decay preserves vs. Decay Preserves

Mr. Waxman, whose story my son tweeted and did an update about here, reveals a different meaning of decay preserves. This is worth exploring, but has some basic differences from the decay preserves that our movement proposes. The decay preserve that Newton Creek has become is a product of intention and continued use. By contrast, our Decay Preserves would set aside space for non-use, rather than continuing with use that decays the environment. Don't be fooled! Do not confuse decay preserves with Decay Preserves.
On the other hand, coming to one who is immersed in the vision of the Decay Preserves Initiative, this utterly different sense of a decay preserve is very exciting. In fact, Mr. Waxman's and the other studies and celebrations of decay that my son has been sniffing out suggest that our movement is part of a worldwide movement that is defined by new recognitions of all kinds of decay. I started this post with a feeling of certainty in what I thought, but there are clearly other ideas of decay and decay preserves. Is my idea decaying and giving birth to new life growing as it decays?
The Decay Preserves Initiative movement must continue to cleave to a single concept of Decay Preserves: the creation of a no-use zone for areas in which paragons of decay have effloresced. It has to do so, because the Decay Preserves Initiative is fixed as the petition which we submitted to Washington State's Office of the Secretary of State and which that Office locked in place with a crashing descent of the state' official seal—a preserve of sorts for the petition's idea, an attempt to make it proof against decay. Is that sort of ossification of an idea, decay of the idea?
I would say that Mr. Waxman's Newtown Creek; the home that Mr. Hurlbut and his partner have made in Selma, Alabama, from the Harmony Club; and the photographers of the Industrial Decay Network have thrown wide open the gates of what we conceive decay and decay preserves to be. Except that they were never closed. Decay is eternal. Decay's preservation and power to preserve takes more forms and has more meanings than any one conception. Decay is bigger than any individual. I am humbled before decay.
Decay preservers (not to be confused with plastic surgeons, other cosmetic medicine specialists, or people who refuse to go to the dentist), speak up! What do Decay Preserves and preservation of decay mean to you?

Greater Seattle Decay Tour, Part 3 (of 3)

Note from Vita: A friend of mine told me that I should break up such a long post into parts. However, I see that WordPress puts the latest post on top, so that to read these in order, you have to be sure to start with #1, below. Just thought I’d warn you. This post picks up after I’d suggested that the old sheet-metal factory was like a museum, because it seemed to preserve the past.

Skid got a little passionate. “Decay preserves are most definitely not for showing the past. The past is gone! Decay preserves are about what’s happening now. Let’s try the old Rainier Brewery in Georgetown. Besides the Hot Tubs building, what’s left of the brewery may be one of the closest things we have to a real decay preserve.”
Old Rainier Brewery, front
Skid couldn’t get out of the car and across the street fast enough, in his excitement. I don’t think he looked before jaywalking. “There’s the front, now check out the back. ”
Old Rainier Brewery, back
“They’re propping up a wall with nothing behind it just because they think it’s great!”
“Aren’t they propping it up because it’s old?”
“The building is old but decay isn’t about age. Decay is a process that takes place in the present, but in time, so every decaying object is a portrait of time. But that’s just one way to look at it. Decay preserves are great not because they’re one thing or another, but because you have to keep finding new ways of looking at them.”
“Ah-hah!” I had him. “If the concept is that open, then you can’t tell me that what I see in them is wrong. That’s a contradiction.”
But he slipped away.
“Sure it’s a contradiction; I have no problem with that. This effort of mine is full of contradictions. If I go far enough down one path of thinking, I find myself biting not my tail, but my nose. It can make you cross-eyed.”
“Now there’s a goal to shoot for,” I said.
But—although I hate to admit it—that’s exactly what happened on this Tour. One moment at Amick Metal Works came back to me. It was before we started arguing about ghosts.
In the 1940s, the main work room of the company was new, a contributor to the winning of World War II. Today, the empty, ruined shell…
Amick shop floor, long
…suddenly looked different. It shook into a different focus.
Amick shop floor, close
This room got my whole attention for a reason—no, three reasons: its potential, its suggestions, and its existence exactly and only as it is. Call it a decay preserve or not, tell me I’m biting my own nose, but I think Skid has a point. I certainly don’t agree with making Decay Preserves the law, and I don’t think we should preserve these ruins. I don’t have a problem with usefulness like Skid does. But there is something we lose when we raze or build over an unused place, no matter how good the reason.

Greater Seattle Decay Tour, Part 2

On the way down to Seattle’s old industrial heart, Skid showed me a picture from his phone: some kid at an empty building where graffiti is tolerated. A gallery where each piece only lasts a few days. Good or bad work is laid over good or bad work and then is covered by the next good or bad work.
Graffiti-izing Tubs
“It’s that old hot-tub place at 50th and Roosevelt, ” he said. “I want to look around inside, but haven’t made it in yet—well, not since it closed. I had a date or two there back in the day— ”
“That is already way more than I want to know. Also, you don’t pronounce Roosevelt like ‘food’. It’s Roosevelt like a rose.”
“I say it like I say it. Anyway, I’m thinking that graffiti is a type of the new forms that decay produces. ”
“Decay? Cultural decay, I suppose.”
“Exactly! ”
What can you do with a guy like that? Wasn’t it clear that I thought he was stretching his concept of decay pretty thin? “So what wouldn’t qualify as decay?“ I asked.
“If you’going to put it like that question, everything decays, after a while.”
Skid parked in front of a metal-fabrication shop that was opened just in time for World War II, but is no more…and from the look of it hasn’t been for quite some time.
Amick sign
Behind the screech of the door were still-fading hints of lives lived. Everywhere we wandered in the building, ghosts. Skid wouldn’t accept it.
But what do these pictures suggest to you?
Amick stairs

Amick internal window

Amick office furniture
I said again, “Ghosts. Can’t you see their work lives on this shop floor, and in the stairs and the chairs and the window upstairs that looks down on this floor?”
Skid kicked at bits of clinker.
‘This isn’t an episode of Ghosthunters. What else do you see?”
“A museum exhibit. The past is in this place. Look, that burnt coal that you’re kicking. What is that but the past?”

Part 2 of, well, I guess it’s 3

Greater Seattle Decay Tour, Part 1

Welcome to the Greater Seattle Decay Tour. I am your Tour Guide, Vita. This tour came about because the idea of decay preserves seemed too unlikely and too vaguely conceptual to be real. So the initiative’s author, Skid Buckham, took me around to some of his favorite examples. Afterward, I wanted to blog about it. Skid asked me to write the blog here, and that made sense, because this sort of thing really doesn’t fit on my own blog.
Here we go, then, with a rousing start…at his backyard compost heap.
Skid's backyard compost
“I’m not going to need my Passport to Excitement for this tour, am I, Skid?”
“It depends on how you look at it,” Skid said. “Every microbe in that pile of lawn cuttings and leaves is a little avatar of decay’s preservation of things: Every one of those zillion little guys is product, destroyer, and creator—the Decay trinity, all in one.”
“Getting a little religious, aren’t we, Skid?”
Skid shrugged.
“So,” I asked, “Is every backyard compost heap a decay preserve? If it is, why should we spend state funding during a recession on decay preserves?”
“Because it will never pass,” Skid said.
By the way, before our next stop on the tour, you might wonder why Skid completely absent from these pictures. I wanted to include him, but he refused. He was getting all purist and noble, and therefore, no pictures of him. Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Noble about decay? Please. He just didn’t think his bandage was flattering.
On we go, then, to the Thunderbird Motel, on Aurora.
Thunderbird sign
Nice sign, but I couldn’t see any redeeming value at all in the hallway below. In fact, it was really depressing, not to mention icky.
Icky passageway
Any avatars of decay that might be in there, I didn’t want to get too close to.
“This might be a pretty short tour, Skid.“
“We’re headed for some industrial decay. Much more charismatic.”

Check back tomorrow for parts 2, 3, and 4 of 4