Neon Dreams and Neon Missions

Zandy's Allentown

Closing Up at Zandy’s in Allentown, PA, 2009.

A few days ago I had a dream. Don’t laugh, but it was about a sign. I was driving down a familiar road, or at least, a road that was familiar in my dream. I passed by a large and impressive sign, one that I must have passed by a thousand times and somehow never noticed. It was lit up in the middle of the day and had all sorts of neon and bulbs and all the bells and whistles. I pulled the car over and realized I was still far away, so I turned around and parked in the lot. By the time I got to the sign, the lights had gone out, and I could see that there was this odd LCD sign bisecting the great old neon one, stuck in the middle of it as if it had been thrown there with great force. The people who worked at that business, which was beauty salon, were leaving to go to lunch. Two women and a man. They walked up the street and I followed them, figuring when they would get back they would turn the lights back on.

The people stopped to eat at someplace that I knew was not a restaurant. It resembled a college dorm. They sat down at a table and blabbed to each other and paid no notice of me telling them they weren’t in a restaurant.

I woke up the next morning and told Laura about this dream. And all sorts of memories crept up.

I’ve learned from experience that no one wants to hear anyone’s problems, least of all read about them, so I’ll keep this part of the story brief: I was working in television, and was laid off in 2009 due to fiscal problems at the station. Following that, partially unemployed for a little over two years. A week before the layoff, I bought my first D-SLR, a Pentax k20d. It was a struggle not to think Oh, great, just made this major purchase, and now what? But I looked at my new camera a different way. I don’t believe in coincidence. I was supposed to use this.

News Agency, Quakertown, PANews Agency, Quakertown, PA. Taken in May of 2009.

I had always wanted to take pictures of signs, but my life in television had been harried and hurried and I never felt like I could take the time. After a tough day of job search, I’d try out the Pentax. I cut my teeth on a few locals, the News Agency sign in Quakertown, which I felt was not long for this world in 2009 and lo and behold it still stands. The neon of Zandy’s, which sits across Double Decker Records, one of my favorite haunts. And the majestic neon of the Allentown Rescue Mission, which had just recently been restored.God Is Love, Allentown Rescue Mission, Allentown, PA

Allentown Rescue Mission, Allentown, PA. Also from 2009.

Somehow drawn to these old friends after I had my dream, I went back out for another visit. I hit up the Allentown Rescue Mission first. I had never gotten a shot of the neon cross out front, though why I can’t say other than to bring up how drawn I was to the massive “God Is Love” on top. It was just after sundown, my favorite “neon magic hour.” I found a difference this time out: the “S” was out from “Is.” So know the sign reads “God I Love.”

Allentown Rescue Mission, Allentown, PAAllentown Rescue Mission, September 2013

That works, too.

And while I was at it, the neon cross:

Cross at the Allentown Rescue Mission, Allentown, PA

For days after, I really saw my dream as something negative, of being ignored, of finding what I was looking for but once I had it, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Maybe that was true, but lost in that is something truly positive: we all have our missions in life, and in the end it doesn’t matter that a few people—or many—aren’t listening. We should continue to live, to seek and strive, and if we don’t find what we’re looking for, we move on. Whatever pain we have endured, we use to help others who have struggled with the same thing. We do what we were put on Earth to do with the tools God has given us, whether it be a camera or a pen or even just an idea.

God I Love, Allentown Rescue Mission, Allentown, PA

This is our mission. This is our life. And in the end, no amount of disappointment and struggle matters in the light of that.

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