The Observer will be moving soon. Not out of The Observatory, thank God, as we're sure it will take the wagon from the 20 Mule Team Borax box to get us away from there after 14 years of accumulation, plus a team of seasoned Aussie wildlife wranglers to herd our pair of surly wildcats into a crate. No, just out of the office we've been in at the Fortress of Employment for going on five years, which is bad enough. We're moving to the other side of the building here in a few months.
It will be quite a change. Yours Truly was out on the wild veldt of the newsroom for over a decade, forced to interact, forced to keep our desk at least somewhat shipshape, forced to be as social as reporters get, which is the comraderie one would expect from members of a profession that gets told to go to hell a lot. Once The Observer got a door, a window shade and a light switch under our sole command, though, we got a little too comfortable with retiring to our lair, pushing the door to, and sort of marinating here in our own company, which is never a good thing for anybody. In any biopic, for instance, the point where the subject finally gets rich enough to buy the megamansion with 19 bathrooms and the Lamborghini-shaped swimming pool is the point where heroin and questionable wardrobe choices always enter the picture. We're not there yet (not with the heroin, at least) but it's tempting. To boot, The Observer's hearing has taken a whack over the years — all the screaming guitars and close proximity to rumbling V8 motorvators in our misspent youth, we suppose — and so when we hear Brantley and the quiz kids out in the newsroom yukking it up over something or other, we have to go to the door of the office and stand there like an old fart answering a salesman's knock at dinnertime, then ask what the joke is, even knowing that explanation is the death of all jokes. That, at least, we will not miss.
Still, as much as leaving our little sanctum will likely be a boon to our mental health and social standing around the office, it will be sad to move out of here. Goodbye walls. Goodbye door with the original proof sheet from the cover where we proclaimed the freedom of the West Memphis Three. Goodbye view of Scott and Markham, where drivers routinely entertain us with gladiatorial vehicular combat. Goodbye hat rack, crowned with the dove gray fedora of the great Mike Trimble. Goodbye windowsill, with the little museum of knickknacks we've picked up on assignment over the years: a perfect curl of translucent wood from the workshop of Owen Rein way up in the hills; a chunk of granite from the quarry where they found the body of Paty Guardado, whose murder remains unsolved; a church fan bearing the face of MLK, worried away from its stick and left by some haunted sinner in the back pew hymnal slot of a little chapel down near the airport; a forgotten brass token bearing the phrase "No Cash Value," picked up from the floor of the labyrinthine mansion of the late Jennings Osborne as his worldly goods went to auction. Goodbye baseboard marked with shoe scuffs where the polished loafer of the late, great Doug Smith kicked the wall every time he slid his chair in to go to his careful work, this office tidy as a monk's cell then, now as cluttered and piled as The Observer's thoughts can be at times.
The Observer tries not to be sentimental about places. They are only sets after all. We, the poor players, bring them life, and we've talked to enough folks to know that one can be happy in a cardboard box and miserable in a mansion. But it's still hard. We will, however, be on the veldt and among our people again when this is all done. About that, we must confess a certain reluctant excitement.