Carve Out a Little Piece of My Heart: An Abandoned America Blog
Posted: 22nd March 2013
You could argue that it's foolish of me to expect anything different. If you fall in love with places that are, for the most part, clearly doomed, it's foolish to be surprised when they vanish one by one over the years.
It happens in different ways: places get sealed, burned, looted, vandalized, gutted, even rehabilitated. It's odd to include 'rehabilitation' or 'restoration' with other such clearly negative words, particularly when I consider myself such an advocate of preservation. If we are to be honest, though, the part of anyone who loves these places for what they are doesn't want to see them change. It is evidenced in how we sometimes subconsciously expect that our loved ones will stay who they were when we first fell for them and fear/resent changes over the years. There is a jealous part of our heart that fiercely longs for stasis. It is a selfish thing, clearly, but it is no less powerful for being recognized as such.
In life you find things, places, and people that give you solace and joy, like those little restaurants or dive bars that you may only go back to every now and again but have fond memories of. You connected with them on some primal level and they became a part of you forever. To destroy them - or even fundamentally alter them - would shatter the tangible, real world connection you still have with that part of yourself. After they're gone you'll never be able to return and remember how the air smelled, the feel of the fabric on the chair you always sat at, or the way the afternoon sunlight filtered in through a window. These are things that may be stored in your brain but you can't access them without a catalyst, and by obliterating that in a way you are losing a part of yourself - actually dying.
Maybe that's one of the reasons I connect with these places and why when we look at them we articulate it by dreaming of ghosts or 'if these walls could talk' fantasies. When I first visited this factory it was the most intact place I have ever seen - the proverbial site where the doors had been closed and nothing had changed for two decades except for the accumulation of dust and pigeon shit. The sewing machines were left mid-project, the workers' items still undisturbed at their desks. I was walking in a vault filled with these connections others had made and still could make again - what of the people who had spent years here working? What would another visit to the site jar loose from their memory? I was privileged to be in something that was in my opinion more hallowed than a graveyard - for a graveyard is where the dead are interred, but this was where a whole other era lay in a sort of coma, right where it had fallen! This was no corpse that had been wheeled off to some foreign plot of land and buried, but a place that seemed it could still have life in it if only the lights were turned back on and the people returned.
I returned two years later and the owner had decided to scrap the machines. They lay in a big heap on the floor, all jumbled together. There were still some stations left and plenty of things to photograph, but I could barely bring myself to look at it. It wasn't just the parts of the people who had worked there who were gone, it was my own connection that was severed. I had no business being angry and hurt but I was anyway. Someone had carved out a little piece of my heart, and there was nothing that could ever be done to repair or replace it.
I didn't come back for another four years and by then I knew what to expect. More machines were gone, fewer items remained. At one point everything was ordered, and now the remnants lay in cluttered piles like trash. The void was one step closer to swallowing the clothing factory whole, and by extension it had also dragged a piece of me away also.
Every place I go to is the same. It happens in different ways: places get sealed, burned, looted, vandalized, gutted. Each time you hear about a place you love getting demolished, or see a picture of it getting torn down, or stumble across some broken fragment of it floating around the world at large, the wound reopens. We don't mourn the thing that is lost, but our ability to connect with it. You could argue that it's foolish of me to expect anything different. If you fall in love with places that are, for the most part, clearly doomed, it's foolish to be surprised when they vanish one by one over the years.
Photograph taken at abandoned clothing factory, full gallery here. Image and text by Matthew Christopher.
If you're interested in more Abandoned America blogs, follow this link. If you enjoy my writing, check out my books: Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream (Amazon / Barnes & Noble) or Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences (Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Signed copies).
By Vicki Gross: Thanks for sharing your thoughts as well as your talent.