Problems with the Mobile Observatory and an early-morn appointment at the Hospital de Automobile occasioned The Observer to undertake something we haven’t had the pleasure of in a long time: an a.m. stroll in downtown Little Rock. Back eons ago, when The Observer worked nights for awhile in college, we had the distinct joy of being able to drive through the still-dozing city a few times a week. Though we haven’t missed the 2 a.m. lunch hours, we do miss that.
There is something even more intimate about hoofing it — comparable to the difference between watching film of a beautiful sleeping woman and actually waking up next to her. For someone like The Observer, who loves this town boots to balls, as the cowgirls say, an early morning trip through Little Rock on foot is a glorious thing. The sun was already up when we left Eighth Street, where our truck doctor hangs his shingle (Foster’s Garage, just to give a shout-out). We had forgotten just how cool it could be in the mornings, even in August — especially if you keep to the sidewalks still varnished in shadow like little pockets of dawn. It makes for a longer trip, those hops back and forth across the street to catch the shade, but we didn’t mind it much.
Garbage trucks and delivery vans prowl the streets at that hour — mechanical mastodons. Once, somewhere between Main and Broadway, we squinted east through a gap in the buildings, and saw the sun speared on a church spire. A few blocks further, a homeless man looked wistfully into the window of Bennett’s Surplus for a moment, then adjusted his backpack and soldiered on. On the side of the Stephens Building, three chrome strips we had never noticed before reflected little hashmarks of sun, almost too bright too look at, and they crept up the face of building as we walked.
At the corner of Third and Louisiana, we couldn’t help but take a look through the window of the old Gazette building. The Observer is too young to have worked at the Gazette, though we do seem to remember a field trip or two there. Standing in the marble-cool atrium of the building, we cupped our hands to the glass. Inside, a broad, carpeted hallway, fronted by offices, ran to an iron staircase — all still and quiet enough to make us imagine ghosts; long-dead reporters shouting into telephones and phantom editors scratching away at copy long since put to bed. Behind us, a truck honked and a pigeon whirred away from the carved cornice over the door and our breath fogged the glass — a perfect moment, caught somewhere between light and shade.
When the Times reviewed the Faith Hill concert in July, the reviewer mentioned that the singer seemed to loosen up after she got a note that someone named Granny Bettye wanted to hear her sing “I Surrender All.” Granny’s niece, Laura Meacham, got word of the review and wrote us a note to set us straight about one of the details:
“Hi, I just wanted to correct an article I received via e-mail about the Tim McGraw/Faith Hill concert. That was my aunt (Granny Bettye) that Faith sang “I Surrender All” for and it wasn’t a little girl that handed her a note. Bettye’s daughter, grandson and a friend flew from Dallas to see the show. They made a poster beforehand that asked Faith to sing the song while my aunt was on the phone, in Texas. Her grandson is a teen-ager and he was the one holding the poster which Faith read, then later returned and asked “Is she still on the phone?” and then she sang. And that is the way it happened, no little girl involved at all. They went to the concert in Dallas and liked it so much they got tickets for Little Rock and got the idea to make the poster since they were on the front row — and it worked!
“I had no idea there was an Arkansas Times but it was interesting reading about my family from Texas! I’ll go online and read it often, it’s a good publication. I just thought I’d write and make a correction to the article since I knew the people!”
We who inhabit one strand of the World Wide Web stand corrected by someone in another. We feel just like the folks at Wikipedia must. Grateful.