Thursday, August 31, 2006

cause and effect

This is the first real attempt to calculate the idiocy/splendor of the things I did this last weekend. To counter the effects of the extreme heat and gallery show puffing and fluffing, I decided to take air in some more or less dodgy places (depending upon what hour you caught me at during my 3-day spree).

Part One: Columbia, Pennsylvania

I wound up taking a day off from work for the odd and unrelaxing reason of my driving to Lancaster to have my car inspected. In this time of tossing money into the bottomless gullet of the show, I wanted to be spared the (hopefully) needless expense of getting ripped off at my neighborly garage. And it worked (yeah the $21 inspection!).

Honestly, I don't know my home town all that well. I've gotten lost in Lancaster City proper in recent memory. This is partly due to the fact that I didn't get my driver's license until I was 19 and in college. And that my hermit-likeness started early on and in highschool I did basically NOTHING, save draw with a fevered fury. It didn't require I leave the house or be social. Moving on... I was a band nerd and I recall going to the town of Columbia for a football game or 3. And emblazoned in the old seive of a memory was the doom and gloom message from my mother, Columbia is a rough town/wrong side of the tracks/don't wander off alone.

So I thought I should pay it a visit for that reason alone. And alone at that.

gap © Laura Kicey

So I had a little dizzy spell when, as soon as I exited route 30 and turned toward Columbia, I saw a sizable abandoned factory, roofless and overgrown. BEAUTY. Found just beyond the parking lot of a Burger King.

I'll take some fries with that.

Attempted and failed to get lost, kept thinking I was turning away from streets I had been on and kept ending up on the same ones. I stumbled upon all sorts of loverly things in the meantime. Then I saw IT. Without realizing quite what I had stumbled upon. From the street, what I could see was a sign for FIREWOOD. Some small greenhouses packed to capacity with huge weeds. Barely legible signs for antiques. and another advertising kerosene tank filling. I pulled over to get a closer look on foot. The angle wasn't great for anything, so I started making my way back to the car.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man in the driveway of the place, scrubbing a truck. Knowing what I do of Lancaster... the infinite permutations of ways this could have gone very badly... I shudder and not for the last time this weekend... And I just walked up to him, excused me'd like four times and then proceeded to scare the bejesus out of him. Smoothness! Then asked straight out if he would mind very much if I took some photos on his property and had a look round. No beating about the bush. Worst approach ever.

He got very excited! And gestured largely and animatedly in describing some of the splendors of his property, though he sold none of it was for sale, and told me to make sure I tell him what catches my eye, he is dying to know what I find interesting.

weeding © Laura Kicey

The main attraction was this semi-shed structure that was one roof made of rippled plastic, one wall and some supporting columns... filled to the gills with bicycles, rusty lockers, ceiling fans, stained glass windows, boxes, chairs and vines. So much so that one could not walk in at all. I worked my way around the property, peering in the greenhouses filled to the gills with what I have been told are referred to as ghetto palms (thanks jill!) and more bicyles.... through the yard filled with old bathtubs, school buses filled with hub caps... and a trailer filled with christmas decorations. He kept calling out to me to make sure I was okay and we did a run down of what I liked most at the end. Apparently I did not shoot the two things most people stop specifically to get: The large wooden flag with names written in Sharpie on it and some curious sort of silver vent hood with a star on it.

ingrown © Laura Kicey

I felt a little guilty but told him I found a much better flag that he didn't know about (a frail and barely there slip of a thing in a grotty back corner) and he pointed out that I missed a perfectly good bag of heads. I was informed that I need to visit again in the Spring when every available flat surface and hanging hook is decked out with flowers.

I may do just that.

periwinkle © Laura Kicey

While we were talking at a number of points, he put his bright blue-tinted specs on his forehead. Just before I left, I asked to take his photo. He had taken his specs off altogether... I asked that he replace them on his forehead.

Part Two: Middle of Nowhere

Early Saturday I rolled out to Boiling Springs to meet up with D and make our way out to Middleton for Saturday's Market Merrymaking.

meniscus © Laura Kicey

I picked up on a pair of amazing protective eyewear, replete with leather fittings. I also bore the burden of enormous fried chicken-induced guilt. We hooked up with Miss Beaver, Domestic Goddess in her quest for 50s vintage goodness to deck out her new abode. Christian accordion players, bad mathematics, and patriotic phalluses ensued.

To make the most of the dismal, rather cool, but not rainy day, D and I took off for Nowhere off of Route 78 to uncover the remains of a rather recently abandoned motel in Frystown (which doesn't seem to appear on any map) which he had mentally bookmarked on one of his treks to and from nyc.

It was utterly astounding and thoroughly unsettling. Having not explored too many recent 'quick abandonments' as is the variety where it appears that one day, people just up and left their lives still sitting on table and tucked in drawers, the presence of people was still keenly felt. Calendars and newspapers in the office and rooms indicated that the last day of occupancy was approximately October 5, 2005... but the decay and the furnishings took us some 30 years back.

We started at the office end of the property. Of all the rooms, this is where I felt closest to... peril? living people? an answer? Walking behind the desk gave me chills, looking into the back room, it was obvious there had been squatters. Piles of blankets and shopping carts filled with collected items.

Out back of the same room, an old red armchair, another shopping cart filled, a likewise abandoned mobile home we weren't brave enough to get close to.

yard work
yard work © Laura Kicey

I haven't stayed in many hotels in my time. I can't even think of a hotel where I have stayed in more than one room. I always pictured uniformity. Instead, here, every room had its own seedy character, color scheme, textile pattern, bizarre anonymous art... and the inhabitants left behind pieces of their own life stories.

unmade © Laura Kicey

This place was a special kind of nowhere that doesn't quite belong to the city, and is only very loosely tied to farmy bumpkinishness. It was one of those truly in-between places, frequented by truckers and transients. People obviously lived here. One room appeared to be a nursery. One a seedy lust den, bra and leopard print accoutrements. One home office. Another might have been the reason it was abandoned: scarred by fire, the ceiling collapsing and fiberglass spewing forth, rubble everywhere. Every door was open, but every secret was still safe.

We checked to make sure the coast was clear before leaving every room. Creepy tragicomedy.

checking in
checking in © Laura Kicey

Not once were we disturbed by a living soul, even though there were neighboring houses that were obvioulsy still occupied... but the things we saw, those images will stick with me for a while.

We continued down making a couple other stops off of 78. Hitting Shartlesville, long enough to buy some scrumptious produce at a farmer's roadside stand and walk around the rather desolate town.

descriptives © Laura Kicey

Then we circled round to the amazing Roadside America. Which looks wholly unpromising from the outside. Especially as they have to spell out Be Prepared To See More Than You Expect on the front of their building in huge letters. But it was quite amazing and bizarre. Especially captivating was the 'night pageant' with religious and patriotic (natch) overtones. The photographic results were kind of eh but the experience was worth the price of admission. And their zoo had a flock of flamingos so I cannot fault them for anything.

harem © Laura Kicey

Part Three: South Philly, Pennsylvania

I raced home Sunday morning to make it down to South Philly and meet a fellow flickrer Okaypro.

okay © Laura Kicey

After filling the belly with fake meats and real queso, we decided to go looking for trouble in the guise of some 'abandoned' buildings she had caught a glimpse of just a little further down Broad Street, around Bainbridge.

Most Foolishest White Womenses Alive!

cling © Laura Kicey

Excitedly prancing around rubble, clothes, and a solemn black leather couch in amongst the weeds, we were approached from behind from one very cracked out girl who wanted to chat with us. She sized us up, asking if we wanted to know the history of the neighborhood, decided on second thought she didn't want to tell us and then wandered away. Mildly shaken we continued on to the row of houses, which we found were not so abandoned at all and were actually burnt-out but still occupied crack houses. As we made our way around the block we kept seeing faces reappearing and circling and the first girl reappeared with a large man companion heading for us and we basically both decided that would be it, we were about to be robbed.

Until they changed course and went into the one abandoned building. We decided we would be less umm... idiotic for maybe going back to the west side of Broad and wandering that-a-way.

rise © Laura Kicey

Sweaty and grizzly, we covered a lot of ground, met up with another flickrer and wound up in University City at some club. Probably the wisest thing I did in three days time, but only stayed for 20 minutes and didn't really take any photos to speak of.

Something is skewed in my thrillometer methinks. I don't think I'd have it any other way.


Anonymous Rob Weychert said...

Oh Laura, you make me wish I wasn't in my house twenty-three hours a day.

4:30 PM, September 01, 2006  
Blogger helveticaneue said...

Oh Rob, I wish I could prise you out of the house more oft. Oh wait.. you come out of the house for a whole hour every day?

4:35 PM, September 01, 2006  

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