Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Istanbul, Turkey

Form: cylindrical tower with a conical roof built in Romanesque style. Function: to keep watch over the comings and goings of Genoese ships in the Golden Horn. Location: Galata, a section of Istanbul now called Karakoy. The Galata Tower is one of the most recognizable sites in the city. [2014]

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

These two better be careful. That lion's jaws are awfully close. He may be asleep now, but what is going to happen when he wakes up? And, why does he have that smile on his face? Come to think of it, why are lions allowed in Edinburgh's public parks anyway? [2017]

Monday, January 29, 2018

Castletown, Isle of Man

Picture perfect is the castle town on Ellan Vannin. Past perfect is the landscape. Present perfect is the population. And, future perfect is the islands's wisdom. Ta keeayll ommidjys ny sloo ny t'ee ec dooinney creeney dy reayll. (Wisdom is folly unless a wise man guides it.) So said in the Manx language. [2011]

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Mobile Bay, Alabama, USA

Production platforms: That's their official name. But, they are usually called 'oil rigs.'  You might be tempted to call them offshore rigs, but these are actually inshore rigs because they are in Mobile Bay. See the bridge that connects the two? See the flame atop the flare stack? See the drilling tower? [2017]

Saturday, January 27, 2018

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

In preparation for Mardi Gras, New Orleans is already going full throttle: complete with purple, green, and gold for the sense of sight, king cake for the sense of taste, Cajun waft for the sense of smell, marching bands for the sense of hearing, and you fill in the blank for the sense of touch. [2011]

Friday, January 26, 2018

Catoctin, Maryland, USA

May you remain busy
Every day of your life.
Glow like a flower,
Abound in sunlight.
Never sacrifice color,
And never slow down.
Let your wings do the work,
And your face never frown.
Yeah! May you scream,
No moments to waste.
End every day with a loving embrace.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Tombstone, Arizona, USA

Imagine him as one of the Earps. You know: Wyatt, Morgan, or Virgil. They constituted the lawmen in Tombstone circa 1881. They took on the Clantons and McLaurys behind the O.K. Corral and emerged victorious. The 30-second shootout was probably the most famous in the old Wild West. [2018]

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Lowell, Arizona, USA

Lowell is now classified as a ghost town, but from 1880 through the 1920s, it was a flourishing copper-mining settlement, with some residents rich enough to buy into a new technology: cars. Today, the old jalopies bestrew main street and draw in the tourists. Even an old filling station survives, complete with a patrol car out front. [2018]

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bisbee, Arizona, USA

B stands for Bisbee. You will find mountain monograms rising above other Arizona towns, as well as towns in New Mexico, Nevada, and other western states. Monograms, first gained popularity in the mid 1800s and were used in a variety of ways through about 1980, when their currency began to decline. [2018]

Monday, January 22, 2018

Naco, Sonora, Mexico

Somewhere in every Mexican town is a tribute to Father Miguel Hidalgo, whose place in Mexican history is seen as the same as the place of George Washington in U.S. history. Hidalgo, however, was executed by the Spanish authorities almost a decade before the Revolution accomplished its goal. Why is he holding a broken chain in his hands? [2018]

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Punda, Willemstad, Curaçao

Sweet! That's what dushi means in Papiamentu. When you are an island with a language all its own, you use it on the landscape to cultivate a sense of place. It's a language and a word that is unique to the ABC islands, and they use it as a branding iron. [2017]

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Punda, Willemstad, Curaçao

Bonbini Curaçao. Welcome to a world of bright colors, florid birds, and and a creole language all its own: Papiamentu. The problem with this sign is that it should say Bonbini Kòrsou. In Papiamentu, 'Curaçao' translates as 'Kòrsou.' So, what's the translation of bonbini? And, what's a creole language? [2017]

Friday, January 19, 2018

Rincón, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

Feral goats are all over Bonaire and often come into towns like Rincón, the original Spanish settlement on the island. Before it was Dutch, it was part of Spain's New World colonies, and residents survived by farming. In fact, the very word colony comes from Latin colonia, "a place for agriculture." Goats, once domestic, have now gone wild. [2017]

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

Want to get away from the cruise ports of the Caribbees? Go to Bonaire and relax. Or, go to Bonaire and dive. The main tourist draw is underwater: the coral reefs. They have been called the best in the Caribbean. But, you'll have to see them fast. Their heyday is over and they are dying, just like coral reefs all over the world. [2017]

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Oranjestad, Aruba

From his campground on Surfside Beach, he could watch the Eurodam pull into the Cruise Terminal around 7 am and leave late in the afternoon. Ready for a walk into town? Consider the 2,000 passengers that will disgorge from the ship and another 2,000 from the Tui Discovery. But, don't wait until tomorrow: Four cruise liners will be in port! [2017]

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Oranjestad, Aruba

Today, Oranjestad is a cruise port. The street sign tells you that the shops here are an easy walk from the ship. For centuries, however, the harbor brought horse traders because the island was a breeding ground for caballos. The only ones left are Caribbean blue. Any questions? Just ask Rosalinda. [2017]

Monday, January 15, 2018

Washington, DC, USA

Got the day off? Thank Martin Luther King, Jr. And, while you're at it, remember how he challenged us to live up to our values. These folks, backed up by the Lincoln Memorial (both literally and figuratively), just finished a day of celebrating MLK's life on the 50th anniversary of his march on Washington. [2013]

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Chester, Virginia, USA

Museums aren't the only places where you can find the Holiday Inn Great Sign. Here's one in a cemetery. It may only be a replica, but it's going to outlast the real ones. It's made of granite, the rock of ages. Do you think the man buried here may have owned or managed a Holiday Inn? [2007]

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

At least one Holiday Inn Great Sign survived. It's front and center at the American Sign Museum, along with a lot of other roadside relics of the 1950s and 60s. The first Holiday Inn opened in 1952, and the art deco sign made an appearance almost immediately. The Holiday Inn brand is now part of the third largest hotel chain in the world. [2017]

Friday, January 12, 2018

Hampton, Virginia, USA

In 1982, the Holiday Inn 'Great Signs' began coming down. By 1987, the wave hit Hampton. The new signs were shaped like a credit card and hoisted high above the Interstates so 'motorists' could see them from afar. The font stayed the same, but that, too, would soon succumb to the vagaries of style. Where are all those Great Signs now? [1987]

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Clemson, South Carolina, USA

Let's hope the sign was acquired by a museum somewhere, because Campus Camera closed in 2008. You can say of the sign what you can say of the camera that used film: "They just don't make 'em that way anymore." Yet another element of 20th century culture migrates from Main Street to the museum. [2005]

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Twin Falls, Idaho, USA

Futurist Alvin Toffler points out the downside: "Overchoice takes place when the advantages of diversity and individualization are canceled by the complexity of the buyer's decision-making process." Psychologist Henry David Thoreau offers a remedy: "Our life is frittered away by detail. . . simplify, simplify." Yes, psychologist. [2003]

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Manor, Texas, USA

"Will the road your're on get you my place?" said God to the people of earth. And, then, He continued: "If so, Bring Your Own Bottle": for the celebration, of course. This year, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the God Speaks billboards. One of the most famous originals: "What part of 'Thou Shalt Not. . .' didn't you understand?" [2009]

Monday, January 8, 2018

New York, New York, USA

Take a gander at El Dorado from Central Park. It looks like a castle, doesn't it? In fact, you'd have to be as rich as a king to live here. Apartments can easily cost $10 million. For that price, though, you have a global city at your doorstep and the satisfaction of living in one of the finest art deco buildings in New York. [2008]

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Clinton, Maryland, USA

Powdered sugar adds to the yummy of any treat. That goes for churches as well as delectables. For the serendipitous traveler with a sweet tooth, St. Mary's of Piscataway is a toothsome find. The parish was founded in 1640 as a mission serving the indigenous Indians, the Piscataway tribe. [2017]

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Time to say happy  birthday to New Mexico. It became the 47th state in 1912, but 'the Roundhosue' goes back only to the 1960s. It may look like an oversized hogan, but the model was really the Zia sun symbol, with its deep roots in the state's Native American population. [2017]

Friday, January 5, 2018

Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

The Vitruvian Cow: It was inspired by Leonardo's Vitruvian Man, but its roots are deeper than that. It goes back to Marcus Vetruvius Pallio, b. 80 B.C., author of a book that helped fuel the Renaissance.In fact, according to Walter Isaacson, it was "the only surviving book on architecture from classical antiquity." Have you read his best-seller Leondardo da Vinci? [2007]

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Where are you: the Netherlands or the north of Thailand? They are 5,000 miles apart, but distance collapses when you start pumping up the arts. Good busking is good busking anywhere in the world. Listen to Amsterdam's straatmuzicant below, then listen to Chiang Mai's here. Think you'll see either one on American Idol this spring? [2014]

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Sofia, Bulgaria

St. Petka's church has stood here since the late 1300s, when it was in the middle of the leather-workers quarter. They worshiped here and supported it with their offerings. Today, it might as well be called the Church of the Metro since the center city station is adjacent. Using church architecture, can you orient yourself to the east? [2010]

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Marrrakech, Morocco

Wouldn't a cup of hot mint tea taste good right now? Actually, hot anything would taste good in the depths of winter! But, in Morocco, it's popular year around. In the winter, it warms you up from the inside out. In the summer, it opens your pores and makes you sweat. Then, given the dry atmosphere, evaporation cools you off. [2017]

Monday, January 1, 2018

Rock Sound, Eleuthera, The Bahamas

Be bold this year. Take the plunge. Step out on faith. Think: adventure, serendipity, daring. The goal you're aiming for is January 1, 2019. Don't worry. You'll get there, so have some fun and learn something new along the way. Happy New Year! [2014]