Last Thursday evening, several friends and neighbors of The Observer gathered to shoot Roman candles. Amid the low-key revelry, one later reported, a car stopped 20 or 30 yards away in the middle of the street. A young woman, whom no one recognized, hopped out, did a quick dance that involved spirit fingers and spastic movement, plopped a paper sack on the ground, jumped back into the car and sped off.
After the car was out of sight, a fearless neighbor crept up to the bag, opened it and found a baker's nightmare, or something more sinister: rotten bananas, coconuts, an egg, a bag of flour and a snakeskin.
What did the street, or someone living on the street or, as The Observer's spouse recklessly suggested, the entire neighborhood, do to get cursed?
A house near the drop spot was home to a yippy dog. Living nearby: A recovering accountant and at least four musicians in prominent local bands, one of which recently called it quits.
We'd like to think the dancing witch had a beef with taxes or an annoying dog, or more excitingly, about a band's end, and not the 'hood. But witchcraft, as we understand it from the movies, is all about grand gestures. In that spirit, we're taking wide loops around the street on dog walks. Who knows when a portal to hell might up and open up?
Our friend Truman Tolefree got to talking about tennis the other day over lunch at the River Market.
The Observer was yammering how the courts at War Memorial Park attract a diverse set of players who love the game but don't necessarily hit the ball perfectly every time. It's a laid-back place where nobody minds the stray ball in the court. Which reminded our friend of Dunbar.
Like lots of African Americans who came of age in the 1960s and '70s, Tolefree was inspired by tennis great Arthur Ashe to take up the game. He was pretty good, too; if he'd started earlier, Tolefree said, he might have gone pro.
When Ashe was winning games all over the world, the best black players in Little Rock — including the Rev. Loyd Myers and Dr. M.A. Jackson — were playing at the courts at the Dunbar Community Center, Tolefree said. You didn't dare try to play at Dunbar unless you were good, he said, shaking his head. No, you started on the courts at MacArthur Park. That's where he played for a while.
There were two courts at Dunbar (still are), one used for doubles and one for singles. You got invited to play if you were good enough. “You could spend all day at Dunbar waiting to play,” he said.
Tolefree could probably get a court at Dunbar today, since he's the director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. The courts are named for Myers and Jackson.
The Observer reacted to GM's bankruptcy as we would to the loss of a loved one: We remembered the good times. We thought about our best friend's 1972 blue Chevelle and the sound the engine made as she crammed the gear stick up as we zoomed down I-40. Going up Hwy. 7 in my mother's Pontiac. The Observer was small enough to lie down in the back window and stare up at the night sky. The dashboard, when my mother put on the high beams, made the Indian chief glow.
For our 16th birthday, Dad bought us a baby blue Firebird with a T-top. Even though all we did that year was drive around Pope County, we put almost 20,000 miles on the odometer. Dad bought Grand Ams, Cadillacs, and Impalas — even though when he received his $4,000 baseball sign-on bonus in 1955, he bought a Ford Fairlane 500 with a hard top, mainly because it had electric windows.
Sometime in the past 20 years, we quit buying GM cars, except, of course, when we needed a truck. Even The Observer's father drives a Toyota now. When we bought our own car, we wanted a car that lasted and that we could afford to drive. We surrendered looks for function. Our Accord wasn't hot, but it lasted forever and went to Memphis and back with gas left over.
We waited for a GM car we could be excited about buying, but it never showed up. When the rebuilt GM produces a sexy car that can get good gas mileage, The Observer will be the first fool down at the bank signing our life away.