meter cheater

A newspaper clipping from May of 1973.

A bit silly to go to lengths to avoid paying nickles for parking, I readily admit. There was a challenge, though, and it was well met.

This story was on the evening news then on the front page of the next morning’s paper. I was livid. How dare they! I wanted to storm the newspaper office and demand they tell me how they knew it was seen by a meter maid the first time it was used? I can still feel that same indignation. But, let me explain.

In 1973, my studio was underneath Jack Smith’s barbershop, beside the taxi company on South Hanover Street. I parked on the street and had paid my share of tickets. After I’d received several tickets within moments of my arrival curb side with a hand full of nickels, I noticed the flatness of the meter face. The simple graphic nature of the workings. Before I really thought about it, I’d created a little halfmoon duplicate using matboard and opaque watercolors. I thought it looked pretty good, so I put double-face tape on the back and vowed to use it the next day.

The next morning I parked my bug-eye Sprite and climbed out. I walked over to the meter and standing in front of it to shield a view from the street, I slipped the card in place. It looked okay. When I went out later in the day, there was no ticket. I left it in place and went out after 5pm. Still, no ticket. I felt very light. I reached up and popped the graphic into my palm, got in my car, and drove away. It gave me a good chuckle when I thought about it, but I shared it with no one.

I used that cardboard face for six or seven weeks, but never on rainy days. No tickets. I was pretty smug. I didn’t even mind dropping coins in on rainy days. Mostly, I took it for granted. Then one afternoon it was gone. I looked around briefly in case it fell off, but I couldn’t see it. I was fortunate that I didn’t have a ticket that afternoon- though I had a few the next couple of weeks. One evening, a bit over two weeks since I lost the cardboard halfmoon, it was on the news. The commentators had a good chuckle. Then the next morning, these pictures were on the front page of The Pottstown Mercury

Meter Cheater Gimmick Fails First Test What? My cardboard meter face? Carol Hahn barely had to look twice to notice something was wrong I beg your pardon, but…It was found pasted over the face of a meter on the South Hanover Street lot and then Police didn’t contact the owner of the car that was parked at the cheating meter because they have no proof that he or she was the one who tampered with it.

Or they were the one to steal it from that poor artist who never used the lot, always parked on the street and used tape, darn it. TAPE. Not glue. How could they?

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granddaughter’s pics

Snowy landscape with evergreens.
Sweeping dark brush strokes.

Too much time’s been spent on my work and not enough on the littleone’s. She continues to paint and draw. When she visited yesterday, she asked to paint, then told me not to watch. Watching is always a big part of my joy with her work, but I gave her her privacy. After a bit she brought me the landscape.

“This is a forest,” she said. “This is a river, I used mostly water and we’re in the river. This is the sky. You have to let it dry a bit. These are trees- they’re like Bob Ross’.” She’d mixed green and black for her evergreen color. Pretty nice.

While we ate, we watched The Magic School Bus Returns. She said a certain cloud formation could lead to a tornado. “You know what a tornado looks like? Here, I’ll paint you one.” Since the paints were still out in the other room, she got up and went to paint for a few minutes. When she came back, she handed me the picture and said, “It looks like this.

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surprising glance

Me looking back from age eleven.

I can now say that facebook has made a positive contribution to my life. I belong to an fb group of generally older people who grew up in my hometown – Pottstown – and use the group to reminisce. I made a post about where I was on November 22, 1963, (John Boyd’s sixth grade class) and quite a few folks joined in with their memories. A few days later I got a message from someone I didn’t know. When I looked at the message, she identified herself with her maiden name (strange concept that) and said her brother was in that class and the family lived behind us, across the alley, in my old neighborhood. She was right. I recognized her and her brother; then she sent a photo of a photo from her brother’s birthday party in March of 1964. She thought one person was me. Well, kind of, I thought, and I thanked her.

Then I opened the image in Photoshop, corrected some distortion and cropped it to just me. There I was. Unmistakable. It’s completely unposed. My school pictures seemed to stop with fifth grade and no one in my family took family pictures. This is the first I can remember seeing me at that age. And I’m looking straight at me.

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this just seemed to follow

Colorized version of a redrawn frog.

I had everything out. Might as well play.

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retouched

A friend picked up the calling card for two young soldiers in Lewistown. He scanned it and asked if I could clean it up. That much was pretty standard digital clean-up, though there were an abundance of JPEG fragments. It must have been a quick print and paste job. These cards were so popular in the 1860s, taxing them in the mail helped to finance the war effort. The quick turn around for this card is pretty obvious in the poor photo and the sloppy cut and paste of the finished card. The finished size was about 2.5″ x 4.25″- not a very large surface.

After finishing the retouching I wanted, for my own learning and amusement, to colorize the thing. I think these guys would have opted for the four color package if it had been available.

Old photo that's had artificial coloring applied.
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another sketch

The mice, emerging from the Millheim Transit Tunnel.

This was actually done long before the frog I just posted. I like this style, it’s easier to execute, and has me rethinking the whole project. I may depend more on words and dialog than I’d originally planned, just inseting drawings in the text..

The mice in a dark tunnel.Seven years ago I posted these guys in the tunnels. Long trip I guess. Mostly spent in my head. The pictures are keeping me from finishing the story, and I’m not sure if that’s the path I want. I’m not even liking the color images anymore. A little too, I don’t know. A little stiff? Not as well executed as I’d hoped? More later…

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frog

A young frog playing baseball.

Sketching around a bit. This is the first reasonable frog. It’s the white mouse’s little brother. Emotion on a fairly stiff face is difficult. This guy needs to look as much like a real frog as the mice look like real mice- accurate, not too cartoony. We’ll see where it goes. I think he keeps a bit of tail tucked under his shirt.

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Help Me Play CoronaVille !

Penn State campus looking like a facebook game.

The students will be heading back in the Fall. We still need more masks, more respirators, and hospital beds with ventilators. Will you play?

Edit 08/02/2020: Fun for me. I keep tweaking vectors. Adding fence. Adding ambulances (ambuli?) Closing gaps I missed. I guess I should let this stand as is. Tara just gave me the name “CoronaVille.” Perfect. I told her I’d steal it. See the update here, though it works as a ‘mouseover’ and wont work with touch screens…

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Kahlo

Photo of me, with Frida Kahlo's moustache added in photoshop.

One scary dude; believe me, I know. I deal with him on a regular basis.

The local museum had several online activities to entertain folks during the plague. This one was called “Classy Stachey” and I was immediately appalled. The name was almost too embarrassing to say. As is typical, though, that sort of annoyance is like a gnat buzzing by my ear. It’s buzzing made each entry of someone making fun of mustaches just as annoying. Then the females adding the mustaches of husbands and fathers really, really peaked my irritation.

A few months ago I’d read a blog post about The Censorship of Frida Kahlo’s Moustache and that image leapt to the forefront of my annoyed brain. Frida Kahlo liked her mustache (and her uni-brow) often exaggerating them in self portraits. She was often annoyed when her photo appeared on a magazine cover with her mustache removed. What could be better than removing my own mustache and replacing it with Frida Kahlo’s in an evocative black and white image? Multiple statements swatted the gnat and, I hope, pleased the spirit of Frida.

And like most of my driven work, it pretty much fell flat. Oh well.

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baptistbaptist store

Photo of an old store front.

My earliest memories are of little me in this neighborhood. Going next door to Dot Raidey’s kitchen to help myself to cookies from the drawer under her stove. Wiping out in a snow saucer with my mom, her laughing, face covered with snow, picking up her glasses that are also covered with snow. It was a short hill behind the Jefferson Elementary school across the street from our house on Lincoln Avenue. Brunish’s was just down the street, a tiny crowded store that I remember being in with my sister. Then down the street and up the hill was the big market. I called it the Baptist Baptist store and it was, in fact, the Second Baptist Washington Hill Market. I can remember walking to the back where there was a huge white cooler, the kind with meat and cold cuts with a glass front. There were chairs to the side, sometimes with older woman in them. I think I tried to walk behind the cooler into the butcher’s area. The women laughed at me and called for my mom. This photo shows that the store is closed now, but the building is still owned by the church.

I was born in 1952 and we left the neighborhood in 1956 or 57. I started walking to high school in 1967, over this hill and down Warren Street behind it to Pottstown High School. Walking home from school I passed the store and occasionally stopped in for a TastyKake Honeybun and an orange drink- both for a quarter. Different people worked the register up front in the store. I don’t remember any young people working, mostly older folks, all very welcoming and friendly to a kid. I remember one gentleman from this time, a man named Clapper White. I didn’t know at the time but he was an Olympic class weightlifter who gave up a spot on the Olympic team to work for the church. All I knew then was that he had arms as big around as my waist.

I stopped one day in tenth grade and as I approached the register an older woman was working. She looked at me and tilted her head a bit, squinting as she said, “Aren’t you Hazle’s boy?”

“Yes ma’am. My mother’s name is Hazle. We used to live over on Lincoln Avenue.” The last time this woman could have seen us together I was stumbling about the store looking very much like an almost three year old. How could she possibly remember that child when she was looking at the strapping, fully mature fifteen year old man in front of her now?

“Now you tell your momma we asked about her, and wish her real well.”

“Yes ma’am”

“Don’t forget!”

Yes ma’am, I didn’t forget.

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