About joeeirwin


a crystal bridge too far

a trip to crystal bridges – 3 of 3
bentonville, arkansas

who buys books of suburban decay? no one. but everyone looks at photo galleries of dead malls. people stopped going to malls because everything’s online including those galleries of the photos of dead malls. people still go to walmart.

in the eighties the nearest wal-mart entered the area. it was dirtier than the target and had a lesser toy section; that’s what I remember anyway. in the nineties it relocated down the street to a new shopping center sprung out of what was an a school book depository. in the aughts when that lease was up, it moved to a newer development down the street that was whatever it was before. the first center dwindled. it’s now home to a cigarette shop, a rub n tug, and not much else. the nineties location is hanging on with a rotation of tenants at about 60% occupancy, though the quality of stores and customer traffic has dwindled significantly. America: newer boxes further away from the older boxes.

alice used her money from the boxes to buy art. and why wouldn’t she? she’s a walton. she can spend her money on whatever she wants and if alice walton wants to open a world class art museum she will, and she’ll make it with more love and wonder than any of the stores that bare her name

in the woods of bentonville, arkansas (home of walmart) stands crystal bridges museum of american art. a 217,000 square feet complex designed by moshe safdie. it opened on 11/november2011. buckminster fuller’s personal effects are in a room decorated with scribbles from his journals. a frank lloyd wright usonian house was moved here from new jersey. james turrell built a skyspace on a hill. the courtyard keeps a louise bourgeois maman on permanent desplay. the visitors sweet with a bit of well-even-i-could-paint-that-ers

other major art museums have old names on their donor wall. at crystal bridges, coca-cola is a major sponsor, think about that. on the tier below coke, you’ll find del-monte. the little informational stands along the wooded trails? sponsored by coleman. this may be our path and one day widespread commercial sponsorship of art will the thing. just imagine: “The Persistence of Memory, 1931. Brought to you by Timex and The Dali Corporation, a Unilever Company”

there’s so much criticism of walmart: predatory pricing, worker conditions, worker wages, union busting, censorship, dirty and poorly run stores, but the old mom and pop shops walmart ran out never opened art museums with james turrels… so yeah. 

listening to frida’s i know there’s something going on (1982)

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the ye olde five and dime

a trip to crystal bridges – 2 of 3
downtown bentonville

if you find yourself in the ozarks, and you may, pay a visit to bentonville, arkansas. the original walmart (walton’s) has been turned into a museum. it’s like graceland for people who love low prices. tho at graceland a collection of elvis fan-art is on display and at the walmart museum there is no walmart fan-art on display nor at nearby crystal bridges which is a fn art museum!

downtown bentonville is picture perfect mainstreet, usa; not even six flags has pulled it off this well. as i walk past the cute shoppes, ristorantes, and yoga studios i become convinced that walmart bought the square and surrounding buildings to manufacture bliss – and it’s nice. if only walmart had a plans to juice up all the small towns they turned out

a tour bus had just dropped a group of asians into the little park in front of the first walmart. there is a ton of cars out front and a gentlemen in a bowtie helps keep the traffic going. the group is taking pictures of the facade and sam’s old truck as children with ice cream and paper hats head into the store, followed by retirees on a day trip from the home. all of us appear as players in a simulation’s take on capitalist propaganda

oh the places you’ll go

listening to the sisters of mercy’s more (1990)

got fiveee in it

a trip to crystal bridges – 1 of 3
springfield, mo

before reaching crystal bridges museum of american art, i spend the night in springfield and visit a strip club near the motel

the club’s set off a massive food desert. the sahara of food deserts. it’s run down and the sign up top is cracked. two cars are in the parking lot. a couple in camouflage is getting into one of them when i pull up. i ask how it is and he mutters, “you know…”

inside the bartender yells, “it’s five dallars!” which must be how they say hello here. i smile and say it’s five dallars back. the only things she’ll say my whole time here are “it’s five dallars” and “well”. four words. i am the only patron.

there is one bar. in the room to the left of it, a pool table; opening out to the right, an empty stage illuminated by low-hanging chrismas lights. the walls are done up with halloween decor from coors light. the L shaped bar runs parallel the entrance and the stage. at one end a thick stripper is on her phone. at the other end another thick stripper is on her phone. both are in sweatshirts. neither look up. the bartender goes, “well?”

i pay the five and order a drink. it’s as if we’re suspended in jello. neither girl gets on stage or even says hello: jello. i wonder if by strip they’re referring to the main-drag outside. i consider that maybe they don’t know what a strip club is and for some reason think that this is it.

this said,  a slow strip club can be fun. less serious. less hustle – more a canvas of adventure. i strike up a conversation with the nearer girl. a few minutes later she’s telling me everything and flashing me photos of her art: neon acrylic paintings that’d look at home on a hula-hoopers shirt. the local galleries won’t look at her stuff and don’t take her seriously but she says she sells works to her regulars, who must have been somewhere else looking at tits.

i ordered another drink and may have been the only one who climbed on the stage that night

listening to neil young’s when you dance i can really love (1970)


i’d been in chicago and it was perfect. not perfect at the time (i wrote this in hindsight), but exactly what i needed. i’d grown creatively and knew it was best to leave and focus on my craft outside of distractions. so st. louis: where i can do yoga, connect with family, and live/work for pennies on the dollar.

listening to dur-dur band’s dooya (1987)

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 have been here for generations, calling it home long before industry. many of the stories are of prosperity or the current state but these topics may be because i’m not chatting about the penguins, who are in the playoffs. while taking pictures of the old turnstiles at the 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 the lives of 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 decidedly 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 enjoyed johnstown, the company was warm, the inclined plane the biggest, AND it’s where they shot the 1977 classic, slap shot!

like eddie shore

JUNE2017: a week after my visit the penguins win the stanley cup
JUNE2018: pennsylvania grants permit to grow medical marijuana at the old bethlehem steel corporation machine shop (where some of these photos were taken)

what else am I gonna do

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


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

my groove runs through recovery, the first thing i make 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)

my tow story

see also: toe

chicago, illinois

14/Aug2016 my car disappears to the lower lower wacker impound lot:
“parking in front of a hydrant” – a ticket and a tow

lower lower wacker is not a typo. it’s below lower wacker, which is below upper wacker. three floors down, the office of the central auto pound is housed in a white trailer at the end of a cul-de-sac of sorts. to get there one must run the labyrinth past the shantytown, or take a taxi

in 2016 chicago makes $264 million in parking fines

the city employees use archaic technology to process a large portion of that $264 million dollars. a thankless job with the most unpleasant of customers and they’re probably not pulling the same kind of clout-pussy the alderman do. if these workers taught a workshop on not taking things personally, i’d go.

no one knows the pound is there unless they’ve had to go or know someone who has, which is pretty much everyone in chicago. the first time i went was a pain in the ass, i didn’t know what to do and it was before gps so i had to write down directions, it was awful. since then i make a point to check my parking spots before locking the doors. sure getting towed is a hassle but this was a call to adventure; i’ll document my vindication and make a video

writing continued below*

listening to billy ocean’s pressure (1993)

*writing continued here

is of the essence

project for soul clap. our idea is to show the boys as aliens landing and broadcasting their message as entertainment to the people. thus alluding to the efunk “mothership” homage and transition to the chameleon (reptilian-esque) artwork of the new self-titled album.

we print and cut up a dozen or so color copies of the artwork in various sizes. zey does the drawings by hand for rotoscoping. was a fun couple days

listening to soul clap at sunday school for degenerates (2010)

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pass into the night

south st. louis

you know when you call a friend but their significant other answers their phone? sometimes it’s fine; you didn’t call them but whatever. other times it’s like wtf

we’ve been friends through a lot of significant others. whenever i’m in town we find ourselves on the inside of laughs and mischief. in fact the first draft of this was reminisces of our battles on convention but they doesn’t make sense here. none of this does

friday morning i call. her partner answers her phone,  he’s crying and that’s it. a different kind of wtf. the three of us saw each other the week before; looking back she seemed less like herself… the underground stage of RTS

her viewing is my first viewing, i’ve never seen a body all made up the way they do. up-close, it’s a lot. the funeral home is full and everyone is sad. people cry. some of the girls scream. everyone’s dressed in their best blacks (a normal color choice for her mourners on any day). it’s uncomfortably somber. i think: this is not the funeral the girl i knew would want – the girl i knew would want a bacchanalia. no clothes allowed. i say that to the girls and they laugh, if only for a moment. it’s true, though you may not know it without the reminisces of the first draft.

her father gives a sullen speech. it’s short. he pauses then tells everyone the ceremony is over. and that’s it: friendship’s over