Friday, April 11, 2008

Ancient concrete

London, Ontario, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Over three-and-a-half years ago, I took this picture of our two eldest kids next to a building that was in the process of being demolished. At the time, I called the entry Modern ruins. Unlike most demolitions, this one ended strangely: the wreckers eventually stopped wrecking, and a half-derelict structure of concrete, brick and emptiness stands to this day, casting featureless shadows over the adjacent pothole- and gravel-strewn parking lot.

As I continued my walkabout of the city in search of memorable scenes within conventionally forgettable landscapes (see here, here, and here for past entries from this series) I stopped in front of this structure and remembered the first time the three of us came across it. Like so many buildings in London's downtown, it slowly decays while absentee owners wait for the elements to inevitably render them irreparable.

Unlike this building, it doesn't seem to have much of a heritage to it. I doubt most of the downtown workers who leave their cars there during the week ever bother to give it a second look. But some buildings wear their uniqueness a little more subtly. It may not have arches, gargoyles, flourishes or art deco trim, but I'm sure it's got its own story, and may yet have life ahead of it if someone - the unseen owner, perhaps - decides there's money to be made by investing in renewal.

Ownership intentions aside, this seemingly derelict structure taught my kids an early lesson in the impermanence of the world around us. So despite its forgettable facade and its seeming disconnection from the urban flow around it, it still means something to me.

Your turn: What defines "heritage" anyway?

One more thing: My mother celebrates her birthday today. With my father ailing at home, she's celebrating quietly. May your future milestones be happy ones, Mom.


kenju said...

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Levy!! I hope you celebrate well and long.

Carmi, that building reminds me of what my grandson said when he saw the Colisseum in Rome....."Mom, if this building is that old, when are they ever going to finish it?"

kenju said...

P.S. Darn it, I forgot to say that Michele sent me.

Blond Girl said...

Hey Carmi. I was playing over at Michele's and saw that it was your mom's birthday, so I came to drop a happy your way. When I came to your page, thinking of the birthday and wondering if she had a blog and you would have a link to it, the first thing I saw was "ancient concrete". Now, any other time, it wouldn't have phased me, but this time, my thoughts, being on your mom, made your title unexpectedly humorous. Yes, I know, I am bad. Sorry.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to Carmi's Mom! Woo Hoo!

And to me, heritage isn't in buildings or even so much in things. It is in words, stories and emotions passed down through the years. It's in recognizing a trait in my daughter that I see in me and I saw in my grandmother. Heritage lives, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post(s). Love your blog!!

Happy bday to your mom! Cherish your mom and dad!

You really have an "eye" for the "artist" much like I gave up when I married but oh well, GO FOR IT BABY!! You F'ing rock!!
love it!!!

PI said...

This is sssssooooo weird! Yet again Judy has seen the same thing - the Colisseum -as I did. Th only thing we don't agree about is Gorgeous George (not Bush - Clooney)
Happy Birthday Carmi's Mum and congratulations on your lovely son.
Michele sent her best.

Carletta said...

Hi Carmi,
I love the old buildings and your term "modern ruins" is so well suited to them.
I live in a small city where old warehouses with windows was once the focus; but have given way to strip malls and modern architecture in their midst. They stand as a testament to what was and I feel sad most times I see them standing there fading away.
When I look at them I'm reminded of our country's heritage and where it came from - the hard work and dedication those buildings represent.
Please give your Mom Happy Birthday wishes and tell her I think she has a very insightful son of which I'm sure she's very proud!
Loved my visit today.

Barb said...

Carmi, your blog has become my favorite blog to check everyday. As a journalist and photographer you are an inspiration to me as I kick off my mid-life career. Not only that, and even more importantly, you pose questions and situations that make me THINK! Take heritage: to me it is all parts, genetic, environmental, and memorable, that I honor and treasure. These are influences that I wish to pass on to my son, leaving my life's mark to be remembered, hopefully, and passed on with the addition of his treasured influences.

Happy Birthday to your mom, whom you obviously have carried on treasures of heritage.

R. Sherman said...

"Heritage" is simply a collective past. Obviously, it may be different for a family or a town or nation. It is all those archetypal images which resonate with every member of a group. For example, even someone who grew up in Maine identifies with the whole cowboys on the trail in the middle of the prairie image, even if they've never been near the Great Plains and even if that image is, in a sense, a caricature.


Sara said...

Hi Carmi,

A warm Happy Birthday wish to your Mom!!!! May she have many many more!

Miss Thrillz said...

What an interesting post. ^_^

Hello, Michel sent me. :D

Beverly said...

Happy birthday to your mom!

Shannon said...

I was wondering if you would consider donating to the March of Dimes in honor of Tristan, my preemie. I have a donation badge on my blog on the bottom right and any little amount would be great. We are walking in the March for Babies on May 3rd, here in Oak Ridge, TN.
Thanks and much love!

barbie2be said...

bon anniversaire, madame levy!

carmi, i love when you show us pix of buildings. i am fasinated by architechture and ruins.

i have often marveled over how americans think we live in an old country. when in reality we have no idea what is old. this was never so obvious to me as when i was in rome and pompeii among the ruins. how things like that have survived so many lifetimes to remain while we in our ignorance stumble about in search of new, now, next.

thank you!

sage said...

I may be weird, but I really like the starkness in that photo. Happy birthday to your mom.