the johnstown manicure

cambria city, pennsylvania

old town johnstown rests on the banks of the conemaugh river. coal, iron, and steel jobs brought workers from central and eastern europe to this spot in the allegheny mountains. today the mine’s closed and the operating mills are automated – structural skeletons of better days deteriorate on their own tales, in a city center whose masses have long since fled uphill. yet, it exists

the people still here are in it. maybe they own property or a business or it’s the only place they’ve ever known. some of them have been here for generations, calling it home long before industry. many of the stories are of prosperity or the current lying state but that may be because i’m not chatting about the penguins*. while taking pictures of the turnstile entrance to a mill, a guy with long white hair asks me why i’m “doin’ that. ain’t nothin there”. it isn’t so much a question as the type of thing someone yells at another as they’re walking into a bar (he is). he used to work at the mill but now there “ain’t no jobs”. i asked why he stays, “too old to leave” – he couldn’t have been 55.      this is this

1889 – south fork dam and reservoir is fourteen miles upstream from johnstown. recently renamed “lake conemaugh” it is the highlight of the south fork fishing and hunting club; an elusive and exclusive getaway for robber barons like andrew carnegie, andrew mellon, and henry clay frick. discharge pipes which allow the release of excess water have been removed without the aid of engineers and the spillway is covered with fish screen (it was a recreational lake after all). on the 31st of may the dam fails. the flood and resulting fire takes 2,209 people, a third of whom are never identified. today there’s a national memorial on the old club property with a tree suspended in the air next to a man without shoes. visitors can relive the johnstown flood of 1889 with led lights and a short a film.

the city blossomed after the flood, bigger than it had ever been. the event became part of the lore, part of what differentiates johnstown from all the other coal and steel towns in the rust belt. the cause and symbolism of the flood are timeless.

as an episodic transient it’s difficult to understand why people stay in places that no longer serve them, but when i travel i most often visit where people do… would i even be there for more than a photo if it were a ghost town? i had a great time. the company was warm, the included plane still biggest, AND it’s where they filmed the 1977 classic, slap shot!

 

*updates
June 2017 : a week after my visit the penguins win the stanley cup
July 2018 : pennsylvania grants permit to grow medical marijuana at the old bethlehem steel corporation machine shop (where some of these photos were taken)

like eddie shore

what else am I gonna do

motivation and inspiration for a bike story not shown
humboldt park, chicago

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before it got cold my front tire slid into a crack on the chicago avenue bridge. i flew forward and fractured a rib – couldn’t exercise, could barely breathe much less meditate. it’s cold and dark but i’ve found myself a creative mindset – what else am i gonna do? cry? i can barely breathe!

my streak runs through recovery, the first is a bike story video (obviously)

after this, with a new whip i get back on the road and tell myself ill be more careful because nothing’s worth the physical downtime. in march im hit by a corolla…

protip: if this happens to you: lawyer

listening to WITCH’s home town (1974)

 

you’re visual (name pending)

or the what happened to the book story…
and/or the what are you doing with your life(‘tory)

chicago, illinois

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listening to tracie spencer’s this house (1990)

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the summer moon lights my way

 

from dixie to a lake in michigan

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my taste of georgia’s coast draws to a close. an interesting experience and i learned i love living on a beach, but this is not my beach: it is their beach and it is like gummo meets a prequel to wall-e. isn’t it great they have a beach that’s not my beach?

an invitation to lake-house in michigan arrives with perfect timing: hurricane matthew

my drive to the lake house is pleasant, introspective, full of hard rain – not quite “baptismal” though it has the cleansing vibe one looks for in hard rain. i stop in ashville – i like it there and the iyengar studio has nice views of the mountains which, though hard to see beyond all the prop-cities, is just lovely. my prop city had a million blankets

pulled over in ohio – no ticket

the cottage has been in the friend’s family for a hundred years. it gets the sunsets across the lake. what a treat! a reward for the taste of a place well-done ferrrrrsure

listening to jonathan wilson’s the way i feel (2011)