Several weeks ago, as I walked through Elder Daughter’s neighborhood in Philadelphia, I looked down and saw an interesting little plaque embedded in the sidewalk...
Why, it was nothing less than an old-school Designer Label - an identifying mark that also served as a miniature advertisement touting the fine sidewalk paving services of Frank J. Ginder, Inc.
I was impressed. As an advertisement, the plaque could not have been especially effective: People don’t sign paving contracts based on shiny chunks of metal embedded on the promenade. Whiskey-soaked entertainment was probably more of a deciding factor. Nevertheless, these guys were proud enough of their work that they stuck a brass plate in it.
Elder Daughter saw another one a week or so later:
Hmmm. Steve J. Leuzzi was clearly very impressed with himself (“King of Concrete”), although not so impressed with his work that he would stick a brass plaque in it. No, he opted for the inexpensive Incused Stamp... appropriate, I suppose, given that he was working with plain old boring smooth concrete instead of the pebbly stuff his predecessors used.
You don’t see a lot of identifying marks on things as prosaic as sidewalks... except in older Northeastern cities. Which is too bad. It made me a bit nostalgic for the beautifully designed manhole covers of Japan, each one a miniature work of art in iron.
There are other types of identifying marks, as well. For example, anything imported - Swiss watches, French wine, and everything made in China (i.e., every damn thing in Wal-Mart) - must be clearly labeled with its country of origin.
Here’s a venerable old cake pan - the kind of toroidal tube pan that’s used to bake sponge cakes - sitting in Elder Daughter’s kitchen. When I saw it, I did a double-take, for that pan had once belonged to my grandmother!
I still remember that pan from my Snot-Nose Days, and the manifold uses to which it had been put. Most particularly, I remember the marble cakes that came out of that pan... and my sense-memory of them is so clearly etched that all I need do is close my eyes, and I can still taste them. They had a flavor that was uniquely their own, and no marble cake I have had since then has come close to duplicating it.
Eli, hizzownself, had given the pan to Elder Daughter several months back, ensuring that it would enjoy continued utility... the best possible memorial to his mother.
And as I looked closely at that pan, its many small nicks and pits serving as testament to years of happy usage, I saw its identifying mark:
PALALUM, it said. Pure aluminium, made in Palestine! This pan predated the establishment of the State of Israel, which meant that it was at least 63 years old and probably much older. It’s entirely possible that it came with my grandmother when she emigrated from Europe in 1922. Oh, the stories that pan could no doubt tell...