35 and catching up

Daughter on the couch, in a plane, watching daughter jump off of a stack of tables.

I’m finally less than twice her age. The first time in my memory that she’s been away for her birthday. Flying Spirit airlines to Florida for a friend’s wedding. Leaving the kid with me. We’ll have a bunch of fun.

minor attitude

Abstract expressionist drawing

We were at my place and she seemed a little mopey. She didn’t want to do the things I suggested, seemed bored, and finally said she just didn’t know what to do. I suggested we draw again and she said, “Okay. First I’ll draw, then you can draw.” She picked up a box of colored pencils and did the first picture. Pretty cool. I’d sneaked a peek, and saw her hold all the colored pencils in her hand at the same time and use them for a bit of scribble. I told her it looked pretty cool; was it a leaf or a fish?

“It’s. A. DRAWING, grampop.” Add eye roll. Then she drew the second one. “THIS is a goldfish.”

Drawing of a fish

Okay. You need a smarty response- “It’s not gold…,” I said. The light was bad and I couldn’t see the outline was orange. She picked up the orange pencil again and dashed a scribble inside the body and tail.

“There” Major eye roll. I love the pictures. And the attitude. Though, I can’t imagine all of her teachers would like her attitude too. Only the better ones.

Dick’s store

Digital recreation of Dick's tiny store.

Dick Nieman’s store was just up the alley from my home in Pottstown. It was a small place, but played a big part in everyone’s lives. It was a time when small grocers existed in every neighborhood, but were starting to feel the loss of revenue from the large markets that opened. A&P, Acme, Weis- they all played a part in crushing out the warmth that came from the smaller shops. In my extended neighborhood there were seven small grocers operating, all making a good living. From Google street view, the spot where Dick's store once sat. Closest were Steven’s and Dick’s. They were a half block apart, both serving the same neighbors. Both had reputations for heart- helping those in tough spots, donating to church and scouts. Steven’s was a bit larger than Dick’s and offered butcher services. Fresh meat. Extensive dairy. Dick’s was all dry goods, with the ice cream and soda treats every kid sought. During the summer, Dick’s front porch was a hang out. We’d come back from the river or a baseball game and gather at Dick’s for sodas, chips, and Tastykakes.

I missed the place. Google maps street view is wonderful for that. I’ve walked to work again in Philadelphia and Boston. I even walk around the farms and villages of England, the streets of Paris and Rome. I can spend hours lost in a sight seeing spree. But when I dropped in to the old neighborhood and walked up to Dick’s, it was gone. Not just closed, but totally gone. Even the beautiful maple that stood beside the store only left a decaying stump. Then from a different direction, Google had updated and the lot included someone’s gardening shed. Other stores were closed, but you could still see them in the apartments and garages that they’d been turned in to. Dick’s, I guess, was spared that indignity; but I really wanted a last look. Really.

I grabbed a screen shot from street view and took it in to Photoshop. I built Dick’s store again, where and how I remembered it. The tree was from some place else but looked just as I remembered it. It’s very satisfying. I didn’t do a fantastic job- every time I look, I see something that needs to be adjusted- the tones of the walls, the angle of corners, shadows that distract. I opened and tweaked the version used here at least three times before I could close it and walk away. Now, though, I know it works; for me, anyway. I can spend more time on different scenes. Maybe I can do the inside of BiRite with that awe inspiring full size Lone Ranger cardboard cut-out on top of the Coke machine. Down by the tube tester. Yeah. I have to find some resources.

hers, not mine

Collage landscape.

She handed me this beautiful landscape when I dropped her off last evening. Included was a card “to the best Granmpop ever.” She had mentioned the card and picture when she got off the bus.

Surrounded by four snowmen. She didn’t give them to me then but instead handed me this picture of four snowmen. “It’s early morning…see the bright colors? That’s how you can tell. And one snowman is holding a cup of hot coffee. See the steam lines?” Yep I see the steam lines. And she confirmed the one snowman is indeed a pirate, “See? He’s holding a sword.”

old reflection

An experimental poster with several versions of the same person.

Every now and then when I’m in an ambitious reflective mood I’ll launch an archive of my old work blog and scan through several posts. I guess I still wonder what happened. I know I’ll never figure it out.

I found an old post from 2007 that I used to ask colleagues about false claims of diversity in advertising. I worked in a predominantly white department in a predominantly white university. Photos of people of color were precious commodities- using photoshop, I’d lift the people out and place them in ads or in news photos. A director called getting a photo of a black woman “double dipping.” I had problems with the lie, but at the same time saw some value in trying to create a welcoming atmosphere to encourage people of color to participate.The post had a couple of smart comments, one from the departments CIO. After spinning a brief anecdote, he claimed he was for demonstrations of diversity.

The triteness of the diversity campaigns that I saw online and on campus was an embarrassment. The poster above was a shot at an honest diversity campaign. I had others using the same theme- several of the same women wondering why somebody thought their perfume was too strong. Well, that was the idea anyway. I thought it was honest, clever, and fun, but people didn’t beat a path to my door. I think the model, Mark, had fun.

Several years after my retirement in 2012, I was experimenting with image search. For no reason other than its obscurity I searched on my diversity poster. It came up as having been used in someone else’s blog about a year after I made it. The gentleman’s post called diversity advertising crap, then went on, “The problem, of course, is finding an execution – particularly a visual execution – that isn’t predictable, patronising or already done to death.” He went on to say that he’d found some approaches that weren’t brilliant or entirely rubbish- but with a low puke factor. His first one? Yep, “Try this internal poster from the IT department at Penn State University:”

I sent the guy a note thanking him for something that happened so long ago. He returned a nice note, ending with some good advice: “Don’t spend too much time looking back in your retirement, by the way.”

You’re probably right, Andrew.