Favorite

On fire 

On Monday, whilst taking a break and relying on others to shoulder the load, The Observer turned on Dr. Zuckerberg's Fantabulous Book O' Countenances around noonish to see a heartbreaking sight: photos of the storied Little Rock haunt, Midtown Billiards, on fire. While Yours Truly had dive bars and hangouts of our own in our youth, we know too well what Midtown has meant to generations of Little Rockians, hence the heartbreak. Seeing your friends lose a thing can be worse, somehow, than losing a thing yourself.

As The Observer writes this, the puddles from the fire hydrant are still shining on the pavement down on Main Street, so there's always some hope, we suppose, that things can be rebuilt. Given the photos we've seen, though, we're not all that hopeful. Here's a line that applies to events featuring both literal and figurative flames: No matter how much you try to put it all back right and shipshape, things are never quite the way they were before a fire.

The Observer knows this from experience, unfortunately. When Yours Truly was but a lad, fourth grade, our house burned. Not "burned flat." Not incinerated, so that everything was lifted to heaven unto the nostrils of God. Just burned, sooted and soaked, so that even what didn't burn bore forever the stink of everything that was lost. What was saved: a few family photos, a wooden chessboard, our mother's round oak dining table, which warped from the heat and steam like a vinyl record left on an August dashboard.

The Observer's family was, thankfully, away on a trip to the lake for the weekend when our tidy little house caught fire in the middle of the night. Some bit of loose wiring, apparently. There's an old story in our family in which The Observer's Dear Ol' Pa, who claimed to have a tickle of clairvoyance, came down with a raging fever just before 10 p.m. that night — a fever that broke like a dry twig just after 2 a.m. After his brothers came to find us at the lake in the dawn, in that age before cell phones, they told him the fire was first noticed just after 10 p.m. and the last embers were finally extinguished just after 2. The Observer can neither confirm nor deny this story, but we will say that there are stranger things to Observe in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

The Observer's parents, clinging on to the hem of middle class, had no insurance on the place, and so we were left with a blackened hole where our home had been, dependent on the kindness of strangers. We would eventually buy a trailer and move in, spending most weekends of the next six months shoveling the charred remains of our everything into wheelbarrows, putting the house back so it could be rented and eventually sold. But there for a hot minute, The Observer was homeless. Even our playground bully, who had tormented us for months during recess, was shocked into silence and then an apology when we told him we didn't have time for his bullshit that day because our house had burned down. A child's world is so often made of a handful of things and spaces, so there is no greater nightmare, we suppose, than having your home burn. Even to a jerk like Jerry.

And so, we're thinking of the folks at Midtown today. Not just the people who run the joint and work there, but everybody who ever shared a laugh or a drink or a kiss there. With the benefit of years, we see now that it's not just kids whose lives are made of places and things.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    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.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • The Arkansas Traveler

    The Observer gets letters from folks, either directly or through the grapevine. Recently, somebody forwarded us one written by a former schoolteacher, writing to her granddaughter, who is a new student at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs.
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • The Grand Old Flag

    The Observer, like nearly everyone else with access to an internet connection, routinely sees our personal lighthouse battered by Hurricane Outrage, which — on a planet where billions of people struggle to find water and a crumb of daily bread — seems more like a tempest in a teapot inside a series of other, progressively larger teapots the longer we weather it.
    • Sep 1, 2016

Most Shared

  • Conflicts of interest in the legislatures

    The Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press collaborated for a project aimed at highlighting state legislators whose lawmaking might be affected by private business interests.
  • Industrial hemp pilot program coming soon to Arkansas

    One of the booths at this week's Ark-La-Tex Medical Cannabis Expo was hosted by the Arkansas Hemp Association, a trade group founded to promote and expand non-intoxicating industrial hemp as an agricultural crop in the state. AHA Vice President Jeremy Fisher said the first licenses to grow experimental plots of hemp in the state should be issued by the Arkansas State Plant Board next spring.
  • Cats and dogs

    I've always been leery of people who dislike animals. To my wife and me, a house without dog hair in the corners and a cat perched on the windowsill is as barren as a highway rest stop. We're down to three dogs and two cats, the smallest menagerie we've had for years.

Latest in The Observer

  • 18

    The day this issue hits the streets this week is Junior's 18th birthday, if you can believe it. The Observer surely can't. All the long years we've known that baby and boy and now man have slipped past in less time, it seemed, than it takes to wipe a tear from the cheek.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • Lucky to be dumb

    When The Observer and a few friends picked up the Ford Escape with a tent on top after landing in Iceland, the renter called our plan "bold."
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • Year one

    The Observer is a bit late with this, but we felt we needed to say something about passing a year in Trump's America.
    • Nov 23, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation