January 24, 2010

I just re-discovered Vernon. Not a person, a place, just down the road from where I’ve been staying in East LA. It’s home to only 100 people or so, but rich in photographic material. It’s skyline dotted with giant industrial machines and classic signage for comfortable places to eat. Restaurants that specialize in American food and Coca Cola, or in the case of “Mikes”, RC Cola. When was the last time you saw RC proudly displayed as an invitation to dine? Against the dark night, Mike’s hypnotic promise of famous burgers drew me in, but it was the shiny black Caddy that closed the deal.

Being a car guy I knew to ask the owner before taking a photo, but found the eateries door locked. Inside, a few gruff looking men milled about, the cook signaling to me that they were closed. I showed him my camera, and motioned to him that I wanted to shoot the car, through the glass doors calling out if he was the owner. He didn’t look to happy about all of this but came to the door, and after a little Q&A, reluctantly gave up trying to figure out what in the world I was doing, and told me to be careful. I told him I would stand well back from his jewel, and without another word he closed and locked the door, and went back to the gruff men, with their big jackets and dark woolen caps.

I’ll see the cook again this week when I surprise him with a photograph of his car. I like to imagine that it will be hung in back, behind the kitchen, in the little office where he counts the days receipts. His jewel, displayed under the lights of the diner with the famous burgers and RC Cola. And when somebody asks, he’ll tell the story of the man who showed up after closing one night, and took the picture, and brought the picture back to him. In Vernon.

Famous Caddy – Vernon
ISO 640, 24-70 @ 28mm, f/3.5 @ 1/25 sec – handheld – available light

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