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The Observer, Dec. 16 

Observer's son turned 11 years old last week, which simultaneously made His Old Man feel horrendously ancient and so proud we could bust. While other 11-year-olds are fine with a birthday cake featuring Hot Wheels cars or some cartoon character, Junior is a special case. His preferred theme this year: Cake of the Living Dead, sporting a horde of plastic zombies shambling across the plain of frosting in search of braaaaaaains. Yes, it was of the homemade variety, by necessity.

While we're pretty sure the Wally World bakery would have gladly duded us up a fine example if we supplied the zombies, The Observer just didn't have the courage to ask.

The Observer, in recent months, has become something of a Craigslist fiend. We're always late to the technological party, having only bought our first cell phone about three years back, but buying stuff off Craigslist — that great, electric cross between a Middle Eastern bazaar, a redneck yard sale and a really good thrift store — is our new obsession of late.

Recently, our TV went on the blink, so we naturally hit the computer, scoping for a new set. While the rest of the world has been hanging their flat screens on the wall for five solid years, The Observer has so far been happy with a 21-inch RCA unit purchased circa 1997, while we were marooned in grad school in the Great White North.

Though it was the cheapest set Wal-Mart (as it was then called) had at the time, it must have been built on a good day, because it only gave up its Chinese-made ghost a few weeks back. After years of secretly coveting our friends' bigger sets, we decided to go large.

We got on Craigslist, and soon found a deal: a 39-inch Sony, only a few years old, for $125. If that sounds low, there's a catch: it was a tube-type TV. Never one to pass up a good deal, though, The Observer gathered our cash and took the trip to Maumelle.

We don't know exactly what we were expecting, but what we got wasn't quite it. The TV was in great shape, as the ad had said. The problem was: It was a hair shy of 40 inches wide, and almost three feet tall. When we stooped down to pick it up, we literally thought it was somehow bolted to the floor. Alas, no, but it might as well have been. The set weighed somewhere between "Full Size Refrigerator" and "Steel Cartoon Safe That Gets Dropped on Wile E. Coyote" — maybe 250 pounds.

With the help of the strapping homeowner, we managed to wrestle it out the door and into the back of Spouse's Honda CR-V. Once we got it home, muscles quivering all the way like plucked strings (after eight years of riding a desk, we're too heavy for light work and too light for heavy work) a new problem revealed itself.

Though our lovely bride said she could hold up her end long enough to get it up three steps and onto the porch so we could drag the beast into the living room, she proved to be not woman enough and could only manage a few feet, which left our new TV shipwrecked in the driveway.

Worse, there was lightning in the west, and the wind smelled like rain. A few quick calls had our extra-large brother on the way, even as the rain pushed in.

By the time he got there, it was sprinkling. If we hadn't seen his headlights when we did, we were about to head in and strip down the shower curtain liner to use as a tarp.

We got our new electric teat into The Observatory just as the bottom dropped out and the deluge came down. As The Observer told his bro while we stood there looking at the thing in its new perch in the corner, us both red-faced and panting with every muscle pulled: If this one goes on the blink, we plan on busting it up with a sledge and carting the pieces out in a wheelbarrow. Our backs will thank us.

Happy Holidays, folks, from The Observer to you. May your plums be sugary, your pudding figgy, and your stockings full.

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