Hayden Flour Mill

by Derrick Bostrom in


Tempe was still a pretty sleepy town when I moved there in 1985. It hadn't changed much in the ten years since I first started visiting its head shops and record stores in my mid-teens. A block east of my house, downtown Mill Avenue was still "home to little more than biker bars, tattoo parlors, and other unsavory businesses." But I was a young punker, and I took to my ratty neighborhood like a fly to shit. I used to love to to walk along the cracked sidewalks upended by roots from the overgrown yards that hid both crummy stone hovels and ancient Victorian style farm houses. It was a quiet neighborhood -- the streets were usually deserted as everyone hid from the scorching heat, often with nothing to aid us but giant swamp coolers propped up against the walls with rickety wooden frames.

But about the time the dump I lived in started getting really depressing, I got an eviction notice. Soon, the whole area was scraped clean to make way for a new shopping development and its necessary parking structures. That was two decades ago this month. I didn't own a camera back then, and have no visual record from those days. I found some great images at the online collection of the Tempe Historical Society, as well as its Doors To The Past site. But they only go so far to jog my fading memory.

Cranes are everywhere in downtown Tempe nowadays. If you find an old building that hasn't been condemned, chances are it's in the process of being repurposed in service to the grand vision of a sparkling Mill Avenue destination mecca. But down at the northern end of the street, the soon-to-be-completed transit line threatens to cut off the riverfront area from all foot traffic. The powers that be have already fixed their gaze on some of Tempe's oldest structures, La Casa Vieja (home of Monti's steakhouse) and the Hayden Flour Mill. In their current state, these landmarks apparently contribute nothing but a "hayseed" ambiance that doesn't have enough impact on the city's bottom line. It's only a matter of time before the mill that gave the street its name gets thrown from the train.

I've been around long enough to know that no matter how loudly you complain or how hard you demonstrate, if our masters want something bad enough, they'll find a way to get it. But this time I'm ready. My photos may not win any contests, but at least they'll help me to remember once it's too late to undo the damage.

Update: [**Tempe flour mill to reopen as events venue**](http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2011/06/09/20110609tempe-flour-mill-events-venue.htm)

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ


Iconic 'Musroom' Bank Focus Of Preservation Fight

by Derrick Bostrom in


Recently, I've been meaning to get some photos of the old Valley National Bank building on the corner of 44th St and Camelback Road here in Phoenix. This year has already seen the demolition of the Washburn Piano Company building on 20th St. and Camelback and the Tempe Geodesic Dome Branch building, on Rural and Apache, so I knew I'd better get out there soon. Sure enough, over the weekend, a story appeared in the Arizona Republic entitled "Iconic 'Mushroom' Bank Focus Of Preservation Fight." Here's an excerpt:

JP Morgan Chase & Co. owns the building and is willing to save the bank...if the neighborhood will play nice and let developers rezone and make over the bank's yard with four-story condos and luxe shopping...The neighborhood wants nothing of the kind: no more condos, no demolition...

Preservationists lean in favor of giving up the green space in order to save the bank. "In order to keep this icon," Councilman Tom Simplot said, "they need to develop that green space. They are not going to be able to save the building if they don't give it up." But wedging condos onto the lawn, said Frank Henry, 73, the building's celebrated architect [sic], is "like taking a painting and cutting off a corner of it."

The empty land has been a pawn before. The bank was the first commercial development in that area, and the space was offered to placate neighbors. Now, it's the only grassy expanse on a heavily commercial intersection that has grown up around it. Neighbors insist that the bank made a promise to keep that land green, but according to Chase and city zoning officials, no formal record requires the space to remain open.

It's just a shame, Henry said. "The whole park and the building are all one thing, one composition. The geometry of it all was together..." When Henry was dreaming up the building in the '60s, he was making an anti-war, anti-establishment statement. He took his inspiration from the circle so that he could combat the boring square box. "I always thought that the circle, the curved line, the curved space is so beautiful," Henry said. "It's always changing."

(Note: Walt Lockley informs me that Frank Henry was the designer; Weaver & Drover were the actual architects.)

I have house guests this week, relatives visiting from out of town. But when I read the article, I had to drag them out in 110 degree temperatures to get my pics. They're not great: it was afternoon and half the building was in shadow. But I managed to stitch together some nice panoramas. The Modern Phoenix web mag offers much greater detail on the subject.

Of all the VNB buildings left in the Phoenix area, this one is the jewel. It combines space age aesthetics with desert motifs, playing nice with civic responsibilities in the bargain. It's even got two bronze nudes which I can only assume are the work of John Henry Waddell. I still remember when it was built in 1967. I'll miss it when it's gone, and the best intentions of various factions notwithstanding, I full expect it to go away soon.

UPDATE: Here's an audio interview about the bank with Phoenix architecture critic Walt Lockley, plus a link to his site.

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch


Walking Among The Giants

by Derrick Bostrom in


When my spouse and I found out Scottish legends the BMX Bandits were scheduled to play at the 2007 NYC Popfest, we quickly booked some decent lodging and grabbed a red eye to JKF. For their first visit to our shores in a decade, the band played a poorly-attended weeknight show in Brooklyn and an afternoon acoustic pickup gig in the basement of a cafe on the Lower East Side. Then they scrambled back home on a red eye of their own in order to immediately drive four hours to the next gig. As if this weren't excitement enough, one of their members was arrested and spent 20 hours in a Manhattan holding cell.  Luckily, he managed to free himself in time for the show (which was great, by the way). In a nutshell, it was a textbook example of why I retired from touring.

Since our entertainment was taken care of, all we had to do was map out a short list of vegan restaurants in the city. These were our anchor destinations, around which we planned our urban hiking adventures. Unfortunately, we left our Trimble-compatible mobile phone at home, so Geocachingwas out. But naturally, we brought along our camera. For as terribly hayseed-like as it may seem, there's nothing I like better when I'm in the city than a good long gawk at all the tenements. There's something about a code-straddling subsistence-level multi-family dwelling that starts something fluttering in my breast. I don't even mind if it's just a crumbling old boarded up office building, as long as its got that hungry look of potential flammability about it.

Of course, to truly capture these mighty beasts in their own habitat, I'd have to live among them. But one look at the state of my complexion after a mere three days on the street tells me this option is out of the question. The slow buildup of toxins would surely kill me. So you'll have to forgive my piddling and rather scatter shot approach. Still, I think the cumulative effect of the photos is stirring enough. I'll leave the detailed documentation to those better equipped for more extended efforts.

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007

New York City, Spring 2007


Castles Of Scotland, Part Four: St Andrews, Dirleton

by Derrick Bostrom in


I'll admit it: my wife and I greatly preferred the Scottish west coast -- with its gorgeous coastline, quaint towns and awesome highland scenery to the comparatively bleak east. If I hadn't determined that Dunottar was vital to our sightseeing interests, we might have skipped the east coast altogether. But then we would have missed the thoroughly charming town of St. Andrews. Though it was surrounded by industrial and military blight (with the ghostly whine of jets howling overhead day and night), the town itself was a picturesque college town (it's the home of the University of St Andrews, the oldest in the country). It's also "the home of golf" and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

St. Andrews Castle was the home base of the Catholic Church in Scotland back before the Protestant Reformation and played a key role in many stirring battles during both the Wars Of Scottish Independence and the Scottish Reformation. During those times it was destroyed and rebuilt a time or two, captured, recaptured and re-recaptured. The castle's most interesting features are beneath it: a "bottle dungeon" carved in its stone foundations, and a series of "siege mines" created in an attempt to tunnel under its formidable walls, an attack that was thwarted by an opposing series of "counter siege mines." Additionally, the castle and cathedral, both perched right on the coast, offer great views of the North Sea.

Direlton Castle is also on the east coast, though not right up against the sea. But unlike the Fife region north of the Firth Of Forth, the area around Direlton, south of the water, is a much more pastoral neighborhood. In fact, once I saw the Direlton Castle, I knew I'd finally found the one I wanted to live in myself. A beautiful drawbridge, an intact dovecot, a fully functional dungeon (right next to the kitchen and food stores and right below the chapel), excellent toilet facilities -- this one has everything I need. The grounds are magnificent as well, sporting a bowling green from the Victorian period, as well as the largest herbaceous garden in the world. Glorious on the outside and complex on the inside, Direlton is all I'd hoped to find when I first plotted my little quest.

Sadly, it was also the last castle we were to visit. After a nasty snarl in the evening traffic out of Edinburgh, we returned to Glasgow, and the next day, we were back home. A refreshing break from routine in the short term, our trip to Scotland has left lingering within me an even discomfort than I had before I left. But, hey: I got some cool photos.

St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews Cathedral

St. Andrews Cathedral

St. Andrews Cathedral

St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews Cathedral

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle


Castles Of Scotland, Part Three: Craigmillar, Edinburgh

by Derrick Bostrom in


Even the most casual castle observer will eventually rub up against the sticky issue of "territorial designation." At one time it was something apparently worth fighting for, dying for, even marrying for. Fortunately, I found an article on the subject by one "Stuart Morris of Balgonie and Eddergoll, yr." that attempts to throw some light on the subject. The article goes on for some length, but if you can bear with me, I've tried to tried to boil it down to the essentials. According to Stuart (or whatever you call him):

Once a designation has been recorded at the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, it becomes inseparable from the surname. James MacTavish of Auchenshoogle cannot be James MacTavish through the week and MacTavish of Auchenshoogle at the weekend or at Highland Balls. The whole name should be used as the daily signature, on notepaper, visiting cards, cheques, credit cards etc. Similarly, anyone writing to him should give his full style, to style him as "Mr. MacTavish" or "James MacTavish, Esq." is not only incorrect, it is rude and disrespectful. The correct prefix for a Laird, Baron, Chieftain and Chief is "The Much Honoured". The styles "Mr." and "Esq." should never be used as these are below the status of a Laird. By law, only Peers, Bishops and Chiefs are allowed to sign with one name e.g. "Atholl". A Laird, Baron or Chieftain must use the Christian name, surname and designation e.g. "James MacTavish of Auchenshoogle."

Clear enough.

While beautiful in its own right, with a strong European flavor (no doubt due its extensive sea trade with the continent), Edinburgh struck us as somewhat cold and stern. Given our time constraints, we were unable to crack its touristic facade (though we did find a terrific meal and spend a splendid evening with friends). The imposing castle overlooking the city that bears its name is restored to the point of fussiness and, having once been the headquarters of the Scots Guard, maintains a strong military presence. Many of the exhibits did little but glorify Scotland's participation in England's imperialist adventures. I did, however, enjoy the recruitment posters describing "national service" as an opportunity to play football with one's mates.

Much more charming, and much less crowded, Craigmillar Castle rests nearby in a suburb on the outskirts of town. One of the most intact of Scotland's surviving castles, Craigmillar still has its upper floors, allowing exploration of the rooftops and affording a great view of the big city off in the distance. Except for the resident pigeons, we had the place to ourselves.

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle


Castles Of Scotland, Part Two: Stirling, Dunottar, Linlithgow

by Derrick Bostrom in


Stirling Castle came highly recommended by the locals we consulted, but it's essentially a tourist destination. Heavily restored, full of museum installations, gift shops and a cafe, it lacked the kind of desolation we were looking for. Just the same, the castle is an architectural marvel, perched atop a massive volcanic crag high above the town. It was used by the ruling class throughout most of its life. Later, it was converted into a military headquarters before finally being reclaimed for monumental and ongoing restoration in the twentieth century. But my wife and I elected to save our energy and keep the tour short Our camera batteries threatened to give out at any minute (victim of the vagaries of intercontinental power conversion), as did the weather. So we kind of dashed through it. Anyway, the Undiscovered Scotland site offers a detailed interactive map for those wishing more information.

From Stirling, we drove up the east coast to the outskirts of Stonehaven. By the time we got to Dunottar Castle, it was raining steadily and my battery light was blinking. I struggled to get off as many shots as I could, but my camera died long before I was satisfied. This ruin was one of the most awesome of our trip. Extremely defensible due to its isolation at shore's edge, Dunottar is the site of both bloody battles and atrocities. Its earliest evidence of fortification is believed to date back to as early as the late 600s, when it served as a defense against Viking attacks. Centuries later, it was the last stand of followers of Charles II, who met defeat at the hands of Cromwellian forces. In the 1500s, the castles was used to imprison nearly two hundred enemies of the state, all but a small handful of whom perished in one of its small dungeons overlooking the sea.

We more or less blundered upon Linlithgow Palace by accident. We had some time to kill during our trip to Edinburgh, so we decided to cruise over. Who knew it would be a vast ruin so picturesque that it even lifted the spirits of my wife, who was starting to feel the negative effects of getting dragged all over the country just to stumble in the rain over mossy rocks covered with pigeon dung. But the clouds parted to reveal a delightful surprise. Though Linlithgow is the birthplace and home of Mary, Queen of Scots, it fell into serious disrepair after her abdication. It was later rebuilt, but government troops finally put the torch to it during pursuit of its final royal inhabitant, Bonnie Prince Charlie. Today, the palace is just a seven-story shell with no floors or windows. But what's left is magnificent and -- for septics at least -- still evokes a "storybook" charm.

Unfortunately, subservient as they are to my own personal artistic agenda, my snapshots offer little actual sense of what the buildings are actually like. I'm more stirred by the odd abstract shapes in the stone and the imposing claustrophobic power of close-ups and tight framing. Not to worry, every year these Scottish landmarks draw amateur photographers by the hundreds. And it seems most of them have Flickr accounts. In fact, it's easy find photos with the exact same (or better) compositions as mine. But for some real fun, I recommend a visit to old-picture.com to see what castle photography is really all about.

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Dunottar Castle

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace


Castles Of Scotland, Part One: Dunstaffnage, Doune, Aberdour

by Derrick Bostrom in


During our recent trip to Scotland, my wife and I charted the route of our trip according to two imperatives: the Glaswegian live music schedule and the availability of viewable castle ruins. We crunched a lot into the span of a week, and snapped as many pix as our weak batteries allowed. But it was hard sometimes to make heads or tails of what were seeing, constrained as we were by no other logic than the necessities of geography. Back home now, I'm sorting through all the various abstract images of moss and stone, matching pictures and memories to locations and history (much of which is as confusing to me as the rules of American football must seem to the average Scot).

The main historic significance of Dunstaffnage Castle, built in the early 1200s, seems to rest on its being being wrested from its original owners, the MacDougall clan, by no less an individual than Robert Bruce. Bruce bestowed it upon the Campbell Clan as a reward for helping him best the MacDougalls. The Campbells and MacDougall wrangled over ownership until the late fifteenth century, when the MacDougalls finally accepted land in eastern Scotland as a trade. It has remained with the Campbells ever since. It is occupied once a year by the Campbell Captain of Castles as a condition of title, but the rest of the year it stands open to the public.

Doune Castle, on the other hand, was usurped by none other than King James I, who appropriated the property after executing its original owner, Murdoch Stewart, for treason in 1424. For over a century, it was used at the leisure of the monarchy as a retreat or a hunting lodge. Though it was eventually returned to the Stewarts, title finally passed to the Earl of Moray through the accident of marriage. These murky details are easily trumped in the minds of most people, however, but its more modern claim to fame: it's appearance in the film, "Monty Python & The Holy Grail."

No such turbulence marks the details behind Aberdour Castle. In fact, the circumstances of its ownership remained stable for so many centuries that its main claim to fame seems to be the numerous successive renovations and additions that make it somewhat of a patchwork of styles and architectural advances of its various periods.

Alas, my puny little Canon PowerShot and my even punier talent can't begin to do these sites justice. I'd like nothing better than to return to Scotland with better gear under my arm and a lot more time to spend. For those grown impatient with my amateurish attempts at photography, however, I can't recommend enough the awesome HDR work of Trey Ratcliff, especially his incredible series, "The Churches Of Italy."

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle


Report From Scotland, Part Two

by Derrick Bostrom in


Last week, I met up with a group of Brazilians, visiting the U.S. for the first time. The highlight of our conversation was a rundown of the cities they were most excited to visit: Mesa, Arizona; Salt Lake City, Utah; Boise, Idaho; Little Rock, Arkansas; Birmingham, Alabama, etc. We tried to persuade them to include Cincinnati, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska and Champaign, Illinois, but they claimed they didn't have the time.

I commend our visitors for compiling such a mundane itinerary. To be sure, it's the ordinary little details of a vacation that give its memories such resonance. During our recent trip to Scotland, when we weren't busily cramming as much as we could into our schedule, we were hard at work parsing the landscape as we went along. As the navigator, it was my job to bark out instructions and sights of interest.

"Indigenous animal alert!"

"Council estate up on the right hand side!"

"Intense foliage up ahead!"

"Look out for that wall!"

It's hard to tell from maps and guidebooks beforehand which area is going to be great and which area is going to be shite. But what we really couldn't understand was why a stretch of road that looked like it'd take 30 minutes to drive in Arizona would be estimated to take almost three times that. Now we know why. People warned us that the roads would be narrow -- they were. But we were determined to cover decent distances, so we saw plenty of beautiful countryside and tons of fascinating towns. As it turns out, my wife really enjoyed driving on the left side, once she got used to it. Now she's convinced it's the wiser way to go.

Without an accurate sense of how far we would be able to go on any given day, we dispensed with an itinerary and played it by ear from day to day. This left us with no pre-arranged lodging on several nights. We'd cruise the various travel info kiosks, and then narrow down the likely candidates once we started getting tired. While not particularly cheap (nothing is when you're holding the ass-end of the currency exchange), the places we chose were both charming and painless.

We stayed at one bed and breakfast where the owner basically handed us a key, asked us to leave our name and address in the front hall, and wished us a pleasant night. No credit card, no first-born-male-child requirements, nothing. he waited until the next morning to inform us that he ran a cash-only business. Surprise! I just barely had enough to cover the bill.

We found similar surprises when dining. Planning is especially important when you are a vegan in a strange land. For the most part, we floated through the countryside fairly unscathed, only getting burned once or twice by substandard cuisine (I've suffered much worse at the hands of my own countrymen). But we did come up against some odd customs. Who knew, for example, that when in Stonehaven ordering a hummus sandwich (our only vegan option), you can expect it come to the table covered with salsa?

It's easy enough to remember to ask for coffee without "whitener," but how many other local custom defaults are out there that we're unaware of? That's a lot of gauntlets to run through. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to return to Scotland and uncover more of them.

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside


Report From Scotland

by Derrick Bostrom in


With great regret, my wife and I have returned home after a week in Scotland. If it weren’t for our cats and our jobs, we might not have bothered to return at all. Compulsively planned as always, the brief trip was crammed with long days of breathless sightseeing and late nights of exuberant conversation, mostly with friends we’ve known for years but rarely if ever see face to face. But despite the hectic pace, I couldn’t keep from staring at the telly in our hotel room, fascinated by stories that dominated national headlines.

I witnessed controversies of a stripe entirely unique to my experience. One involveda cricket team from Pakistan and a ball that may or may not have been scuffed more than the rules allow (apparently, it’s a tough call). Another involved public outcry over calls for the culling of tubercular badgers. Above all, I followed national conventions by both the Labor party and the Conservatives. The former endeavored reluctantly to pass the torch from their fallen leader Mr. Blair to the rather less charismatic Gordon Brown. Meanwhile, the Tories tried to sell the public on their self-proclaimed “rebirth,” in the guise of its new leader, 39-year-old David Cameron.

A Bush in Blair’s clothing, Cameron touts a centrist script designed to alleviate fears while promising nothing. But he has all the code words in the right places and in the right order. The pundits spent a lot of time fussing over this new star on the political horizon, and wringing their hands over whether or not he’d cut taxes. But instead of scratching their heads, all they really need to do is cross the Atlantic and survey the damage done to America by decades of budget cutting and revenue misappropriation.

While we enjoyed our vacation, America saw no less than three separate fatal schoolyard shootings. The incident in Nickel Mines was as bad as anything we’ve seen in a long time. But almost as chilling was the reaction by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. The group — who runs the God Hates Fags, God Hates America and God Hates Sweden websites, among others — announced that the Amish schoolhouse tragedy was the fault of Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell. The governor has called down God’s wrath by signing into law a ban on the group’s picketing funerals of American servicemen in protest of homosexuality.

Meanwhile, their unofficial sponsor, the Republican party, has its own problems. At first, I was unsure how to parse the Mark Foley scandal. Was it about sexual intolerance, child endangerment, a hypocritical partisan attack on hypocrisy, or just a sure-fire way to bury the Habeas Corpus suspension story? Luckily, as I sat in the Philadelphia trying to get up to speed on the story, I found a quote by Dennis Hastert that set me straight. Apparently, anyone raising their eyebrows over this incident are not only helping the terrorists but also running the risk of depriving the country of the only thing that can keep them safe: a Republican controlled congress.

The average Scot would no doubt point out America’s gun-loving, sexually repressive culture, but I think that’s only part of the answer. We drove all over Scotland, and we saw nary a pothole — not even so much as a sloppy patch on the asphalt. What we did see was a robust, attractive, friendly citizenry which stood in marked contrast to our own stressed-out population which somehow manages to be obese and gaunt at the same time. In the face of a crisis in leadership and the floundering of a broken system, folks in the U.S. continue to clamor for “values,” turning a blind eye as their elected officials gut the public coffers and slash funding vital to the very services and programs designed to help keep us safe in the first place.

the American landscape is littered with schools, police departments, welfare workers, health inspectors, infrastructural engineers, what-have-you — professionals with both the will and the know-how, all bled ever drier by leaders who’ve lost the will to stand by their constituents where it really counts. I guess the more of their responsibilities they manage to auction off to their masters in the “private sector,” the more time they have to spend on the issues that matter most to them. (I leave it to Foley and Hastert to enlighten us as to what those might be.)

Heed me, citizens of the United Kingdom: don’t let them cut your taxes!

Glasgow

Glasgow

Glasgow

Glasgow

Glasgow

Glasgow

Saint Andrews

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh


Ghost Towns Part Three: Bisbee & Vicinity

by Derrick Bostrom in


Summer is back again, friends. Here in the desert, folks are bracing for the usual six month stretch of triple digit temperatures. (As I write these words, it's 105 degrees outside; tomorrow threatens to reach 114.) But that won't stop my wife and me from piling the car with maps and bottles of water and going in search for local old shit.

Last year at this time, we set out for the area southeast of Tucson, home of the Chiricaua mountain range. The region boasts such pictureque towns as Tombstone and Bisbee, as well as small but determined agricultural community. (It's also an area popular with smugglers and private militias, but that's another story.)

Unfortunately, many of the sites on our must-see list of ghost towns cannot be approached in a vehicle as small as ours. In fact, we had to abort one hunt after more than an hour, for fear of getting stuck in the sandy terrain. Actually, we were lucky. Once we were back safe in the city, we discovered the heat had killed our battery. So, if we HAD managed to access our destination, we most likely would have been stranded there, more than fifty miles away from anywhere, in the middle of the desert, in the middle of summer. Nice.

As it was, we pushed ourselves pretty hard that day. We arrived at Fairbank just before lunchtime, and actually walked over a mile in the midday heat to a nearby graveyard atop a hill. This was borderline stupid behavior, so afterward we quicky fled to Bisbee for food, rest and water.

Despite its remote location, as a destination, Bisbee never dissapoints. You can point your camera anywhere -- you're bound to catch plenty of standard picturesque Bisbee fare: makeshift cement staircases, open drainage pits, narrow streets winding precariously up the into the hillside neighborhoods, and lots of European-style homes that make it easy to forget you're but a dozen miles from Mexico.

Ironically, European influence was thought to be so prevalent in the town that Bisbee authorities staged a huge roundup and deportation of immigrants during World War One. Incited by a labor dispute between the copper mines and a work force "infiltrated" by the Industrial Workers of the World, the cops packed more than one thousand European miners onto trains at gunpoint and dumped them in the New Mexico desert. All perfectly legal.

North of Bisbee, abandoned settlements in various states of ruin dot the landscape all the way up to Interstate 10. There are as many exploration opportunities as you have the energy for. Unfortunately, we were running out of steam by this time, and were both getting cranky. So we wandered around Gleason for a bit, then called it a day.

Naturally, the pages devoted to Fairbank, Bisbee and Gleason at the Ghost Town Gallery site run by Daniel Ter-Nedden and Carola Schibli put my meager Flickr offerings to shame. They also have some great pictures of Lowell, which is right across the road from Bisbee. Or what's left of it anyway.

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Gleason, Arizona

Gleason, Arizona

Gleason, Arizona

Gleason, Arizona

Gleason, Arizona


Ghost Towns, Part Two: Vulture, Arizona

by Derrick Bostrom in


Though it may be Arizona's capital and largest city, Phoenix began as a small agricultural community set up to supply food to the mining towns that thrived north of the valley. The most famous of these is Jerome, which still supports a mini tourist mecca perched on the side of Mingus mountain atop a maze of abandoned mine shafts. But a hundred years ago, over a dozen boomtowns clustered among the Bradshaw mountain range. These were sustained by the "Impossible Railroad," so named for its ambitiously precarious route into the remote hllls.

At the foot of the the Bradshaws lies the remains of Arizona's most prosperous gold mine. Discovered in 1862 by immigrant Henry Wickenberg, it lies about ten miles south of the town that still bear his name. The Vulture mine maintained a population of five thousand during its heyday, and brought in millions of dolllars. Though crime and fraud were rampant throughout its history, the mine stayed in operation until the 1940s, changing hands serveral times. It only closed for good after wartime restrictions on the production of non-strategic metals pulled the final rug out from under it.

My wife and I discovered Vulture a couple years ago, during one of our desperate periodic weekend flights from the effects of our workaholic lifestyle. As enchanted as I was, I still managed to "produce." That is to say, I took some dandy photos.

The two-story assay office building is still intact, as are its upstairs apartments. The remaining machines at the worksite are awesome to behold, especially the huge ancient diesel engine which towers above the rest of the powerhouse bulidling, rusted to lustrous craggy hues of copper and gold. The mess hall and many residential buildings also all remain in various degrees of ruinous detail.

The Vulture mine is far and away the best of its kind here in Arizona, and if I ever graduate to a better camera than my little Canon PowerShot, I will definitely return. Fortunately, the town has attracted the attention of folks who've made a greater investment in photographic equipment than I. The Ghost Town Gallery site run by the Swiss team of Daniel Ter-Nedden and Carola Schibli smokes anything you're likely to find on my Flickr pages. Likewise, the site by Christian L. Deichert also offers excellent coverage.

If you're like me, however, these pix won't be enough. You'll want to find a way to visit Vulture yourself. Fear not -- it's entirely doable, as this page attests. And if that's not enough, you might even want to buy it. Of course, if that's more of a commitment than you can handle, there's always the DVD.

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona


Ghost Towns, Part One: A Flickr Photo St

by Derrick Bostrom in


It's starting to warm up in Phoenix. What we lovingly refer to as "winter" is starting to turn to "summer" and for the next nine days or so, the weather will emulate something akin to "spring" before beginning its annual rapid climb to triple digits. This is the time of year when the wanderlust takes hold. When the weekend arrives, I like drag my wife out of bed and haul her into the car for a day trip into the back roads.

For those of you requiring documentation of my claim, I'm creating some Flickr photosets from some of our trips. (Hey: I'm no Ansel Adams, but I do love me some scenery.) This first set covers visits to the Arizona towns of Superior, Clifton, Morenci and Carefree (as well as a brief stop in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York).

Just east of the Superstition mountains, Superior was the home of mining magnate Boyce Thompson's Magma Copper Company. While no longer thriving, Superior is ripe for regentrification. Here's an aerial view I found on the town's Web site. Thompson left more than just an old town as his legacy, the nearby arboretum that bears his name is one of Arizona's most beautiful state parks.

About 150 miles east of Superior, out on the edge of the New Mexico in the middle of nowhere, sits one of the largest open pit mines in the world. It used to be a town called Morenci, but that was dismantled 40 years ago to accomodate the ever widening pit excavation. All that remains are a few rows of homes and a couple of stores. As one resident puts it on her wonderful Web site of oral history, Morenci doesn't even qualify as a ghost town, since there's nothing left to haunt.

The Mistress Mine museum is a more recent victim of progress.  About an hour north of Phoenix, it sat adjacent to the Tonto National Forest on tract of private land. It was felled last year when the property changed hands and the new owner decided to kick the curator Ron Kaczor off the premises. We paid the museum a visit shortly before its demise, and  I got a chance to chat with Ron while I was there. I  also bought a box of Brazilian postcards off him for five bucks. While sorry to see the museum go, Ron was already looking ahead to new opportunities. And besides, we both agreed the danger of fire was increasingly ominous. Sure enough, less than a month after our conversation, the whole area north of Carefree was in flames.

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Morenci, Arizona

Morenci, Arizona

Morenci, Arizona

Morenci, Arizona

Spencer, New York

Spencer, New York

Spencer, New York

Spencer, New York

Ithica, New York

Ithica, New York

Carefree, Arizona

Carefree, Arizona

Carefree, Arizona

Carefree, Arizona

Carefree, Arizona