Showing posts with label Abandoned Baton Rouge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Abandoned Baton Rouge. Show all posts

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Retail bldg. Skylights, indoor garden. Make offer.

Once upon a time, one of the nicest retail spots in my part of Baton Rouge was I.H. Rubenstein, one of a local chain of department stores and one of the anchors of the Broadmoor Shopping Center.

It sat right between the Broadmoor Theatre and the National Food Store. Way back there then -- when dinosaurs roamed the swamps, gas was 45 cents a gallon, you could buy all the 45s you could eat at TG&Y, Buckskin Bill ruled the local TV scene, and I had hair -- the Broadmoor Shopping Center was a happening place.

Then again, that was before my hometown pretty much abandoned my old neighborhood. That was before "my" part of town (and lots of others) turned into a reasonable facsimile of Port au Prince and the hair jockeys at the Broadmoor Barber Shop all started packing heat.

Not an exaggeration -- I was there just last week on a not-so-pleasant trip back home to see my 90-year-old mother in the hospital and clean out her home of 57 years . . . the home of my childhood.

SHE WON'T be living there anymore. I probably won't set foot in it again. It's a hard thing.

Like I said, I.H. Rubenstein was a nice place, and the flea market that took over the space after the department store closed wasn't unfortunate, at least as flea markets go. Then again, both were pre-Port au Prince.

What you see here is post-Port au Prince. And somebody expects to sell or rent this mess.

Somehow, I don't see that happening, though I think it would be a fine spot to relocate the city-parish government. Very appropos, don't you know?

I've written a lot about my hometown on this blog, and I've covered the creeping blight of Baton Rouge on more than one occasion; I don't need to belabor the point here. And when she lived in Red Stick for a while, New Jersey-native Colleen Kane made a vocation of chronicling the abandoned places of my old home via her Abandoned Baton Rouge blog.

She even did a post on the Broadmoor Shopping Center almost five years ago. Yes, decrepitude has been an issue there for some time now.

PLUS ÇA CHANGE . . . etcetera and so on in "America's Next Great City."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When metaphor presents itself

When metaphor presents itself in the Gret Stet uh Loosiana, sometimes it takes a Brooklynite to line it up in the viewfinder and press the shutter release.

In other words, "Oh, frabjous joy! There's a new post on Colleen Kane's Abandoned Baton Rouge blog!"

In fact, Kane -- who more than a year ago moved back to New York after a couple of years in Baton Rouge -- made a special trip back for this post, a follow-up on the decrepit and abandoned Bellemont Motor Hotel, among the more prominent of my hometown's faded glories. You see, nature had slowly been reclaiming the Bellemont for years, but now humans have decided to give the mold, vines and trees a hand with a formal demolition.

THIS TIME, she actually got to go inside the ruins. As if shooting through the windows in previous years weren't depressing enough.

When, however, you can get a shot of a convention and visitors bureau brochure holder saying "Baton Rouge. The Flavour of Louisiana" amid the filth, the trash and the ruins . . . well, you gotta do what you gotta do. My homeland, unfortunately, is a lot better at tearing stuff up than it is at building stuff up.

All I wish is that Abandoned Baton Rouge could take the pictures of whole swaths of Baton Rouge that reside in my mind's eye and contrast them with pictures of those same areas today.

That's what I wish.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

There is none so blind. . . .

This "Holy smokestacks, Batman!" moment is brought to you by the Baton Rouge Business Report:
When the idea of taking the next Canvas trip to Pittsburgh was first suggested to Baton Rouge Area Chamber CEO Adam Knapp, his reaction was to wonder what a “dirty, northern steel town” might have in common with Baton Rouge. But Pittsburgh might have more to teach canvassers than one might think.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Let's just bring back Congo Square, OK?

Colleen Kane over at the don't-miss
Abandoned Baton Rouge blog posted a link to my video about . . . the abandoned -- and/or decrepit -- parts of Baton Rouge. (Thanks, Colleen!)

Of course, this brought out another Louisianian for Dysfunctionality to defend the state's state of entropy. Merriam-Webster defines "entropy" as I use it thus:

2 a: the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity b: a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder


MORE SUCCINCTLY, the native Louisiana term for this -- basically the verbal equivalent of a Gallic shrug -- is "Well, dat's Loosiana for you!"

I saw
the following comment in the ABR combox, and I just couldn't let it slide. Believe me, I'd like to, but. . . .

See, I know that all the funny, colorful and exotic Louisiana stories with which I can dazzle, horrify and entrance your average Midwesterner usually have come at a terrible cost . . . to somebody. Somehow.

Here's the comment:

Well, to be honest, most of the areas you document were run down and creepy even 25 years ago. The Broadmoor Theatre, which provoked so much nostalgia in your comments, was a notorious s***hole by the mid 80's at least. I saw "Time Bandits" there and believe me it did not have a good reputation even then.

Louisiana is closer to the Caribbean in spirit than any other American state. It's poor, run down, hopelessly stratified, and half of the s*** there is broken. But then again, that's where its spirit also lies. I lived in Louisiana most of my life and it's impossible for me to imagine it without some form of decay.

I see no point in being rueful about it. There is more effortless, genuine weirdness on some streets in Louisiana than in the entire state of California. Take it from me. A clean, organized, well-maintained Louisiana wouldn't have given us Jazz, the Blues, the plays of Tennessee Williams, or much of anything.

Decay and casual insanity are too much of our character.

Posted by: Teeray in L.A. December 08, 2008 at 11:27 PM
HERE'S THE RESPONSE I left on the Abandoned Baton Rouge post. I thought I'd share it here as well:
I certainly hope Teeray in L.A. isn't seriously serious here. If you carry his argument to its logical conclusion, we're going to end up reinstituting chattel slavery and importing us some fresh African captives so they can make merry one day a week in a reconstituted Congo Square in New Orleans.

Gawd knows what wunnerful new "original American artform" we might get out of that.

In essence, some Louisianians' twisted justification for the state's inability to govern itself for the benefit of the governed comes down to arguing that because God is capable of writing straight with crooked lines, we therefore ought to be as crooked as possible.

That's the *unvarnished* version of these apologists' argument. Viewed as such, it's patently nuts.

If you said as much about the 'hood -- "Let's keep the ghetto as f***ed up as possible so suburban white boys can have some good rap and hip-hop to jam to while cruising in daddy's SUV" -- you'd rightly be denounced as an exploitative racist bastard.

"Louisiana is closer to the Caribbean in spirit than any other American state," Teeray writes. "It's poor, run down, hopelessly stratified, and half of the s*** there is broken. But then again, that's where its spirit also lies."

That's a flat-out paean to cultural parasitism -- exploiting others' suffering to get ones' aesthetic jollies. And there are real people suffering amid Louisiana's trendy "Caribbean spirit."

And they don't have the luxury of hopping a 727 to Los Angeles and marveling at how quaint it all is as they sip their vodka on the rocks.
I WISH Nina Simone were still alive. She could look one state to the west and write a rip-roaring sequel to her 1960s masterpiece about Mississippi.

"Louisiana Goddam," she could call it.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

My city . . . in ruins

Baby, if you ever wondered -- wondered whatever became of me -- I've been livin' in the past amid papers and stuff in Baton Rouge . . . back in better days.

Kind of.

So, what's kept me busy -- and away from this here blog -- is wading through old newspapers and through old yearbooks, and through new pictures, too. All this to make my first homegrown Revolution 21 video.

IF YOU'RE FROM my hometown, this likely will hit you where you live. That goes double if you're also a Louisiana expatriate like myself.

I did this video because, it seems to me, I can express through music and pictures what normally eludes words. Even good, well-chosen words.

Thus, I make no claim that this is anything other than a most subjective document. It represents my feelings.

My grief.

My loss.

My wistfulness.

My anger.

My memory.

My love.

IT'S MY VIEW of my hometown . . . from a distance that gives one perspective. My city: in ruins.

The concept -- and a good bit of the material for this look at Baton Rouge -- comes from Colleen Kane's excellent Abandoned Baton Rouge blog -- I owe Colleen a great debt of gratitude for doing that blog and thereby giving me the inspiration for this. Pay ABR a visit soon.

Colleen came to Baton Rouge -- and her new blog -- from Brooklyn. And when one is thrown into an alien land, and an alien culture, anthropology happens. In this case, it's the anthropology of thrown-away swaths of a middling-sized Southern city.

Abandoned Baton Rouge is still working on the "why" of a city that finds so much of itself (and its people) expendable. For that matter, so is this correspondent . . . who was born, raised and educated in Louisiana's capital city.

THE THING IS, every time I find a new ABR post, it's not just anthropology to me. Neither is it to a lot of folks like me, I'll wager.

To me, what it is, is a punch in the gut. To me, it is a document of loss. A document of dysfunction. A document of things and places I lived, knew or knew of that are dead or dying.

Of things once nice but now disgraceful.

ABR tells the story of a city that throws itself away on a regular basis. It shows the world a city that wastes itself daily and defiles itself daily. It shows God and everybody a city that seemingly lacks pride . . . self-respect.

SOMETIMES, little blogs stumble onto big stories. ABR shows us what happens to the folks -- and places -- left behind when the upper middle class moves on to something newer, more generic and farther out.

What it can't show, however, is the context behind whole swaths of a city going from ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Likewise, it can't show the holes in the souls of those who love it. Who remember it and the faded glory of all the now-broken -- and abandoned -- places.

There were -- there are -- lives entangled in the decay. There are feelings in there, too.

And souls.

I guess that's what I'm trying to give a voice with this little video. I'm trying to give a voice to the soul. It's seen happier days.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A question for my hometown

What the hell is the matter with Baton Rouge?

Really, my hometown resembles some ramshackle Caribbean refuge for exiled Latin American dictators and fugitive American money launderers. It's gotten so that the wife and I have coined a term for the creeping shabbiness we note with each successive visit -- "Port-au-Princification."

OH, SURE, downtown is looking better. And so are all the areas where the rich have fled . . . away from all the areas that I knew as a child and young adult. Some day, we'll come back to town to see my mother, and we won't be shocked at all to see Toyota pickup trucks full of hired guns patrolling the "nice areas" to keep the riffraff out.

And everywhere else will look like . . . Haiti.

Baton Rouge is well on the way to becoming the world's only ghost-town capital city. If Colleen Kane, keeper of the Abandoned Baton Rouge blog, so chose, I'll bet she could make a lifelong career of documenting Red Stick's civic dishabille.

Why am I pretty certain she won't?

MISS KANE'S BLOG is a public service, week by week making it impossible for a city to ignore how others see it. Although I'll bet most Baton Rougeans who surf in haven't thought enough to get past viewing Abandoned Baton Rouge as the architectural version of a carnival sideshow.

They don't get that they're the freaks.

Holy crap.