This odd geography fixation of mine is nothing new. It’s been pretty much a lifelong commitment. I was leafing through a photo shoebox a few days ago and I stumbled across a faded envelope that I hadn’t given much thought in several years. It contained an interesting collection of photos from the early 1990’s taken at various spots around the world.
First, a little background. Back in the Stone Age I used to be in a band, and not just any band but the absolute worst band ever to touch musical instruments. In fact we were so bad I need to put this in quotes, "band," That’s better.
Think of the scene from the Blues Brothers movie where the band plays behind chickenwire at a redneck bar. We regularly invoked worse audience reactions. Much worse. At our last show the audience pelted us with raw biscuits, a Christmas tree and a burning couch.
One friend who played guitar with us somewhat regularly informed me that he’d converted all of the old cassette tapes to a digital format and loaded them on his iPod a few weeks ago. I could only stare at him in disbelief and rightly question his sanity. He seems normal. He’s married, gainfully employed, socially respectable and everything. I wonder what’s wrong with him.
We did get one thing right. We had friends with serious artistic talent and demented, sarcastic senses of humor who made us some of the most amazing T-shirts imaginable. All of our friends wanted them and we wore them everywhere. Soon it became a little contest, aided and abetted by myself, to see who could wear a shirt at an interesting place.
That’s the collection I stumbled across a few days ago, and I’ve scanned some of the best. Most of the artwork is on the back of the shirts so you’ll have to take my word that they were ridiculously clever.
The Vomit Comet
This may be my favorite photo of the whole bunch, and it’s not so much a "place" as "space." Our friend here was (and is) a research scientist at NASA. He wore his shirt on an jet that flew high above the Gulf of Mexico in a parabolic path, an airplane affectionately nicknamed the Vomit Comet. People experience about thirsty seconds of weightlessness at the top of each parabola, which is exactly what you see happening in this image. It’s not the Space Station but it’s still Zero G!
The Giza Pyramid Complex
One of our shirts made it to Africa, specifically to Egypt and the pyramid complex at Giza. It’s the only remaining contribution to the original Seven Wonders of the World — the pyramids of course not the shirt. I can only imagine what the guys leading the camels in the background thought of this "historic" moment. Apparently they’re unaware of the significance as they don’t seem to be paying it much mind. Their loss.
Colonel Harland "Samurai" Sanders of Osaka
This is a much younger and skinnier me. A friend — the same one who digitized those awful tapes many years later — went to Japan for a couple of years after graduating college to teach English. He offered free space at his place so I visited for a week; that was back when a sleeping bag on the floor worked just fine. We did what young adults with few obligations and plenty of disposable income often do in those situations, we drank ourselves silly. Someday I’d like a do-over visit to Japan. I didn’t get much out of that first trip except a hangover.
Anyway, take a look at Colonel Sanders in front of this Kentucky Fried Chicken shop in Osaka. The Japanese so skillfully apply their distinct cultural spin on American icons, to such wonderful effect. I can just imagine Harland Sanders, swilling bourbon, corralling chickens and chasing Yankees out of Kentucky at the point of a Samurai sword.
OK, I could have chosen any number of shirt photos from Europe. I selected Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. It’s one of the most picturesque castles imaginable and it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in Germany. It also served as the inspiration for all the castles at the various Disney properties, blah, blah, blah. No, the reason I selected this image is because the person in the photo has hair, and today he’s as bald as a cue ball. It sucks getting old. A very small, select group of readers will find this greatly amusing, and permission is granted to continue gawking. The rest of you can go on to the next photo.
Notice a similarity between the logo on the shirt and the little icon that identifies my website on your toolbar?
A Covert Operation in an Undisclosed Location
Hmmm… how to describe this without triggering the net nanny software that may blacklist my site for the rest of eternity. I’ll be vague but you’re all intelligent folk who can figure this out. This individual worked for a government agency at the time the picture was taken, so even though this was many years ago I’ve obscured his face because he probably wouldn’t appreciate appearing in public. No, it’s not me, smartass.
He was involved in a covert action against a specific cash crop in some undisclosed corner of South America at the time of this photo. On that day I’m certain Cheech and Chong shed a tear because of the cosmic disruption in the force. This agricultural product was destroyed on the spot and of course never made it to market.
Yes, the Four Corners photo again
I have dozens, literally dozens, of shirt photos from North America. I’m including this one only because it’s already loaded on the server and I’ve long used it to illustrate my Four Corners page. Also I’m lazy and don’t feel like scanning anything else today.
This was part of an epic 1992 road trip. Me and a couple of buddies rented an RV and drove 8,200 miles over 28 days, visiting just about every major National Park west of the Mississippi River. We knew even at the time that it would provide a lifetime of memories, and indeed it did.
Funny thing, the entire travel shirt concept seems to have faded away soon thereafter. I’ve been to Australia but I went through every one of my photos and couldn’t find a single instance of the shirt. Also we never got a photo from Antarctica (I’ve never been there but I knew someone who wintered-over one year) so the effort fell a little short of our goal. The dream may have faded away but an example of each shirt has been tucked away safely at the bottom of my dresser drawer.