when intuition gets you nowhere

Some days, inspiration remains well beyond reach. Today, it seems I’ve already been to all interesting places in the area–multiple times–and there is nowhere I want to go. It is Father’s Day, which makes this Sunday feel busier than usual. And it’s hot, so walking or biking are out. A petulant spark finally sends me out of the house and into the car: I will seek out ugly places, Augéan non-places whose psychogeography is shaped by bad urban planning, irresponsible commercialism, and mismanagement.

I remember to take my latest paper house, number 19, with me. It is the closest I have come to constructing a shape that is perfect for my photography. I made it of rag paper, which does beautiful things with natural light.

First, though, I revisit an abandoned store in Johnson. I actually like it, and I don’t consider it ugly. It was one of the first sites I chose for Christenberry-style experimentation, and I take photos of the back of the building at least once a year.

Johnson, 2008

The simplicity of the structure reminds me of my paper house; in fact, it probably influenced the design. I am hoping that a juxtaposition of the two might finally get some photos started today, but it turns out that the site has changed considerably. Change is part of the point of taking these photos, but  it’s not what I need right now. I feel a little lost and end up with this:

Johnson, 2011

There is too much going on around the building to include the paper house in the image. I move on to Springdale and end up at the old Pontiac Coffeehouse, now also abandoned.

Charlesworth Building

The 1948 structure will be demolished in August

I’m standing in the Pontiac’s parking lot. A man in a red Dodge Ram drives up and stops directly in front of me and my camera, blocking my view right as I am about to press the shutter. He asks if I’m lost.

“No, I know exactly where I am.”

“I thought you might be a lost tourist in need of help.”

“No, I am where I want to be and I know what I’m doing.”

“I was just  wondering if you needed some help.”

And so on. When he finally drives off, I notice his out-of-state license plate.

On the way home I drift over to the east side of Fayetteville and stop at Zion Methodist Church. Someone likes things clean and orderly here: The 1850 church has been spruced up with vinyl siding; the cemetery has a shiny black fence, a long list of rules attached to the fence, and not a single tree, which is unusual for such an old graveyard. Still, there are a few signs of individuality:

And then I find the one good image of the day. Across the road from the cemetery, I spot a clapboard building with an intriguing blue metal sign that says “Zion Oak Grange 826.” I have no idea what that means, but the building is a fine example of vernacular architecture. Its proportions are soothing, and I put it on my list of places to revisit.

Zion Oak Grange


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