Cruising through Norte de Little Rock on the way to work the other day, The Observer saw:
A lady who looked like she felt quite sassy and with a song in her heart. Perhaps she had just scored the shiny red shopping cart she was pushing.
A man dressed in a Navy officer's uniform circa 1950 and a baseball cap with some eatery's slogan on it. Was he going to work, we wondered, or is this his everyday ensemble?
A determined-looking man with a raggedy-looking vacuum cleaner in tow. Was he going to try to sell the thing, or was he in business for himself, offering his services to the neighborhood?
Several shiny, colorful cars with flying-saucer-sized rims outside the “King of Fades” barber shop. One even had a “Chanel” logo on it. Must have been expensive. So much business for so early in the morning, we thought.
A fellow in a wheelchair, next to the bus stop. He looked like he might jump out of the chair at any moment.
A semi-fancy looking lady, with a slightly askew weave. She had on fuschia high heels, kelly green shorts and big, big sunglasses. Just walking.
Humanity was on display for our early morning ponderings. Perhaps we were just paying special attention. It makes us thoughtful about how colorful the world can be. Anywhere.
Not to steal any thunder from our annual “Best and Worst” issue, but without a doubt, the best day of 2009 so far had to be Sunday, May 17. The sky was crystal ball blue, with brilliant sunshine, and — thanks to a cold front that had rolled in on Saturday from the more frigid climes — just a hint of chill in the air when you stepped into the shade. A day to roll down the window, cock an elbow out, and cruise. If not for the flora leafing out all over, we might have been able to convince ourselves it was late October instead of half-past May.
The Observer stayed a bit too late at dear old Ma's house down in Benton a few weeks back, sitting around the kitchen table with Ma and Bro, talking about the old times over a pot of coffee and a rapidly disappearing sack of Oreo cookies. By the time we looked up, our face hurting from smiling so much, it was past 1 a.m., and we still had the drive to make back to Little Rock.
The Observer is a night owl, and we love driving through a sleeping town at night. Benton, at 1 a.m., is a stage set waiting for the players to arrive: devoid of all motion except for the stoplights, which wink on and off, keeping order even when there's no one to keep it for.
Sitting at a red light downtown, arm out the window, we smelled the smoke before we heard the sirens. A waiting fire truck wheeled around the corner a block up, splitting the dark. It blurred past in front of us, continuing up the hill into the old neighborhoods. On a whim, and because we didn't mind postponing the hypnotic trip up the freeway back to Little Rock, we turned and followed the truck up the hill.
By the time we got there, smoke was boiling out the front of the tidy, white-framed house, surrounded by trees. Firemen tumbled from trucks and strung hoses. A giant bank of lights came on, casting white light over the block like the Rapture. At the edge of the yard, in their nightclothes, a family stood — so close together that it seemed you could have passed a hula hoop over them and never touched a single one. No one was shouting or screaming, so The Observer hopes — prays — everyone got out okay.
One of our favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut — that snide old fox who took up where Mark Twain left off — said that the ultimate symbol of man's love for his brothers and sisters is a fire truck. We tend to agree. Firefighters are just as flawed as the rest of us, but they do a job that exists for no other reason than the compassion we as human beings feel for one another. We would rather risk the worst possible death ourselves to spare others the worst possible death before our eyes.
Though The Observer is an unrepentant rubbernecker, we didn't want to gum up the works, so we never slowed at the scene. We just motored on past, out of the circle of light. Soon enough, we were back at our own tidy little house. As we got out of the truck and fumbled for our keys, the rest of the world sleeping around us, we heard a siren — far away, faint and distant, rising and falling in the night.