Excursion 45, Part 2 (Castles of the Countryside)

A couple of years ago, I was inspired to see if I could find a house listing for my childhood home in El Paso. To my surprise, I found it on newspapers.com, a 1970 listing for a tiny (probably around 1,100 sq. ft.) 3-bedroom, 1-bath house listed at $13,750.  That year, 1970, was the year my parents moved from Pennsylvania to El Paso, Texas, and bought the house. I was four years old.   About 34 years later, after many years of rental living, I bought my own home.  Just a few days ago, I mused at the fact, because it hardly seems I have been living in my home for a dozen or so years now.

I mention these facts because this excursion—actually the second half of a long excursion that took place on March 21, 2015, features a lot of houses, of many different kinds, and they were all homes to one or in some cases perhaps many families. Many of these houses now lie abandoned and ruined—at some point they ceased being homes and reverted to being mere structures again. For some reason, that makes me sad.

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Excursion 41, Part 2 (The Cashier)

Even when I was a child, I always wanted to “go down in history” in some fashion—hoping that some part of me would live on, even if only as part of people’s memories.  Today, many years later and pretty much in the throes of a mid-life crisis of sorts, it seems obvious to me that my chances of being remembered will be slim.   But it is interesting how people are memorialized and how they are chosen to be remembered.  We’ll see an example of what I mean, bye and bye.  The photos here are from the second half of an excursion that my friend Tsuki and I took on a bleak day in late November 2014. Continue reading

Excursion 37 (The Seven Deadly Scenes)

In 2014, I made many trips to Chicago for work and, when possible, tried to bring along a camera in order to take photographs during the Ohio portion of the trip.  In early September 2014, I made one such trip.  Time pressures allowed me little time for back-roads journeying on the trip, but I did manage to take a precious few shots, most centered around an interesting abandoned homestead.   I present them here, without any thematic or pseudo-philosophic commentary.  Count your blessings.

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Excursion 36 (The Greenhouse Effect)

One of the easiest ways to spot when a historian does not know something is to look for the language they use to try to hide that fact.  For example, the sentence “Undoubtedly, George Washington was angry when he got the letter” actually means “I have no idea whatsoever how Washington felt, but I’m going with ‘mad.’”  Undoubtedly is one of the most common ways historian admit ignorance, but they have many similar stock phrases, all of which basically boil down to “this is my guess.”  The fact is, though, that it is hard to know stuff.  Any historian worth his or her salt will be painfully aware of all the little (or not so little) gaps of knowledge in anything they write.  Sometimes the line beyond the gaps goes pretty straight, so it is not too hard to leap the gap and still be on the right path.  But sometimes you just fall into the gap.

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Excursion 35 (Cottages, Cabins, and Schools, Oh My!)

I’ve always been interested in foreign words that have no equivalent in English—unless English decides to appropriate them, such as schadenfreude.  If you think about it, without a word to express a concept, we don’t even really have that concept, do we?  Our culture is the poorer for it, in most cases.  Take the French concept of esprit de l’escalier—literally, “wit of the staircase.”  Imagine leaving the apartment of your significant other after he or she has just cruelly broken up with you.  As you trudge down the stairs, you suddenly begin to think of all the retorts and responses you should have made—only you didn’t think of them until just now.  That is the wit of the staircase.  It is a perfect concept—why is there no English word for it?

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Excursion 34 (Eight Easy Pieces)

This is such a short blog entry that a long introduction would be misleading.  Those who hate random binges of nostalgia can rejoice.  During 2014, I had to make a number of work trips to Chicago and on August 11, I made one of them.  During the Ohio portion of my drive, I managed to take a few photographs.  Some of those I have included here.  That’s all she wrote.

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Excursion 33 (The Fire Lurks Below)

Artists, they say, can become fascinated with certain subjects, returning to them over and over again because the subjects are so compelling.  Of course, the same is true for stalkers.  I am no artist, but I do confess that certain sights I see on my excursions manage to exert a certain hold on me, sending out their siren call long after I have departed the premises.  Though I always want to explore and see new things, in the time I have been engaging in this little hobby, a few places have so intrinsically interested me that I have returned to them, sometimes more than once.

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