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The Observer Nov. 25 

We live in an aging neighborhood and so welcomed a young couple that built a new house on a vacant lot near us not long ago. The house is true to the neighborhood aesthetic in size and design. A welcome addition in just about every way. Except one. We were walking by the home Sunday, Nov. 21. The date is important. Christmas wreaths adorned the front porch. A hidden speaker was playing Christmas music — “Jingle Bell Rock” — as we walked past. Merry blankety-blank Thanksgiving to everyone. Let the record show that November 2004 has been Central Arkansas’s best year ever for blazing maples. None of those puny green and yellow leaves on this year’s acer saccharum. No, salmon, and deep red, and orange — an explosion of anthocyanins, which is what fall is all about. We can’t say why this should be so, the terrific color. Last week’s bright sunny days that preceded the rain, perhaps? The drenching rain. The falling, falling, falling rain. The earth’s crust has turned to mush and the city has become one big sucking bog. A few members of the White House press corps went missing the day the Clinton library opened; it’s rumored they were swallowed up whole. At the opening, climbing onto a chair to see over the umbrellas for a better view of the former first lady, The Observer espied in the chair next to us a pair of black high-heeled shoes, abandoned. Somewhere, a reporter or photographer was working barefoot. It would make a decent psychological study, the press’ unpreparedness for what turned out for many of us to be the most hours ever spent standing in a downpour. There were TV women in chiffon, for goodness sakes, print men protected only by their suit coats. No, crass lowlifes that are, we weren’t allowed umbrellas. But we could have done better than the pink slicker without buttons The Observer wore. Was it that we couldn’t believe it would rain on Clinton’s parade? At any rate, a reporter teetering on a plastic chair seat next to The Observer saw the shoes, too, and was inspired. In moments, he predicted, all Woodstock would break loose and the press corps would be rolling down the sodden slope we were balanced on, mud-wrestling in the nude, dancing and chanting, no rain, no rain, no rain, until Canned Heat came on stage to drown us out. Some canned heat would have been nice, actually. One must get one’s pleasure somewhere. The library opening had its moments that brought a lift in our step and slapped a little smug back on our lips. Smoke them when you’ve got them. Like the antediluvian day the Democrat-Gazette arrived at the door in a plastic bag with an NRA ad touting George Bush. Like countless others, we save those newspaper bags for daily walks with our dog. No telling how many people smiled as they scooped with the NRA ad, thinking of life imitating advertising, tossing into dumpsters those twin piles of ... At the library, another haha. Trent Lott, on endlessly playing videotape, promising the economy would go down in flames and the deficit would explode if Clinton’s 1993 budget passed. Then, ABC’s television special the night of the 18th, allowing us to see Clinton go off on Starr and his nasty manipulation of certain media organizations — ABC among them — forceful and bitingly articulate, so rare in presidential speech of late. Looking Peter Jennings in his jaundiced eye and letting him have it for his indifference to the sufferings of people bankrupted and harassed and jailed for purely political reasons. It was sweet. Thanks, Bill. Clinton did many good things for Arkansas and the U.S. We admired his brain, if not his manners. But The Observer is bothered by adulation, and the Globecoming event fairly reeked of it, including in some of the artwork for sale in the River Market. Portraits of Clinton loomed larger than life, posing him in a skyward gaze as if in celestial conversation. Merit lies in ideas, not in the sexy hoarse voice that expresses them, remember? The River Market artists didn’t sell as well as they’d hoped, they told The Observer. But now, in a few years, Hillary ... she could sell. Turn your gaze to heaven.
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