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The Observer Feb. 17

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After a decade in the news biz, The Observer figured we’d pretty much peaked when it came to influencing public opinion. Then the Nielsen people called. Ten bucks they said they’d pay us in exchange for keeping a diary for one week of anything that graced an Observatory TV set for more than five minutes. Instantly we imagined singlehandedly steering untold amounts of advertiser support away from Maury Povich into the poor but deserving lap of … oh, who are we kidding? “Desperate Housewives” hurts for nothing. The instructions said not to change our usual habits, but really, how could we not, with every choice we made destined to stand in for the viewing preferences of vast millions? Should we lie and list all those PBS shows we’d like to think we’d be watching, if our sad little rabbit-ear antenna could pick up the signal? Or was it enough simply to note that while our household of two may own three TVs, none is hooked up to cable or satellite, that we are noble enough to resist the prevailing cultural paradigm, and survive only on a subsistence diet of the major networks and the WB? In the end, we let all the graph-paper hours marked “TV set OFF” speak for themselves, although we did write in the comments section that we’d watch more local TV news if they’d shut up about the damn weather. Dare we dream? It’s been longer than we’d care to admit since The Observer last shared a Valentine’s Day with a significant companion. This year, however, we’d been working on a main squeeze for a while and were hoping for a little something special. You know, jewelry. Lingerie. At least a good dinner. Instead, we woke to find a card tucked underneath our car’s windshield wiper. A Hallmark card that used someone else’s words to express what Squeeze could (would?) not himself. Maybe we’re being too harsh. We’re glad to know someone’s happy that we exist, really. But the card, in someone else’s words, left us feeling as romantic as Sister Agnes and as sexy as her No-Nonsense pantyhose. Then again, considering that last year the only billet doux tucked under our windshield was from the LRPD, we’re still ahead. Royce Griffin’s name is not a household word around Little Rock, but he left a permanent mark on our city and state. He created the attorney general’s antitrust division under Bill Clinton and successfully stopped dairy price-fixing on milk sold to public schools. More recently, his specialty in securities fraud was brought to bear on dodgy research prepared by analysts too cozy with investment banks. He was a champion for the consumer, always. That’s for the record books. It doesn’t make us cry when we think about it. Here’s what does. Royce wrote a paper on the Abominable Snowman straight out of his head on the plane he took back to Harvard at the completion of the paid sabbatical he won to write it. He used his boat and irresistible logic to convince a pal one steamy day in July that a fishing trip to Lonoke was just the ticket, thus assuring his friend’s arrival at a surprise birthday party at a country cabin. He could go on and on about his work with one of the federal bench’s least stellar judges, who relied on hand signals from his clerks to rule and once asked a defendant, “How do you feel?” rather than how he would plead. “I feel guilty, your honor!” said the hapless defendant. Royce rescued the mother of our dog and our dog’s eight siblings and drove them into town in his Saab to show them off. You’ve got to take one of these dogs, he said. We did. What choice did we have? Apparently forgetting that he hadn’t had any exercise in 30 years, Royce convinced himself he could tackle the ski slopes in Colorado. Up to his knees in powder on “Cinch” or “Easy Way” or some similarly named escape route, he threw in the towel and sent The Observer off to hail the ski patrol. In small talk down the mountain, the ski bum asked Royce what he did for a living. Royce told him he was the securities commissioner for the state of Colorado. His rescuer exclaimed, Wow! Does that mean you have the keys to all the big buildings in Denver? How varied is the human species. Sometimes, genes combine to make an unforgettable man. That was Royce.

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