Thursday, June 22, 2017

Vehicles and Vocals of America

Every Father's Day in Warrenton, there's a car show. I've only ever heard great things about it but had never managed to get there until this year. I was amazed to be able to park close to it on the main road but realized after climbing to the top of the hill to Main St that there was free parking up on a top road for the event. Oh well, the hike was needed. As usual, the heat was intense, the temperature was expected to reach over 100F. Apparently Death Valley would reach 126F today; so glad I wasn't there! Why are car shows always on days with burning sun? The walking on hot tarmac, with the rising heat stroking my legs, while squinting at the chrome fenders and wheels that blinked and dazzled as I walked past, made the event actually tiring to attend. But it did look like there were some beautiful vehicles here. The music of the Beach Boys blared down Main Street as folk slowly inspected and admired the immaculate cars, trucks and vans on display. I heard one guy say it was the biggest show yet, and indeed, the side streets were also lined with gleaming metallic beauties.
I was pleased to see a big, beautiful yellow Mack truck here, they've always been a favorite of mine. They certainly don't make them like this any more. I stood and just stared for a while noting the many hours of adoring attention that had been lavished upon this glorious beast.
Every vehicle had been washed and waxed, polished and buffed, and arranged just so, wheels pointing the right way to strike the right pose, hoods up for engine inspections, and elements of humor added, with 'mini me' versions of their cars placed atop engines, 60's style decor on the seats and even a couple of skeletons sat in a VW Beetle, although I wasn't really sure why. But they looked hunorous, and certainly raised laughs from passing admirers.
There were vehicles here that I hadn't seen before, a great variety of transport, although there were a lot of corvettes and mustangs, both of which I'm not that bothered about. But I did pick out three favorites. The first was the runaway winner for me, I totally adored the 1959 Cadillac Coup DeVille and immediately understood peoples' adoration for vintage cars. I wanted it. It was gorgeous. I remembered as a teenager, singing the Meatloaf song, 'Two out of Three ain't Bad', and wondering what a Coupe DeVille looked like, because there was no internet then to quickly look it up on, but making do with the fact that it had to be a wonderful car to be featured in a rock star's song. And it most assuredly was. I stood and drooled for some time.
Those huge fins and extended back lights were amazing. The wide front grill and rounded glass, with so much chrome glittering and sparkling in the sunlight. The size of this thing must have made driving it on today's roads a little nerve racking but it was so low slung it looked like it would hug the road. It's rotten when being an adult means acting responsible because if I had been a kid I would have opened a door and hopped right n to that front seat and damn the consequences. But my adult self control wouldn't allow that. Shame.
The next vehicle that stopped me in my tracks was a souped up Camero dubbed The Green Hornet.
I don't usually bother with the muscle cars, but this one drew me in with it's superb paint job and those bat wing doors. The interior was visually stunning and I really wanted to touch those green panels and had a very hard time keeping my grubby mitts to myself.
The last pull for me was a 1957 Chevy sedan delivery truck. I'd never seen one of these before and it was delightful. Immaculately restored in a bright tomato red paint inside and out, it was certainly an eye catcher.
The inside was adorable, with its bench seat and over the top red dash and carpet. Even the back of the truck was fitted out with everything red. I loved it.
After walking round once I left the cars to the crowds. There were many more folks here since I'd first arrived and I smiled seeing a lot of fathers with their sons walking about, enjoying their special day together.
In the evening Steve and I went to an America concert, down at the Birchmere, which seems to be the only place near me at which they perform. Not that I mind, it's one of those old fashioned places where you sit down for dinner and drinks and then the band comes on. Beats standing all the time, being jostled, in a packed concert hall, and there's free parking.
We got there an hour before the doors opened yet there was still quite a queue already. These were concert veterans, in place with seats and coolers. Thankfully the line was in the shade, but I still looked enviously sideways at those people looking comfy in their beach chairs and sipping cool drinks.
This mural is by the bar. I loved the little dig in the side' reminder to refrain from drinking and driving! We met a family while we waited to get to 'our table, a mom and dad with their daughter and her boyfriend. The mother intrigued me as she talked about living in a wooden cabin in WV which was perched next to a cliff. She remembered being there and listening to 'Horse with no Name' on the radio and also hearing Kansas for the first time and wondering who they were. Apparently that cabin is still standing.
The hallways are covered with photos and posters of previous acts, all autographed and framed. It's impossible to walk without stopping at some point to admire the display. Even the ladies' bathroom has a comical mural painted on the wall.
And of course, America were superb, but then I'd still say that if they came on drunk and slurred their words. We were a little concerned with Gerry's voice at first, he sounded a bit strange, but seemed to sort himself out after a couple of songs. Maybe he had had a tipple before coming onstage, but he was very witty, making us laugh out loud a few times so maybe not. They sang many of their hits, accompanied by the audience, and the time flew by. It seemed like only 20 minutes had passed before we were standing and yelling for an encore. I sure hope it's not another 7 years before I see them again. I shall make sure it isn't!
Gerry and Dewey were accompanied by drummer Ryland Steen, bassist Rich Campbell and guitarist Andy Barr.

Friday, June 16, 2017

From Lithographs to Living Large

Sunday was hot, the temperatures already high as I sat with my morning tea watching the birds, busy again preparing nests for their next batch of fledglings. A crow carrying a long stick in its beak as it flew across the meadow dropped it suddenly, but before I could react it had swooped down, caught it, and resumed its flight without missing a beat. A female cardinal sat on a branch right outside my patio doors, seeming to rest for a few moments, also with a thin twig held in her beak. The humidity was due to arrive as the day got hotter and I could already feel the density in the air as I climbed into Stanley to drive to Baltimore.
 Emily and I joined some other DCUE buddies to photograph the old Hoen Lithograph Building. Once one of the largest lithograph printing companies in the world, it has been closed and empty since 1981, the building has been almost completely emptied and is slowly being converted into residences as well as office space and a cafe, an estimated $22 million venture. Today, we were on an organized explore, with a guy collecting waivers and giving a brief outline of the building's history, along with a detailed description of the stairs we couldn't ascend and areas we weren't allowed in to.
Stepping out of the car was a jolt as the temperature had intensified quickly, the sun was blazing hot, and the humidity was making its unwelcome and very noticeable entrance. I was glad we would be inside a shady building.
Parts of the structure were damaged on the outside by weather erosion and a few trees that were looking quite comfortable peeking out from windows or pushing into brick walls. Some of the upper floor areas had huge gaping holes in the floors with a few windows that were broken, but these were covered and clearly cordoned off for safety. 
We set off into the murky and dark depths of the building, immediately welcoming the drop in temperature inside. I love the small wooden flooring blocks used inside, and hoped they would be preserved or at least displayed somewhere. I've seen these many times in old industrial buildings.
The lithography company, A. Hoen and Co., was founded in the 1840's, developing and patenting a method called 'lithocaustic', which was a method of 'shading' stone using a mix of citric acid and gum arabic. They also developed methods of creating halftone prints. Known for their maps, reproductions, medical charts and posters, some of National Geographic's first maps were produced here. A few of their posters are on this link., and some of the maps produced by Hoen are here.
There was little to be found in the way of artifacts from the industry, the building was mostly bare, but we were allowed to look inside the few safes that were scattered about the building, making me wonder if these would somehow be incorporated into a new home as a walk in closet or pantry. That would be awesome. but probably unlikely. Inside one safe were a number of rolled up documents. We were allowed to take photos but understandably, not allowed to touch them. Scattered on the floor outside the safe were fragments of damaged posters and prints, which we were allowed to handle so a few of us crouched down and arranged them for our shots.
Much of this floor had wooden shelving as shown here, this small rack being the only piece remaining, and even still holding a few glass 'screens' used in vitreography, the method of transferring artwork painted on to glass and transferred to prints, often used for fine art prints.
Some of the lithographic limestones were laying outside, broken fragments lying in a pile. A full explanation of lithography is here.
We came across a huge kiln, solid and hulking, still beautiful with its ornate iron decorations.
Even though much of the huge warehouse was empty the textures and colors of the building materials were wonderful, from the floors, to the walls and the ceiling. My neck ached somewhat when we left as I'd felt like an owl, my head twisting every which way to ensure I didn't miss anything.
After sitting empty for so many years, it was great to see the building being cared for again. Although renovations have already begun on the building itself, warranting it unusable for projects until rendered safe, the parking lot has started being used by the Hoen and Co. Farmers' Market, where local vendors sell delicious creations, and a company, Gather Baltimore, sells surplus produce and sells it cheaply to the community as 5lb grab bags or 50 cent per pound mix-and-match.
For a space that has stood empty for so many years, it's great to see and hear how this beautiful building is being transformed from an empty crumbling shell to a community jewel.