Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
The Observer often sees it on our stroll to the Fortress of Employment: a 1970 or '71 Chevrolet Camaro, our favorite car in the whole world, with the egg crate grill and the back window inspired by Ferrari, built in the days before the Camaro got elongated and Brut-scented and ridiculous around 1975. You don't see that species much in the wild anymore — especially in the South. Most of them took the off ramp for the Benton Speedbowl twenty-five years ago; were driven into piles of scrap by rednecks with dirt track dreams.
This example is getting there, slowly but surely. The faded brown paint and scabby rust blend almost seamlessly together. All the overhangs and sharp corners are punched through with ragged moth holes. The long, hotrod nose has been crumpled repeatedly, to the point that the snout looks like a sneer. One eyebrow has been so thoroughly wadded that the peeper it cradled has been replaced by what appears to be a light from a farm-implement store, the rusty chrome stalk of the rusty chrome bucket bolted slapdash to the crooked lip of the bumper. The hood is held on by a kudzu of bungee cords, and the rear noticeably sags.
The Camaro looks so bad that we've entertained the idea that it's supposed to be some kind of art car — the driver's statement about a world full of jellybean-shaped rolling coffins, ferrying their culture-obsessed occupants to days of soulless toil. On the other hand, The Observer has been around automobiles our whole life, and knows better.
In the days when we were content to have a wrench in our hand and burnt motor oil in every crack and crevice of our body, we pulled transmissions and engines and carburetors in the dead of night; rooted around in their guts; added; subtracted; regasketed; rebored; reringed; reshoed; reinstalled. We know all about what kind of blood, sweat and tears it takes to get a 40-year-old car rolling and keep it rolling. And the car guy in us says that it isn't some hipster's sense of ironic self-satisfaction that's keeping that Camaro on the road. There's love there. There's long hours spent standing in line at the parts counter. There's someone's days spent flat on his back with dirt in his eyes, muttering "lefty-loosey-righty-tighty." There's a story — the tale of a promise to someone or something. We'd bet our busted knuckles on it.
So, in short: here's to you, Camaro Guy, from one car dude to another. Keep on truckin'.
Every time we see that car at the curb, so different from the silver/tan/white blobs around it, we feel young again. It takes us back to the days before mortgage and responsibility, when all we cared about was the sweet, deep burble of a well-tuned V-8, getting the grease out from under our fingernails by Saturday night, the song on the radio, and the wind in our hair.
Something about this political season has worn The Observer plum out. There's the robocalls, the mailers, the constant attack ads. We're just about sick of it, to tell you the truth. But what's worse than the same old rhetoric (think "Washington Insider," or phrases like "Arkansas values") is the disrespect it shows to the common voter. People always wonder why Americans are so sick of politics, but they don't look very far for an answer. Campaign ads with outrageous, misleading claims or a mailbox full of lies and deceitful accusations tell voters, "We think you're so dumb, you'll believe whatever's in this ad." And people don't like being called stupid.
The Observer was on hand to watch the unveiling of the new sign for River Market Avenue (the old Commerce Street) in downtown Little Rock the other day. Mayor Mark Stodola talked about the improvements in the River Market district and called it a "21st century revitalization." All true, we thought. The area is great for tourism and gets cooler as time goes by. It was kind of funny, however, that as he talked about the area's improvements, a police siren screamed in the background and not three days prior the mayor's car had been stolen in that very same part of town.