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A Night in Lee Vining
What is it about Neon?
I used to push myself more. I’d pull into a town late, cruise the strip, then set up a tripod and a film camera. I would repeat this with every motel I found. Eventually, I’d finish the strip, exhausted, and then find a room.
I’m lazier now. I still have not stayed at this motel. That night, in 1999, I ended up at the Gateway Motel - as in the gateway to Yosemite National Park - and it was an odd place.
The rooms were out back and there was a small social hall facing the parking lot. Maybe “social hall” is too strong a term. How about “small gathering in a garage?” The motel owner was nice, though, and said that he played a Les Paul guitar, and that’s why I gave him my business.
What is it about neon? Is it because neon is a gas that dances in glass tubes? I do believe that neon ignites some synaptic thing in our brains. It’s like looking at fire. Most people love neon and photos of neon. Some other people are immune to its charms. I don’t understand how that could be the case, but who am I to say that one person has a bigger heart than another?
This piece first appeared in EXIT CULTURE: WORDS AND PHOTOS FROM THE OPEN ROAD. You can purchase the book on Amazon HERE.
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Paul Vlachos is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. He was born in New York City, where he currently lives. He is the author of “The Space Age Now,” released in 2020, “Breaking Gravity,” in 2021, and the just-released “Exit Culture.”