Growing up in Greenville, MS was an interesting ordeal. I basically lived at my father’s print-shop before I could work, then I worked there nonstop when I finally could. Coupled with the fact that my family comes from a history of semi-nomads, I never really clicked with the Southern company I had available. By the time I could drive and graduated high school, I was alienated from the surrounding denizens enough that I stuck to myself for the most part.
For fun, I’d map the city in my mind. Hop in the truck, drive a direction I had never been before, drive until I got lost, then drive some more until I recognized where I was. There was this moment when I realized where I was that always made a SNAP in my mind. I’d imagine Google Maps, when you click the GPS icon, and the map rotates to the direction you’re facing. The layout of the land would become clear in my mind, and I’d have another route mapped, another shortcut, and another road I’d probably never take again because I knew where it led to.
There was one place I’d always allow myself to return to, though. GLH. An Air Force Training Base that was created a week after the bombing at Pearl Harbor. But that was long ago. Nearly all of the barracks have been torn down. Most of the runways are grown over with weeds. Now, it flies one airline two or three times a day to Memphis, and nowhere else. If I’m trying to head out of the State, my choice was to pay +$300 to fly out of GLH or drive three hours to Memphis or Little Rock, AR. Inside that now-minuscule terminal, there are photo albums of when that airport was still a base. Dapper, disciplined men marching in uniform. Hundreds of planes and trucks. A couple of old flightsuits, propellors, and oxygen masks.
A particular section of abandoned runway became “mine.” After working indoors for nine hours, I’d drive twelve minutes to get to that airport, park, sit on the tailgate, and think. Years later, I’d smoke my tobacco pipe out there. I’d try out my Harinezumi digital toy cam, my Blackbird Fly plastic TLR, my Yashica 124-G TLR, my Minolta XD-11 that I got from trading a vintage ’70s cedar drumset for, my Panasonic GF1, my iPhone 3G, my iPhone 4, my Nikon D40 - all of them. It was ritual to not take my first photograph until I was out there. I made field recordings of thunder storms, bird cries, cicadas, and the occasional aeroplane out there. I’d bring a girlfriend there to show her what I was all about. Occasionally, I’d move to Arkansas for college, or Los Angeles for a couple of years, but when I came back to visit or live, that runway was mine. I’d drip gallons of sweat in the summer running around the few barracks still standing. I’d daydream about the life that took place there. When this city was bustling sixty years ago, back when the Mississippi river was still the main form of Goods Transportation. It’s not like that anymore, no sir. One of the highest crime rates per capita in the US. The unemployment rate has climbed past the teens and is still climbing. The population had dropped more than 14,000 residents from the 2000-2010 census. It’s a dying city.
But that old base and airport mean more to me than any other geographical point I’ve been to in my life. That red & white painted water tower. That perimeter guard that has never talked to me once, despite my nearly daily trespassing.
And now I’m living in Seattle, and I don’t have anywhere as easily accessible to unwind from “people.”
But I’ve recently began visiting Discovery Park every other day, and I stumbled across the old fort there. And there was this huge Radio Tower. It’s not red and white. It has electricity, rather than water, water coursing through its veins. But I sit outside the fence after the hike in, and I look down. I see old abandoned military buildings. There’s all this space. And a view. And I feel comfortable. After leaving, is when I think about it: “Is there something to this?” What is it about old military facilities that fascinates me. I can’t explain how it gets under my skin, but I feel like its history is seeping into my pores.
I’m so far away, and I miss ‘ol GLH daily, but I think I’ve found a new friend, ‘ol Fort Lawton Radio Tower.
In many years...
Brief Reviews: Bridge of Spies
Brief Reviews: The Big Short
Brief Reviews: The Revenant
Learning how to breathe via Carkeek Park.
Brief Reviews: Entourage
Brief Reviews: The Theory of Everything
Brief Reviews: The Judge