Paul Vlachos is a New Yorker who understands The West. And he is a New Yorker who understands New York. Wherever Paul goes, he finds signs of life…
I am currently on the road and I don’t have access to all of my photos, so I decided to base this issue’s selections on one or two days’ worth of shots in Florida, where I currently reside at a not-luxurious motel a bit south of Jacksonville, on my sad way up north. Why sad? Because I am returning to winter. In the East, we have the option – some of us, at least – to leave winter behind, in mind, body and spirit. All we need do is drive for two full days and the jackets can come off, the wool socks can be tossed cavalierly to the rear of the van, the hat and gloves and scarf can get lost somewhere near the dog bed, which is right behind the drivers’s seat. Two days of driving, listening to music, making meaningless phone calls home, eating from the bottomless bag of chocolate-covered raisins that I wisely threw on the passenger seat. Had I tossed them on the floor, directly above the muffler, they would have congealed into a sorry mess, but that’s the subject of my first novel, so I’ll not reveal any more here.
Anyway, you can tell I’m tired when I ramble on like this. Let me sum it up – for the past four days, I left winter behind. Now, I return to the cold, the wet, the dark, the street salt, the depressing faces, the arctic wind whipping off the Hudson River, direct from New York Harbor. I am going back to misery. BUT, I spent a couple of days shooting photos in the heat, wearing only a t-shirt. I normally like to let photos marinate for a while, then choose the ones that speak to me. In this case, though, I just chose the ones with the bluest skies, the ones that said “it’s summer, you idiot, until you turn your rig around and head up I-95.” So, here it is, my brief respite from the Northeast Hell.
1. Photos of water towers did not begin as a theme for me, but I realized a few years ago that they speak to me. I have been shooting them for a long time. I like the intersecting wires in this one, along with the intersecting clouds and the intersecting girders on the tower, itself. This one, and all the shots below, by the way, were shot within a 30 mile strip, going south from North Palm Beach.
2. Corrugated metal buildings, Quonset huts, especially, have been something else I have long enjoyed shooting. It’s not always easy to get a good shot of a Quonset hut. They are often tucked behind an old fence or another building. I found a line of them here, all painted in odd colors. Maybe I’ll include some of the other ones in some future issue of the Zephyr.
3. This place is on old Route 1, US Route 1, the Big Mama of the old Federal Highways. Highway 50 may be older – I’m not sure – but Route 1 has more strange old businesses on it than 50 ever will. That makes it no better or no worse. It’s just something to think about. My mom drove to Florida once, before I was born, and she told me about it for years afterwards, how she took US 1 all the way down, and how some guy had told her that “Route 1 goes straight to Florida, just like an arrow.” I don’t know what that guy was smoking, but it’s not quite true. Either way, it’s something that has stuck in my head ever since and something that I often think about when I’m on the old road.
4. This is the side of an abandoned gas station. They all have a bit of the Mondrian in them, these old gas stations with the checkerboard windows, which inevitably have a few oddly painted panes. The corrugated strip covering the side door makes me sad. It seems so final. The three stripes along the top, were they green, would have identified this as having once been a Texaco station. They are blue, though, so I have no idea what it was. Perhaps they were once green and the previous owner painted them blue. I can always think of something interesting to do with buildings like this and it saddens me to see them in disuse.
5. Imagine my surprise to see a Carvel ice cream stand down in Florida. All I can figure is that old Tom Carvel, like many of the other old Greeks, used to head south in the winter and he probably decided to reach out the long, bony finger of his empire and knight another franchisee down in West Palm Beach. This one had a little shrine to Tom Carvel on the wall, complete with a grainy black and white photo and some other memorabilia. How do I know so much about Tom Carvel? I grew up in Yonkers, New York, which was the seat of his empire. In truth, the soft vanilla cone I got there was a little more crystalline, a little less creamy than most of the ones up north, but I’ll excuse them. It was good to get a taste of home. And, on the bright side, the chocolate sprinkles were slightly finer and better than what you’d find up north. There no Carvels, so far as I know, west of the Mississippi. In fact, I’d be surprised to find any west of the Hudson River. Discovering this one felt a bit like stumbling into a still-active Yugo dealership.
To see the PDF version of this page, click here.
To comment, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Don’t forget the Zephyr ads! All links are hot!