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The Observer wanted to attend a lecture at UALR last week and, being inexperienced in going to that campus at night, started out early. Good thing.

We knew parking would be a challenge. We couldn’t find any empty spaces along the campus drive, of course. There’s a parking deck, but the deck requires that one have 50 cents in change to exit, which we didn’t have. We spied a line of cars to a gate near the student union and we were in it for a while hoping it was an entrance to visitor parking, but the line did not move, time was growing short and our anxiety level was climbing. We opted for the parking deck, a little concerned about finding the change so we could go home again.

Agitation comes easily when you’ve reached the age where you have zero short term memory, and as we walked to the student union we realized our brain had not stored the contents of the e-mail directing us to the right room in the right building. OK, we’re late, we might have to sleep in the deck and we’re lost. Great. The bulletin board we were sure would be in the student union listing the times and locations if all the evening’s events did not exist. We hailed a few people, asked them if they knew about the lecture; they did not. Finally, an older professorial-looking gentleman said he’d heard of the lecture series and thought it might be in Dickinson Hall. But while we couldn’t remember where we were going, we knew it wasn’t Dickinson Hall. So he started naming places and bingo! One of the names rang a bell. He pointed me in the right direction and we set off at a jog. When we found the building we entered and swiveled our head desperately looking for sign of a room filled with people. There it was. There were no seats.

So, worked up and panting, we clambered onto the only surface left, a table top, to hear the lecture. Luckily, the lecture was then moved to a larger room where there were seats for all.

The lecture? It was about Zen Buddhism. In which one learns that with practice, you can attain non-attainment. Let go of the little things. Like parking problems and panic. Not to worry. Give it up.

It was a long lecture, and by the time it was over, we’d managed a little inner peace. Then so many people offered us change, we might as well have had a hat out. As we left the building and strolled out into the night, we saw a young man urinating against a tree. We were fine with that. Let go, guy, let go.

Three dads, encouraged by the “Kids tickets only $5” advertisement, took their pre-K-age sons to last week’s Monster Jam monster truck show at Alltel Arena. The kids had excitedly talked about the truck show for weeks. They weren’t even the youngest children in the arena of 11,000-plus people on a Saturday night (nearly full the way the arena was set up for the show).

But a couple of our kids weren’t nearly as able to hold up to the noise and excitement as some others half their age.

We had six pair of ear plugs in hand, highly recommended by someone used to these shows. Our seats were nearly as close to the action as one could get. One boy, who just turned 5, was immediately overwhelmed by the “monsters.” He and his dad visited the farthest reaches of the arena for the next 45 minutes.

Another youngster, yellow ear plugs extending from under his blond hair, patiently took it all in, barely making an expression. Nothing seemed to faze him, but nothing seemed to generate the same “wow” feeling The Observer got when the monstrous Grave Digger and Black Stallion both wheelied their way over four crushed cars serving as a launching pad.

The Observer’s kid was into it too, until they brought out a tricycle-like go-cart with a jet engine attached. His first experience of arena pyrotechnics and the heat that comes with them brought out a flood of tears, a bleeding left nostril, and the constant cry of “I want to go home.”

So we did; all six of us. Outside the arena we ran into another friend and his three children, also scooting home. He reminded us that even though it was “halftime,” we’d seen a hour of action that included a lot of standing around time. Pretty good for 4- and 5-year-olds to make it that long. In fact, it was pretty good for the dads, too.

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