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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local shirts

Three tee shirts from local businesses.

I’ve struggled with the term local as in buy local, shop local, eat local. When I lived in another town I used their local farmer’s market and first saw the sumptuous color poster of fruit, vegetable and a farm with the words Buy Local emblazoned across it. I asked the farmers staffing the table with the signs where they had the signs and wordmark done. It was done in Pittsburgh. I asked why, given that there were so many local designers and printers, they had it done so far away. They appeared confused and couldn’t tell me.

So when I saw a local drinking establishment offering a tee shirt that said “Drink local” I also looked to find where the tee shirts were made. They’d connected with a firm in Altoona, I was told. There are several local shops, I responded and they told me that if a local shop wanted to do their shirts they could get in touch. Well, I won’t buy their alcohol or their shirts.

But what is local? I think it’s different for everything. I guess my definition would be the closest suitable place that fills the need. So when Bonfatto’s and Happy Valley Tees got together to put out a tee shirt to raise funds for local businesses, I jumped on it.

And it’s beautiful. I’m not really a tee shirt guy, but I have a few. The Bonfatto’s shirt is a gorgeous salmon pink, very heavy, very soft, and so their logo shows when their staff wears an apron, it’s on the back. I might actually wear it with a sports jacket… But truth? True as this all is, it isn’t the reason for this post. See the Donut shirt? It’s actually my granddaughter’s. Dam Donuts was our favorite local business so I bought the shirt for her. She wouldn’t wear it.

“Grampop, people will think I’m trying to look like I work there!”

Okay. Whatever. I was disappointed until now. I’m uncomfortable that people would think I work at Bonfatto’s. Not that working there would be a bad thing. It’s just that I’ve worked in kitchens close to 20 years, none of them Bonfatto’s. Wearing the shirt would be like stealing valor.

I told my granddaughter the part about not wanting to wear the shirt because people would think I was trying to look like I worked there. She gave me a half smile, half smirk and nodded her head.

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save the bees

Well, maybe not save them completely, but help fund research by coloring. Comvita’s “Bee-Inspired Coloring Contest” runs until May 31. Go there and download a picture to color or totally create your own. Comvita will donate $5 to The Nature Conservancy to support their efforts to protect pollinators across the globe for every coloring contest entry. This is mine. Do your own!

The idea was sent to me by good friend Kim. Thanks Kim!

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flattening the curve

Daughter and granddaughter in a wagon on a graph.

On March 11, Bellefonte schools closed – first for spring break, then the following week on the Governor’s orders. Shortly after, county workers had to work from home. So my kid has been sequestered with her kid for two months in an attempt to limit contact with the virus and thereby ease the burden facing medical staff. Flattening the curve – changing the graphic shape of the visual representation of incidents requiring medical intervention and the use of limited supplies. Regardless of politics, finances, or social pressures, this is both demanding and exhilarating in ways I’ve never experienced and can only imagine.

…and even though I edited this and had it reprinted twice before my daughter’s birthday, the little one appears here much too small. Seeing her sporadically, with each visit she seems to be growing at an astounding rate.

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latin banquet

Old newspaper photo of me at a 1970 school event.

After my mother died, my brother and I had to find time to clean out the house we grew up in- an old three story, full-basement brick almost victorian home in Pottstown. Over that spring and summer we’d each take several days off to drive back to Pottstown hoping to clear out the junk. Instead, seeing each other in the old house, in the rooms we used to play in, we’d reminisce over everything we picked up: An old SORRY! game piece, a Boy Scout shoulder patch, a toy soldier. The drawers full of old junk made it a longer process than it needed to be. Mom had been 75, and she recorded our history with stacks of newspaper clippings mixed with letters, drawings, postcards and coupons on any available surface. If a stack got too large, it would go into a Chock full o’Nuts coffee can before being placed back on the counter, radiator (“convector” as my dad would insist), or refrigerator top.

My brother sat going through stacks on my dad’s dresser, and I was sorting through things on my mom’s. There I found this photo of my latin class banquet; Mom must have clipped it from the local newspaper. The long hair had been real. The sandals, too, were the style, but the toga was just for the occasion. I remembered being at the Latin banquet. It was in the basement of the First Federal Bank building and I’d walked to it in my toga with Neil. We’d waved to his dad and uncle, still at work in their produce warehouse. I even remembered a few of the mistakes I’d made in the prepared ceremony, but I didn’t remember ever seeing the photo. As I held it for the first time I was taken with how beautiful Martha was and how young I looked- I was almost old enough to register for the draft. I turned the small piece of newspaper over to see what sort of dated advertisement might be on the back and I instantly realized why I had never noticed the photo Mom clipped.

The caption under a photo segment is partially missing. What is there reads,
 … WOUNDED- Kent State University students … the aid of a wounded youth. Ohio National … men, on campus because of disturbances the … days, fired into a crowd of students Monday, killing four students and wounding 11 others … 

Life after the Kent State shootings went on as usual for most, but the news report had stunned me. Of all the events that shaped my generation, this one, happening four hundred miles away, helped create who I am.

It was suddenly real; no longer just rhetoric. The government, whose opinions and policies we verbally opposed had armed itself against us. The world was listening. That summer I did hear the drumming, and it has never stopped. Though I may forget the names of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder, their deaths will always be a part of my life.

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earth day, 1970

A student committee asked if I’d host the art room discussions about ecology. I was in the room practically all day anyway; it was my senior year and I spent all of my free periods working on art projects. I figured I could wing any discussion since discussion was easy. A mountain of trash, industrial air pollution and chemical run-off- Pottstown had it all: It was rich material. But when the day came, Earth Day 1970, no one talked. None of my fellow students had an opinion. At least, not early in the morning. I stuttered and stammered through the first period class, just filling the silence with my voice. As the class filed out, the art teacher strolled past and muttered, “Better get your head out of your rear, Stong. Come up with something quick.” Yeah. Got it. Bob Kingsley with sound advice. He was probably the best teacher I ever had. Too bad it was just for an elective my senior year of high school.

As the next class walked in, already bored having spent their last period talking about “ecology,” I was blank. Should I focus on ecologically sound art materials? Probably; but how boring would that be? How likely was it that any of these folks would go in to the Arts? In frustration, I started tossing out opinions, but even I was bored. The second class moved on and the third period started. Good grief did this suck.

“Look,” I said in frustration, “So we pollute. What’s the big deal? There are a lot of people. They’ll pollute until people die and there aren’t enough people to pollute any more.” Bingo. Reaction and discussion. Not much, just a bit; but there was discussion. Some of the students actually took strong issue with what I said.

“If we change nature’s balance won’t nature just adjust? re-balance on its own? So some weak species disappear and some sick people die, won’t we be stronger for it?” Could I call it performance art? Not really; performance, certainly, but art? Nah. It’s difficult being artistic while you pull your head out of your rear. I did create a moment for myself, though; a point, like a seed crystal, for memories to gather on and clarify. I realize in retrospect that this was probably the first for me. Many performances about all sorts of things would follow.

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