Closed Views

These are views both plain and magnificent of alleys and courtyards, city streets and suburban wasteland, mountains and oceans and nothing in particular, hidden behind what I call curtains and you call drapes.

The Parkway Hotel, St. Louis, Missouri

The Parkway Hotel, St. Louis, Missouri

We spent a month on US roads, driving 7.000 kilometres through 18 states. Before leaving Norway back in June, I was adamant that I would produce one series of photographs, besides all the other pictures I took along the way, that would span the entire journey, while at the same time adhering to a set of limitations. Having never before been to the States, I still had this almost romantic fascination for motels of the cheaper variety. For a long time I thought about doing a series of motel exteriors. But we weren’t staying in cheap motels exclusively, some hotels were, well, not exactly fancy, but they wouldn’t lend themselves to such a series very well. And one of my self-imposed limitations – decided upon before even deciding the subject matter – was that I would be photographing all instances of whatever I finally chose, i.e. the façade of every place where we spent the night, in case I went for that idea. So I didn’t.

Hotel 91, New York, New York

Hotel 91, New York, New York

Instead I started thinking about doing it the other way around, photographing from the inside and out, shooting out the windows of whichever place we were staying at. But shooting through the windows didn’t work consistently either, for a variety of reasons. And going outside to photograph basically the same view meant losing the window frame as a frame of reference. Not to mention the trouble I’d have when the room was on the eighth floor. So I elected to stay inside. And closed the curtains.

Knights Inn, Niagara, Ontario

Knights Inn, Niagara, Ontario

Throughout the journey I would thus shoot the curtain of every room we stayed the night in, from shitty Super8 motels and cheap Howard Johnsons to upmarket hotels in Chicago and charming B & Bs in Louisiana. So much did I obsess with the damn curtains that we at one point accidentally tried to check into a curtain store in Boone, NC.

Well, here are the curtains. What’s outside is pretty much left to your imagination.

Super8, Sarnia, Ontario

Super8, Sarnia, Ontario

Howard Johnson, Battle Creek, Michigan

Howard Johnson, Battle Creek, Michigan

The Tremont, Chicago, Illinois

The Tremont, Chicago, Illinois

Hampton Inn, Memphis, Tennessee

Hampton Inn, Memphis, Tennessee

Super8, North Jackson, Mississippi

Super8, North Jackson, Mississippi

Old Town Inn, New Orleans, Louisiana

Old Town Inn, New Orleans, Louisiana

Econo Lodge, Tallahassee, Florida

Econo Lodge, Tallahassee, Florida

Days Inn, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Days Inn, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Smoky Mountain Inn & Suites, Cherokee, North Carolina

Smoky Mountain Inn & Suites, Cherokee, North Carolina

Downtown Inn & Suites, Asheville, North Carolina

Downtown Inn & Suites, Asheville, North Carolina

Fairfield Inn, Boone, North Carolina

Fairfield Inn, Boone, North Carolina

Travelodge Bay Beach, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Travelodge Bay Beach, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Capitol Skyline Hotel, Washington DC

Capitol Skyline Hotel, Washington DC

Courtyard Marriott, New Haven, Connecticut

Courtyard Marriott, New Haven, Connecticut

Fairfield Inn & Suites, New York, New York

Fairfield Inn & Suites, New York, New York

Suggested soundtrack: Low – The Curtain Hits The Cast. And remember: a curtain is just a superhero cape that has yet to fulfill its potential.

This is the tenth and final chapter of the American blog posts. Links to the other installments below.

America part nine: DC, Then Dave
America part eight: There Died A Myriad
America part seven point five: Beach And Moan
America  part seven: Mountains (woo-hoo!)
America part six: The Place Where They Cried*
America part five: The Heroes of Gator-Aid
America part four: Some People. And Chicago
America part three: A Tale Of Three Cities
America part two: Viva Las Canada
America part one: New York Fact Sheet

DC, Then Dave

DC / Cherokee / New York / Chattanooga: The penultimate blog post on the American journey in which the author-traveller does a National Mall stroll and reveals his dismal view on the future for an unlucky surveyor in NYC.

DC #1

DC #1

DC #2

DC #2

– To the White House, please.
– You got an appointment with President Obama, asks Mr. Abdul Khan, our friendly taxi driver.
– Yes, we’re his nine o’clock.
– Haha – you know I drove Obama once, back when he was a senator.
– Oh really? Was he a nice passenger?
– No, man, he paid the right money – right on the meter!

DC #3

DC #3

DC #4

DC #4

So there you have it. The President is a bad tipper. Also, the White House is way smaller than I imagined. Other than that, DC feels extremely familiar to someone who’s never been there before. Okay, the White House isn’t a marble fortress prone to exploding in the beginning of the third act, the Lincoln memorial statue doesn’t rise from his stone throne to run for re-election and the Washington monument (probably) isn’t a camouflaged above-ground missile silo – but other than that the capital handles the transition from pop culture to real life reasonably well.

DC #5

DC #5

DC #6

DC #6

PS – Disillusioning Dave

At some point during our travel I think I said jokingly that the US is a big and friendly country that is fond of melted cheese, Jesus and fireworks, in that order. We certainly had our shares of cheese and massive displays of fireworks, but were actually spared any real run-ins with folks preaching the gospel in our general direction. Yes, somewhere in the Midwest we did see a series of billboards proclaiming that adherence to the theory of evolution led to eternal damnation, but that’s so off the charts that it ain’t offensive in the slightest. Actually I think the 20-something hipsters folding hands for a mealtime prayer in a fancy NYC place is almost more shocking to my irreligious Northern European sensibilities. Anyway, my point is that no one had tried to proselytize me or even engage me in a religious conversation. Not until the very last day.

Enter Dave.

It’s the morning of our last day in the US. I’m having breakfast in Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan and have already had some more or less meaningful conversations with strangers on topics ranging from cilantro to organ donation, when a new guy approaches. He introduces himself as Dave and tells me that he is from some sort of ministry but seems like a nice enough fellow.

Ford Saviour

Ford Saviour

Dave: – We have some questions that we ask visitors here in Bryant Park – would you mind if we spoke for a few minutes?
Me: – Sure, I don’t mind.
Dave: – How do you think it all began?
Me: – Life, you mean? It originated from a beautiful bio-chemical coincidence – then evolved through a process of natural selection.
Dave: – Oh.
Me: – I gather you and I have quite different opinions on this?
Dave: – Yes. But that’s okay. Let’s continue. What do you believe went wrong for us humans?
Me: – Oh, that’s easy. Our single measure of success is progress, but you can’t have unlimited growth based on a system of limited resources. At the same time we lack the cognitive ability of thinking and planning long-term. Our brains are wired just the same way as when fight or flight were the only decisions of importance, making it very hard for us to actually fathom the consequences of problems such as overpopulation and climate change.
Dave: – Hmm. Is there any hope?
Me: – No, I don’t think so.
Dave: – So how will it end?
Me: – Horribly.

Ah yes. That was Dave’s encounter with the smiling happy and dreadfully pessimistic Norwegians in Bryant Park. And actually also my last really memorable interaction with anyone in the States. Well except for the staff of five at the Irish pub in Newark Airport, who deemed the question of whether or not Vin Diesel is gay as far more important than me having a steady supply of Guinness.

Until next time, America. We will reunite

Until next time, America. We will reunite

This is America part nine. Read also

America part eight  
America part seven point five
America  part seven  
America part six  
America part five  
America part four  
America part three  
America part two  
America part one