To the young man we saw six days after the first full day of autumn at the corner of Cumberland and Third downtown, the morning when the summer finally broke and the city was washed in a delicious chill: Why do you stab that crosswalk button, which The Observer is almost positive is connected to nothing but the pole? Where are you going in such a hurry, all of 19, and already so frustrated at nine in the morning? Don't you know that as you stand here — as we stand here, me looking at you out of the corner of my eye, you scowling up at the crosswalk sign — our lives are ticking away, flowing past us like these cars full of drivers who only look straight ahead?
We could have said all these things, but didn't. When someone is in a hurry, it's better not to keep them. We were once a young man in a hurry. Finally, he says "screw it," and darts across. He makes it to the far corner, looks, then crosses Third for good measure, running now, his feet carrying him away, rising and falling in that easy rhythm that always reminds us of a heartbeat.
Here's where he should have headed: To the annual Pumpkin Roll down Midland Street. Gourd bowling by the neighborhood, once a small affair, has turned into a major post-Halloween event there on Hill Road, where the Jack O'Lanterns turn into misguided missiles, their lumpy carved shapes pitching them in every direction, off the pavement, through the legs of the small white dog, past the young boys dodging them purposely, sometimes into someone's carefully cultivated landscaping, sometimes caroming off the curve and into traffic.
Sunday's most unusual roll, it seems to The Observer, was the gigantic flat pumpkin that rolled like a semi-tractor trailer wheel down Midland, zipping across Kavanaugh and madly taking a slight uphill path nearly to Lee. It did not win, but it was great to watch.
The winners are the "speedballs," small spherical pumpkins, some orange, some white, that, given just the right push, went the distance. They cost $2 on top of the $5 entry fee, but boy did they race.
Little kids did the honors at the launch pad, but the grownups did the hollering. Camp Aldersgate got the whole pie.
The Observer doesn't make it up to Fayetteville all that often, but we did this weekend. While we're a diehard Little Rockian (Little Rocker? Little Rockette? What are we saying these days?), we can certainly see the appeal of that fair city, so full of independent coffee shops, galleries, lovely vistas, hippy-trippy stores and good dive bars. Barring an asteroid strike at the corner of Scott and Markham, The Observer will more than likely live in Capital City until we drop over dead, but one look at Fayetteville's palace-like public library, with its balcony and breathtaking views of the mountains, was enough to make us feel the pull of the Great White Northwest.
Speaking of books: As we said, we're not often in Fayetteville, so it's understandable that we've overlooked the Used Bookstore on Dickson Street (that's the name of it, apparently). We made it downtown well after dark on Friday night, and were surprised to find the "OPEN" sign burning in the window. Spouse and I went in, expecting a small shop like others we'd seen in college towns all over.
This used bookstore, however, is the Bookstore of Bookstoreness.
Book shelves literally stretched up to the nine-foot ceiling, with aluminum stepladders scattered around so patrons could reach. The shelves themselves were labyrinthine, spaced so close together that our broad self had to turn sideways at times to make it through. Peeking through spaces between bookshelves revealed other bookshelves beyond: nooks and crannies filled with books, hallways stacked with books, books stacked in corners and above doorways, the floor rising and falling like a funhouse in places and the bookshelves going on, and on, and on. Just when we were so far back in the stacks that we became sure we would soon round a corner and bump into Rod Serling, we hit the back wall and realized that this wasn't heaven.
We left that night with an armload: books by F. Scott Fitzgerald, books on vampire cinema, and more. We're already planning our next trip back. If we're lucky, next time we'll never find our way back out.