The Observer decided the Museum of Discovery gift shop would be a good place to find something for two little boys and so headed off in that direction Friday morning.
We forgot! The Clinton library was open and it was free. Bumper-to-bumper traffic crept behind the River Rail trolley, and one rear bumper was still in the intersection of LaHarpe and Clinton as the light changed. Gridlock! On the sidewalks of Clinton, groups of people walking swiftly to and fro.
What it was was commerce.
The Observer, armed with a parking pass, was able to enter the fray cheerfully, a mood that pervaded the area even in those without the convenience. For this day, at least, the shops and restaurants were doing the kind of business they’d looked forward to for lo those many pre-library years.
A family dining outdoors whose accents betrayed them as visitors asked if there were a fast food place nearby where they might have fed their children with less expense and wait. A niche, perhaps?
One proprietor complained that the Clinton Museum Store was “taking all the business,” but her place had a good number of customers anyway — shopping stamina was on her side.
We made it to the Discovery store, bought wooden puzzles and books with eyeballs, and headed out again. Whew!
But what about this weekend?
Saturday, the River Market neighborhood was just as crowded. A mid-afternoon arrival at the Clinton Presidential Center meant a wait of nearly an hour to enter. The colors of the day were purple and gold. Hundreds of LSU fans, in very good spirits after Friday’s victory over the Razorbacks at War Memorial Stadium, were well represented in the library throng, their gang colors identifying them at regular intervals in the creeping line. And they were not just at the library. They were eating fried oysters at the Flying Fish. And downing Abita Turbodog at the Flying Saucer. And buying Clinton T-shirts. Geaux Tigers.
The Observer was pleased to learn from several friends that he wasn’t the only native who cruised through the neighborhood just to ogle the crowds. Among others we encountered was City Director Dean Kumpuris, whose single-minded pursuit of downtown redevelopment is honored by the renaming of a street near the new library. Kumpuris stopped to say hello as he drove down Clinton Avenue. He was not alone. Sitting beside him, in a doggie carrier, was a new addition to his family, a black-and-white French bulldog puppy named Boris. Make that a Freedom Bulldog.
The Observer is like the proverbial well-dweller, as we’ve explained before, when it comes to shopping for clothes. So it was with a measure of shock that we inspected the prices on jeans as our teen-ager was trying some on at a department store in a Little Rock mall.
Now these are, in theory, new jeans. But the companies that make them drive over them with an Army tank, back and forth, until they are beat up enough to be in style. Then, to weaken the fabric further so that the jeans are guaranteed to actually fall apart in with a month or so of wear, they bleach them. And send them to market.
Dear, we asked our sweet one through the locked louvered door (god forbid The Observer should be allowed to enter the dressing room with the being we gave birth to), did you choose from the sale rack? “Don’t know,” came her dulcet reply. The jeans fit nicely, so she opened the door to allow us a look. We peeked at the tag. Even the teen knew there was no way. The fashionably frayed un-bluejeans were $88. Back to the rack they went.
The salesgirl — who unlike the lad at the previous store we’d shopped at who looked at us as if we had two heads when we asked why a size 12 (our size) was big enough to fit Mrs. Goliath — translated the jean size and helped us find a cheaper pair. We shared with her our surprise at the price. No kidding, she said. She shops at Savers, a used-clothing store that returns part of its sales to non-profits. There, jeans cost a tenth of the new ones. Yes, they’re beat up, frayed and bleached jeans. They achieved this style the hard way — they earned it.