Born free 

The Observer saw him while walking out of The Observatory the other day: a bright yellow parakeet, perched on a branch over the driveway. He was just sitting there, chilling with a wild robin, telling his Born Free cousin, no doubt, of the long nights he spent in the clink, where the only thing going was all the birdseed he could eat. Now he was a freebird, on a warm day when the forecast called soon for cold rain.

The Observer's brother kept parakeets once upon a time. They're cheerful little birds, but ill-suited to life in the cold, hard world, a bright-colored target for cats or bird-eating birds or mean little kids with BB guns. This was clearly someone's pet, either set free by a lazy owner or having made a break for it, convinced that the open window looked better than life in a cage.

Trying to coax our visitor down from the tree, we stuck out a finger. He actually made a go for it, fluttering halfway between branch and digit, before chickening out and buzzing clumsily back to his branch. After that, no amount of cajoling would budge him. We got in the car and drove off, the fat splotch of yellow still huddled in the winter-naked branches of the tree over the driveway. While we were out, we thought to buy birdseed to lure him down, but by the time we got home he was nowhere to be found.

We hope you made it home, little guy, or at least to somewhere dry and warm. You're too beautiful for this world, and it's hard out here on the pretty things.

The Observer made it up to St. Louis a few weekends back, our first trip to that fair metropolis since we came through there in a U-Haul truck bound from Iowa City to South Louisiana over 13 years ago. Our pal Brian Chilson, shutterbug-in-residence for the Arkansas Times, is a proud son of St. Lou, and had given us the 411 on all the things to see, do, drink and eat while we were in town.

One of the places we went, on his recommendation, was a joint called Vintage Vinyl, a big ol' record store of the kind we used to haunt as a lad, but which mostly went the way of the Dodo bird around the time Bush the First was in office.

Though we haven't owned a turntable in years, and don't know if we buy the audiophiles' claims about tunes on vinyl being a richer, fuller sound as compared to digital media like CDs and MP3s, we do miss the records of our youth. Ma and Pa always had a big console-style record player in the living room, walnut and dark as a coffin, along with a stack of records: Percy Sledge, The Temptations, Sonny and Cher, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Janis, Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson. Even then, their records were going on ancient, but The Lad Observer always loved that moment of dropping the needle, the gadgetness of the spinning turntable and the arm lowering to the disk, finding the groove, the sound coming on in those delicious crackles and pops, the act so much better than jabbing a button. And then, the music. Oh, the music.

It was a simpler time, but God bless the records, even the ones The Observer's parents gave to our hellion self to use as Frisbees after the last dead turntable went off to the dump. There is a deliberateness to vinyl. It takes some want-to to listen to a record, so fragile and quirky, the sound literally scratched in by a quivering stylus instead of encoded and compressed and reconstituted. Standing in Vintage Vinyl and thumbing through the stacks brought it all back to us: those records, the cardboard sleeves, the big double albums with the lyrics printed tiny inside and the long list of names where the band thanked everyone from The Good Lord to their Indian Guru to their Dutch Uncle. All the bands from our troubled youth were there: Iggy Pop, Motley Crue, The Ramones, Ratt, The Who, Percy, Willie, Fleetwood Mac. Other vinylophiles wandered the aisles, flipping records to look at the backs, sometimes removing the sleeves from the clear plastic envelopes to look them over. Music played over a sound system — sweet R&B — and for a moment we were in the perfect place, surfing the time warp, back to the future at the point of a needle.

And then, the record playing on the hi-fi started to skip — hung up on a soulful croon, soulful croon, soulful croon, soulful croon. And simultaneously, everyone in the store shared a nostalgic, knowing chuckle, The Observer included.



Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Every secret thing

    The Observer came into the office on Tuesday morning, not quite bright-eyed or bushy tailed thanks to Daylight Savings Time jetlag, to find our colleague Benji Hardy conked out asleep in yet another colleague's office, Benji having pulled an all-nighter to bring you, Dear Reader, this week's cover story.
    • Mar 10, 2015
  • Casting out demons: why Justin Harris got rid of kids he applied pressure to adopt

    Rep. Justin Harris blames DHS for the fallout related to his adoption of three young girls, but sources familiar with the situation contradict his story and paint a troubling picture of the adoption process and the girls' time in the Harris household.
    • Mar 12, 2015
  • Addendum

    he Observer has our regrets, just like everybody else. For example: last week, Yours Truly published a cover story on the increasingly ugly fight over Eureka Springs' Ordinance 2223, which is designed to protect a bunch of groups — including LGBTQ people — from discrimination in housing, employment, accommodations, cake buying, browsing, drinking, gut stuffery, knickknack purchasing, general cavorting, funny postcard mailing and all the other stuff one tends to get up to in the weirdest, friendliest, most magical little town in the Ozarks.
    • Apr 30, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in The Observer

  • Playing catch-up

    What with the big, clear-the-decks Road Trip issue last week — which we're sure you stuffed immediately in your motorcar's glove box, turtle hull or catchall, for when you get a hankerin' to gallivant — The Observer has had two glorious weeks to Observe since the last time we conversed.
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Old Gray Lady rides again

    There was a reunion of Arkansas Gazette employees last Saturday night, nearly 25 years to the day it was shut down.
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • Thrifty

    The Observer is a known and incorrigible haunter of thrift stores. Some weekends, with Spouse in tow, we'll make the rounds of every Goodwill store in three counties, driving them on a carefully pre-planned circuit so we can stop midway and get coffee at our favorite little place.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Searching for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Searching for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Road Trip Arkansas

    • Hunter . I see what you mean... Charles `s comment is unimaginable... I just got…

    • on October 25, 2016
  • Re: The Arkansas ale trail

    • just before I saw the draft that said $7003 , I didn't believe that...my... friend…

    • on October 25, 2016
  • Re: Youth movement

    • Best of luck. Will look forward to watching the results with high hopes for him.

    • on October 24, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation