Favorite

The secret museum 

The Observer loves museums, so full as they are of time and history and the residue of the far-distant past. The offspring of a pair of history buffs, Yours Truly was dragged past every velvet rope in nine or 10 states as a lad, where we learned to love yesterday, along with the two rules of most museums: See with your eyes, not your hands, and — while we're on the subject of hands — keep your sticky paws off the glass cases, lest the museum guides scowl at you while fetching the Windex and a rag.

Human beings may pass away, but their stuff remains, and the tendency to want to stick that stuff in a special room with a neat paper label that says when, where and why it mattered is one of the things that show we care. Somewhere, Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe hat sits in a box or case, only touched with reverent, white-gloved fingertips. There's something like a prayer in that.

In The Observer's office overlooking the crossroads at Scott and Main, we've got a little museum of our own on the wide old windowsill. The Observer is a romantic sort, but — if you can believe it from someone so besotted by the past — we have problems with memory. While some brains are an alphabetized card catalog of high def newsreels, The Observer's past tends to haze over after a year or so.

And so, we keep things to kick-start our cloudy old memory. There's not a lot of stuff on our windowsill, but there's some, most of it related to stories The Observer has worked on over the past 13 years, and all of it connected to something that still moves us, instructs on how we should live:

A note that we received after writing a story, our first story in fact, about the last fight of the late Hurlon Ray, who helped write the Clean Water Act before coming back to Arkansas in his 70s to find the river where he'd swam in as a boy clogged with treated sewage from the gated community upstream.

The blade of a cardboard fan bearing a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., found stuffed into the hymnal slot on the back pew of a church over in East Little Rock, the cardboard folded and worried and cracked by, no doubt, some desperate sinner's hands.

A single brass arcade token bearing the phrase "No Cash Value" that once belonged to the late businessman and philanthropist Jennings Osborne, who pissed off a multitude but died almost broke after doing good works all over the state.

A chunk of storm-colored granite taken from the rim of a flooded quarry near Sweet Home, where the body of a young woman named Paty Guardado was found in 2011. Her killer has never been found.

A CD of music by a young soldier, who killed himself up in Fayetteville after working for years to save others from the same darkness.

A pinecone, picked up in a cemetery down in Hot Springs where a brave young woman once buried the ashes of over three dozen people whose families didn't want them because they had died of AIDS.

A delicate curl of ash — a perfect cosmic spiral, so thin that light shines through it — peeled from a forming chair leg by a master chair maker near Mountain View.

An invitation to the inauguration of the president of the United States, folded and stuffed into a pocket with frigid hands as The Observer walked three miles through the dawn to the National Mall.

A dried holly leaf, plucked in the hell of August from a bush outside the home of a man who spent a decade in prison for a crime he almost surely didn't commit.

A single dried pepper given to me by a colleague, a man who covered the cartel wars in Juarez as a reporter for El Norte and, unlike many of his friends, lived to tell the tale.

A soapstone rhinoceros, bought at a zoo on The Observer's 40th birthday, facing off against a plastic triceratops that was Junior's favorite as a boy.

A tiny windmill, waiting on its ragged knight to appear and tilt at it. Or perhaps he is already here.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

  |  

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

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

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • Raw feelings in the Arkansas Justice Building over workload, pay

    Strained relations between the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Arkansas Court of Appeals broke into public view this week. I expect more to come.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.

Latest in The Observer

  • Summer resolutions

    The Observer likes making resolutions at New Year's. We don't manage to keep any of them other than the one we always start with — "Stay Above Ground" — but we do like making them.
    • May 25, 2017
  • More bad news

    As we write this, the Little Rock City Board is readying an ordinance to make it exponentially harder for charities to feed poor and homeless people in city parks.
    • May 18, 2017
  • Art imitates life

    If you're not watching "The Handmaid's Tale" on Hulu, you should be, if your heart can stand it.
    • May 11, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Event Calendar

« »

May

S M T W T F S
  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

  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • High school MVP

    An Academic All-Star who approaches perfection.
  • Health care policy FAQ

    What proposed state and federal changes mean for the future of health care policy in Arkansas.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Profile of a plant

    • After having a persistent cough for over a year, I was diagnosed with COPD in…

    • on May 25, 2017
  • Re: Profile of a plant

    • NOTE: My treatment/solution to every problem don't have any negative side effects... you will be…

    • on May 25, 2017
  • Re: A long way to fall

    • Is all of this true?

    • on May 24, 2017
 

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