The Observer did not really know Dr. Raymond Miller. But we knew of him, from a variety of ways. First, we knew his wife, Clarice. She was Mrs. Miller to us, one of the favorite teachers at Pulaski Heights Junior High School many moons ago, offering school-day mothering to barely-teen-aged girls in conflict with their own.
Dr. Miller died last week of cancer. We learned a lot about him at his funeral. He was born in Cotton Plant 68 years ago to a farmer, graduated from Cotton Plant Vo-Tech, got an agriculture scholarship to Arkansas AM&N, and then decided he wanted to be a doctor. That cost him the scholarship, but he worked in the school cafeteria to get through. He got a degree in biology and went to UAMS. He first met Hoyte Pyle across a cadaver, and the two became close friends. Good enough friends that after graduation and with a few years practice under their belts, Raymond Phillip Miller and Hoyte Remus Pyle decided to go into practice together, with two other internists. Theirs was the first integrated medical practice in Little Rock. Miller “was my mentor,” Pyle said.
Back in 1974, in the summer after The Observer graduated from college, The Observer’s father decided to have a little nap while floating on his back in the swimming pool of his apartment complex. It was the kind of little nap that washes over you in hot August, when you’ve been sitting in the sun after enjoying an afternoon of libations, which was something The Observer’s father did on a regular basis. This time, however, The Observer’s father, in full doze, sank like a rock to the bottom of the pool, under the influence and underwater, and lay there until one of the sponges poolside noticed him. An ambulance was called and he was hauled off to St. Vincent, where, by some miracle, he was returned to life. (The ambulance company had a hard time believing it when we called later searching for his dentures. “Excuse me for asking,” the lady said, “but why do you need them? Isn’t he dead?”)
So the ER got him back, but not totally out of the woods. His lungs were still swimming and he needed a pulmonologist. His doctor, Drew Agar, came out to us in the hallway and said he wanted to call Raymond Miller in. “Now Alice, he’s black,” Dr. Agar said, searching my mother’s face for a reaction. My mother, the Women’s Emergency Committee vet, the mother who let her children plaster the glass panes around our front door with anti-war stickers, who listened to “Hair” and who was never happier in her life than watching Nixon go down — bothered by a black doctor? We all had a laugh. Of course we didn’t mind. Good, Dr. Agar said. Because he’s the best.
The Observer’s great-aunt, a lady getting beyond on in years, had a special treat for us last week when we stopped by to visit: a grocery bag full of 15-year-old newspaper clippings she’d found stuffed in the back of a closet. She’d told us about it on the phone — how interesting it was that many of the same things in the news then were still making headlines today. Among the clips she pulled out of the bag: a picture of a triumphant George Bush I and wife Barbara, dressed in desert camo, standing up in a Jeep surrounded by soldiers fresh from their victory over Iraqi forces. (Out of respect for the lady’s age, we bit our tongue rather than point out the rather obvious, and unfortunate, ways that Bush’s son’s Iraq war is different.) There were also several stories documenting the rise in the rate of Arkansas high school graduates who needed remedial classes when they got to college. Our favorite, though, was a column by our own fearless leader, Max Brantley, from his days at the Arkansas Gazette, comparing our governor — then a still unannounced candidate for president making the rounds of politically important northeastern states — to a supermarket tomato: Pretty and red on the outside, rendered all but tasteless on the long trip from vine to produce bin. Plus ça change …
The Observer’s car-to-office walk takes us past the Second Street courtyard of the Main Library, which is surrounded by a rose-covered black iron fence. In spring, there’s nothing prettier — it’s a veritable wall of light pink blooms you can hardly even see through. One recent day, though, as we slogged through the thick 100-degree air on our way home, we saw that a single vine had wilted loose of the fence and was sprawled prostrate across the sidewalk. We knew how it felt.
I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
he Observer has our regrets, just like everybody else. For example: last week, Yours Truly published a cover story on the increasingly ugly fight over Eureka Springs' Ordinance 2223, which is designed to protect a bunch of groups — including LGBTQ people — from discrimination in housing, employment, accommodations, cake buying, browsing, drinking, gut stuffery, knickknack purchasing, general cavorting, funny postcard mailing and all the other stuff one tends to get up to in the weirdest, friendliest, most magical little town in the Ozarks.
The Observer's boss, Uncle Alan, is something of a gentleman farmer on his spread up in Cabot, growing heirloom tomatoes and watermelons and crops of chiggers on property that looks like the perfect farmstead Lenny and George often fantasized about in "Of Mice and Men."
Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
This week, the Arkansas Times falls back on that oldest of old chestnuts: a recipe issue. Being who we are, of course, we had to put a twist on that; namely, the fact that most of the recipes you'll find in these pages are courtesy of people who have shuffled off to that great kitchen in the sky, where the Good Lord is always whipping up new things in his toque and apron, running the great mixers of genetics and time, maybe presenting the batter-dipped beaters and bowls to Jesus for a lick down.
OK, back to basics, Observer. Get hold of yourself. Give the people what they want, which is escapism! If you don't, this column is eventually just going to devolve into The Prophecies of Hickstradamus at some point in the next four years: "The Orange Vulture perches in the fig tree. The great snake eats Moonpies and Royal Crown Cola by starlight ..." That kind of thing. Nobody likes that. Too much deciphering and such.
The Observer's grandfather on our mother's side was a crackerjack fella. Grew up in the sandy hills north of Conway. County boy, through and through. During hog-killing time in December 1941, the story in our family goes, when word of Pearl Harbor reached his little community, he and his friends loaded into his T-model truck and made the rough journey to the first speck of civilization that included an Army recruiting office, where they all enlisted.