Signs…On, Of & From The Road

Lately I have been engaged in organizing my photo archives…trying to inject some order in the 26,000 photos (plus or minus) in the current inventory. It is a bit of a diversion from my ongoing “Faces & Profiles” photo project.

In going through the files, I took note of some of the unusual signs we photographed as we traveled around the country by motorcycle or van.  The technical quality is not always the best as many were shot through windshields or from the back of a motorcycle. I have selected a few from past trips as well as from recent adventures about town for your amusement.

Before turning you over to the slideshow, I want to take a moment to remind you of Hugh’s Antique Faire in downtown Petaluma…

Hugh is having an Antique Faire In Petaluma? Hugh Who? Hugh Laurie? (See next photo)


Note: To stop the slideshow and focus on a particular photo, simply place the cursor over the slideshow frame or window.

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Diving from Petaluma's Balshaw Bridge is prohibited! Really? Did somebody actually try to do it?

Soberanes statue sports spiffy straw Stetson…

As many readers of this blog live outside of Northern California, a little back story is in order.

Every city or town has its local legends and traditions, which at times spread far beyond the local borders. In Petaluma, we are nationally known for our Ugly Dog Contest and, at one time, for serving as the home of the World Wristwrestling Championship.

The prime mover behind Petaluma’s wrist-wrestling “tradition” was a local newspaper columnist, Bill Soberanes.  

A statue honoring Soberanes and the wrist-wrestling contest is located at a prominent spot in Petaluma’s downtown. For a fuller account of this history, see the New York Times/The Bay Citizen article by Hank Pellissier…Wrist-Wrestling Statue

Turning now to the statue….

Over the years I must have walked or driven past it thousands of times and never gave it much notice…until last Thursday. I was riding in the passenger seat and noticed something different as we drove by.  I quickly grabbed a camera off the floor of the car and fired off a quick frame, with no time for focus, composition, etc.  In other words, a quick and dirty snapshot…

© Frank Simpson, Petaluma, California

I have no idea whether the hat is still there, although I would like to think it is.

  • Perhaps the profile in the window (upper right hand corner) is the spirit of Bill Soberanes. 
  • Perhaps the spirit, in a whimsical moment, is responsible for the hat. It would be in keeping with the “spirit” of the man.

Perhaps the Emperor of Petaluma will consider lending his top hat to the other figure in the statue.  You really have to be a local to get this one…Not enough time or space to explain.

A New Media Report On Our Digital & Economic Health

Today’s media world is overwhelming and is often full of bad news. However, “news” has always been “bad” or at least alarming. The availability of “news” and social contacts online or via mobile devices entices many to devote every waking moment to monitoring the digital traffic on their glowing screens. 

Consider these numbers:

  • Google estimates there are over a trillion web pages
  • Facebook has more than 600 million users
  • Tweets on Twitter are countless.  

Those of a certain age might consider taking refuge from this media blitz by adhering to the lyrics of two songs from the last century:

  • “I get all the news I need on the weather report” Simon & Garfunkel: The Only Living Boy In New York
  • “You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.” Bob Dylan: Subterranean Homesick Blues

Frankly, “I do declare, there were (are) times…I took (take) some comfort there” (in) these lyrics*

It is tempting to adopt the nihilist approach when it comes to the digital media information glut: “All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear And disregards the rest…”*

I, however, offer a simple way out of the media information ocean to an island of sweet clarity in this brief economic report consisting of two photographs and minimal text…


In Petaluma, as elsewhere in the nation, the price of gas is depressingly high…


Petaluma has certain characteristics that soften the blow of the high cost of fuel. It is still possible to clean your clothes and get a drink in one stop!

A very efficient use of your expensive gasoline…and an excellent way to forget about your troubles…

Wash your undies and have a martini!

Don’t forget to remove your clothes from the dryer before you leave!

* Simon & Garfunkel: The Boxer

Finial Hotspot…A Wireless Connection To The Googleship?

On this, the first day of April, I thought it appropriate to update an earlier post about the decorative metal post finials in the downtown area.

After considerable research, I established that the metal finials were not antennae to facilitate communication by resident space aliens with the Mothership in the skies above. It was clearly proven that they were terrestrial in origin and that they were made here in Petaluma by Edgar Haris, noted “…local sculptor, designer, metalsmith in descending order….”

Then one cloudy day, while walking the downtown streets looking for photo ops, I spotted their true purpose…

  The finials are antennae to connect us to the Googleship…not the Mothership!


Can the Mothership be far behind?

NOTE: For related April 1 posts see Don’t Mess With The Bees! and What the…? 

The Petaluma Mystery Sculpture(s)

In Petaluma Photo Musings…I raised a question as to the identity and origins of the metal ornamentals atop certain street poles downtown.

For a time, I thought they might be a new kind of Wi-Fi or cell phone antenna.

Several and repeated inquiries produced no answers. No one seemed to know; therefore, I considered the usual names for unidentified objects…

  • Petaluma Thingy
  • Theatre District Thingamabob
  • Downtown Doo-hickey
  • Butter & Eggs Thingamajig

But such pedestrian names are not sufficient for this unique downtown decoration…

I was perplexed! How will I identify it? Frankly, I was about ready to abandon the project until…I received an e-mail that, as it turns out, offered a most likely explanation: “The ‘sculptures’ are cleverly disguised antennae put up by me to connect to the Mothership.”

Is it possible?  Could it be?

Well, when I went to examine them again…sure enuf! OMG!

Case closed! Mystery Solved!

READER NOTE– For a corollary or companion set of photo musings also see Ski Petaluma!

Petaluma Photo Musings…

A random set of recent photos that inspired a question and three observations…

What is this?

Please note the metal sculpture on top of the sign. I have spotted two–one on Kentucky Street and one in the Theatre District.  I have some close-ups in excellent lighting but would like to correctly identify the sculpture before publishing them.  If anyone knows the background behind these ornamentals, please post a comment or send an e-mail to 

Remember, when  pruning trees…

…take care where you park your car!

Lost & Found Department–A bush in the side yard.

  After three days it was retrieved…by someone.

A sign in Sonoma introduced me to a new word…


Pronunciation can be tricky…and potentially embarrasing. So here is a guide– arti·san·al.

This Valentine’s Day…Buy Local!

Red roseRed lipsRed lipsRed heartRed heartRed heartRed lipsRed lipsRed rose

As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, it is, of course, time to go shopping for the perfect Valentine.  Today, we are encouraged to Buy Local.

Always willing to support a good cause, I reflected on the Buy Local concept yesterday as I prepared to venture out to find the perfect gift…locally.


I showered, using a low flow shower head (Made in China)

I brushed my teeth using an electric toothbrush (Made in China)

I shaved with an electric razor (Made in China)

Next, I put on…

  • Clean underwear (Made in Honduras)
  • Clean Shirt (Made in India)
  • Pants (Made in Vietnam)
  • Shoes (Made in China)
  • My wristwatch (Made in China)
  • My glasses (Made in China) and
  • My jacket (Made in China)

In the kitchen, I made breakfast using my…

  • Coffee Pot (Made in China)
  • Toaster (Made in China) and 
  • Took my prescription drugs (Made in Singapore and Israel) 

Before leaving the house…

I checked the e-mail on the computer (Made in China) and the weather on my widescreen TV (Made in Japan).

Then, I…

  • Turned on my cellphone (Made in China)
  • Picked up my cameras (Made in China and Malaysia)
  • Went to the garage and decided to use the car (Made in Japan) instead of the bicycle (Made in China) So how did I do?

It was a very good day. When I got home there was a message on my answering machine (Made in China)! I was pleased to learn that the dental crown (from the laboratory in China) came in sooner than expected.  Good news indeed!

And…I can proudly report that my Buy Local trip produced the perfect Valentine’s Day gift (Made in…..)Sad smileWilted rose

I celebrated by watching a DVD (Made in Mexico) on my DVD player (Made in China).…Get Out There & Buy Local Every Day!

Boo! A Sonoma County Halloween

It’s that time of year again…Harvest…Halloween.

For a whimsical photo tour of some of the Petaluma & Sonoma County scenes I have encountered, Click on Halloween Sonoma Style…

As a tease, I offer the following…

For more, Click on Halloween Sonoma Style…

Petaluma Low Light…

…no, I did not mean to say Petaluma Low Life!

As part of my learning adventures with the camera, I tried creating a few pixs of Petaluma scenes in low light conditions.

Of course, moonlight is the ultimate low light environment…

Next, my attempt–with a little more light available on an early foggy morning–to capture a silhouette of the “sentinels” on the Lucchesi Tower…

As the fog breaks, the lighting can quickly change as it is filtered through the skylight over the entrance to the Old Mill…

Sunflower Explosion

My minor mania concerning sunflowers started four years ago when friends in Cape Cod sent a few red sunflower seeds from plants growing on the beach next to their home.  The Cape Cod plants were “generated” from seeds that fell out of a bird feeder. My first crop produced pure reds; however, by the second season, other colors started to appear and I collected and sorted the seeds.

This year I started with seventy plants and fifty made it to various levels of maturity. The rest succumbed to the snails and finches. While it has been an extremely cool summer to date, the sunflowers are thriving.

The yellow and yellow-reds are 8 to 10 ft tall with up to 25 blooms or buds at the top of the main stalk and several more buds popping out below.

  • The Cape Cod Reds and Courtway Orange sunflowers are still growing–they usually don’t start blooming until late August.
  • I am hoping that they will get tall enough for me to attempt another sunflower/flag photo similar to the one used in the header to this blog–this time with the reds in the scene.

From a bee perspective, the sunflower blooms are just in time as the bees have nearly exhausted the verbenas.  Now, they are dining on the sunflowers…

Sunflowers tend to need support, which they usually get from each other if planted in groups.  Notwithstanding, they may require some additional human intervention to keep them upright and/or out of the right of way.  

After the reds and Courtway oranges come into bloom, I may work up some macro photos for my photo blog.  For now, I offer this…

NOTE–Depending on your browser, if you click on a photo, a larger version will appear. After it opens, if you click again on the new window, the photo will expand again. Try it on the last photo and you should get a real close up view of the bees.