Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories Gifting Atomizer 2 of 4 & (55) ARTSY Found In Translation Part 2, Cendrars and eb

JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories Gifting Atomizer 2 of 4 & (55) ARTSY Found In Translation Part 2, Cendrars and eb


So I go up to the lady in charge of the atomizer section.  There’s about five million people shopping in the dime store, of course! Stacked up like cord wood.  You know what a mess it is trying to get waited on.  Even when you’re a grownup and you can yell back it’s very hard.  But, as a little kid!

So it takes me about forty minutes to get this woman, and she says, “Alright, here.”  She takes it down and I take it for a quarter, and have it wrapped in the gift-wrap department.  Boy oh boy, it is fantastic!  Absolutely incredible.  I am really knocked out of my skull with this thing.  Because it is the biggest gift I can ever remember buying for my mother.  A big thing.

So I take this thing all the way home sitting in the back seat of the Graham-Page, and I’ve got it stuck under my sheepskin coat where nobody can tell what I’ve got.

Of course my mother says, “Did you do any shopping?”

“Yeah, well yeah, ha ha.”

“What did you buy?”

Randy is going, “Yawayawayawa.”

I yell, “Shut up, it’s a secret!”

Of course it’s a fantastic secret what I’ve got for everybody.  I got this giant plastic Lotto game for my kid brother, which he will care for like a shot in the head.  I never knew a kid who cared a nickel for Lotto, but they always get gifts of Lotto sets.  So that’s what I got for him.  And for my father, a shaving brush.  It was the only shaving brush I knew that molted.  It was a twelve-cent shaving brush and it went through its actual molting period the first time he stuck it in hot water, oh boy!

The whole big thing, of course, was the atomizer.  I could hardly wait.  You know, you always want to show it to somebody.  “Hey, ma, I bet you can’t guess what I got you.”

“I thought it was supposed to be a surprise.  I don’t want to know.”

“Well, that’s right, it’s a surprise, but I bet you can’t guess though!”

Then she’d say, “Well, what did you get?  A fielder’s mitt?”

“Ah, come on, ma!  Not a fielder’s mitt.  No, I bet you cant’ guess really.  First of all, I’ll tell you it’s a little package.  It’s very little.  You’ll probably think it’s not much because it’s very little, see, but you’ll be surprised, because it’s fantastic.  It’s a very little package.”

And she’d say, “Well, let’s see.  A diamond ring?”

“Ah, come on, ma!  No, it’s not that little, it’s bigger than that.  Here, I’ll go get it.  You can look at the package.”

This great scene was building up until finally Christmas Eve comes, which is when we had our Christmas gifts and all that stuff.




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La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France, poem by Blaise Cendrars about a trip he made as a young boy, artwork by Sonia Delaunay-Terk in 1913, is an early twentieth century artists’ book, when the form began to interest an increasing number of artists. There are only a few of this Cendrars/Delaunay works in existence, and they now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. In museum installations, I’ve seen a couple of the originals. They were designed to be folded into a small packet—when I asked a gallery owner to open up his copy he said it was too fragile, and loses value every time it’s handled.
















I would have liked to do my own artwork from a good English translation, but I’ve only encountered a couple that I’m told are not as good as they should be—so I wrote my own poem about my own train travels.

As I was traveling to work on the Long Island Rail Road at the time, I wrote my poem, and in a computer drawing program, designed my homage to the original. Each of the ten panels is connected to the next with key rings and grommets. The panels are about 8” high, so, when extended, it hangs about 80” high from a pair of hooks. (It’s said that if the approximately 50 copies of the original La Prose du Transsibérien were hung end to end they would be about as tall as the Eiffel Tower.)





Top two panels, a middle one, and the final one.

As an aspiring  poet, I was delighted to encounter on the New York subway system, overhead placards devoted to poems in a series called “Poetry in Motion.” (What were they–about 15″ X 40″?) I note, only recently, that just as Cendrars’ poem and my homage, these poems-in-motion are posted in a context of traveling (on the subway).

I thought that an amusing idea would be to make my own little poetry plaques (3” X 7”), reproduce dozens of each, and distribute them willy-nilly on empty subway car seats for riders to encounter. The top borders I reproduced from an original large sign. I hoped that some innocent citizens were pleasantly and artistically entertained.

I present four of the nearly dozen poem plaques I produced.

Note my lower-right description on each.

[Click on to enlarge.]





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