With some help from his lovely assistant and bride-to-be, Sara, he shuffled quickly through a massive stack of prints and uncovered a white and gilt-gold image of then-mayor Larry Langford wearing a crown. "KEEP CALM AND LARRY ON," the poster read. I laughed, delighted and depressed.
"I'm sure Kyle will love it," I said.
And he did. So much so that shortly after Langford's conviction last week, he asked me to ask Jeremy if we could use the image on the cover of the Weekly. I did. And I also asked Jeremy to write about the image, which was inspired by a motivational poster created by the British government at the start of World War II. Here's what he had to say:
The idea for the Larry PSA print came to me last year when I was managing a small coffee bar in Homewood. At the time, the bar was like a ghost town on most nights, and there are only so many times you can clean an espresso machine in one day before you wear the finish off the fixtures, so my fiancée Sara would come by to keep me company and I would work in one of the small sketchbooks I always carry with me.
The Thursday night shift was always our favorite because the new Weekly came out that day, and we actually got to read the paper before the stack disappeared completely disappeared the next day by noon. Eventually we developed a nice routine of good coffee, good customers and all of us weighing in on Mayor Langford's exploits as reported in Kyle Whitmire's "War on Dumb." It was always the first thing we or the regular customers would read and all of us enjoyed the inevitable discussions that would arise. Larry's shenanigans were so extreme and absurd that our personal political affiliations never came into play.
One night after such a discussion had ended and I was closing shop, Sara was making her rounds on the Internets and came across the "Keep Calm and Carry On" British war posters. Both of us being fans of British culture and good design agreed they were cool and that our future home could use one or three. While I was finishing up my closing routine I began thinking about the period the posters were printed in and what it would be like to live in such a time, with the bombing and blackouts and rationing. Then I started imagining how we here in Birmingham would react under similar circumstances and what our leaders would do, and then just like that, I had the image of the Larry PSA wheat-pasted on a crumbling brick wall floating in my head. I immediately made some rough sketches of the poster so as not to forget (along with some sillier ones, for my own amusement, of Nick Fury-styled Larry, complete with an eye patch, riding into battle on the shoulder of Vulcan #2 the giant robot). I began work on making the prints the next day.
My overall intent with the Larry PSA was to illustrate that at the time Birmingham had indeed been keeping calm and letting the mayor do whatever, with little or no objection by the people who were in the position to stop him. Larry was not disturbed or dissuaded by any detractors. Larry was calmly going to do what Larry was going to do. For better or worse, for years Birmingham has been "Keeping Calm and Larrying On," and now that it has stopped it will interesting to see what will happen (lower sewer bills maybe?).
I want to say big thanks to Glenny and all of the Weekly staff for using my work and especially to Kyle for keeping me and my friends aware, entertained and inspired with his writing. I look forward to many more issues and wish the Birmingham Weekly nothing but continued success and all the best.
Jeremy Markham's website is www.coroflot.com/mintmachines. His prints are available at What's On Second, 2306 Second Ave. North.