Sunday, February 03, 2008

Signs Of The Times (1)

I was going through some of the photos on my laptop today and noticed a few that could easily be clumped together under a very loose heading of 'signs.'

And here they are, with a short explanation of their relevance to me.

The first one is a sign as you enter the island part of the Seaside Resort Park at Big Coppitt Key, about 10 miles north of Key West where I spent many happy weeks (spread over several years) when Deb's dad and her brother owned places there. Sadly when her dad died in April '05, his house there was sold and so we stopped going to the park.

I always had a quiet chuckle when we would approach the small bridge which led to the island and saw this sign. It seemed just right for a place close to Key West. Once over the bridge and onto the island, we'd turn right and there was her dads house and about 5 houses further along was her brother's place right on the water - with the Atlantic on one side and the Bay of Mexico on the other. Happy memories indeed.

In an effort to mix up the signs and take you all over the parts of the world I've been lucky enough to have visited, the next one is a lot closer to home as it's from St. Andrews up in Scotland.

Anyone who knows about the game of golf and it's history will have heard of St. Andrews and also the name of Tom Morris. This father and son (Tom Morris, Jr) won the Open Championship 8 times (4 each) and Jr would probably have won it 5 times in a row except there was no championship held in 1871.

The wording on the sign at their shop (neither were present on the day we visited !!) is a bit misleading as it just mentions the 8 titles but doesn't indicate that dad won 4 and Sonny Jim won the rest.

It's the oldest golf shop, or shoppe, in the world and couldn't be closer to the famous 18th hole without having it's grass in the doorway. In fact a slightly overhit putt could easily fly inside the place as you can see from the photo on this incredibly pathetic official web site.

As you can tell from the clothing, Deb & Den had to be well wrapped up as Scotland at the end of March is a pretty cold place and St. Andrews is right on the east coast with nothing much stopping the freezing north sea winds except the 18th flag and the front of Tom Morris' shop.

So lets go to the other extreme and shed a few items of clothing as we drive down The Strip in hot hot hot Las Vegas.

I've always had an IPS problem in Vegas and I'm not sure how it started. IPS is Ian's Positioning System and it goes haywire when it gets to Vegas and this photo proves it.

You see I keep thinking that as one drives from the airport, passing the first of the huge casino/hotels, The Mandalay Bay, one is going south as you drive DOWN The Strip. You pass all the famous casinos like the Luxor with it's Sphinx and Pyramid, The English themed Excalibur with it's colourful castle towers, the MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, The Paris with it's half size replica of the Eiffel Tower, the stunning Bellagio with that magnificent musical fountain, the incredibly beautiful Venetian with romantic gondolas gliding around the front, Treasure Island with spectacular live pirate shows performed for passing tourists, Circus Circus with big top acts - all the way to the towering Stratosphere at 1,149 feet, the tallest observation tower in the USA.

But one is NOT going SOUTH but NORTH and I just can't get that into my IPS. I just think I'm going south as it FEELS like it's south. It's the only place I've ever been to where this happens.

On one visit, in early August 2003, we drove along The Strip and I took this photo for 2 reasons.

First because the temperature display on the truck's rear view mirror was clearly showing a record, for me, of 121F (49.4C) but also because even though my brain was telling me that we were travelling south, we were clearly going north.

We were at the traffic lights at Tropicana Ave with The Excalibur on our left and across on the other side, The MGM Grand was on our right and New York, New York was on the left.

Definitely south. I mean north. Oh shit.

Staying in warm climes, this next sign is from a nameless street in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. It's nameless only because I've no idea of it's name !!

We'd flown to San Juan in early December 2005 in order to board Royal Caribbean's 'Empress Of The Seas' for an 11 day cruise to 9 Caribbean islands including Aruba, Barbados, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Maarten.

When we returned to San Juan, we had several hours before our flight was due to leave for the US and so we asked a taxi driver to show us the city - and a very good job of it he did too.

He left us to walk around a few places by ourselves and that is how we found ourselves in this street where I spotted this sign on a wall.
As a non drinker I'm not sure why I took a snap of it but it's a good memory of our short tour of the city if nothing else and that's as good a reason as any.

Speaking of back to the US, this next sign takes us as far from San Juan as you can go in the US without bumping into a Mountie.

Probably not many people outside of America, and many within it as well, are aware that Michigan has upper and lower parts to it. The oven mitt like part is the lower peninsula and at the tip of it you have to cross The MacKinac Bridge which brings you to the upper peninsula or UP. This bridge, known as The Mighty Mac (a bit like myself) is, I think, the 3rd longest suspension bridge in the world and once across it, you enter a strange twilight world of the Yuppers (UP'ers) who make mountain dwelling Appalachians seem like college graduates.

Well there isn't much to do up there so being with your cousin takes on a whole new meaning.

Half way along the peninsula, heading westwards towards Wisconsin, lies the sleepy town of Michigamme. They're not big on town naming up there.

Back in May 2003 I thought we'd dropped in on the set of Northern Exposure when we pulled into Michigamme as real moose roamed freely among inanimate moose signs and 3D moose cutouts.

With a population of under 300, there wasn't much choice when it came to eating establishments and even the mighty McDonald's franchise hadn't come to this part of the world. So we stopped at the aptly named 'Moose Cafe of Michigamme' which didn't have any Michelin stars but had hearty fayre none the less.
Don't ask if moose was on the menu as WE didn't dare ask.
All I know is that my chicken leg fed the 3 of us, the meat was somewhat darker than usual and seemed to have been dipped in a venison marinade.

Tel : 906.323-2233 in case you fancy popping in but no reservations are necessary.

Many years ago, when we visited beautiful Crater Lake in Oregon, I'd bought Deb a little soft moose from the gift store and 'Moosey' has gone everywhere with her since then. So it seemed only appropriate to take a photo of her next to this sign for the cafe.

Moosey is the cute one on the left in case you're wondering.

While I'm on about soft cuddly creatures, the next sign is another bit of a cheat as it's another store sign.

I like stores where the name does all the work for you.

This is one of the English Teddy Bear stores and as the sign says, it's the one in Bath, England. There were once as many as 10 of these stores dotted around jolly olde England but nasty old Osama Bin Laden put paid to them too. The ass-hooooole.

The vast majority of it's customers came from Amercia and after 9/11, visitor numbers dropped dramatically for obvious reasons and so did the fortunes of The English Teddy Bear company.

By 2002 only 4 stores remained and Hamleys, one of the largest toy stores in the world, stepped in and bought them out for a song. They obviously decided to retain the name as this photo was taken in May 2004 when we visited Bath - and it was closed. Well the Royal Baths were closed as we got there after 5pm so we had to walk the streets and thus came upon this lovely quintessential English shop quite by accident. Hurrah.

Hamleys itself is in London and while we're there on this sign trip around the world (ok mostly just trips around the US and UK really), here is a sign I never expected to see on my side of the pond. This was the very day after we'd been to Bath and we were starting a short visit to London.

Can anyone guess where 'we' are and even what the sign is all about ?

Ironically, even though we're in England now, most Americans should know it right away, all US policemen should be drooling over their keyboards and yet most Brits would be scratching their heads.

Well the sign behind Deb & Den is for Krispy Kreme Donuts and it's in that most British of establishments, Harrods of London.

Their original glazed donut is to die for and death does usually follow. One 52g glazed donut contains 200 calories and 12g of fat, 18% of your daily allowance. ONE DONUT.

The trouble is, you can't just eat one. Their unique lightness leaves you not only WANTING to eat more but also ABLE to eat more, and more, and more. It was quite a surprise to see them being sold in Harrods which is why I took the photo and once again, it brings back memories.

The next one comes from my first Christmas in America (1989) and was taken in pre digital days and so is a scanned image. I'd gone over to spend Christmas with some new friends who lived in Georgia and one day they took me on a short drive to the small town of Cleveland and it's one claim to fame : Babyland General Hospital, the birthplace of Cabbage Patch Dolls.

You have to take that description literally as the place was set up as a maternity hospital with staff running around in nurse uniforms when the alarm indicated another baby was on the way.

Eager kids and almost as eager parents would gather in front of the huge artificial 'Mother Cabbage' when the midwife or delivery nurse or whatever would, in all seriousness, go through a well worked routine and 'deliver' a new grotesque cabbage patch baby to the oooohs and ahhhhhs of the watching audience. She even went so far as to wear a surgical mask and gently slap the baby after birth.

The very clever marketing ploy was to ask the assembled kids to pick a name for the baby and of course they'd all shout out their own names. Once the nurse picked a name, it was a guaranteed sale of that baby to that kid. Sorry, ADOPTION !! As you may know, no babies were ever sold. Oh good gracious no. They were adopted with certificates to prove it.

Looking at the ugly chubby things, I'd have sent in Dr. Kevorkian at an early stage to wipe out the lot of them. Enjoy the official tour if you want and it's funny to see how the image of the baby being held by the stork outside the hospital has changed, perhaps to reflect the obesity that is rampant here now. Yes the original fat cabbage patch dolls are even fatter now.

Well this post is in danger of sending people to sleep as it's so long and I'm only half way through the sign photos. Best to stop at this point and leave the others for another time.

I'm off out to look for some more.

1 comment:

Daphne said...

So you have problems with your IPS in Las Vegas? HAH! I was born without a DPS. North, South, East, West, all the same to me. I'm good with a map though. And yes, I do turn it round to face the way I'm going, since you ask. I expect you knew that already. And a hundred and twenty-one degrees? Amazing.

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