Author Archive: Christopher Waldrop

Side Walk.

Work in progress.

Sometimes I take the bus in the mornings. Even in the summer I sometimes get up early enough that it’s still dark outside and make the long trek up my street. A neighbor’s dog, a Great Pyrenees, will sometimes come out and bark at me. I wave and say, “Hi, Arthur,” which always makes him get quiet. I have no idea what the dog’s real name is but he looks like an Arthur, although I did find out that he is really a she, which means she looks like Bea Arthur, and now whenever she barks at me I think she’s saying, “God’ll get you for that, Christopher,” but that’s another story.

It’s kind of nice walking through the neighborhood in the morning. Sometimes I see Venus setting in the southeast, and sometimes I pass by neighbors whose names I don’t know who’ve gotten up for an early morning jog, or I see lights come on in houses as other people wake up and start their days.

And then I turn on to the main street and have to walk a couple of blocks to the bus stop, which is one of those plexiglass-walled rectangles. It’s not one of the ones that was targeted for an upgrade even though it desperately needs it and could really use one of those new towers that signals an oncoming bus because when it’s still dark I pretty much have to step out in front of the bus and wave a flashlight back and forth like I’m signaling a train.

Really they all look like they should be named “Arthur” to me. Source: Wikipedia

Also both keep coyotes away. Source: YouTube

That’s not the biggest problem, though. The biggest problem is that there is no sidewalk on the main road. Well, there is a sidewalk, but it’s conveniently placed on the other side of the road which means if I want to use the sidewalk I have to cross the road—in the dark—which would put me in the perfect position to catch the bus going in the opposite direction. I don’t want to do that so I’m stuck walking a narrow gravel trail between a ditch and the roadway, and walking with the flow of traffic. That means fast-moving vehicles zip right by within inches of me and I understand why in school we were taught to walk on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic, but I can’t do that for reasons already discussed.

Now, however, there are apartments going up along the main road, and that’s prompted the installation of sidewalks. It also means more people and more traffic, but at least we have some place to walk.

Don’t Stop Believing.

What’s the difference between graffiti and vandalism? Some would say there isn’t any, but I think that’s unfair and the distinctions are much more subtle. Granted I also think the word “vandalism” is unfair to the Vandals who were a complex and interesting Germanic people, but that’s another story. Even though graffiti may be a criminal act I still think it’s creative. It usually aspires to be artistic, to make a statement, whereas vandalism is nihilistic. Vandalism is wanton destruction that only tries to silence. This is a very fuzzy distinction and we could spend a lot of time on Nietzsche, who I’m pretty sure was a Vandal, and his idea of schöpferische Zerstörung, but bear with me.

I notice there’s a certain respect among most graffiti artists. Even the most basic taggers don’t write over each other. Maybe this is partly practical, but take, for instance, the mural by Billy Martinez which I’ve written about before. It’s in an area popular with taggers, but they leave it alone. Look at this:

On the right is part of Martinez’s mural which is still a work in progress, but that’s for another time. On the left are several local tags. They’ve left the mural alone. This is even a really good example of graffiti artists showing respect for an approved work.

What got me thinking about that is the recent alteration Adrien Saporiti’s “I Believe In Nashville” mural. It’s not a bad motto for the city. I do like Austin, Texas’s “Keep Austin Weird” and Portland, Oregon’s “Keep Portland Weird”–which was weird first is a matter of some debate–and residents of Asheville, North Carolina, take a wonderful pride in their city being called a “cesspool of sin” While the slogan “We Are Nashville” was popular in the aftermath of the 2010 flood “I Believe In Nashville” seems pretty good. Hey, I believe in it too, strongly enough that I bet that if I look out the window Nashville will still be there, although at the rate things are changing I expect it to look different, but that’s another story.

Anyway, five months ago Saporiti’s mural was vandalized with roofing tar. This time, though, it was altered with paint. By my own definition it’s not vandalism–it was, in fact, making what I think is an important and timely statement–but one that didn’t have to cover up Saporiti’s mural. It could have gone alongside it.

Source. The Tennessean

Interestingly the mural started as graffiti–it was put up without permission–but the building owners liked it and have made it clear they want to keep it.

That deserves some respect.

Keep ‘Em Together.

Pop Quiz: Match the animals to their collective noun.

Animals

  1. Butterflies
  2. Cats
  3. Crocodiles
  4. Ferrets
  5. Hyenas
  6. Larks
  7. Gorillas
  8. Eels
  9. Flamingoes
  10. Dolphins
  11. Owls
  12. Trout
  13. Zebras
  14. Snails
  15. Quail
  16. Crows
  17. Monkeys
  18. Jellyfish
  19. Hedgehogs
  20. Prostitutes

Nouns

k. Kaleidoscope

s. Clowder

h. Bask

d. Busyness

f. Cackle

e. Exultation

g. Band

c. Bed

m. Flamboyance

n. Pod

a. Parliament

l. Hover

i. Dazzle

j. Escargatoire

o. Covey

r. Murder

q. Barrel

p. Fluther

b. Array

t. Anthology of pros.

Answer Key:

 

 

Just The Two Of Us.

One of the tough things about public transportation must be that buses never stop running. Well, they do very late at night–in most cities I think it’s between two and five a.m.–but as long as the drivers are working they’re stuck in a non-stop loop. They’re not like taxi drivers who can sit in a queue at the airport or a hotel and maybe get a quick nap before someone jumps in and asks for a ride. Bus drivers have to keep going, burning fuel, even if they’re not carrying anyone.

I thought about this the other day when I got on the bus and I was the only passenger. This was a bit of a shock. There are always at least three or four other people already on the afternoon bus when I board it. And it’s not as though this was a different driver who was running on a weird schedule, causing everyone who normally caught the bus to miss it. In fact just the day before there was a substitute driver, a guy I’ve never seen before, who showed up at my stop about ten minutes early and the bus was packed.

It was the regular driver the day the bus was empty, a guy who’s considerate and recognizes passengers–he always pulls up a few feet past the actual bus stop to drop me off at the corner where I cross the street–but never talks to anyone. The rule is no one’s supposed to talk to the driver, but some drivers, even most, are chatty. They carry on conversations with people. Sometimes they even interrupt other peoples’ conversations to offer their own opinions. Once, as I was waiting at a stop, a driver went right by me without stopping. He then ran a red light and stopped on the other side of the street. I guess he thought this would compensate for his moving violation. I ran and had to tap on the door to get his attention because he had his body turned halfway around so he could carry on a conversation with someone sitting behind him.

It’s never really bothered me that the current driver on my route never talks. The other people on the bus act as kind of a buffer. If he’s not talking to them I just assume he’s not interested in talking to anyone and I can sit in the back and listen to my podcasts. With just the two of us, though, I was suddenly in a difficult position. What if he’s lonely? What if he’d like to talk to someone but just has trouble starting conversations? He and I may be strangers but we pass by each other on a daily basis. Maybe I should say something. I didn’t, though. I stuck to my routine. I sat in the back and listened to my podcasts, but unsure the whole time.

When we came to my stop he pulled a few feet forward. I walked up to the door and, as I always do, said, “Thank you very much.”

Normally he just nods at me. This day he said, “You’re welcome. See you tomorrow.”

Maybe that’s all he had to say.

 

Made To Happen.

We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened.

Huckleberry Finn

Nashville’s Charlotte Avenue has, for reasons I don’t understand, long been home to numerous car dealerships. Maybe this is because it runs more or less parallel to some of the city’s main thoroughfares—West End, Broadway—but Charlotte is also on the edge of the city and parts of it are still a little seedy in spite of rapid gentrification. Venture out that far and you’ll want to make sure you have a way to get back. The railroad also crosses Charlotte at one point, so whether it’s the right or wrong side of the tracks might depend on where you stand, although it’s increasingly becoming mixed. Pricey hipster restaurants rub elbows with Bobby’s Dairy Dip, a ‘50’s era remnant that still serves the best milkshakes in town.

The funny thing is the biggest dealerships, the ones that dealt in late model luxury cars, that have fared the worst while independently owned dealers of used cars—let’s face it, they’re not classy enough to get away with calling their flivvers and jalopies “pre-owned”—have stuck it out through thin and thinner.

Some areas around Charlotte Avenue are also thick with graffiti. The fence in front of one of the car dealerships is especially popular. I don’t know why this is or, for that matter, why the dealership has put up white plastic slats behind the chain-link fence. They might as well put up a sign that says “TAGGERS WELCOME!” Sometimes the tags get painted over but they come right back, as unstoppable as the trumpet vine that climbs over the fence.

Maybe there is no clear explanation for any of this. Maybe the way all these things were made just happened.

 

Summer Blockbuster.

Deleted scenes from Superman II (1980, directed by Richard Donner):

  1. EXT. DAY.

General Zod interrupts a bank robbery in progress and encourages the crooks to continue.

  1. INT. DAY.

General Zod insists that the White House Oval office be repainted a bluish-green color.

  1. EXT. DAY.

General Zod, visiting SeaWorld, takes a particular interest in the pinnipeds.

270. INT. NIGHT.

General Zod demands to be served the meat of a milk-fed calf raised in terrible conditions.

  1. INT. NIGHT.

General Zod accepts a delivery of satsumas and insists that everyone have some.

  1. INT. DAY.

General Zod acquires a dog and takes it to a training class.

  1. EXT. DAY.

General Zod conducts and outdoor group-therapy session for people with anhedonia.

306. INT. NIGHT.

General Zod orders Superman, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Miss Teschmacher to perform a traditional Scottish dance.

My Two Cents.

There were a bunch of pennies on the sidewalk. Why someone left them there is beyond me, and I could have just left them, but instead I picked them all up. Hey, if you see a penny and pick it up all the day you’ll have good luck, right? And even though the day was mostly over and I was headed home I figured maybe it’s a twenty-four hour good luck and maybe it’s cumulative so picking up all those pennies I’d get nine or twelve days of good luck. I couldn’t use the pennies to pay my bus fare, unlike that time several years ago when I poured exact change–all in pennies–into a bus fare collector, but still pennies add up. That’s at least one reason I think the US Treasury keeps producing pennies, unlike our neighbor to the north Canada that abandoned the penny a few years ago. And that’s one of the few things Canada has done that bugs me a little. When I was a kid I was bitten by the numismatic bug, although the doctor gave me a shot and I got better. It was finding Canadian pennies in change that got me interested in coin collecting; it made me feel in touch with the rest of the world. Years later I’d get a job in a mailroom and the foreign stamps that came in turned me into a bit of a Johnny-come-philately, but that’s another story.

Coins even helped teach me some history, like when I first found a 1967 Canadian penny which, unlike the regular maple leaf penny, has a  dove. So it doesn’t bother me that my collection of Canadian pennies, large as it is, is still barely worth a loonie–even less than that, now that the pennies are no longer legal tender. It’s a shame the 2017 Canadian coins, which celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Canadian Confederation, won’t include a penny.

Still I wish Canada good luck on the sesquicentennial. Hey, here’s a penny.

 

You’re Baroque When You’re Out Of Monet.

VIOLA: Save thee, friend, and thy music: dost thou live by thy labour?

Feste: No, sir, I live by the church.

VIOLA: Art thou a churchman?

Feste: No such matter, sir: I do live by the church; for I do live at my house, and my house doth stand by the church.

Twelfth Night, Act III sc.1

Once when I was touring a European cathedral—I can’t remember which one because, well, even though I was a student and supposed to be studious they kind of tended to run together for me—the guide took the group to a collection of carved figures in one of the transepts. They were mostly demonic creatures—not technically gargoyles since gargoyles are outside and designed to sluice water—but one was a man frowning. The guide told us that this might have been a self-portrait or it may have been the artist’s caricature of someone he knew. It made me realize something that should have been obvious: behind every carving, behind every piece, was at least one person. The building of cathedrals employed hundreds and even thousands of people, most of them highly skilled artisans—so many that there wasn’t always a lot of oversight and artists could get pretty creative. In a different cathedral the guide gleefully pointed us to a nearly hidden carving of a couple in a 69 position, but that’s another story.

Baroque and Rococo design didn’t just add a lot of flair and frippery to cathedrals and other monuments. They provided work to artists, and an outlet for creative impulses. And I don’t mean to make flair and frippery sound like a bad thing either. Taking an ordinary object and giving it its own unique aesthetics makes it more interesting, maybe even more valuable. At the very least it gives artists something to do, which just goes to show that even if it ain’t Baroque it can still be fixed.

He Also Had A Hammer.

From: Kevin DuBrow, CEO, DuBrow Grains

To: All Staff

Subject: Company Morale.

Hello Everyone,

Word has gotten back to me that most of you are unhappy with my decision to fire James Alger, better known to everyone in the company as Jimmy. Well let me be perfectly clear about something: I liked Jimmy too. He’d been with us a very long time and from what I heard was always a good employee. Stories about his practical jokes got back to me. I’m glad he played a part in cheering people up even though I had to speak to him about not doing it on company time. There’s nothing wrong with a little fun. I know that better than anyone. I’m the one who hung up that poster of the cat hanging from the tree in the breakroom, the one that I then had to take down after someone wrote a bad word on it. But let’s make sure we focus on work when we’re working, people.

That brings me to my main point: the reason I fired Jimmy. His actions were bad enough but what really disturbs me is how the rest of you also acted. As you know we had a two and a half ton shipment of corn that Jimmy, for some reason, decided to run through the auxiliary mill. Now first of all every one of you knows the auxiliary mill is exclusively for wheat and millet, not corn. We have never used the auxiliary mill for corn and Jimmy’s decision resulted in extensive and costly cleanup. The corn was supposed to be delivered to the customer whole, since it was popcorn, and I’ve had to try and find a new buyer. If I can the corn will still be sold for a lower price. That will be reflected in everyone’s paychecks for the next quarter.

I’m really sorry about that but Jimmy used the mill when I wasn’t here, and I feel like everyone bears some responsibility. Nobody acted to stop Jimmy or tell him not to move that shipment of corn. No one stopped him from operating the mill by himself. Do I have to spell this out? Jimmy cracked corn and no one cared because I was away.

Everyone, we need to pull together for the success of this company. Please remember what my grandfather, who founded this company, used to say: There is no I in cooperation. We used to have a banner that said that in the breakroom, although I had to take it down when someone wrote a bad word on it. Maybe I should get another one made but banners are expensive. That’s why we only have one every year on my birthday.

I hope you will all reflect on this and I hope I can trust you. Don’t forget that my door is always open when I’m not in a call or really busy and I am always here if you need help or want to talk. Except next week when I’ll be at a conference in Duluth.

Thank you, and let’s all pull together to do a better job.

Kevin DuBrow, CEO, DuBrow Grains

P.S. Casual Fridays are cancelled until further notice.

%d bloggers like this: