Ruins.

urban_lot_southbronx

I’ve always been drawn to ruins.  Something about the dark, destroyed, hopeless and desolate fascinates as much as it frightens me.

I remember the burned out apartment buildings in the South Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s.  Blocks upon blocks of scorched skeletons of tall project buildings, emptied of humanity, glaring down on huge vacant lots filled with the corpses of old rusted cars, broken glass, and mountains of trash.  Sometimes these lots were cordoned off behind chain link fencing, which was usually breached in some way, twisted or collapsed in places.  What was the point of cordoning off so much nothing?

As tempting as it was, I never dared take the subway up to the Bronx to get a closer view, but whenever I passed through the South Bronx as a passenger in someone else’s car, I’d crane my neck as far as it would go to take in as much of the view as I could, simultaneously praying the car didn’t break down.

To get a good idea of what this landscape looked like, there’s a 1981 horror movie called Wolfen, which takes place in the South Bronx of the early 1980s.  There is a certain bleak beauty in all the depressing desolation, and Wolfen captured it as perfectly as anyone ever could.   Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s was a howling badland: a wilderness every bit as isolated and full of danger as an desert or jungle where no human being has ever set foot.

Here are two stills from Wolfen.

wolfenpic

wolfen-slum2

Compare to a photo of an abandoned housing project in he real life Bronx.   (This photo is from the 1970s or 1980s).

southbronx

I got a kick out of the “Broken Promises” sign on the right.   I’m not sure if this was added to the photo later or not, but it’s still a powerful picture with or without it.

Here’s a video someone made.  The editing isn’t the greatest, but I found it pretty intriguing.

 

The South Bronx no longer looks like this.  It’s not the greatest New York City neighborhood, and probably never will be.   But it’s certainly not the burned out slum it was back in the 1970s and 1980s.   (It’s also surprisingly expensive.  I couldn’t afford it.)

Ruins are everywhere.  Today, Detroit is probably the American city best known for its ruins.   Now I live next to ruins.  Last Sunday there was a terrible fire in a small apartment building next door.  Two of the apartments were completely destroyed.  The other two apartments are in fair condition, and their tenants have moved back in (I’m not sure for how long, since the building will eventually have to be torn down).

I finally got a chance to go around the back of the building and get a good view of the destruction.   You can actually see all the way through the building to the front.   Before I took the two pictures below, I just stood there and stared at the destruction for awhile. As with all ruins,  I was both horrified and fascinated.

fireaftermath1

fireaftermath2

Sometimes I wonder if my fascination with ruins has something to do with my rather dark inner landscape.    I’ve found it to be the case that people who like ruins and scenes of urban blight or bleak landscapes tend toward pessimism and depression.   It’s like we can relate to such scenes.   They seem familiar to us.

*****

Further reading:

Urban Lots and Blighted Souls 

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Feeling sorry for inanimate objects.

Originally posted on April 3, 2017

I’m posting this again because today I felt sorry for an ironing board.

My neighbors moved last week and left their ironing board out for the trash. A few days ago I looked at it and saw that it was intact. I hoped someone would rescue it and take it home (I don’t iron so I have no use for it). It was never picked up. Instead, some mean person broke its legs. That made me much sadder than it should have.

Here is the original post.

abandoned_doll

Credit: Danielle Hamer Photography/Abandoned Objects

I saw someone’s tweet today that caught my attention because I could relate to its sentiment.

True story @ work tonite I completely crushed a paper cup out of stress at work & almost threw it away but felt bad for the cup so I used it. 

And a few minutes later:

This falls under the same category as me feeling sad after accidentally stepping on an ant, but worse.

I thought I was the only one who ever had these absurd feelings of remorse or pity for inanimate objects, but apparently I’m not.

I remember a couple of years ago, when I was painting my kitchen Kelly green, I accidentally flung some of the paint from my brush all over a small throw pillow that had somehow wound up on the kitchen floor and I’d neglected to pick up and bring to safety.  (Don’t ask me how it wound up on the kitchen floor).   A small fake-velvet tan pillow with floral embroidery was permanently ruined with Kelly green paint and it was all my fault.  I had to throw it away and I felt like weeping.

How absurd is that?  I was never attached to that pillow; it was worth nothing.  I probably found it for a buck at some yard sale, but I remember feeling like the worst person in the world because the thing looked so pathetic with lurid green paint splattered over its delicate tan velvet adorned with Chinese-factory made embroidery.

I remember when my daughter was four, she tossed a Pound Puppy out of our car window to see what would happen to it.   Of course I had to keep going, but in my rearview mirror,  I saw the car behind me run over the stuffed toy and flatten it like a pancake.  Its petroleum-based stuffing exploded all over the road like popcorn.   My daughter laughed.  I felt inexplicably sad.

There have been other times like that too.   Like the time that, in frustration, I threw a paperback book (one I’d never read and never intended to read) against the wall and split its binding.  Or  the other time I accidentally burned a cheap oven mitt that had a cute lattice-like pattern on it.     I actually liked that oven mitt, but it had cost me $3 at Dollar General.   There were a gazillion more just like it. Besides, it was intended to be stuck inside a hot oven.   Getting burned was one of the risks that came with its intended use.

None of these were valuable objects, or even objects that had any special meaning to me.  They were just part of the background — things I’d acquired and that were just there.   Things I never thought much about.    Of course I realized they had no feelings, and could feel neither emotional or physical pain.   I’m not an idiot.

And yet, when bad things happened to them — or worse, when I did bad things to them — I felt just terrible, as if I’d killed someone.   Would these inexplicable feelings of guilt had been less had I loved those objects or had they been valuable, either financially or in the sentimental sense?    Maybe I’d have grieved over their loss but have been spared that guilt.   After all, those poor objects were never loved, and then were destroyed through my own carelessness.  Maybe if I’d cared, I wouldn’t have done things like spill green paint all over them or thrown them hard against a wall in frustration.

Sometimes I also feel bad for abandoned or neglected objects.    There’s a website I visit sometimes called Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos.  The site owner has a bizarre obsession with those ubiquitous plastic outdoor chairs.   He or she calls them the “garden chairs of solitude” and positions them in poignant configurations that just rip your heart out, like in this photo:

gardenchairsofsolitude

“Garden chairs of solitude”

Whenever I rescue some forgotten or abandoned object from certain destruction by the trash compactor that barrels down the road every Monday, I feel like I’ve done a good thing for it, as if the thing actually cares.

 

Feeling sorry for inanimate objects.

abandoned_doll

Credit: Danielle Hamer Photography/Abandoned Objects

I saw someone’s tweet today that caught my attention because I could relate to its sentiment.

True story @ work tonite I completely crushed a paper cup out of stress at work & almost threw it away but felt bad for the cup so I used it. 

And a few minutes later:

This falls under the same category as me feeling sad after accidentally stepping on an ant, but worse.

I thought I was the only one who ever had these absurd feelings of remorse or pity for inanimate objects, but apparently I’m not.

I remember a couple of years ago, when I was painting my kitchen Kelly green, I accidentally flung some of the paint from my brush all over a small throw pillow that had somehow wound up on the kitchen floor and I’d neglected to pick up and bring to safety.  (Don’t ask me how it wound up on the kitchen floor).   A small fake-velvet tan pillow with floral embroidery was permanently ruined with Kelly green paint and it was all my fault.  I had to throw it away and I felt like weeping.

How absurd is that?  I was never attached to that pillow; it was worth nothing.  I probably found it for a buck at some yard sale, but I remember feeling like the worst person in the world because the thing looked so pathetic with lurid green paint splattered over its delicate tan velvet adorned with Chinese-factory made embroidery.

I remember when my daughter was four, she tossed a Pound Puppy out of our car window to see what would happen to it.   Of course I had to keep going, but in my rearview mirror,  I saw the car behind me run over the stuffed toy and flatten it like a pancake.  Its petroleum-based stuffing exploded all over the road like popcorn.   My daughter laughed.  I felt inexplicably sad.

There have been other times like that too.   Like the time that, in frustration, I threw a paperback book (one I’d never read and never intended to read) against the wall and split its binding.  Or  the other time I accidentally burned a cheap oven mitt that had a cute lattice-like pattern on it.     I actually liked that oven mitt, but it had cost me $3 at Dollar General.   There were a gazillion more just like it. Besides, it was intended to be stuck inside a hot oven.   Getting burned was one of the risks that came with its intended use.

None of these were valuable objects, or even objects that had any special meaning to me.  They were just part of the background — things I’d acquired and that were just there.   Things I never thought much about.    Of course I realized they had no feelings, and could feel neither emotional or physical pain.   I’m not an idiot.

And yet, when bad things happened to them — or worse, when I did bad things to them — I felt just terrible, as if I’d killed someone.   Would these inexplicable feelings of guilt had been less had I loved those objects or had they been valuable, either financially or in the sentimental sense?    Maybe I’d have grieved over their loss but have been spared that guilt.   After all, those poor objects were never loved, and then were destroyed through my own carelessness.  Maybe if I’d cared, I wouldn’t have done things like spill green paint all over them or thrown them hard against a wall in frustration.

Sometimes I also feel bad for abandoned or neglected objects.    There’s a website I visit sometimes called Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos.  The site owner has a bizarre obsession with those ubiquitous plastic outdoor chairs.   He or she calls them the “garden chairs of solitude” and positions them in poignant configurations that just rip your heart out, like in this photo:

gardenchairsofsolitude

“Garden chairs of solitude”

Whenever I rescue some forgotten or abandoned object from certain destruction by the trash compactor that barrels down the road every Monday, I feel like I’ve done a good thing for it, as if the thing actually cares.