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The Observer

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A bench on a street downtown — one of those nice new wood and wrought-iron numbers — had a sign fixed to it last week, giving figures on how many hungry people there are in the world.

We can’t remember what we read, and unlike most people we’d guess we actually wrote down what the sign said. But we can’t find the paper we wrote it down on.

And if you sat down, you’d be turning your back on the numbers.

So we’re wondering — how much good can it do to put up a sign on the number of hungry in the world on a bench?

We’d guess it does some good, even if you couldn’t remember the numbers. Though it might spoil the Thanksgiving dinner a bit, it’s something to think about, that there are hungry people all over the world. That the cornucopia spills selectively.

One of the things that must impress out-of-town visitors to Little Rock — one among many, to be sure — is the cab driver situation. Specifically, that the drivers don’t expect tips, and show no anger when they don’t get them. Those that are affable and courteous to begin with remain so even as they accept the exact amount of the fare. And the others, the surly ones, don’t get any surlier for lack of a tip. On the other hand, tip a Little Rock cabbie and you’ve made a devoted friend, or so it seems.

This is very different from larger cities, where drivers who don’t get a tip, or not as big a one as they feel they’re entitled to, express their displeasure openly. And what they feel they’re entitled to can be a large sum to a traveler on a budget.

It’s another point, but we’ve had big-city cab drivers who didn’t know the city very well, or pretended not to. That’s rare in Little Rock, maybe because it’s not big enough for a driver to feign ignorance, or possess it. The last time we were in New York, we took a cab to a very off-Broadway play. Though The Observer is not a frequent visitor to the Big Apple, the street address in the newspaper gave him a general idea of where the theater was located. That was more than be could be said of the driver. In the end, the tourist from Little Rock was directing the New York cab driver through the streets of Manhattan. A pretty pass, indeed. We don’t remember if we tipped.

Roll on, ungreedy cab drivers of Little Rock, and we hope that when you provide good service, at least the occasional passenger will fork over a tip. Not those handicapped and low-income natives who must rely on cabs regularly, but well-to-do out-of-towners on their way to a reception at the country club or the chamber of commerce. What good is a Republican industrialist if he won’t even tip?

Several weeks ago, The Observer was asked if it wouldn’t be a good idea to create a museum in Little Rock for the vast prehistoric artifact collection of Indian pots and pipes, etc., in Little Rock.

A couple of weeks ago, some folks who might be expected to flinch at that idea, since the artifacts aren’t art objects but a source of information, shrugged. The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville did shut down its museum, they noted.

Last week, The Observer saw a huge, terrific exhibit of Native American art, paintings and drawings that the owner wants to give to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, if only they could be cared for properly. The work would fit with the mission of the Sequoyah Research Center, a treasure trove of Native American newspapers, manuscripts and letters at UALR, but Sequoyah currently hasn’t got the room or the budget.

Then The Observer mentioned the art exhibit to a friend who happens to be a member of a family that has leased to the Arkansas Arts Center the Terry Mansion, and she mused, why couldn’t the art go the mansion? It was once the Decorative Arts Museum; today the Arts Center is using it only sporadically.

The Observer thought about it. Why not, and why not make it the new home of the Sequoyah Research Center? And why not add to the contemporary artwork a revolving exhibit of the UA’s prehistoric artifacts? Seems like the total would bring distinction to the city and celebrate an undercelebrated culture. Seems like the Arts Center, UALR and UA Fayetteville jointly could afford to install the right conservation equipment. Just an idea.

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