Monday, March 08, 2010

coal in the veins

It had been three years - at least - since I had visited coal country, proper and I was beginning to miss it. I had heard some snippets from people who had passed through more recently and in particular I wondered what state Centralia was in these days, aside from perpetually on fire. A springy window of weekend weather was opening before myself and The Goldberg, just in time for our second anniversary (go US!.... for not killing each other. heh) - so the opportunity was seized. We headed directly for Centralia early Saturday morning, greeted by sun... and a great snow-covered barrenness that is Centralia, now.

tides © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

Much to my surprise, poised in the middle of a major mining vortex, there was now a wind farm one of the hills overlooking Centralia. I was suddenly reminded of that country near and dear to my heart - that I ne'er shut up about - Iceland. The rugged terrain, covered in colorful mosses, bleached wood, the wind, intense sun, the earthy sulphurous stench, the deep snow, the shells of small abandoned buildings. The buildings I had visited there in past - an abandoned house and a trailer home - were both gone - as were several of the houses that I recalled were being lived in at the time.

Byrnesville - which feels like an extension of Centralia rather than its own town - was almost entirely unchanged. Like its much publicized neighbor, Byrnesville shares the underground mine fire, which succeeded in driving all of its residents away. The familiar remains of what was once a miners' washhouse were covered in ice and snow and the sun shined strongly though the framework of what was left of the roof.

dotted eyes and crossed tees
dotted eyes and crossed tees © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

nut loaf
nut loaf © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

release © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

freezer burn
freezer burn © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

precipitation © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

elements © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

blueberried © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

The snow was still quite deep in places, but the combination of the warmth of the ground below and the sun had caused it to compact and become so dense we could walk on top of it without sinking in... though occasionally I broke through and ended up in up above my knees and flailing. The snow covered so much of the normally impenetrable brush, we could actually explore a bit more than I could ever reach in past.

your slip is showing
your slip is showing © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

After a quick drive round Shamokin we headed towards Knoebels Grove Amusement Park in Elysburg. Having grown up in Lancaster, we always visited Dutch Wonderland (an amusement park, much less grand than Hershey Park but closer)- so I have never actually seen Knoebels during the season. Visiting in winter, there are no lines, no spastic children just endless, empty kitsch.

in and out
in and out © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

unlocked © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

saturday in the park
saturday in the park © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

raise the roof
raise the roof © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

diaper rash
diaper rash © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

making an exit
making an exit © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

The tail end of our journey took us through Girardville into Shenandoah. Girardville running along Route 54, was an eerie, unstable town, seeming as though it could barely stand against the weight of time. More houses abandoned than lived it, all on the verge of collapse. The sun was hanging low but bright in the sky, and by the time we got to Shenandoah, we could scarcely see even to drive around. I caught a glimpse of this amazing old advertising on a restored warehouse just before we started to make our way back home.

never tires
never tires © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

For our anniversary we decided to try Distrito in University City for dinner. Philly's Iron Chef Garces' hot pink luchador-bedecked loft served us up some fine tapas style haute mexican. After having spent the day feeling sick to my stomach, I wasn't sure I could handle it, but actually I felt much better while sampling all the finery. Tres Leches with passionfruit curd as cure-all? Yes please.

And the big news: I've booked a flight for Stockholm in May. I'll spend 10 days wandering, possible out into the coutryside in the north or to the Archipelago. In the meantime, to get my Scandinavian fix, I will be seeing Sandra in a few short days, while she is in NYC for a movie premiere. Spring is coming, on Swedish wings!

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Blogger netbanshee said...

Happy to see the shots from your journey. Sweet! :)

11:36 AM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger helveticaneue said...

thank you sean! getting some fresh air and sun sure did me some good :)

11:40 AM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger romanlily said...

How curious to see this! The book I'm now reading is called A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. It chronicles his trip up the Appalachian Trail, which included lots of unscheduled explorations off the trail. In my reading yesterday, he discussed the mine fire in Centralia and described wandering around the city. And here you are with a host of lovely photos illustrating it! Very cool.

7:21 PM, March 23, 2010  
Blogger helveticaneue said...

I looked that book up and it sounds like a fascinating read! I see he published in '99... I bet there was a lot more there to see back then. Even back in 2005 when I first visited, there were significantly more homes:

11:47 PM, March 23, 2010  

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