Monday, February 25, 2013

[Suburbia Lost] What Shit Will We Put On Our Walls?

- The banner of the king crumbles.

For some reason, we as a culture like it when restaurants put shit all over their walls. It doesn't matter if you go to an Applebee's, TGI Friday's, Chilli's, Bennigan's, O'Charley's, Ruby Tuesday, Red Robbin or any other common American chain - there's always shit on the walls. It hangs erratically, tears at a generation's nostalgic hear strings and gives you something to look at while avoiding awkward conversations and waiting for your reasonably priced appetizers. As time moves on, culture and nostalgia shift, so one day what shit will we put on our walls?

- "Hot Shot Eastbound." An iconic photograph by American photographer Ogle Winston Link. Image via: Chambre Blanche.

At almost any of the above mentioned eateries, you'll probably find a print of O. Winston Link's iconic photographic titled "Hot Shot Eastbound." The photograph is actually quite excellent. An early foray into night photography lighting, the mid-century scene shows a steam locomotive hurtling past a once common drive-in movie theatre where a couple is cuddling in their classic convertible while ironically watching a film that features the kind of transportation that would oust the train from transportation dominance. You've probably seen the image on an Applebee's wall while you avoided eye contact with the person in the booth across from you.

I like the image, because it represents the cultural shifts of the time and documents a moment in our history that is vastly different from the way things are today. Not to mention, given the technology at the time, the technical prowess needed to make that kind of an image is excellent.

We as humans love nostalgia. The old cars and way things used to be are the kinds of things older people lecture you about with sentences that always start with: "Back in my day..." So it's no surprise that American restaurant chains cater to that baby booming generation by decorating their stores as if the cast of "Happy Day's" unloaded their memories on the walls.

Nostalgia is so popular that it's profitable. The History Channel's original show "American Pickers" is all about two guys who travel around buying nostalgic things from old people.

- Mike Wolf from "American Pickers" buying a vintage Good Year sign. Image via M live.

People love vintage items and how they reflect the past, a reminder of days gone by. But when do we hit that cultural shift to when Mail Pouch Tabacco signs aren't relevant to the clientele of suburban "bar and grills?" If I go into an Applebee's, half the crap on the walls aren't things I remember growing up. So when my generation becomes the "old people," will the "nostalgia-raunts" adapt their decorations? Will they display original Game Boys, those early Nokia cell phones, 56k modems and LA Gear light up sneakers on the walls? Will vintage signs from my era be hunted nostalgic treasures on reality television shows, such as the Burger King one at the beginning of this post?

Will we one day glance up at that broken Burger King logo on the wall and say to our children: "Back in my day, fast food drive throughs only had one lane."


Suburbia Lost is an ongoing documentation of decay in the sphere of a perceived paradise. After years of photographing abandoned, forgotten, and often historical locations in the city, this project aims to take a look at how structures fare in the sphere of suburbia. You can view other entires in the project, here


  1. Consider this: One day we'll be nostalgic over things that haven't even happened yet.

  2. "It doesn't matter if you go to an Applebee's, TGI Friday's, Chilli's, Bennigan's, O'Charley's, Ruby Tuesday, Red Robbin or any other common American chain..."

    You forgot Shenanigan's, and Chatchky's.

  3. Great post! I'm a Boomer, and I avoid the chain eateries because I don't like the food or beer, and I'd rather eat at local restaurants. You are lucky to live in Cincy area. So many great new beer places. Here in Richmond, IN, 95% chains. Maybe the bad "art" is to distract from how dirty the places usually are.