The Observer, Nov. 25 

The Observer isn't a Harry Potter superfan — not a big enough fan to get a Gryffindor crest tattoo, or read each of the books eight times, or name our dog "Albus" — but we are a fan of the written word, and we are a fan of folks getting excited enough about a book that they'll do crazy things in celebration of it. We went out and covered the midnight release of the last Potter book some years back, and it gladdened our bookworm's heart to see so many people — many of them in intricate and fabulous costumery — turn out to profess their love for what amounts to (as our own favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, put it) a collection of little black marks on paper. It was, as the sportswriters say, a beautiful thing.

We've been trying to re-capture a bit of that feeling of late, so when the newest Potter film came out the other day, we decided to pack up the family and go. It's been years since The Observer attended a midnight screening of anything. These days, our cinematic stamina can barely get us through a 10 p.m. re-run of "M.A.S.H." before we're out like a light in front of the TV, so the thought of hitting witching-hour screenings the way we did back in college is quite adventurous. That said, The Observer is determined to make some memories for Junior, that beloved son o' mine, who at less than one month shy of 11 has led a sheltered life, blessedly devoid of country/western song drama. He is turning into quite a bookworm and cinephile himself, so when he asked if we could chuck it all and hit a midnight screening of Harry Potter who were we to say no? And that, friends, is how The Observer and Co. wound up munching popcorn at one a.m. on a school/work night.

There is a different feeling to watching a movie in a theater in the middle of the night. It makes you feel like you're part of a secret club of sorts, made up of those willing to slip here by cover of darkness to share in something that might be considered art. Even in the windowless theater, you can somehow feel the weight of the night against the roof and walls. You know that when you emerge, the world will be sleeping. For a moment, you're here, but when the film is over and the lights come up, you will drive home through the sleeping city where timed sprinklers overshoot lawns and wet the street; through the sleeping neighborhoods, full of houses lit by solitary lamps, and find your way to where you belong. That, too, is a beautiful thing.

The Observer has a friend who works at a local university here in Central Arkansas, laboring in academic advising, helping students figure out what classes they want to take and — thus — what they want to do with their lives. It's a noble calling.

With registration long since over, she is now seeing the second wave of folks coming to her door, those long-faced souls who, several weeks in, realize the gravity of their decision to take that Modern Nude Dance or Introduction to Quantum Theory or Stick Pokery 101 class that has turned out to be, for them, an academic nightmare. The one-liners from her dealings with the young folks are always entertaining. Take this recent gem:

"Yeah, I need to drop my writing class. There is SO MUCH writing in it."

The Observer, in case you haven't noticed, is a moron. Or so it was pointed out to us by a turning driver as we walked through a green light at a downtown intersection. Later that same day, we were nearly hit again by a driver turning across the crosswalk. She was kind enough to mouth an "I'm sorry" as she continued on without slowing down.

These have not been the only occasions we've been a walking target. For all drivers (ourself included) we'd like to point out what our friend the Arkansas State Code has to say about the matter:

27-52-107: Signal legend

(1) Green alone or "GO" means:

(A) Vehicular traffic facing the signal, except when prohibited under § 27-51-802, may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits either turn. But vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time the signal is exhibited.

That seems pretty clear. The Observer and others would enjoy living long enough to die of natural causes. Please watch for pedestrian traffic when driving—we're no match for your car.


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