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Wait! Wait! What Was THAT?


This is about those moments when you look at something as you walk about a city (or outside one) and you see something so odd, or at any rate odd enough, that you just need to tell someone about it, or show them. These days, the procedure would be to whip out the smartphone and send the picture, like the one above in Portland, Maine, on its way to your Facebook page, or your Twitter followers, etc. 




But I'm from before that, and I've just been accumulating these, occasionally pulling one out to make a point when I remember where it is (and for some of these, "where" is one of the DVDs holding all the scans of the not-well-sorted paper photos). I do know this one,'s somewhere between Sausalito and Muir Woods, in Marin County, CA.



So, here's my opportunity for a little show-and-tell, and in some cases ask you "Wait! Wait! What was THAT? And indeed, that question fits the picture above, taken just off the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris. Click to enlarge it and see if it's any clearer that it is (so they said at the bakery downstairs) an aerial view of a high-tech boat. I see the water and I see the 3D effect. I'm still not sure they were right.



And then there was the week in London when we stayed in a tiny student apartment down the street from this "exhibit" at the Royal British Society of Sculptors. We thought it was a bathyscaphe; only when I presented it as a Where in the World puzzle did we find it was a decommissioned WWII naval mine. It's gone now, Just past the mine, across from our apartment, was a bus stop, complete with topiary passenger hailing the bus.



Surprisingly, the newspaper in the hand was changed daily by someone from the plant shop just behind it. 




On a street in Seville, Spain, the habit of reading is still strong. The statue honors Clara Campoamor, a Spanish politician and early feminist.



While we're at statues, this one in Madrid struck me because I'd never before (or since) seen a statue that turns its back on the audience. It's in honor of a group of labor lawyers, deeply involved in Spain's post-Franco transition, who were murdered by neo-fascists at their office nearby.



This one's face-forward in Lyon, France, and made me think of a semi-detached Janus, but sadly, I never found what the story is...we were in a rush for our train back to Paris.



But while in Lyon we did get to see this odd assortment of metaphors and images dedicated in honor of Andre-Marie Ampere, the father of electrodynamics and namesake of the charge rate of your phone. I still don't get why this was the right image!



And also in Lyon, this seeming protest against blank blandness. Maybe that wasn't the motive, though?



 In Dijon, we found sympathy for the Devil carved on this building...not sure why. Perhaps Mick Jagger knows...





Far from France in location, but thinking itself not so far culturally or historically, is New Orleans, where basement windows were transformed into an ad hoc memorial. The picture just below is also from New Orleans—a fence I'd love to own.







Back in Europe, we found this chapel clinging to the edge of the river. The street behind it is interrupted and only a footpath passes between the chapel and the buildings behind it. The one below is one I need help on. It's probably Italy and probably 1999, and probably one of the odder things I've seen on a church roof.







In Paris again, a fairly ordinary apartment building, but once proud to be so modern that it could advertise "Water on every floor!" and "Gas on every floor!" The signs probably date from shortly before World War I. But hey, now they're antiques, who would take them down?



Before we get to the signs that are really signs, though: There's this one, and it's a sign of tourism or something. You're looking at the roof of a bus shelter in Madrid, under a tree shedding leaves, and next to open-top tour buses, from which customers have been tossing their earphones on departure. Red is from Madrid; blue is for the people who saved their earphones from Barcelona.




And here come the signs. This one amused me, although I think its intent was to inflame some of the audience passing it in Stockholm.








If you're not sure where you are, you may be in trouble, here. The street above, in Oslo, is giving no hints.


If that bothers you, perhaps you should have been visiting this street in Bologna, at right.


Not that you'll get much information from the Budapest contribution just below, either.


For that matter, just what IS that sign from the Diocesan Museum in Ravenna prohibiting?












No doubt about the meaning of the one just below, from Cannes...but the one after it, from a park in Paris...that one I am still working on. And before you think of it, no, it didn't make things any clearer in French.







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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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Here's an add-on for the story! Walking through Boston's North End last night, we spotted this sign, which surely belongs with the rest. And pooh! on the person who points out that it is actually North Margin street...

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations


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