Kilroy hopped a train

Fools names like fools faces,” Mrs. Stewart said to me.

I had no earthly idea what she was talking about, but apparently it had something to do with the initials inked on the skin of my left hand.  I don’t know why we did that in elementary school, or why someone carved their initials in my new custom dining room table 40 years later, but I have come to believe that homo-sapiens have an innate need to “mark” their territory in this unique way.  If you ignore for a moment the obvious objection of defacing property, you may get a glimpse of understanding about folks who mark on things.  Think about the adrenaline rush that comes from hiding something from unwanted authority, and making it visible to others who appreciate it and even search for it.

In World War II there was a guy named Kilroy whose name and logo showed up on bridges, bathroom walls, in the middle of nowhere and on any spot ripe for blemish.  Kilroy represented the “person who led or participated in every combat, training or occupation operation during WWII…could always be depended on…and was considered the super GI.”   There are many legends about this man and mystery surrounds his true identity.  I found an interesting article which claims that in 1946, The Transit Company of America had a contest to find the real Kilroy and awarded the man most likely to have started  this cultural phenomenon with a real boxcar which he converted into a doll house for his 9 children.  (real Boxcar Children)

It seems to follow that the next evolutionary step of man and his quest to make his presence known, would be to link the allure of the train to his calligraphic art.  Imagine the elation that comes from staying one step ahead of the law, seeing your signature painted vibrantly in 4 inch to 8 feet tall lettering on a moving billboard.  Not unlike the blogger who presses the publish tab and wonders where his story may travel and to whom, a traveling tag has unlimited possibilities.  Add to that the hopeful adulation of a cult following who understand how to decipher your code and admire your ambiguous notoriety.

I am, because I have a name, a brand a logo, and yes, I was here.  Is that what we are trying to say when we memorialize our final resting place with a blank stone that bears our name?   How much more when the signage is by our own hand and we are alive to admire it.   We want the world to know that there is no other signature exactly like ours, nor has there ever been, nor will there ever be.  Consequently, each of us is uniquely, fearfully and wonderfully made.

I completely understand the need  to protect personal property from the disfiguring whims of men and women with cans of spray paint and I’m also aware of the debate over graffiti as an art form, but I cannot help but be intrigued by the images that wiz by me when delayed at a railroad crossing.  Just like the imagined adventures of the runaway who hops a moving train, so spins the make-believe synopsis of the personality, longing for significance, shaking the marble in the aerosol can, pushing the nozzle and releasing all that pent-up creativity.

One thought on “Kilroy hopped a train

  1. I don’t wholly understand this urge either, but it is certainly something that is stronger in some than in others. I hadn’t heard this story about “Kilroy.” Interesting stuff.

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