Long ago, but not too far away (less that the 438 miles credited on the sign) I was driving to Santa Fe, by way of Durango and Cortez, but was just pulling into Monticello, Utah before make the left turn east into Colorado. Having left so early in the a.m. from Moab that no cafe was open, and being in “road mileage” mode and not having noticed the cafe in Monticello I had just passed, this sign came into view on the corner at my left turn.
[Warning: Caffeinated road humor ahead]
My peripheral vision fed my peripheral mind the information needed. I looked to my left and saw caffeine salvation in plain black and white. So I did the turnaround indicated, walked into the little cafe, ordered a couple of shots of espresso to go and we all laughed at their sign’s effectiveness.
For decaffeinated road-hypnotized mileage-accruing drivers skirting the Four Corners are known to be not very aware of things like driving by a brightly painted, hard-to-miss large espresso cafe just four feet off the highway. Or so they claimed. And so I proved.
That was in 2000. In 2003, this sign was still upright and weathering gracefully, guiding the coffee faithful to their bliss before entering the great cafe barrens of that time.
But lo, in October of 2010, when I returned up this same road to Monticello, intending to shoot the sign again for posterity and a veritable record of it’s longevity (attributed of course, to caffeine) I was saddened to see it no longer was on duty. The sentinel of warning had fallen, or been retired. I did see the cafe on my right after making the turn north towards Moab, and stopped to do my Four Corners ritual, grabbed a cup to go, and asked “Where is the old sign?”
The guy at the counter looked puzzled, so I described it to him. “It was an icon,” I added, as he’d not yet comprehended the importance of it’s absence. He chuckled then, and said he’d never seen such a sign, but had only started working there a year before. It is in those kinds of moments when the specter of mortality can settle down about you laughing in transparence to all others present and clueless of what great monuments to the American story have fallen. It’s a subtle moment, of course. For specters are artful at subtlety. That’s what they live for actually.
Entropy tries to clue us in with hints
The human body, after seven years, has replaced each and every cell residing within it at the end of that span of time. Some cells only live for days; others last—about seven years. I guess signs have that same rhythm, for each time I’ve stopped at the cafe and inquired of the old sign, hoping beyond hope that one day one of the people behind the counter will say something along the order of “Oh! That old sign? It’s in back, stacked behind a bunch of boxes.”
In my fever-dreamed mind, which is always in that state by the time I get to Monticello due to espresso jonesing, I then always ask the phantom barista, “Can I move the boxes, take it out back and photograph it again?” The wise barista always smiles and answers, “Of course you can,” for she is enlightened as to the monumentality of it’s hallowed place in that sleepy corner of Utah.
And before I emerge from that hallucination, I have my updated shot, and drive away elated at my good fortune in knowing that yet another record of good art has been entered into the Universe’s timeline of such transactions. But, to this day, I have never seen, nor heard tale of, this fateful and factual sign since that day in the year 2003, when it again guided me to a wakeful state of mind as I was about to point my way towards Durango.
Should anyone from Moab, Monticello, Cortez, Durango, Blanding or the resident spirits of Anasazi ruins have knowledge of this missing sign, let me know please of any reports of it’s whereabouts, as it is a wanted fugitive from the arts. And I am about to begin yet another search for it’s remains.
Having found the lost stash of over 16,000 raw data images from my little Canon A5, a relic of silicon archaic-ness, while looking for something completely unrelated, I have since been incorporating a lot of those photographs into “America: Lost & Found,” a series title nodding to the loss of such an archive from my body of work for seven years. Yes. Seven years. This photograph is in the queue awaiting it’s transformation to one of that series.
Returning to my premise above, my guess is that all things biological and technological have the same replicant retirement date of seven years, to the day.
Cafe-caffeine, caffeine-cafe. Hmm… is there a connection?
PS, for emphasis: I am hoping that those of you living in the Four Corners area recall this sign yourselves, and may possibly know when it was removed? I’d be really interested to hear if you have any memories of it’s tenure there in Monticello. I’m hoping I can actually find this sign tucked away between a building, or in a shed somewhere, probably covering a hole in the wall. I would truly love to locate it again, so if you have knowledge or suspect it’s whereabouts, feel free to contact me, even if it’s just a cool recollection of it having been there once upon a time.