Monday, March 10, 2003
For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed looking at and photographing scenes of urban and industrial decay. I'm not sure why, since most people find the sight of charred smokestacks, or rusty fire escapes and flyblown Dumpsters depressing. Perhaps it's the depressing nature that attracts me? I don't think it's that simple, really; actually I thought about this long and hard on the Metra train ride down to work this morning.
Even in the glaring late-winter sunshine, the South side of Chicago seen from the train tracks is a marvel in steel and concrete, its hardness perpetual, outlasting the seasonal bloom and death of foliage. The tracks themselves, ridden by millions since the city's earliest days are endlessly burnished by the rolling wheels of steel; the banks, the theaters, the offices, schools and parks that nourished countless souls still stand. So do the powerlines, the pipes and overpasses; the sidewalks and the sewers.
Among the bland commercialized housing, vacant lots and dilapidated tricornate projects sprout the Blockbuster, Jewel-Osco and Walgreens' signs. Next to them rise the pointed green tiled dome and twin minarets of a Southside mosque, giving the area an exotic, faraway feel. Strange how mosques often look foreign in an American landscape, while European churches and cathedral spires seem to 'fit': it's all a matter of familiarity and perception.
In the grey rusted roughness of the industrial landscape I see nature vanquished, but I also see humanity's halfhearted striving for permanence. The face of a century-old apartment building or a soot smeared factory says a multitude of things. While there is, of course, obvious beauty in things green, blossoming and fresh, there is also a kind of beauty in tarnish, rust, and patina: the former the hopeful pulchritude of a newborn baby or young child, the latter in the wrinkled delineation of an elderly face, or facade.
The beauty of new things and youth is also the beauty of potential, it says "see what I will be!"
The crags of old faces or architecture cry out, "I have survived, and prevail over time. I still am."
Just as there are no escapes from the eventual ravages of time - and all things come away touched by its hand to some degree - history and energy reside in the markings of age, like the grooves of a record album. The scratches and lands tell their story of striving towards eternity if we only stop and listen, instead of constantly discarding them for a clean slate. In capturing the image of time passed, we may somehow, in some small way, assist eternity in its work.
It's Not The Size Of Your Spam...
No doubt you're enjoying just as much useless spam in your inbox as I am (although mine makes up about 75% of incoming messages. E-mail is hardly worth it these days), but I just had to share this bit of tripe that just arrived because it made me laugh before I hit the "delete" key:
"100% Money Back Guarantee!Where exactly on TV have we seen this? Would a "permanent erection" be a good thing? I hardly think it's "doctor recommended"; it's actually a pathological condition called priapism, usually indicative of a serious problem like spinal cord injury.
Permanent Larger Erections
As Seen On Tv!"