Green River

Green River
Canon PowerShot S95
2017

Green River is a very sweet lime soda. It’s like liquid, carbonated lime Jell-O. It turns your tongue green.

When I was a boy I lived near a five and dime with a gleaming stainless steel soda fountain. I would ride over there on hot summer afternoons to enjoy the air conditioning, shop for stuff I didn’t really need, and enjoy a treat at the soda fountain.

They made their sodas by squirting the syrup into the bottom of a glass and filling it the rest of the way with carbonated water. Real old school. My brother always ordered a root beer, double strength. I did that sometimes, and whenever I could afford it I’d order a chocolate malt. But most of the time I’d sit down to a Green River. It was the only place in South Bend I knew I could get one. Even then it was a brand from days gone by. It’s cool that it’s managed to survive.

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Photography

single frame: Green River

Single frame: Green River

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Life

When life hands your family too many challenges, coordinated prioritization helps you stay sane

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It’s been five weeks now since I moved out of my former home and into my wife’s home. Since then we’ve found ourselves unexpectedly facing a surprising number of unexpected and unwanted serious life challenges. They consume us.

We’ve kept making time to talk through each day’s events and figure out our priorities. And that’s key, because we don’t always agree on those priorities at first. One of mine is to get our house in order. We are blending two complete households and have stuff piled everywhere while we sort it. I hate clutter! Living with it really makes me nuts.

If I could, I’d make sorting the house our first priority. But Margaret needs us to resolve other pressing matters first. So we worked it out. Getting the house in order is still on the priority list, but it is at the bottom while we push through these other challenges. We both are moving forward with the house when we can, as best we can. In these five weeks we’ve made respectable progress, all things considered. But we’re also pushing powerfully through the other challenges.

Blogging has cleared my personal priority bar, albeit at reduced capacity. You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that I’ve posted some reruns, and that new articles are pretty fluffy. But sitting down to write is a pleasure and a wonderful distraction. I’d be ill served to give it up entirely.

Photography, however, does not currently clear the bar. When I moved I had a half-shot roll of expired Konica Chrome Centuria 200 slide film in my Spotmatic. I did finally finish it and send it for processing. The scans are back, and they’re all badly underexposed, so now I’m looking for time to see if I can make them usable in Photoshop. And I’ve been playing with some manual-focus lenses on a DSLR when I have five or ten minutes to spare. So I’ll have images to share soon. But otherwise, I’m not really taking pictures right now.

We are pushing through our challenges. They will end. And then we will get our house in order, and I’m sure time and energy for photography and more serious blogging will return.

I can share the photos I took as I walked through my old house for the last time. Because Margaret and I had two completely furnished homes, we each got rid of some of our furniture. This was surprisingly easy. In the wake of our divorces we had both accepted unwanted furniture from family and friends. I like to joke that we both decorated our homes in “early post divorce.” Neither of us were attached to very much of the stuff. And then I got a giant break when the young woman who bought my house offered to buy any furniture I wanted to leave behind. For saving me the hassle of having to donate it all, I just gave it to her! So here are the photos of my final walkthrough, with everything I left behind still in place.

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Speeding

Speeding
iPhone 6s
2017

One of the cool features of my Toyota Matrix is how its gauges are invisible until you turn the car on. I think the display looks especially cool at night.

Astute readers may be curious as to why my car’s redline is so high, 7,800 RPM. It’s a feature of Toyota’s 2ZZ-GE four-cylinder engine, which was designed by Yamaha and built in Japan. It’s the go-fast engine in Toyota’s ZZ engine family. You’ll find versions of this engine in several Toyotas and, surprisingly, one Pontiac and two Lotuses.

Revving the engine past 6,200 RPM activates a second camshaft profile that boosts speed suddenly and considerably. It feels like turbo and is great fun. Unfortunately, my Matrix is hobbled with an automatic transmission, making it hard to reach the revs necessary to have this fun. If you ever buy a 2ZZ-GE-equipped Matrix (it will have the XRS badge on the hatch), go for the six-speed manual transmission.

I’m still talking about this car in the present tense because I haven’t disposed of it yet. It still has the front-end problems that aren’t worth fixing given the car’s market value. It’s days remain numbered. But with everything else going on I haven’t found time to deal with getting rid of it yet.

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Photography

single frame: Speeding

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History, Preservation

The incredibly sticky sense of place

The land on which my home stands was farmland not 20 years ago. It’s typical: thanks to sprawl, many American neighborhoods occupy land that produced crops sometime within the last hundred years. In my town, a suburb of Indianapolis, neighboring subdivisions and shopping centers are brand new. I remember well the farmland that was there before.

But at some point the last farm will become another vinyl village or strip mall. Children born here then will have no memory of this area’s bucolic origin.

I was such a kid once, born into a busy and thriving South Bend, Indiana, neighborhood where the last new house had been built 20 years before. It was a typical 20th-century city neighborhood bordered by shops, businesses, and schools. You could almost get away with not owning a car.

My mom managed it: she walked to her job as a teacher’s aide at James Monroe School a block away. I visited her at her job one day when I was about 13. While snooping through some cabinets, I came upon this photograph, and it blew my mind.

MonroeSchoolMayDay1930s

This is that school’s front lawn on the occasion of a May Day celebration. I found the image online recently with a comment that the photo was taken in 1939. That’s eight years after the school was built, but twelve years before my childhood home was built. It and many others would soon be be built on that distant grove of trees in the photo’s upper-right corner. It is fascinating to not see the houses there that have always been a part of my memory!

To me as a kid, our 1951 house might as well have been built in 1851 or even 1751 — it was a time I could not imagine. From my limited childhood perspective, my neighborhood had always existed.

I knew intellectually that this couldn’t be true, of course. But I had no way of imagining the neighborhood before it was completed. The 1939 photograph made that time more imaginable!

school-houseAt right is an excerpt from a 1922 map of South Bend. It shows the location of my childhood home and of the school, neither of which had been built yet. I lived on Erskine Boulevard, the curved street, which would eventually curve back and end at Donmoyer Avenue, the street at the bottom of the map.

I’ve written about my elementary school here many times, and occasionally other former students find my posts and leave comments full of memories. One fellow who attended Monroe School in the 1950s commented on this post how his father never stopped calling my neighborhood “the new extension.” He clearly remembered when this land was that grove of trees.

This is the same delusion in reverse, and it illustrates how sticky our sense of place can be. Because this man remembered the grove of trees, he likely considered it to be this land’s true use and purpose.

Similarly, I have childhood memories of neighborhoods being built well south of James Monroe School. I still recall what was there before, and forty years on those neighborhoods still feel new, in a way, to me. And on my first visits to Indianapolis as a child, US 31 in the county just north of Indianapolis passed through nothing but farmland. A building boom that started in the 1980s brought tall office buildings to that corridor, plus a long string of stoplights. Recently US 31 has been converted into a limited-access highway there. But even after all these years I still marvel at how it’s all changed.

Even the existing built environment changes. If you’re a young student of James Monroe School – or, should I say, Monroe Primary Center, which is its name today – you might not know a time before the school was renovated and expanded (read about it here and here). My memories of this building do not include its current dropped ceilings, and include rooms that no longer exist. And my mind’s eye will forever remember the school’s front yard looking as it did in this photo, which I took in 1984.

James Monroe School

Visiting my hometown in 2013, after the school’s renovation was complete, I happened to take this photograph one gray morning from about the same place. Little of the landscaping survived the addition of the driveway — except the pine trees at right, which are almost certainly the same little pine trees in the lower corner of the 1939 photo.

James Monroe School

The years to come will surely bring more changes, and they’ll surprise both current students and aging alumni like me. Because place imprints on all of us.

I first shared these thoughts and photographs in 2014, but rewrote the article for today.

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

Happy Saturday, and happy perusing of the blog posts I liked most this week!

In the articles-I-wish-I’d-written dept., James Tocchio, writing for Casual Photophile, gives a bunch of valuable tips to help beginning film photographers deliver results better than their budding skills. Read How to Cheat at Film Photography

Ann Althouse shares an ad for the new Toyota Camry and how the company’s ad agency targeted different cultural groups differently. This may be the car for everyone, but it’s not marketed the same to you as to someone else. Read Race-targeted ads for Toyota Camry – don’t miss the one that’s for white people

I love to photograph what I find by the side of the road. Leticia Roncero, writing for the Flickr blog, tells of a photographer who finds meaning in photographing everyday city scenes, especially unattractive ones, in the UK. Read What Places Tell Us About People

This week’s film-camera reviews and experience reports:

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Road Trips

Photos of abandoned roads

I have been dreaming of abandoned roads.

Abandoned

While my road-trip hobby isn’t as active as it was a few years ago, I still enjoy it and normally make time for a couple day trips during the good-weather months each year. But home projects and moving have kept me home so far this year. Fortunately, in a couple weeks my old friend Dawn and I will make our annual road trip. Usually annual, anyway — we couldn’t sync our schedules to make a trip last year. So we’re way overdue!

Abandoned SR 37

I know just where I want to go: State Road 37 between Indianapolis and Bloomington. Its original alignment, which winds all around the current four-lane SR 37 expressway, was once the Dixie Highway. I’ve driven it before, in one of my earliest road trips (documented on my old site here). There are several wonderful abandoned segments, like the one above. I found it just south of Martinsville.

But it might not still be there. SR 37 is being converted into Interstate 69, and a giant interchange is being built here. While I don’t buck progress, I do lament the probable loss of the short ribbon of concrete road here that likely dates to around 1920. It’s quasi-abandoned: it exists to serve one solitary house, but receives no obvious maintenance.

Old SR 37

I want to know whether this concrete survives. But time’s a wasting: since I-69 is by nature a limited-access road, when it is complete all the turnoffs to these old alignments will be removed. The only way to reach them will be via back roads, forever complicating exploring the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington. Now is the time to go.

Here are some of my other favorite abandoned roads.

A bridge was removed on US 50 near Washington in western Indiana, abandoning a short section of the old highway. Here’s where that abandoned section ends, just east of the removed bridge.

Old US 50

Just east of Rockville in western Indiana, the Army Corps of Engineers submerged a section of US 36 in a flood-control project that created Raccoon Lake. The westbound old highway ends at a mound of dirt and brush. It continues beyond to eventually sink into the water.

Abandoned US 36

The National Road and US 40 in Illinois has been a frequent subject here because the current alignment of this road was built alongside the old, and the old was left to rot. Here’s the old concrete road, probably poured in the 1920s, busy doing nothing east of Martinsville, IL.

Basketball on the road

Longtime readers might remember that I wrote about this segment before: the central concrete section is from the early-mid 1910s, and the two flanking sections were added about a decade later. Happily, that 1920s improvement rerouted the road around a dangerous railroad crossing, abandoning a section of this nine-foot-wide highway. It’s now a farm’s long driveway.

9-foot-wide concrete road

A good portion of this abandoned road is paved with bricks, and if you’re brave you can still drive some of it. This is west of Marshall, IL.

Brick National Road west of Marshall, IL

Not far from there, near Livingston, IL, nature has reclaimed the old brick road.

Abandoned National Road

Bridges sometimes go abandoned as well. Here’s one on old US 50 near Clay City, IL.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Wabash River

And here’s one on US 40 near Plainfield, IN.

Abandoned US 40 bridge near Plainfield, IN

That bridge leads to the first abandoned road segment I ever found. This photo is from my first-ever road trip, which was in July of 2006.

Abandoned National Road/US 40

Lest you think all of my abandoned-road activity is in Indiana and Illinois, here’s a segment of abandoned US 127 in Tennessee my sons and I came upon while hiking through Cumberland Mountain State Park.

Abandoned US 127

And here’s an abandoned section of old Route 66 near Doolittle, MO. You’ll find the crumbling John’s Modern Cabins here.

Abandoned 66

Sometimes an abandoned road lurks in plain sight. This concrete was poured in northwest Indianpolis in the mid-1920s and became the first alignment of US 52 here. But by the mid 1930s the road had been straightened and widened here, abandoning this little segment. In later years it was reused to provide access to some commercial buildings that got built.

Abandoned Lafayette Road

I can’t leave out the Michigan Road, of course. Its best-known abandoned alignment is Sycamore Row, about ten miles south of Logansport.

Sycamore Row

Here’s hoping that in a couple weeks I’ll have some brand new abandoned-road photos to share!

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