Monday, April 3, 2017

Philly Clothespin

Clothespin (1976) ~ by Claes Oldenburg (b 1929)
Photoby Spike Brennan

When we first moved to Philadelphia, a neighbor was helping us plan our exploration of the city, including the instruction to "turn at the clothespin." We drove downtown thinking that this was the name of a traffic pattern, something along the lines of the old "cloverleaf" interstate ramps. We were looking all around for some kind of complicated driving maneuver that might somehow resemble a clothespin, when we finally realized that it was up above us -- a real, gigantic clothespin!

I was amused to read Roadside America's more recent concern that "Newer generations don't even recognize a clothespin, and might mistake it for some kind of utility tower or abstract sculpture of a former mayor." On her blog Obsolescing, my friend Ann de Forest and her children make a similar observation concerning the typewriter eraser, also captured gigantically by Claes Oldenburg. Ann concludes:
"What we do have is Oldenburg’s sculpture. Though when the typewriter eraser (and many of the other ordinary, utilitarian objects monumentalized by this Pop wag and sage) disappears, the monument’s meaning will change — from overblown mundane to inscrutable mystery."
Photo by R. Tarver

When reading Lolita last month, I couldn't help thinking of Philadelphia and the World's Largest Clothespin, when Humbert Humbert asks for directions and is immediately confused by a variety of "geometrical gestures" and "strictly local clues":
" . . . the passers - by I applied to for directions were either strangers themselves or asked with a frown 'Enchanted what?' as if I were a madman; or else they went such complicated explanations, with geometrical gestures, geographical generalities and strictly local clues ( . . . then bear south after you hit the courthouse . . . ) that I could not help losing my way in the maze of their well - meaning gibberish" (116).

This Meme from Sizzle made me think of the time my brother - in - law Tom pointed out to my sister Di and me (backseat drivers) that "left" and "right" were not directions. What? He wanted us to specify north, south, east, west. Easier said than done! How about, "Just turn that way at the clothespin?!"

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