Friday, May 20, 2011

Poof! She's Gone, Part 2

In the year 1960, a US Geological Survey team decided to use the 401 Auction House as a good spot to install what is called a Vertical Control Marker or Benchmark. It is said that these markers are normally within .001 of an inch accurate. As you can see in the close up view below, the lot on which the auction house sat is 408 feet above sea level.

The geological data base of both vertical and horizontal markers goes back to 1925 with 736,425 current entries. Some think there might be as many as a million more out there that have been lost track of.  Currently, there is a concerted effort on the part of several hundred volunteers to track down and photograph as many of these markers as possible. So far I have been unable to locate this one in the data base so I might be making a contribution of my own.  For more information on Benchmarks and the US Geological Survey start here:

The Benchmark as seen from the front of the lot. It's the small disk in the foreground and just to the right of center.

A monument to someone's work in 1960.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Poof. She's Gone.

This tale has 3 acts.

Act 1  November 2010  Was on the way back from a drive to Youngsville, North Carolina when, as I often do, I decided to pull over and take a few shots of an interesting old building. I knew little about it other than the fact that it had been used as a Friday night auction house for many years. I did not expect to capture much in the way of good photography as it was in the early afternoon on a bright sunny day when the shadows are long and contrast is overbearing. And besides, I had someone waiting in the car who had already let me know they would prefer to be making their way home to lunch. So I did not expect much, other than a few snap shots that might give me some ideas for a good photo project later on. And though they did indeed serve as proof of a worthy project "someday," snapshots are exactly what I got for my 5 minute investment.

Act 2 March 29,2010-Spent the afternoon perusing a fascinating book called OurVanishing Americana: A North Carolina Portrait.  Over a period of about 3 years, author Mike Lassiter visited virtually every town in North Carolina to research and photograph as many old timey soda fountains, general stores, and esso gas stations that were still standing, making almost all of his trips by car on weekends. Naturally he could only do 2 or 3 examples from each town. He closed the book with an appeal for others whom his project had touched to join him in the quest to get even more of our heritage documented. I immediately thought of the auction house near Youngsville and my need to get back to it for some quality photos.

Act 3 May 2 2011  Had an appointment near Youngsville, so I thought this would at last be that opportunity I had been looking for to do the Auction House Shoot.  Wrong. You've heard the saying, "A day late and a dollar short", I'm sure.  What I actually got to photograph was a salvage crew cleaning up what was left of the place, after the demolition squad got through. Another piece of Americana gone, gone, gone.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Old Ships Are Gone But Sometimes We Still Must Sail By Ashbreeze

"Alright mates, we're becalmed. Time to man the boats and take the ash."  Other than "abandon ship", these were possibly the closest words to a Nightmare On Elm Street that a sailor on the old wooden ships of yesteryear could hear. Why? Well, humor me a moment and imagine yourself faced with the dreadful task of having to help a few other unfortunate souls push a Toyota Tundra from Miami to Richmond  by hand...with your life depending on whether you keep that truck moving.

Since sailing ships were totally dependent upon the wind, any extended period of dead calm meant serious trouble. Bad things happen when a ship sits adrift at sea; real bad things.  The only known remedy was for the ship to be towed along it's course by sheer muscle power until the winds returned.  Sometimes it was a day or 2. But on other occasions it turned into weeks.  A heavy rope was fastened between the mother ship and a jon boat full of men who would row in 8-12 hour shifts. The oars were typically made of White Ash for strength and durability. Since the men were said to be making their own breeze, this desperate measure naturally came to be called "sailing by ashbreeze."

Language by nature is always on the move so, not surprisingly, "sailing by ashbreeze"  was eventually picked up by the general population as a metaphor for finding a way to keep going even when there just seemed to be no way.  And again not surprisingly, with 175 years or so separating us from the era of the wooden ships, the colorful words they gave rise to have all but faded from our collective memory.  A few echoes such as "dead in the water", had the wind knocked out of my sails," and so forth remain in fairly common usage. But to borrow from a popular T.V. commercial, life still comes at us hard. And when it comes we have to break out our own ash, though we might choose to call our thorny rose by a different name.