September 24th, 2005


scorched earth

this morning, earlofgrey, westlinwind and the kate converged on lsaboe and my house. we stopped by the whole foods and picked up supplies and then loaded up into the box and headed up to Centralia, PA. a coal mine under the town caught fire in 1962, and they were unable to put the thing out. 43 years later, some $40 million have been spent on attempts to put the fire out, and then to relocate the people of the town. There's 10 families that have refused to move, who live in buildings that have not yet become structurally unsound. Apparently when those families finally move, the govt will be able to get in and remove all the burning material (which is gonna be one hell of a strip mine), to the tune of $662 million. seems the cost of not dealing with the problem is far greater - the vein of coal that is on fire runs 40 miles east and 40 miles west of Centralia, and will take out a number of other communities, over the next 200-300 years.

we wandered around a bit, watching the smoke puff from the hot soil, finding the remnants of people's lives - a driveway here, a stone wall there, the base of a chimney in a sea of dried thistle. the gasses issueing from the ground were making us dizzy, by the end. we were in the process of leaving when we came across a large stone wall encircling an orthodox cemetary, a little higher on the hill. the ground there was still warm, but not like the ground in "town." we put a blanket out and set out food and had a lovely picnic among the dead residents of a dead town.

after our picnic, we wrote our troubles on slips of paper and slipped them into the wall, and i had to explain to a not particularly bright woman that the alphabet on the gravestones was Cyrillic, and that this was an orthodox cemetary (they have a funky weird cross, too). "so, these people don't believe that God hung on the cross?" the woman asked. "you mean jesus," her son corrected her. "which people?" i asked. she waved her hand around. "you know. the jews." right. oh, there was also a panda eating a willow tree.

so we packed up and headed out of centralia and into ashland, the next town over. we took a tour of a coal mine and rode on a choo choo named Lokie (a steam powered narrow-rail locomotive made by Vulcan in Wilkes Barre, for anyone who might be a railroad buff, at the Pioneer Coal Mine). i wore a suede jacket, and there were mushrooms and a strange asian woman who talked like an american in asia (i.e. loudly). i bought jesse a train whistle and got myself a book on centralia.

then we headed home, stopping for sushi and sake at the hana restaurant. and there was much rejoicing.

there's pictures. i'll post pictures once i have a chance to download and sort thru them.