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The Observer, July 24 

We love the guys at our neighborhood sporting goods store. They pal around and clearly enjoy their jobs. The Observer has never once had to rip a cell phone from their ears to get their attention.

They were having some big fun last week. It was close to closing time, not many customers around. We heard a huge sound coming from the front of the store, like a wall of hiking shoes had toppled over. But that wasn't it.

The store has a mezzanine, reached by a flight of wide steps from the middle of the store's ground floor. At the top of the steps was a guy in a small kayak. At the bottom, his coworkers, cheering him on. The Observer asked, He's not really going to shoot the staircase, is he?

Oh, yes he was. He scooched forward bit by bit until the tip of the canoe was over the top step and then launched himself down the first set of stairs, over a landing and on down the rest of the way, skidding about 15 feet to a stop between racks of ladies' shirts. He wasn't able to do that great turnaround-stop kayakers do after they come through the rapids, but he didn't tump, either, or come up covered in cute blouses.

We asked a guy standing next to us, So what class rapid was that? “A four,” he said, pretty nonchalantly.

We like a store whose employees know what they're selling.

 

Report from the nursery in the hollow tree at the corner of The Observer's yard:

A few weeks back, we heard a noise outside of our little house in Capitol View, and were stunned to see a weary-looking mother raccoon dragging a tiny kit down the tree by the scruff of its neck. Once on terra firma, she toddled off to parts unknown with the baby bouncing along behind. Over the course of the next hour, she dragged a total of five of the little boogers out of said tree, leading them off to who knows where.

We're not suffering from empty nest syndrome, however. Mother and her quintuplets — already half as big as mom — have periodically returned for visits to our backyard, digging up flower beds, scaring the cat, and generally wreaking havoc. Before they learn to pick locks and drive a stick shift: Does anybody know a good live-trapper? 

 

Usually, the dining review page is where we write about restaurants. But The Observer had such a happy experience last week, we've got to talk about it. Here's the thing: We went to lunch at a luxe downtown restaurant. Everything was great: The homemade pimiento cheese, the tea, the tablecloth, the wait staff. But it was about 25 degrees Fahrenheit in the restaurant and we had two courses to go.

We wondered — was the lady at the front kidding when she said she could offer us a shawl if we got too cold? Since we were already wearing the socks we snagged from our male companion, and they didn't go with white sandals, we hesitated to walk to the front to ask. Another dining partner did the honors.

She came back with not one but two shawls, lovely soft things, warm and — get this — they matched what we had on! Brown for her, white for The Observer. That's what we call service. That outdoes the jackets and ties they keep for the underdressed at Galatoire's, we say. They don't always match.

 

We can't speak quite as highly of another dining experience we had recently, this one on a visit to a city in the Way Far North for a friend's wedding. With a group of about 20 heading out at 7:30 on a Saturday night, options were limited; we wound up at what our friend — a vegetarian, so why we believed him, we don't know — said was supposed to be a really good barbecue place. Good barbecue? In the Way Far North? Even better: The restaurant touted itself as Cajun, serving “New Orleans, Louisiana, waterfront barbecue.” We could feel Whole Hog trembling in fear.

The Observer's confidence was not bolstered when we opened our menu. Among the choices was “Shrimp Yaal Style,” which, The Observer thought, must have been inspired by an Old Testament pagan deity, or perhaps was a recipe handed down from the owner's Scandinavian grandmother.

If you're going to co-opt a foreign culture, youse guys, at least check y'all's spelling.

 

 

 

 

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Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

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