Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
Though The Observer has taught classes out at the college for many a year now — many, many a year at this point, 15 years on — it's been even longer since we've been on the Amen side of the desk. That changes tonight, when we go to take the first class as a student since back in the stone age of 1999.
Though we probably should have long since signed up for some classes on real estate appraisal, artisan beard oil chemistry or the ever-popular Computer Stuff so we could get out of the steam engine business and into a profession that will actually exist 20 years from now, this is a class we're taking purely for our own education (which is, on balance, the best kind of education): a course on how to become one of the Makers over at the Innovation Hub in North Little Rock.
If you haven't heard of it, you should. The Innovation Hub, which is run by Arkansas Times alum and three-time Pulaski County Most Chipper Politician Rep. Warwick Sabin (sorry, Sen. Elliott), is a little hive of geekdom where paying guests can go in and use their fancy-ass tools to make all kinda goodies, from knick-knacks to gee-gaws, widgets to sprockets. They also teach classes over there, presumably to help folks like Yours Truly keep from lasering our finger off.
Yours Truly never liked authority much, even though we're perfectly fine dishing it out — let us point to our 2.1 final GPA and extensive disciplinary record in high school as Exhibit A in our own prosecution — so we are a bit apprehensive about this whole idea to tell you the truth. Learnin' never came naturally to us, our mind a very loose weave indeed when it came to that sort of thing. At this point, the only thing we remember from our time in formal education is "I before E except after C," that the speed of light in a vacuum is 186,282 miles per second and that "The Canterbury Tales" includes some stuff that would make Larry Flynt blush. Don't ask why we remember those things. We just do. Most everything else has been worn away by the scouring sun of 20 years.
Which, of course, begs the question: Will The Observer's old, whiskey-pickled brain still be spongy enough to soak up knowledge? Or, once the class starts, will we get a flashing "HARD DRIVE FULL! DELETE ALGEBRA!" message in the corner of our vision? Time will tell. All we can do is show up with our old pen and fresh notebook, our required laptop (a new development for us, given that we were so broke we couldn't pay for breakfast, much less for a laptop, back when we last cracked a textbook) and an apple for the teacher.
While it doesn't appear to be a quizzes-and-tests kind of class, we still find we've got a spray of butterflies in our tummy about all this. So much of The Observer's experience now is about the great net of a life, its pattern forming a beautiful, constant riff on the same set of themes: birth and death, love and disappointment, joy and fear.
And so, even though it's not that kind of class, we are reminded today of the first day of school, all the way back to the FIRST first day, The Boy Observer getting off the bus in our new shoes, with our Magic Mart sack full of minty-new school supplies, both fearful and excited to expand our young mind.
Though we'll never admit it to the folks over there at the Innovation Hub tonight, this old dog finds that the prospect of learning a new trick has dredged up all those same feelings along with the memories, which is the next best thing to actually being that scared, elated kid walking into Lawson Elementary for the first time. That's a pretty nice place to be on a September morn, in the Year of Our Lord 2016.
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