Two sisters, two coasts, one blog



They’re everywhere.

Every which way you look, the visual environment is cluttered with messages, billboards, and signs advertising everything under the sun.

My neighborhood is no exception and although some of the signage I’ve seen lately has a weird, quirky charm that counters it’s persistent presence, some of it is just plain… weird.

I can’t decide what is the most disturbing part of this sign, seen at my local chain supermarket yesterday: the mental picture of ‘mix and match meat’, the askew and slightly clownish abbreviation of  ‘bogo’ (buy one get one) or the idea that all that mixed up meat is of the discount variety.

Other signs have a comforting air about them, such as the ubiquitous Jointed Cue sign for the billards hall on the corner of Fruitridge and 24th. I see it half a dozen times a day, coming and going during all my carpooling and driving duties.

It’s got a retro, weathered feel and the jagged font of the word ‘jointed’ suggests the haze of beer googles after a few rounds of pool and some libations at their bar.

The Jointed Cue, offering more than I do on any given day.

One of the things I enjoy about my culturally diverse neighborhood of South Sacramento is that the billboards reflect this population, cater to them in fact.

Consider these two signs which are located adjacent to one another. You can literally stand in a parking lot and see both by turning your head from left to right. Together they make a strong statement about the joys and the foibles of our community.

I can understand "$100" and "casino", what more do you need to know?

'Are you gambling away more than just your money?'

And  one of my biggest pet peeves, seen all over the place and not just in my hood, is the flagrant use of  mis-spelled words on prominent signs.  I admit to being kind of a language arts gestapo; although I enjoy word-play and being flexible with how words are used, I detest warped spelling. I bemoan the future of our youth who will grow up seeing spelling on signs such as “Rite Aid” and “Quik Mart” and not even flinch.

I was sorely disappointed to see that my friends at our local DQ had succumbed to this ‘make language more fun’ mentality, and I even went home to my trusty dictionary to assure myself that ‘nutt’ is not a viable spelling option. The only Nutt I’ve ever seen is Grandma Nutt in the classic children’s board game  Candyland.  I rest my case.

My favorite signs are the ones which are updated regularly, always with a new eye-catching message.  Another familiar sign I drive by many times a day is the Bethany Presbytarian Church on 24th street, . In fact I live directly behind the property of the church so I guess I feel a special affinity to whatever they have posted on their billboard.

I’m not sure if it’s how the letters end up fitting on the sign, but for some reason there is always an odd skip (or pause) in the syntax of whatever they are trying to say. It usually ends up subverting the whole concept and making me laugh.

do you sometimes forget god? trust that.

I can always count on the Bethany Presbyterian sign to make me do a double take. I like the slightly Engrish twist to this week’s pearls of wisdom and the comfort it doles out. I like the idea of that God is always “being there for us”…as if we are in some kind of seventies encounter-group together or something.

As you can tell, the more I’ve paid attention to all the signage around me on a daily basis, the more I’ve started to notice it. I see instructional signs, informational signs, and signs that don’t seem to make any sense at all.

I like the ones that have been altered a little, or ‘upcycled’ into a newer, better message (like this one below, taken at the Sacramento zoo) but sometimes a sign just stands on it’s own two feet (as it were) for general head-scratching WTFness.

oh well, that's alright then....

"The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone, hi ho the dairy-o, the cheese stands alone..."

Not too long ago I had the chance to take my kids to The Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina. One of the last few places where your kid can wield a hammer and saw without having to sign release forms in triplicate. Adventure Playground is a mecca of DIY, with cobbled together structures, forts and of course, homemade signs.

Walking around it was fun to see the world through the children’s eyes, especially what they felt was sign-worthy. It’s like a direct line into their worldview, and it’s pretty awesome.

Danger! Pi !

The best one I saw was this sign below.  I imagined what it would be like  replicated by cities and states all over this country. Big metallic-green, officially sanctioned signage, it should be our constant  reminder of what’s really important and what really needs to be paid attention to.

But alas, most signs I notice seem to be of the prohibitive type. Keeping people out of places, telling us all what we cannot do. Nothing peaks human curiosity more than being told to keep away from something.

And what are we keeping away from exactly? The sign below rests at the beginning of a wide swatch of open nature, nestled in a sleepy city neighborhood. Brazenly ignoring the official signage my kids and I walked back there last weekend.

The sun light dappled  through the native oak trees. Long grasses swayed between ancient unused railroad tracks. Birds sang. Dog-owners let their pups run joyously free (but didn’t always clean up after them. ugh). It was a simple piece of paradise and the only thing holding us back was one little sign.

Del Rio road walkway (and fun with the Pixlr-o-matic)

It made me stop to think. What is out there beyond the beyond? Past the end of the maintained road?

Sometimes it’s the wide open sky and the promise of  a beautiful day. Sometimes it’s just the experience of simply being, unregulated by any official placards or verbage. And sometimes is the quiet path with no directions, no clutter of information, and no need to decide which sign to obey.

underlined for emphasis? (photo courtesy of Justine Belson)

Ah yes, that sounds like the place for me.


5 Responses to “Signage”

  1. Jacquelyn Marie

    Love that you and the kids walked behind the sign and discovered a new peaceful land! What happened to exploring, walking and lying on the grass, and just plain having fun (as in Adventure Playground).

  2. Emma Moncrieff

    I enjoyed that Rucha!The church signs made me chuckle. We had a great sign down the road that ended up reading, Mapua Aquarium Jet Boat

  3. nerponline

    Your take on the church sign is brilliant….thanks for pointing that out. The cute misspelling of business-name words (for copyright purposes?) ain’t nice, but how can they add much to the damage caused to the youth and to our poor ol’ culture by texting abbreviations?

  4. Sandra

    Very Funny! I never noticed that Jointed Cue sign before and I’ll keep an eye on the church more. Make sure to take a look at the lalo’s sign – the cactus is definitely flipping everyone off.


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