Though it usually alludes to desserted, dilapidated places, abandonment can be applied to objects and discarded items of the past as well. Sadly, written history leaves objects and items behind, just as it does places. An object deemed noteworthy or significant may find itself in a local museum or archives. An important or historic site may find itself on the National Registrar for Historic Places. But what about all the rest?
These are the sort of thoughts that run through my mind as I drive from Rochester or Geneseo to Buffalo. For the past ten years I’ve been regularly driving the same route: 63, 20, 77, and 90 W. My route is extended now. What used to be a quick, hour-long trip from Geneseo to Buffalo has since turned into a seven hour trip from Brooklyn. But, every time I see signs for the I-90 N, I feel a rush of excitement, and a strange comfort. Within an hour I know I’ll be in Western New York. Whether urban or rural, I know I’m almost home.
Here time seems to stand still. Farmhouses have kept their signature slants, and the weathered wood on pre-war farm colonials have continued to boldly stare Western New York winters in the face year after year. I’ve never seen anyone parked outside of the restaurant appropriately (and non-ironically) dubbed “The Barn.” The business activity of the “lumber company” at the bottom of North Street in Geneseo seems questionable, and its hastily hung signs and obscure location quite often leave me wondering whether it was ever really a business at all. I’ve never knocked on the door of the slanted, grey house on Rt. 63, but my imagination has concocted various reactions amongst the owners as they open the door to creepy- yet endearingly curious- stranger. Are they freaked out? Do they invite me in for homemade bread hand-canned jam? Do I find their Wal-Mart brand butter and disregard for recycling disappointing, crushing my rosie hopes for the slanty, grey house people?
And these two cars? Well, they haven’t moved in ten years (at least in front of me). Every year I’ve watched the snow pile upon them in the winter, and slowly melt away with the spring. I’ve watched tractors and bobcats park themselves alongside of the old rust machines, but they’ve never moved. They’ve stayed still, and ten winters later, against the enduring, perennial slideshow, I find myself confusedly recalculating my years as I meditatively continue my drive.
I’m secretly enamored with this area. Though I say that time stands still, I mean it as a compliment (most of the time). This former frontier land played host to Erie Canal antics, the Second Great Awakening, and the rural scenes of the Women’s Rights Movement. It was also the birthplace of the Spiritualist Movement, and this area of Western New York isn’t going to let you forget it, either. Slanted grey houses and rusted clunkers remind you as you pass them by that they were used once, and they saw life here before you did.
The particular abandonment is anomalous. Without the distractions of the city, it’s easier to notice the juxtaposition of the modern alongside the abandoned. In the alternate driveway, a Prius is parked next to an oversized trampoline. Down the road, and old barn stands behind a renovated, country-chic cabin home.
But maybe that’s what’s interesting about abandonment in the first place. The feeling of used, lived-in, or settled… all in the past tense. Every time I drive by these cars I wonder when they’ll be forgotten. I wonder how I’ll feel if when I drive my familiar route on my familiar roads they’re not there one day.
I wonder why abandonment is sometimes such a familiar feeling.