All Gone To Look For America

7 06 2012

I am a hopeless sentimentalist. As much as I proclaim to be this great futurist, I must be honest and say that I get a rash of warm fuzzies from pondering the past. If time travel were possible, I would want to go backward, not forward. Marty McFly may have spent most of his time back in the future, but I prefer the rear view mirror. I want to see life through the eyes of Ricky and Lucy. Experience the novelty of TV dinners once more. Open a beer can with an opener. See Buddy Holly (he died the day before I was born).

Not that I am not completely, head over heels in love with tomorrow myself. I love helping carve a path to the future. But tucked away in my zeal for the New is an insatiable desire to (re)live the Old. Which probably explains why I am totally into starting a writing project involving my 91-year-old Dad and his exploits with two pals in 1955 as they drove Rt 66 from Chicago to LA.

And it also goes a hell of a long way toward explaining why I was pumped to get an out-of-the-blue email yesterday from Katie Nelson, the girlfriend and partner-in-crime of Chris Robleski, author/photographer of Polaroid Photos From Route 66. Chris and Katie run Fading Nostalgia, a home-based business whose mission is to preserve our memories of yesterday. As urban photographers (and specializing in retro-chic Polaroids), they are fearless as they gaze through the viewfinder.

Ah yes, he found some of his own kind. You get it now.

I caught up with them while they were at a McDonald’s in Grants NM. Turns out Katie and Chris were traveling to eastern Arizona specifically to try to photograph the long-abandoned Painted Desert Trading Post (I have a nice shot of it as my Cover Pic). I had just visited this crown jewel of Rt 66 lore, and had to engage in a little risky behavior of my own (I think they might call it trespassing, but I digress).

They had heard of my accidental encounter with the Cow Boss on the ranch that is currently under lease along that stretch of abandoned highway, and how after 15 minutes of sweet-talking, I had gained an invite to return. To an open gate this time.

But Chris wanted to shoot the PDTP under the light of the full moon, and all they needed were specific driving directions to the gate and advice on how to get down to the trading post on foot. We all presumed that only cattle would be roaming the range in the middle of the night. So I talked while they noted, and by 3am, the photoshoot was done. See it. Frame it. Shoot It. And get the hell out of there.

I have been an admirer of Fading Nostalgia for a couple of months now, and have an autographed copy of the book on my shelf. I am in love with this on so many levels…shared interest, urban (and desert!) adventure, photography, home-based business. Oh, and from my lofty perch in the halls of academe, I applaud their use of everything new to promote the “everything old” that they do.

In fact, it was through their use of social media that I found out about them in the first place, which then led me to their website and blogs. While I spend the bulk of my time in my Evolutionary Marketing class extolling the virtues of everything fast-forward and future tense, the fact is that there are plenty of opportunities for new businesses that embrace both the old and the new. And Fading Nostalgia is the perfect marriage of the two. I only wish I had thought of it sooner (insert applause for Chris and Katie!).

For my students, the message is clear: Follow your passions, whatever they are. And never forget that what goes around, comes around. Even Polaroid cameras. Use the latest tools of your trade, whether you are peddling widgets or whatchamacallits, or trying to develop the Next Killer App that Facebook would want to fork over a billion dollars to call its own. See it. Frame it. Shoot it.

The lens of opportunity has never been clearer.

Dr “Be Careful. His Bowtie Is Really A Camera!” Gerlich


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