A few weeks ago a well-dressed young couple came into Midtown Billiards, a bar in the South Main Street district (SoMa). They looked around, sniffed the late-night boozing aroma, and looked dismayed and confused.
The bartender spoke to them. They were looking for a fine-dining establishment and had read about Midtown in some literature somewhere. The bartender gave them directions to Sonny Williams' Steak Room. That's in the River Market district (RiMa).
About a week later The Observer was at the airport, waiting to pick up a friend. We glanced at one of the brochures on where to dine and shop in Little Rock. The description of Midtown made it sound like the Four Seasons. We laughed out loud, but then remembered the badly misguided young couple of a week before. This brochure must have been where they went wrong.
Had they stayed for cocktails at Midtown, they eventually would have forgotten their purpose in going there and enjoyed themselves.
Which is appropriate, given its location in SoMa, a correspondent says. “Soma,” he writes, “has a long and spotty history dating back to prehistoric India, where soma was a mythical drink that would erase all your worries.” Unfortunately, a little drink goes a long way in SoMa. Our correspondent noted he'd observed a couple of people relieving themselves on one of the artist-installed chairs on the sidewalk across from Juanita's, which we guess makes it a potty chair. Aren't we a classy bunch?
Our correspondent adds that in Aldous Huxley's novel “Brave New World,” soma is a dream-inducing drug used by the government to control the populace. We're not sure what we've been drinking in the United States the past few years, but it looks like we're losing a taste for it, maybe. We hope. Please.
While not slaving away at our job shoveling news and opinion in the Arkansas Times gravel pits, The Observer is a creative writer — fiction and essays, mostly. We also happen to be a lifelong packrat who has never quite trusted electronic storage. That means, of course, that at least a few pages of nearly everything we've ever written — all the way back to the ream of silky, off-white paper we bought to complete our war epic sometime around age 11 — is floating around Chez Observer.
Forests full of paper and gallons of ink, all of it crammed into boxes, bags, crates and folders, much to the consternation of our patient but order-loving Spouse.
The interesting part about saving all that stuff is that every once in awhile, we'll open a drawer or take down a box from the top of the closet, and there will be something so old and forgotten that reading it fills us with a weird sense of deja-vu. We'll start working our eyes down the page, and suddenly it's like that scene that's included in just about every bad time-travel movie ever made — the part where the scientist tries to send a warning to his younger self, still marooned in the past. But instead of some old geezer looking back trying to communicate, it's the other way around. In our cosmic mailbox of old stuff, we keep getting letters from a much younger us, full of naivety and self-righteousness, but also with some beauty and maybe even a little wisdom shoehorned in there as well. At least we like to think so.
One thing's for sure: We were much more clever — and periodically much dumber — than we even remember being back then.
The Observer's friend just returned from a trip to, she said, McGee-Hee. We corrected her pronunciation. She'd seen vast fields of corn and wheat on the way. Uh, no, probably not. She's from Pennsylvania, our friend.
The reason she went to McGehee was to bike in the first annual Tour de Hoot fund-raiser for the Boys and Girls Club there.
She drove down there with a group, stayed in the Best Western and had a great ride. It's so flat! she said. There was no traffic! she said. No argument there. The event raised $3,000.
We did not tell her we'd never been to McGehee ourselves. Or done anything to benefit its boys and girls. She can say McGee-Hee all she wants to the folks down there, we'd bet. A Yankee with her heart and feet in the right place.