revisiting the roadsides of Virginia

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After seven years, we returned to the Howard Johnson on Afton Mountain in Virginia, this time after my cousin Jean’s wedding nearby.

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Nature and weather (and fire) are slowly eating away at the place, but I was surprised that it wasn’t so different from back in 2008.

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This Princess Tree had already started growing back in 2008.

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Vesuvius, Virginia.

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Unrelated, this is a former candy store and restaurant near a truck stop off the highway.

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daily creeping

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The annual Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby and Arts Festival, this past Saturday.

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“GOD BLESS AMERICA” in Port Richmond.

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One thing I love about North Philly is that I can walk for a few minutes from my studio at lunch and reach places that seem desolate and barren, despite being well within the limits of a large city.

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summer always beats winter

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I found a roll of film from a few years back, on the floor of our guest room’s closet. A little blast of summer was refreshing in the middle of winter.

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Lots of shorts & bathing suits in Coney Island.

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From a pizza truck in the Piazza, in Philly.

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Look at that king.

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Joe, at a cookout in Brooklyn.

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cash and carry

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Dilworth Plaza, circa 2011.

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Fishing for frogs in New Jersey.

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The legendary East End record store is now in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, too — crazy. As to be expected, amazing selection of vinyl & photo/design/culture books.

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Chiang Rai, Thailand.

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checking in at the penn hills resort

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The Penn Hills Resort in Analomink, PA, is arguably past its prime.

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I hadn’t ventured into such a massive expanse of buildings & grounds since exploring the ruins of Magic Harbor (an old British-themed amusement park) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in the early 90s (since demolished).

072614_03Some bathrooms showed signs of use at some point, but surprisingly we only encountered one small shack within the many acres that was possibly inhabited by someone.

072614_04In the main office rooms (behind the lobby) we found a surprising amount of photocopied social security cards, deeds to properties, and old checks, not to mention endless marketing materials for all the amenities.

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An old walkway by the indoor ice skating rink (which currently houses tons of decaying bedroom sets).

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I don’t need to tell you that indoor pools and hot tubs are the holy grails of exploration.

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Every one of these rooms (overlooking the outdoor pool) we went into still had a large bed with mirrors all around (often on the ceiling too) and organic/heart-shaped bathtubs. The place was apparently advertised as the go-to honeymoon spot, and at one point in the 70s it was actively targeting swinging couples.

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The lobby / check-in area had a series of round rooms with mirrors on the ceiling — perfectly retro-futuristic. The resort is one of those places where a set of ten photos just can’t capture it all.

072614_09Inside what we presumed to be the executive/owner’s house, tucked away deeper into a field behind some overgrown tennis, basketball, and shuffleboard courts. It is square, one floor with a nice (and super overgrown) courtyard in the center. We went in through the double-garage doors in the back. We couldn’t get up the guts to explore the basement.

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It certainly wouldn’t be possible for such a large resort to decay so slowly if it was remotely close to a city. Every so often vandalism is reported to the local authorities, but the property owners don’t seem to be concerned with securing it, which can only mean that it’s eventual fate is demolition. If you’re in the Poconos, it’s worth a visit, but ask for one of the nicer rooms.

 

david and alison

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My friends David & Alison got married on the Moses Family farm two weekends ago, in Boone, North Carolina. Also pictured: Ng’endo on the right.

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Holly and her daughter Juniper, whom we hadn’t even met yet (it’s been too long!).

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Jenn & Lisa.

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Rhys in the middle of a field.

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Alison’s siblings, Renita & Ray.

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Kyle, DLISH, and Matt.

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Juniper and Pike.

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It was great to see Cory, we hadn’t seen him in over five years.

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Great to catch up with King Creeper as well! He started with his trademark soul & motown records, and eased into late 90s-early 00s r&b and hip hop.

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Party time.

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For a moment I thought we were back at Club Europa in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

resting in pieces

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Mount Moriah Cemetery in the southwest corner of Philadelphia’s outskirts.

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I had heard about the place being in a state of decay (though it is slowly being unearthed and restored), but it was still fascinating to see tombstones arising out of massive patches of Japanese Knotweed, Ailanthus, Mugwort, Princess Trees, you name it – it feels like every weed in Philly has carved out a place here, though the Trees-of-Heaven might be winning.

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Weather having its way with larger structures.

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There seem to be many acres that haven’t been touched in a while – and while they’re filled with graves, only the tallest are visible without clearing the jungle.

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Approaching this particular clearing in the dense Ailanthus, I found myself asking, “are we still in Philly?”