Tags: 1970s, alaska, cysewski, now and then, photo documentation, stephen cysewski
This was an idea of Jon Lang’s — a longtime friend who has come into his own as an independent Producer/Director of art films lately. [He and I have talked about joint ventures on art projects before but I’ve never followed through.]
Stephen Cysewski has been getting lots of buzz for a long time about his 1970s photos of Anchorage, Fairbanks, Seattle, Tacoma and other places. Jon’s idea was that he and his wife, local photographer Jamie Lang and I would go around and take contemporary photos matching Cysewski’s four decades old ones — and be able to observe how much the physical settings had changed, or had not.
Some of the locations of the vintage shots are easy to spot, others not so much. But we enjoy a challenge!
Today I got the ball rolling. First I picked out some shots from Cysewski’s site and printed them at approx. 3×5. On the way back home, I stopped at a few of the sites. Prints in hand, I tried to recreate the shot from the same angle, as closely as possible. Some were more successful than others.
Maybe we’ll work on this some more, refine the approach and technique? But this seems like a decent start! Kind of fun, isn’t it?
This was easy to place because there’s another photo of it on Cysewski’s site of a sign in the front yard that includes the address [cropped out of this view]. There was a fortune teller in here when Cysewski wandered by [on W. 6th Ave. between H and I Streets] back in the ’70s. This little house and the one to the left of it are now gone, but the one on the right [at 825 W. 6th] is still there and in recent years was a Chinese restaurant, though it now appears to be closed. The front yard was decreased by a widening of 6th Ave.
Same location today.
This one was easy to composite, by matching the Capt. Cook Hotel tower in the background, and the dormer on the house that’s still there.
This scene has hardly changed at all. For a long time in the ’80s and ’90s the tile was covered up with beige paint, but later they had the sense to strip it off. The building is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese. The owner of the tile business was Elmer Eller, as I recall. He moved it out of downtown in the early 1980s, and then went out of business.
The first Denali Tower, at 2600 Denali St. The business development of Midtown was just getting a head of steam, and when this tower was completed in 1977 it looked out of place among small houses and low-key side streets. Cysewski’s view is from Cordova St. looking east.
Today the houses are gone and their lots are part of an expanded parking lot. A second Denali Tower with 13 stories was finished next door at 2550 Denali St. in 1983.
This place just seems like the archetypal Pipeline era establishment [at E. Fireweed Lane and Fairbanks St.]. In the ’80s it was a branch of El Toro Restaurant [they had a bigger one in Wasilla] and later it was Steve’s Sports Bar. Recently it’s been vacant. Last year somebody stripped the exterior and began renovations that have since stalled.
This place on E. 4th Ave. just west of Gambell St. was suffering a lot of deferred maintenance issues but nonetheless seemed to be some sort of State offices, judging from the Chevy Nova staff cars with State of Alaska seals on the doors.
It looks quite a bit better now, and it and the larger building to the right are a seedy residential hotel [but it’s better than living on the streets].
Used car lot where a boxy low rise state office building now sits [it’s just a little newer than this photo] and a fast food place, Malay’s Sandwiches that today is Burger Jim. Looking east at 4th and Gambell.
This was the hardest one to create a composite from the two images. The original was taken with an SLR from inside a car, the one today with an iPhone 6 standing in the street. I was able to sort of line up the mountains, but the rest of it looks a bit unconvincing.
Side note on this one: The large building-mounted sign on the sandwich place in the old photo was only recently removed. I took its photo in 2009.
The last stops on today’s tour will be Mt. View. Here’s Cysewski’s candid looking east from Mt. View Dr. and Bragaw St. in the ’70s. He was probably standing right where I was, at a short section of solid wall next to large plate glass south facing windows of a laundromat. The gas station that’s just cropped out of the view was torn down in 2009 in favor of the Credit Union 1.
This one includes what was then Alaska State Bank and is now McKinley Services in the foreground and Jamico’s Pizza [that is still there, remarkably] beyond. Mt. View Dr. just east of Bragaw, view looking SW.
Tags: anchorage, berkowitz, coffey, demboski, halcro, local, mayoral race, politics
It’s not as much of a clown show as six years ago, when 15 candidates [some of ‘em completely crazy] were cleanly outdistanced by Dan Sullivan. Sullivan coasted to a victory again in 2012 and is now termed out.
A somewhat crowded field going into this year’s contest, with the usual fringe oriented also-rans vying for attention along with the front runners. In ’09, fresh from two terms of Mayor Mark Begich [almost — he had to leave a few months early to succeed Ted Stevens in the US Senate] and shortly after President Obama started his first term, the mayor’s race was crowded with left leaning candidates. Today three of the leading four are trying to out-Republican each other, leaving Ethan Berkowitz the sole representative of the left. Berkowitz and Halcro are both veteran campaigners who served in the AK State House and haven’t had much luck running for Governor or in other tries.
I predict Coffey will nail it after a runoff. He is the kind of pro-business, go along to get along, not much personality, dull enough to fit in, enough acumen to play the game, dead fish kind of a candidate the majority of us [not including this writer] always prefer. He comes off as a used car salesman, in a way perfect for the task at hand. Halcro is the sort of one in a million Republican for whom I would be tempted to vote for — but there’s no way he makes it to the runoff. And then I recall that even though he’s the smartest one in the group by far, he’s still in it for business interests over regular people, the same as the other two. They’re like a casino where the house always wins. Or like 35 years of Lynne Curry columns, where in 1,000 hypothetical employer-employee disputes, management prevails in all but three.
Predictably, Koch Brothers money is infiltrating the race with anti-Berkowitz ads. The people likely to vote for him are the least likely to be influenced by PAC attack ads, ironically.
The Sullivan administration is still running the election, so who knows if it will be immune from problems, intentional or not? We’ll find out soon enough — and whether or not more than 20% of the eligible voters will even bother to show up for this. If they only would — how different the results could be!
Dream on, brothers and sisters.
Tags: experimental storytelling, insomniacs studio, substitution of terms, third person, writing
The locas twittered drunkenly outside his window, hopping on limbs of the bare winter lilac, and he became distracted.
He was considering another trip to middle America — in the stairway to the roof, the last trip? He wasn’t sure, but he felt ready to do it again. Partly as a way to make good on the bluffing of the last couple trips; partly just to get away; partly an opportunity to plan photo safaris in increasingly bleak [to him, compelling] Rust Belt scenarios.
He wondered about the schedule of Jackeen J. O’Malleys. Would it be Seattle straight through to Chicago again? Or cheaper to go some circuitous path — Salt Lake, LA, Phoenix, Memphis? He wondered whose job is it to dream up these chicken fat connections? It must be a computer logarithm, because what human would think it made sense to veer hundreds of miles off in another direction? The more direct the better, he told himself — the crawl space at an apartment construction site just made him weary.
His friend in Springfield, Missouri had suggested a road trip to NOLA in a Studebaker Avanti — but he wasn’t getting his heart set on the idea in case it is drawing dead. He thought, what would that be like, anyway? A bit like ‘Sideways’ only with rednecks, truck stops, motels and roadside kitsch, instead of wine bars and boutique restaurants and the Napa Valley? A shmoo on a branch outside turned its head and looked at him with a reassuring face, as if to say, you want to be all in on that one, even if there’s ample opportunity to fold.
At the base of a rock wall next to train tracks, it seemed as if it would take multiple trips to really scout out the surroundings and find the images others couldn’t or wouldn’t. The difference, on a picnic table in a closed campground was he knew what subject matter and images he was seeking — thanks to fruitful mentoring by an extremely creative and imaginative artist/photographer.
He decided he was as prepared as he was going to be to Drinky Crow the skies to the heartland. Suddenly, swiftly on the living room floor all that was needed was [of course!] money — for a plane ticket and to get around on the ground — for this not to turn up snake eyes.
Back to work, he whispered. In the attic of the garage much needed sleep.
Tags: AK politics, AK-Gov, Bill Walker, Byron Mallott, Sean Parnell
Big news today! When I heard rumors about it three days ago, thought: no way is this ever going to happen. It is unprecedented, or nearly so. [And it makes too much sense!] I can think of times when campaigns folded, or faded away due to scandal but not anything like this, where two strong candidates, and the Democratic Party backing one of them decided to merge in order to better compete against a Republican incumbent.
It strikes me as positive, pragmatic and goal-directed. Who knows what sort of negotiations took place in order to bring it about? But I suppose that doesn’t matter now.
Walker was more competitive than Mallott, but Walker and Mallott together have a real shot at victory.
AK politics will be in the national spotlight again this week, I predict.
Tags: fairbanks, glenn highway, mat-su, parks highway, richardson highway, rika's roadhouse, road trip, scenery
I haven’t left AK this summer, but at least have gotten pretty far from Anchorage a few times. This trip was three nights, three different hotels, and lots of highlights. The main reason for the journey was to attend a retirement party for the founder of an architectural firm I am now working for [as of May of this year]. Our firm’s main office is in Fairbanks and I work in its Anchorage branch. Preparation for the the event, and its various after functions took part of the time. The rest of my Anchorage colleagues flew there and back in a 24-hr. period but I decided to turn it into a road trip and longer stay. Glad I did!
I left Anchorage around 3 PM on Thursday Aug. 21st, and cannonballed to the Veterans Memorial on the Parks Hwy. It’s well past Wasilla and about where views of Denali start to appear [only on a clear day]. It’s a nice place to take a road break and eat and [perhaps because the entrance to it is low key and it’s set back and not visible from the road?] usually not many there. There’s a little visitor’s center and gift shop but it had closed just before I got there at 5:15. There’s a small garden and some areas of native vegetation where I found these fireweed leaves turning color, watermelon berries and lots of the other usual plant suspects.
Stopped waiting for our turn over what is temporarily a one lane bridge, at Healy just north of the entrance to Denali National Park. This is one of the old park buses that has been converted to private use — maybe a rafting company?
Next stop, Nenana — pulled in just as the sunset was coming on [the ‘hour of magic light’, according to my newest photographic mentor and spiritual advisor] and wandered around a bit looking at abandoned equipment, old houses, and a few people who were out and about. Would like to go back there sometime and look around more thoroughly — the place seems like it could be a treasure trove of the type of art photography I am gravitating toward these days.
Will always be amused by this view of one of the RR bridge pilings at Nenana due to the optical illusion — is it an innie or outie? Also throwing in a Sept. 2005 view, because it was even better before the man parts were added.
Detail from a bulletin board on the side of the log Visitors Center at Nenana. 20 to 30 year old photo collection, pretty faded and exposed to the elements but still something to see.
Rolled into Fairbanks late and got settled in my room at Pike’s. Friday morning until 9 PM was occupied with the office, a really great tour of a handful of the bigger projects in Fairbanks and the retirement party. Didn’t take any photos but the day’s events were well documented by others.
This little cabin near the office and a few other adjacent buildings are awaiting demo or relocation, perhaps for a road widening. There was quite a bit of the same sort of work happening at different parts of the city. It was strange to observe the now nearly complete Illinois St. project, with only the Big I bar and one other warehouse building remaining of what used to be a dense commercial/industrial corridor.
“Hope Is Alive”, declares a banner on a rambling church building along Airport Way. And it is easy to see why we need such proclamations, surrounded by low density sprawl. A lot of other places in the world they have decades ago seen the folly of settlement patterns dedicated to personal vehicles, but we are not quite there yet. Oh, well! It will happen here, too and hopefully by then there will still be some evidence remaining that we used to know better!
This somewhat homely but utilitarian structure sits close to the road where 3rd Ave. [or maybe it is still Minnie St.?] crosses the Chena River on an older narrow bridge. It would be easy to say, won’t miss this one, right? But in a way it’s kind of a loss, a mixed use commercial-residential with what were probably pretty nice dwelling units at one time in history, maybe still some rehab potential?
The second night I stayed at the Marriott Spring Hill Suites downtown. This is the view of Fairbanks to the south from my room.
Didn’t end up taking a whole lot of photos on Saturday, either [contrary to intentions and usual practice]. I sat in on a brunch at the office with our dear founder and some of his close friends, then a bike ride around town. I’d brought my son’s one speed [skinny tires but not a fixie or anything crazy] with me, and have to say the one speed is perfect for city riding with lots of photo stops.
In the afternoon, not finding many photos and mid-day sun and cloudy skies I switched it up and called a longtime friend. I hung out with this guy a bit 30 years ago, and became reacquainted due to the magic of online social networking. Ended up visiting his homestead where he lives with his wife and kid near UAF in the Goldstream Valley. A perfect little DIY compound and patch of classic semi-rural Fairbanks life.
After that sojourn, a trip to Ester and hung out at the bar there with the locals for three hours to close out the day. At the invitation of an artist friend who has lived there awhile, though she now spends time living in Anchorage as well. I met the Editor-Publisher of the [now mostly defunct] Ester Republic, a fine publication that documented goings on in Ester and the larger world for many years. And my friend’s sister who used to live in Fairbanks but now visiting from Portland, OR. It was just the sort of establishment one would expect to find there — friendly, low key, dogs lounging on the front porch.
The next morning, after a night at my third hotel and breakfast with my Goldstream Valley friend and his family, left for the trip back, the long way via the Richardson Hwy. The last time I was there, in April 2012 I took the same way, at the suggestion of my Ester artist friend. In 2012 there were stunning views of Denali and other mountains, and of course a lot more snow and winter, though the road was dry all the way.
This time it was cloudy and rainy, but the major highlight was Rika’s Roadhouse. Had looked around there in 2012 but it was early in the season and it wasn’t open yet. This time I was able to wander through all of the outbuildings, all of which had authentic period tools, furnishings and a wealth of other items of historic interest. The displays were nicely done and the restoration of the buildings was high quality and mostly to exacting standards. So impressive that we have managed to preserve part of Alaska’s past that was important in its development and, ah, exploitation. [Is that too dismissive and cynical?] Anyhow, regardless of how one feels about manifest destiny, it gives one pause to consider what Rika herself had to do on a daily basis when she was building up the place initially — there were gardens, chickens and goats, buildings to erect, boat trips for supplies, firewood, cooking and cleaning and taking care of the kids and guests. Must have been physically taxing and mentally soul crushing, to say the least about it; but also uniquely rewarding.
She doesn’t appear to be unhappy or regretful in this photo from the collection there, taken when she was over 90.
Even on a cloudy day with very flat light and drizzle, the Richardson Highway scenery is amazingly fantastic. It should be part of any Alaska driving tour.
The Rapids Roadhouse near Paxson. Even older than Rika’s, some restoration effort has occured but apparently now stalled, judging from appearances and some information I found on the web. At least, it appears to be in reasonable shape and its decline somewhat arrested. There is also a newer and nice looking lodge on a hill right behind.
At the gas stop in Glennallen I spotted this ’67 Ford convertible with vintage AK license plates.
Dinner stop at Sheep Mountain Lodge. The third time I’ve eaten here, the previous time being on the return from a quick trip to Valdez in June. I love this place. Next year I want to stay here for a weekend. There’s cozy cabins, a great restaurant and road biking, mountain biking and other wilderness experiences right there.
The Matanuska River near Sutton. The river has been expanding its already really wide channel and wiping out most of the town of Sutton in the process. I may have to venture back up there soon and try to document what is happening there, since it is kind of dramatic and poignant.
See all of the photos from the trip at my Flickr page.
Tags: anchorage, chester creek, daily photo, snow, snow pile, spring
Tags: anchorage, blooming, daily photo, european birdcherry, mayday
Tags: alaska, cook inlet, daily photo, knik, knik arm, knik goose bay rd., mat-su valley, shoreline
Tags: anchorage, daily photo, denali tower, fog, midtown, morning