I’m a fairly well-educated guy. Not particularly smart, but I got a whole lotta receipts for a whole lotta dough spent on getting a whole lotta educated.
So when it comes to inanimate objects, I generally assume I’ve got ’em licked.
Let me back up a little.
I’ve got a yen for abandoned things. Barns, houses, corn cribs, cars, whatever as long as it’s been left to the vicissitudes of time and memory. To me, for whatever reason, abandoned places represent lost hearts and spirits; maybe searches for the solid in life that can never truly be found. I find myself melancholy and wandering through my own imagination about what once might have been.
When I find those places, if they show me their hidden selves, I spend hours with my camera trying capture what I think I see.
A few weeks ago I found a farmhouse. What I noticed first were the windows, broken and jagged things. They seemed, in that particular sunlight, like tears on a granite face…as hyperbolic as that sounds.
After getting permission from the owner, I scoped the place out, tramping through the rooms and across the piles and piles of broken and dead furniture, past the giant tractor tires stored in an interior room, on top of the long orange pipes stacked neatly in an upstairs bedroom, past the rusted child’s toy left in the other upstairs bedroom.
The two downstairs rooms were a jumble of old textbooks (the owner had been a teacher) that had long since decomposed into a sort of gray confetti that hid the condition of the floor. So when I stepped hard into a pile of confetti, I didn’t see that the floor was soft.
Sank a couple of inches. Broke just a bit of floorboard. I chuckled and thought about how lucky I was to have not gone through the floor into the unexplored, but completely pitch fucking dark, basement.
So on my next day off, I bundled up some water and extra batteries, memory cards, tripods, filters and lenses, all manner of bullshit and off I went, snapping photos off like .22 shells from a varmint gun. Then the inside. Up the stairs and into the bedrooms and out the upstairs windows. I banged out about a million and a half shots and was feeling really good.
And then, back downstairs, I found that soft floor.
Not the same spot, mind you, ’cause I’m smarter than that. Remember all that education? All those classes and tests and papers and projects and bullshit made me more than smart enough not to put my foot in the same damned place, right?
So I stepped a foot, maybe even two feet, beyond the soft spot.
Gotta tell ya, that soft spot was a damned sight bigger than I’d thought. Son of a bitch ran probably another foot beyond where I stepped!
And yeah, I went crashing through.
Left foot went through and my left leg followed. Right leg folded up like a card table and when I realized the toes of my right foot were just behind my right ear, I knew I was having a problem. Both arms came out flat and slammed against the part of the floor that didn’t collapse, thus insuring almost perfectly equal bruises on the insides of my biceps.
But mostly? My upper back jammed hard between two joists. Hard between them.
My howl split that still afternoon air and pain rocketed up into my brain like somebody had heated up some piano wire and jabbed it straight into my eyeball.
And then I realized, as I sat there, that no one in the world – the world – had any friggin’ clue where I was.
Hehehe…see, when I go photograph, I just go. No place to be, no time to be there. Just me and where ever the winds take me.
Which also means that when I die in an abandoned farmhouse, nobody’s going to know until some kids looking to scronk find my desiccated bones.
So that sucks.
I take a long breath. Then a shitpile more, thank the Cosmos I’m not dead, and start to climb out.
When my phone goes insane.
Because less than two miles from where I’m standing over a big-ass hole in the floor, some mope is robbing a bank in one of my towns.
Literally at that second.
Everyone’s reaching out and touching me with the news. I figure I’m right there so maybe I can help. I jumped…okay, limp slowly…into my truck and race to town. I give the detectives a few minutes of help tracking down witnesses and video, and that was about all I could do.
‘Cause I hurt.
Like a mofo!
Ultimately, I ended up with the biggest bruises of my life. Huge one on my back, both biceps, my left ankle and foot, a few other smaller abrasions. And pain that lasted for three weeks in my left ankle and knee.
Plus, I got yelled at, if you can dig it.
A lot. By everybody. It generally went like this: “Are you stupid? You go wandering around and almost kill yourself and no one knows where the hell you are? What if you get hurt?”
But then one dear, dear friend said, “If you die, can I have your police gear?”
It was a lesson learned. I always want to appease my friends so in that day, I learned to let them know when I’m going to be somewhere.
Hah. Hehehehehehe! Haaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!! Bwaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh, stop, my side hurts! Telling people where I’m going is not usually how I play.
Couple weeks later, photographing in an abandoned corn crib, about twenty or twenty-five feet off the ground, with my fetish model thirty feet away and handcuffed to the –
Hang on, wrong fantasy.
Standing on a joist that what? You got it, ladies and gentlemen, cracks beneath my very feet.
Got to another one safely but it scared the crap outta me.
And I’m up there, praying none of them break and I don’t go tumbling to the ground, and I’m thinking: son of a bitch, once again nobody knows where I am.
Why? ‘Cause apparently all that fancy, expensive education didn’t take.