A Segment of Moribund Goodisville
By Jay Gertzman
Recently I have had occasion to travel on SEPTA's Trenton line. Between 30th St and Bridesburg the tracks pass through several landscapes that relect what is left of mid 20th-century industrial Philly. The buildings are waiting patiently in all their stoic decay for a great photographer to give them immortality before wind, heat, ice, cold, or bulldozers write finis.
Factories: some seem to have been recently painted, and look fine until you find the shattered or missing windows. On a siding stand freight cars that will never be unloaded. Some outbuildings have been reduced to a single crumbling wall. I think of the ghost of Blazer, from Fire in the Flesh, as scurrying around behind one. The in-your-face grafitti is fat, wavy, irrational, absolutely fucked. It might as well be a language conceived on the moon, it is so foreign to the iron-clad Fordism when those buildings' assembly lines were in operation.
Row houses of course, still occupied, with the ones on corners shaped like triangles if the intersection of streets is angled . Once streetcar suburbs, they suggest, with little touches, a dream of greater status that the working class or office workers aspired to. The shape of the tiled roofs or bordered windows suggest a long-superceded version of the American dream. But the general uniformity would be perfect for families of thieves like those in Black Friday or The Burglar. Some street corners are the best remaining models for where the piano player worked, killed a bouncer in a fight, and was protected from the cops by the regulars. There's a mom-and-pop store or two, not much taller than the guys who hung out there c. 1936 staring at the street corner blonde. The buildings determine the horizons of guys like Ralph, Dippy, and Lenore the fat blonde.
Vacant lots, mostly mud and discarded fast-food wrappers, and, near Bridesburg, a gigantic scrap yard with automobiles awaiting final compacting.
A high school with a roof gym, and a billboard. "God Bless America, Our Troops, and Constitution." Now that's noir. I wish I could read the code of the grafitti.