Ruins.

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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.

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

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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.

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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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Frida Kahlo in 1946.

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Frida Kahlo was an artist born in Mexico in 1907.  She died at age 47, in 1954.

Kahlo was a woman who was way ahead of her time.   This photograph, taken by photographer Nikolas Murray in 1946 in New York City (where Kahlo resided) shows a woman who was definitely her own person, though living in a time when women didn’t have many choices and were expected to behave and look a certain way.

You just didn’t see this type of eccentric, bohemian individuality in those days…or perhaps it existed in big cities like New York, but was still so very rarely seen.

I think she looks gorgeous and badass all at once.  Vulnerable and fierce.  This wonderful photo has a timeless quality.  There’s no way you can look at it and tell when it was taken.  It could just as easily have been taken today.

Outside my door.

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Late November GLOOM

Spring can’t come fast enough, but that’s still a long time to wait.

Yeah, it’s cold too.

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October sunset.

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A beary good day.

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I took a drive out to Lake Logan, about 30 miles from here.  The lake’s surface was so still it was like a mirror.  There was no human activity at all (this is a very isolated lake, but in the summer there is still quite a bit of activity from people camping in the area).

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There’s a definite fall feel in the air even though the days are still hot and most of the leaves haven’t really begun to turn yet.   Summer is definitely over.

Driving back home along some back roads, was I in for a surprise!    This black bear was standing in the middle of the road and at one point was quite close, but he quickly lumbered off before I could grab my phone to get a closeup picture.   I managed to snap this photo before he disappeared back into the woods.  I guess he found the attention unbearable.

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Summer’s end.

The end of summer always brings me sadness — and I mean that quite literally, since I suffer from the mood disorder SAD (seasonal affective disorder) that always sets in around late August and usually sticks around until sometime in late January or early February, when the days start to become noticeably longer.

It seems incongruous to me that it is still so swelteringly hot (we hit 90 degrees F today) and yet signs of fall are everywhere: Halloween (and even Thanksgiving and Christmas) products and decorations in the stores,  kids going back to school, the presence of school buses on the roads when I drive to work in the morning, a few falling leaves here and there,  and that tired, wilted, look the trees and shrubs get before they begin to turn their fall colors (around here, that usually means dingy brown).  And, of course, the dreaded Pumpkin Spice Everything.

Another sign that summer is at its end is the closing of public swimming pools.  Even though it’s still as hot as the inside of a locked car in Miami, the municipal pool has closed its doors until next Memorial Day.   I found that out when I drove over there this afternoon, hoping to enjoy a quick cool down in the water.   Instead of the welcome sight and sounds of people splashing happily in the refreshing turquoise water and the occasional whistle from the lifeguard, what I found instead was a completely abandoned concrete building guarding the pool, which was half-drained so whatever water was left looked as refreshing as thick green pond scum.  The surrounding chain link fence with its rusty Master locks keeping the gates closed completed the desolate look.  The fact I was sweating balls under the blistering sun and the sky was a deep bright summer blue dotted with fluffy cumulus clouds made the sight seem even sadder somehow.

There was also not one person in sight.

I took a few photos so my visit there wouldn’t be a total waste of time.

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I enhanced the above “closed” announcement on the main building with a sepia toned filter for a nostalgic effect.

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In the above photo, I used a color enhancing filter, making the water a more lurid green and the sky even bluer than it actually was.

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Abandoned pool and lifeguard chair in black and white.

Pictures from Myrtle Beach.

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I spent three days at Myrtle Beach and unlike last year, the weather was perfect every day!  I would have loved to spend an extra day since the day dawned so gorgeous on the morning we left, but I don’t think my sunburned skin could have taken any more!

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We didn’t do much, mostly just lazed on the beach, took long walks, and ambled along the boardwalk, but relaxation is what a vacay is all about, not staying busy every second.

I just love the ocean.  It’s so soothing to my body and soul.

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Myrtle Beach sunset.

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Since Myrtle Beach is on the Atlantic Ocean, if you get up early enough, you can catch incredible sunrises.  The second morning we were able to do just that.  These photos were each taken about five minutes apart:

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Return to Sunburst, NC

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I enjoyed our day trip to Sunburst a couple of weeks ago so much that I decided to go back, only this time alone. I left my house early and arrived there at about 11 AM.

I was the only person there!   How wonderful!  I could easily imagine I was the only person in the world, and this tranquil and perfect little spot with its cold mountain water, breathtaking views, and swarms of colorful butterflies was my own little Garden of Eden.

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This time I had taken along a couple of plastic gallon jugs, and filled both with the cold, clear water. I know it’s perfectly safe to drink as is without filtering it, because I tried it last time we went and didn’t get sick.

With no other people splashing the water, it was very still, and therefore it was easier this time to get an idea of how deep the water may have been in the “swimming hole” area.   The slope down into it was quite steep from where I stood at waist level.  My guess was the water in the deepest spot was about 6 or 7 feet.  You could still see the stones at the bottom,  with the water at that depth taking on a greenish tint.

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Looking down into the “swimming hole.”

Here and there in the shallows were little piles of different sized stones.
I’m not sure if these are some kind of markers, or if they’re just there for decoration. Whatever they were there for, I thought they made for interesting photographs.

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If anything, there were even more butterflies here this time than last. I spent less time taking pictures of them, but I did take this one because it includes a yellow and black butterfly that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest (there were actually quite a few of them there too).

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I stayed about an hour and waded out into the water up to my waist, then decided to go home because I had errands to run. On the way up the hill back to my car, I saw some trash. That made me angry. Why are people such pigs? Why would they desecrate this idyllic Eden-like spot with their garbage?

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I looked in the car and found a trash bag in the back, and spent about 10 minutes picking up beer cans, chip bags, styrofoam cups, etc. Then I got in the car and drove back home.  I think I’ve found my happy place.  I’ll keep coming back here often.  It should be lovely in the fall.

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My Clearwater and Tampa, Florida trip.

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Sandbar at Anclote Key Preserve.

More than two months ago, my daughter and I spent 8 days in Tampa and Clearwater Beach, Florida.  I never got around to writing about my trip, even though I kept promising to.  Well, I finally got around to it.  Better late than never, right?

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Horseshoe crabs — one of them crawled right over my feet!

I got to see my son while we were in Tampa, even though he had to work most of the 4 days were here, but we did all go out to dinner a couple of times, spent some time lounging at the hotel pool and hot tub.  On our last day together, we all went to ZooTampa.  It was a bit pricey, but worth it.   We got a late start, but still managed to see almost the entire zoo, except “Australia.”  The sections we saw were “Florida,” “Africa,” “Asia,” and “Primates.”   The zoo is very large so if you go, be prepared to spend lots of time walking!  Stay hydrated.   As we passed through the indoor reptile area (a welcomely cool respite from the heat), there were colorful decorations all over the ceiling that resembled deep sea creatures and looked as if they were made of glass — but they were actually sculptures made from recycled soda bottles and other plastic trash!

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We loved seeing all the different animals (there were even river otters — my favorite — in the “Florida” section).  My daughter seemed quite taken with the pink flamingos, who were very entertaining and funny.   There were so many of them!  We spent a long time just watching their antics.

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One of the days my son was working, my daughter and I decided to drive to Tarpon Springs, a small Greek fishing village which is known as the Sponge Capital of the US.  It was my third visit there.  It’s one of my favorite places in the Tampa Bay area. On a whim, we decided to take the Sponge-O-Rama cruise out into the Gulf.  It’s a two hour cruise and pretty cheap at only $20 per person.   We had to wait a while for the boat (a sort of ferry) to fill up, but when we took off, the water was pretty choppy from recent storms, and I had to hold on.  Drinks were served but it was hard to hold onto them without them splashing everywhere.  After we got out into the Gulf, the dark water from the marina and inlet suddenly turned bright aquamarine.   For a minute I thought someone had slipped some LSD into my beer!  But this is the actual color of the water.

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The boat’s captain, a youngish Greek man who had been raised in Tarpon Springs and worked with the boats all his life (his name was Atticus!) explained the reason why the color of the water changed so abruptly isn’t so much due to the depth, but because once you leave the river and enter the Gulf proper, the water changes from brackish (almost freshwater) to salt water.  The mangroves dotting the area suck up the nutrients from the water, making it clear.   He pointed out other things we were seeing along the way.

Finally, about three miles out into the Gulf, he pulled the boat over next to a large sandbar.   This was part of Anclote Key Preserve State Park, a group of very small mangrove islands so remote there is no way to get there except by boat.  The sandbar is a semi-permanent fixture, with a few low growing plants and grasses and a lot of seaweed washed up on the sand.   The sand was absolutely blinding white, like snow, and surrounded on all sides by the clearest aquamarine water I’ve ever seen.  In the shallow areas the water was so crystal clear you could barely see it.  Our group (there were about 20 of us) spent about 30 minutes exploring, collecting shells, or swimming.  We were each given a plastic grocery bag to collect shells in.   I didn’t spend much time shelling.  After a few minutes, I ran out into the pristine warm salt water and just let it engulf me.   The whole experience was exhilarating, even though 30 minutes wasn’t nearly enough time!

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The above photo is my absolute favorite.   The juxaposition of the white sands, aquamarine water and fluffy white clouds stirs my soul.  I have made this photo the background on my laptop!

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Our combined seashell booty.

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The marina at Tarpon Springs (notice how much darker the water here is)

We drove to Clearwater for the remaining 4 days.  The 10 mile drive over Tampa Bay into Clearwater is very pretty.   We stayed in a cute hotel right on the beach, but the weather during our stay could have been better.   We only had two days of good weather, but being right on the boardwalk, there was still more than enough to keep us busy.   Our first night, we ate at Clearwater’s most famous eatery, Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe.  The beach was wonderful, and not too crowded.  One day we decided to drive out to Treasure Island in St. Petersburg, even though it was raining.  Hey, why not?   It rained during the drive, and the entire time we were there, but the beach was still pleasant and the water warm.  We didn’t stay long, but it was nice having the beach almost completely to ourselves.

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Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe, Clearwater.

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Treasure Island in the pouring rain.

The sunsets over the Gulf were incredible.    I just can’t get enough of Gulf sunsets, and here are the pictures proving that.

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Sunlight from sunset reflecting off the clouds to the east.

On our second day, we had beautiful weather (even though the morning forecast had predicted rain), so we decided to book the Pirate ship for its Champagne Cruise, which takes off in the late afternoon.  There are two champagne cruises; ours was the first.  The next one takes off at sunset.   I would have liked to go on that one too, but we’d already had way too much champagne.  Yes, I confess both my daughter and I overindulged (you pay your $40 for the cruise, and the drinks are unlimited), but we had so much fun, and the views from the ship were amazing (a few are pictured below). The pirate theme was fun, and the appropriately costumed staff were friendly.  The nice young man pictured below (I can’t remember his name) even hung out with us on the upper deck for a few minutes.

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Me with view of the beach in the background

One thing I noticed this time was how good I’m getting at finding my way around the Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater metro area.   It’s my third trip to this area, but this time I was finally getting comfortable just driving around and finding my way from one place to another.   I’m generally not good with directions and navigation, but  because everything’s pretty much laid out on a grid here, it’s a lot easier to get around the area than where I live, where there are mountains and no grid to speak of.

It seems so much longer than two months ago I was in Florida, but in some ways it feels like it was just yesterday.   To end this post, here’s a little video I made just after sunset of the patterns of the surf (it’s actually the first video I ever made from my phone).