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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ah yes, that sounds like the place for me.