Driving around in Southwest Little Rock on Sunday morning, The Observer decided to stop into one of the tidy Latino bakeries that have sprung up in those parts in recent years — in this case, La Regional Panaderia, on Baseline Road.
The scent on opening the door was like stepping into heaven — hot bread, powdered sugar, cinnamon, butter, frosting. In the back, a Spanish-language radio station played, and the bakers banged pans. The walls of the cozy store were lined with glass cases bursting with a Christmas morning's worth of goodies, and every one of them as foreign to our eyes as a dodo bird. For The Observer, who considers a trip to Shipley's uptown, we might as well have been entering a bakery from Star Wars — a little shop on some distant moon in a galaxy far, far way.
The cute girl at the register directed us to take one of the big aluminum pans and a pair of tongs from a rack near the counter. The next thing we knew, we found ourselves in kind of a sugar-induced trance, loading up on sugary stuff we'd never even seen before: flaky triangles of pasty bursting with fruit filling; bun-shaped tarts dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar; maple-glazed cookies, vaguely the shape of a cartoon pig and the color of a waxed Chippendale highboy; black-and-white checkerboard sugar cookies; carefully patterned shells oozing creamy custard; Bible-thick chunks of lemon pound cake, covered in multi-colored sprinkles; dense, almost bagel-like rounds bursting with cream filling; white, glistening buns with a wedge of their delicate tops carved out to show the neon lemon inside; saucer-sized cookies studded with tiny chocolate chips. Our eyes were truly too big for our stomach, but we couldn't really complain about the price: less than four bucks for a bag it nearly took two hands to lug out of the store. And the taste? Well, let's just say: do yourself a favor and go experience it for yourself some Sunday morning.
We've found a lot to love about the influx of our Latino brothers and sisters to Little Rock in recent years. Add to that list: awesome pastries.
The Observer figures we've acquired some over the course of nearing four decades in Little Rock.
We like the connectedness that comes from having a little understanding of how the pieces of the city fit together.
It's nice to know who's related to whom, for example. If nothing else, The Observer is somewhat less likely to unknowingly criticize a beloved cousin during cocktail hour chitchat. (It has happened, of course. Relationships can be complicated.)
The Observer thought about connectedness on a Sunday drive last weekend. We were struck, more than once, by the appropriateness of placement of the sudden eruption of campaign signage amid the azaleas.
Meaning: Knowing the identity of the owner of a certain downtrodden piece of property, The Observer was not at all surprised by the line-up of judicial candidates that particular property owner has apparently endorsed. “Birds of a feather,” we harrumphed. Likewise, wasn't it nice to see how many homes occupied by people we like were festooned by signs of candidates of such high integrity. None are as brilliant as those with whom The Observer agrees.
The Observer was not in a position to observe much of anything when, at around 2:45 on Sunday morning, we woke up to what sounded like a gunshot outside our window. The first “pop” was indecisive — there's a loud screen door nearby that makes a similar sound — but there was no doubt about it when the sound was followed by a “pop pop pop pop,” then another “pop,” then some distressed wailing and screaming. This is not a common occurrence in The Observer's neighborhood, but neither is it beyond the realm of possibility. We went back to sleep, a bit upset by the ruckus, but undeterred from our slumber.
Though a follow-up call to the police the next week yielded no report, an eyewitness confirmed that shots were fired. There were no apparent deaths, just an intramural squabble and a macho display of a piece. But, fatality or no, the noise was enough to make The Observer reiterate the case for more gun restrictions in the city. We'll continue to rely on our ax handles for home protection.