Fear and Clothing in Erie, Pennsylvania

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

Mr. Franzos and I stepped away from it all for a quick, one-day, summer vacation in Erie, Pennsylvania, and it was, well, eerie. Erie is a summertime destination city perfectly situated on one of the Great Lakes with shoppes, restaurants and amusement parks... but when we got there Erie was closed for the season and shuttered. Unbeknownst to us, summer was over. The End. Fin.

How could it possibly be fall? I thought, It's still warm out.

We stood in the amusement park overflow parking lot, stared at the frozen roller coasters and listened like deranged children, for all the sounds that weren't there. We strained our ears for the crunch of an elephant ear, the trilling voices of children high on cotton candy, the pained shrieks caused by some wise guy slapping someone's lobster red sunburn.


It was like a giant void had opened up where the happiest place on Erie used to be and piped in the painful sound of nothing. But it wasn't just the amusement parks, the sound of nothing was everywhere. Even the waves on Presque Isle State Park didn't have the audacity to crash upon the sandy shores, they merely rolled up, silent as you please, like a drop of oil in a warm frying pan. 

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

We checked into a third generation roadside motel, the kind where you park in front of your room (my favorite). It had cable television and an outdoor swimming pool, but the pool was tarped over and the gate pad-locked. The Closed for the Season sign was crooked on the chain link fence. The only sound in the entire city seemed to come from the motel room next to us. The TV was on full blare. A Twilight Zone marathon was on. We could hear each throaty, male cough coming through the thin walls. We called the front desk to complain. 

"Oh, that'd be Allen. He's what you'd call a feeble mind. His mom had to stow him here for a few days while she takes care of something...He's hard of hearing, Allen...sorry about that. I'll put you in a room on the other side of the horseshoe..." the front desk attendant apologized. 

Mr. Franzos and I cast side-long glances at each other, but we were quickly accommodated and our new room proved to be just as silent as the rest of Erie.

Now, a normal person would say, "This place gives me the heeby jeebies...Let's leave!" 

Not me. Not Mr. Franzos. We scrambled to get ourselves and our photography equipment together to document as much of the shuttered city as we could before sun down.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

I find beauty in decay and the slick, downward slope towards obsolescence. It's a universally relatable experience, this race against time and nature. So naturally, I'm obsessed with all abandoned landscapes, ghost towns and ruins. They remind me of the monstrous landscapes I occasionally see in a recurring fever dream I've had since I was four. I started dreaming of abandoned industrial plants when I was a flu-ridden toddler living in Northern California, which is weird because my fever dreams always looked a lot like the rusting steel mills of Pittsburgh. Sometimes I wonder if that means I'll meet my demise here in Pennsylvania, but then I remember that I don't believe in predetermination, which might be why I always hurtle myself towards the very things that scare me. I pick at things. Test boundaries. Get underneath them. Wrap my mind around them. Conquer them by understanding them. 

About a year ago, I had a nightmare. Usually nightmares are pretty straight forward and easy to figure out. This wasn't one of those nightmares. In this dream, I was tasked with giving someone else a bunch of used, infant mattresses and much to my surprise, they didn't want them. But, I was told they would want these mattresses, so why didn't they want them? It wasn't that they didn't want them, so much as they couldn't take them right this very second. I glanced down at the stack of baby mattresses, wondering what I was supposed to do with them until they decided they wanted them. As I looked at the blue and white ticking fabric covering the mattress, the seams start splitting. Hundreds of dirty, severed hands burst out and attacked me, tried to get in my mouth. Meanwhile long, black hair spilled out the sides of the mattress and tried pulling me into the darkness within. I snapped awake, gasping for air and said, "Whoa. That was cool." Two weeks later I bought a black hair purse. 

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

I believe in symbolism and it is rampant through out my writing. Sometimes intended and sometimes a completely subconscious happenstance that I only notice when I go back through and edit. I think it's a fun thing to weave in, but as I grow more and more aware of it, I fear my subconscious does as well. My dreaming mind really threw me for a loop. Black hair? Infant mattresses covered in blue-ticking fabric? Animated severed hands?  I scratched my head over this dream for months.The psuedo psychoanalyst in me wonders if this wasn't two portions of my brain, the ambitious writer and the biological clock, having a candid conversation about procreation and this next year. You see, I've decided that I need a year to get my affairs in order before, well, you know. The biological clock doesn't like it, and the writer feels rushed. Neither of them are happy with my decision and I feel them at war inside me, all. the. time. 

The biological clock obviously wants a chance at a family, to leave a genetic legacy if all other attempts at a legacy fail. Maybe my kid will be the one that can do some good, make a difference in the world where I could not-- at least, I believe that is the boiled down rationale behind having children.

The ambitious writer wants to finish the first draft of my novel and sail to Sicily and see the Catacombe dei Cappuccini first. Kids will only get in the way at this point, and it is my understanding that you pretty much have to shelve everything you want to accomplish for about 18 years. The ambitious writer is very susceptible to outside pressure, especially from seemingly arbitrary deadlines suggested by the Biological clock (and pretty much any physician out there). So I booked the trip, now I just need to finish the book.The ambitious writer balks at a year deadline. Is it enough time???
The biological clock is completely pessimistic and wonders if the hope for procreation will be up before I even start researching what luteal phases are. I'm told that 35 is a slippery slope into genetic obsolescence. The biological clock also wonders if I'm successful at producing an heir, if the "past expiration date" on my eggs will result in me being the kind of mother that drops off my "feeble-minded" son at a roadside motel in Erie. 

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

Evil clowns and demon possession seem so much more, appetizing than the harsh realities of being a 35 year old woman. Anyway, it's that time of year where we openly and willingly explore the things that scare us. Christian and pagan rituals summon them out into the open to ward off other evil spirits. So let it be known, I have summoned thee, fear. Now get thee behind me Satan. Riddikulus!

For now, I just want to finish breathing life into my story until it's a wriggling pink newborn book baby in my arms. I just hope by next October I won't be finally ready for summer only to find that its Closed for the Season, forever. 

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

What I Wore: 
Top: Mas Nada
Skirt: past season Mossimo
Fringe Belt: Elie Tahari
Boots: Sam Edelman

Your Bosom Friend from Pittsburgh,

Proudly designed by | mlekoshiPlayground |