Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Nothing in Common Goes South, Part 2, Day 2

An alternate title for this entire saga could well be:
Things (people, places) that Are Well-Known and Obvious to Almost Everyone, but about which I was Tragically Ignorant.
The above would include O. Winston Link. CSB knew all about O. Winston Link and his iconic photographs of steam trains at night. I had no clue. But now I do, and I am delighted. Also, the O stands for Ogle, which seems noteworthy.

In the former Roanoke railroad station of the Norfolk & Western RR there is now a museum dedicated to the pictures of Link; it is also full of all sorts of random RR paraphernalia, such as menus of train travel. Sometime in the 1960’s, while riding the rails you could get 3 strips of breakfast bacon with eggs for $1.25, and “Parents may Share their Portions with Children without Extra Charge”. That seems generous.

Winston Link was born in Brooklyn in 1914. He studied civil engineering but soon after school he began to work as a commercial photographer. At one point his most famous image was of a man pointing a gun at a pig wearing a bulletproof vest. I have no idea what this was meant to sell. I don’t think Hamlette would have let me dress her in a vest of any style. (Unlike Flannery O’Connor’s chickens, who liked to wear costumes.)

Around 1955, while doing a job in Virginia Link’s lifelong affection for railroads expanded into a total obsession. N&W was the last railroad to transition from steam to diesel, and Link began photographing steam trains, at night, when he could control the lighting.

Link’s first wife was a former Miss Ark-La-Tex who later became a body double for the Hungarian femme fatale Franciska Gaal. His second wife, Conchita, stole a collection of Link’s photos and tried to sell them, claiming that he had Alzheimer’s. For this she went to prison for 6 years. As soon as she got out, Conchita tried to sell Link’s pictures again on eBay. The second time she got three years. One has to admire her determination. Or something.

Also in Roanoke we visit the Taubman Art Museum that has several fine paintings in its collection, but most notably it has what may be the world’s largest collection of Judith Leiber handbags. If this isn’t amazing enough, it turns out that CSB was pretty amazed and impressed by these sparkle-studded evening purses or minaudieres. It is a good thing to be surprised by your spouse.

Somewhere on the road between Roanoke and Greenville, SC I reach into my very carefully organized back seat looking for the watercolor set. I am thinking of painting my impressions of Jesus billboards. But instead of my paints, there in the canvas satchel, I come upon a Giant-Family size bag of Twizzlers™, and a similarly gigantic bag of Reese’s Peanut-Butter Cups™. How did they get there? CSB’s expression is as innocent as a politician’s, denying that latest incident in the Potomac Fountain.

Given CSB’s evidenced taste in road food, it is all the more shocking how little he enjoys the American-Made Cow Tales, a gift from a chatty fellow in Union Grove, NC, where decades ago CSB had been to a Fiddlers’ Convention. We went to check it out, and yes, there still is a Fiddler’s Convention, and Cow Tales were the favorite snack of our newfound friend. Chucker throws it out the window; I save the wrapper for my Travel Log.

No comments: