Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Say it in Neon

A drive through downtown Albuquerque on Central Avenue, is a drive along part of the original highway 66.

A part of the history of this highway are the neon signs along its path.

Early one evening, as the sun was setting, we noticed the variety of these historical markers along with some more modern "greeters." This brief introduction called for a more extended association.

So, one night we drove Central Avenue from the western city limits to the Nob Hill area (a distance of about twelve miles) with periodic stops for photos.

Now when I think of neon signs, I think of diners, motels, and movie theaters--especially those that date back to the 50s. In the case of diners, the West Taghkanic Diner and the Chief Martindale Diner along New York's Taconic Parkway had magnificent signs with Indian heads and neon. But, I digress.

Two diners along Central had signs of more recent vintage. The Route 66 Diner had red and blue signs outlining the roof's front, sides, and tower.

One of the "cleanest" signs was this one on the entrance to the four-year-old Standard Diner, which is located in an old 1938 service station.

We have seen a number of motels with elaborate neon signage--most of them since going on this evening shoot, however. The El Don was a beautiful example.

The El Rey Theater (below), built in 1941, has passed through the hands of many owners in the 1990s. With a matching grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Preservation Program, the marquee has been repaired.

Since there were often intervals of several blocks between the homes of these neon signs, this was not a walkable evening adventure. That meant driving and maneuvering in some unusual ways to get in position for the photo.

Even photo-graphing these restaurants was not easy. If we found a spot in a parking lot, I was reluctant to walk around photo-graphing buildings at night. I really didn't want to have to answer the question: "Hey, what are you doing?"

Often it meant pulling into open spaces wherever possible and taking photos from the truck--now that I think about it, taking photos from a truck may have even raised more questions if I had been noticed. Fortunately, it was an uneventful evening--as far as questions go.

Parking often meant pulling into the lots around closed businesses, but more often than not these parking lots did not provide easy access to a site from which to photograph a sign. Even if I found space, I was reluctant to go walking around with a camera--especiallly at this Smoke Shop (below).

Then there was the challenge of photo-graphing signs in downtown Albuquerque. For two of these last four photos, I had to circle a block a few times waiting for a red light to enable me to get a photo.



















In the other two instances, I was able to stop in the middle of the block to get the photo--one eye on approaching traffic, one eye looking through the camera, as in the case of this photo (left) for Slices on 4th, (a New York-style pizza joint whose motto is "Shut Up and Eat").

This newer neon (below) points to the Brick Light District, described as "a strange mix of upwardly mobile consumers and 'hip' college students. Unique, kinda strange, but fun."

Finally, this neon (below) announces Skip Maisel's Indian Jewelry and Crafts--offering the largest selection of Indian Jewelry in the Southwest.

Although not neon, this fellow, I thought, on this night of recognition for colorful neon assistance to the community, deserved some recognition for providing responsible assistance 24 hours a day.

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