Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gimme' some Art now, ya' hear?!!!

This is the second art-related travel article I am posting on my blog. The Chelsea Hotel article is from 2007. The following article is from my trip to North Carolina earlier this month, and I will edit it to a shorter version of the original 10're welcome.
When I stood to leave the small table at the Coffee Cafe, I grabbed my shoulder bag from the floor before I realized the strap had somehow come to rest on the inside of my chair leg. And as I raised the bag, my chair tipped over, partially "clearing the table" next to us. Fortunately, the couple seated there had left seconds earlier. I paused, attributed the incident to pre-jet lag and thought: "Yeah, starting out to be another normal trip."
After having just spent $24.63, (plus tip), for two breakfast sandwiches and cappuccinos(!), I couldn't help but try to envision what the American Airlines "$5 Lunch Pak" that we would be buying somewhere over Arizona , would consist of. What I do know, is that anytime the word package is abbreviated to Pack, or in this case, Pak, you can bet the contents inside have also been "abbreviated" proportionately.
I personally don't mind in-flight meals, and actually look forward to being served a salad, for it is one of those rare times when I can eat a garden salad using just my fork, as the lettuce has already been cut small enough to fit inside my mouth on the first attempt, unlike my experiences in college cafeterias and the restaurants we presently frequent.
If I were still teaching Fine Art, and we voted to go out on strike, I figure by now teachers and certainly artists are so used to living on the outer fringes of the economy, why not demand something that at least has a glimmer of hope of being rectified? So, my protest sign would read: "Cut The Damn Lettuce Smaller!" The reason I enjoy international flight meals, is
because on KLM, some of the meals come with chopsticks, which tells me we're probably going to have a fairly smooth flight.(?)
Ok, so we're now about an hour into our SFO to Raleigh via Dallas flight, and the food cart
(sorry, the snack cart), is approaching our row. Since I've already programmed my mindset and taste buds to expect a couple slivers of meat small enough to fit inside a bean shooter, sandwiched between two slices of rye cocktail bread, you can imagine my surprise when handed turkey and swiss on a full sized bagel, plus a packet of Hollandaise sauce to eventually squirt on it, and most likely my pants. I say "eventually", because as I was cussing and failing to open the Homeland Security customer-proof sauce packet, my wife informed me that I had purchased the last snack of any kind! Several of the 30 or so passengers around us were noticeably and rightfully upset at not even being able to buy a pack of peanuts or a cookie!
A few minutes into the movie, I preferred to stare at the AZ/NM landscape below, and I wondered why some blue-chip site artist like Christo and Jean Claude hadn't taken a front-loader and "etched" several large, (as in 2miles by 6 miles), waffle-sole boot prints about three or four miles apart, across the vast flatlands we were flying over...come to think of it, a woman's high heel shoe print would be even more interesting, and certainly easier to replicate.
Maybe Jean Claude could orchestrate that project and Christo could "work the phones" and get the permits.(?)
On the last leg of our flight, I found some used tissues and a candy wrapper in the magazine storage in front of me as the attendant was reciting her ..."in the event of..." speech. But she got my attention with her "P.S.", we're apologizing "up front" if we run out of snacks or drinks before all of you are served...sorry." Now I'm pissed, which triggered an epiphany for me- If the airlines don't even clean the plane between flights as a public health gesture, of course they're not going to be concerned about restocking food or drinks except in First Class! And at that moment, I realized the most effective outlet for me to register my rage and complaint, was to modify my would-be teacher's strike sign to read:
"Cut The Damn Lettuce Smaller!...and Make The Airlines Carry Enough Snacks!"
We landed in Raleigh, rented a car, and leisurely headed south-east to attend our joint-family sometimes annual reunion at Emerald Isle. Our family reunions are no different from yours, so I'll spare you that boredom, except to say that ours began in the 1970s, and over these many years, we've arrived in all kinds of weather and various modes of transportation, the most memorable/regrettable being around 1975, when we rode from our then residence of Tulare, CA to my hometown of Logan, WV...on a Trailways bus. However the grain of wisdom that we gleaned from that 12- day round trip ordeal, is to never again board any bus whose route takes more than an hour to complete, or isn't an on-off-on tour bus of a major city.
From Raleigh, we arrived in Wilmington around noon and in dire need of a cappuccino, which we finally located at the ILM airport.(don't ask.) When I gave the waitress our order, she said: "Alright, now you know that a cappuccino is just a shot of espresso with steamed milk on top of it,right?" To which I gave her a hesitant"...Yeah.? She smiled and said: "I have to tell you, 'cause a lot of customers bring them back, thinking they're getting a regular coffee." I said:
"Next time they bring one back, tell them that if they want a regular coffee, they need to order a "mocha frapa cupa al pacino." She smiled and scurried off to make ours.
I have to say that these reunions have given me a whole new appreciation for driving through small towns and seeing the newest "must have" lawn object or current trend. This began about 12 years ago, when I noticed some very large white crosses made of 6" diameter steel, always painted white, usually in groups of three, and often taller than the church that had purchased them. Unfortunately, these garish eye-catchers could have been so much more appealing if the traveling salesman had offered them in 6" square-stock and in cor-ten steel, which, over time, produces its own velvety rust finish that requires zero maintenance, and much more visually akin to the "old rugged cross" than these reminders of the EXXON/SHELL School of Esthetics.
Then, about four years later, as the crosses became in more demand, I turned my attention elsewhere, and witnessed the "plywood granny" phenomenon! These stick-in-the-ground
cut out plywood figurines are cut in the shape of a rotund female who is bent at the waist and seen from the back, exposing her raised skirt, colorful frilly pantaloons and usually polka dot knee socks, all seen from the back, as if to suggest that she's harvesting or planting flowers or veggies. Unfortunately, like the plastic flamingo craze that refuses to die, "granny" could be seen in some rather strange places, like in the middle of a well manicured lawn with nary a plant nor veggie in sight. This struck me as a bit weird, unless she became a silent advertisement icon for the Senior Citizen red-light district.(?)
And "granny" may have been just half of the Duplin County Renaissance, because at about the same time, "Mobile Marquees" made their appearance, and spread in popularity faster than kudzu across much of the South.
These small steel and plastic framed two-wheeled trailers housed a two-sided plastic marquee large enough to display 3-4 rows of 8" plastic letters on either side. Inflatable wheels and a trailer hitch were standard, but options such as interior back lighting for nighttime advertising were an option as well. Cheaper than a 4' x 6' neon sign, much easier to change and maintain, two-sided, completely portable, and chained to the front of your business or nearby hydrant or tree, made these boys truly one of those "Now WHY didn't I think of that!" inventions. And they appeared on most every primary and secondary road around. However, the one feature that the traveling salesman neglected to remind his sea of customers, is that none of these "sure fire customer magnet" devices would fit through any shop or business door during that less-than-festive time of year called...hurricane season!
My own guess is that more than a few of the mobile marquees experienced a "clean slate" transformation during the first major storm, clearly demonstrating that the REAL money to be made from these things probably went to a relative of the traveling salesman-the one who sold 8" plastic replacement letters. (I've included a couple of jpegs that show some of the surviving mobile marquees.)
And after these many years, I think I've unraveled the mystery behind the reason a person will spend countless hours and labor in often 95 degree weather and 80% humidity, getting their front lawn into near-putting green condition, just to park a vehicle on it- And I figure that by parking on the grass, you create the illusion of your vehicle sitting on one of those carpets inside a dealership showroom, and by some bizarre form of osmosis by association, the grass, over time, actually regenerates the vehicle back to its once pristine showroom condition.(?)
To be continued...

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