Wednesday, December 31, 2008

UP #170: Republic State Bank/Eagle's Nest Bar (Abandoned), Republic, Mich.


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UP #169: Abandoned Mine, Republic, Mich.


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UP #168: Abandoned Mine, Republic, Mich.


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The New Year

As I sit here preparing to head off to a gathering of friends, I feel the need to play out 2008 with a few more UP images. These desolate places really provided a lot of inspiration and momentum, not only for Meade and me but for others who heard about and saw them later. Infrastructure is kicking (we wrote a song about Republic, pictured above). The photo thing is going well, and I have some new equipment to help me further both efforts. I'm always kicking around ideas for writing projects that I don't start. No time for shit. I am unmarried, have no children, and I don't own a home or car, yet I don't have a spare minute. I'm supposed to be on vacation, but I feel insanely stressed. I am inhaling a Lean Cuisine® Thai-Style Chicken frozen dinner and downing a Harpoon IPA. My blood pressure must be incredibly high. Happy new year.

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UP #167: Higley's Saloon (Abandoned), Champion, Mich.


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ABBQ #42: Snow's Brisket and Sauce


I need to post this shot from Lexington, Tex. because ever since I had this brisket for breakfast, I've been thinking about it every morning.

Click the pic to see more from the country surrounding Austin.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

UP #166: Higley's Saloon (Abandoned), Champion, Mich.


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UP #165: Champion, Mich.


Much of the town is in this shot.

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UP #164: Abandoned Motel on Highway 41


Possibly in Three Lakes, Mich.

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CPC Flashback No. 2

After my friends abandoned me with the MILF cougarlawyer, things became even more interesting. The old people began quizzing me about the songs they were playing on the juke (lots of Meat Loaf, unknown to me). They also bought me two or three gin and tonics. A stocky but athletic, white-haired, 50-something man showed up and kissed the MILF cougarlawyer repeatedly. She kept telling me that she had a 6-bedroom house and that her kids worked for her. He introduced himself as Joe Walsh. He immediately began to make fun of my hat. The fat guy to my left bought me another drink, which tasted like cough syrup, red bull, and rum. I drank it fast.

Get Woldo another drink, cried Joe Walsh. The people laughed.

Why the fuck are you calling me Waldo, I asked.

C'meah. Lemme tell ya somethin, said Joe Walsh. He came over to my side. He was about my height. He said come ova heah. I followed him away from the bar to the back of the room. I did not know what was about to happen.

At the back of the room, at the end of the Sports Garden, I found a hip-height mirror next to the bathrooms. It ran all the way up to the ceiling. Joe Walsh told me to look into the mirror and tell him what I thought I looked like. I said nothing.

Woldo. You look like Woldo, he said.

Thank you, Joe Walsh, I said. In your infinite wisdom and years of experience beyond my own, you have explained this all to me. Thank you.

No problem, said Joe Walsh, smiling proudly and drunkenly. He reached out his hand, which I may or may not have shook. He said: Joe Walsh ain't afraid to tell you the truth.

It was then that I resolved to kill Joe Walsh.

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Meeting People in Somerville

or Cambridge or Boston...is impossible. They are afraid of you. They protect their drinks by placing napkins over them when they leave the bar to smoke or go to the bathroom. In the event that they are drinking their beer through a straw, like a fucking retard, they force the straw through the napkin over their pint glass to make clear the point that they will be back and that you are not to talk to them. If you do talk to them, you won't get anywhere. They may be pretty and educated and drinking, but they don't want to talk to you...or anyone. Everyone tries their hardest to be an island, their own island, separate from their friends and anyone they may not know. Boston is the greatest collection of ambitious, capable, and useless people I have seen to date. (New New Yorkers, by comparison, are mostly useless.)

Meanwhile, if you need anything else to do, there are fresh work emails available 24 hours a day from a not-24-hours-a-day business, so that if you ever need a distraction from your surroundings or yourself, there is always a task to be completed, someone else's need to be fulfilled, something to do.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

UP #163/Dignity Hunt XX: Pothole Repair, L'Anse, Mich.


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UP #162: Hiring 10 Smiling Faces, L'Anse, Mich.


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UP #161: Abandoned Baler, L'Anse, Mich.


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UP #160: Abandoned Baler, L'Anse, Mich.


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UP #159: Abandoned Baler, L'Anse, Mich.


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Return to the U.P.

We're only about halfway the photographic tale of the journey to the Upper Peninsula, dear readers. Even though half a year has passed since the trip concluded, I must honor my promise to post every "good" photo from the journey both here and on Flickr.

I'm starting back up with five photos from the tiny town of L'Anse, Michigan. There's a ceiling tile plant, the Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest, and a trainyard from which logs are sent out to be processed. That's about it.

There was one little event that took place in L'Anse that neither Dan nor I documented: that of the L'Anse pizza. We ordered a medium pie in a just-opened restaurant at the edge of downtown. The shop seemed to be run by some twenty-something local women and their big pizza oven. They made our pie to order and sliced it very bizzarrely, cutting it across and down. It tasted deliciously un-New Yorkian, in a Pizza-Hutty kind of way. It was delicious and perfect and powered us toward a hell of a night in Marquette.

You'll read about that soon.

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Dan Meade's Texas BBQ Article

For those of you who have not seen it, Dan's article was used on about 150 TV station websites.

http://www.kvia.com/Global/story.asp?S=9540791

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Disgusting

The subway cars here in NY have their air conditioners turned on today, out of necessity.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dan Meade and Rob Bellinger with Fat F---, Chinese-Mexican Restaurant,Briarwood, Queens, New York City


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DEEP SOUTH 09

THE MORE THE MERRIER.

THE MORE THE CHEAPER.

SAVANNAH-ATHENS-ATL-TALLAHASSEE-WHEREVER.

EARLY JUNE 2009.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Night Flying

Cruising around the 5 boroughs and Long Island at 1500 feet is probably the best way to see New York...from a distance.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

ABBQ #81: Lone Star Christmas Trees, Elgin, Tex.


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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Taxi Diversity


Here's a diesel Jetta cab that I saw at lunch. I don't think there has ever been such a diverse array of taxis plying the streets of New York City as there is right now. Besides the ubiquitous Crown Vic, there are hybrid Chevy Malibus and Ford Escapes. Toyota has the Camry, Highlander, Siena, and Prius on the street, all of which are available as hybrids. There are even some hybrid Lexus SUV cabs. I've also seen hybrid Nissan Maximas and Honda Civics. And then there are the Dodge Caravans with wheelchair lifts.

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The End of the Earth

Travel time between College Point, Queens and Midtown Manhattan via 7 train and local bus is averaging about 90 minutes. This works out to an average speed of 8mph. There is still no cell phone reception in areas of College Point.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

New York Sucks.


I've been back a day--long enough to experience everything I hate about this place.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow and Slush in the Old World

I am in College Point, Queens, where the elderly, Mediterranean natives are brandishing shovels and screaming at each other about a mysterious, five-foot-high pile of ice and snow on one side of the street. A Sanitation Dept. payloader, working its way through the neighborhood, created the pile last night, and one neighbor suspects the other of deliberately telling the driver to pile the snow on her side of the street. She suspects this was done so that the flow of water along the curb would be blocked, creating a small cesspool of dirty, melted snow in front of the her house (not to mention the many other homes on that side of the street).

That's how it works here. My family once spent several years without speaking to the other family that lives in our building because there had been a fight over grass clippings from one tiny backyard ending up in the other.

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The Union Square Scene

The City Section of today's Globe has a neat little article about the performance venues in Union Square, Somerville, and the "roots" music they promote.

I've been saying that of all the cities I've experienced, Austin and Boston have the best music scenes out there. The growth of live music in Union Square has definitely been a boon for the the elusive Boston scene, whose hotspots move from square to square, staying one step ahead of gentrification and one step farther from the nearest T-stop.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

ABBQ: Great Success!

I'm snowed in here in Somerville and just posted ALL of the good photos from ABBQ. I'll be blogging many here over the next few ...years. Photos look better on black anyway.

I'm also going to try embedding a slideshow here, which you can mess around with:


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Unposted Pictures Include...

Second half of XCAN, the longest road trip of all time.
Second half of the KC Siege, greatest sleeper hit of all time.
Brotherly trip to Austin this spring.
Second half of UP, most productive roadtrip of all time.
Hiking trips in NH and CA.
Anything that happened between June and now...
...including ABBQI, which is now an annual event.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Strippers on Adderall

"Excuse me, are you from this area?" she shouted somewhere between Harvard and Porter. "Is this Somerville?"

One of the benefits of 'working from home' in a small apartment is that you have to go out every night to preserve your sanity. And most nights end with a story.

Last night, on my way back from JP, I was accosted by a messed-up, heavily made-up girl of 25 who claimed she was on her way to an interview to be a bartender. "Do I look like a stripper?" she kept asking. One of her beauty school classmates had told her she looked like a stripper after class.

"No, but you could be," I said. She found me charming. She wasn't just a cosmetology student. She was actually a model and actress, who had worked in Las Vegas. She followed me out of train and through the station.

"Are there any bars I could apply to tonight?" she asked. It was clear that she had never been to Davis, Porter, or Harvard before. She had never heard of Central.

"It's easier to make money in a dive," she told me. "Less competition and you don't have to suck or snort."

When she got to Davis, she couldn't find the guy she was supposed to meet. "This guy is a stalker...I'm afraid he can see me but I can't see him." I tried to get away.

"Do you know what Adderall is?" she asked. "I just snorted one on the train...I would totally share with you but I'm all out." She unzipped her coat to reveal tremendous breasts filling out a tiny, black tank top. "Now I look like a stripper," she said. I nodded.

The guy called and told her to meet him by the big Christmas tree in the square.

"Come with me. I'll tell him I know you. You're my classmate, okay?"

I told her I had to go meet someone at Johnny D's.

"Okay, I'll come see you in there later. Let's have a drink, Rob. Where do I know you from?"

I got the hell out of there.

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All of my personal email is from corporations again.

Tuesday Night

After the average 10-hour day I walked around the frigid Fenway until I found the skinny Berklee dropout who was selling the Blues Junior. I got it for $300 and carried it to Chris M.'s because cars are for p*ssies. We then drank and played video games where you shoot things. The amp is still there. At Wally's, as I told the tale of the one time I drank a forty of Ballantine's while coding ESL quiz questions for CUNY, some yuppie fuck at the bar says to his counterpart, "I wonder what Ballan-teen Ale tastes like." The Tuesday night band plays the greatest soul-funk you will ever see, and there is no cover, just overpriced drinks. The white keyboardist, who will only talk to you if you're black, is still one of the finest musicians I've ever seen. The crowd lacks the usual quotient of MILF escapism tonight. We leave and get garbage stoner pizza on Mass Ave, made by a skinny international male in a tight designer t-shirt and his stoner counterpart with a considerable gut, white t-shirt, black bandana, and long dreads. There is no reason for these two people to be making pizza together other than that the task somehow involves weed The crust reveals this: it is like a pastry with sauce on it and not good. It is worse even than Greek pizza. So far I have only seen this in Boston and Greenville, NC. Somehow I get to Davis via Central, unsuspected home of the cleanest restroom on the T, where ghetto youth are jumping on and off the train tracks. Snow covers my coat as I walk home. I am glad to have ditched the unwieldy amp. When I get home, the heat is fucked up and the air pockets in the pipes will be wreaking loud havoc all night but I don't care.

This happens one year to the day that Gordon and I closed out Wally's. I don't think I ever heard from him again. I am surprised that I am still alive.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Barbecue in New York

I wrote the following inoffensive paragraph in my notebook on the plane to Austin:

My colleagues choose barbecue restaurants based on the reputation of the chef. They eat hushpuppies with fork and knife. Barbecue was "the big thing in New York last year," they say, but it's still "a safe bet." Several have asked me if I've read the New Yorker article about the Texas Monthly article about Snow's east of Austin.

Then I had one of the greatest cultural experiences of my life, which included Snow's brisket and pork shoulder for breakfast this past Saturday.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

ABBQ #X: Cooper's, Llano, Tex.


Posting from Austin. This is going well.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

...TO AUSTIN!

It is time for the greatest weekend ever. We will apply all previous lessons of life, road, drinking, eating, photography, writing, music, geography, driving, people, cities, travel, and survival to the next three days. A diverse crew will experience diverse things, and it is hard to imagine anyone departing the Lone Star State in any state approaching dissatisfaction. The stars at night are big and bright...

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...AND THIS...


FROM THIS...


UP #158: Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest, L'Anse, Mich.


UP #157: Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest, L'Anse, Mich.


UP #156: Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest, L'Anse, Mich.


Monday, December 08, 2008

UP #155/Dignity Hunt XX: Maintaining the Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest, L'Anse, Mich.


...and by inspired I mean focused.

I don't think I have enough (time for) vision. I've shot over 8,000 photos so far this year but cannot use the emergent themes to create a gallery-worthy print show. I've been working on a rock album with C. and E. since August 2007 but barely have five songs done. I turned on fiction, but that's fine with me for now.

Here's hoping for more "free" time in 2009. Art is work, and there's only so much work you can do before you fall asleep.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

I used to be inspired.

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UP #154: UP Rails, L'Anse, Mich.


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UP #153: Houghton Motor Transit, Houghton, Mich.


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UP #152/Dignity Hunt XX: Workers on Scaffolding, Downtown Houghton, Mich.


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UP #151: My Mother, Your Mother (Downtown Houghton, Mich.)


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UP #150: Lode Theater, Houghton, Mich.


There was copper here...

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Prostitute Removal

Note, 12/6: I have now gotten to the point in the Photographic Tale of the Upper Peninsula at which we arrive back in Houghton. This means that I get to rewrite "Prostitute Removal," about one of the locals whom we met during our stay. Enjoy.
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EXTREME CONTENT WARNING! Don't read this if it will hurt you. Scroll down to the post about the alcoholic fishermen.

I could tell something was wrong when she walked into the bar and sat down next to us.

It was our unplanned second night in Houghton, Michigan, a nice little college town at the base of the desolate Keweenaw Peninsula. The Keweenaw is the northernmost finger of the Upper Peninsula, dotted with abandoned copper mines and almost-ghost towns. We had driven and shot photos all day and were completely exhausted. So we returned to Houghton's straight-from-the-1960s Downtowner Motel and checked back into the same little two-bed room where we had slept the night before. After escaping the very kind owner and his allergy-inducing cats, we stopped back into the bar at the foot of the bridge for a nightcap.

The scene was quieter than the night before--no softball teams this time, just several small groups of friends. We didn't even order a pitcher. We'd have a pint of Oberon, go to bed, get up early.

And then she walked in. She was about our age, wearing a gigantic Adidas sweatshirt and black dress pants, and was actually kind of cute. She had pretty, insane brown eyes. She asked if the seat next to us was taken and then she started talking.

First, she worked in the Best Western up the block but it stressed her out when she had to talk to people so she was trying to quit. Before that she had gone to Michigan State, "looking to get knocked up by some fine-ass f***ing n****r." Continuing her oration on being obsessed with males of African descent, she claimed she was waiting to party with a Guyanese grad student from Michigan Tech whom she had met the night before at the very bar at which we sat. When it became clear that she was being stood up, she began exchanging angry text messages with her would-be beau:

Stripper/Prostitute: u must be f**king some chick
Dude: f**king some chick wtf?!
[repeat, many times]

As the night wore on, she revealed her true occupation: she had stripped all over Michigan. Flint had the best strip clubs in all of Downstate, and I think that was the city where she had been sleeping with the club owner(s). She related the infectious dangers of grinding on people all day, but pointed out that in most clubs, you could let a man finish on or with your chest for an extra $25. This was a way to make "good money on the side," but the men had to wear prophylactics, which sent her home "smelling like condoms" much of the time. The conversation became particularly inaudible here, due to an influx of patrons, but I think I got the gist of it.

As Dan and I attempted to ignore Angel, which is what she called herself most frequently, the minute hand on the bar's big wallclock revolved again and again. Our dreams of rest and of an early start the next day vanished over the next two hours as we listened to tales of gradually worsening depravity.

After she asked us if we were dating each other--because our pint glasses were, she said, unusually close to each other--it was time to play the "Guess how many abortions I've had!" game, introduced by Angel herself. I guessed five. Dan guessed three. I was "warmer;" the answer was seven. I secretly wished I could hand her a pamphlet about the Jesus and leave. Yet something was so uncomfortable and wrong about the situation that we couldn't just walk out, yet.

Suddenly Angel decided to sleep with Dan. I know this because she turned to me and said, "I'm going to f**k your friend now." She climbed on top of Dan, who was facing away from the bar on his stool, backwards. She lay on top of him and refused to remove herself. Dan's eyes were a picture of paralyzing panic. I could see his mind working to disprove the theory that viruses could be transferred through clothing.

"Your girlfriend is not going to like this," I said very loudly.

"You have a girlfriend?!" the stripper asked. "I bet she's the kind of girl who wears ninety-dollar patterned dresses, picks flowers, and doesn't like sucking dick."

Dan neither agreed nor disagreed. (Side note: that is an exact quote.)

Dan stared into the distance uncomfortably and he did not speak. At some point, Angel got off of him. He later revealed that he wasn't sure if I had been hitting on the stripper (Dan, I still want to punch you in the stomach for that). Around closing time, which is later in Houghton, Michigan than it is in Boston, we just walked out of the bar. The lonely stripper followed us to our hotel room. "Can I watch your HBO?" No. "Can I piss in your bowl?" Fine. When she emerged from the bathroom she seemed more messed up than before.

"I KNOW you guys are FUCKING with me. I know I've met you both before. TELL ME where you met me. What are you, like secret agents or something?" We said nothing and looked at the carpet. She pulled someone's prescription bottle from her purse. "You guys want some Xannies?" she asked. She took a few. Then she looked at my photographic equipment, and said very soberly, "Don't forget to charge your camera battery for tomorrow." I had forgotten. I thanked her.

A staring contest started and continued for a few minutes--with Dan between the beds, the UProstitute in the doorway, and yours truly in between and providing the aggression. "We really need to sleep," I said.

"You guys are no fun," she said, and finally walked out the screen door and across the street to her car, a full three hours after she sat down next to us. An engine began to purr out on the street and then receded in the direction of the bridge. Dan and I double locked the door and drifted off into a pleasant, hard-earned, and STD-free slumber.

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Originally posted 6/28/08 at 12:09 a.m.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

CPC Flashback No. 1

"AHM SOMEONE....THATCHA. NEVVA MET BEFAW!" the townie cougarlawyer kept stuttering over the guttural screams of Meat Loaf. "AHM SOMEONE. THATCHA NEVVA MET BEFAW. IN YA WHOALE LIFE!"

I could tell by the sincerity in her eyes that this was supposed to mean something incredible to me, but I just kept saying, "yes, that's true."

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Complete F*ckery

Recently it dawned on me that I could have a life* if I stayed in the same place for more than a week at a time. Then I pinned two business trips onto my ABBQ itinerary to create an 8-day trip next week.

*a different version of the life I have now.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

MBTA Trip Planner not working again

What the F?

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

UP #149: Dredge, Torch Lake, Mich.


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UP #148: Dredge, Torch Lake, Mich.


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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

UP #147: Dredge, Torch Lake, Mich.


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UP #146: Welcome to Torch Lake, Mich./DPW Payloarder


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UP #145: Torch Lake, Mich. DPW Pickup


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UP #144: Laurium, Mich. Police Station


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UP #143/Dignity Hunt XX: Boy Outside Laurium, Mich. Police Station


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"The locals don't care for our presence/ I don't blame them they are peasants"

Chris Kemmerer sings us a song that vaguely recalls the CPC (at least the nonviolent parts).

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Monday, December 01, 2008

UP #142: Langdon's Fresh Northland Pasties (Abandoned), Kearsarge, Mich.


Reposting, in sequence.

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UP #141: Langdon's Fresh Northland Pasties (Abandoned), Kearsarge, Mich.


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UP #140: Machine Shop Ruins


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UP #139: Machine Shop Ruins


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UP #138: Machine Shop Ruins


Upper Peninsula pictures are just going to keep showing up until all the good ones are posted.

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Hipster Lofts in the South Bronx

They're really real. The bus just drove by them. Big weird light-emitting objects inside, coloring the big cubes pastel shades, pushing the ghetto back farther from the shores of the Harlem.

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