Stop me if I’ve said this before, but it had great impact: a few months ago I was listening to “Fresh Air” on NPR, my favorite return-home radio program. The interview was with a college professor and social media expert. She was talking about how her students, in this age of social media, were not able to reinvent themselves in college as prior generations had, because Facebook and Twitter and Instagram followed them around, keeping them anchored to their past.

Whereas I’m sure that this college professor’s students felt that pressure to remain in their past, the ones who make the hard decision to shed the past and move on are going to be all the better for it. Bear in mind this comes from the man who earlier this year said to himself, “Huh. It’s been 25 years since I graduated high school. Wonder if there was a reunion. Oh, well.”

It sounds strange coming from someone who takes photographs of old signs, but there is an impossible danger to living in the past. I have an appreciation of the past, which is not the same thing. Ever had a friend who wished he was still in high school? Genuinely frightening, right? I appreciate my high school years for what they were, but put a bullet in my head if I had to go back and relive them.

Things are changing and changing rapidly in my life, so in honor of that, I decided to throw together some of my pictures of newer signs with an appreciation of the past:

The Inside Scoop neon sign, Coopersburg, PAThe Inside Scoop, Coopersburg, PA

This sign, to me, speaks volumes about what a truly good sign is all about. Honestly, this sign strikes such a mood that they could serve you ice cream in flavors like Dead Camel and Frozen Wart and you’d still go in a second time because of the atmosphere. This was one of the very first sign pictures I took and is one of the main reasons why I still do this.

Neato Burrito neon sign, Harrisburg, PANeato Burrito, Harrisburg, PA

Serendipity. This summer I was in downtown Harrisburg trying to find the Pep’s Grill “Bar” sign. I found it all right, but what I wasn’t  finding was parking. Eventually, I ended up on a cross street, right underneath the Neato Burrito sign. I was pretty sure I was parked illegally, so I ran over to Pep’s Grill and got a few shots of it. It was one of the hottest days of the year. I was sweating pretty good. There were two Mennonite girls in light blue dresses and bonnets and sneakers on the corner, handing out tracts. They handed me one as I went back to my car. I put it on the passenger’s side seat and was about to put my camera away when I said to myself, don’t be ridiculous, take the shot. So I snapped off a few of the Neato Burrito sign. Love the style, love the way the background shows up in this. No regrets, other than I had already eaten lunch.

The Capitol Restaurant neon sign, Bloomsburg, PAThe Capitol Restaurant, Bloomsburg, PA

For years, The Capitol Theatre in Bloomsburg was something other than a theatre, although the marquee stayed. It was student housing when I first took a shot of it in 2011. This year, they decided to make a restaurant out of it. As you can see, where the marquee was, they put up an LCD panel, and they eventually put one on the other side. I’m so glad they restored it, that you know what, I don’t even care that they’ve pretty much ruined it.

Again, things are changing, but I’m not really sure at this moment how they will go. One thing’s for sure, though: I’m not looking back.

Ghosts of Harrisburg

There are many things that make a great photograph. Composition, lighting, and my personal favorite from Ansel Adams: where to stand. Contrast is another factor, and by that I don’t necessarily mean something you can control in Photoshop. I recall watching a retrospective on Monty Python and hearing Terry Jones say something very interesting on the nature of comedy, how he harkened back to what Browning said that a contrast of ideas in poetry yielded a star, and in that same way, their contrasting ideas brought out a laugh. That’s always stayed with me, and I find it applicable in all sorts of ways.


Exhibit A:

I love ghost signs, and sometime soon I’ll create a page specifically dedicated to them. They are the ultimate endangered signs, fading slowly out of existence, and whereas they might still be around in ten years, some clumsy oaf might come along and paint the darn thing, or worse, tear the building down. Which has been known to happen. Anyway.
This shot is good and I was happy with it. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that this brick building is out in Lancaster County somewhere, nestled in between expansive fields, the nearest farmhouse just visible on the horizon. Perhaps not even in an area that idyllic and rural, perhaps in a proud old Pennsylvania town next to a feed mill.


Surprise! This place is smack dab in the middle of the Harrisburg metro area, right by the train tracks and Interstate 83. A few weeks ago I spotted this one sitting in the middle of the city and wondered if it had been dropped here by a passing tornado.

BONUS on this trip:

I continued down the street to New Cumberland that morning because I had been foraging for movie theater marquees and found this one was in my wheelhouse for that morning.


This is the West Shore Theater, built in 1940, a true one-screen theater. Unlike most of its kind, this one looks seems to be prosperous. How could you not want to stop in and catch Silver Linings Playbook when you see “West Shore” in grand letters above it?