The man upstairs 

The Observer's ceiling fan in the Great Hall of the Observatory went on the blink over the weekend. That's not a biggie. We've replaced ceiling fans before. Only after we'd taken it down, though, did we find that the problem wasn't the fan, nor was it the wall switch. No, it was Something Else — something in that dark and dusklit netherworld where no homeowner ever wishes to travel if he or she can help it (especially in July): the unfinished attic of a 1930s bungalow house.

The Observer has lived in our little house on Maple Street for close to 10 years now, but we can count the number of times we've climbed the rickety, fold-down attic stairs — even to poke a box of Christmas decorations up through the hole — on one hand. There could be a chest full of Spanish pirate doubloons or the only uncut sheet of Honus Wagners in existence up there. We don't know, and we don't care. They can stay.

You see, The Observer, that intellectual beast among mortals, has a thing about tight spaces. It's not bad enough to be called a phobia, but it is definitely an issue, and the attic, dusty and dark, always looked bad for business in that regard. Still, we had a reputation to uphold with Spouse, so with her looking on, we warily pulled down the foldaway stairs, hoisted our flashlight, screwdriver, and the $4 non-contact voltage detector we were counting on to help us slay electrical serpents before they could slay us, and ventured up.

In Greek mythology, somebody is always heading off to the Underworld to meet up with some old dead somebody. It was, we heard a lit prof say once, a way for the great old bards to let croaked heroes and villains of stories long past make their cameos and then get the hell out of the way (literally) so the storyteller could look well-rounded while getting on with the tale in short order. Going into the attic felt just like that: a mere mortal venturing into a dark, spottily lit place, bisected by a crazy-quilt of splintery wood, mysterious wires, and odd angles. It's that way in most any house: you can bet that no matter how squeaky-clean and spiffy-neat the living areas are, there's bound to be someplace under any roof that looks like the set of "Saw 9: The One Where Spiders Impregnate A Guy's Face."

It was noon by the time we got out gumption enough to head into the attic, and it was hot up there. One-hundred-and-five outside, and locked-in-the-trunk-of-a-black-sedan-at-the-airport-hot inside. Nonetheless, we soon found the problem and got to work on it. Pouring sweat, with Spouse shouting up the stairs periodically to check on us, unable to even rise above a stoop under the coffin-lid ceiling, we found ourself thinking of words like "hydration" and "core body temperature." We saw ourselves going face-down in the ancient mouse turds and insulation, and seriously considered whether or not the fire department would have to chainsaw through the roof to hoist our big ass out. We might have had sweat lodge visions. We don't know. It's all a little hazy.

Work finished and clothes literally wringing wet, we gathered our tools and skedaddled over to the rectangular hole where Spouse was looking up and waiting anxiously, then back down the stairs from the Underworld, into the cool house so painted and neat and blessedly cool that it's hard to believe it's the same place. Goodbye attic. Here's hoping it's another nine years before we have to brave your depths again.

Now that corporations are people, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, I guess P.A.M. Transport thought it would be a good idea to express its animus toward the president of the United States on its trucks, as their wheels pound down our roads. "Nobama" was stenciled on the truck The Observer saw in Northwest Arkansas, the company's home, making for a free and highly mobile political ad. This "person," meanwhile, is publicly held; those who think that bashing the president on the side of a truck is unseemly can break off their friendship (but not the taxes they pay to keep the nation's highways in shape so Mr. P.A.M. can make a buck).



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