The Observer April 28 

The Observer and clan were invited to Passover dinner with friends Saturday night. Passover celebrates the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt into freedom, and the venerable Haggadah we used at the Passover dinner included in its section of songs “God Bless America.” Beneath the song’s music was text about the religious freedom America affords, and on the opposite page was a photograph of a Jewish monument, a statue made of what appeared to be marble, paying permanent homage to that freedom. In this day of “faith-based initiatives” that channel our tax dollars to Christian churches and organizations in exchange for political capital — a day long past the publication date of the Haggadah we read — that freedom no longer feels written in stone. Today, we have American lawmakers like Tom DeLay who don’t believe the First Amendment requires that state and religious institutions are to be kept from meddling in each other’s affairs. Politicians who like DeLay would “bring God back into the public institutions of the country.” Reading the Haggadah’s praise of American liberty and thinking about the direction the country appears to be heading brought tears to our eyes and a bitter taste to our mouths. The Observer was driving west from downtown on the Wilbur Mills Freeway when we saw what we thought was a billboard that featured a devil. The billboard’s clever design extended the devil’s head above the rectangle of the billboard, so it would stand out. The Observer wondered what company would use Ol’ Scratch in its advertising, so we kept our eyes on the billboard as we closed in. Close up, we realized what we were seeing: Two pigeons were resting on the man’s head, precisely where his horns would be, if he were Satan. He was not. He was merely a guy on a billboard trying to sell insurance, vilified by a couple of well-placed birds. The Observer is often dis-tracted by signs. Like the one in front of Burger King that reads “TRY OUR ENORMOUS OMELET.” The suggestion is a little nauseating. It wasn’t “TRY OUR WESTERN OMELET” or “TRY OUR VEGAN OMELET” or something else having to do with Burger King’s egg-cooking skills. It might as well have read “OUR OMELETS: BIGGER THAN YOUR HEAD.” Or “AN OMELET TO DIE AFTER.” The sign is in front of the Burger King next to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Whipping up business. In France, where everyone is skinny, they only eat one egg. And they’re not hungry afterward. Why? Because one egg is always un oeuf. If we’ve told that joke here before, we apologize. The Observer would like to blame our car, but in truth it was our own momentary stupidity that led us to lock our 3-year-old in it the other morning as we were off to daycare and work. Thankfully, our 3-year-old can sometimes summon up more sense than we have — when he finally quits laughing at us. We strapped the kid in as usual in the morning. For some reason, our driver’s side door is locked, but the other doors aren’t. We drop the keys on the seat, reach over the seat to flip the switch that would unlock the driver’s side door, but push it the wrong way, unknowingly lock all the doors in the car, then shut the rear driver’s side door. With the kid inside. Then follows about 15 minutes or more of entertainment for the kid — and the neighbors. The boy is all smiles and laughter at the sight of The Observer and other grownups wildly gesturing at him from outside the car. They want him to get out of his car seat — he can undo the top part of the belt — and unlock the doors. Or maybe grab the keys on the seat and hit the remote. He can do that too. But what does he do? Laugh and laugh and laugh at all the adults making faces and waving at him. One neighbor resorts to Oreo bait; if he’ll do what they say he can have them. Others are suggesting a locksmith. The Observer’s frustration reaches the point where we’re ready to punch out a window with our fist. Then, our 3-year-old catches on. Lo and behold, he takes off the top part of his seat belt, reaches over and slides the lock on the door. The neighbors give him a rousing ovation. We wipe the sweat off our brow, and off we go.

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