Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Year in Signs 2011

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I heart signs. I love the concept of a piece of metal hanging around somewhere for the sole purpose of telling me where to go, how to get there, why I should go there or why I shouldn't. Taking pictures of signs is a significant obsession of mine. Some signs are humorous, some are art, and some are humorous art. No sign rises to the niveau of art like the stop sign. It evokes so many feelings. It's a warning. It's for your own good. And as a barrier between you and the fragility of nature, it's for nature's own good as well. Stop . . . in the name of Love.

You have to Love the politeness of this sign. Have you ever seen a NO TRESPASSING sign with a "please"? I want to meet the person who added cordiality to this one and marry him. Please covers a multitude of sins, in my book. Take Get out of my face! and then Get out of my face . . . please! There's such a difference. This sign is smiling slightly---and warning you, of course, that you might have to pay 2000 Canadian dollars if you trespass.

No, this tree isn't smiling. Well, maybe it is. If it is, it's a subtle, satisfied smile. It's telling you you're on the right path. Actually, these markings--at least in Austria--are usually red and white, so this one confused me just a bit. Come to think of it, we got lost and ended up slogging through mud for a while. Hmmm. Does this sign mean "Muddy Path Ahead" to the good people of South Tyrol? Maybe it's not a contented smile after all; maybe it's one of those smiles that says smugly, "You don't know what I'm saying, do you? You no speaky my language?"

Signs that encourage group participation have always thrilled me. I'm not really a joiner, but I'd like to think I could one day be enthusiastic enough to jump in and shoot dirty with everyone. This must be a fun crowd. That said, how you interpret this sign is completely up to you (and you're Dirty mind); but I'll give you a hint: it's a movie at an independent cinema in NYC.

What is a testicle festival? I refuse to Google this because I think my interpretation of "Testicle Festival" must be more hilarious than the real thing. It would be a shame to ruin it. My version: A celebration of the testicle as the generator of life. I imagine testicle sculpture-making and balloon-tying contests. Booths selling all manner of famous testicle reproductions of yore. David, for example would be in big demand. A concert by Jerry Lee Lewis, for obvious reasons, would drive the audience nuts.

This signs says Stop Laughing, Life is not Funny, How the Hell Did you Wind up Here? There's nothing but barley fields here. Nothing here to see, folks. Turn around. Rethink. Check your GPS. Stop and ask the locals the way back to civilization. Or wait. This sign could be saying Rest a Second, Bub. Turn Your Motor Off and Listen to the barley growing. You don't have to be roaring down the road your whole life toward a goal, toward a through road. Sometimes it's nice to just sit here at a dead end--let's call it a culs-de-sac, which sounds so much nicer--and think. You don't always have to be on the right road, you know.

I think the rangers put this sign up simply to keep people from tramping all over the delicate landscape of The Badlands (South Dakota). It's much more effective than a sign reading "Danger! Eroding Soil! Will Be Gone in 500,000 Years!" People tend to be much less afraid of eroding soil than rattlesnakes, which, according to my mother, are evolving to lose their rattles (which weren't such a grand idea anyway when you think about it).

This is obviously a souvenir shop, right? It's in the town of St. Ignace on Lake Michigan where thousands of people each year catch the ferry to Mackinac Island. Do you get the joke? You do if you speak German, but for those of you who don't: Gift in German means poison in English. The German-speaking owners of this shop are having a laugh. Goodness, I hope they're not actually putting poison in their fudge.

As intelligent as "Das Gift Haus" is, the singular woman for the plural Damen is pretty sad. This sign was outside a toilet at Oktoberfest. Maybe it's a one-holer? Which reminds me of something a man said as he was coming out of the John somewhere in Montana this summer. When he opened the door, I noticed there were actually two stalls, so I said, "I wish I'd known there were two stalls." He replied, "There's three . . . counting the sink." Um, yuck? But funny. Funny guy.

Some signs are so bare in their truthfulness. Yes, the footpath to Dorf Tirol, in South Tyrol, is practically straight up. It's a workout that your legs and gluts never stop thanking you for. They're so thankful, in fact, that they don't say a word when you order a second glass of wine at the top of the mountain (which is a good two-hour walk past Dorf Tirol--immer bergauf).The word bergauf has positive connotations in German. It can mean that things are looking up--and we all know a steep path often leads you to the best view.

Stop! Wait! If you haven't read my POST on Foreign Flavours, the new Writers Abroad Anthology, please do HERE. The proceeds from the anthology go to The Book Bus, so I hope you'll buy this excellent collection of stories and articles--or share the post with friends who might. 

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type. Allen writes fiction, creative non-fiction and of course this here blog. His work has appeared in numerous places both online and in print. Read more about him HERE.