Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Search of the Urbana Bread Loaf

If I have one regret about living in this day and age, it's that novelty is no longer embraced by the general public.  Nothing exists just to exist anymore.  Everything has to have purpose and relevance, and "kitsch" is a four letter word.  Yes, roadside attractions are still around, but they're much harder to find, and if you do find them, the quality is suspect, because who wants to maintain the biggest ball of twine in Oklahoma when no one wants to come see it?  Now novelty and whimsey is left to the internet, the red-headed step-child of pop culture - easier to access by far, but somehow less special, and infinitely less permanent.  So when I heard from Roadside America that not twenty minutes from my house was a giant, fiberglass bread loaf, I knew we were meant to be together.

I nearly missed it - the loaf isn't where you can easily see it.  It's in the loading dock of the American Pan Company, back away from the street.  That picture up there?  I'm as zoomed in as my camera will go.  There was no one in the lot who saw me standing there, and for a brief moment, I thought I could run up to the loaf for a better picture, but the sign just beyond the entry gate threatened me with surveillance cameras.  Not wanting to ruin a clean record for the sake of a bread loaf, I backed off.

A privacy wall of chicken wire and bushes separated American Pan's property from the apartment complex next door.  It's spring, and not all the leaves have sprung on these bushes, so I trolled along the property line, feeling like a delinquent and hoping for a clean shot through the wall, Pyramus with a digital camera, trying to reach my fiberglass Thisbe.  The results were mixed.

The only thing I know for sure about the loaf is that it is in some way tied to Montgomery Alabama.  The paint has peeled away to the point where the brand name is pretty much unreadable.  The slogan along the bottom is halfway in tact - I figured out that the bread is meant for a type of child - roll child?  Gnoll child?  Moll child?  I could not tell you.  I could have stayed in those bushes all day, trying to decipher the faded writing, but I could practically hear the neighbors reporting a creepy bush-peeper to a 911 dispatcher, and I'm pretty sure there were snakes in those bushes.

All in all, the trip was a bit of a wash.  I had hoped for some good old fashioned roadside Americana, but it was not to be.

Of course, the biggest tragedy here is the massive missed marketing opportunity.  I mean, come on, American Pan.  You're American Pan!  You make baking pans!  Pan is Bread!  

Then again, I left my car in the empty lot in front of the abandoned Big Bear Bakery and Delicatessen, so maybe Urbana just hates bread.

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