Another call box

callbox2[c]alphabetcitypress

I was pretty excited about revisiting the site of the call box that got me started on this whole blog thing, so it took me completely by surprise that it wasn’t there. On my recent visit to Hawaii we drove the Pali Highway several times: every time I looked out for that original call box, and every time it wasn’t there. Much of the graffiti and painted signage that I have photographed over the last couple of years has disappeared but I didn’t expect a call box to be removed! However it seems that the popularity of cell phones has made many of the Oahu call boxes obsolete—assistance calls dropped from 2634 in 2001 to 361 in 2011—and at least 276 of them have been removed. This one is on the Honoapiilani Highway, Maui, and comes complete with a priority mail sticker. I should have acted fast and added my address—then maybe someone would have posted it to me.

Road closed

roadclosed[c]alphabetcitypress

Lava flow from Kilauea volcano, on Hawaii’s Big Island, has been advancing towards the town of Pahoa slowly but steadily since the end of June. This week the lava encroached the backyards of the houses closest to the volcano, and there have been road closures and resident evacuations. The heat from the 2000-degree lava must be incredible. When I was there a couple of years ago, things were pretty quiet, but even walking around this older lava flow, in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, it was uncomfortably hot. I am amazed at how, despite the blistering temperature of the flow that swallowed this pole, the sign itself remains undamaged.

Drive on left

driveleft[c]alphabetcitypress

I’m usually more interested in the shapes and patterns of letter forms than the substance of the message, but this road sign, on the way to Tidal River in Wilsons Promontory, certainly caught my eye. It imparts more information than a mere driving directive: it implies that the road is frequented by motorists accustomed to driving on the right, which in turn means it’s a pretty popular tourist destination for international travellers, and that those drivers could well be new to driving on the left—hardly surprising when only about ten per cent of the world’s total road distance carries left-hand traffic. In Australia the decision to follow the British practice of driving on the left was made in the early nineteenth century by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. One thing Australian road signs have in common with right-hand drive countries is the typeface, which derives from the alphabet drawn for the US Federal Highway Administration in 1949—so while this sign looks like Interstate (it’s a dead ringer for Interstate Regular Condensed) it isn’t, because Interstate came later. Interstate, a family of 40 fonts designed by Tobias Frere-Jones in the early 1990s, was based on that original alphabet, but the digitised version has refinements that make it suitable for printed text.

Reindeer

reindeer[c]alphabetcitypress

Deers were introduced to Sydney’s Royal National Park in 1906. The current population is estimated to be about 1700, and they are considered to be feral pests that are wreaking environmental havoc on a par with cane toads. These road signs appear along the stretch of highway near the entrance to the park, but something has gone awry. Every December (until this year, that is) the signs have sprouted red noses and sleighs for the duration of the silly season, temporarily transforming deer into reindeer, and bringing a dose of humour and good cheer to passing motorists. Altered sign or not, at least the clearway is operational so there’s a good chance that Dancer and Prancer et al (aided by Rudolph) will be able to make their deliveries on time.

Keep clear

keepclear[c]alphabetcitypress

The bold sweep of white on dark grey and the distressed yellow lettering remind me of some sort of Rauschenberg-Motherwell concoction, if such a thing could exist. It has Rauschenberg’s printmaking-plus-found-object quality, Motherwell’s dynamism and strength. Robert Rauschenberg was known to have inked the wheel of a car and run over paper to create a drawing. As for Robert Motherwell: his body of work, everything from his huge black and white paintings to his small works on paper, is astonishing in its expressiveness and emotional depth.

Call box

callbox[c]alphabetcitypress

This has it all. Type, colour, a hint of abstract expressionism. I spotted it last month in a pullout on the Pali Highway on the way to Kaneohe.