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JEAN SHEPHERD Kids–more scragging & (158) ARTSY Poles

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This is a philosophical question.  I don’t know what would have happened had any of the girls gotten in the car.  We would just ride around and holler at them.  That’s scragging.  It is a sport, see.  We’d say, “Wow, how about that three we saw going down that last alley there!  Holy smokes!  Quick, go around the corner.”

We would exchange times to drive, because the guy who is driving is at a tremendous disadvantage.  The rest of us are the ones who are actually scragging.  He’s driving.

As the season progressed, it was like fishing, where you notice that there are certain parts of the lake where the fish are –the best parts of the lake.  So we began to realize just what neighborhoods where the best scragging was.  There was one part of the town there that was fantastic.  Block after block there would be girls out walking.

This had nothing to do with Esther Jane Albery.  I was actually going out with a girl.  I went out with Esther Jane, I went out with Dorothy, I went out with girls I knew.  But scragging was something else.  Hard to describe what it was.  It was the lure of the alien, the unknown, the mysterious.  And so, night after night we would scrag.  Me and Schwartz and Bolis and Flick and Bruner.  Each of us had our own girl.

Little did I realize, friend, oh, fellow victim of life’s vicissitudes, that our innocent game of scragging was to lead to one of the most educational moments of my entire life.  Well, you never know when you’re gonna learn something.

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Artsy Phone Poles—Unfinished Artists’ Book

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when I daily walked to the Long Island Rail Road Station toward work, my delight in “variations on a theme” kicked in–I noted the varied look of the telephone poles I passed on the major street toward the station. Different amounts of weathered wear and tear (long gone the old posted paper notices for lost pets or local services to be rendered), an occasional part of a telephone company’s equipment, even a set of lost keys seeking their owner, and, clinging firmly to the wood, innumerable remaindered nails and staples.

Subtle but distinct—no pole an identical twin with any other, though one might think the differences too unremarkable to be considered. But I took enough interest to photograph them and work toward creating another artists’ book from the project. All photos organized in proper sequence from my start on Carol Drive to the train station’s push-button walk sign at the end. Those were the days before I named my quirky mindset as “artsy fartsy.” Somehow I lost interest in the poles and never produced the book. But now I recognize the idea’s artsiness.

Looking back with fondness and nostalgia, I’ve selected parts of those long-ago neglected raw materials for the unfinished book I’d thought to produce as a series of thin sheets of cedar with a pole photo on one side and the map of the route on the other, all cards nestled in a fine wooden cigar box. The pole images here were selected and arranged not for their geographical locations, but for visual appeal. Some of the subtlety of color has been lost in the unavoidable steps toward technological viability.

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