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The Observer, Dec. 30


On a bright and blustery day week before last, The Observer got across the river for the opening of North Little Rock's new roundabout (or should that be "traffic circle"?), a $1-point-something million-dollar, two-lane European extravaganza at what was previously the not very extravaganza-ish intersection of Pike Avenue and Broadway. Speeches were made. Ribbons were cut.

Though we don't have much experience with roundabouts, we're pretty sure we could navigate one in a pinch. That doesn't mean everyone can. A thicket of new signage has sprouted near the roundabout, most of it as unfamiliar to your average driver as Egyptian hieroglyphics. A big green billboard on the Pike Avenue side shows something that looks like a modern-art representation of a Dodo bird, with arrows pointing off in all directions. Passing it at 35 miles an hour doesn't give much time for thoughtful reflection.

While we were standing there looking at the bright new concrete and landscaping, a driver pulled up, signaled, then turned the wrong way around the roundabout (where things run counter-clockwise), eventually winding his way out without a head-on collision. Most folks apparently find it a little counterintuitive to jog right when all they want in the world is to turn left. Go figure.

Though loads of folks have told us the roundabout will work smooth as silk once the new wears off and drivers get used to it, not everybody is so sure. As we were marveling at our tax dollars at work, a young laborer in a reflective jacket walked up and told us that he had considered buying a nearby lot. He wanted to start Roundabout Wrecker Service and felt confident it would do business like gangbusters.

The Observer has become something of a Facebook philosopher of late, cultivating a crop of peeps both close and distant who often respond to our posts with a Like or even a real-life communique. Like a lot of folks, we've connected via The Book of Face with people we knew when we were but a lad, some we knew in college and thought we'd never see again, and quite a few we see everyday. We're sure the young'uns have probably moved on to more minty pastures due to old geezers like us clogging up the Facebook works and rendering it uncool, but we're having a heck of a good time at it for now, posting everything from rare seed catalogs to flamethrower rants about politics.

Every once in awhile, when we're in our cups, The Observer will get a hankerin' to get meditative. It's in those times that F'book really pays the bills. Here's a recent post by moi that people seemed to like:

"When my son is a man, this is what I'll tell him: Cherish the hard times, because they're what you'll remember for the rest of your life. You'll remember that you survived them, and you'll remember the people who helped you survive them. This is the secret of memory, my son: What is heavy stays. The days when things run smooth tend to pile up and blow away like leaves."

Speaking of Junior, he's shaping up to be a writer like the Old Man; always with a book in his hand, always with some fabulous new idea for a story. He writes fiction, mostly, laboring at least four or five hours a week at the sometimes thrilling art of laying one brick after another until — maybe — you succeed in building a cathedral. It fills his pop's heart with gladness to hear that boy in his room, click-click-clicking away at his little worlds, so full of monsters and love. The Observer has taught fiction writing on the college level for over 10 years now, and I hope you don't take it to be bragging or the blindness that is an occupational hazard of fatherly love when we say that at 11 years old, my kid can write a lot of adults under the table. He hasn't got the structure or stamina down pat yet, but on a sentence-by-sentence level, he manages to knock one out of the park every once in awhile.

We ran across the following passage in one of his stories the other day, the lines so full of music that we had to read them three times, the final time out loud: "She went downstairs and sat on the beach-yellow couch and thought deeply. For the first time in her life, she hated the son of a bitch she'd married. She thought of him opening the door and getting in the Jeep, never looking back, and driving away, over the hill and out of sight from her and her weeping daughter."

Ain't that pretty?

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