Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Things Came to Be - Part 2: The Ballad of Ben, The Birth of Queen City Disco(very)


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- The imposing smokestack of the Peters Cartridge Company in Kings Mills, Ohio.

Part 2 of QC/D's Urban Exploration origin story.


"The other night I was on top of a parking garage listening to the Reds game with a friend. Three years earlier I had been at the same parking garage with the same friend. We had gone there after setting out with my first digital camera with one goal in mind; to explore. I've been doing the same thing ever since then. As we overlooked the nearby suburban shopping center and cinema, I made the remark: "You know? Shit never really got better.""
From: "Why Does Anyone Take Pictures?" - August 9, 2009.
This is part 2 of a look at the people, places and events that have shaped who I am as a photographer and as a person up to this point in my life. My Grandfather and my Father first showed me how to use a camera. In high school Mrs. Metz and Mrs. Palmer taught me a lot about creativity, expression and art. Mr. Rains taught me about how to not take shit from anybody. Ben though, is the friend mentioned in the above quote from an update this past summer and he's the one not only responsible for the name of Queen City Discovery, but for teaching me to do what I do.

It started with Peters Cartridge Company in the Spring of 2006...

Ben was a year older than me, but we had been friends since I was in the eighth grade. We became really good friends the summer after my sophomore year in High School when we both worked on "The Beast" roller coaster at Kings Island in 2005. One day in the Spring of 2006, with nothing better to do, Ben suggested we go out and shoot photographs after school. It was a nice day, but when I asked what we were going to go shoot, Ben didn't have any idea. He just wanted to go out and go around. So we did. We met up, got in the car and got out on the highway with no exact plan, destination or goal in mind. We remembered the abandoned Peters Cartridge Company near where we worked, so after a bite to eat, we headed there.


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The factory is partially active as a storage facility and the bike path next to it was plenty active on what was a beautiful spring day, so we didn't try to venture in. We just walked around and checked it out.

Kings Island had recently closed its campground for the construction of the Great Wolf Lodge, a new resort by the park. Since we were nearby, we decided to go take a look at the construction, finding a random path into the woods behind Kings High School and the amusement park.


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- The Kings Island skyline as viewed from Kings High School in 2006.

We walked for awhile until we came to a clearing. A large barbed wire fence clearly displayed where the Kings Island property line began, but a nearby clearing outside of the fence contained some old tractor trailers. The trailers were mostly empty aside from a few bee nests and clothing racks.


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Had they been used to store things for the park? Who owned them? Did anyone know they were still sitting back here?

We walked back through the woods to where we had parked my car. Some kids playing in the yard nearby waved to us. The little girl asked: "What are you doing?" That was a good question. We were out exploring. Not just abandoned buildings, but the environment around us.


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We hopped back on the highway, traversing I-275 through the northern suburban wilderness of Greater Cincinnati where we had grown up. A parking garage and office complex called "Pictoria Tower" marked the skyline of Springdale, Ohio. With the office complex not fully occupied, the parking garage was partially closed off to automobile traffic. As we found out, even though you couldn't drive your car to the top floor, the elevator still brought you there.


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- Ben on the top floor of the Pictoria parking garage.

The view from the top is nowhere near as impressive as the hills that overlook downtown Cincinnati, but it overlooked the neighborhoods and suburban cities we had grown up in. The lack of cars and people on the top floor made it a quiet place for us to relax and get away from the world for awhile. In the setting sun, even suburban office complexes can look nice.


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Ben would go on to graduate later in the spring and we both continued to work at "The Beast." We remained good friends and hung out often, but we never really made the time to go out and explore like we had in the spring. Kings Island closed, work ended, school started and people go on with their lives. Looking back, a lot of the things and people I was frustrated with then really weren't that important in the grand scheme of things. At the time though, there were always those days when you wanted to get away. It wasn't a nice spring day, but Ben and I were both looking to escape the typical Wednesday afternoon. So on Valentines Day 2007 we once again headed out to Peters Cartridge Company.


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Again, we didn't go in. While I had grown bolder in exploring abandoned buildings, the barking dogs made us somewhat reluctant to enter the complex. We just walked up and down the bike path which was now covered in snow and ice.


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Just like last time, we traversed I-275. This time stopping in Sharonville as the sun set over the landscape of parking lots and highway.


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Since this had become a tradition, we once again returned to the parking garage's top floor. This time it was covered in pure snow that hadn't been ruined by footprints or cars.


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Later that year I graduated and Ben and I kind of had a falling out. Not in a bad way, we were still good friends, just had different priorities and obligations. We were both busy in our own lives. I left the area to go to school at Ohio University in Athens, Ben stayed to continue studying at Miami. Right around this time is when I started this website. I wanted to post pictures and share stories online, but I had no idea what to call it. That's when Ben suggested calling it "Queen City Disco," the "disco" being short for "discovery."

Being in Athens wasn't one of the greatest times of my life. There wasn't always an escape like the days where Ben and I would go out exploring, but when I was back in town we still tried to make time to catch up and visit the parking garage.


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- The parking garage, some time in 2008.

Whenever we had time and whenever we wanted to get away, the parking garage became our place to go. We discussed politics, girls, the Reds, hockey, school and whatever was on our mind. Up there on the 7th floor, time and frustration cease to exist for awhile. It's a tradition we still continue to this day.


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- The parking garage, summer 2009.


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- The view from floor 7.

"...And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin.
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'."
- Bob Dylan

People come and go. Times change and people change. Sometimes the truth should be told sooner and sometimes you have to realize you may not have made the best decisions. Despite the people that have passed through my life that I may not know as well anymore, it doesn't mean I stopped caring. Sometimes though, you have to do what you think is best, even if no one wants to listen.

Ben and I never really followed up on our exploring tradition like we had in Valentines Day of 2007. We were at different schools and those later days were spent on other people, other priorities. Today he is still one of my best friends. This year, with no particular person or reason in each others lives to obligate the day too, we decided to follow up on our tradition. We didn't make it over to the parking garage, but we set out to explore with no particularly defined destination.


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- Industrial Canal near Ivorydale.


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- Railroad tracks and industry.


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- Won't this view look great once The Banks project is complete?


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- Is it April yet?.


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- Future potential.

While some people use Valentines Day to be bitter and lonely, it reminds me of the days I truly started exploring and the people who have shaped who I am. For that, I will always be grateful.


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Previous Update :: February 14, 2010 - "How Things came to Be - Part 1: Valentines Day 2006, Surf Cincinnati."

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