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, just off the Interstate, in 2009. I’m always hauling ass when I travel west and I don’t slow down much for photos until I get over the fold in the road atlas. It’s a shame, as I often see some miraculous things when I do slow down. That’s now what happened here, though. True to form, I was hauling ass west and had just gotten far enough to slow down a bit when I noticed this lovely scene in the de rigeur gravel lot behind the paved lot next to the abandoned store by the side of the lonely, windswept interstate exit, which is actually a pretty common phenomenon in the great state of Texas. I’ll try to talk less and just let the photos speak for themselves more in this issue, by the way.
2. A wall. Just another wall in America. This is northern California, Ukiah to be precise. I could stare at this wall for a long time. I often do. You can get an idea of its grandeur by the size of the dumpster in the lower right.
3. Eastern Arizona, just off I-40, not long before I ran into a thunderstorm, back in 2008. I believe the “LT TOWING” means “Light Towing,” but I’d love to know if I’m wrong. I especially like their use of punctuation, the happy optimism of the explanation point, the incorrect apostrophes – did you know that there are websites devoted to incorrect apostrophes? And last, but not least, the menu: tires, parts, welding and cutting. It looks like they made the sign and realized you might not divine that they also tow, hence the addition.
4. Southern Arizona, 2009. A roadside pottery stand, gas station and mini mart, located at a strategic crossroads. By the time you get here, the idea of almost any little ceramic knick-knack or figurine kind of makes sense. Of course, by the time you’ve gotten to your destination, you might feel differently. Or not. Looking at these lonely little pups, which I resisted at the time, I almost wish I could reach down and pet one now. Maybe they’ll still be there on the next trip.
5. This place is all that’s left of a ranch house in north-central Nevada. I’m not going to give the location or the name of the ranch, as it’s the site of an unearthly hot spring and, sometimes, that information cannot be shared. I’ve never stopped at the house, itself. First, it’s private property, although it’s not marked. Second, I’m always trying to get into that spring to soak my tired bones. Third, it always feels as though somebody’s still there and I don’t want to be the uninvited guest. This shot is from 2008.
6. This is from a hot spring motel in Lakeview, Oregon. They are a tiny, but fascinating niche in the lodging market, hot spring motels. You can almost count them on two hands and have fingers left over. The story of what my friend Paul S and I observed in the pool is worthy of a longer piece, but let’s just focus on the sign. Will you ever see this combination of amenities on one sign again, I ask you? And don’t neglect the one thing that’s been crossed off, either. Who needs a jacuzzi, though, when you have a geyser?
7. The one and only, the famous and immortal Pie Town, in New Mexico, about 2007. The big, painted sheet metal Thunderbird sign gets me every time. It’s mesmerizing. It’s compelling. It’s beautiful. And, if you do stop at this cafe, which is one of the two or three businesses in Pie Town, you will be rewarded with some very fine pie. I kid you not. It’s worth taking that stretch of U.S. 60 about 65 miles west of Socorro if you love pie. Trust me on this one. Life is too short to pass up a good piece of pie.