drum and bugle (not trumpet) corps out of Canton, Ohio. It appears from its website that when marching, the young folks wear blue coats, unsurprisingly. Not swimsuits. But skimpy outfits make a lot of sense when you're marching around in Arkansas ... and young.
The Observer was kicking back, trying to stay cool the other day when a letter sailed in over the transom from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. They were offering to sell us a perfectly good bridge. No, really. This isn't that scam they run on tourists up in New York City. Honest.
We like to be specific in our language (what was it Ol' Mr. Twain said about lightning versus the lightning bug?) so "sell" isn't quite the word we're looking for. More like "give, with likely a large cash outlay on the backend." Seems the AHTD is moving ahead with a plan to tear down the circa 1941, 573-foot-by-36-foot Amboy Overpass on Highway 365 in PuCo. Though it doesn't look all that historic in pictures, the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places, so they're required by law to see if any "State, locality, or responsible private entity" wants it first, assuming that white-elephant-loving somebody will "preserve the historic integrity of and assume financial responsibly for the continued maintenance on the structure." They do, however, offer to reimburse costs associated with modifying the concrete overpass for "recreational use."
So, anybody want a go-kart track, nudist resort, driving range, very short drag strip and/or box-turtle sanctuary in the sky? Call 501-569-2077.