Thursday, January 19, 2006

Doors that go nowhere.

In Ithaca, I once tried collecting second-floor doors that led nowhere. There's a great one on Cascadilla, and a whole apartment building's back full of them overlooking Spencer. I've forgotten where the others were; you might say it was a highly ephemeral collection. To count as a door going nowhere, a door had to be something that had once been functional but that now would pitch anyone trying to use it down a sheer drop, cartoon-style.

On an unusual way home after work tonight, I passed this one, on the side of one of our campus officehousebuildings. I had been looking up to the second-floor lit office of a colleague in that department, admiring his book collection and his geraniums (geraniums? apparently blooming, in mid-January?), and as I proceeded along the path, I was still looking up and managed to see what I know I've seen before but forgotten: that we too (in a collective, collegiate sense) have a door going nowhere. I taught in this building last spring; that door is poised in the landing of the building's main staircase, for no obvious purpose.

Why do these doors intrigue me so much? I suppose it's simply because they're there, even though they're obviously no longer doing anything. Generally, they're not even lovely doors; this one, for instance, is a fairly run-of-the-mill door. And yet, if you look closely, you can see that it actually still has a storm (or screen) door, replete with handle. It's as though a stairway or balcony simply vanished one night, and no one knew what to do with the door that was left behind to signal that once there had been more material, more purpose. I find something melancholically insufficient about a perpetually suspended, perpetually useless door. It is a thing without a mission, a material reminder of its structure's past lives. It is a ghost door.


Blogger Poking-Stick Man said...

Alas, the building of doors-to-nowhere that overlooked Spencer is long since gone -- removed (perhaps appropriately enough) to make way a new road that actually does go somewhere.

2:25 AM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger Poking-Stick Man said...

Ghosts, perhaps -- but ones very much capable of coming back to life. When I was growing up in Massachusetts, one of our neighbors had just such a door, stuck a full story above ground level in the side of their house. It had led from their kitchen to a small deck and a set of stairs that descended to the driveway below; but, after these were removed, it took on new life as a kind of serving station, with the mother periodically opening the door and lowering snacks, Emily Dickinson-like, to her shrieking brood. (They were not nice children). And then, some years later, they apparently thought better of this door-to-nowhere, erected a new set of stairs leading down to the driveway, and resumed using the doorway.

So there's hope yet, I suppose, for all the abandoned doorways of the world!

2:35 AM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger Dr. S said...

Even as I was writing, just before bed last night, I thought, "I bet they tore that Spencer building down." Figure that that's a doubling of ghostliness--the spectre of a spectre, memorialized in my mind.

I love the idea of someone's lowering snacks down from above.

9:38 AM, January 19, 2006  

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