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When in Doubt, Take the Picture

September 27, 2007

Driving to work yesterday, I noticed that the Big Boy I see most often was looking mighty shiny. For months (or maybe it’s been years—time flies) I’ve been watching him deteriorate, his arms and face fading to match the white checks on his overalls, his burger bun showing more and more bare spots. I kept meaning to take his picture to document this local conversation piece (I talked about him with Mr. Karen anyway) but never got around to it during his pre-makeover stage. Mr. and I took a walk after dinner last night and stopped to study the newly resplendent boy. We think he was repainted rather than replaced, but I didn’t want to go in and ask. I neglected to bring my camera on the walk but I stopped this morning and got my picture. Now I just have to wait until he fades and flakes again to get the companion shot.

The weekend we drove Up North, past several giant boys hoisting burgers to the sky, I pondered aloud about going on a Big Boy tour of Michigan. I’d like to see more of the state in which I live and planning itineraries around taking photos of fiberglass (I assume they’re fiberglass) boys around the state appealed to me—it’d be a grand quest. Mr. Karen pointed out that some of the restaurants keep their boy inside, which made me somewhat less enthusiastic about it, since I don’t like to actually go in and eat at Big Boy all that much. But I might still do the tour. Looking at the Big Boy website, there are over 100 locations here in the Great Lake State; that’ll keep me busy for a while. I also looked at Flickr, where there are already two groups for pictures of Big Boys, but neither seems to be a comprehensive documentation project. Confusingly, I found a few pictures of Michigan boys in cities not shown on the chain’s website. Are these renegades? Now I’m not sure how many there really are, but I don’t need to figure that out now.

At any rate, the shiny boy reminded me of other things I meant to take pictures of. Some aren’t around I can’t any longer in any form, like the cute little brick house that used to stand between the hardware store and the Salvation Army, since torn down so the church could have more parking spaces. But some are, like the mailbox man. When he first appeared, he was shirtless. I noticed it but didn’t think much about it. Some weeks later, he had a dark tank top painted over his formerly bare chest, and there was a story in the local paper that people had complained the bare-chested version was indecent because his pecs looked like female breasts. Now that he’s wearing clothes, he has several outfits. Near Christmas, he changed to a red tank top and donned a Santa hat. After that, he wore a Red Wings jersey for a while, now he’s got a white tank with the Tigers Old English D on it. I’m interested to see what he’ll put on next.

Then there’s the art in the common area of the office building I work in. Specifically one picture that showed up as part of the redecorating. Most of the new art is from what I think of as the bland hotel school—non-offensive floral collages and unassuming abstracts. But one print disturbs me. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, but what I see in it is a vortex of doom, sucking me down into darkness. I also stopped this morning to take a couple shots of a colorful building I’ve appreciated for a long time but which now has half of one side covered in whitewash.

So as many pictures of trivial everyday stuff as I’ve been taking, I want to take more. Pixels are cheap; I don’t need to save them for special occasions.

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