The new lottery is slowing down The Observer.
We stopped for emergency refueling at a gas station on I-30 in Benton. Its ramshackle pumps wouldn't accept any credit cards, so we had to go inside to pay. But the clerk couldn't take our money either, because he was too busy selling lottery tickets to an ancient homeless-looking and disheveled man who kept demanding one more lottery ticket, scratching it off, demanding another, scratching it off, ad infinitum, paying each time with a greasy-looking crumpled dollar bill. Each transaction was accompanied by increasingly loud muttering from the “gaming fan.”
It looked like some violence would soon ensue, so The Observer threw down our cash and left. We later bought $8 worth of scratch-offs (a $5, a $2 and a $1) and didn't win a damned penny.
Then we stopped to buy a Diet Coke at another small-town convenience store we know. Where usually there are only men shopping for cigars, there was a long line of pudgy middle-aged women and Goth kids buying lottery tickets. Each transaction required lengthy discussion, then standing in front of the register to scratch boxes, asking questions, making comments and (rarely) redeeming a prize. I almost never got my Coke (which the embarassed clerks gave me for free).
Ditto at the River Market. A passel of young women headed up the line at the River Market Grocery there, debating for quite some time which lottery cards to buy and how many. One was so eager she scratched off her silvery squares before she bought the card. The girls were plunking down $5s and $10s for the chance to win $100,000, and standing at the counter rubbing away with their car keys. The clerk had to ask them to scratch elsewhere so she could transact business.
Only the state won.
You can still make it to “Imaging Blackness” at the Laman Library in North Little Rock, and you should. The exhibit of movie posters from the Indiana University Black Film Center continues through Oct. 20.
The Observer loves movie posters generally, so we even appreciated those from black films of recent years, such as Spike Lee's “Bamboozled.” A poster for “A Soldier's Story” reminded us that movie may be the best ever made in Arkansas. It was filmed at Fort Chaffee.
But the real stars of the exhibit, in The Observer's view, are the posters from the 1930s and '40s and even earlier. There was, in those segregated days, a black film industry that most whites were unaware of. Some white movie-makers on Hollywood's “Poverty Row” operated on a shoestring. Black filmmakers worked with half a shoestring.
Still they persevered, turning out films for black audiences in all the popular genres: action (“The Flying Ace”), horror (“The Beast of Borneo”), musical (“The Bronze Venus” with Lena Horne), and Western (“Harlem on the Prairie”).
The exhibit points out that black cowboys really existed in the Old West. There probably weren't any quite like the singing cowboy Herb Jeffries played as the hero of a series of black Westerns, but then there weren't any white cowboys quite like Gene Autry, either. According to the exhibit, Jeffries' Westerns played at both black and white theaters — with the assistance of Gene Autry — and did comparatively well financially. The Observer will bet that none of those white theaters was in the South.
Times have changed, thankfully. In the not too distant future, there'll be a movie about the first black president. And blacks and whites will watch it in the same theater.
The Observer appreciates seeing cyclists out on the roads, as we are quite often out there cycling ourselves. We also appreciate the ones that follow the rules of the road — not like the one we almost hit the other day. We were stopped in the left turn lane at Kavanaugh and Van Buren. We had one foot coming off the clutch and the other hitting the gas when a cyclist we had passed half a block back comes up on our right, swings in front of us and crosses the road. Quick foot work to get to the brakes. This same guy also sailed thru a red light down the road.
If you're reading this, Mr. Kavanaugh-mountain-bike-rider, this is from the guy with the Bicycling Club sticker on his truck: Please brush up on traffic rules. You give cyclists a black eye; you almost suffered worse.