We all know what we’re supposed to do when life goes all “lemon” on us. And that’s precisely what I’ve tried to do since I lost most of my hearing in 2010: make as much lemonade, in as many variations, as I can concoct.

Book jacket of Life After Deaf: My Misadventures in Hearing Loss and Recovery by Noel Holston.
Start looking.
(Skyhorse Publishing)

One of those variations was writing a memoir, which turned out to be Life After Deaf: My Misadventures in Hearing Loss and Recovery, published by Skyhorse and now available via Amazon and other booksellers.  

Another variation is photography, which I took up in hopes that it would make up for the absence of music, precious music, in my life.

Even after a pair of cochlear implant surgeries that restored some functional, rudimentary hearing, my pitch is so poor now I can barely sing “Happy Birthday” solo, let alone with extra singers to pull me off key. And listening to recorded or live music can be torture. Drum solos and gamelan gongs sound kind of like I remember them, but the more instruments you add and the more  complicated the harmonics become, the more music sounds like mush to me. A philharmonic is about as melodic as an orchestra of vacuum cleaners.

When I had implant surgery in Los Angeles in 2013 – a do-over for a 2010 operation that didn’t quite work out – I was unable to fly back home to Athens until my bored and stroked head had healed a bit. Out sightseeing, my wife and I discovered that the area of West LA near the hospital was a veritable museum of signage dating back to the 1950s, ’40s and even earlier. Everywhere we looked, it seemed, there was a ghostly hotel marquee or a rusty old neon sign.

Cameo Hotel, Los Angeles

I started snapping pictures with my phone. Once we got back home, I got myself a decent camera, a Nikon with a good zoom, and started looking for similar remnants in Georgia.

It’s surprising how many are out there, sort of hiding in plain sight in small towns, more or less invisible to the locals but practically flashing to a fresh pair of eyes.

The Red Land Motel sign at the top of this article is one of my favorites. Here are a few more examples:

I share these snapshots with you not because I consider them great photography on my part, but because they depict charming vestiges of Georgia’s past and because their kind is fast disappearing. We may not be able to save them, but we can preserve their memory.


Editor's Note: You'll find more about the book at LifeAfterDeafBook.com. You can also find it on eBooks, Booktopia, Goodreads, Nook, Kindle or Play.

Image Credit: Except for the book, all the photos in this story were taken by the author, © Noel Holston.

Noel Holston

Noel Holston

Noel Holston, originally from Laurel, Miss., is a freelance journalist, songwriter, storyteller and actor who lives in Athens, Ga., with his wife, singer-songwriter Marty Winkler. In a previous life, he was the TV critic at Newsday in New York and, before that, a critic and feature writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Orlando Sentinel.