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The observer, Nov. 13 

The Observer took Junior with us to the poll when we went to vote last week. He's got nine long years to go before he casts his first ballot, but he bore the wait well, even though the lines were long. While we were waiting our turn in the G-through-K chute, we talked it over: what a ballot is; what a referred amendment is; the difference between political parties; why voting is so important. He's in third grade now and more than likely learned all that stuff several recesses back. But as we've recently discovered, he's already practicing the fine art of humoring his Old Man. Nodding and furrowing his brow in all the right places, he let his Pop have his chest-swelling Civics Moment — something like the one we allowed our Mom back when we were his age.

When The Observer finally got our ballot, we adjourned to a table and prepared to start bubbling. The moment we picked up the pen, however, Junior suddenly turned in place and stared dutifully at the wall beside the table like a soldier at parade rest.

“What are you doing?” we asked. “Turn around.”

“No,” said Junior, “It's secret. It's supposed to be secret.”

We couldn't help but smile all the way through our ballot. Thomas Jefferson, no doubt, would have been proud of us both.

 

OK, we were barely into the second week of November on Sunday when carolers showed up to serenade the staff at Starbucks. Never has The Observer had such an overpowering Bah Humbug moment. We wanted to rip their Santa hats off and point out that the latte a la mode is flavored with pumpkin, not gingerbread.

We were already on the humbug train after getting a monthly magazine with a Christmas tree on the cover. What happened to Thanksgiving?

It is an old complaint, now, this stuff about starting Christmas early. But come on, we just now got the spider down. The jack o'lantern hasn't completely rotted. We're not yet out of Snickers.

We felt rushed, unprepared, miserable. Go away! thumped our heart. But our inner shopper is weak, the merchants strong. Next thing we knew, we were buying little kitty cat ornaments at the store next door.

Is Little Rock ready for crosswalks? Do our drivers slow down at the big stripes, smile warmly and let pedestrians cross safely? 

Nope. The Observer was motoring on LaHarpe last week when a driver ahead in the lane next to him stopped for people trying to cross to the backside of City Hall.

His law-abiding was not rewarded. An SUV following close behind at warp speed couldn't stop in time and smashed into the law-abiding car's rear with a huge smack.

If the police really want to accommodate pedestrians, they really need to commit to the crosswalks — make the zebra stripes big and bold, with advance warning and lights, like you see in more civilized places. Gestures will only bring you car accidents or flattened folk.

 

The Gangster Museum of America is not a bad little museum, and opening such a place on Central Avenue was not a bad little idea. Abandoned bathhouses are all right, in their place, but a past-its-prime resort town like Hot Springs needs other attractions too.

Back in its roaring days, the city was almost as famous for its criminals as its waters, yet to our knowledge, the tourism industry has never tried to capitalize on this before.

The museum has photographs, videos and other exhibits recalling the famous outlaws who visited Hot Springs with frequency and occasionally settled down there — Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Owney Madden. A visitor can handle a Thompson submachine gun — eat lead, Machine Gun Jack McGurn — and place make-believe bets on a roulette wheel salvaged from one of the many casinos that used to operate in Hot Springs, proudly and illegally. There's a great guide too, one who really knows the material. Grew up in Hot Springs, we'd imagine, but didn't ask.

Kids probably wouldn't be interested, but for grown-ups, the Gangster Museum is worth the price of a ticket ($8 for adults, $7 for seniors). It's located about a block from the formerly famous Arlington Hotel — which, the museum points out, still has an Al Capone suite.

 

 

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