Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Abandonment Issues: Cordova Mines Vansickle House 1

What makes a house a home?

As is the case with most of my endeavors, when I started my Abandonment Issues project, I had no idea where it would lead me, or what the potential endgame would be. I still don't. I just wanted to explore abandonments, hone my photography skills and delve in to a new writing project beyond writing rhymes and slowly chipping away at a semi-autobiographical novel. In my last post, I was inspired to drastically change my approach. Instead of describing the actual exploration process, I accompanied the photos of an abandoned young offender boot camp style jail known as Project Turnaround with a true story of my own experiences as an inmate in young offender custody in the early to mid 1990s. After writing that post, I decided that my next few posts would follow in this theme of drawing personal parallels between the explorer (myself) and the derelict places that I explore. I have no idea where I plan to go with this, but I'm excited to temporarily shift the focus from the location, to the explorer.

I am often asked why? What motivates me to explore these dilapidated and often dangerous places?

In this first of the three Cordova Mines Vansickle House posts, I will do my best to answer that question from my own personal perspective, but from a philosophical viewpoint. In the following two Cordova Mines Vansickle House posts, I will attempt to answer that same question from different perspectives and angles.

E v e r y t h i n g falls apart.
E v e r y t h i n g falls apart

The honest answer from the philosophical perspective is that I connect with these places. I can identify and relate with what they are going through. As stated in the Project Turnaround post, I absolutely hated myself as a child and throughout my teenage years, and my actions were evidence of that. I was full of anxiety and fear, but with good reason. I was vandalized and abused. I felt unwanted. I was forgotten and left to decay. I was poor. I was abandoned by my father. I was molested. And I was ignored and outcast by the powers that be.

Life becomes a sinkhole.
Life becomes a sinkhole

Metaphorically, I was just like these locations, or at least that was how I perceived myself.

After people stop caring for the location, it is left to decay. Water seeps in through the cracks, eventually opening gaping wounds in the roof. Mould becomes the new living inhabitant, growing insidiously and spreading on the inner walls. Layers of wallpaper and paint peel and fall away. Sensing the vulnerability of the structure, human beings often step in and take advantage, breaking windows, tagging slurs and stealing from the house. Under the weight of it all, on a crumbling foundation, the soggy floorboards eventually break, and the floor caves in on itself. This collapse affects the house in many ways, it becomes very unstable, and accessing certain portions of the house becomes quite dangerous, or in some cases impossible. The collapse also affects more than just the floor, it often brings down fully functional appliances, and in this case, shelves, chairs and mattresses. By this point, the house is worthless, and is a hazard to people that interact with it. With massive holes in it's roof and floors, and it's shaky foundation slipping into the mud, the process of decay intensifies at an ever increasing rate of speed.

That is what happened to me. That is exactly how I perceived myself.

The hole gets wider and deeper over time.
The hole gets wider and deeper over 
time.

I remember it vividly, the night I broke. With the burden of being molested and carrying such a shameful secret weighing me down, my head was always pointed toward the floor, and my shoulders tensely raised by the tremendous anxiety that was swallowing me whole. I was teased at school on this day, which was nothing out of the ordinary, as I was tiny and living on social assistance, wearing hand me down clothing, and my absentee father's name was regularly in the paper regarding his many drunk driving convictions. The bullies had a lot to work with. That night, I made a conscious decision to flip the script. Never again would I be the victim, I promised myself. For when I awoke the next morning, it would be me that would attack and bully and antagonize the world around me. The next morning, I stood tall. I provoked the bully with preemptive attacks. I stopped caring about school, and manners and loved ones, and all of the positive qualities that my mother had so lovingly instilled in me. On that day, I became the villain. Essentially, I gave up on life, and began the slow suicide. Metaphorically speaking, this is when the inhabitants moved out of the house, and the process of decay began. A moral decay, as well as a physical decay. It wasn't long before recreational alcohol and drug use became severe addictions and crime became a way of life. By the age of 15, I had been in and out of lock-up, on and off the streets, and expelled from the school system city wide. I had committed robberies and break and enters to feed my addictions and ego. I had attempted suicide three times. I was a drug dealer, a thief and a scumbag. The decay was extreme by this point. That was when the floor collapsed, and when it did, it carried with it any positive attributes that I still had left, down into the dark abyss. I treated girlfriends like dishrags. I put my mother through hell on Earth, and couldn't have cared less about her. At 16, it all caught up to me, and I was sent to jail, where the story continues in the Project Turnaround post.

My negativity and misery and destructive decision making did not cease confined within these walls either. I got in fights and continued to participate in the drug game. I was even kicked out of school in jail, for throwing a desk at a teacher that pissed me off. I also attempted suicide again while incarcerated at Brookside. I tried to drown myself in the toilet in my cell, but the human body's natural will to survive outweighs the minds desire to die, and so I tried another method. I tied my bed sheet into a noose and hung myself from the top of my cell door. Again, primitive survival instincts took over, and with super human strength, my hands yanked at the noose that was effectively strangling me, and tore the sheet, dropping my tiny frame to the floor. I was so angry with myself, gasping for breaths that I didn't want. I'm even a failure at killing myself, what a piece of shit I am, I remember thinking. This, my friends, is how low I had sunken down into that pit of despair.

The great moral collapse continues.
The great moral collapse continues.

A childs war memorial project adorning the wall seems appropriate, since the house looks like a warzone.
A childs war memorial project adorning the
 wall seems appropriate, since the house looks like a 
warzone.

The empty cupboards shed their outer skin and expose their ugly past.
The empty cupboards shed their outer skin and expose their ugly past.

The stench of raccoon feces and frozen carcasses fill the air.
The stench of raccoon feces and frozen carcasses fill the air.

The past is left behind.
The past is left behind.

The wallpaper begins to bend and crease, exposing the layers beneath.
The wallpaper begins to bend and crease, exposing the layers beneath.

Eventually, the house exposes layer after layer of its past mistakes.

Eventually, the house exposes layer after layer of its past mistakes.

A story unfolds.
A story unfolds.

The once cherished memories don't stand a chance.
The once cherished memories don't stand a chance.

Guilt falls by the wayside, and the house feels off the hook for its actions.
Guilt falls by the wayside, and the house feels off the hook for its actions.

Layers peel away.
Layers peel away.

The paint peels and falls to the floor.
The paint peels and falls to the floor.

Windows to the soul get broken, and cold chilly air blows through the house.
Windows to the soul get broken, and cold chilly air blows through the house.

The seat falls from the chair, and the house is tired.
The seat falls from the chair, and the house is tired.

The books of God are unreadable at this time of year.
The books of God are unreadable at this time of year.

Once treasured items become inanimate objects, losing their purpose in life.
Once treasured items become inanimate objects, losing their purpose in life.

Is it still a treasure chest, if no one wants it?
Is it still a treasure chest, if no one wants it?

Positive rewards become meaningless.
Positive rewards become meaningless.

The curtains hang themselves.
The curtains hang themselves.

Art suffers.
Art suffers.

Wesley Snipes is no match against the antagonist known as decay.
Wesley Snipes is no match against the antagonist known as decay.

The rocking horse freezes to the floor, and is unable to perform its primary function.
The rocking horse freezes to the floor, and is unable to perform its primary function.

Mould continues to spread, to no end.
Mould continues to spread, to no end.

It is a downward slope.
It is a downward slope.

6 weeks after being released, I met Nicole (Ninja IX). It was then that I made the conscious decision to attempt to revert back to the decent human being that I was as a young boy, before it all went so very wrong. This was the beginning of the demolition process, which has been followed by 16 years of reconstruction and regrowth. The new structure that I am building day by day will never be fully completed, but I can assure you that I will stick to the blueprint and never again abandon the positive attributes that make me the man I am today, and more importantly, the man that I want to be tomorrow.

So to answer the question, I connect with many of these locations as if I'm visiting an old friend, or going back in time to tell that little miserable monster that he will find his way out of that pit of despair and downward spiral of moral decay.

The inspiration for this post came when I was asked this question again recently during an interview I did for my friends from the British based website GIANTGIANT. In this post, I merely elaborated on the answer I gave during that interview. To read the full interview with GIANTGIANT click here or on the image below.

Giantgiant interviews jerm IX

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post, which is the first in a series of three. It has been incredibly cathartic to delve into these memories and reflect on just how far that I have come. And it is a wonderful feeling to be in a place where I am now comfortable enough in my own skin to articulate and share these stories with you. In the next post, we will explore the Cordova Mines Vansickle House 2, and I will leave my personal history behind, and answer the question from a prototypical viewpoint of the urban explorer.

click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES

10 comments:

Ninja IX said...

Having had a front row seat to watch this metamorphosis over the years it brings me great joy that you are able to articulate your experience and share it with the world. You give life and meaning to these photos with your writing. Who knows what the future holds for you...

Canadavey said...

Great work as usual dude. Kudos to the interview op as well!

Anonymous said...

My heart bleeds for the tiny "lost child", for all your pain and for the way you chose to deal with it. But what a gift you have in your writing ability! What a loss it would have been had you stayed on that destructive route! You have much to offer the world and I'm so thrilled to see my "boy" back, now richer, not in material wealth, but in wisdom and inner peace. Keep on keeping on . . . Others are watching your example; you are inspiring hope that transformation is possible!

jerm IX said...

Thanks Ninja, Davey and MOM!

Deborah said...

I repeat - this is so inspiring. It is strange how we feel we have to keep the dark stuff hidden but it is so helpful to read others' demise and repair. My slide was slow, however I do remember so many pivotal moments. Maybe that would be a book - Pivotal Moments, A Recollection of How it all Went Wrong. Then part two can be the repair. I did write a memoir, To Care for Orphans: A Story of Hope and Transformation, but it stopped way before the big stuff went wrong.

Anonymous said...

Going to add you to my google reader, awsome stuff. Maintain it up and u have a loyal reader.

hemmans said...

Reading this brought tears to my eyes, I stumbled upon your site and haven't been able to close it since. I think it is really great what you are doing. nice to hear things are going good for you, keep up the good work, bring us more.

Anthony Seabreeze said...

Believe it or not I grew up in this home and so did my Mother and her family. My parents sold the home and it did not look like this. I admit it was no mansion but to me it was home. When we left it was still livable and it saddens me to see it in this condition. I have many fond memories from my childhood from Saturday night Guitar and Fiddle playing to freezing rain storms and pulling out of the driveway and sliding to the bottom of the hill eyes wide open and white knuckling the steering wheel and snow so deep you couldn't see the farmers fences. We all played hockey at the outdoor rink, swam at the Deer River bridge and partied at Scott's Dam until the wee morning hours then sneaking in hoping not to be caught. Now I'm grown and have my own Family, home and making new memories but I will never forget that house and my roots as meager as they were. Thanks for listening to me.
Tony!!

Anthony Seabreeze said...

Believe it or not I grew up in this home and so did my Mom and her Family. This house was no mansion by any sense of the imagination but when my parents sold the house it was still livable. I have many fond memories of this house from Saturday night guitar and fiddle playing, pulling out of the driveway after freezing rain and sliding to the bottom of the hill eyes wide and white knuckling the steering wheel. Snow so deep you couldn't see the farmers fences and playing hockey at the outdoor rink in Cordova. Swimming at the deer river bridge and partying at Scoot's Dam until the wee hours, sneaking in after hoping we didn't get caught which we always did but my parents were cool.I now have my own family, home and now making new memories but I will never forget where I'm from my roots and my home. Thanks for listening.

Tony!!

Jerm IX said...

Thank you so much for sharing that Tony!