Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sleeping Giants

I am working in the "Big City" on a project at a former machine shop which finally gave up the ghost and shut down in '08 at the outbreak of The Great Recession. I walked alone in this silent cathedral and snapped this pic as the late afternoon sun slanted through the dirt-smudged windows, casting light upon the sleeping behemoths of bygone industry. Everything was still just as it was when the last worker vacated the shop and chained the doors shut.

Located just south of Indianapolis’ downtown, with its gleaming high rise office buildings, the soft industrial underbelly is crumbling and empty. It is slowly being replaced by billion dollar sports venues, trendy bars and expensive restaurants.

Not far away, down by the river, is a homeless shanty town, its inhabitants the alcoholic sons of the former workers who lost their jobs in the seventies and eighties, living in tarp-covered pallet skids and sipping wine from discarded lunch sacks, rendering it into staggering gratification and street vomit. Around the fringes the dependent class are caged and policed by government baby-sitters who mend the overpass fences to keep debris from being thrown on the cars passing on the interstate below, as the rats and lemmings rush to their downtown cubicles in a frenzied, stress-fueled madness.

I'm glad to live in the equally artificial, yet bucolic agricultural hinterlands, where at least I can shoot my guns out the back door and no one cares, and pee off the front porch and no one sees.


  1. You have a flare for the poignant mixed with bridled cynicism and historical longing Herm, love reading this sort of stuff, fucking brilliant and insightful.

  2. Great shots Herm. Particularly like the old machine shop. About 34 years ago while working on the Calif.Railroad Museum project...a bunch of us dismantled an old machine shop up in the gold country near Jackson.Some of the stuff went to the museum shop...some went to an old goldmine/park for display...a lot of it collects dust in a warehouse.Sad to see once busy hubs of industry fade away. The stories those machines could tell
    ..if only...

  3. That first photo seems a ghost of my first job out of school at a structural steel plant in Omaha. The radial drill press that I ran was mounted on rails to move up and down the I-beams,drilling the ends for rivets&huck bolts. Many of those machines were tagged by the Gummint for war production (WW2). I've often wondered,If we had to, could we gear up for a task of that magnitude again?


  4. I often wonder that myself BC. It took just one year to build the Empire State Building in the thirties. The Freedom Tower took twelve years despite faster methods and superior building materials, thanks to bureaucracy, bickering politicians and restrictive regulations.
    The machines in this building were old and huge. I'm told the biggest lathe could handle pieces twenty feet long.

  5. I took a stroll around our newest dollarama store today. Its in a strip mall thats basically empty of tenants. I was amazed at all the products that seem to proliferate, more comes on line everyday. The whole world seems to be made in china, and downtown is dead except for crack heads ,tattoo parlours and pawnshops .
    I mused that this all started over a friendly game of ping-pong when Nixon went over.We went over to beat them at their own game , I cant remember the final score. But back then they were just sea of humanity pedaling bicycles across our t.v screens adorned in ubiquitous chairman Mao pants and hats. They didnt seem all that threatening , comedic relief mostly.Seems like they're living the dream now ? And were soaking up the camardarie on the internet or the ambiance down by the river.