Monday, August 20, 2007


I spent this last week with EFU and YFU and my parents at my parents' summer home in the middle of nowhere. The middle of nowhere in this case was in the mountains of Southwestern Pennsylvania. You know you're getting close to where my folks are when you come on the sign that tells you to watch for horses and buggies over the next five miles.

I notice road signs a lot when I'm out in the country. Signage generally is more prevalent in urban and suburban areas, but those signs blend in with the buildings. The signs in rural parts stick out in sharper relief.
If you add to the discord between the natural setting and the man made signs the fact that when I'm out in the country, I'm in less familiar surroundings so that it would be a lot easier for me to get lost, it's not surprising that I pay more attention to them out there. Most of the signs in the country either tell you where you are (geographically) or point you towards somewhere you might want to be, but occasionally, you run across a sign that reminds you of more than just location.

I like the vector signs (the signs that give you a distance and a direction) most of all. I like them so much that I snuck out early one morning just to shoot a few of them. I went by myself because the kids weary of me taking pictures of signs they find uninteresting. My folks would just find it weird. As do other people. I took the vector signs from two different directions of this same intersection (Pocahontas is still nine miles to the west, whether you're coming from the north or the east.), and I would have taken it from a third, but people were starting to stare at me. One toothless (but polite) gentleman went so far as to ask me what I was taking pictures of. I told him, but I'm not sure he believed me. I would have told him a lie if I could have thought of one that was more interesting than the truth, but I was a little slow that morning.

The cool thing about the vector signs is that you drive all over the place out in the country, and you see signs pointing to the same places. Then you get to one of those places, and you see signs pointing to places you've already been. It's a great example of how everything is connected. We Unitarian Universalists (by the way, if you're looking for reports on my sexual activity, just abandon all hope now; all of those giant Amish families notwithstanding, there's no sex out in the country; at least not for me) are very fond of talking about the interconnectedness of all existence. Really, if we started to canonize people (which we won't), right after we'd made a saint out of Emerson, we'd probably go for Chief Seattle. You hear him quoted all the time in UU churches, when we're talking about the seventh principle: "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." If we had overlords (which we don't), I reckon that my UU overlords would be happy that being in the country reminds me of the seventh principle. They might not be so happy that I'm reminded by the highway signs, but whatever. "Whatever" is also one of the UU principles, but I think they use other language.

I saw the sign below a few weeks or so when I was up for a family reunion. It seems a bit out of place in Salisbury, Pennsylvania, though not at all out of place in front of a UCC church. If I had to be a Christian (which I don't, and won't), I'd be a UCC member since they're the most liberal of the Christian religions, and they're pretty friendly towards the gays. I have my doubts about Gracie Allen being affiliated either with the UCC or the UUs, but I think that the UUs (with the above provisos about this never happening) could make Ms. Allen the patron saint of irony. Saint Gracie. Sometimes when I'm exercising my perfect deadpan (much easier on the Net, but I can do it in person, too), and someone starts to correct me for something that I thought was obviously ironic, I say, "Say goodnight, Gracie." No one gets that anymore. It makes me sad to see genius (especially comic genius) forgotten.

Anyway, below is the sign in context. Southwestern Pennsylvania is, well, an area with enormous social capital, but despite the fact that the people come in two varieties (Amish and everything else, the two varieties being distinguishable only by clothing and facial hair), there is a dizzying assortment of churchgoing options. True, they're almost all protestant religions that I wouldn't be able to tell one from the next, but there are lots of (slightly) different churches out there. And they almost all look pretty.

This particular UCC church is, I shit you not, located at the intersection of Ord and Gay Streets:

Yeah, I know: WTF? Ord Street? Those crazy Pennsylvanians.

There are, in fact, a number of odd and/or amusing street names out in God's country. Most of them we just giggled at, but on one particularly long drive to an amusement park, I snapped a few pictures.

I kept looking around hoping to find Silk Purse Lane, but I guess it's true what they say. I'm afraid the next one is more likely named after the meat product than the puppet.

The kids liked this next one the best. I think it's a vanity street, by which I mean that there's only one house on that street, and the house had the same name as the street. Still, it's a good thing to chant in the car.

By the way, I mentioned the whole notion of social capital and how it's highest where there's the least diversity to EFU, and she looked at me like I'd lost my mind. She was afraid that I might actually want to live out there. Naturally, I'd only live in Southwestern Pennsylvania if I could bring along my own order of oversexed homonks to do my bidding. I figure we could set up a farm and guest house. We'd make and sell excellent goat cheese and (equally excellent) handcrafted sex toys. All are welcome at the church of TED, but if you want to join the inner circle, you'd have to be a bottom, of course. I'd need to minimize positional diversity in order to maximize social capital. I gotta go with the research on that one.

It could happen. If you're driving through Somerset County sometime, just keep an eye out for my signs.


Mark said...

I was hopping through blogs, (picked you up from durban bud) and OMG!!!!thats the town I live in!!! The town is so small I can tell you who lives in all the houses in the pictures. This was so cool to run into.

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

I had heard that Salisbury was the new San Francisco. I guess it was the lack of rainbow flags that threw me.

Paul said...

Great signage. Boy, you're hard up looking for something to do when you visit the parents!