“When you have a brush in your hand, inking a beautiful woman is a lot like running your hands over her.”
“Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact”
Originally known as the Willard Hotel, this property on South 6th Avenue – a stone’s throw away from the heart of downtown – was renamed the Pueblo Hotel in 1944. This weathered sign was installed in the 1950s. The hotel and apartments closed in 1984, when I was only one year old, and is currently home to a law office. The sign remains, though, even if it might be a little misleading. It was restored to like-new condition back in 2012 and I’m really pleased that I photographed it before the change.
“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
I’m not sure if this place still exists. Unfortunately, I don’t even remember where it is. It’s probably somewhere on South Stone Avenue, or in the warehouse district on South Park Avenue. I suppose I could look it up, but it really isn’t important. I just remember riding my bike through the wrecked car lots, the warehouses, over the railroad tracks by the lumber yards and steel yards and welding operations.
I try to image what these places must have looked like when they were brand new. I can’t seem to conjure the image in my head. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a salvage yard or a warehouse that looked clean and new, with fresh signage and rust-free construction. These places always look like they’ve been there forever – they always look old. Old and tired.
This is a building on Subway Street in Bisbee, Arizona, a small town that used to be the most productive mining operation in America. The mine isn’t fully operational today, and the town was in danger of becoming a ghost town after the mine shut down several decades ago. Low property values motivated an influx of artists, hippies, and dropouts, and it has become something of a vacation destination. It’s a beautiful town with a service industry, hotels, and local markets – one-hundred miles from Tucson, and one-hundred years away from modern life.
Sadly, this doorway is now obscured by a metal gate, and has been repainted several times. Famously, even though there’s no solid proof, this building is the oldest structure in Bisbee. It was supposedly once owned by screen actor John Wayne, and is currently a residence available for rent; I used to live in the small apartment next door. It’s a simple little building with few windows, dark inside but built to remain cool in the Arizona heat without the advantage of modern air conditioning. I managed to photograph the outside of the building before a gate was erected and a metal door was installed. It was genuinely beautiful.
But like so many beautiful things, it had to be covered, protected, and removed from the public eye.
I’m just glad I got there before it disappeared.
Near the intersection of Stone & Ft Lowell in Tucson, Arizona is this heap of rotting bricks, right across the street from a family owned Indian restaurant and a gas station. Al’s Deadwood Place has been closed for a long time, probably close to ten years, but it still sits here, the ‘cocktail’ sign slowly fading, the cloth long-since ripped from the awning. I only set foot in this establishment once, but the experience was memorable enough.
Deadwood was the darkest bar I had ever been in, before or since. My girlfriend and I sat down at the bar, a chatty woman behind the counter excited to share her high-school son’s academic successes with us. The place was dead silent; no jukebox or radio, just the humming of the electricity and the crunch of ice when our drinks were being mixed. We were probably two rounds of tequila deep before I noticed that there was another man at the far end of the bar, clinging to the shadows, not noticeably conscious. He was slumped over, head down, reminding me of some kind of bar-fly a caricature.
There was nobody else at the bar. Just my girlfriend and I, college-aged and curious about the bar down the street, the chatty-Kathy, and the figured slumped over in the shadows. He reminded me of a generic cartoon drunk, like something you’d see at Moe’s Tavern in The Simpsons.
Who knew how long he’d been there? Who knew how long he’d remain after we left
Only the barmaid, I suppose.
This was easily the dingiest, darkest, dirtiest little hole-in-the-wall I had ever patronized.
I kind of liked it. I’m bummed I can’t go there again.
The Riviera Motor Lodge opening at 515 W Miracle Mile Road (then called Casa Grande Road) in Tucson, Arizona back in 1953. In 2016, a fabricator was hired to refurbish the vintage sign. During a month-long process the sign’s paint scheme was redone and a red & white neon lighting pattern was added. This image was taken several years before the restoration; it was made with the palladium printing-out process to generate the golden hues and authentic vintage look.
If there’s one place you want to see old broken signs in front of defunct businesses, it’s the southwest – Tucson is a treasure trove, if you take the time to drive around and open your eyes. This sign is outside an old auto mechanic, long-abandoned with plywood for windows and newspaper blowing through the car bays like tumbleweeds in an old Spaghetti Western.
Adjacent is an old shuttered hotel – I’ve been told a hotel that was once considered a very posh, must-see place – called The Spanish Trail. This is all right off of I-10 East, five minutes from Downtown Tucson. The highway is screaming, and these creaky old buildings just sit, gathering graffiti and squatters, and an unusual amount of abandoned shopping carts.
I’m not even saying that it’s tragic. I find a beauty in these remnants. I guess the only thing really poignant, to me, is that these places are chilling reminders that things don’t ever stay the same for very long.