I was talking to a friend about a recent excursion that really made the hairs on my arm stand on end. A little over a month ago, I came across a spot that was as scary as it was intriguing. That day, I spent a matter of minutes exploring the area just adjacent to the old, abandoned automotive parts/repair shop. At the time, I peaked through, before briefly entering the side door. When returning a few weeks later, I found an obscured front door and entered with as much caution as I had curiosity. Almost immediately, I could feel the hair on my arms stand on end as I had entered a dragon’s lair of graffitied walls, random garbage and the remnants of a recent visitor, or worse, occupant.
As I stepped cautiously through the debris and squalor. I couldn’t help but feel the tortured spirits of those who may have preceded my visit. As I moved from room to room through hand carved holes in the walls. I couldn’t help but feel that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. The random needles, paint cans and emptied glue containers served as evidence of recent hardcore drug use. “You’re too old to be doing this. You should be enjoying a plate of eggs and hash browns with you wife right now”
As creepy as my visit might have been. I had no inkling as to how weird things were about to get. While carefully opening one of the container doors. I unveiled what seemed to be a living space, complete with mattress. Though not the unveiling of a colony of brain thirsty zombies or bat wielding crack heads I spooked myself into imagining. It quickly served as the hair-raising moment that told me “Times up. Get your ass back in the car” Thankfully, I was in complete and total agreement with that inner voice. Until the next time.
Each year, Labor Day weekend comes and goes without much movement around here. The urge to go somewhere for the extended three-day weekend is often outweighed by the thought of getting caught up in the “Get outta Dodge” type traffic that seems to accompany any holiday travel. This year my wife seemed a bit more determined to do something out of the norm. Or as she put it. “Something we don’t usually do most every weekend.” As per usual, I was up for anything. (That is “Just about anything.”)
As the links and ideas began to fill my email. I began to realize just how much she wanted to do something different. We had missed some opportunities due to traffic, long lines and just a lack of any intense interest. Knowing full well my lack of flexibility and patience played a major role in these decisions and… for lack of a better word, indecision. I was willing to do anything to make her happy. To say I cringed when she sent me a link to an upcoming County fare would be an understatement for the ages. The thought of driving for two hours in order to see a cover band perform a mix of Country favorites and Eagles covers amongst the smell of fried dough and cotton candy, somehow does not appeal to me. It wasn’t until she mapped out the trip and mentioned the pig racing schedule, that I realized this was something bigger than me. So off we went.
As we arrived, all the cliques quickly fell in to place. The array of deep-fried everything that could put a lesser man into a diabetic coma. The rabid obesity and of course the cover band deep in the belly of a rousing chorus of “I got friends in low places. My mind was transplanted to that part in “Apocalypse Now” narration where (Martin Sheen) Capt. Willard says”I wanted a mission. And for my sins, they gave me one.” I was there to have fun… And dammit, whether it at my expense or someone else. I was going to have fun. For lack of a better term. Finding my way to the cow, pig and goat stables made me feel happier than a pig in shit. After some “me time” with the cows, we settled in for the pig races before heading home. I’m just glad my wife had a chance to do something different.
We live in an ever-changing world where we are constantly in perpetual movement. Very few, if anything holds permanence. While not a bad thing per say. It’s one of the founding principles that influenced my becoming a photographer who felt it important to document my surroundings.The need to explore and document things that may soon be gone is one of the key factors in what originally drew me to photography.
Knowing full well that changes would soon come to one of my current favorite local photo destinations. I took a ride with the wife to see what had developed since my last visit. As we drove closer. The unwelcoming sound of barking dogs echoed in the distance. The immediate question “Could that barking be coming from indie the construction site?” and if so, “Where those dogs chained up or were they loose?” Knowing the answer would soon reveal itself. I proceeded with extreme caution.
Just as predicted. The incessant barking was coming from two Pit Bulls inside and thankfully, not roaming around awaiting their next meal. While it always pains me to see such beautiful animals being chained or caged. I was greatful to feel a bit safer while I quickly got what I came for. Noting the projects progress, the precence of trucks and of course the guard dogs. I relized that this was in all likelyhood, my last visit here. And while we were happy to see that the dogd had plenty of food and water. We made it a point to report the siting to both the lacal Humane Society and Police.
When we arrived at Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal that morning, I had a little more than feasting on the market’s overwhelming array of delicious food on my mind. In each of the times we’ve visited the food mecca. I’ve taken pictures of the food, the signs and just about everything else with the glaring exception of the people who crowd the area. Knowing full well, that photographing strangers, especially those stuffing their face can be risky. I did my best to be quick and unobtrusive. With the constant movement and foot traffic adding to the bustling energy of the market. I wasn’t given many opportunities to focus or shoot. However, that Amish breakfast was more than enough fuel fo what was a pretty long drive from Jersey City. Reading Terminal is one of my favorite pit stops during any visit to Philadelphia. I highly recommend stopping by, shopping and filling your belly. “Come Hungry. Leave Satisfied!”
It’s not every day I find such gold within spitting distance from my home base, but when I do, it’s just as much of a thrill, if not more than having to put it in the time and mileage often required. And while I’m thrilled to share some of the bounty from today’s excursion. I’m going to remain tight-lipped and secretive about its location. Hopefully there’s someone out there that enjoys this type of thing as much as I do.
Some of my earliest memories involve my Dad taking me to the junk yards just beyond Shea stadium at Willets Point. Whether it was to scavenge for parts to keep his T-bird running or as a shark collecting on bets whose payment had over reached the official calendar dates. For me personally, the opportunity to seize the passenger’s seat and tag along on such an adventure was better than a trip to Disneyland, or at least the local arcade. That excitement I felt when the car would come to a rolling stop. Where I’d eject myself from the car, run past the half-berserk junk yard dog towards the wrecked cars, old tires and random parts that lay about like toys waiting to be opened on Christmas Day. I tell ya. From the age of five to about ten years old, there weren’t many playgrounds or theme parks worthy of such excitement on my part.
Decades later, and with many years behind me. I find myself, sometimes embarrassingly, drawn to the same things that inspired me as a child. Things that, till this day, raise my brow as well as the hair on my arm or the back of my neck.Those sensors and those knots in my stomach let me know that… as broken down as I may be. I’m still alive and full of a passion to get closer, investigate, document and report back. I hope that passion never leaves me.
As we were celebrating my brother’s 21st birthday over a couple of tasty lobsters yesterday. I wanted to share with him the little wisdom I still had to offer. For the most part, we talked about school and the new baby our other brother had welcomed into the world just a day earlier. Though I wanted to speak as few words as possible and listen to the words of someone in the throes of becoming a unique and very intelligent adult. He seemed more interested in the city I grew up in years before he was born. My brother’s curiosity and curious nature had me on the hot seat.
Speaking in the most positive way this old coot could muster. I explained that much of the city I grew up in was gone. Yet my own personal experiences and stories kept it alive in my heart. How, while the drastic changes to the both the cities landscape and overall chemistry did not appeal to me. There was no reason they should deter him from finding his favorite corners, nooks and destinations. Change is inevitable and an integral part in our growth process. Without movement and change, we become stagnant. For me, or anyone else for that matter, to expect things to remain the same would not only be selfish. It would be downright foolish. And as much as I find myself shaking my fists at tourists and the franchises that have replaced many of my old haunts. I’m finding new and exciting things that appeal to my senses.Later that day, just blocks from the Bleeker St. corner where we enjoyed our meal. I came upon some pretty eye-popping street art. A convenient reminder how change brings possibilities. As I get older, I’m coming to realize it is not healthy to live in the past or worry about the future. To live in the moment. To enjoy the now. That’s my happy place.