Shot this picture last week for no reason - I was driving by, and saw the old sign lit up. Grabbed the camera while waiting for the green light. The Varsity is one of the few neighborhood theaters still standing - it was my theater in college, part of the wonders of Dinkytown. Reminds you that the world was in living color:

I saw "Casablanca" there, for the first time. It was snowing when we left. (Swirling flakes. You turned your collar and lit a cigarette and hunched your shoulders and played at being Bogie, as every guy will do at some point. As every guy should.) I remember the weather because you used to go outside right after you saw a movie. You passed through the lobby, which always had a day-after-Christmas mood when the film was over, and you went right out into the ordinary world.  From one big dark room to another – but the latter seemed devoid of stories, just a set without a plot to fill it. Now we leave the theater and return to the Mall: one imaginary world exchanged for another.

The Varsity, incidentally, was originally the University; it opened in 1915, and was remodelled in '39 by the local team of Liebenberg and Kaplan, ace theatrical architects. Their work still stands all over town. Including this structure on Lake Street:

It was a1952 "Hasty Tasty" restaurant. Their early incarnations were much less modern. To demonstrate the versitility of the duo, they did a movie theater right around the street - it's the Suburban World now, but it was the Granada then. You could take off that facade with a cheese slicer:


The marquee doesn't sit well with the building, but no one minds. Old marquees were staid and utilitarian; the great golden age of movie marquees have more emotional resonance these days than the psuedo-classical facades off which they hang. Neon and curves and waves of flowing lights; that's a marquee. The Sub World's marquee looked like this a few years ago, when I wandered by and snapped some shots:


Ordinary day by modern standards; shot a video for next week. We’re going to do all Halloween vids for the next month, with an escalating sense of frustration with the seasonal overkill. This one was set in a giant store that moved into the empty shell of an old furniture store by Southdale. It was a Wickes, I think – yes, surprisingly Wickes! – and from the looks of it, the building went up in the mid 60s. It’s the only building in the area that still looks like it did when it was built, and hence it looks old, out of date. To some, anyway – to me it has timeless modern lines, ahistorical, owing nothing to any other era. Also, it kinda sucks:

They could have put more glass on the front. But it’s still cool, in an unloved and forgotten way. Looks like an incredibly large rambler, doesn’t it?

 I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s nothing to keep from saying it again: we have an image of Haunted Houses as crumbling creepy cobwebbed Victorian houses because that was the style of the grandparents. That was the old style; those were the houses that fell into disrepair when the old lady or bitter spinster retreated to her parlor, drew the shades, and let the papers pile up in the unused rooms. Now the style from Grandpa’s time is the rambler; you’d think we’d adjust accordingly. But no: in a hundred years kids will still equate Victorian with Haunted.

If any of this whets your appetite for some pictures of great signs and old buildings, well, here's one of those Flikr sites where you absolutely have to see everything. It's mostly Ohio - states with diminished economies are often treasure-houses of archaic urban detritus. Boom towns eat the past for breakfast, and they have no time for Bummie's High Spot. I look at pictures like this, and I feel like a medieval Roman living among the ruins of a much more interesting civilization.

Heaven is full of neon, at least the American Sector. Hell is full of yellow backlit plastic.


I'd say more, but it's column night, AND we have a houseguest. So: New ad in the old ad archive; Lance Lawson Thursday over at Have a fine Thursday!