A while ago I blogged about finding my “must shoot” sign in Montana, the glorious Circle Inn Motel in Havre. But what happens when you drive to a location and learn that your “must shoot” sign is no longer standing? Today is the story of one such sign, and the moment I discovered it was gone.
After spending three days in Washington, the Chasing Neon crew headed to the eclectic city of Portland. I’d only been to Portland once before for approximately 8 hours in July of 2012. It was a dreadfully overcast day and I was beyond dissatisfied with my photographs, including my images of the famed Holiday Motel. I couldn’t wait to return when the weather was better, and even asked a Portland native I happened upon serendipitously when it would be sunny in the City of Roses. He told me to visit in the week after the Fourth of July, so when this Chasing Neon trip happened, that is exactly what we did.
The advice I received couldn’t have been more true. We drove into town two days after the holiday to a beautiful blue sky, and headed straight for Northeast Martin Luther King Boulevard. As we drew closer, buildings began to look familiar and I careened my head from side to side searching for the sign.
And then it happened.
I recognized the motel building and large satellite dish, our GPS triumphantly announced we had arrived, and the sign was nowhere in sight. A red and black plastic monstrosity stood in its place. I kept looking, fighting disbelief. Maybe its been placed in the courtyard for some reason, or tucked in the odd storage building next door. Perhaps its behind the property, or in the lobby, or some other part of the tiny motel I haven’t seen yet. The roof? That had to be it. Each hypothetical hiding spot I thought of was more ridiculous than the last.
We sat in the empty parking lot next door as I dealt with the reality that was staring me in the face. Shock, anger and grief were experienced almost simultaneously. I know signs are frequently lost, it’s the reason I wanted to make this trip. But why the Holiday Motel? And where could that googie fantastic sign possibly be? Was it sold to a collector? Please don’t tell me it was scrapped.
I wanted to go into the lobby and ask what had happened to the sign that was at the top of my priority list but wasn’t sure how my question would be received. Eventually I had to simply accept the sign was gone.
I snapped a photograph of the new sign to notify the sign geek community but sounding the alarm after a sign is missing rarely brings results. You can’t save what isn’t there. All you can do is remember, and hope that the photographs you do have somehow do justice to the beauty that was.
And so I leave you with my farewell to the Holiday Motel, a photographic tribute made possible with the help of a few sign geek friends.
A fellow photographer once said always, always, always… make the picture. He was right. To that I would add, save the signs.