The family is gone. Oh, they’ll be back. At least that’s the plan; I’ve seen the plane tickets for the return trip. But wife and daughter are on the East Coast for a college tour, and I’ve stayed behind with the dog because otherwise he’d get hungry and poop on the floor.

How is he now? He’s hungry, and he pooped on the floor.

Well, no, that was yesterday. He gets to stay out of his kennel for the brief time between my wife leaving for work and me getting my carcass downstairs, and that’s when he made the deposit. Today’s fun morning moment: he found a dead squirrel and took it to the middle of the yard to chew. Nothing but pelt and a spinal cord, as far as I cold see. Disgusting. He wouldn’t let it go. Stared straight ahead, jaws clenched: no. This is mine. I had to step on the thing and pull him away, then carry him inside. After which he went downstairs and peed on a rug. JUST BECAUSE HE COULD, I guess.

That was the first half-hour after dropping Wife and Daughter off at the airport. Me and the dog for five days. On the plus side, I’ll never be alone.

No traffic to the airport, which was unusual; it’s the first day of the Teacher’s Conference, the annual event when school lets out so teachers can attend a convention. (If only there were a few months elsewhere in the year when they could do this . . . nah, none come to mind.) Many families go on vacation, take a little break - Disneyworld, for example, is where we used to go, until that became Kid Stuff. I suggested going this year and was met with scoffage.

Brutal scoffage:

I thought it would be fun, one last time

Then you should have had another child.

I’ve told you before, you were a miracle of modern science.

You can go with Mom.

I don’t think Mom wants to go to Disneyworld.

Then you should have married someone else.

Teens. They're the best.

So I’ve been kicked out of Disneyworld. Can’t go back, no sir. Of course you can’t recreate the first time you took your kid, their excitement and delight and awe: there’s the castle! It really exists. Or the time you went back and did the Buzz Lightyear shooting ride again, remembering how much fun it was last time but it was better this time because you were older.



Here’s the thing about memory: the first two years we went were not good years. 2007: the paper was collapsing. 2008: everything else was collapsing. There was a surreal character to both; in 2007, I figured I’d be fired soon, and would have to find something else to do. I was quite confident I would, having some sort of delirious evaluation of my general and specific employability. In 2008 all the prosperity and everything’s-just-fine atmosphere of Disneyworld was comforting, I suppose, but you could imagine tumbleweeds.

But it didn’t quite shake the happiness I felt at . . . Epcot, of all places. There was just something so positive and optimistic about it, which might be ascribed to the calming lithium gas that flows from hidden nozzles, but also the music, which I just loved.

This would be the spot where I embed a 40-minute YouTube video that has all the music, but really, I always feel a bit annoyed when I see those. As if I’m a lesser person with a short attention span if I don’t click. Oh, I really should listen to this song; someone went to the trouble of getting the embed code.




  Always loved this Tomorrowland piece.


You don't hear it, as such; it's part of the ambient experience, overpowered by laughter and tired cries and conversation, loudspeaker announcements. I know the piece from another context, and can't place where. It belongs to another time in my life, though, and I don't feel as if it's mine anymore.

I can tell you exactly where this is: off the Italian restaurant on Main Street. You had to make reservations, of course. Like most of the food, it wasn't very good, and it cost a lot. Meatballs the size of volleyballs, if I recall. Towards the back there was an underutilized space with a small theater playing 30s cartoons. You watched Steamboat Willie while the kids were using the bathroom.




Ah, hold on - I screengrabbed a beta version of Google's attempt to build 3D models of everything. Would have made a great Doom level:




Why did they do that.

Main Street was fun and old-timey, but I really, really wanted to live here.


Could do without the hat, but the architecture? My dream town. All Moderne and Deco, with some 50s touches.

There should be little main streets like this all over America, but noooo, we had to have a Depression and a War. If this had been the style between 1910 and 1930, downtowns might look completely different. Not entirely; economics would still dictate some plain brick boxes, but the overall style would point this way.

And all if it would have been covered up with sheet metal in the 50s, I suppose. And then it would be abandoned today.

Growing up, I thought 2017 would be this:




Don't know if Daughter ever thought her future would look like that, but she's torn about tech. Likes the internet, but doesn't want robots to take over everything. Likes the old styles and values as well.




That would be ten years ago tomorrow. Today, she's touring a college.

A different sort of amusement park.


Obligatory reset of the concept:

Marvel had a regrettable monster phase in the early 70s, and made tiresome comics with that old 60s staple, repurposed publicity / news photos. The ones I've chosen reference common cliches that everyone knew, until everyone didn't.

Anyone under 20 who gets these referencesis a history PhD.



What is the Bride talking about? Why is that funny?








It had utopian beginnings, you might say.. Wikipedia: "Holyoke was one of the first planned industrial communities in the United States. Holyoke features rectilinear street grids—a novelty in New England. This street hierarchy is seen as a potential economic development tool as it lends well to high-rise buildings, and the surrounding canals could be landscaped into a source of recreation and relaxation."

We'll see how that turned out.

You might suspect this isn’t going to be pretty.



No, it's not going to be pretty. Then again, that's a 2011 picture. Here's today:


The decay's a bit nicer, wouldn't you say?



Many more windows remain to be broken; perhaps the locals want to save them for the right time.



I don’t know what explains the line of bricks. Sidewalk renovation, some sort of rehab-for-blight in the 70s?


Great sign. They inherited it.




IThe S. S. Pierce Store refers to a chain of grocers:

In addition to a wide variety of goods for sale, the company provided notable customer service.

"The company hired horse-drawn sleighs to deliver groceries when snowstorms closed roads to auto traffic, and maintained a well-drilled corps of salesmen who would phone housewives at appointed hours. They not only suggested menus but answered such arcane questions as how to cook an ostrich egg (boil it) or how to extract the flavor from a 6-in. vanilla bean (bury a 1-in. cutting from the bean for a month in a pound of sugar). Once when a hostess in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., complained that a case of turtle soup had not arrived, a Pierce salesman took an overnight train to deliver it in person — just in time for her party.”

I don’t think they could tell you about the ostrich egg today.


Package store, that strange regional term for booze.



Note the dark square on the sidewalk: that’s where they unloaded the groceries.


The longer I look at this building, trying to think of something to say, the sadder it gets:



Because it’s so ordinary - its condition, I mean. But also its style. It’s as ordinary as a building from that era could be, and it still has more style and dignity than the thing next to it.

I don’t think it’s a successful store that sells spackle buckets and washing machines. Note the bits of decoration, 19th century in style, still around after decades of use. Or more likely, still around because of decades of neglect.



Palimpsest ghost ad:



Possible to detect the wisps of a Coca-Cola ad?


Okay, what happened to this city? Everything's gone. Everything's for sale.



How long did it take to die?


You get the idea that it bustled once, but bustles no more.




I like - obviously - when the image is almost an abstraction.



And when it’s mysterious. Those vertical lines built into the brick - what function did they serve?

Or Hair-Hun, because someone broke the window.



Odd man out:


Key of the Fish Market Sea: at least they kept the old mass-produced cornice decorations.


Does wood really keep the scroungers out?

Two buildings of substance, testifying to bygone better times:


The windows on the building on the right must have looked nice at twilight in the winter, when the building glowed from within. I don’t think anyone at the time imagined what it would all become.

Few ever do.

Once the nice hotel where the smart set stayed, and had every need catered with alacrity and deference.



That's a 2011 view. The hotel's gone now.

They tore this down:


Vacant lot today.


So what happened? I'm guessing that this happened . . .



And this happened.



Things closed; things moved away. But hey: some people like living here!


Or they're saying, hey, whaddya gonna do.

I should note: the Google cars have been back since I snapped these shots; some buildings have been spiffed up. The new shots were taken on a sunny day, and the city looks better. But still vacant.

You wouldn't guess it had an intersection like this from the pictures you've seen:




Yet it does. Have a look around, and give my regards - and best wishes - to Holyoak.

That'll do; see you around.


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