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In the moment


Last week, your Old Pal had to hoof it down to Sixth and Louisiana for an interview. Just as momma taught us, we got there a bit early. It was the day that Mother Nature had chosen to finally peek out from behind her frosty skirts, beautiful, blue sky, the flowering trees just itching to burst forth in a spray of color. Even better, it was a Friday.

Waiting on our interview, we parked our old bones in front of a restaurant on Sixth Street. There's a long black bench there — toasty warm from the sun — which felt finer than the fine Corinthian leather in those Dodges that Ricardo Montalban used to hawk back in the day. Hidden speakers on the awning overhead were playing R&B, and we sat first through "Stand By Me," then Ray Charles singing "I Got a Woman." Butt warmed, shades on, good music, sunshine, cool breeze, nothing to do for a few precious minutes in the midst of this city we love. Could there be a more perfect moment in the history of the universe? Maybe, but it would have to include either sex or cheese fries. Maybe both.

Just when we thought nothing could spoil our Zen, a big ol' four-wheel-drive growled into the parking space before us. Out jumped some fella, clearly agitated, followed by what appeared to be his wife. "These gatdamn n****rs, I swear!" the guy near-shouted while pushing a coin into the meter. Then he stomped off down the sidewalk and around the corner, his wife wisely shushing him from two steps behind.

We have no idea what got the guy so mad, and something tells us it wouldn't make a lick of sense even if we were interested in having him try to explain it after a display like that. The only thing we know for sure is: The saddest thing about any great moment is that it only takes one jackass to ruin it.

The Observer took a bullet right in the kisser for you a few weeks back, Dear Reader, going to our favorite taqueria out in Southwest Little Rock and sampling all the things we swore to God and Buddha and Charles Darwin we'd never, ever eat: tripe, tongue, stewed beef head and pig esophagus tacos. While we hoped to discover new culinary lands by setting sail for adventure, our voyage wound up less like "The Love Boat" and more like that keeled-over Italian cruise liner. We get a little queasy now just saying the word "esophagus" — so much so that we honestly hope we haven't spoiled our fave joint for good, the same way we can't so much as sip orange juice now after enduring a projectile hangover after too much vodka and O.J. some 20 years back. The mouth has a memory, friends — a memory longer than the head at times.

A few days after that issue hit the streets, one of our colleagues from the Arkansas Times' sexy, Spanish-speaking sister paper, El Latino, came through the newsroom and proceeded to have a good chuckle at our expense. In an attempt at a defense, The Observer red-facedly told him what we knew: That Latinos tend to eat more bravely than us Norte Americanos. The American palate, we told him, is different. Our pal grinned.

"It's not the palate," our friend from way down South said. "It's the pocket."

That's the single most elegant way we'd ever heard of saying: "Poor folks tend to eat everything but the squeal, cluck and moo."

UPDATE: Since last week's guest Observer on The Hospital Dog — a black and white mutt who dutifully lends comfort to those who sit in the rest area behind a hospital in a small Arkansas River Valley town — we've received a flood of e-mails and comments, most inquiring whether he's a stray.

We're happy to report that The Hospital Dog has a loving family, and does his side gig at the hospital purely on a volunteer basis. After reading the column in the Times, a woman who identified herself as The Hospital Dog's "grandmother" sought out our Deputy Observer to confirm that he clocks out in the afternoons everyday and retires to home and hearth until it's time to do it all again in the morning, just like the rest of us working stiffs.

On a sadder note, our correspondent has been sidelined this week by the death of her father. She plans a follow-up on The Hospital Dog as she is able. Until then, our thoughts are with her.

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