Abandoned Prosperity

America, for all its supposed wealth and prosperity, has many abandoned places. From natural disasters, to foreclosures, to budget cuts, to rebuilding; I've seen quite a few in my short life-time. All across this vast country people are homeless, when there are many buildings and places that could be "repurposed" to house them. This blog is all about the places I've lived and explored, over the past 47 years. It also involves other things of interest to me, which will become apparent as I continue along. Most places and events I can only remember and right now, I'm active in exploring the current state I live in, Tennessee. Follow along in my foot-steps as I clambour over and sometimes into the abandoned debris of our society...from junkyards to cellars to my own mind.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

For Mom

It's hard to lose a parent. I know. I lost my Dad in 2001, just before the War started. I was 33 at the time. And yes, I cried my eyes out. I don't care how tough or "macho" anyone thinks they might be but, if there is no emotion shown for the loss of a loved one (or even a family member that wasn't well liked), then, that person isn't human. I eventually got over my Dad's untimely passing (at the age of 56) from a massive heart-attack (to put it all in laymen's terms). Apparently, no-one saw it coming. We never were close but, that's a story for another time...maybe.

Last picture of Mom, August, 2016

It's really hard to lose a parent. I know. This past August 19th, 2016, I lost probably, if not, the, best friend I ever had...for the last time...my Mom. I Say, "for the last time", because Mom was given a second chance at life on February 26, 2009. That's when she started on dialysis for her failing kidneys. But my taking care of her goes back to the beginning of 2006, when I moved her in with me after she was forced to "retire" from work, due to her becoming "legally blind". Oh, Mom could still see, just not nearly well enough to do the job that was expected of her. The above picture is the last one I ever took of her. This was probably a couple weeks before she passed on. If I knew how to format the damn SD card, it'd have the correct date. And no, the hat in this pic went with her. God forbid I don't leave her with at least one of her hats. Kinda silly now that I look back on it but, also kinda humorous. I mean, everywhere she went, you could recognize her by her hats. The orange one here and, an identical blue one that I still retain. But she had many others. When wearing the orange one she was always mistaken for a "Vols" fan (what they call the local university's sports team and alumni and short for "Volunteers", down here in Knoxville). But no, she just liked the colour of orange. The other humorous thing about that particular hat was that, I found it in one of those dollar stores years ago. I should've bought 'em all! And never, ever touch her hats; not even in jest! She'd let you have an earful!

Hunter 1991-2006

Mom didn't pass on alone and she isn't alone now. She has her best friend along for the eternal ride, so to speak. That's her dog, Hunter, above. Or, more precisely, his cremated remains. Hunter was one heck of a dog. Half Irish Setter and half Golden Retriever and all lovable! Born 4 July, 1991 and passed on, on 14 April, 2006. I'll never forget the day, either. It still haunts me. Hunter didn't really require any training. He learned by instinct. So strong was his instinct that he knew when Mom would get really sick. He saved her life a number of times, usually by getting me to come downstairs (mind you, I lived with Mom for a bit while looking for another place and, got to witness this first-hand.) Hunter would actually hurl himself at my bedroom door in a loud "knock", to get my attention. I knew just by the sound of the knock that Mom was having a "low sugar" episode. Call it being mentally tuned in. It's the weirdest thing. But then, I been having episodes like this since I was at least 8 years old. I can't and won't explain it. At least...not fully.

Little Red Caboose 

Little Red Caboose. Anyone besides me old enough to remember that silly, grade-school song? The morning of Mom's funeral, I was getting ready and doing a final check of things to take. I placed Hunter with Mom before anyone else showed up. The funeral home already had the stuffed toys she wanted (well, the ones that would fit in with her...ahem...) and I had viewed Mom on Sunday. I think they did pretty good. Anyway, I was standing in my dining room and something compelled me to go over to where Mom's purse was, atop the dining table. Something compelled me to look at the purse. Then, something compelled me to take the little red caboose off the purse and put it in my pocket. Mom now has it. I bought that for her on our road trip to Clovis, New Mexico, back in April-May of 2009. It was the last time she visited there. We both lived there back in the '70's and though I had returned a couple of times solo, Mom never had. The last time I had gone to Clovis before this, was in 2001 when Dad died. I should go out there again, someday.

Finally at rest 

It always amazed me how they could dig so precise a hole and then, make it look like the ground had hardly been disturbed. Mom is now resting, eternally, in Lyndhurst Cemetery off Adair Rd., in North Knoxville. As soon as I can gather up the rest of the money to pay off the plots we have, I can install the marker. I'm hoping proceeds from the sale of some of her jewelry and the balance from her life insurance policies, will help me in this. Don't worry, Mom...I'm doing the best that I can.


At one time, I ran a 140 unit mobile home park when I lived up North in Massachusetts. When someone passed on, whatever family was left would be notified. But, more than likely, whatever was left in the homes usually ended up in the local landfill. I cringe when I think of all the stuff the surviving relatives didn't want or even give a damn about. And there was limited space to store usable items, most of which went to the Salvation Army. So, when Mom passed on, I was determined not to let this happen. When I returned to the dialysis centre where Mom had gone for treatments, I noticed that they were taking donations for flood victims down in Louisiana. It was either great timing or a blessing in disguise. Damn! Mom sure had a lot of clothes! So, I spent a full day going through all her things and deciding what to donate (the list being stored in my mind). It took me two car-loads but, I got everything over there. I still have lots to go through and either try to sell or donate. Her CD/DVD collection is mostly gone, already, with the meagre proceeds going into a fund for final expenses. Don't worry, Mom. Things will get done!

 To my Mom: one of the most caring, kindest warm-hearted and sometimes stubbornest persons I ever knew. Now I know where I get it from. I know now that you are finally at peace. But you have lots of company. And knowing you as I did, you're probably letting your brother get an earful. I now I'll see you again, someday. Exactly when, is a decision that even I can't make. I miss you, Mom. More than you'll ever know. But...this isn't "good-bye", just another delay in the cycle of life.

 And Georgi is doing okay. Just thought I'd let you know. But then, you probably already do, right? Right.

My deepest prayers and love for you, always.

Your loving, doting son, Todd

Friday, August 14, 2015

4948 Island Home

My search for a new home has led me to some pretty bad places. The house at 4948 Island Home Rd. in Louisville, TN. was probably one of the worst but not the worst. I already told my agent what I thought about another house we saw. Puke city, that one. At any rate, potential buyers beware of this house! It has a major mold problem!My first impression of this house was caution. You can smell the musty, moldy odor before you even open the front door. The bulging siding isn't a good omen, either. Once inside it wasn't hard to tell that a smoker or two had previously lived here...

...the rear windows are covered in nicotine as are the walls, themselves. There is also the beginnings of mold starting to form on the walls. The carpets are junk as is everything in the kitchen...

...the main bathroom looked to be about the only thing in decent shape as opposed to the other bathroom...

...and when my agent opened the rear door (which is off of one of the bedrooms), I advised her not to venture out onto it. The deck is completed dry-rotted and totally unsafe. It would have to be completely removed...

...but all these above problems pale in comparison the the full, walk-out basement. And here's where the caution comes into play: ENTER THE BASEMENT AT YOUR OWN RISK! DO NOT TOUCH ANY SURFACE! THERE IS MOLD EVERYWHERE!

I took a snap from the top of the stairs, this after we both had gone down with the aid of flash-lights (the is no power on in the house as far as we could tell). I didn't want to contaminate my camera. Bad enough I had to immediately change my clothes when I got back home. Apparently, there is a water leak in the basement which looks to have been leaking for quite some time. We found a full pot under a sink that was way past doing its job. A disclosure sheet indicated that the house had been vacant since April, 2015.  It also stated no evidence of mold. Methinks that report should updated. So, the leak went unchecked long enough for the water to flood the basement and for mold to grow...EVERYWHERE! It was on the walls, cabinets, toilets, rugs, books even the handrail, walls and carpet going to the upper level. We "squish-squashed" around on the soaking, moldy carpets too long, I think.  And I still feel sick to my stomach.

I don't even want to think what it would cost to remediate all that mold! The basement is a complete gut-job. And could someone tell the listing agent to get the damn water shut off? Please? If you do chance to have a look at the lower level, I'd recommend some water-proof boots (galoshes would do nicely) as well as a face mask...or even better...a respirator. Or a hazmat suit. I'm not kidding.

*SIGH!* On to the next house...

4321 McKamey Rd.

FOR SALE! 4 bed, 2 bath rancher! That's it, above. At least from the outside. I'll spare you the inside pics. I'm currently looking for a new home in the Knox area. Something a bit closer to work. I'd like to cut my commute time in half. I'd also like something that's a bit more "move in ready". The house at 4321 McKamey Rd. is far from that. And as I'm trying to get a loan through the VA, the house wouldn't qualify anyway but, was still worth a look. The house does have some major problems. Like uneven front concrete stairs (that are currently crumbling), not to mention that they're no handrails...

...there are also broken windows that need replacing as well as an illegal outside electrical outlet, not to mention the work needed to repair the rear decking...

...one good thing is that the a/c until appears to be a newer model...

...the roof appears newer but whoever did the work forgot to repair the soffets...

...and though there was no disclosure list in hand, someone decided to write one on the kitchen wall. I was there with a trio of other potential buyers. When we read the line about mold in the attic, they couldn't clear out of the house fast enough, heh, heh...

...and also according to the disclosure, the house needs all-new plumbing and wiring. The roof is a couple years old and the windows are four years old. Oh yeah...and KUB (Knoxville Utility Board) apparently has a lien on the 3 year-old a/c unit. Hokay! So, obviously, I won't be putting in an offer on this house.

Other things to note about this property...it does have over 4 acres of land but...it's all uphill behind the house. Also, the driveway will cause any car to bottom out both entering and exiting (yes, I did check my car for damage and no worries, there.) The driveway is also on a blind corner. I know older homes can have issues and this one certainly does. I also don't mind doing a bit of fixing-up but this house would take me too long to re-do by myself. Oh well. On to the next property...

Bags Of Ignorance

I've been in Knoxville, TN. for nearly a year. Busy little city. Like most cities, Knoxville (or simply, Knox as some the locals refer to it as), has quite a few green spaces. Knox also has its share of other city problems; crime, abandoned buildings, vehicle accidents, vandalism and, oh yes, litter. But the city at least tries to keep up with it all, as far as I can tell. But don't go by my POV. Observe for yourself.

 I migrated from the Northeast in September of 2014. And though I'm not native to that area, I sound like I am. I guess I lived there too long but, given enough time, I'll probably sound like a native to Tennessee in a couple of years. I have the ability to do that even without thinking about it. But I digress.

 My first encounter with the public water supply in Knox did not go well. WTF? I thought Boston & Worcester water was bad! Even a filter system on the fridge can't keep the taste away 100%. And I've read the water quality reports. I don't care what the reports say; the water still tastes terrible! And the smell! GAG!

So, I set out to find a source of good, clean, odor-free water. Like the natural spring I used to go to up North. I talked to a few locals and one pointed me to this place here. As don't use a GPS (heck, I don't even have one in my car), it took me a while to find it (okay, I cheated and used a Google maps search.) My first trip there was a pleasant surprise. Nice park and the spring is covered from the elements, for the most part. And the water tasted gooooooood. Not as cold as the spring water up North but then, just as clean. I filled up a few gallon jugs and went on my way, vowing to return on a regular basis. One other thing about this spring water: it does make for awesome sun tea :)

Unfortunately (and I expected this at some point), the place was deluged with litter! I tell ya, some folks just don't give a damn about their surroundings. And it really pisses me off to find a place of solitude, only to have some dumb-ass toss their trash out the window. hey genius! there're a trio of refuse containers right there in the park. Oh wait...you probably don't care. That or you're just too damn lazy to walk the short distance to them. I mean, jeez! They're right over here...

So, like any good citizen who actually gives a care, I commenced to a "field day" and "policed" the area, not once, not twice, but thrice, so far. And I'll do it every time I go out there. Note for you civilians: "field day" and "policing" are terms I used in the Navy and Army. It means "to clean up the area". I can't do anything about the graffiti, as yet. Maybe someday when I get a lot more free time. Below is what this place should look like.

I like this place. Especially early in the morning. Before the city wakes up. nothing but the sounds of nature and the occasional train. There's a huge play area for the kiddos and a covered eating area, complete with grills for BBQ-ing. There are also hiking trails, which I should take more advantage of. Also a place to leave your rubbish (see pic above again...) And my crappy pics don't really do this place justice. *Note to self to get a better camera.*

I've not done any more research but am fairly sure the city of Knoxville maintains the place. Keep up the good work ya'll!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lotta's Health Care Reform

If I were "politically correct", I wouldn't have much to bitch about when it comes to the (U.S.) government and their policies, in general. Especially where health care is concerned. But then, health care is just another commodity, much like shopping at your local grocery store (as a matter of fact, a certain retail pharmacy giant offers "pre-paid" health care cards!) Of course, many of us (myself included) just simply can not afford the insane costs of a health care plan. So...we do without. Or in my case, go crawling to the nearest veteran's care clinic. I'm glad I have that option. As a "double-service veteran" ( I served in both the Navy and Army),  I can at least get checked over without having to take out a mortgage.

 The U.S. is the most expensive country when it comes to medical care, according to many reports. What did you expect of a system that is mainly profit-driven? Apparently, we are a nation of sickly people and need all those drugs to make us better. But...what if we weren't so sick? What if every-one in the country got on the "healthy life" band wagon? What if there were no longer a need for all those drugs and treatments? What if you didn't have to be told to purchase a health care plan or suffer a monetary penalty for not doing so? Ah, what if, indeed! Unfortunately, this isn't Utopia.

 When I found this story below I actually had to read it twice. Once, to just read it and twice to dissect it all. It was re-printed in an old issue of Richie Rich Comics, from the early 1970's. I'm not sure when the story itself came about; probably the late 1960's but, it illustrates more than one idea. And it's no-where near "politically correct". I'm not sure what the writers were thinking back then. I mean, would the average 8-year old have gotten the jokes? I highly doubt it but, let's analyze this story page-by-page, anyway.

The story starts out innocent enough. Always overweight "Little Lotta" is looking for more ways to do more exercise after one of her workouts so, she dozes off in a hammok for a dream-scape. In "Dream Land", she finds herself in the office of the Commander In Chief who appoints her head of the nation's health programme. She's actually made "Supreme Boss" and quickly gets to work. Yeah. Right. As if this could ever happen. But, this is just fantasy-comedy. With a lot of unseen draw-backs.

"AH! Supreme Boss! Has a nice ring to it!"

One of Lotta's biggest problems (other than her appetite) is the fact that, deep down inside, she's just a bully. Take the two poor dead-beats below. Are they doing anything to anyone? No. They're just sitting round having a natter. But to Lotta they're just a couple of lazy hippies (her expression here highly suggests she's racist, where lazy people are concerned). So, she forces them into getting into shape. Kind of like how Americans are being forced to pay for a health care plan via a Draconian law (in my honest opinion). Really now, where the hell in the U.S. Constitution, does it allow the government to force it's citizens what to purchase? As far as I know, it doesn't. Or maybe I've not read that part, as yet? But I'm getting ahead of myself, here. I'd also probably be the first one to either go tell Lotta where to get off or, bitch-slap the crap out of her. But the story just gets worse...

"God-damned Hippies!"

After dealing with the "riff-raff"in the park, Lotta calls a press conference to alert the nation what she's on about, in true dictator fashion. But really, I'd find it hard to accept that getting in shape was my first priority, when spoken from the mouth of one who, quite obviously, was way more over-weight than I'll ever be. One good point is brought to bear here and it still holds true to-day; we blindly follow the government's examples. Hey! If Congress can be over-weight and unhealthy then, it should be okay for the rest of us, yes? I mean, when's the last time you saw an under-weight politician? Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are enough of them out there that do conform to some sort of health and fitness regime but, not enough of them do.

The other thing that comes up here is the whole problem of smoking and cigarettes. But Lotta has a different idea on how to end that as well. Unfortunately, in to-day's world her act of blowing up the cigarette factory would be considered an act of terrorism, regardless. And there are a lot of factories making these "death sticks". Again, don't get me wrong, as I used to smoke myself but, I quit nearly 20 years ago. But, the folks in this story are forced to quit...or else.

"Fat boys, fat boys, whatcha gonna do when Lotta comes for you?"

But, therein lies a problem. You can't just shut down a corporation as big as the cigarette manufacturers, over-night. Think of all the jobs that'd be lost. Think real hard of all the more jobs that would be lost if everyone walked or ran to work. No need for vehicles. Sure, the air might get cleaner but if no-one was driving, no-one would be buying petrol, oil, parts, labour, etc. Literally millions of people would be out of work. With no-one working, no-one's earning anything. Sure, "healthy-as-a-horse" Grandpa can chase the young girls all over the beach but, where will he return to when the bank has foreclosed on his home? Or maybe he has a "reverse mortgage? Probably not. I mean, if there's no work, no jobs, how will we pay taxes? Or the mortgage or even rent? Unless Grandpa has a "reverse mortgage", perhaps? But then, if we're not paying any taxes then the multitude of government employees aren't getting paid, either. Nor are the cops, fire-fighters, doctors, EMT's, etc. And to tell you the truth, I would find it pretty difficult to live on a zero-dollar paycheck. Bet the writers didn't think to deeply on this as I do. 

A sexual innuendo in a kid's comic? Of course!

And then we have the ultimate collapse of the whole health care system as we know it; Medicare and Medicaid are broke because no-one is contributing to the resource pool, ditto Social Security. The bad thing is that many of to-day's citizens that have yet to retire, will probably not benefit from an aging and over-abused system when it comes time for them to do so. Then what? Unless you've got millions of dollars socked away somewhere, you'll be basically screwed. Why should we "contribute" to a health care plan (Medicare) and yet, be forced into buying another plan? If our nation, on the whole, wanted to improve it's outlook on life, wouldn't we have already done so? If we truly wanted to stay healthy, would we have a fast-food restaurant on every fucking corner of every town or city? 

We now live in an era where the government thinks it's a good idea to ban things that might be considered harmful to us. Like trans-fats and incandescent lighting. But the same government isn't doing enough to rid the U.S. of the real problems as seen in this story. Alas, I'm just a poor ex-combat veteran that now has to depend on the Veteran's Administration for health care. I never thought I'd need it. Bet the writers didn't see that, either

But all's well that ends well in the story...sort of. The ending pokes fun at itself as two obviously over-weight citizens approach the sleeping Lotta and voice their opinions of her. Sweet dreams, Lotta.