Once more in Willimantic
As we usually do, we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in Columbia, CT at my mother-in-law’s. There was more family participation this Christmas than last or than at Thanksgiving, so it was nice to see the brother and sisters who hadn’t made it the last couple of times. The Christmas eve drive over was really nasty with sleet and freezing rain and rain. Cars in ditches and the windshield washer squirting constantly. Traffic from Danbury on very heavy. Crazy drivers. What is it with people on the interstate these days running twenty miles an hour over the speed limit and passing in every lane like lunatics? They scare the crap out of me some times. What ever happened to patience? What happened to leave early and enjoy the ride? These people are nuts.
I rose early on the holidays and drove into Willimantic. I’m not sure why I love photographing this town so much. But on the holidays and Sundays when I usually do, the streets are almost deserted and I feel like it’s a big stage set there just for my camera. And all the details are authentic.
I paused to shoot a house for my “Ornamental America” series and the woman who lived there came out to talk. She told me the story of the metal peacocks on her wall. It was enchanting. I love these ornamented yards and porches. How every object has a story to tell.
Willimantic has always exhibited that old mill town, depressed economy, aging and surviving look about it. The ethnic mix, the varied businesses just hanging on, the common working class American streets and houses, the old and run down, the restored history, the proud and the struggling. It’s all there in a fairly compact area and very visually stimulating.
Like larger cities, Willimantic has its homeless walking the streets, lonely on these cold holiday mornings. Graffitti on the walls painted by youth who dislike the police and need to exhibit their presence. The wind blew empty cups and cans across the quiet streets as I wandered through the city. It alomst has the feel of a ghost town.
The alley ways, the clutter, the detritus of city life. I momentarily imagine myself like Wil Smith in a city where I’m the only survivor.
It’s a pallet of color and human existence. It’s age, and wear, and struggle, and survival in an America that has outgrown its industry. And it’s beautiful in its own right.
I wish everyone a prosperous and happy new year.