The Observer got up to Eureka Springs with the family over the long Halloween weekend, a good spot for such ghoulishness. Walked the streets, sat through the zombie parade on Saturday night, marveled at the place and fell a bit more in love with it.

We've haunted that town for many a year. Spent our honeymoon there in the Basin Park Hotel an age ago, in fact, after a long and ill-advised trip from El Dorado to Eureka via Scenic Hwy. 7. Wasn't all that scenic by the time we pulled into town long after midnight, exhausted from white-knuckling up twisting mountain roads straight out of "The Shining." In hindsight, we should have taken the freeway, though it did give Yours Truly time to bond with our new bride, and the idea that we were hitched.

Back then, 1997ish or so (please don't skin us alive for not knowing the exact year, Spouse), it wasn't the refined Eureka Springs, full of lovely shops and lovely things, which you might know today. This was in the heyday of Tourist Trap Eureka, when the Passion Play was the hottest thing going and every store seemed stocked with the same assortment of corncob pipes, Booger Holler T-shirt castoffs, and ceramic thimbles recalling a visit to the concrete skyscraper Jesus on the mountain. The Newlywed Observer struggled mightily over the course of a week there to find something worthy to commemorate our nuptials, finally settling on a row of tiny brass cats sitting on a fence, their tails hanging down to create a series of key hooks. It's home at The Observatory right now, in fact, screwed to the wall just inside the front door. It's been there year upon year, just like Mrs. and Mr. Observer.

In addition to the Halloween events, this was one of Eureka's thrice yearly (count 'em!) Diversity Weekends, so the streets were full of happy gay and lesbian couples, doing what couples do in a strange and interesting town, which mostly amounts to walking in and out of shops with one partner looking bored as hell while the other demonstrates how incredibly interesting scented candles can be. The Observer was proud of Eureka then — a little island of tolerance in Northwest Arkansas, parts of which don't do tolerance all that well. That kind of thing goes a lot further with Yours Truly than Victorian charm.

As we said: We love that place, that little time capsule lost in the mountains, where all manner of magic creatures might reside. You may chuckle, given how close Little Rock is to The Observer's tormented heart, but Yours Truly could see moving there and opening The Northwest Observatory someday. Maybe write a quirky little column full of recipes, character sketches and homespun wisdom for the Lovely County Citizen. Work as the pilot of the town's rare taxicab. Buy an accordion, learn one song ("I Only Have Eyes for You") and play it over and over for tourists at Basin Spring. Order a fedora and become the village's sole private detective, puzzling out The Mystery of the Bird Bath Drownings and Murder at the New Orleans Hotel and The Case of the Pinched Pomeranian ("Mr. Jones, I think if you'll look behind the secret panel in the back of that chifferobe, you'll find Princess Poochie von Cummerbund safe inside, along with your mother's diamond brooch!"). Find a bar where everybody knows Yours Truly as Inky Dave. Walk home in February through streets where the light from the store windows plays on the unblemished blanket of new snow, winding back to where we belong through puddles of gold, to a little cottage where Spouse is waiting in the doorway in her robe, smiling, saying: "I was worried, my love." What a dream. What a life that would be.

Trouble in paradise, though: The Observer was sitting on a bench outside a corndog and cider stand on Eureka's Main Street Saturday night, waiting for our bride to get her drink, when a kid ran up, snatched the stand's tip jar off the counter, and hauled ass. Kinda weird that we left troubled Little Rock behind for the weekend, only to witness our first crime of the year in the Mountain Mayberry of Arkansas. If only they had a good private detective to solve The Case of the Purloined Pourboire. Hmmmmm ...


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