Tag Archives: abandoned buildings

Update on That Asking Permission Thing

Photo by Les Jones

Remember that time I told you I was going to start being more assertive, take risks, and stop being afraid of things that interfere with achieving Greatness?

Yeah, well, here’s the thing. I’m a wimp.

There’s this pretty infamous abandoned gas station in our county that I pass by all the time. Back at the end of the last century, the owner, somehow suspecting he was about to be robbed, staked himself out overnight to ambush the burglars. When they broke in, he attacked them with a shotgun, killing one as they fled the scene.

I can’t remember exactly how it ended up but I’m pretty sure the owner was convicted of some type of murder, and the convenience store has been closed for years. It’s prominently placed at the top of a hill next to a crossroads, quite spooky, roped-off and overgrown. Every time I drive past I can’t help but think about misguided intentions, so when I needed a building for my stencil graffiti artist main character to vandalize, I knew exactly which one.

Well, last night was a dark night, and I was in the area. Before I wrote the scene in question I sat in the parking lot of the abandoned strip mall across the street and took copious notes. (Our county sounds like it’s all abandoned but I promise you it’s actually quite nice.) But the most important part happens in the dark, at night, when I’d never stopped for longer than the length of a red light.

So. Greatness. That was my goal.

I turned at the light and it was extremely dark. So dark I didn’t see the car until I was about to turn into the strip mall. My headlights bounced off the reflective lettering: County Sheriff. Lights completely dead. I didn’t even put on my turn signal, just kept right on going.

Which is so dumb because when I turned around in a subdivision and drove back toward the gas station, he was gone. And I was too chicken to turn into the parking lot and sit–very legally might I add–for five minutes trying to absorb sensory information. I wasn’t even planning on getting out of the car. What were they going to do, arrest me for imaginary application of graffiti?

So there you go. Too wimpy to not break the law for the sake of my art. If this story ever gets published, my main character will be too embarrassed to be seen with me in public.


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Ancient Ruins and Conducting “Research”

This shoe:

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broke the law last week. But only a little one:


Nevertheless, it is a criminal, a repeat offender even. This is not the first time it has gone places it’s not supposed to go in the name of “research.”

(Dinas Emrys, an Iron Age hillfort and Norman tower outside of Beddgelert, Wales and protected by the National Trust. Taken by me, 2006. Click for closer inspection.)

This time, “research” dictated a trip to Lanierland, a defunct music park in rural North Georgia that in its heyday hosted such acts as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings, and most infamously, Kris Kristofferson, whose band inspired a riot because of some unsavory language. It closed in 2006.

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While this was the shoe’s first visit, I had been there once before. In 2005, one year before the park’s demise, I accidentally attended what should have been my high school graduation.

Look me up in the local papers. They’ll tell you I graduated from South Forsyth High that year, but only because the photographer the school hired to take senior pictures delivered mine along with everyone else’s to the editor doing the graduation piece. My family bought a full set; how was he to know I never attended a day of my senior year? In actuality I graduated from a little correspondence school, for no reason other than I didn’t want to keep explaining myself to people asking about all that “college stuff” I hadn’t yet figured out. (As if I was the only teenager in the history of the world with no clue what she wanted to do with her life.)

Despite all this, the universe decided if I was going to pretend to get my diploma from South Forsyth High I had better be there for graduation–even if it was only just in passing. Because that very Saturday morning I really was passing by–creeping, actually, because of all the cars parked alongside the road and the people milling about them. Some I recognized, in blue caps and gowns, clutching shiny new diplomas, hundreds of kids who probably thought I’d either died or gotten pregnant if they even remembered me at all. I couldn’t get away fast enough.

But last week, it was empty.

Normally I don’t like breaking laws (neither does my shoe). However, as I mentioned recently, if I’m seeking greatness, I can’t always ask for permission.

(Though I don’t rule out asking forgiveness! Every two seconds I expected a police cruiser to pull in the driveway, because in my worst-case-scenario brain, they install alarm systems on derelict ruins. Surely they wouldn’t arrest a cute little girl with a camera and an Accelerated Reader t-shirt her baby brother gave her, would they?)

Greatness involves taking risks. Greatness involves putting yourself out there, setting yourself up for possible failure, all the while working toward possible success. I’ve been afraid of things my entire life. Stupid things. If I’m ever going to accomplish anything of worth, I need to start getting over myself.

(This is a promise: someday I’ll finish the Wales story, just as someday I’ll finish the Lanierland story. I can’t be risking my life like this for nothing!)

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