Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
Do you remember your first time … to eat a pizza?
The Observer does. They called them pies then (the 1950s). Secundo DiCarlo made them in a small cafe in our Louisiana hometown. It seemed like it took forever to cook them. And then forever before it was safe to bite into the molten mozzarella. It blistered the roof of the mouth for days.
The Observer's first memory of a hamburger is just as sharp. He was sitting at a counter overlooking the smoking grill of a 24-hour diner. We were mesmerized by the short order cook, flipping and smashing burger patties, tossing hash browns and onions, cracking eggs with one hand and popping the toaster with another. He slid us a compact but juicy cheeseburger on a thick, chipped plate. Love at first bite.
Our first white peach came to mind this weekend. Confession: The Observer had never eaten a white peach until a trip to Burgundy seven or eight years ago. He bought several in a street market, along with some bread, cheese and cheap wine for a roadside picnic. At a roadside turnout overlooking, we kid you not, a field of amber waving grain, the peach moment arrived. It exploded with honey-sweet juice. The nectar dripped down The Observer's arms. It stained his shirt. It attracted swarms of bees. It was transcendent.
In later years, The Observer would learn that white peaches are grown in Arkansas. He'd buy them periodically. They were OK — good, not great. No comparison to yellow peaches from Crowley's Ridge or Clarksville or Howard County. But that was then.
A friend sent The Observer a note last week. Said he had a line on some great white peaches. Wondered if we'd like some. But there was a condition. We couldn't ask where he got them. We couldn't write a word in public about where they came from. It could ruin a good thing for those fortunate enough to know.
Saturday morning, our friend drove up with a sack full of white peaches. “Smell them,” he said. We did. We were in Burgundy again and, seconds later, at our sink, with juice dripping down our arms and leaving a sticky track on our T-shirt.
No, we're not telling, because we don't know. But if you do, give The Observer a call.
The Observer read in the paper about the federal government's desire to call the turgid-blossom pearly mussel extinct. Scientists aren't sure why they haven't seen the animal in 41 years, but suspect it's because the water in the Black and White rivers in eastern Arkansas contain a pollutant that overpowered the mussel. But we think it's the name. How could anyone named turgid-blossom find a mate and make little turgid-blossoms?
We know we shouldn't make fun. It's a poor commentary on our species and a bad sign of our future when we dump stuff in our rivers that kills what's living there.
But turgid-blossom sounds a lot like what George Bush fondly calls his buddy Karl Rove. Now there's an animal — lying political trickster — whose extinction we could get behind.
Scene: The Observer's home.
Time: 8:45 p.m. Sunday night. THE OBSERVER is sitting on the foot of JUNIOR's bed. Junior, 8 years old, is freshly showered, tucked in, and preparing to go to sleep.
JUNIOR: Dad, what can I be?
THE OBSERVER: What do you mean?
JUNIOR: When I grow up.
THE OBSERVER: You can be anything.
THE OBSERVER: Yes.
JUNIOR: Can I be a boat captain?
THE OBSERVER: Yes.
JUNIOR: Can I be an archeologist?
THE OBSERVER: Yes. You can be anything. You can be a pilot, or a writer or an artist. You can be a teacher or a bus driver or design houses. You can go live in New York City. You could live in California or Maine or France. You could move to China. You could be a cowboy, or a doctor or a baker. You could be a zookeeper, a mailman or a train engineer. You can be whatever you want to be … (pause)
JUNIOR: What'sa matter?
THE OBSERVER (rising and turning away, wiping his eyes): Oh, um … must have got some dust in my eye. Now go to sleep, son. Tomorrow's a big, new day.