The Observer was saddened to open the paper this week and learn the tale of how the Obamamobile — a 1978 Cutlass on circus-wagon-sized wheels, emblazoned with President Obama's face — had been stolen from its owner in Little Rock, taken to Pine Bluff and stripped.
The Observer is a car nut from way back. A few years ago, we wrote a story about "sticker cars," those rides that feature huge chrome wheels and paintjobs festooned with the logos of products and major corporations. It all apparently started in New Orleans (doesn't everything that's worth a damn in American culture start or end up there?), but it soon migrated all over. On the streets of Little Rock and North Little Rock in recent years, we've seen rolling tributes to everything from Facebook to Twitter to Batman. We even saw a Pepto-Bismol car, which always struck us as probably not the signal you'd want to send when you pick up a date.
It's not something we'd ever do to the Mobile Observatory, but we get the impulse. It's about making your mass-produced home-away-from-home just a little different from everybody else. Now that we mention it, though, why hasn't anybody done an Observer Car? That's what we're waiting on: some Reagan-era Buick or Oldsmobile on 99-inch wire rims, Tophat Catfish logo on the trunk, maybe a big question mark and the phrase "WHO IS HE/SHE?" on the hood to symbolize our confounding anonymity. We'd definitely sign off on that product placement.
Then again, maybe it's not such a good idea. We've made a lot of enemies over the years as a shameless liberal and degenerate eavesdropper. Wouldn't want some gearhead admirer to get his or her ride stolen, stripped and burned by some Republican types. Come to think of it, maybe that's what happened to the Obamamobile.
Attention ladies and gentlemen: After 10 years at the Arkansas Times, The Observer has finally secured one of the rare newsroom offices — exposed brick, a door, a window looking out on the intersection of Scott and Markham, the works. We rarely have defections from the editorial flock, but our long-time colleague and friend Doug Smith recently scaled back his time in the office, and Your Ol' Pal wasted no time grabbing up our junk and rushing into the office vacuum before somebody else could call dibs. You snooze, you lose.
Before we could get moved in, though, it took us five (count 'em!) trash cans to clean out all the stuff we'd accumulated in our old desk in the corner of the newsroom over the years: a thousand books of Post-It notes, a French Franc, notes from the first story we ever worked on as a reporter, two dozen cassette tapes, Thank You cards from people we've written about over the years, a tiny plastic shark, and several scrapbook pages full of some of our first Observers, back when we were bemoaning the fact of turning 29 instead of staring hard down the deep black barrel of 40. We even found a few things from Bob Lancaster, left over from when he was the resident of our desk. Ever cleaned out your wallet after a long, long time? Imagine that, except instead of receipts from Chinese restaurants and business cards for defunct dry cleaners, you have to shovel through strata of paper — printouts, hand-scribbled notes, cards, diagrams, books, photos, mug shots, hate mail, crime scene pictures, and things you can't quite remember writing — describing every day of your professional life for the past decade. Quite a mindjob being forcibly given a trip down very cluttered Memory Lane. Tends to put a working life in sharp perspective.
The Observer tells ourself that we're going to paint The New Observatory at some point. Bring in some lamps and a comfy chair. A couch. A rug. Bunk beds. A weight bench and a pool table and a jukebox and a hot tub. A telescope to spy on folks at the Chamber of Commerce across the way. Maybe a car elevator like Mitt Romney's got in one of his garages. A space always looks bigger until you put your stuff into it, doesn't it? More likely, though, we'll just take the lazy route and leave it as is. That's clearly more our speed.
In the meantime, The Observer's office hours are by appointment only. If the lights are out, we've gone fishin'. If the door is closed, we're probably napping under the desk, so do not disturb.