Thursday, May 03, 2012
There is hardly ever any solid evidence of what has happened to the abandoned houses that still fascinate me, just mute hints.
The sparkly fairy house eventually got auctioned off and was being worked on. I could see that shortly the place would no longer live up to my standards of abandoned charm. It wasn't, after all, abandoned any more. Now the front door stood open, and a pool repair pickup truck was parked partially in the garage. This of course made me wonder what the garage is good for. It’s so small that the better part of the smallish truck stuck out of it.
But there's a new abandoned house that has caught my eye. It’s on a route that I’ve walked many times before, but somehow I didn’t notice it until I was approaching it from a different angle. From this new angle, I could see, in all its glory, a vast Florida oak standing in front, broader across than the width of the house, which itself covers nearly 2,000 square feet. There isn’t anything inherently awe-inspiring about the place, other than that tree. It’s just a sprawling 1950s puke-green ranch sitting on a huge corner lot across the street from a wide canal. A large, old-style picture window framed in metal faces the street, offering a distant view of the canal. Someone must have loved looking out of that window once. Next to it is another window that is now completely boarded up. The utility shed is boarded up. The window by the front door is boarded up. And not a single flowerpot or recycling bin is out in the well-tended yard that looks as if it were loved once. I eventually worked up my courage to risk being shot for trespassing, and went up to the picture window to peer inside. The wood-paneled interior hadn’t been updated since the fifties. A leatherlike couch stood at an odd angle in the foyer. And facing the picture window sat a leatherlike recliner with a single crumpled white sock and a Bible on its seat. “Somebody died there,” Bill pronounced matter-of-factly when I told him.
You know, Google offers a very spooky view of the past or, as the more cynical among us might say, a brand-spanking new tool for voyeurism. Google Street View--the one that lets you drag a little yellow guy right down onto the street and set him loose to walk around, look at things, and even zoom in on them--shows the house on a sunny day last spring, with an old car in the driveway, a trash bin and buckets lined up neatly by the side of the house, an angel and bunny statues in front, awnings unfurled instead of boarded windows, flowers blooming merrily all around, a toddler’s swing hanging from the oak tree, a bike in the driveway, two canvas sling chairs on the back patio facing the sun together, three lawn chairs and a baby Adirondack chair arrayed around a small garden plot on the side, a clothesline, even the utility shed well landscaped. Google Bird’s Eye, on the other hand, has pictures that were shot the following December. I could tell because, zooming out, it showed the Whiskey River parked in Gilda and Bobby’s yard in a spot that was unique to that time, and an RV parked in the yard of a snowbird’s house around the corner. And Google Bird’s Eye shows events in the midst of taking an ominous turn. A truck with a trailer has pulled onto the lawn, filled with boards with which windows and doors might be boarded up. The car, sling chairs, and lawn chairs are gone, and the grass is dying. Of course, the grass always dies around here in the wintertime, but THIS grass dying is symbolic.
“What the hell happened here?” is the question I always ask myself. And what about that sock? What about that Bible?