Wednesday, July 27, 2011


If it's abandoned, one nail away from collapsing, or choking in weeds, chances are I'm poking around. As an awkward, bespectacled girl in the seventh grade, I spent many weekends with a friend who lived on a farm - and she knew the ins and outs of every other neighboring farm in the area. On one particular plot of land, surrounded by overgrowth and obscured from roads, sat a long forgotten two-story home. The entire facade was ripped off, exposing each boxy room unit, like a life-size dollhouse. It appeared as though the home had been left behind in the 50s or 60s, judging by the old stove and refrigerator. For a twelve year old, (severely) sheltered in a rural Maryland town, this was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. I hope for newer generations of curious explorers that this place still exists.

By the time I was seventeen we were living in Northern California, and I had a car to explore my own piece of the world. I was infatuated with abandoned buildings. In college at San Diego, I discovered an entire town of abandonment at the Salton Sea. I've visited abandoned amusement parks on the edge of cliffs in Los Angeles, small homes here and there all over the country. Empty stores and warehouses. Citrus packing plants in Florida. Generally, none of these places have ever frightened me. The things I worry about in abandoned spaces have more to deal with structural stability - and less about Leatherface.

I think often about what attracts to me to urban decay. On a surface level, there is a small thrill found in the fear of the unknown, in the spaces belonging to my trespasses. Yet I can't help but feel there is something greater with this fascination. Several of the buildings I visited have one thing in common: so many personal effects have been left behind. It doesn't matter if it's a small home or a giant warehouse. I have been to a packing plant with an unopened soda on an office desk and a cardigan draped over the back of a chair. I've seen pictures from other urban explorers of abandoned hotels with the beds still neatly made, after a decade of nonuse. Each place a musty time capsule. It's quite eery, and makes me wonder under what circumstances would someone leave so much of themselves behind?

I find much more comfort in decay than in newness. I'm still trying to figure that out. Generally speaking I love all things old and grungy. Maybe it's my own way of reacting to our culture? I won't try and take it too deep...but Americans tend to love the impulse of a new purchase. We tear things down and rebuild them to accomodate our modern needs.

Or maybe it's just my imagination wanting to create a good narrative of the past from a lot of little clues left behind...

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