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The Observer Dec. 29

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What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That’s what they say. But The Observer says otherwise.

While visiting Sin City last week, The Observer cheated. Not at poker, not at craps, but on her husband.

It all went down at the Flamingo Hilton. The setting: “The Wayne Newton Holiday Show.” Who knows why we did it. Perhaps it was the way he looked in his tuxedo pants, hiked way up above his bulging belly, like Santa Claus in the midst of a mid-life crisis. His hair was dark and his skin was tanned, and those eyes … that’s when the trouble started.

Our eyes met during the chorus of “Jingle Bell Rock.” From the top of an Arabian Stallion he sang, only to us. With that sparkle in his eyes begging us to give in, he asked for our hand, and we timidly gave in and rose to our feet. The Observer giggled as he sang (and provided an unwelcome spit shower on us).

Finally, the end of the song — we knew what was coming. Or maybe we didn’t. Either way, it came. Mr. Las Vegas himself planted a big ole smooch right there on our extremely chapped lips. Still giggling from the embarrassment, The Observer quickly spun around to evaluate husband’s reaction. He seemed amused, and perhaps even a little bit proud. He even agreed when Wayne pleaded for him not to punch him in his face.

With each kiss Wayne Newton granted that evening — mostly to senior citizens — The Observer felt a little more used. But proud hubby would not let us forget that we were the youngest and the prettiest. Oh, and we were also the first. Nothing could top that. Not the ice skater or the penguins.

Danke Schoen, Mr. Newton. Danke Schoen.



The Observer was sight-observing in Washington when the season’s first snowfall struck the nation’s capital. He learned that in one respect, at least, Washington is just like Little Rock. When the air fills with snowflakes, it also fills with criticism of one’s neighbors.

“This town goes crazy when it snows,” The Observer heard again and again from the natives. “Schools close. People rush home from work. They raid the supermarkets. They don’t know how to drive.” He knew that if he’d been back home in Little Rock, he would have heard the same things, with the same conviction. “Run around like chickens with their heads cut off,” that’s what people do when it snows. Other people, that is.

Northern pundits used to announce periodically that though Washington had been the capital of the North during the Civil War, it was really a Southern city at heart, possessed of Southern ways. They eventually piped down when somebody pointed out that real Southerners never thought of Washington as Southern. But The Observer’s experience suggests that Washington does indeed become Southern in the snow. Or could it be that people everywhere complain of the masses going nuts when it snows. Do residents of Buffalo, where there’s eight feet of snow on the ground eight months of the year, accuse their fellow Buffalonians of over-reaction? The Observer is not curious enough to do the Buffalo field trip himself.



Don’t think ill of The Observer when you learn that we like headstone art. It’s not death, but life that interests us, and what the style of art on the stones tells us about it.

Like broken columns, a symbol for the end of life favored by 19th-century Americans. The column is stately and dignified, suggesting that life was viewed the same way. It’s a far cry from the winged death’s heads of the 17th century, those skulls that say, told you so, you can’t escape, ready or not here death comes. Or even the later pointing finger, the reminder that heaven awaits.

In the 20th century, headstone artists decided to get to the point. Just the facts, thank you, inscribed in marble that is so hard it will never look charmingly old.

On a late Sunday afternoon at a Lonoke cemetery, we saw headstones engraved with symbols of what those at eternal rest enjoyed doing when they were up and about. One person chose to have a picture of a horse engraved above his name. Another, a tractor and a chicken. And Eugene Buford Lamb has just driven a golf ball all the way to the green, where we know it landed, as P.G. Wodehouse would say, squarely on the meat.

Judging by the headstones in Lonoke, what we choose to memorialize these days is what made us unique in life, rather than what eventually makes us all the same.


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