The Observer 

With the beginning of the NFL season come many things — new beer advertising, increased beer consumption, hemorrhoids — but perhaps none is so eagerly anticipated as the return of fantasy football.

Playing fantasy football requires that you sign a bunch of real-life players to your fantasy team, the performance of which is based on those players' real-life statistics. As you vegetate, someone else is being brutalized on the field in order to win you bragging rights in your league. If you run with a certain type of crowd, those bragging rights might even translate to a modest jackpot.

The Observer doesn't play that way — his league is solely for fun. Judging by his team's sickly performance this weekend, that's a good thing. But the poor showing makes The Observer wonder about the accuracy of calling this “fantasy” football. Fantasy, sure, in that his team is a make-believe collective. But the word also suggests control over the realization of desire — when you fantasize, what you want to happen happens. In a proper fantasy world, for example, Fred Taylor would have run for more than 16 yards on Sunday, and a Java application wouldn't have picked Matt Jones when The Observer's computer froze during his league's draft. Reality deals another kick in the teeth.

The Observer drove through Mount Judea last weekend. It's in Newton County, in the Ozarks, and pronounced Judy for you who are new to Arkansas (and for you who aren't). If you're driving in from the north, say from Vendor, the first thing you'll notice is that Mount Judea has a color scheme. The buildings are white and the roofs are blue, of the metal variety. We figure somebody got a deal on blue roofing and everybody bought in. They get along in Mount Judea.

We also noticed that the graves in the graveyard there were covered in fresh plastic flowers, and we do not sneer when we say that. New flowers show someone cares; old plastic flowers look just awful. The sizable cemetery — perhaps more populous than the town, whose breathing numbered 429 at last count — was as colorful as the blue and white town was prim, a pretty sight for those passing by. One of the buried beloved had a special arrangement — yellow and red flowers in the shape of a large guitar, right on top of the headstone.

The folks up there like to hang old bicycles in trees. (Generally, they are the same people who keep every vehicle they ever owned on their land.) We saw a couple hanging on a tree as we made our way back into the Cave Creek community just off the highway. A third we saw, however, found its own way to a tree. The ancient child's bike had washed into the branches of a young tree some years ago; now the tree has grown around it and the rear wheel is suspended over the road.

Also saw some guys digging in a bluff shelter, but we'll leave them out of the story. The shelter's story looked like it was getting lost, too.

Parking in the River Market, done incorrectly, will now cost you $30, a visitor to the Farmers Market discovered last weekend.

Where once you could park in the odd space at the end of a row in the free lot under the interstate — marked with white stripes but not actually in anybody's way — with impunity, now it's an offense punishable by thrice the normal parking ticket. (Ditto for the lot in back of the River Market, which isn't really a parking lot because that would violate the terms of the federal money that helped build it, but where one can park on the pretense of being a park visitor. Unless, of course, you are an enormous truck delivering beer or rap musicians to the local businesses.)

There's been some trouble in the lot under the interstate bridge, but they haven't been parking feuds. A couple of people were carjacked from the lot, one of them shot.

It has been suggested that a gateway theory is at work here in the city's new ticketing policy — that attempts to grab a parking spot in the most congested part of the city may lead to a life of crime.

At any rate, going to the Farmers Market has just gotten harder.



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