Monday, April 14, 2008

Strange Things Done in the Midnight Sun

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold...

If you slice off the top portion of the photograph, it looks as if we could be on the marge of Lake LaBarge, the very spot where we cremated Sam McGee. So convincing is the artwork upon the Seafood and Rib Shack at Roebuck, South Carolina, that we are fairly drawn to confirm by touch that it's only paint upon a commonplace structure.

Not only is the painting very good, but it is made all the more riveting by the colorlessness and sheer desolation of the area surrounding the building. On this bright sunny day, the gradations of cold blue color present as much mood as illustration. The artist's brush seems to have been dipped in Freon.

Beyond the contrast of the building against the land is the paradox of the artwork against itself. The bottom portion reminds one of a wide screen Technicolor film while the top owes everything to a Loony Tunes cartoon. Often such impressive murals are interrupted by some discordant element such as a window air conditioner. In this case the intruder is the white aluminum gutter downspout. Then upstairs we have a cow cooking beef over a fire and a fish fishing for fish. The longer you confront this building, the more bizarre it becomes.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold

Friday, April 11, 2008

Of Human Baggage: The Pony Car is 44

On April 17, 1964, the Ford Mustang was introduced. It was the first and by 2005 the last "Pony" car in constant production. Its closest competitor, the Chevrolet Camaro was born in 1967 and died in 2002. During these 44 years the "Pony" class cars included Pontiac Firebird, Mercury Cougar, the AMC Javelin, Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Barracuda which got the official jump on the Mustang by two weeks.

We should be very clear on one point: the pony kink has nothing to do with a Pony car. They didn't have young women with stick on tails harnessed up to pull these things around. The only fetish involved was that of putting rubber to the road.

We were still a nation of full sized four door sedans during the peak of "Pony" car popularity. There's no legal definition for a Pony car, but in generally accepted terms it was smaller, though decidedly not a compact car. It was far less utilitarian and a more personal car for the better funded younger buyer. It was far lighter than sedans and increasingly more powerful than compact cars. It was comfortable for two people, but eschewed the interior opulence of the luxury sedans.

It hit the freedom note with the sporty casual look, but even more because it just was neither practical nor comfortable for riders in the back seat. So, dead weight was shed both by the use of lighter materials as well as nixing human baggage. In a nutshell, the Pony car allowed one to escape the gravity of family and unwanted passengers. That was and is the essence of freedom.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


We've stopped at a spot along a road which forms the back door geographically and perhaps anatomically to Santee, SC. Much of Highway 15 cuts though cultivated land, gently aging country homes, but there's a seedy stretch. "Seedy" is not to be considered in agricultural terms. In the section running north from Highway 176, this part of the road was once home to several prosperous truck stops.

As we've several times observed, nothing stanches the flow of economic blood from a road more than having an interstate highway placed in parallel to the affected section. Business evaporated like ether in August from these truck stops once I-95 opened in Orangeburg County. When such businesses die the buzzards which come along do not eat the buildings, but move into them. Those shiny new Peterbuilts no longer stop at these places. You're more likely to see rusted pickups or dinged up Datsuns among the uninsured vehicles parked in these lots. Vice can be nice, stylish, avant guard, but along here it has settled to the bottom rung. You know you've got something special when the plate glass is spray painted from the inside.

Random debris has been swept to the rear of the lot and the building seems empty and dormant. Even if this is the limit of advances by the new management, it's a great step upward. Here at the back door to Santee this is the yard of the month.