Flag Post: A Very Orbit Independence Day

detail of door painted like the American flag, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Shur-Fine America, Bloomfield

From the mountains to the prairies and from an alley in Bloomfield all the way to a men’s room in Bloomfield, it’s Independence Day in America (aka “The Fourth of July”) and we’re going to celebrate that with a flag post.

We see a lot of American flags this time of year, and that’s no easy experience for the eyes. Red, white, and blue are not colors that naturally look great together–at least, not when served up in the kind of equal doses Old Glory delivers. So for this amateur vexillologist, it can be a challenging holiday. It’s a blitzkrieg to the corneas, a D-Day for the optic nerve, and no laughing matter for the vitreous humor.

Graphically, we’d be a lot better off with just the red and white stripes or just the white stars on the blue field. We know The Orbit wields no small amount of international influence. Fortunes have been made and men (yes: and women) destroyed with the simple addition of key tag or a righteous repost. But a rebranding of The United States of America may be out of even this blog’s enviable powers.

So what are we to do? It’s our flag and whatever one thinks of it symbolically, it’s one of the great constants in any American’s existence. We at The Orbit find that the flags rendered by actual American hands have a whole lot more charm and humanity than their perfect (if cheap) cousins that show up on doorsteps and grave markers, waving at parades and discarded or packed-away by Summer’s end.

Through absolutely no forethought or planning, almost all of these flags were picked up when we thought we were photographing something else.  Super fans may cry “rerun!” but, c’mon–there’s good new stuff here! We’ll brand this a six-month “roll-up” to highlight some stories may be not everyone got to the first time. Happy birthday, America!

American flag made out of wooden fence

Fence flag, Highland Park

We came across this fine flag when we reported on Chet’s Tiny Backyard Dream World last month. Aside from the fact that Chet created this piece from old fence posts, I love that it both ended up slanted at this odd trapezoidal angle, and that it only has nine stripes and thirty stars. There is something so slyly seditious (if, likely, unconscious) about having patriotic art that is factually incorrect.

American flag made from popsicle sticks

Popsicle stick flag, Munhall [photo: Lee Floyd]

Lee sent in this photo of a flag constructed of painted (?) popsicle sticks hours before going to press, so we frankly don’t have time to get all the details on it. What we do know is that just like Chet’s, the popsicle stick flag eschews the standard 13 stripes/50 stars arrangement in favor of a more loose interpretation. Whatever the artist’s intention, we like what we’re seeing from this American!

American flag sticker, scratched and graffiti'd

Sonny’s Tavern, Bloomfield

This flag begs the question: Which is more (or less) patriotic? To paste an American flag sticker above the urinal of a men’s room in a dive bar or to (fail to) properly remove/destroy it? Are all representations of the flag sacred?

American flag behind cypress bushes

Cypress flag, Highland Park

We came across this interesting flag/hedge combination when we were in Highland Park photographing the Heidi Houses back in May. The owner/tenant of this house used a huge flag to cover the entire front porch of the house, draping it between the gutter and scraggly cypress bushes. Like the men’s room above, this is a very questionable way to honor America. I love how the unmistakable red and white stripes blast out out from behind the green shrubs.

In retrospect, this photo‘s red, white, and green would have made an excellent inclusion in our Italian Colors story (and inevitable sequel!) from a while back. Magari la prossima volta.

exterior wall of a former V.F.W. painted like the American flag, Pittsburgh, Pa.

(Former) V.F.W., Bloomfield

All right–we did a whole story on the murals of the Bloomfield V.F.W. a couple months back, so this one you’ve pretty much seen before. But not this side and not from this angle! I had to climb out on a wall, leaning back against the top of an eighteen-wheeler at the Shur-Save loading dock to get any shot of this, the only side of the V.F.W. that just has flag painting (and no representational war fantasy). Also notable here is the odd choice to paint the flag on its end–with the stars at the bottom and the stripes at the top. Whatever that was about, the veterans obviously wanted big flag and they got it–covering three sides of the building. And then the club closed. Sigh.

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