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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

Resort 01, July 2011


There were several folks on this expedition, lots of “I’ll meet you at Location A, then we can all get in (name redacted)’s car, drive over to Dunkin’ Donuts, then pick up Jason…” Suffice it to say we started off a bit behind schedule. The drive also turned out to be longer than expected, rambling through two states’ worth of landscape unknown to me, past shuttered farms and unfamiliar convenience stores (Stewart’s?). As a result, we didn’t get a full day to explore our destination. The rapidly disappearing daylight put an end to our photography/skullduggery, and that’s when someone suggested spending the night. None of us could afford the upscale place on the main drag, and there were too many of us to comfortably sleep in the car, so we thought it might be, you know – “fun” – to spend the night in one of the abandoned hotels.

After gathering necessary supplies (read: beer), we made our way to the hotel (previously a health spa/resort for wealthy Jews), hastily climbed a fire escape and entered through a window. The fourth floor smelled like cancer (acrid, viscerally repulsive and unlike any smell I have ever encountered), so we retreated to the third. We picked rooms, found some (clean and wrapped in sanitary plastic) linen, made the beds, had a few Coronas, and settled in for the night. After the sun fell, the ominous sounds of an old building became louder or at least more noticeable. Lying on my bed, fully clothed and filthy with the grime of exploration, I could hear rats moving in the walls, an owl hooting outside the window, feral cats, slavering wolves, raccoons half-crazed by rabies, their needle-like teeth red with the blood of infants…

Every half hour or so, there would be a noise loud enough or weird enough to drive us all to the hallway. “Did you hear that?” “What the FUCK makes a sound like that?” Once, a car slowly approached the building with its headlights off. We all put our shoes on and prepared to flee via a different fire escape… but then the car turned around and left, so we went back to bed.

I can’t say I got any sleep that night, but there were several things that made the night memorable and worthwhile. Of course, the frisson of breaking the rules and being somewhere that you are NOT SUPPOSED TO BE. But also: the fireflies. I have never seen as many fireflies as I saw out the window that night; thousands of winking lights tracing patterns in the black trees. Around 3AM, there was a magnificent electrical storm. I saw a falling star. So far away from the light pollution of the city, I could see ALL the stars. I didn’t like sleeping in that hotel, but staying awake to watch the night sky is almost never a bad thing.

The first pictures in this set were taken in the hotel, with all of its nausea-inducing carpet/wallpaper combinations intact. The second group of photos are from a nearby health spa, which used the stinking waters of a sulfur spring to cure, well, just about everything. According to a sign on the premises, they also offered “Scotch Douches” and a mysterious treatment called, simply, “The Nauheim.”

Postscript, unrelated to the above, but still pretty interesting: On the drive home, we passed a gigantic and mangy vulture, sitting in the middle of the state highway, tearing at the belly of an unfortunate deer (or large dog; it was difficult to tell). The vulture was completely unmoved by the cars veering to avoid it, and continued to gnaw while we stared, mouths agape. I could probably turn this weird moment into a metaphor for the decimation of a beautiful past by an uncaring present (or something), but more importantly: Vultures are FREAKY.

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  1. Thanks, Cathee! I miss you!

  2. Jason,
    I love looking at your photos. So interesting. These places you have been it’s just unreal with all these things just left behind. Keep up the exploring!! It’s fascinating!

  3. Matt dug up some information on the Nauheim Treatment:

  4. Wow. I think what amazes me the most about these photos is how there will be shot after shot of just complete disrepair and then there will be something that looks new or hardly touched or at any moment you turn around expecting there to be the Carlsons wrapped in their towels, martinis in one hand, “Great Gatsby” in the other heading out to the patio for a respite.

    The bathhouse photos are just amazing. Lastly…that American flag looked like it only had 48 stars but the Apple computer is obviously from the mid 80’s. ***ponder***

    Amazing work, Jason. Can’t wait to see your next collection.

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