40 Years in America

Louise Strait

Witnessing for the Washington Monument Rally

I was working on producing printed matter for both campaigns. For Washington Monument, Neil Salonen commissioned me to do a tabloid promotional piece that would have a tremendous production run of several hundred thousand.

Much of the piece was human-interest stories of members working in the campaign and the people whom they had met in the process. I did a lot of traveling and interviewing. In the middle of everything I had to move out of where I was staying, and I had no car to drive around to do my interviews.

So, being from the area, I crashed at my parentsí house. My aunt was staying in my old room, so I slept on the living room sofa. They let me use one of their old cars, which happened to be, like all their cars, a Mercedes Benz! So I cruised all around the Beltway, and into many scary areas of town, in style.

The most important piece of the tabloid, however, was to be a map of the area with all the bus pickup points marked. Since I was one of the few natives around, I was a natural for this. Unfortunately, like so many things, the pickup points werenít finally decided until the day before the piece had to be printed. So I got a large map of Washington and large boxes of adhesive dots, called signal dots, from an office supply store, and waited. As the points were decided, I put dots on the map. There were several hundred. I was sticking on dots all night into the next day, until the last second.

I anxiously awaited my magnum opus. When I opened out the first one, what a shock! The Beltway was clear enough. It outlined the city like a big round face. But the face looked like it had the chicken-pox, measles and smallpox combined. I would have been better off trying to duplicate a Jackson Pollock painting than a useful map. I have the impression that the people who came by bus were from out of town, not Washington itself, and itís no wonder.

This very much reinforced the lesson that what you think you are going to get and what finally turns out, both in art and life, are two different animals.

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