Scenic Graffiti

October 31, 2009

Last week I was driving in the mountains of Virginia, on the way to visit relatives in my hometown near the West Virginia line. About halfway between Lexington and Warm Springs, on two-lane Rt. 32 West, you come upon Goshen Pass scenic overlook. The large pull-off there has a waist-high stone wall to keep cars and people from falling into the gorge 60 to 80 feet below, at the bottom of which runs the Maury River. This time of year the river is low — no cascading white water that thrills the eye in the early spring — however, the views are just as beautiful. As with any tourist, the autumn color display attracts me — but when it comes to photography, not so much. It’s hard to do fall foliage images without resorting to visual cliché, so I had my eye out for compositions that would respect the natural beauty of the area, but also have another level — in this case something a bit humorous, perhaps. Standing by that wide rock wall, all I had to do was glance down to find my subject. Of the seven graffiti samples pictured here, my favorite is “SAUSAGE,” with the little smiling stick figure sausage man.

(Click images for larger views.)

Cindy:blog

Alison:blog

Weed:blog

Eva2:blog

Sausage:blog

Jump:blog

 

Eva1:blog

Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.

If you’re interested in taking the same drive, here’s a bit more information about Goshen Pass and nearby attractions, adapted from the “Virginia is for Lovers” website.

Enjoy the natural beauty this area of the state has to offer by following scenic Route 39 up steep mountains and along deep gorges. Begin in Lexington, Virginia, I-81 exit 188, home to historic sites and universities (Virginia Military Institute, Washington and Lee). Start out on Route 11 N and then drive west on Route 39 and head out of town. You will come upon the Virginia Horse Center, a modern facility that operates year-round and hosts horse shows, auctions, festivals and educational clinics.

Proclaimed to be “the loveliest spot in Virginia” you will pass through Goshen Pass, the narrow passage carved out by the Maury River with its steep rocky sides where you’ll see mountain laurel, rhododendron, rocky cliffs and rushing whitewater. Here you’ll find easy access to a roadside pull off from where you might spot someone fishing or enjoying a kayak ride. These are perfect spots for a picnic followed by a refreshing walk along the Maury River’s rippling waters. Restrooms are available here too.

As you continue, you’ll enter the George Washington National Forest, you will soon enter the town of Warm Springs, location of the famous Homestead resort and spa. The Town of Warm Springs got its name from the natural mineral springs that maintain a 98-degree temperature year round. In fact, you might just want to try a dip in the pools.

Taking a side trip off Route 39 in Warm Springs, travel south on State Highway 600 to Lake Moomaw which offers boating, water skiing and swimming, in addition to fishing. Several nearby developed campgrounds offer a good place to stay while you enjoy the outdoors.



Fort McHenry

October 28, 2009

Patriot Day VI

September 12, 2009

SoldiersThree:Blog

Robbie1:Blog

Pikes:Blog

This is the last in a series of six posts featuring my photographs of the 2009 Patriot Day activities at Fort McHenry. Also posted today, a new Patriot Day page displaying the complete set of eighteen photos. To view it, click the tab at the top of this page. (Click images for larger views.)

Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.


Today’s Gag

October 24, 2009

0910:Zen:BlogTo purchase reprint and/or other rights for this cartoon, buy a framed print, or have it reproduced on T-shirts, mugs, aprons, etc., visit the CartoonStock website by clicking the sidebar link.

Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.


Fort McHenry

October 21, 2009

Patriot Day V

September 12, 2009

ThreeLadies2:Blog

Twosome:Blog

Lady1:Blog

This is the fifth in a series of six posts featuring my photographs of the 2009 Patriot Day activities at Fort McHenry. The series will post Wednesdays through October 28, displaying a set of three images each time. Also on October 28th, a new Patriot Day page with the complete set of eighteen photos will post. (Click images for larger views.)

Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.


Wild Things

October 19, 2009

Sendak1

“When you hide another story in a story, that’s

the story I am telling the children.”

—Maurice Sendak

YouTube video about being an

illustrator of children’s books.



The Falconer Building

October 17, 2009

Bats, Bugs and Drunks

Miss Rita, the middle-aged woman at the desk next to mine, is asking personal questions. That’s something she does every night. I’m 22 years old and this is my first serious job since being FalconerBldgdischarged from the U. S. Army, two years ago. The inquiring Miss Rita and I are clerks in the Social Security Administration — I’m a new hire and she’s my trainer. We are working the 4:00 P. M. to 12:30 A. M. shift on the seventh floor of the Falconer Building at 414 Water Street in downtown Baltimore, two blocks from the harbor. The year is 1959, deep summer, and I’ve made a new friend.

The windows are open, three huge floor fans blowing at full power. If the temperature in the Falconer Building rises above 90 degrees, we’ll be sent home. This happens often during the day shift, less so after the sun goes down. Miss Rita and I sit in the cross-ventilation and flip SS-5 cards and scribble name and date-of-birth changes into huge metal-covered ledgers, delighted with each other’s company. Form SS-5(This photo of an actual Form SS-5 shows a Miss Apgar requesting that her name be changed to Mrs. Lake. Click images for larger views.)

The evening passes to the rhythm of turning pages: flip, flip, scribble, flip, flip, scribble, scribble, flip. Against the background of dirty brick walls scores of other clerks’ bend to the identical task. The oily aroma of Baltimore harbor wafts in the windows and, when the wind shifts, more pungent odors come from the nearby wholesale fish market. The whirring fans cool our necks and blow the occasional card from desk to floor — or out a window. The strange sound of bat wings flutter in one window and out another. There is a gentle rustling noise as rat’s forage for sandwich crumbs in waste baskets, and the buzzing of blood-sucking insects foraging for us.

At the moment, Miss Rita’s job is to introduce me to the mysteries of entry-level clerking in the Numerical Register Section of SSA — and, it seems, to trade work information for personal tidbits. With anyone else her intimate prying might be offensive, but, somehow — I guess because of her odd sense of humor — it’s just harmless fun. Miss Rita’s constant stream of chatter, spiced with sexy double meanings, makes the long evenings of repetitive work bearable. In fact, they are downright entertaining. Anyway, there is not much of a private life to expose — I ‘m still in the process of trying to develop one. Somehow I manage to keep Miss Rita interested by making up outrageous but plausible tales about my exploits. She seems to especially enjoy the lies (these days we might call them “creative non-fictions”) that I tell about the erotic adventures of my mother, a born-again Christian, who would have been shocked if she knew that her son used her straight-arrow life for creative inspiration. Perhaps Miss Rita identifies with my fictions because she and my mother are about the same age.

On my first night in the Falconer Building — one of several rental properties which comprise the original 1936posterSSA headquarters — Miss Rita gives me the grand tour. She points out the freight elevator which, she says, I can use at peak load times during shift changes, when the passenger elevator is often overwhelmed. She shows me the stairs and mentions in passing that they are handy because the freight elevator only goes to the 5th floor. She doesn’t comment on the empty booze bottles in the stairwell, nor does she explain the sleeping drunk. Our “cafeteria” is located by the elevator door on the 4th floor, Miss Rita says. That is, at 9 o’clock each evening an old man gets off the elevator and stands there selling cold sandwiches out of a large cardboard box. Finally, Miss Rita gives me a booklet explaining what is expected in terms of production and conduct. The publication also has a small map showing the location of the men’s room and fire exits. I can use the restroom anytime, Miss Rita says, provided it isn’t too often. “Two often” and it will reflect in my “rating,” whatever that is.

The Falconer Building is clean, at least compared to the steel mill in which I had worked prior to this job, and there is even a bit of external entertainment. As we young male clerks arrive early for the evening shift, we often gather to watch strippers sunbathing on the low roof of the nearby Gayety Show Bar, the keystone of Baltimore’s infamous “Block” of sleazy nightclubs clustered nearby. When the women are up there relaxing between shows we all go a little crazy. The younger clerks in the Numerical Register Section — male and female — are friendly, and I am quickly drawn into a sort of loose-knit social club. After our shift finishes at 12:30 A. M., few of us want to go home to bed — we’re still too primed with youthful energy — so most nights a meeting is called for a party or card game at someone’s home or apartment. Or we go out on a sort of group date, which usually involves bar-hopping, the only form of entertainment available at that hour. Some nights we simply cruise the city and talk until dawn at an all night diner. Often, I drop into bed at first light or later, sleep until two in the afternoon, then get up to start the work/play cycle again. Some of my new friends have been living this way for several years, but the fun will last only a few months for me. I have “EOD’d” (Entered On Duty) at the end of an era. The whole of SSA’s scattered downtown headquarters is scheduled to consolidate in a modern complex in the western suburbs of Baltimore in January of 1960, only a few months hence.

Well before we leave the city, though, it comes to pass that my social life is greatly enriched as a direct result of information provided by Miss Rita. She tells me that a particular young lady, another Numerical Register clerk, is interested in me beyond mere friendship, and before long I am involved in my first “adult” relationship. I reward Miss Rita by continuing my stories, now more fact than fiction, and much more titillating than ever. I even expand the scope of the tales to include many of my young and ever-horny (at least in my telling) coworkers. And I notice that Miss Rita’s interest in our escapades become more intense the closer I stick to real life, which I take as a literary lesson. So as I become a better clerk, I also sharpen my narratives. Miss Rita especially likes to hear my juiced-up versions of our nocturnal forays to various “hillbilly” bars and other hotspots around town, and the house parties that follow into the wee hours, many of them ending in sleep overs. These stories require scant embellishment.

All of this happened a half century ago, late summer until the end of 1959. I spent 29 years with the Social Security Administration, taking an early retirement in 1988. Not long after the SSA headquarters moved to the suburbs, I realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life flipping pages and scribbling in ledgers, so I took advantage of the Korean G. I. Bill and enrolled in evening art classes. That led to a temporary job in SSA’s drafting department, which in turn got me through what I called “the back door” of their large art department —where my first assignment was to help produce the original Medicare Handbook. Living and working in the suburbs was O. K., but I never again had an experience quite so rich in character or characters, or that made such an intense impression on me, as those early nights in downtown Baltimore, flipping SS-5 cards and trading punch lines with Miss Rita.

Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.

A much longer version of this personal essay was published in the October, 1978 issue of OASIS, a magazine distributed monthly to Social Security Administration employees nationwide.


Fort McHenry

October 14, 2009

Patriot Day IV

September 12, 2009

DrummerBoy2:Blog

Drums:Blog

GuardBoy:Blog

This is the fourth in a series of six posts featuring my photographs of the 2009 Patriot Day activities at Fort McHenry. The series will post Wednesdays through October 28, displaying a set of three images each time. Also on October 28th, a new Patriot Day page with the complete set of eighteen photos will post. (Click images for larger views.)

Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.