This restored Mail Pouch Tobacco wall ad in Ford City, Pennsylvania sure is a looker. Clearly a lot of love and care went in to making it vibrant once again. There is so much detail on the packaging – it’s just lovely.
It warms my heart to see projects that commit to caring for such local landmarks, particularly in times and places where money is tight. Without a doubt there are many people who might counter and say that money could be better spent elsewhere. And maybe they’re right. I don’t know. Quality of life does have some variables beyond the survival basics.
My point of view is colored by being a stranger to these communities. But I suspect that there are generations of people for whom this type of image will be weaved throughout their memories even if unwittingly. In my opinion, it is this type of visual energy that adds a pinch of spice to the unique flavor of a neighborhood. They become a touchstone.
The place in which I live is the land of homogenization. And while it is very “nice” and keeps property values high, there is a grave boringness attached to it. One of the key missing ingredients is largely nostalgia. Strip mall, mcmansion, chain store, strip mall, mcmansion, chain store; repeat ad nauseum. We live in the prettiest ugly neighborhoods. And I bought into this ideal wholeheartedly.
My road trips largely center around seeing Americana such as this Mail Pouch sign. What doesn’t get captured in any of the photographs that document my stops, is a sense of longing that I don’t quite understand, which draws me to such places. I find it challenging to articulate what this search is. It is a strange marriage of melancholy and joy.
Visit the Mail Pouch Tobacco Sign in Ford City, Pennsylvania
When I am road tripping, I typically have the best intentions about writing something down nightly to memorialize the things that I see each day while they are fresh in my mind. Before I even leave the house, I have a little pep talk as I’m packing my bag – “Bring your MacBook,” I say to myself. “You can write stuff down while you’re vegging at night.” And, each and every time – I fail miserably.
And it’s not for lack of trying! Or maybe it is. Each night while I am away, I scroll through my camera roll, edit a few photos, and upload the days pics. I might even jot down a few notes, or idea stubs but nothing of substance typically materializes.
Something about the scrolling of the days photos becomes like a romantic process. I tend to lose myself in that even though in many cases I just saw whatever I photographed. Maybe it’s like an elephant lovingly handling skeletal bones, there is a need to pay respect to what has passed.
Maybe being unable to put what I saw in day into words is simply the result of having so much information crammed into my eye holes all day long that my brain just hits tilt when I stop moving. Or maybe I just have a process that is innate to me. I don’t know.
Whatever the case, it can take a while to distill all the input from any jaunt and my feelings about it. I do know with certainty that I lose track of the smallest lived moments with their unique nuances. Many if not most experiences become ephemeral. And after a certain amount of time, my feelings about my feelings become romantic interpretations colored by distance. They’re something of an impressionist painting of reality. My mind’s eye can see what’s there, but the details blend together. What is left is but a beautiful and dreamy version of the truth.
Muffler Man and Giraffe – Happy Halfwit of Oaks, Pennsylvania
This happy halfwitMortimer Snerd style Muffler Man and his super-cute giraffe friend can be found standing outside of Arnold’s Family Fun Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania.
Is it just me or does this muffler man look kind of shrug-y? Like his neck is too short. Or maybe his traps are huge. Either way, I can’t say I’ve ever noticed that before on any of the other guys. Maybe he carries all his stress in his shoulders.
Something about that darn giraffe’s face is so sweet to me I just want to huggo the stuffin’ outta him. And the way he’s got that hind leg kicked back like a show dog? ::chef’s kiss:: Magnificent.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating with each muffler man visit; it is fascinating to see what details a painter will highlighton a muffler man. The outlined choppers on this bad boy are a nice touch. It isn’t uncommon to see the Snerds with a gap-toothed smile. Instead, he’s giving piano keys with lips reminiscent of latter year Michael Jackson. It’s a lot.
Prior to this perch, this halfwit muffler man stood on the Seaside Heights, New Jersey boardwalk where he was cast off with other debris from Superstorm Sandy. Roadside America has a photograph of him laying prone in a heap. While a parking lot in Pennsylvania might not be as exciting as the boardwalk at Seaside, this relocation to Oaks is nonetheless a triumphant return for the scrappy giant.
Plus? Giraffe. Giraffe is a win.
In the time that I have had a conscious interest in muffler men it’s been wonderful to see more and more people documenting, restoring and caring about these bastions of Americana. Social media has certainly contributed positively to continuing their legacy.
Looking for some place to road trip to? Why not pick a place that combines two magical options – ice cream and a muffler man?
Say hello to Chip, the ice cream scoop wielding giant who welcomes you to The Inside Scoop in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. This place is a roadtrippers trifecta. Roadside giant, delicious ice cream and a fab neon sign to boot. What’s not to love?