The Observer is a transplant to Little Rock from the Northeast, but we take a certain amount of civic pride in our adopted hometown. So when out-of-town friends roll into Arkansas, we like to show them the sites. We got such an opportunity last week when a Friend of The Observer passed through on his way to San Marcos, Texas.
Dinner was first. We went to La Hacienda — The Observer's personal favorite here for Mexican — and FOTO gave it rave reviews, which were no doubt enhanced by the fact that he had eaten nothing but fast food and junk for the past few days of his road trip. His dish came with two whole jalapenos. The Observer blithely tore into one of them and paid for it dearly with a mouthful of flaming-hot seeds. We can only remember one worse scorching: It came at the hands of a free pepper — don't ask us what kind — at a hot-dog stand on Chicago's Maxwell Street, and it left us writhing on the floor for half an hour. This time we just cussed. Maybe we're getting used to Little Rock's popular pepper.
Our bellies full, The Observer and FOTO got in the car for a tour that featured some of the city's architectural gems. FOTO was particularly impressed by the Hornibrook Mansion on Louisiana Street and Central High's front façade.
We capped off the tour with a walk around the Clinton Center and the headquarters of Heifer International. Since FOTO is a biologist, he was interested not so much in the buildings as the amphibians that populate the premises. He caught two for examination: a toad and a green tree frog. Not since he roamed the business parks of Cleveland in search of herpetological specimens had he seen such an urban jungle.
The evening wrapped up back at the Observer's apartment, where we learned that at least one thing transcends geography: No matter where the Observer is, we're always a pushover at chess.
The Observer is looking at the temperature forecast and seeing 107 for Wednesday. How in hell are we supposed to survive that?
By the time this column hits the streets, there may be no one left to read it.
By the time this column hits the streets, there may be no streets. The concrete may have caught on fire and melted all the newspaper boxes.
At the very least, by the time this column is out, the Arkansas economy will have been critically wounded. Surely no one went to work on a day during which the mercury hit 107. Surely no business was conducted. Surely no one ventured outside their homes to deliver a paper or sell stocks or try their cases at the courthouse. No dogs walked. No mail delivered. No trips to the grocery. Well, except for beer, maybe, if there was someone to open the store.
We probably used up all the kilowatts out there. So the sellers of electricity will have suffered not a bit.
Lobsters will have cooked themselves.
On Thursday, it's supposed to be 105. For some reason, 105 isn't as hideous as 107. It's been 105 here before. In the shade. But 107? Next thing you know, it will be 110.
The Observer's plan is not to move a muscle. To turn off. To keep the blinds pulled and wait. To slip through the 107 F. day like a shadow through a cracked open door.
The Observer rented a video. It was a long and fairly complex mystery/thriller called “Zodiac,” and it was based on real events that occurred around San Francisco over a period of time starting in the 1960s. Zodiac was the name used by a serial killer. We vaguely remember when the real Zodiac was terrorizing northern California.
Anyway, it's a pretty good movie, the tension building as the good guys try to track down the bad guy. We couldn't remember if the real Zodiac was ever caught, but I assumed the movie would explain all that. Finally, we got to a climactic scene where a newspaperman who's on the hunt silently confronts a store clerk who, it appears, is Zodiac. There's no dialogue between them but a lot of portentous staring. At last, all will be revealed, we thought. And sure enough, the screen went black and a written commentary in white began rolling up, completely illegible on the small screen. If anyone saw “Zodiac” and can remember what all the written stuff at the end said — particularly the fate of the presumed Zodiac — The Observer would be happy to hear from them.