Saturday, May 30, 2020

Supermarket Panic part 5

Last time I saw Nichole she said she'd be in the office on Saturday, so I figured I should go then and settle the matter of the alarm system.  Back when we first moved in, there was no alarm system.  We received keys to our individual spaces and the front door, as well as the padlock on the front gate, which was also the padlock to the back gate- a fence around the enclosed annex area. That back door was the easiest way to carry large items to the basement.  When the annex was torn down, the gate and all went with it. The alarm system and cameras were added later, a response to the theft of some theater equipment. (one of the things Herb actually cared about)  Before that, the last person to leave the building, no matter what time of day, was expected to lock the front doors and the front gate, after having checked the whole building to make sure it was empty.  (if not, anyone who was in the building with a key could let themselves out easily)  Along with the new alarm system, a chip board was installed near the front door, so everyone could be shown to be in or out, saving a run through the building.  Unfortunately, such systems are only as good as the people using it.  Some people never bothered to put a tag up. On one occasion I was working in my basement space and came upstairs to find that the alarm was on (despite my tag being on my hook) and I had to quickly use the code to prevent it from going off.  The alarm was set to go on automatically at certain times of night and turn off in the morning.  Video cameras were set up near the doors and in main hallways. One reason I was given was that the building got a huge insurance discount for having such a system.  Not that any of this made a difference when my space was broken into a few weeks ago.  No alarm went off, and no camera was aimed at the point of entry, though now I'm told they may change that.   We have also been told that we be responsible to turning the system on and off all the time- no more automatic settings.  I usually work weekdays and haven't had to deal with it, but with a new policy and all the covid irregularities, I figured getting an alarm code would be a good idea.

The problem was that when I got there today, during her regular office hours for Saturdays, Nichole as no where to be found. The front gate was open, and just a few cars in the lot. My key unlocked the front door, and luckily the alarm wasn't set, because I had no way to turn it off.  Well, I had work to do, so I went down to my space and got going.

I'm still in the midst of my latest supermarket print, in the block drawing stage. For music today I brought two older discs from my college years- Vivid, the debut album from Living Colour, as well as a six song EP that came out around the time of their second album, Biscuits.  An interesting band- guitarist Vernon Reid had the skills to play any style, including anything Jimi Hendrix might have done.  Lots of hard rock and punk.  What confused some people was that all four members of the New York based band were black. I remember some of my housemates looking at the first video with bafflement- these residents of what had been the confederacy could not comprehend that rock music could be played by people who were not white.  Shouldn't they be doing rap?

My background in blues told me otherwise, plus a lifetime of listening to Hendrix and others of his era, and I knew that or a while in late 50's to early 60's, the line between blues, rock and roll, country, and rhythm and blues was hard to find.  A good musician can play any kind of music they want.  And Living Colour was a good band.  When the debut album finally reached local stores, we knew it.  My friend Doug was also a fan, and managed to borrow a car so we could go to the BoatHouse and see them perform live and the band did as good a live show as any I have ever seen. Unfortunately, like so many bands, it was hard to match that first record.  The second album was pretty good, and the EP was a mix of covers and live performances from that initial era.  After that the music got less intense and the politics more prominent, and it was all less interesting.  Actually it was the political edge of the first album that brought them to mind today. Two songs, "Funny Vibe" and "Which Way to America?" seemed very appropriate to the news coming from Minneapolis this week, just as the two old songs from the Police thirty years ago seem remarkably accurate today regarding the pandemic.

On the block today I continued to concentrate on my central piece, the shopping cart. I added a few more groceries to the cart, and a few more details to the cart itself.  I also took the shopper pushing the cart a little further. At this current time, masks are still required to enter most stores, so naturally my people in this scene have to be masked.  I decided to go with my big filter mask for the shopper, so used a mirror to figure out what it looked like on a person.  For the shopper I decided to go with something I had seen recently in a supermarket, a young woman, perhaps a recent graduate, wearing a sorority sweatshirt.  That could work. For a reference I went to my college photo album.

My last two years my house was located next to Sorority Court, a series of identical houses constructed along Richmond Road, one of the main streets that bounded the original campus.  Fraternity rush was conducted through a series of "smokers", large parties open to all, where refreshments were commonly served, sometimes with themes (I remember one frat always had a Captain Crunch smoker, where they had every current variety of Captain Crunch cereal available), and interested applicants tried to meet as many brothers as possible.  Over the course of a month or so, each fraternity might have several of these events, plenty of opportunity to investigate each, and as I understood it, after each, the members would vote on if they wanted to invite anyone to join, and offer them a bid right away.  Sororities were a bit more regulated.  If a girl was interested in joining a sorority, she had to attend parties at all of them, for a minimum length of time, in a decided order.  (I believe that the all black sorority wasn't part of this deal, as they had their own requirements) Part of this was each sorority would perform songs on their front lawns, rehearsed regularly for weeks.  (again, the all black sorority didn't do this, which made them a favorite of many people in my house) At the end of the process, potential applicants submitted a list of preferred houses, and each one would vote on the applicants, and I guess this was gotten to the girls.  The culmination of all this was Rush Day, where local police would close a section of Richmond Road to vehicle traffic (I had no car so was unaffected), the pledges would gather on the far side of the road, across the street from the sorority houses, and at the chosen time, cross the road to their sorority.  Occupying the road were members of all the fraternities, who had the mission to prevent this from happening by any means, so there was a lot of shoving, tackling, grabbing, and probably a lot of incidental molestation. Why was this done?  Tradition.  When it was over, the girls had found their way to their new sororities, and the rest of us were done with that nonsense for another year.  I made my shopper look like one of the girls in one of my photos of this event, no one I actually knew, and now completely unrecognizable anyway behind a shopping cart and wearing a large mask.

The last thing added today was a second figure, in an upper corner of the composition.  One of the supermarkets I shop at went to more extreme in rules,  setting up one way rules in alternate aisles, closing down the standard exit, and setting up in and out lanes in the one remaining, so customers could stay isolated.  Right next to this a store employee sat in a folding chair, watching all this. Checking the number of people in the store, or making sure we were wearing masks, or whatever.  What it always made me think of was the dystopian classic, "Soylent Green", in which each apartment building has an armed guard sitting in a chair, watching everyone who enters and leaves each building.  In his own building, the guard just nods at our protagonist as he passes, while out doing investigations, he will show his badge and identify himself, which allows him to pass.  No ID check or guns in this case, but some of the same vibe.  When I need a source of people sitting in chairs, I go to the Belmar Arts blog, as I did for the Vesuvio print.  Found one of someone in a folding chair, appropriate angle and size, and drew it in place.


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