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…
1. Texas billboard on the interstate. Four sheets of plywood and a paint roller. Exit now or you might miss it.
Buy some stuff, eat, watch the windmills. The Lone Star state has so many quirky sides to its nature. As with New York and California, it can get a bad rep, but just get off the highway for a while and it’s a friendly place.
This was taken in Brooklyn in 2008, down a ways from Prospect Park, a good ways, actually, but I think was on Eastern Parkway. I’m too tired to walk down those memory banks. New York City still has a lot of great old billboards that have persisted on buildings many decades after the actual businesses they advertise went under. The trick is looking up and having a camera, preferably with a long-ish lens. Since I’m a wide-angle guy, generally, this puts me at a disadvantage. I believe I took this while on a location-scouting run for a long-forgotten movie. Or maybe I was on my way to interview somebody. Either way, I DO know that shortly before or after I took this, I stopped in a West Indian place and some killer vegetable patties.
3. Las Vegas, New Mexico. Side lot of an old framing shop. They were just waiting to say “hi” to me, these two old tires filled with concrete.
Las Vegas, New Mexico. This was in the driveway between an abandoned framing store and a used car dealer – a no-man’s land, really, but legally part of one of the properties. I’m not sure which one. Somebody probably used them to support signage or some chain boundary. Either way, they looked like they hadn’t been moved in a long time, these concrete-filled tires, but that nobody could bear to toss them out.
4. Santa Rosa, New Mexico. I honestly don’t remember if the Club Cafe is still in business. I was too busy looking at that signage.
It was another day when Meg decided to sleep late in the back of the van and I was able to do my obsessive sign hunting with just Elko watching me from the corner of his eye while pretending he was asleep in the dog bed. Another town where, if you slow down, the photo targets just multiply. There’s a reason why some places have better photo ops than others, but I’m not going to say it here.
5. Hondo, Texas – – Juan’s Bar
It was an overcast day in Hondo, Texas when I took this and I was in kind of a rush, but any place with that many skulls adorning it has to be preserved for posterity. I had just eaten possibly the greatest huevos rancheros in my entire life at Nora’s Taco stand, in Sabinal, TX, just an hour earlier, and would have been perfectly content to just keep driving and re-living the memory of the way that chile-pepper melange tasted going down, but this place demanded that I pull over. Juan’s is closed, long live Juan’s!
6. East Chinatown, NYC. An all-night grocery store that I was driving by.
I like to drive around New York City at night, especially the lesser-traveled parts. Not to say that East Chinatown is off the beaten path – it’s not, really – but it’s a bit off the path. Anyway, I just like to shoot lights in the night. I like to think about what this guy might be thinking. He works there or may even own it, but my guess is that, whoever owns the place would not be working there late at night. What do I know, though? Maybe it was his last night ever owning the place and he came to survey his domain one last time. Maybe he was about to rob the joint.
7. Building basement in Greenwich Village
This was actually taken in the basement of the building where I live, so I know the scene well. That screwdriver is actually used by the super on the trash compactor all the time and it resides behind that conduit, a natural location, easily at hand and secure enough. Two interesting facts about it: 1. That screwdriver has persisted through two different superintendents and, 2. Nobody has ever stolen it. I guess that second fact is slightly redundant. Anyway, I like found stuff.
Copyright © Paul Vlachos 2012