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John Palcewski's Journal

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A Long Way From California to Cornell
forioscribe




My 30 gig iPod contains an enormous eclectic collection that includes baroque, classical and romantic period music along with Mississippi Delta Blues, zydeco, and old-time rock & roll. I usually put the thing on shuffle mode and am often struck by the unexpected juxtapositions.

Yesterday I listened to one of the late Beethoven quartets, which was followed by the Mamas & the Papas singing the haunting 60s song,"California Dreamin."

Got down on my knees
And I pretend to pray


The word California reminded me of being in sunny San Deigo in the 70s doing a truly boring story on highway beautification. A civil engineer told me that the Coronado Bay Bridge--over there, see?--was "Governor Brown's last erection," a great quote that for obvious reasons never appeared in my article.

Then another memory, of high school in the 50s. They put me on a vocational track, since I failed biology, algebra, and most of my other subjects other than English. I took three years of printing. The first thing Mr. Franklin Pearce Eark required of me was to memorize the layout of the California Job Case. It took a while, but eventually I could correctly identify which letter or number or symbol belonged where. Then he taught me how to assemble type, and to accurately justify each line using a composing stick, a shallow open-sided metal box.









Many years later in New York I encountered the work of Joseph Cornell, and his surrealistic shadow boxes. I was struck by the similarity of his work to the tray of lead type I had labored over in my youth. Both had numerous compartments carrying the essential elements of language and images, of thought, of meaning.





















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