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The Observer April 14

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The Observer availed our-selves of the national pastime not once but twice last weekend, taking in the second and third games of the Travs’ season at Ray Winder Field. We were happy to note a feeling of energy we didn’t pick up on last year. Lots of young folks. Walking-up-to-the-batter’s-box music for each Travs player. An organist named Frisbee whose style carries over from his primary gig entertaining the crowds at Ernie Biggs Piano Bar downtown. Even announcements over the P.A. system had a little more punch to them, like this one from Friday night’s game: “If you’re the owner of a Jeep with Arkansas license plate [blah blah blah] that parked in Bill Valentine’s reserved parking space, you’d better move it quick. He’s about to slash the tires.” It was too beautiful Friday to stay cooped up in the vault, so The Observer tiptoed over to the River Market for a spin in the sun. Rounding the corner of the east end of the market, we spied a bright yellow motor scooter, just like one we’d ridden at WordsWorth Bookstore a week ago (with the bookstore owner’s blessing), lined up with other scooters and bicycles, including a tandem bike, and rollerblades. A sign read “Famie’s Wheels for Fun.” We were struck for a couple of reasons. One was that we loved the old baseball joke about the “beer that made Milt Famie walk us.” Another was the memory of “City Bikes.” Once, Little Rock’s trusting Parks Department wheeled to the River Market district free bicycles that, in a Utopian world, would have been borrowed by folks to get from point A to point B without consuming any petroleum products. The bike would be left at point B for another person who needed it for a quick trip. And so on. Within days, all the bikes disappeared. Famie Gay’s got a different idea. She’s charging for use of the bikes, and, lest you’re tempted to just keep motoring, she keeps your driver’s license. To back-pedal a bit, a little history on Gay: A native of Allport, which is down around Stuttgart, Famie Gay was a pioneer player on the Women’s Professional Basketball League, which didn’t last long (1978-81), but did take young women like Gay to places they’d never been before, like Amsterdam, besides the national circuit. Gay’s real dream was to work in Los Angeles, and when she didn’t make the cut her second year, she moved to California, where just for fun she added an e to her last name to suggest kinship to Marvin. Now, she’s home, putting her love of sports together with a business. Though we enjoy riding scooters, we were skeptical that at $10 a half hour, folks would flock to Famie’s Wheels for Fun. But after work, as we returned to the River Market to visit the galleries, we saw a woman zip by on a scooter. The Observer has, some might say belatedly, taken on a sizable chunk of the trappings of full-on adulthood in the last couple of years. Marriage, mortgage, moving back home after more than a decade of gathering no moss. For the most part, it hasn’t hurt much — sitting at home on Saturday night doesn’t feel quite so pathetic at 33 as it did at 26. But then we have this yard. Every last gasping shred of our youth tells us it’s there to play kickball on, left to run riot until the grass is so tall we can no longer tune out the nagging voice of Pa Observer telling us to get mowing if we want to go out with our friends later. We don’t remember giving in, really we don’t, but at some point we started to Care. The Observer began designing a landscape plan. Mr. Observer took a scythe and a tub of Agent Orange to the weeds. We avoided looking each other in the eye. And then, midway through what we at first thought was the hard, manual, grown-up labor of digging out a flowerbed where none had been before, The Observer stumbled across a saving truth: Our 2-year-old nephew would kill to be doing what we were doing. It was the lawn-care equivalent of kicking down a sandcastle or knocking over a tower of blocks. We were Godzilla, stomping through the earthworms’ Tokyo. Wreaking havoc. Getting filthy. Grinding dirt into our clothes, getting it under our fingernails, tracking it into the house. And best of all, no one could yell at us for it. It was all we could do after that not to turn on the water spigot and start making mud-pies. Don’t tell our mom, OK?

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