Photo Op: Ships Signpost

ships signpost. jerry’s last standEvery morning at roughly the same time, I would drive by the Ships Diner Sign just south of Olympic on La Cienega. Every day. It mattered not that Ships had closed in 1995; hell, I’d never even eaten there. The place closed way before my time. It mattered only to me that the sign’s legacy lived on. In its way, that sign-without-a-restaurant reassured me that all was normal in my world and that I was once again in my car, late for work, listening to loud music, daubing at coffee stains on trousers, grumbling my way down La Cienega towards the 10, preparing to surrender the boulevard and cut through a few choice alleys before reaching 18th and the ensuing nightmarish congestion invariably surrounding the bizarre Coffee Bean Mcdonald’s* hybrid.

One day this year (I believe early February), I looked up and saw open smog where I expected to see ’Ships’. The sign had been unceremoniously removed; the pole alone remained. I was shaken. I couldn’t concentrate all day. My workday, usually extremely productive, was written off as a total loss.

Some time later the pole was painted a very drab, chalky grey. Month after month it stood sentry there by itself, advertising nothing, watching silently as an entirely new facade was constructed behind it.

Were Vader writing this article, he might say the circle is now complete. The original pole used to proudly display a classic piece of retro neon for 50 years has been completely reappropriated and now holds a collision repair marquis. Talk to me about recycling the planet and I’ll point you to the Ships signpost. For all I know, these guys went so far as to pound down the remainder of the space-age sign and forge it into somebody’s accordian-crunched Ford Expedition hood. And why not? Bully for them if they did!

One item remains that’s not common knowledge about this whole affair, though: The Jerry Factor. I’ve recently been granted the whole story from the estate of Jerry, so please allow me to elaborate.

Ships Signpost: The Jerry Factor


Suspended inside the pole are the frozen, living remains of the heart of Jerry, an original line cook from Ships. His heart is housed in a small cryogenic chamber lodged in an eight-foot cylindrical block of ice inside that pole. Jerry’s heart beats still, and the city beats with it. He has quite literally become the city’s heartbeat.

At the base of the signpost a tiny, oval-shaped fully serviceable grilling station serves as Jerry’s own little eternal flame. Jerry’s remains are scheduled to be released from pole captivity in the year 2065 – precisely 60 years after he was installed, and 80 years after his death. In order to meet that deadline, every six weeks the estate of Jerry cooks up a small single serving of hashed browns (scattered with onions) on the tiny portable stove via means of a trapdoor located on the back of the pole itself. This six-week grilling ritual serves to aid and embetter the melting process. It is also a time of reflection and introspection for the estate of Jerry, as hashed browns were something he took more than a little pride in creating for customers.

Every twelve weeks, however, the ice is refreshed again to precisely 519.996/520 of its original bulk. Why is this? Apparently, every six weeks works out to 520 grill-ups over a 60-year span. Unfortunately, after this plan was hatched it was discovered that mother nature combined with two grill-ups over a 12-week span can do away with all but 1/260 of the ice in the signpost. Solution: Build an aqueduct to drain the melted ice out of a hole in the pole, saving the grill from rust oxide. Refresh the ice to its needed bulk. An ice refresher is now required every other time the hashbrowns are grilled. Thus the original plan remains intact: On the 520th hashbrown grill-up, the family will fry two eggs over medium, along with the hash. At this point the ice surrounding Jerry’s cryogenic casing is expected to fully melt away, allowing the estate to retrieve the heart for good. Don’t believe me? Hit the pavement. Check the pole. Trapdoor? Check. The pole itself? Ice cold.

Good read about Ships Diner

*Unrelated, but something I find funny about the information in this link. Sure, coffee bean’s trying to go green. This location’s completed two steps. What the site neglects to mention is that the coffee bean in question is connected via direct aorta to a very non-green MCDONALD’S.