placebo effect

Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications,

offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.
– Ansel Adams


I drove by the sign almost every night, passing quickly on my way downtown. The massive neon art piece lit up the gallery in the darkness – eight, ten feet of rarefied air seeming to float along a high wall in the black space. I always gave it a quick glance. And it always made me smile. Some nights, whisking by at dusk, that sign was like an electric hug. If it spoke, I thought it would sound like Wilford Brimley. Each night I told myself that tomorrow I had to stop. Stop and take it in. Take a photo.

As the months passed, the nights grew colder and rainier and there was always some reason to get home quickly. But even in those few seconds as I passed by, a glimpse at the sign was uplifting. One freezing night in December I got out of the car quickly and snapped a few pictures, satisfied that I had finally (finally!) taken a photo of that glorious sign, those six wonderful words. Soon enough I would be back in Los Angeles, and I would have a print made, something big and bold. Something to look at and smile.

Cut to my desk a few weeks after I returned home. I missed that sign. So I took a break from writing to take a look at the photos from that freezing night. Scrolling through the images I stopped at one of the dark window lit by the neon glow. I took about a dozen shots, hoping that in that quick dash in and out of traffic I was able to get something in focus. And I had. More than half the shots came out beautifully. And I looked at that sign, that evening pick-me-up that always seemed to put a smile on my face, and I did a double take. It wasn’t six words in that string of cursive. It was seven.


I look at the photo every day now, and I can’t help but smile. Can’t help but laugh at myself. There were days when that sign really did make me light up, made that slump that sometimes hits in the early evening, as night falls, just drift away. And it still does. Because, most of the time, I still see this:

xo a.


2 thoughts on “placebo effect

  1. Rebecca

    LOVE this story! And I’m cracking up too b/c I just sat here for a good 5 minutes trying to figure out the difference between the two!


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