The Observer, March 4 

The Observer's woman in the field was in Hot Springs over the weekend, enjoying an early dinner at Angel's Italian Restaurant on Central Avenue. She heard a bark at the door, where a dog on a leash was waiting with an expectant air. She asked the waitress if the dog was a regular and got to come in the restaurant ? as our dog-loving woman in the field would surely allow if she owned a restaurant ? and was told no. But he is a regular, and, if no one notices his arrival at the door, will announce himself with a few barks of notification. The waitresses then go to the door and give him pepperoni. He gets three slices, a waitress told us later, unless the owner's around, when he might get spaghetti and meatballs. Ranger, as the mid-sized mutt is called, “comes full trot” usually around 4 or 5 p.m. every Saturday, she said. You might go to Hot Springs to see the ponies, but it would be more fun, to our way of thinking, to watch Ranger's pepperoni run.

Our own Saturday started at the Arkansas Arts Center, where we went to see the “Pharaohs” exhibit of Egyptian art and artifacts. We arrived shortly after the doors opened at 10 a.m., which was a good idea since the crowd was already large and growing and many of the items were very small, requiring some close inspection. We went with someone who actually knows something about art and galleries and the process of putting on exhibits and so we paid attention to things like soft mats in the corners (for the guards to stand on?), the way the accession dates were recorded on the little informative cards attending the artifacts and how those cards listed the materials used in making the artifacts. A surprising amount of stone. Faience, Egyptian alabaster, some carnelian. A little gold.

Then we came to a small mummy of a kitten, which of course we couldn't take our eyes off. Then our friend directed our attention to the materials listed on its card: Kitten and linen.

Fortunately, everyone around us was wearing those headphone kits supplied at the entrance and weren't distracted from the exhibit by the snorting laughter we couldn't hold back. We're used to seeing “acrylic” and “oil” and now, “faience.” Never “kitten.”

The Observer is a music fan, but has always been behind the curve when it comes to technology. We clung to our suitcase full of cassette tapes long after the rest of the Western World had moved on to compact disc. We did eventually make the switchover to CD around 1998. Now we've got teetering stacks of plastic jewel cases all over The Observatory.

Just because it's kind of Our Thing to be a technological curmudgeon, we've resisted buying an MP3 player in recent years, even as the rest of the population sprouted perpetual ear buds. Back on Valentine's Day, however, The Observer was looking for a present for Spouse ? also a lover of music from way back ? when we seized upon the idea of helping her make the not-so-giant leap forward into the digital age. As we heard on The Simpsons once: We were like Christopher Columbus, boldly discovering something that millions of others knew about for years. A trip to Wally World found us returning with said gift, a shiny red Sony product that looks like something Terminators might use to download their kill instructions.

We had planned on desperately clinging to CDs, but after watching the joy Spouse has gotten out of her player over the past few weeks, we knew it was time to consign our shiny discs to the elephant graveyard. So simple, so easy! Digital music, but never having to worry about scratches and fingerprints and juggling those oh-so-finicky compact discs into their oh-so-finicky cases? We're sold. Recently, keeping it quiet so we weren't mocked by the other Amish folk, we slipped out to The House of Walton and bought another MP3 player for ourselves. Since then, we have joyfully made our leaning stacks of Van Morrison, U2, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding and Bobbie Gentry a thing of the past, with all that love and soul and passion boiled down to one slim little rectangle that fits right in the ol' pocket. 

Next stop, 2039, when Old Man Observer will still be carrying a battered MP3 player when everybody else is jacking their fiber optic laser-cable straight into the base of their skull. See you then, whippersnappers.  


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