Gary, Indiana is unloved. I couldn't find anyone who wanted to go with me, even photographers who had never been. I made plans with three different people, they all canceled on me, and in the end my generous sister went out in the cold with me, because the number one rule is never ever ever go in someplace alone. It was especially nice of her, because she had been the one with me the first time I went to Gary, two years ago. And because she doesn't give a shit about this sort of stuff.
I have never felt more like my hobby was weird. In Cleveland, it's almost passe to take pictures of urban decay. They are hanging in every coffeeshop. When I tell people I like to go urban exploring, it's almost like admitting I take pictures of graffiti for art class. In Chicago though, it was more like telling people I masturbated to feet. Their reaction was mostly "well okay sure I know this exists, after all I know everything that exists, but really you ought to keep that shit to yourself and not ask people to participate."
Like every enthusiast ever, it boggles my mind that it's so hard to find people who don't care about walking in mud and rotted carpeting in the freezing cold.
"But Gary's so EASY," I would tell them, "You just WALK in, and its is beautiful!"
"I'm going to go to SAIC instead."
"I'm too hungover, let's get brunch instead"
"Nobody should ever go to Gary."
Carey made a good point about asking Chicago people to ogle Gary's decay. She said people from Cleveland, these ruins were all around us, it was part of our daily landscape and therefore belonged to us. But these Chicago kids, they didn't live around ruin. They lived around little one way streets with old money town houses, H&M ads, and starbucks on every corner. Most of them came from solidly middle class families, with solidly middle class money. Gary was the poor side of Chicago, and if you came from the upper middle class predominantly white North side, it must feel very much like coming down from the tower to see how the poor people live. The sense of white privilege must hurt them like an inconvenient bee sting.
I don't really think that's why my friends wouldn't come, but it's a good point. Also, maybe it's true. I'm probably one of 5 people in the world that sincerely loves Gary, Indiana, for all it's parts. I like the ugly old convention center, and the fact that the KFC is the place to be downtown, that the highway exit is right at the entrance to the steel mill because there's no reason to go anywhere else. If cities were cats, I would be the girl who takes in every three legged one eyed stray that comes her way. These places, the church, the train station, the abandoned water front and the punched in brick tenement houses, these are places of history, actual touristy ruins, but we don't keep ruins in America, we let them fall and then bury them. We will never have permanent Coliseums, only certain periods when you could maybe see an old Church before they knocked it down for condos, so take pictures while you can because everyone will forget it ever existed in 10 years. Gary is about as Italian countryside as you can get in this country, in that no one ever knocks anything down because no one has the money for it and people have more pressing issues. Also, though, I guess in the same way, there are dorks who go to visit the Coliseum and then the rest of the people who would rather go hang out in the rest of the city with pretty people.
I'm sentimental about this right now because I just drove by the White Elephant building on W. 65th by the K-Mart, and it was knocked down.
The other point Carey made was that I couldn't force people to have a good time doing what I like, especially when it's peculiar. I feel like I collect bugs now. Really large awesome bugs. I guess both hobbies celebrate death and preservation, huh?