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The Observer, Oct. 16

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The older The Observer gets, the more of an insomniac we become. We rarely get more than a few hours sleep a night, and less on weekends, so we've become all too familiar with those few businesses that are open to the public at 1 a.m. — Waffle House, IHOP, various convenience stores and Wal-Mart. People might think us odd if we sat at Waffle House re-reading the menu all night, so we usually end up at Wal-Mart. We get a lot of shopping done while it's quiet and have only once been nearly crushed to death by a stack of falling boxes.

Sometimes we even run across one of those fabled Moments of Zen that only a midnight sojourn to our local temple of consumerism can provide. For example, while looking for bath soap in the middle of the night last week, The Observer encountered an example of what a McCain supporter would likely call vandalism, but what almost everyone we know would probably see as grass-roots political commentary. From over in the Halloween costume aisle that sprang up earlier this month in Housewares, someone had rounded up all the rubber John McCain masks. They had then carefully transferred the masks en mass to the Health and Beauty section, where they had been in-stalled on the shelf above the Depends adult diapers.

Given that insulting a political candidate would likely be a firing offense for any Wal-Mart wage slave (with Wally-World's corporate poli-tics, we'd wager that insulting the Republican in the race would get you double fired), we can only assume that the impromptu art project was the work of some bored, blue-dog insomniac like us.

The Observer is no spring chicken, and may well be forced to give the diaper pony one more ride before we croak. Still, we couldn't help but let out a chuckle. More than likely, the chorus line of McCains was cleared away long before the throngs of voters arrived to shop the next morning. Which is a pity, because it provided us the first clear and unambiguous message about a presidential candidate we've seen in weeks.


Give the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure's air of sisterhood credit: The kayaker wearing the McCain button (a former governor's widow) and the kayaker wearing the Obama hat did not go at each other with their paddles as they made their way down the Arkansas River Saturday morning.

Instead, they exchanged pleasantries about their unskilled participation in the Paddle for the Cure, the unsanctioned-but-welcome annual event. This year, about 27 kayaks, a canoe and a big rubber raft set out in the morning — so early a great horned owl hooted at us as we off-loaded the boats — from a launch spot on the North Little Rock shore in time to make it to the Broadway Bridge by the race start at 8 a.m. Pink feather boas, pink duct tape hats, pink life preservers and a whole passel of men in red T-shirts from a local bank penetrated the mist on the river. Geese flew over and herons sat uninterested, but the conductor of the train crossing the Baring Cross bridge blew the whistle at us. The kind members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary turned out to make sure no one sank in the drink. 

Under the bridge, paddles were raised in salute to the runners and walkers, many sporting bunny ears this year and other Cure pinks. The river offers a view of the event to fight breast cancer unlike no other — of a seemingly endless line of women, streaming up the Broadway Bridge and down the Main Street Bridge at the same time.

Arkansas Boathouse Club oarsmen were also on the water, rowing their long, narrow shells for the cure upriver and down. The club no longer hosts the debutante ball as it did in days of yore, but these hearties did whomp up a post-race breakfast for all the river people in their boathouse just east of the Junction Bridge. They encouraged kayakers to put down their paddles and take up oars. Tempting.


The Observer's sushi-eating niece reports that a downtown fish joint, like all sushi restaurants, mixes the traditional with the contemporary. Like California rolls, which have sushi ingredients but were invented for culinarily chicken Americans. Now a flat-screen TV has been installed for the clientele.
The traditional part? It uses rabbit ears.

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