Encampment

May 15, 2013

Family, Friends, and Neighbors

In March 1973, I spent a week or more photographing kids and streetscapes in the southernmost part of South Baltimore, where Light Street ends and a complex of old warehouses and railroad yards began. That was the scene then. These days, the area has been gentrified and many of the warehouses are now apartments and condos. (The railroad yards in that area are still there, now owned by CSX.)

I saw this group of kids there on several occasions. It was always the same girls and boy; and the boy, to quote from an unpublished story of mine about city kids, seemed to be the “leader in charge.” The girls, meanwhile, usually appeared distracted, or — perhaps — just self-absorbed in the classic “tween” girl group manner. They laughed and chatted while paying scant attention to me.

The boy stood off to one side, serious (he never smiled at me, just stared), hyper-alert, protective, as if he were on sentry duty. I came to think of the group in dramatic terms as a family, a tribe, or perhaps an encampment of gorilla fighters hiding out in the mountains. Romantic ideas aside, I composed the image with the boy foregrounded, as dominate in the frame as he appeared to me to be in his relationship with the girls, and I was careful to include enough of the background buildings to give a feeling for the industrial character of the area.

To provide more context to this layout I’ve added two other images of the “campsite,” made on the same day. I don’t know what those huge metal cylinders are, but since the neighborhood is only blocks from the harbor, I figure they may be buoys. (Click on any of the images for larger views.)

This is an edited re-post from July 9, 2008
Copyright © 2013 Jim Sizemore.

One-Minute Memoir

September 28, 2012

 My Piano Lesson

By Jo-Ann Pilardi

On the Monday after a Saturday dance at my small, all girls’ high school, Pittsburgh circa 1959, Sister Mary Magnus, our principal, called a full school assembly in the gym.  A non-Friday assembly meant something serious was up.  Exchanging fearful looks, we girls proceeded to the gym.  Upon taking a seat in one of the cramped rows of metal folding chairs, I straightened the Student Council badge on my shiny navy blue gabardine uniform.

Sister Magnus was a woman of significant bulk and height, and one who never retreated, flinched, or allowed excuses.  That day, she began the assembly by reporting that “vandalism” had taken place during the Saturday dance.  Someone had carved a girl’s name into the top of the dusty old upright piano in the gym.  Through clenched teeth, she commanded that we tell all, and she threatened that the assembly wouldn’t end until there was a full accounting by the guilty party.

Moving menacingly up and down the rows of girls, Sister Magnus reported that a single clue had been left behind by the culprit:  “It’s the name ‘Jo-Ann’—that’s J-O-Hyphen-Capital-A-N-N,” she said.  Others in our school of 300 had the same phonetic name, i.e., there were a few “Joannes,” at least one “Jo Ann,” and a couple of “Joanns” and “Joannas.”  But there was only one hyphen afoot—me:  “Jo-Ann.”  I knew my spelling was unique.  Magnus knew it too—and so did the other nuns and all my classmates.

Magnus stopped to stare at me, silently inviting—virtually forcing—me to confess.  Student Councilor Me.  President of the National Honor Society Me.  Member of the Latin, History, and French Honor Societies.  Winner of the city’s “Seven Wonders of Pittsburgh” essay contest.  All those Me’s.  Was I also Guilty Me?  And would I be a Confessing Me?

Of course I knew who the “vandal” was.  He was a friend of mine—Ronnie R., cousin of my best friend, and a chronic tease.  Ronnie attended the nearby boys’ Catholic high school, so if I informed on him, within minutes the word would reach the Christian Brothers who ran the school, and Ronnie would be yanked out of class and . . . who knows what?  The thought of being an informant disgusted me.  On top of that, I couldn’t make a public Confession to the assembly just because it was my name engraved on the piano and I knew the vandal. Confessing meant accepting one’s guilt, and I was guilty of nothing.  Besides, Sister Magnus would never believe that I wasn’t a party to the act.  Remaining silent to save Ronnie was also a way to save myself.

The tense interrogation continued as Magnus repeated the histrionics, threats, and calls for a Confession. But I continued to stonewall her.  I already knew that the spoken word can intimidate, but now I understood the power of silence.  So I faced down my Inquisitor—Jo-Ann of Arc Me against the judges of the court.  Not guilty of the sin of vandalism, I wouldn’t confess.  Guilty of the non-sin of knowing the vandal, I wouldn’t confess.  Surprised by my own willful silence, I learned something about my own values.  Maybe Sister Magnus learned a little something too.

Copyright © 2012 Jo-Ann Pilardi.

Jo-Ann Pilardi is retired from Towson University where she taught Philosophy and Women’s Studies for 38 years.  A working class Italian from Pittsburgh, she moved to Baltimore in 1969 and was active in women’s movement groups through the 1970s. Currently, she teaches for TU’s Osher Institute, reads and writes, gardens, travels, and studies jazz piano. In the schoolyard photo above, Jo-Ann is in the center, and her friend Noriene is on the right.  (Click images for larger views.)  She thanks Jim Sizemore for help in shortening and editing this original essay for Doodlemeister.

Doodlemeister is looking for short memory pieces up to 500 words, on any subject, in any style — as long as it happened to you. Whatever the subject, we have a bias for the lighthearted tone. If need be, we’ll help you to edit and/or cut your piece. If you’d like to submit a story, please contact us at jimscartoons@aol.com 

Hip Shots

May 13, 2011

The Station III

By Fiona Pepys

 (Click images for larger views.)

The “Hip Shots” series of Doodlemeister.com photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method the more frames  exposed, the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting—a related series that can be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own pictures, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below. Meanwhile, click on these images for a larger view, and click the “Hip Shots” tag above for more examples. For another post in the series, tune in next Friday.

Copyright © 2011 Fiona Pepys.

Today’s Gag

June 20, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Jim Sizemore.

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