When the summer months come around, The Observer is a rambling man. There is something about the heat that makes a body want to get a move on. We know others take a different approach, settling deeper in to the couch as the air gets muggier, but that's never been our way. In fact, by way of reminder, we recently made the mistake of sitting down shirtless on our new couch — a little black vinyl love seat our better half picked up at Mid Towne Antique Mall. This is not a good move in July if you happen to be aiming to skimp on the A.C. bill. When we arose after taking in some Netflix, the vinyl cushion came with us, stickily affixed to our back. The Observer tries to pay attention to signs; surely this was one.
So it was that The Observer and our better half made the seven-and-a-half hour drive to New Orleans for a weekend getaway (The Observer's attempt to cut it to seven was waylaid by a state trooper somewhere outside of Lake Village). New Orleans is our favorite city in these United States. And yes, it's hot enough to make Arkansas summers seem damn well temperate by comparison. But it's event heat: New Orleanians have collectively decided that when it gets steamy enough, the best thing to do is put a stop to whatever it is you're doing and proceed to beer-drinking, crawfish-eating, porch-sitting, tall-tale-telling, above-ground pools, brass bands, and any and all manner of communal tomfoolery. If it gets up past 95, might as well declare a holiday. What they don't do is retreat to the indoor confines of artificial air. This is part of what we love about New Orleans, come to think of it (and explains their imminently sensible policy of letting folks drink alcohol wherever they please): a deep commitment to outdoor living.
Back in Little Rock, we've tried to practice the outdoor-living way and embrace the summer as it is (spurred on by our better half, who's read a series of specious-sounding magazine articles about the health risks of air conditioning). We've been making sure to lollygag along South Main on the weekends and have met some interesting souls fishing in MacArthur Park (one told us that, after a catfish slipped out of his hands, that he "voluntarily cried" but was "thankful that the good Lord saw fit at least to let me touch it"). Our latest trick is to dodge the lines at Gus's by calling ahead, picking up our chicken to go, and gnawing down the crispy pieces as we stroll along the River Market. You might think this is a wings-and-legs-only maneuver but that Gus's crust makes for better gripping than you'd think. Maybe you think us unlovely walking and eating greasy fried chicken for the good world to see, but we're just staying true to plan. Summer is a lovely season if you're outside and on the go.
Our rambling continues this weekend, as The Observer heads to the Association of Alternative News Media annual conference in Miami, probably our second favorite city, and a mite stranger place than ever strange New Orleans. A sampling of occurrences the last few times we were in Miami: men in white suits throwing down hundred-dollar bills on the ground betting on jai alai games (the Observer did not partake, having neither white suit nor large bills); a fancy champagne party that had a performance by a synchronized swimming team; an unforgettable Haitian dinner in which every single diner was overcome by the live music and left their food to dance together; a woman in a thong bikini roller-blading in to the public library in South Beach to read the newspaper. The last one was odd because the library had the A.C. blasting — apparently unaware of the health risks Mrs. Observer has keyed us in to.
Speaking of beaches, The Observer got up to the one on Lake DeGray's Caddo Bend over the weekend, our first time up there since we were but a pup. While landlocked Arkansas is never going to trump Miami, we can definitely give a thumbs up to that particular sweet curve of sand, plugged into the side of a peninsula that juts far into the main channel, just an hour's drive out of sweltering LR. Standing there in the breeze as the sun sank and the horizon turned gold and the water turned midnight blue, we watched Spouse walk barefoot in the sand at the edge of the water holding the hem of her dress, and loved her, and thought: Thanks, Arkansas. Sometimes you still manage to surprise us.
You want hot? You want to join the sweaty throng? Here's what you do. You accidentally hit the heated seat button in your car and drive around for about 20 minutes with the seat set at 75. You will not do this more than 20 minutes, however. It will come to your attention about then that you are sitting in a puddle of your own precious bodily fluids.