GoPro Photography

As beautiful and grand as architecture get, all in St. Louis

I grew up in Metro St. Louis until I was 18. I did a fabulous city architecture tour in my senior year of high school and was blown away by the depth and richness of St. Louis’ architectural past. I learned it was misfortune and visionary legislation that made this possible.

A disastrous and deadly fire in 1849 led the city passing an ordinance preventing the construction of wooden buildings. The easy access to clay deposits led to a boom in brick buildings that provide a richness almost unparalleled in any American city. The money from the industrial era and real-estate speculation allowed for the construction of amazing homes and neighborhoods, even though slums were widely prevalent. Those gems from the golden era of St. Louis remain today. The pictures here are from the historic Cherokee Street area, near the river in South St. Louis, and the Lafayette Square area, in south central St. Louis. In racial terms, those remain mostly white, but that is also changing. Cherokee Street now hosts Hispanic celebrations, due to their large presence.

A web site dedicated to St. Louis’ diverse architectural styles provides a nice overview for those who do not have a background in architecture, with a nice sample of the gems any visitor can find with a map and simple curiosity. The styles I have captured are mostly Second Empire, inspired by French designs, and one Neoclassical design for the Chatillon mansion.

The big toys come out during summertime

Everywhere I walk and go it seems, some water or road project is going on, digging up streets, laying new sewer lines, and creating some inconvenience for all of us. Hey folks, that is called the price of living in a modern world. Be thankful you have these things. According to Food and Water Watch, 2.5 billion people, 1 billion of them kids, live without basic sanitation like a sewer system. And if you think your roads are bad, try them overseas, where they create literally lethal situations daily. So,  you may just try and chill out if you have to wait. You can even smile at those flaggers. They are your price for a modern, comfortable life. It is worth our investment.

Testimony to my love of running

I can never seem to get rid of my running shoes after their intended purpose ends, usually around month six. But they still work fine for walking and other sports. And so my stack of shoes is alive and well by my door. I actually just dropped off four pairs at Goodwill too. (Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Eagle Creek, gem of the Columbia River Gorge

I have hiked and run the Eagle Creek Trail on the Columbia River Gorge more than a dozen times over several decades. It is still inspiring after all of these years. The creek was the lowest I had ever seen it, when I hiked and ran it on May 30, due to historic low snowpack on Mt Hood and at higher elevations. There were also vastly larger crowds now too, loving it to death. Hundreds of cars were parked illegally on side roads. Hope a fire truck does not have to respond to an emergency call.

UM Law School Quad, the center of power

Architecture serves many purposes. It provides beauty with function. It enlightens and inspires. It expresses our ambitions, desires, and emotions. During my recent visit to Ann Arbor, I toured the University of Michigan Law School Quadrangle, better known as the Quad. I loved the English Gothic style and how the architects purposefully created a space to demonstrate power and purpose. Prestigious? Yes. Expensive? You betcha. And the competition is fierce to get in.

According to the Society of Architectural Historians, “The school recalls the design of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge and of the Inns of Court in London, but it is adapted to modern academic life.”

Thousands of them a year, bro

Charlie LeDuff, author of Detroit, An American Autopsy, has provided one of the most painful descriptions of nihilistic self-destruction I have ever read. It is a brutally honest dissection of Detroit. While working as a reporter for the Detroit News, he became close to a company of the city’s beleaguered firefighters, who have battled literally thousands of fires intentionally set by criminal arsonists throughout the metro area. LeDuff shared this comment from one of the firefighters who is asked to do the near impossible–save a city the residents are intentionally burning down.

“In this town, arson is off the hook. Thousands of them a year, bro,” the firefighter told LeDuff. “In Detroit, it’s so fucking poor that a fire is cheaper than a movie. A can of gas is three-fifty, and a movie is eight bucks, and there aren’t any movie theaters left in Detroit so fuck it. They burn the empty house next door and they sit on the fucking porch with a forty, and they’re barbecuing and laughing ‘cause it’s fucking entertainment. It’s unbelievable. And the old lady living next door, she don’t have no insurance, and her house goes up in flames and she’s homeless and another fucking block dies.”

In my entire life, during which I have visited dozens of countries, I have not witnessed anything as bizarre as this. I have seen worse than this, and things vastly more evil than this. But the utter pointlessness of this chaos, besides pure anger and loss of meaning, seem overwhelming. And people live with this, next to his, surrounded by this, engulfed by this. For those of you out there who may snicker and even enjoy this, take heed. LeDuff and many other chroniclers of the downfall of the American middle-class in cities like Detroit have a message for you. Detroit is not the past. Detroit is the future, coming to a place near you, and quicker than you think.

Most of these crime scenes are in what used to be called the Delray neighborhood, near Dearborn and Jefferson, by Zug Island. Hard to imagine that people still make the best of it here. It is home to someone. I often wonder what Canadians just across the Detroit River may have thought seeing flames, if they could see the smoke amid the heavy industry that surrounds this former Hungarian-American enclave. This is now called a “ghost town” within a city.

I love road trips, particularly in Oregon

Road trips always have their own flavor. I love unexpected discoveries and having an open mind to welcome the new, the different, and the unplanned. This trip took me from Portland, to Sisters (biking up to McKenzie Pass), to Fort Rock, to Eugene, and back home. I learned about the oldest shoes ever found in the world, at Fort Rock. I also fell in love with the beauty of Eugene. I lived there for nearly two years in the mid-’90s and still thinks it’s a lovely place. Hope you all take a road trip soon, everyone. (Click on each photo to see a larger photo on a separate picture page.)

Fort Rock State Natural Area, a sacred place

This is the first of a couple of posts I will do on Fort Rock State Natural Area (formerly park), in the high desert of south central Oregon. I wanted to show its features today from the perspective given by my GoPro, which has a unique and very wide angle perspective (and distortion).

These sandals were found a mile from Fort Rock State Natural Area and are approximately 10,000 years old (photo courtesy of the University of Oregon). These sandals were found in 1938 by archaeologist Luther Cressman.

These sandals were found a mile from Fort Rock State Natural Area and are approximately 10,000 years old (photo courtesy of the University of Oregon). These sandals were found in 1938 by archaeologist Luther Cressman.

Fort Rock is a gem. It stands prominently on the floor of what was once a lake bed. The formation is an extinct volcano that blew about 1.8 million years ago. Archaeological evidence dates Native American habitation here for at least 10,000 years. A research expedition in 1938 unearthed dozens of sage bark sandals under a layer of volcanic ash about a mile from here that are carbon dated as 10,000 years old. So clearly the continent’s first peoples have been coming here for many millenia.

I felt a touch of the divine and sacred here. How can one not. Its circular formation, its prominence on a desolate landscape, its energy when one stands on the rim of the crater–all create a feeling of otherworldliness. I saw deer and jackrabbits, so clearly food could be hunted here. It is well worth a visit. The area is about 70 miles southeast of upscale retirement city Bend, and there is no entrance fee. The state has also erected a recreated historic pioneer village near the entrance.

Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.