It was a pretty good cross-section of the population that came to the Capitol for a rally/press conference opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage nationwide. Young and old, male and female, black and white were there. The Observer wouldn’t be surprised to learn there was even a Republican in the group. And while the number of attendees wasn’t large — about 20 — a reporter told us that was more people than had turned out earlier in the day for a conservative group’s show of support for the amendment.

The anti-amendment forces carried signs that said “Fairness and equality for all Arkansans,” “Discrimination hurts families” and “Say no to hate.” How could anyone quarrel with such sentiments, The Observer wondered, though we knew there were those who did, and quite a number of them holding seats in Congress. And the White House.

Drew Pritt was one of the speakers, identifying himself as the first openly gay person to seek statewide office in Arkansas. (Earlier in the year, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, but didn’t get very far.) He said he believed that Arkansas’s senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, would continue to resist the amendment, as they had done in the past.

A representative of the National Education Association, who said she was herself a member of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual community, told of being denied entry to the hospital room of a partner she loved, because she was not considered family. And Randi Romo of Little Rock said, “Strong, loving families are not dependent on gender. It is past time for the scapegoating of loving families to stop.”

A couple of days later, the U.S. Senate rejected the amendment. Lincoln and Pryor said no to hate again.

The Observer walked into the newsroom and, all of a sudden, sensed our grandmother, the one that passed away last year. It was the scent in the room — gardenias on a desk. Our grandmother had a huge gardenia bush in her backyard that bloomed around this time each year, right next to her carefully manicured rose bushes, and her grandchildren’s swing set. She would cut them and put them in each room of the house and they would fill the rooms with the sweetness. Summertime. South. Grandma. Nice feelings.
She was a bit of a kinky Southern lady: When The Observer was just getting boobs and things (blossoming ourselves, we guess), she would tell us to wrap the petals in a handkerchief and put them in our brassiere — to get the optimum use out of the fragrance.

The scene: The sidewalk along the rose-covered iron fence on the Second Street side of the Main Library, 5:05 p.m. We were making our usual trek between office and car, eyes casually trained on our shadow’s head. Out of nowhere, the shadow of a bird joined ours, wings outstretched and flapping. We had just enough time to think, “Huh. That’s interesting,” before ka-thwomp, it whacked us right in the back of the noggin. Then landed on the fence and hopped along behind us, flapping its wings in a threatening manner until we were clear of the rosebushes.

Now This Particular Observer, unlike others who sometimes take on the moniker, knows not a thing about birds. Didn’t know what kind of bird this was, or why it might have wanted to take a chunk out of our bean, except that we’ve got kind of a bushy head of hair and maybe its nest was a little thin. So we just looked around sheepishly hoping no one else had seen us flailing and running, got in our car and drove home.

Cut to the next morning, making the return trip from car to office along the same stretch of street. We noticed a little baby bird on the sidewalk, half hidden in the shade of the roses. We were not quite through telling it how cute it was when ka-THWOMP-THWOMP-THWOMP, beak and claws and flapping wings assailed the back of our head again. We flailed, we cussed, we ran. It flapped, it cussed, it followed. That afternoon, we took the long way around the block.

We got enough of a look at it the second time that our more bird-savvy colleague easily identified our assailant, although apparently its behavior would have been enough to give it away. No wonder the little bastards are named mockingbird.



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