Monday, August 11, 2008

Signs, Doors and Windows...and an Old Car

As our trip to Vegas eases into that place where travel memories go when they start to lose their sharpness, I wanted to take a moment to talk about unusual picture opportunities that present themselves along the road.

The car to the left, for example. Remember the blog where I told you about the jolly guys who had the squirting mustard bottle? This car is out front of their restaurant.

Visually, I suppose it's interesting. But it's also a mish-mash of colors and...stuff. So what makes it work as a graphic for me?

I will often look at a picture of someone's creative work and start wondering about them. The creator, I mean. Take another look at the car. Someone went to a whole lot of trouble to make something that would make an impression on the viewer. Who did that? Why go to all that work and trouble?

How about this snowman? (I think it's a snowman...) From the highway it looks pretty charming because it's hanging out of an Airstream trailer. When you get closer, you can see that the elements and passersby haven't been kind.

Up's kinda creepy.

Of course you have to walk off the highway, through a field where any number of snakes and/or scorpions could be lying in wait for the unwary, round little photographer who just has to get closer to his subject. (I picked up about six hair-thin spines of some kind of pointy plant matter in my foot. I am still trying to get the last one out...)

But look at it. We're talking a snowman hanging out of the window of a trailer in the middle of a desert. Yup. It was worth a picture. (I'm not so sure about the pointy things.) There is no reason for the trailer to be there. Who put it there? Why? (I half suspected it was placed there by the snakes and scorpions to trap unwary photographers...but maybe not.) And why did they stick a snowman in the window? Curiouser and curiouser.

Sometimes the fascination comes from a simple doorway. You will find this particular door about halfway between Kingman and Seligman.

The whole area around it has been crammed tight with artifacts, cars, signs, props, gas pumps and cattle skulls.

I had a small photographer's siezure as I very nearly drove by it. It's a place custom designed for photo hounds.

But look at the door. Click on it. Read what cowboys are supposed to do. Read the rest of the information and tell me that it was not created by someone oozing personality, and pouring that personality onto the door.

Sometimes the object of attention can be something that looks really old -- like this old sign for a Chinese restaurant. There was very little Photoshop done to this sign. The sky really was that blue and the sign really is that worn. I was blown away by the signs in The Boneyard because they make me wonder about the many thousands of people who have seen them, walked by them -- been lured in by them.

Signs speak loudly about place in which they have been found as well as the people who live there.

I am turning the corner of the Vegas trip now. My work has been busy and I am already looking forward to the last trip of the year to Houston, San Antonio and New Orleans.

But I've also noticed that each trip -- from Greece to New York City to Vegas -- each one takes on its own sense of being in my mind. Do you find that about your trips? There's a very distinct tattoo or aftertaste each trip leaves on your spirit.

For this last Vegas trip -- which only lasted a week -- I will retain always the memories of going down Route 66 with my favorite person chatting beside me. I'll remember the magic of Fremont Street as one night slid slowly into the early morning of the next. I'll remember the flat out excitement of being in The Boneyard -- and eating real french fries at Mr. D's Diner. I'll remember driving down a two lane highway with the windows down listening to great music with vast desert all around me.

I love travel.

Love it.

My father asked me the other day why I travel so much. There was a slight, unspoken criticism that maybe I spend too much time on "vacation." But I would beg to point out that there is a vast difference between a vacation and travel.

Those who vacation will sleep in, sit by the pool and live their lives measured by the meals they plan to consume. Travel is...being somewhere exciting and seeing something you have never seen before. It's trying to capture that wonderful magical experience with the click of a shutter. It's about getting up very early and staggering back to the hotel with aching feet -- but knowing you have a couple of hundred pictures you can't wait to see and share. For me it's also about experiencing all this with my wife -- and, at that is the sweetest thing of all.

Yup. There's a difference between vacation and travel. What did Patton say? "For those who understand, no explaination is necessary. For those who don' explaination is possible."

I suspect they will need to strap my wheelchair into the spaceship in about forty years. But God willing -- I will still be going to places both old and new with Sheree. And if I go -- I will have my camera. And if I have my camera -- Photoshop won't be far away either.

So there.

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