Excursion 46, Part 2 (They Took All Their Things And Never Came Back)

(with apologies to Tom Waits)

Abandoned houses seem to the the theme of this set of photographs and accompanying rambling commentary.  The block on which I grew up in El Paso did not have any abandoned houses; indeed, I’m hard-pressed to think of any in my childhood neighborhood. Of course, El Paso was a rapidly growing city and our house was located in the direction of greatest growth. It wasn’t until I moved to Columbus, Ohio, that old abandoned residences first made an impression on me—not that Columbus had any great number of them, but any older center city residential area will have at least some.

In more recent years, thanks to the great recession, abandoned homes have become such a big thing that squatting in them has also become a big thing, including by some of the extremists I study professionally in my “day” job. But the old homes pictured here are not recently abandoned, at least in the majority of cases.  They are older homes and many were clearly abandoned decades ago. Why?  In some cases, the buildings became decrepit and new houses were built on the same property. In some other cases, new owners may have bought the land—for farming or grazing—but did not need the house on the land.  In some cases, houses fell into decay during the owners’ lives and became more or less unsellable in that state, especially in small towns that might have suffered significant population loss.  There are a lot of ways homes can become derelict and I may have seen all of them.

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Excursion 46, Part 1 (The Stern Girl and Other Stories)

Over 17,000 years ago, on the dark, damp walls of a cave in Lascaux, France, a prehistoric artist left paintings of the animals of his or her time.  Today those images still have the power to amaze and to transport those few people lucky enough to view them (access is extraordinarily restricted) back to an ancient bygone era, at least momentarily.

It would be thousands of years before humanity began to construct permanent buildings, at remote places like Göbekli Tepe in Turkey (9,000 to 11,000BCE), but when they did, they put images on the pillars and surfaces of those buildings as well, just as their forebears had done on caves.

Buildings and artwork have thus served, from the very earliest periods of humanity’s existence, as our most potent time machines.  And they function as such even in the small-towns and back-country of rural Ohio.

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Excursion 45, Part 1 (Where the Buffalo Laze)

I am not a very adventurous type; adrenaline-soaked thrills are not the sort that typically appeal to me. But I do understand the lure of exploring, of seeing something you’ve never seen before—or perhaps even something that few or no other people have seen before. Exploring combines the intellectual interest of discovery with the experience of being there. So when I go on one of my little excursions into the nooks and crannies of the Buckeye state, I always hope to see things I’ve never seen before. On this vernal equinoxian expedition, taken on March 21, 2015, I certainly did see some new things.

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Excursion 42 (The Brickworks)

Here are a handful of photographs from an abortive trip I took into eastern Ohio on Christmas Eve in 2014.  I am afraid I do not remember what caused me to have to cut this trip short, so I don’t have much of a story to accompany these photographs.  If I am not otherwise engaged, I like going on photography trips on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, because everything is usually so quiet and deserted.

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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 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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Excursion 30 (Rider on the Storm)

In mid-May 2014 I had to travel to Chicago for work.  I brought my camera with me so that, on the way home, I might be able to take a few photographs once I crossed back into Ohio.  As I actually did so, I found myself in front of a major spring storm heading east from Indiana into Ohio.  I wasn’t storm-chasing—the storm was chasing me.  As I drove home, this game me some nice opportunities to turn around and take some photographs of the oncoming storm.  Which I now present to you.

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Excursion 29 (Passing through Western Ohio)

In 2014, I had to travel to and from Chicago quite a bit, for work, and on those occasions I tried to squeeze some extra drive time so I could, for the Ohio portion of the trip, go on some back roads and take a few photographs.  These photographs, from May 2014, were taken on one trip to Chicago.  I did not have much extra time, so once I threw away the discards, there are only a few photographs here from this trip.  But if you like western Ohio, these might be worthwhile for you.

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Excursion 28, Part 2 (The Fronts of Things, the Backs of Things)

Here we pick up midway through my trip to western Ohio, hugging the Indiana border closely without accidentally crossing over and touching something Hoosierish.   Actually, on this beautiful April day in 2014, I was just about to start circling back to the northeast.  It was great driving weather, especially since in Ohio April showers are indeed a thing.  Birds were chirping, groundhogs were grunting, and even bales of hay seemed to have their own personal message to me…

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Excursion 27, Part 1: (Return to Mud House Mansion)

It was February 2014.  Cold and brisk, but the weather was fine and it looked like a nice day to take an excursion.  I decided to do something I had been hankering to do for quite a while, which was to return to Mud House Mansion.  I had discovered this fascinating old building located a bit east of Lancaster only the month before, so the landscape (barren, winter) would look pretty much the same, but what I wanted to do was to get there very early in the morning and get some good pictures of the mansion during the pre-dawn and dawn minutes, the so-called “golden hour” of photography.  Well, the plans of mice and men oft gang agley and my exquisite timing was ruined completely when a woman driving a jeep mounted with a battering ram rear-ended by Pilot in downtown Lancaster.  She had a grill guard on the front of Jeep (designed to protect vehicles from deer and such hitting the front of the car), but it was one that protruded well in front of the vehicle and that steel frame ploughed into the back of my SUV, caving in the rear door and doing about $7,000 or so worth of damage.  So much for golden hour.

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