Monday, June 30, 2014

The Mystery of Small Places

Sometimes a ghost town is called a ghost town and it appears on maps and people go there.  But sometimes, especially out west (where I grew up), a town is really a sort of living ghost town.  A ghost of what it once was.  A small nowhere place that used to be important because a train stopped there or there was an industry or opportunity that has since expired and the people associated with it moved on. When you pass through those places, I always wonder what it was like before all the buildings became empty.

Green River, Utah struck me that way, and Winslow, Arizona, and even Gallup, New Mexico.  And other places too, that I don't even know the name of.  You roll through town and the dust moves across the road with a few tumble weeds.  There is maybe one movie theatre still operating in town and the movie announced on the marque is over a year old. (And if you do happen to go to the movie there, like I did, the sound doesn't quiet sync with the pictures).  If your car breaks down there, you could be stuck for a few days.

In Europe, I found towns like this in Bulgaria and Romania in the mid 1990's.   There would be this big statue (in Bulgaria) of a man with the name of a town hammered on it like it was once something grand, and then, a few miles later, the town was a remnant of burnt out factories or defunct cooling towers and apartment blocks with collapsing iron balcony railings and broken glass.  (--But all that is a story for another place and time).

Out west in the U.S., there are the ghost towns and small places that aren't really towns.  Places that are places for reasons unfathomable to people like me.  Yet, I love them.  I know I move too fast in these places.  I make idiotic small talk like, "Slow night eh?"  when the clerk of the store doesn't show his face for five or ten minutes after I enter, and he responds, "Not really," and I think: Oh. Yeah.

These are places where you can put up a teepee, or raise bison or a camel or an emu, or hold church in what used to be a pawn shop.   These are places that make me think of  The Last Picture Show or stories by Sherman Alexie.

Have a close look at the last picture here. Who took some pot shots at that deer?  I mean, he was way up on top of a building.  What stories can I make out of that?


  1. I love the places in America you share on here. I've never been to the US, but if I did happen to get there one day, I think I would love to take a trip through the old highways and see these forgotten buildings and half abandoned towns. Where else could you take pot shots at weathervanes without consequences? It's kind of like coming across an archaeological dig but from the recent past. I always wonder what happened to all the people, where did they go? Beautiful photos, there is something so melancholy and intriguing about old decrepit buildings. Lovely post! Julie x

  2. Your photos are so atmospheric. What must it be like to live somewhere like that, I wonder. Does it feel lonely and isolated, or maybe that's just how the residents like it, off the beaten track. x

  3. Thanks for your comments! I am not always so good at replying, I know. I think places really capture people's imagination. Looking at the variety of places is one of the big reasons I love visiting blogs. I wonder about the places, and then people write about it, and it is so cool.