One of the pleasures of traveling is seeing how people — past and present — figure out ways to catch the attention of other people. I’ve gradually been compiling pictures of those efforts, and was recently struck by how great some of them are. So I decided to pull together a few recent examples of English-language signs. Here they are:
Downtown Los Angeles:
There’s so much to love about this sign. Like every taco shop in LA, it has ranked itself #1. But not content to merely be one #1 among many, it has also drawn on nostalgia and old English. And it’s not even “Taco Casa,” it’s taco “house,” a word with Germanic origins. This sign truly captures the essence of America, which is not a melting pot but rather a good olde #1 taco from this shop.
This for sign midget wrestling is one of the most bizarre ads I’ve ever seen. It was towering over the main drag in Wendover when I visited in 2014. Wendover has its fans, and if you love it, that’s great; there’s definitely something to be said for a roadside gambling oasis that keeps going even if it never really had much glory to lose. That said, my impression of Wendover was that it was kind of an aging prostitute of cities, and this sign really kind of captures its ethos.
West Hollywood, California:
This sign is shaped and mounted like a parking notice, but actually displays a haiku. I happened upon it while I was walking around one day, and it lacked any sort of explanation or context. It was deliciously intriguing and I spent the rest of my afternoon contemplating what it might mean. Later, I looked it up and discovered it was part of an art installation.
You’d think “Chuck Norris Grill” would be in Hollywood, or Texas, or at least somewhere in the U.S. of A. But no, it’s in central Reykjavik — a European capital that has just over 100,000 people. I have no idea if it’s good, but it does have four out of five stars on Trip Advisor. My favorite review, however, gives it only two stars: “The service and food doesn’t live up to the name.”
Eureka is a semi-ghost town; many of the buildings on its main street are abandoned but there are still people living in the neighborhoods. The result is that it feels like its midway through the process of becoming a ruin. This old Levi’s ad on the side of a historic building is one of the many remnants of a bygone era when men wore “waist overalls” and and companies stood by their products.
Los Feliz, Los Angeles:
This piece appeared last year in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. Obviously it’s a guerrilla piece, but I liked the irony so much that I decided to include it here.
— Jim Dalrymple II