My Philadelphia Story

by Alden Cole on May 14, 2016 · 0 comments

“My Philadelphia Story is the serendipity of meeting new people from familiar places in this amazing American city which has such a history itself, and which is now my home of choice.”

MAP-SectionWPLast month at the April meeting of the Dumpster Divers, kissin’ cousin Carol Cole (no, not the one I grew up with back home in Dayton) mentioned that there was an interesting Permanent Public Art Project coming up which involved two young artists – Won Kyoung Lee and Matthew Alden Price – creating an installation destined for Terminal F of Philadelphia’s International Airport. She encouraged us as a group of creative individuals to send Won and Matt an item that would fit into a 4″ x 4″ x 1″ space, plus a story, of whatever length, long or short, revealing our connection to Philadelphia.

DavidMaialetti-Inquirer2WPWon Lee and Matt Price with a section of the walnut wall panel he is carving for the installation. Photo by David Maialetti – Philadelphia Inquirer Staff PHotographer

Carol sent out an email next day with a link to their website with all the details for entry and submission:

At first quick glance I wasn’t particularly interested; I put the info aside, telling myself that I would come back later for a better look, which never happened. Fortunately Carol resent the information, and this time, my interest was sparked. Part of the reason was that when I finally read the prospectus thoroughly, I discovered that I shared a name with one of the two artists creating the project; I’ve not met many others over the years bearing the name Alden, even as a middle name. So with my interest piqued, I started looking around my home for something that would fit the size limitations. To that end, I cut a box from cardboard to the critical dimensions to ease the selection process. A trip into the basement revealed a number of possibilities for entry; some just as they were, some looking to be combined with other elements into an interesting assemblage. Two particular items called out for my attention, and thus my involvement with the project got under way.

PenquinBejeweled@72dpiMy Philadelphia Story #1

The copper penguin-shaped cookie-cutter was given to me by friend DoN Brewer several years ago. Although I’m well-known among my friends for my baking skills, I’m ultimately not a great fan of rolled-and-cut cookies which require a lot of time and patience, so as a result, Mr. Penguin never got used for his original purpose. However I did not put him away out of sight; he moved around my home, from altar-place to altar-place, most recently being relegated to the basement where he was part of an ensemble decorating a countertop; a miscellany of found objects, both utilitarian and non. When I first started looking through this museum-of-collected-objects that is my home, for items that could fit into a 4″ x 4″ x 1″ space, the penguin virtually jumped off the shelf into my hand. Serendipitously it fit at a quirky angle into the small test-box of cardboard that I had made to verify an item’s usability for this project. The amber jewel was an afterthought that brought the penguin alive, but forced me to bend the copper a bit to fit the flashing eye – another found item, from among a number of costume-jewelry amber-brooches that I relieved Dumpster Diver-genius Neil Benson of, when he asked us as a group to please help him empty his friend Michael Tierson’s basement of the myriad of found items he had been storing there – temporarily. But that’s another story.

Anyway, I was on a roll, and I soon got caught up in composing a second entry.

IronBrassCopperMarbles@72dpiMy Philadelphia Story #2

The basis of this small assemblage consisting of seven discrete items is a cast iron floor flange that I first found and claimed many years ago from my dad’s barn in Maine; a place rife with an amazing variety of utilitarian and non-utilitarian items from the 19th and 20th centuries that I have dipped into frequently for fascinating items over the years. For quite some time I had been looking at this particular piece thinking it should be incorporated as a part in one of my luminaries. However when I got caught up in the hunt for something interesting that would fit into the 4″x4″x1″ space limitation for My Philadephia Story, the flange was a perfect fit. #2: The crescent-moon-shaped brass-filigree artifact that sits atop the raised lip of the flange was, of the seven items, the piece most recently acquired; discovered just two weeks ago among a miscellany of objects being discarded from my friend Frank Burkhauser’s storefront, SOTA – Spirit of the Artist, at 1022 PIne Street here in Philadelphia, a crafts gallery that closed last December, where I had been selling my luminaries for over a decade. #3: Next found and added was the central piece that looks like a mandala made of copper-wire wrapped around the spokes of a tiny radiating apparatus. This was originally part of either a computer or some other mechanical device, that had been salvaged by Dumpster Diver extraordinaire Neil Benson, who had turned the esthetically-beautiful practical-item into a magnetized brooch, which he awarded to me (for what reason-in-particular I don’t remember) at a Dumpster Diver Annual Awards Banquet two years ago. The piece fit perfectly into the flange’s opening as if made for it. #4-7: the final additions – four blue marbles given to me years ago by friend and patron Betsy Alexlander as part of a gifting of numerous marbles to replace some of those lost along the way; added as a tribute to honor Randy Dalton, Philadelphia’s Mr. Blue, another fellow Dumpster Diver, who died unexpectedly last winter. R.I.P.

AlejandroAlvarezPhotoWPYours truly with Won and Matt in a photo by Alejandro A. Alvarez, Philadelphia Inquirer staff photographer.

I discovered that Won and Matt were going to be at the South Philadelphia Senior Center, only a few blocks from home, on Friday, May 6 taking in new entries. Although I could have mailed my submission, I wanted to meet them in person. In addition, I had created two possible entries, when only one was expected, so I decided to let them make the choice. Last Friday morning was rainy and generally miserable outside, but I was on a mission that was not to be deterred by a little inclement weather. When I arrived at the center, I found Won and Matt just inside the front entrance, at a table, talking to an individual, whom I assumed to be another guy delivering work. However, I soon realized that this person was interviewing and photographing them. Won looked my way questioningly, and I responded that I was there to drop off an entry. Within seconds the focus changed and I was drawn into the middle of the interview, being asked questions by both Won and Matt, as well as Alejandro A. Alvarez, the Inquirer’s staff photographer who got so caught up in the idea behind the project that he swore he too would contribute to the cause with an object and a story. It was a serendipitously high energy exchange that happened spontaneously that afternoon. “Nothing delights like unexpected pleasure.”

MainePaperWeight2:72dpiAfter the photographer left, I got into a more relaxed exchange with Matt and Won. I discovered that Matt, like myself, is originally from Maine, having grown up near Damariscotta, considerably north of where I grew up in Dayton. Our shared name also proved an interesting topic of conversation that convinced me that we’re probably distant cousins. As far as my bringing two entries when only one was expected, what to do? Being diplomatic both Won and Matt encouraged me to select the piece I wanted to submit, rather than leaving it up to them; so I chose the more elaborate second one. I could tell that Won appreciated the simplicity of the penguin cookie-cutter, so I suggested that they keep that one as well; they were welcome to use either, or both, in case they needed more items to fill the 780 niches of the installation. A couple days later I found the Maine paper-weight pictured above, in the basement; photographed and sent a copy of it to Matt, my fellow Maine-iac, letting him know he could consider that particular item his from now on, whether or not he chose to use it as part of The Project. We agreed that even a kitsch mass-produced item such as this could still evoke powerful emotions in us expats for our old home state which we left behind to live in Philadelphia. Cheers!

More information about the project online in a well-written article by Samantha Melamed for

As well as a fine article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

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