Archive for December, 2010

Brooklyn Aftermath

Posted in From Home on December 27, 2010 by roadsidenut

So some snow pictures as promised.  I thought I’d be smart and take iPhone to the park instead of Dee (the real camera).  But little “i” didn’t know what to make of the glare so the pictures were all pretty dark & crummy.  I tried.  It was brutal out there anyway.  The snow has stopped — about two feet of it.  Still blizzardy winds though that come up and blow snow in yer face – ouchy, cold and shocking. 

A few brave souls in the big meadow.  Cross country skiers and a few dogs hardier than mine.

My kids in their serious winter attire.  Sweaters under fleece-lined mini horse blankies.  Except for Nik who’s active enough and hates coats enough that he just does double sweaters.  Nik digs out a ball while Grem seeks possible crumbs.  Fix expresses pure disgust & misery by standing on three legs with her ears pinned.

A buried bench for depth of snow gauge:

Grip doesn’t mind snow:

As long as there’s a ball to be had, Nik wouldn’t notice if the earth was on fire:

We’ll see you all in the spring when this stuff has melted!

Day 4: Nor’easter Interruptus (bye bye Bostonland)

Posted in Roadtrip on December 26, 2010 by roadsidenut

Well, they finally got the forecast right:  snow and loads of it coming down here in NYC.  We’re supposed to get a foot and Boston’s supposed to get two feet.  I was sensible for a change when I saw those flakes at 7am and ditched the rest of this trip’s plans.  I put a notation on the June calendar for a 3-day weekend to finish up and reshoot some of those god-awful grey photos.  Also the Waller Warehouse!

So where were we…  yes, yesterday, Xmas Day, my birthday — Boston suburbs and even some New Hampshire stops.  Some disappointments — the house in Westford, MA that used to put up the giant classic fiberglass Santa — definitely not there last year and now, not this year.  Guess the owner(s) moved.  The giant Timberland boot that I’d hope to see/shoot at their headquarters in Stratham, NH — apparently not there.  I had emailed someone there about a year ago to confirm and they said it was there.  But the lone soul working inside that came to the door when he saw me peering in – said that he’d never seen it anywhere.  Skip’s neon sign in Merrimac covered up with a box for the off-season.  One pet cemetery too modern & boring to shoot; another not there at all (supposedly behind a MSPCA) but no one there & I sure didn’t see it.  So lots of strike-outs but I can at least check them off my list and/or make some calls.

Only a handful of photos for you.  Maybe I’ll take some snow shots in the park tomorrow to beef things up a bit.  Don’t want to disappoint you!  Yesterday started out promising weatherwise.  But about an hour in, there came those clouds to flatten out all color. 

This one from Westborough, MA.  The uneven-ness of these poles make me think there was another sign above the “Drive-in”.   I thought maybe another name — but it seems this has been Harry’s Restaurant here since 1946:
http://www.westborough.com/harrys/harrys.htm

This sign from Lawrence, MA.  Simple but I like a lot of things about it.  The font, the name, the weird graphics (is that a fishing reel bottom right? looks more like a lawnmower).  Also I like those plastic signs that bulge more towards the center.  I’m no expert on this type — but it seems older than the embossed type plastic sign.

From Malden, MA:  a little midcentury goofiness — Colonial embellished entrance with rocky patches and metal letters on the sidewall (more visible from the main road there). 

From Newburyport, MA.  This newsstand has been here since 1903.  Added the soda fountain & restaurant in 1920s and the storefront vitrolite glass & Deco lettering has to be from then.  I’ve got it here in my notes that the hanging sign was built in the late 1930s.  It was renovated in 2003 and looks pretty dull now but the red neon is nice at night. 

The faded storefront sign is actually nicer and more interesting.  I hope they don’t mess with it!  The letters are actually… don’t know what they call it — but I call it reverse relief (lowered instead of raised).

One more faded beauty before I return to gazing at this month’s Storm of the Century.  About 5 inches out there now at 7pm.  This one from Merrimac.  You probably can’t see it at all when the trees grown in.  Lettering looks like Coach House but it’s probably been repainted a half dozen times or more.  No sign of a motel or restaurant on the lot now.  Don’t overlook the little Colonial style pediment-y hole at the top of it:

So that concludes our grey little holiday attempt.  Next year maybe Atlanta for Xmas, whaddya think?  Though no guarantee of sun there either.  Next trip probably won’t be til end of March — and it’ll be a biggie.  Five weeks grappling with Texas, Oklahoma and states en route.  I’ll drop in tomorrow with some snowy pix from home.  Hope you enjoyed the New England adventure.

Day 3: Gloom and Doom in MA

Posted in Roadtrip on December 25, 2010 by roadsidenut

Another grey day here.  Hardly any traffic but lots of miles between stuff.  Towns that I’ve already mined before and New England quaintness equals not much chance of hit-the-brakes stop & shoots.  Also some disappointments (stuff that’s now gone).  So not a very fruitful day in terms of photo quantity or quality. 

The forecast for tomorrow is not good.  They’re expecting a foot of snow in NYC and about the same here in Boston area.  Should start tomorrow AM.  So… I guess I’ll be heading for home first thing in the morning and will have to pick up the rest of my list sometime in the  spring.  If they’re completely wrong about all this and the sun’s out, I might stay a couple of hours to shoot a few things.  But really I shouldn’t.  The holiday traffic will be bad enough with the additional panic of impending snowstorm. 

Since I was up so late last night and still got up extra early to organize, I’m gonna treat myself to some sleep tonight and make you wait til tomorrow night or Monday for today’s batch of photos.  I’m making a note to self for next Xmas to head south instead of north.  Nighty night.

Holiday Getaway: Day 2, Xmas Eve in Bostonland

Posted in Roadtrip on December 25, 2010 by roadsidenut

Sun!!!  This might be the best weather day of the trip so I raced around town to town, the best I could considering the traffic.  Lots of folks out there not used to driving — or that shouldn’t have been.  But we’re all safe and settled in here.  After a full day or shooting, and some socializing — it’s past midnight now.   Those of you that are new to my blog should keep in mind that I’m fried when I write these things.  By the time I’ve dealt with dogs, basic hygiene, emails, cropping & tweaking photos, throwing about a dozen of ‘em over at Flickr — there’s not much left for coherent or creative writing.  But I know you all are just here for the photos — and I’ve got a lot of them tonight — so let’s proceed.

Since it’s Xmas Eve — I’ve got a couple cute ones for you — if you’re not already sick of all the holiday cheer.  From the main square in Quincy.  These sure seem vintage to me.  Like the stuff of those fake aluminum Xmas trees or tinsely garlands.  I like them far better than fiberglass:

I went to reshoot a gas station in Quincy — but it, too, was decorated for the season — so I’ll be reshooting again another time.  One of those winged wheel reliefs lurks behind the wreath:

One more from Quincy — a neat mid-century bldg — the St. Ann School:

I don’t know what’s going on in downtown Waltham — but the “good stuff” is going quick.  Two businesses & their signs gone since I was here last year.  I hope this isn’t the next casualty:

This oldie is at a crazy intersection (suddenly one-way) at the border of Dorchester & Boston.  I’m not sure what they’re technically called but I just call them “reflecto signs”.  I’m bleary now but I’m pretty sure these were glass ballies.  But they could have been metal.  With the glare from the sun here, it’s hard to tell in this photo.  In any case, the idea is to reflect headlights — a method used before neon and flashing lights.

From Needham:  a fun name & atomic-y logo.  Looks like the sign on the side of the building is from 1965:
http://www.youdoitelectronics.com/aboutus.html

To appease those of you that need your food fix, I present the “score” of the trip so far.  I’m a big Panera fan.  They had free wifi way before Starbucks & McDonald’s.  And I’ve eaten hundreds of their Mediterranean Veggie sandwiches over the years.  They used to have another veggie option but now this is it.  But it’s spicy and healthy.  I’ll usually have half for dinner and the other half for breakfast.  Easy to eat at the wheel and solves two meals with one stop.  I’m also a devotee of their arthichoke souffle things.  But that’s not what I’m here to rave about now.  I impulsively grabbed a pack of these shortbread cookies… and so glad I did.  Didn’t even notice the icing til I bit in.  If you love butter AND sugar as much as I do, I highly recommend.  I could do without the sprinkles… but it’s Xmas and all so you gotta play along.

Only one more Xmas thing I promise (for tonight, can’t promise about tomorrow).  Toy solider, right?, from the Sherborn Inn in Sherborn:

A cute hot dog stand in North Grafton.  Not open I guess because it was in the 30s today and Xmas Eve.  I don’t know if the “Brooklyn” refers to my Brooklyn in NY — or the Brooklyn in MA.  This looks more like a trolley car than a subway.  But then maybe it’s supposed to be an old NYC streetcar (where the name Brooklyn Dodgers came from)?

OK, on to today’s Big Event.  I’ve been dying to meet Dave Waller, a big-time neon collector & see his stuff for years now.  But truth is, it’s hard for me to muster the courage to email or call people up and just invite myself.  Luckily, by the time I finally sucked it up and asked, Dave Waller already knew about me from my website & Tod at the American Sign Museum so I didn’t have to explain myself and beg.  So this was a pure treat!  And I’ve not even seen the half of it.  There will be a Part II later when there’s time for a visit to his warehouse full of treasures.  I’m flattered enough that he even took me in on Xmas Eve with relatives arriving and all that.

So, here’s the man:

I guess I should mention that this collection is in his home — which is huge since it’s a former firehouse — with vast spaces and high ceilings to display these beauties.  A put a handful of them over at Flickr tonight — and there will be others at the site when I get home and sort things out.  But here are a couple more teasers.  I don’t remember where this one came from.  The hand is sure a neat variation to the pointing arrow, no?

This one came from Quebec someplace (“The Nest of Gold”? — bike for scale:

I can’t remember from where — but wow — (sorry for the blur — I think my autofocus chose something in the background):

Dave is not just a collector but also restores the neon and has a workshop in his basement.  First, let’s clarify some things.  Not to worry folks:  he doesn’t “go after” signs.  Like us, he’d rather see them stay in place as long as possible.  He’s also not a wheeler dealer, buyer/seller of signs.  He also loans out many of these signs to museums and such.  Let’s just say that his heart is right place and he’s a totally generous guy.  In it for the preservation aspect — not the bucks. 

Anyhow, here’s a shot of some of neon stored at the workshop:

And in addition to the signs, he’s got a bona fide Worcester Diner and a whole lot of other stuff.  Yes, in his house!  There’s a whole story behind the diner —  but I was too distracted by the signs to absorb much and, even if I could remember, it’s late and tomorrow’s another big day.

Thanks Dave!!!  

Tomorrow, more Boston area stuff planned with a little diversion across the border for some places in NH.  Hopefully, there will be sun and all the traffic will have died down while people are  doing their family things.  I’m glad my “family” is portable and loves driving around for 13+ hours a day as much as I do.  Be glad you’re really NOT along for the ride!

Holiday Getaway: Day 1 (CT & RI)

Posted in Roadtrip on December 23, 2010 by roadsidenut

The dogs and I are thrilled to sneak away for a few days — Bostonland, here we come!   I’m working way too many hours at my “real job” and also pounding away at the website.  I’m only halfway through inserting this summer’s Midwest photos.  But if you want to see what I’ve been up to, here’s the link:
http://www.agilitynut.com/whatsnew.html

I always try to get away for the holidays.   My birthday falls on Xmas so there’s no better gift to myself than a little roadtrip.  But usually the weather is pretty crummy and, so far, this year is no exception.  Grey.  All day.  So accept my apologies for the dreary photos and white sky.  A flickering of sun around 4pm — just as it was too dark to shoot.  Better luck tomorrow.  There are rumors of snow this weekend so I’m not sure if I’ll be up here for 3 or 4 days.

Let’s start off in New Haven.  This sign is sort of a plastic appliqué (don’t know the right terminology but it’s neat).  This is at the Owl Shop, a tobacco shop that opened here in 1934:
http://owlshopcigars.com/
There’s also an Owl Shop in Worcester, MA with the same style owl but in a neon sign.  That store opened in 1946 — but I’ve never been able to find mention anywhere of these stores’ relationship:
http://www.owlshop.com/

Also in New Haven.  This one came as a complete surprise — which in itself is surprising since I’ve been all over New Haven and have been there thousands of times for various things.  Since it’s winter, I didn’t have leafy branches to block the sign too much (close-up over at flickr tonight).  Since 1876 and still going strong!

 

Rubber stamps have special appeal to me since I was actually in the biz for a few years.  A girlfriend and I had a store / mail order / wholesale company called “Detailed Rubber Stamps” back in the late 1980s (or was it early 1990s?).  I was a slave in a cold, dark basement cranking the stamps out of the vulcanizer and sawing all the mounts.  Luckily, I still have all 10 fingers and didn’t die of toxic fumes.  We barely broke even since we clung to our standards of producing “art stamps” rather than stamps for kids.  I got tired of the 80 hour weeks and poverty and went back to my “real job” as office slave.  Anyhow, more than you wanted to know.

On to Providence.  A wonderfully ancient parking sign.  I don’t know which came or went first:  the neon or the spotlight bulbs.  The fixtures look pretty old as well.  This guy still points to a parking lot.

The other Axelrod Music sign declares “since 1910″ — but the space below is vacant.  Hopefully, there are plans to keep this crusty sign.  I have a feeling the next tenant will strip and repaint this one though.  A nudge to shoot those signs & buildings while you can folks!

I’ve shot this neat dome in Warwick, RI before –

but I never went under it before.  Neat-o!  The edges are kinda banged up by trucks.  I believe it’s used as one of those winter road-salt cover thingies.

A brand new building going up at Brown University in Providence.  It didn’t have a name on it yet — but I’ve done my homework just now.  ‘Twill be an arts center:
http://www.projo.com/art/content/artsun-Brown-arts-center31_05-31-09_MKEGKVP_v18.1b63344.html
http://www.archicentral.com/creative-art-center-brown-university-providence-ri-diller-scofifio-renfro-10091/

Still in Providence, but back in time.  1930s? 1940s?  One Park Row.  The woman closing up the coffee shop said it was Fain’s Carpeting and also a nightclub at one time.  So, more homework.  Sure enough “Fain’s Fine Carpet and Rugs” was here.  But all I can find is the build date of 1873 and nothing about the ground floor remodeling.  Vitrolite with metal — all appears vintage to me and not some later fake.  Maybe some Providencians will chime in with the scoop on this one.

Here are just two of the reasons that I didn’t wear my coat today when shooting in freezing temps. and now have the beginnings of a full-blown cold.  How could I possibly disturb them?  [That's Fix & Nik for my newbie blog visitors -- two outta four dogs that accompany me on all these adventures.]

Finally, here comes a little sun.  North Providence.   A close-up of the Christiansen’s Dairy sign over at Flickr tonight.  Thanks to flickr-ite 63vwdriver, I’m able to identify their cool delivery trucks as Divco Milk Trucks.  Cute as hell.  A fleet of maybe 10 of these guys sitting on the lot — a bit of rust but still in use!  This website takes awhile to open but has some great photos of these trucks:
http://oldcarandtruckpictures.com/Divco/

A stare-down on the roof of Christiansen’s:

For a break from the grey, let’s end with some color.  A brand I’ve never heard of.  And a bit cheaper than what I’d paid earlier in the day ($3.33 — Merry Xmas from the oil cos.).

Back at it tomorrow — moving on to Massachusetts.  Happy holidays & safe travels if you’re heading off yourself.

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