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Via wood s lot, a series of 100 photos by Kevin Bauman of abandonned houses. I’m guessing they’re from Detroit from the look of them and from the photographer’s biographical statement.

It’s hard to explain to people elsewhere about America. Can’t ever hit that sort of tragic pitch, the one that works just right without false tears and advertising tactics. It’s gotten even harder, I suppose, since the celebrity cities that people are likely to have visited have completed the great shift that happened just at the start of the bubble – that was in fact the run-up to the bubble – with the creatives leaving their parental suburban homes to bed in “post-Giuliani” Brooklyn, get advanced degrees, have children, and start worrying about the local primary schools and complaining about the graffiti on the swingsets.

I remember my first night living in the rust belt, the elsewhere of the place, not at all unfamiliar to me for reasons geographical, macro-economic, biographical, and familial, but still thick after Brooklyn. I lived in a house not unlike the one pictured above, at least structurally. Beautiful hardwood, a crazed Swiss theme to the outside, overlooking a large circular park in the center of the city.

A feral cat with one eye lived in the bushes by the front door. Kids re-enacted scenes from The Wire in the park in front; my wife would watch them as she breastfed in the baby’s room. A car would pull up to the circle, idle on the median, and a little black kid would come bounding around the corner, hand something to the driver through the passenger-side window, and then sprint away in the other direction. When we called the police about this, they said they knew – said they were working on it. They never came.

You could walk to a supermarket that opened the week we moved in and closed ten months later. But it wasn’t a nice supermarket, so we drove out on weekends to one in the suburbs.

When then pipes clogged the basement filled to ankle depth with raw sewage. The place felt fuller of narrative, narrative potential, than any place I’ve ever lived before. That first night, fearful and panging already for Brooklyn, I thought to myself, This is the sort of place where one sinks back and writes. There are things, even in the little backyard, the house next door, to write. Be calm, or panic if you must, but there is work here.

And then I left for England, almost exactly thirty months after I arrived.

Written by adswithoutproducts

April 1, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Posted in america

4 Responses

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  1. A former suburban kid, I’ve lived in Chicago for 25 years. Trying to explain to my new creative neighbors what large parts of the city look like is difficult.

    Pictures help.

    Woodlawn Building

    Bruce F

    April 2, 2009 at 2:47 pm

  2. Stan Douglas did a great series of photographs of Detroit in the late 90s. Irresistible entropy…


    April 2, 2009 at 3:46 pm

  3. Ah excellent, both of these links… Sort of wish I was momentarily back where I was, so I could make up my own set…


    April 3, 2009 at 9:23 am

  4. Why did you feel the need to point out that the child was black? Color exists no where else in your article. What is a “nice supermarket”? If you lived in the community it closed because you didn’t support it. Hence, “so we drove out on weekends to one in the suburbs.” Bear in mind these are your words not ours, just commenting on what you give us.


    August 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm

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