The Astral Log

7 March 2016

License Plate Finds

Filed under: License Plates — Andrew T. @ 08:00

Now that I've recouped some strength, what better way is there to wrap up the last weekend than to discuss the things I found? Most are tangentially related to my birthyear run, which is starting to spiral out of control.

[license plate]

As I alluded to earlier, I plugged the most embarrassing hole in my marriage equality run—Illinois—at the Peotone meet. Whether or not I'll actually finish the run in time to exhibit it this summer in Mike Pence's RFRA-cursed state is anyone's guess, but I can try...

[license plate]

And speaking of Indiana, here's a gold-colored plate intended for use on state-owned vehicles. I'm not entirely sure when this plate would have been manufactured or used; though the squared corners would appear to indicate 1973 or later. Most Indiana plates until the 1990s were made of steel; however these were aluminum as they were intended for long-term use.

I've long wondered why Indiana embossed painted rectangles in the corners of its plates for many years. It's one of the peculiar design idiosyncrasies of the midwest; alongside ideological rival Wisconsin's extraneous slots and grooves.

[license plate]

I believe that RV plates were the only Indiana non-passenger plates of the 1980s that were revalidated with stickers instead of being wastefully replaced every year. As if to reinforce the fact that there was something out of the ordinary going on, the sticker on this plate is yellow on red...a different color scheme from the passenger stickers of 1985, which were black.

[license plate]

Texas is one of those states that quietly issue dozens of arcane non-passenger classifications for every type of vehicle use imaginable. These annual "conservation" plates certainly fit that bill, and they were reportedly issued to soil conservation machinery. But it's more fun to imagine it hanging on the back of a Citicar or some other Texas-stereotype-defying transportation appliance.

I doubt more than a limited number of these were ever issued at any one time, and this specimen is in unused condition.

[license plate]

Another worthy subject for the "interesting non-pass" category: An Ohio county vehicle plate that was likely issued in the 1970s, but still in use in 1985. Horrible shape; but for a dollar, I couldn't lose.

[license plate]

I also decided to get one of those Oregon PUC permits that were once ubiquitous on the front of big rigs. 1984-85 was the last biannual issue and the last low-profile plate; measuring precisely 12 by 30.5 centimeters in dimension.

[license plate]

My most surprising find of the day was another deal in a dollar box, surrounded by uninspiring 1960s and 1970s scrap-metal fare: A 1946 Illinois fiberboard plate, made out of a soybean composition precipitated by World War II-era metal rationing concerns. Legend and lore has it that goats and other farm animals used to eat these off the bumpers, so maybe I should be content that this one has only a slight bite...

That's all for now, but there will be more someday.

4 March 2016

License Plate Displays... Peotone Style

Filed under: License Plates, US-Illinois — Andrew T. @ 08:00

While I debate whether or not I'll muster the patience to attend a local license plate meet again, here are some glimpses into the meat and matter of last weekend's event: The displays!

1956 license plates

One of the largest things on display was this 53-piece U.S. passenger run from 1956; the twilight era of inconsistent shapes and sizes. But there were 48 states in 1956: Where did the five extras come from? Alaska and Hawaii were both included in the run in spite of their territorial status, as was the District of Columbia (which ought to be a state, but which may never be). And West Virginia and Wisconsin were represented by two plates apiece because each design saw an equal amount of use during 1956. (Nevada could have been represented by two plates as well, but you can't win 'em all.)

California exempt plates

California exempt plates of the last 60 years, in both state (diamond-E) and local government (octagon-E) varieties. The numeric progression of these is rather haphazard, with serials in the 1980s and 1990s jumping between high and low serial blocks at random.

Tennessee license plates

A Tennessee run spanning years from 1926 to 1965; including a good sampling of the 21-year span of state-shaped plates: Good luck finding one of those that hasn't been priced in solid gold by now.

The most interesting portion of the display was the rightmost panel, which was a series of symmetrical plates belonging to a motorist from Overton County (#77) who evidently had connections! Tennessee used both county and weight class coding in this era and changed systems frequently; witnessed in the fact that the guy's number morphed from 77-77 in 1953-56 to 77-0077 in 1957 to 77-A0-77 in 1958, back to 77-0077 in 1959-61, and full circle to 77-77 again for 1962-65.

IL electric vehicle plates

What people collect demonstrates the type of people that they are, and I'd theoretically like to collect these...but Electric Vehicle plates are more difficult than hen's teeth to get; even if you live in Illinois and own an electric car.

Illinois in the year 1985

Last but not least, here's my display! The two panels were split thematically, with the left side expounding upon the idiosyncrasies of the passenger plates of 1985, and the right side cutting a swath across the non-passenger color schemes of the year. It didn't win an award, but I was happy about the way it came together.

In the future, I'd like to assemble a larger display. But I'm limited by the materials I'm easily able to find, and the length of what can fit in the back of my car. Are there any suggestions or good construction ideas out there?

29 February 2016

Back to License Plates Once More

Filed under: License Plates, The World In Which We Live, US-Illinois — Andrew T. @ 08:00

My license plate collecting interest waxes, wanes, and shifts. I find it impossible to be enthusiastic about the license plates of a state unless I'm enthusiastic about the state...and any last vestige of enthusiasm for Wisconsin was torched and burned when my adversaries spent three times handing the state to Governor Voldemort for the kill.

It had been a very long time since I had last attended a regional plate meet...since September 2014, to be precise. But when an invitation appeared on the license plate collectors' listserv to attend "the largest MAPA meet ever" in the northern Illinois map-speck of Peotone, I figured...why not? After all, it would be a chance to get out of town, showcase a display, be around people with similar interests, and find a few things for the themed runs I've been trying to put together. Right?

This is what a plate meet looks like.

I pulled myself out of bed at a ridiculous hour (4:20 in the morning) and pointed the car in a direction somewhere between Chicago and Kankakee. The temperature hovered around the zero mark (in the sensible Celsius system), with no snow visible until I was south of the Windy City. After three and a half hours, I was there...just in time to find people rushing into the building and snapping up all the closest tables before the "official" 8 a.m. opening time had even begun.

I lugged my two-panel display out of the back of the car and set it upright so that I could free my hands and fetch something else. Suddenly there was a gust of wind, and...CRASH! The display landed face-down on the pavement. Fortunately the license plates on it were little-damaged, suggesting that my decision to overbuild the display with thick rubber washers and protruding sheet-metal screws wasn't in vain.

Andrew in Illinois

To make myself easier to spot, I had dressed in a bright green T-shirt and bright green shoelaces. I wound up back-to-back with Roy Michalik, a collector from Michigan who outdid me in both wardrobe (his was a bright pink T-shirt) and travel distance. A third collector admitted to actually driving overnight to get to Illinois from Virginia; a sleepless shot from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. It wasn’t fun getting up at 4:20 in the morning, but the tenacity that other collectors have in getting to their destinations continually surprises me.

What else went on? I was able to plug the most embarrassing hole in my Marriage Equality Run (Illinois) and found a few ancillary things to work into the birthyear collection. I was tormented by an equal number of near misses; including Nebraska and Ohio plates with expirations one month off from the DOMA strike-down of June 2015 and an Iowa that was three off from containing my ALPCA number. Unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes. It only took an hour for me to comb through all the tables and traders ("largest meet" pronouncements notwithstanding), and by lunchtime, it was over.

The silver lining of the day? I actually sold license plates at this meet; enough of them to more than offset my admission fee and travel expenses. I don't know if I'll come back to Peotone, but maybe I should dress in bright green more often.

Wallace should stay dead

While I was there, one attendee went on a minute-long rant about her contempt for the poor and how much she hated the homeless and jobless people who beg for food on the streets of her city in Wisconsin: It's people like her who vote for Walker, applaud his sadistic food-stamp cuts, and measure the worth of politicians by the amount of cruelty they can inflict on "undesirable" demographics. A second collector made the point of sticking a "NOBAMA" bumper sticker prominently to the side of his trade box...a personal affront, considering that the target of his vitriol has done more to support my health and civil rights as a queer guy than any president in history. A third person was selling memorabilia from the 1968 presidential campaign of George Wallace...the opportunistic Alabama asshole responsible for the quote "segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

Multiple cars in the parking lot were bearing obnoxious license plates emblazoned with the exclusionary "In God We Trust" slogan; whether from Indiana, Missouri, or my unwilling home state of Wisconsin. There were no Confederate flags this time, but just about all the other squares on my "angry white Christian bigot" bingo card were filled in by the end of the event.

With an atmosphere like this, I question why I bother being involved in the license plate collecting community at all.

3 November 2015

Reason Fest Day 7: Finishing Touches

Filed under: Artifacts & Holdovers, License Plates, River City Reason Fest — Andrew T. @ 18:49

For a ways through Wisconsin, I wound up drafting behind the creaky promotional vehicle of a California longboard purveyor. Not sure where they were heading to (it turned north at Tomah and I never saw it again), but they got my attention.

Shortly afterward, a minivan barreled by in the passing lane...and I scarcely could believe what I saw on the back. It was a Yukon Territory license plate: A rare reminder of Canada's remote and distant Arctic north, with a population of barely 33,000 and separated from the present place by thousands of km. This is the only one I have ever seen on the road in my life.

The rest of the last leg of the drive was fairly uneventful. I did manage to stop the car to shoot one final kitchy roadside sight: An upended truck and trailer mounted to a pole near Mauston, Wisconsin. In case you're skeptical, that is a real truck, and it even had a license plate on the back...a really ratty semi trailer issue from the late 1980s, if you're really curious. The sign used to look even more bizarre, with a repurposed Amoco torch-topped signframe at the very top: This was replaced by a more prosaic rectangle in the recent past.

Dusk fell and an hour later I drove into Madison, where everything was more or less the same as it was when I left it. Home sweet home; such as it is.

Was the excursion to Manitoba worth it? Yes. I met great people, heard great messages, had great experiences, and saw great scenes both there and along the way...even if not every part of the trip was great. Winnipeg in particular had the feel of a very diverse and humane city, and I hope to go back there someday.

Since I returned, Canada underwent a federal election and managed to elect the Liberal Party to a 184-seat majority government with Pierre's son as Prime Minister. While Trudeau wouldn't have been my first choice, he's helluva lot better than the "Republican north" leadership of Stephen Harper that's reduced Canada to a terror-milking, Kyoto-withdrawing, voter-suppressing laughingstock over the last ten years. One USA on this continent is more than enough.

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