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Saturday, April 2, 2005


More signs


Another classic San José sign is this example at Camden and Leigh. Though most of the small merchant signs have obviously been replaced, the overall look is still there. It might be as recent as the 1970s, I’m guessing, but it still looks dated as hell, and not just because of the faded colors. Somebody probably once thought this looked timeless.

There were some pretty good signs on the stores themselves, but as I turned to face them, a man came out of the hair salon and demanded to know who I was working for. I told him I was a student of photography, and he wanted to know where. Then he told me I couldn’t just come around taking pictures like this.

Now, I was on private property, and it’s true that the owner could bar me for trespassing or something, so I wasn’t going to press the issue. I was more than happy to leave. But then the man went on to say that taking pictures was against the law unless I got “permission from the city.”

“The city?” I asked.

“Yeah, I guess so,” he replied, confident that it was the role of The Government to protect Regular Folk like him from Evil Doers like me.

What I wanted to say was, “You don’t even know what you’re afraid of, do you? You’ve heard over and over to keep an eye out for unusual activity, so when you see some guy with a camera in your parking lot, he’s got to be trouble, right? Look: I drove up in the middle of the day and parked where you could read my license plate. I got out of the car and stood right where people could see what I was doing. I made no effort to hide or disguise myself. If I were somehow going to do evil deeds with my pictures, however you imagine that happening, do you think I would be so obvious about it? Do you not think that I might come at night? or on Sunday? or stand across the street with a telephoto lens, or drive by in a car, or — how about this? — I could just use one of those damn cell phone cameras everyone has now!

“No? Well, you’re right! You got me! I represent a local association of evil doers, and we were plotting to bring the Silicon Valley economy to its knees … starting with your hair salon! Now that you’ve foiled that plot, we’ll just have to find another symbolic power center, like a thrift store or an El Pollo Loco. Curse your vigilance!”

Instead, I just assured him that my motives were good, lawful, and noncommercial.

“I’m going to need your name,” he said, pulling out a notebook.

Normally, I’m very kind, patient and polite to strangers, so what came next surprised me. I laughed in his face.

The exchange ended there, and I left. He probably took my license number, so maybe he’ll come take pictures of my house. That’s fine. All the same, I don’t feel like disrespecting the guy’s wishes, no matter how nonsensical, so I won’t show his crappy storefront and reveal whatever trade secrets may reside there, such as whether walk-ins are or are not welcome. I also won’t reveal the store’s name or phone number, which the owner divulges only to those who look at a large plastic sign visible from the street. All I was really interested in was the old stock art in his sign, which you see everywhere if you live in 1982.

They've got the look

On second thought, the name is just too perfect to keep to myself. The man’s salon is called Hair Conspiracy.