Three days ago at the grocery store: Daughter points up to the arch over the Dairy case, a faux-stone assembly that classes up the joint something fierce, and says “that’s new.”

No, it’s not. It’s been there since forever.

“No, it’s new.” I look at it and notice that the word DAIRY bothers me - not the word itself, which makes you think of contented cows lowing in fields of clover, but the typeface, and the way the lowercase y touches the beam that separates the arch structure from the top of the case. I had no noticed that before. I am noticing it now.

Yesterday at the grocery store: I can’t stop looking at the y. It’s wrong. All the signage in the store is carefully created, and the store is getting away from Zapfina on its private-label stuff and doesn’t use Papyrus on the signs as much as before, which is good. If they ever used Comic Sans on something I would go right to artisanal pasta sauce and grab an $8.99 bottle of Vodka Sauce and hold it over my head and threaten to dash it on the floor unless they let me speak to the company’s graphic designer RIGHT NOW.


Hey, I’m Chet, I do the labels, what can I help you with? We can work this out.

Well, Chet, you ever consider that there are more fonts in the world than the ones that come with your computer? Don’t tell me you can’t afford them, because I’m pretty sure the mark-up on this pasta sauce is about 200%, and don’t tell me you don’t walk through the aisles and look at this - this - here look at this. LOOK AT IT.

It’s . . . coffee.

DAMN RIGHT it’s coffee, and you know what that label says, without saying it? Small-batch made by insufferable men with beards and black glasses, because the logo is san-serif with crossed axes to indicate it’s from the Pacific Northwest, and I bought that logo kit for $9.52 online last year. Here - see these tall squiggly hand-drawn letters? That indicates it’s quirky coffee for delightfully off-kilter individuals, like a young woman who wears pink cat-eye glasses she bought at the vintage store even though her eyes are perfectly fine, Chet, but it’s just part of her kicky appeal, the way she looks at life, the way people look at her hand-knitted cap and think she looks like a fun person who could also give me good advice about a four-day cleansing regimen. That’s what it says. This is coffee for people who have an Etsy. DO YOU UNDERSTAND CHET.

Sure, sure! Look, is there something I can get you? If you’ll just put down the vodka sauce we can talk about -

We can talk about what, Chet? Fonts? Like the one here on this vodka sauce? The label sucks, and that’s why they can charge nine dollars, because bad labels make some people think it’s an authentic family recipe that’s been unchanged fro 20 years and it was only available in New York but now it’s here, halla-fargin-lulia, it’s that Mamma Rubella sauce I read about in Martha Stewart two years ago. You can get away with a bad typeface if it’s authentic, and you’re selling pasta sauce or BBQ sauce or maybe frozen Gyro kits. But you sprayed crap fonts all over this place. Seriously PAPYRUS? Is this a grocery store or a acupuncture office in 1997?
This did not happen.

Today at the grocery store: the manager walks up to say hello, and we chat about this and that.

Say, when did you put that arch in over the dairy case? I ask. My daughter thinks it’s new.

“That? Oh . . . two years ago, I think.”


“But the letters we did about two months ago.

Ah. Speaking of the letters . . . the Dairy bothers me.

He looks back at the word Dairy and doesn’t exactly understand immediately why it bothers me.

The y. The descender on the Y is touching the bottom there. It shouldn’t be lower case. It should be smaller, all caps, and not that typeface.

“I’ll tell the guy who does it,” he grins. “And I’ll tell him he’d better do something about it or he might end up in a column in the newspaper.”

I smile: hah! That’s ridiculous.

Wouldn’t waste a lot of time and words on something like that.




Another town I found because a matchbook pointed me somwhere I’d never thought about before.

The proud and tidy civic structure:


If I’m not mistaken, this is a 40s structure - it certainly has the shapes and style of 30s Moderne, but the white stone seems like the sort of thing you do when you’re tired of everything being the same stone. The baroque version of Sstreamlined Moderne, perhaps.

The standard post-war rehab, cladding an old building in Modern Metal, with crappy 70s shingles to complete the confusion:

Possibly part of it fell off. Possibly Old Man Johnson who owned one-fourth of the building said no sir, I don’t like it.

Exquisite late-Deco building - and it’s a bar?

I don’t think it was always a bar. I will note the perpendicular sign, which many towns banned. They fell out of favor in the 60s and 70s; maybe someone said they were unsafe, because the old screws in the stone could come out and the sign could fall and hurt someone. I think they just decided they were junky, and cities would benefit by a nice uncluttered look. And towns instantly became less interesting.

My issue of the Commercial Archeology Society newsletter arrived today, and told the tale of a gorgeous sign that had survived since the 40s. The author noted that the city government wanted it removed back in the 70s, because it looked dated.

You can imagine those city officials, can't you? Round balding heads with wire-rimmed glasses and bushy sideburns and shiny suits with wide collars and brown ties with fat knots over a mustard-colored shirt. The arbiters of taste.

The ol’ Double-Ugh: blinded upper floor and shingles.

Three buildings tied together against their will by 10 gallons of puke-green paint.

Why this one, you ask? Because it’s been through a lot. The blank top once had a cornice, I’m guessing - the stones indicate it was built between 1910 and 1925, let’s say. And below . . . .

Glass-Block modernization could be from the late 30s, but the stone, the metal and the big green center door suggests late 40s or very early 50s. It really doesn’t know what it wants to be, but it doesn’t have any choice.

Here’s the hotel whose matchbook sent me here in the first place. It was once the finest in town, the Queen:

Now all that’s left - I assume - is the bar, which occupies the old lobby and shows the glories of what it once was. Photo here, on Yelp.

The upper floors are just grim, though.

The turquoise panels, perhaps an earl 60s decision, were not done in consultation with the spirit of the building. To put it mildly.


Another very-late-Deco building, or rather early Moderne with Deco ornaments. All of which suggests it was built right before the crash or shortly afterwards. Here’s the thing: looks as crisp and clean and timeless as the day it was born. No downtown is ever harmed by a building like this.


“So, how’s business?” isn’t a question you want to ask.

It has a theatricality that suggests it was once, well, a theater, but the entrance looks unaltered, and that's not a movie-theater entrance.

I’m sparing you the elephant-man-skin stone of the building to its right.


The Stapleton is a beaut, and it’s possible the ground floor is the original design.

Is the original Cover theater’s facade still lurking beneath the metal?

Eyebrow awning over the entrance, metal screen: the Civic Style of the late 50s / early 60s.

Phone company or newspaper? The latter, but it could go either way.

Here's the town: have a stroll.


Just a little Fargo today, and of course the Tumblr fired off around noon. See you around!



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