of outdoor advertisements from a bygone 17era,
they are called "ghost signs." I search for them on city streets, in town squares, and along country roads. Some are weather-beaten billboards; others are faded murals painted years ago on the sides of old buildings. Whatever words 18remain Fruiterer...Apothecary...Gramophones...Pan-Handle Coffee
-are often barely legible, pale fragments of yesterday's consumer culture 19should
strike me as silly or sad. After all, there they are: advertising 20products and businesses
that no longer exist. Yet, they themselves survive without 21apology, with instead,
their simple claims and complex colors. The contrast draws me in every time.
I collect ghost signs. Not the signs themselves, but photos of them. 22Driving home from school one, chilly October evening, my collection got its start.
I had made the same drive countless times before, but I had never noticed the sign.
Then there it was, an ad for "Joe's Café," perched atop a metal pole, which 23was upright
under a cape of kudzu vines. Maybe it was the way the 24setting sun's illumination of
the yellowing plastic. Maybe it was the small hole, 25a clue to
vandalism or of a hailstorm. 26Instead, something
about the sign touched me. I pulled over. In the twilight, I got out of the car, snapped a picture with my phone, and sent it to some friends. I vowed to return with my camera to better capture the forlorn, luminous beauty of my discovery. Since that dusky evening, I have been happily haunted by ghost signs.
Once in a while, I take a friend with me on my searches. People who know of my fascination will point me to where they think they have seen a ghost sign. Favorite finds include an ad for sliced bread, one for a "modern" motel, and yet another forfountain pen repair services. As fun as it is to have company, my best hunts have been 27solitude
trips. I appreciate the beauty of ghost signs more when 28I like the signs,