In the hour before Mike Beebe took to the state Capitol steps to deliver his inaugural address, the scene was as you might imagine it. Guests arriving from all directions, cameramen readying their equipment, event staffers scurrying about.

It was a chance to observe and be observed. You could tell the rich campaign contributors by their fur coats and fancy suits. The mood was a boisterous one. Everyone was taking the opportunity to say hello, introduce themselves and generally marvel at the happy occasion.

Everyone except Gen. Wesley Clark. As The Observer walked past his entourage, we were acknowledged by everyone except the former presidential candidate. It was only at the last possible moment that The Observer noticed Clark was wearing headphones, staring up into the sky as he listened to whatever he was listening to.

It reminded The Observer of an insolent teen-ager being dragged to some formal event against his will.

Of course, this particular event was a pretty important one for a politician. Maybe Clark should think twice before running for office again.

The Observer, a man of legendary thoughtfulness, struck again this Christmas. He followed up some boffo gifts to his wife in years past — a handsome steam iron one Christmas; a still serviceable plastic funnel one Valentine’s Day — with a rain gauge.

Mrs. Observer got a quizzical look on opening the present. “Don’t you remember saying you wanted one?” The Observer asked. He was sure she had.

Anyway, vindication came with a rain of near Biblical proportions. Unfortunately, the rain gauge was already in the repair shop when the rain hit last Friday. Gorilla Glue had been required to reattach the glass measuring cylinder to the brass spike on which it was mounted. So the gauge missed a good bit of the early rainfall.

It was a glorious rain for the parched earth and The Observer. Every few hours, Mrs. Observer strolled to the front window to take a peek at the latest reading. And then to instruct The Observer to sally into the downpour to dump it out and start anew.

It seems that Smith and Hawken supplied a very handsome rain gauge, but one not so practical for monsoon season. It only measures to 3.5 inches. The Observer emptied it twice, after a late start, and is watching it steadily rise yet again as this is written.

Mrs. Observer admits her fascination with rain gauges. But still she stressed, “No barometer next year.”

After dropping the spouse’s car off at the mechanic on a recent frigid morn, The Observer made one of our semi-annual jaunts through the city on foot, hands jammed in pockets and belly full of sludgy coffee from the Broadway McDonald’s.

We hadn’t gone far when something stopped us in our tracks. At the corner of Sixth and Spring, we noticed a line on the sidewalk — a wavering trail of rusty red paint no wider than a pencil, as if dripped from a fast-running hole in a bucket. The line came at us down Sixth and crossed the street. Then it headed away until it bled into the general cracks and grayness of the sidewalk at the limit of our vision.

While we’re rarely struck by moments of epiphany (we’ve found that those moments are never the sips of godlike knowledge read in novels — more often, coming as they do in the midst of The Observer’s seldom-poetic existence, they just seem corny and overwrought), we had one then: We were thinking that morning about a story we’re working on, the tale of a local murder; one life smothered out, several more yet to be wasted in prison. Maybe it was the earliness of the hour, or having our boiler stoked with caffeinated diesel, but for a moment, The Observer remembered the killing, and thought: This line is our lives, the blood-dark thread, coming from somewhere undetermined and stretching out of sight. Who knows where it might end?

After a second, the thought was gone. The paint became paint again. The sidewalk became a sidewalk again. The Fates retreated, and we were left embarrassed, feeling too big for our philosophical britches. After a second more, The Observer turned and hurried on.


From the ArkTimes store


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Show and tell

    The Observer is an advocate of the A+ method of integrating the arts and using creativity to teach across the curriculum, an approach that the Thea Foundation, with help from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, is offering to schools across the state.
    • Feb 25, 2016
  • Yawp

    The Observer has been in a funk lately for a number of reasons: revulsions and slights, both foreign and domestic. We get that way most years as the winter drags on, once the tinsel and colored lights of Christmas drop into the rearview, soon after we come off the New Year's Day hangover.
    • Mar 24, 2016

Most Shared

  • Take yourself there: Mavis Staples coming to LR for Central High performance

    Gospel and R&B singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples, who has been inspiring fans with gospel-inflected freedom songs like "I'll Take You There" and "March Up Freedom's Highway" and the poignant "Oh What a Feeling" will come to Little Rock for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High.
  • Klan's president

    Everything that Donald Trump does — make that everything that he says — is calculated to thrill his lustiest disciples. But he is discovering that what was brilliant for a politician is a miscalculation for a president, because it deepens the chasm between him and most Americans.
  • On Charlottesville

    Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents' basements carrying tiki torches from Home Depot.

Latest in The Observer

  • Old hands and new

    The Observer has, as of this week, been at this job for 15 years, long enough that if we'd been born in August 2002 instead of starting on this long journey, we'd have peach fuzz on our chin, a spray of acne and questionable taste in both fashion and music.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • True Observer

    The Observer reveres the One True Observer, who lives in the wires of the West and in the Great Cloud.
    • Aug 10, 2017
  • Adieu, Mooch

    If The Observer were prone to feeling sorry for folks who further the aims of a corrupt authoritarian fanboy, we could almost feel sorry for those who Trump has chewed over and spit out during his six months in office. Almost.
    • Aug 3, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Youth lockups to go to contractors

    After takeover, governor cites improvements in facilities, but wants private companies to run them again.By Benjamin Hardy Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

Most Recent Comments


© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation