Saturday, March 04, 2006

Speaking of hiking, my site of the day is Abandoned New Jersey, a beautifully photographed site featuring mostly North Jersey locations. Fantastic decay. I'm really starting to hunger for an adventure. It's been so long since I went on one.

There are groups of people who break into abandoned buildings and other man-made structures. They call themselves "urban explorers." I don't always agree with their philosophy, which sometimes leans kind of hard toward the side of thrill-seeking and getting away with trespassing, which seems to appeal to a youthful male component that is into EXTREME LIVING, dude! Some of the websites I've seen feature chronicles of the groups' exploits and seem to be operating under the conceit that what they do makes them an uber-cool elite. It's about sneaking around and being stealthy and knowing something other people don't. Some of them even go so far as to adopt aliases and refuse to disclose the exact locations they explore.

I guess my interest is that I'm a huge fan of abandoned architecture. I like the back-in-time feeling I get from seeing a piece of something that was in and out of use long before I came on the scene. I have no interest in leaving my mark on anyplace I visit, I don't want to use the places for my own purposes, and I certainly as hell have no intention of doing anything destructive. I just enjoy the decay, which I find beautiful in a way I can't adequately explain. Something about nature reclaiming something man-made makes you remember that such things are possible. It's worth remembering, too, considering how much of the landscape is being consumed by sprawl. Besides, every kid should have at least one "ghost house" to explore growing up.

My fascination with abandoned buildings is even specialized. For some reason I can't quite get a handle on, I am most intrigued by old unused mental hospitals. There are a lot of them around, and some great websites have captured them well. I guess I'm interested in the idealized version of health that was prevalent in the late 1800s and into the 20th century. It can't be any mistake that prisons were planned with similar lofty aims. At any rate, the pictures I've seen are both chilling when you realize that these magnificently laid-out complexes were meant to contain human suffering, and absorbing when you think about the early scientific attempts to control what was clearly not understood.



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