Prypiat, Ukraine

I’m not quite sure what it is that fascinates me about abandoned structures (ghost malls, disused freeways, etc.) and dying remote outposts (like Resolute, Nunavut). Maybe it’s the potential to explore the mystery behind the downfall of a place. Maybe it’s apocalyptic fear. Maybe it’s a melancholy over the crushed hopes and dreams of the developers who created these places. At any rate, whenever I hear about something like the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, I have to learn more. Or more specifically, I have to see pictures.

Prypiat was a moderately-sized city of about 50,000 residents, located about a mile from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. At least, it was a moderately-sized city up until the disaster in 1986 that turned it into a ghost town.

T. A. Mousseau, a biologist from the University of South Carolina (of all places) is one of the leading researchers on the effects of the Chernobyl explosion and subsequent radioactive fallout on wildlife in the area. Humans have been banned from within a 30-km radius of the site, but plants and animals are on their own.

As genuinely useful as studying the effects of the radiation on wildlife may be to productive civilization, I am most interested in vicariously exploring the urban wasteland left behind, and fortunately, Mousseau was kind enough to oblige my interests with a photo gallery of scenes from post-Chernobyl Prypiat. Further research (thanks of course to Wikipedia) led me to this fascinating photo gallery.

Freeway to Hell

As a resident of a major metropolitan area (presently it’s Atlanta, although in the past I’ve called both Los Angeles and Minneapolis home as well), I naturally spend a more-than-desirable amount of time dealing with less-than-desirable circumstances of living in close proximity to millions other people. Granted, the daily frustrations of urban life are an easy target for a rant, and I am striving for creativity here. Consider this a purging of the system so I don’t have to bring this up ever again.

The most obvious nuisance of life in a large city, particularly if it’s a city whose population grew significantly after the advent of freeways is, of course, traffic. I could veer off into a dry and potentially-controversial, were it not so mind-meltingly boring, treatise on the ills of our society that have led us into such a situation, but I believe a rant is not really a rant if it carries a relevant (or for that matter, even a merely coherent) message. So on to traffic.

I have ridden in cars before with drivers who, as incomprehensible as it is to me, do not seem to care about getting to their destination in absolutely as short a time as possible. I always suspect they are newcomers to “big city” life, but chances are they just possess greater control over their emotions than I do. At any rate, the time I spend nervously twitching in their passenger seats is split in roughly equal proportions between a somewhat ironic jealously over their apparent zen-like state, which I by my very nature seem destined never to attain, and a deep, visceral compulsion to lunge across the parking brake and push the accelerator to the floor with my bare hand.

Anyway, since I (naturally) have little patience for riding with people who have more patience than I do, my encounters with these parkway pacifists usually come when I am behind the wheel, in the form of my rapid approach to their rear bumpers. This is my real frustration with traffic… there are just some people on the road who don’t care about keeping pace, no matter how much those of us behind them tailgate, flash our lights, blast our horns, raise certain fingers in colorful gestures, or turn on our cruise control, climb out our driver-side windows, jump onto their trunks, climb in their passenger-side windows, and indulge our deep, visceral compulsions to lunge across the parking brake and push their accelerators to the floor with our bare hands.

All of this staring at rear bumpers during rush hour seems to have a secondary, interesting effect, at least on me. I have developed a completely relative sense of speed. I really, honestly, have no sense of how fast I am driving anymore, except in terms of my speed relative to the other cars on the road. And I have one simple goal: I need to be going just a little bit faster than any other car I see around me. This can become truly dangerous at times of lighter traffic, such as this past Saturday morning, when, headed southbound on I-285, I looked down at my speedometer in utter amazement to discover myself driving 92 MPH. (Did I mention the 55 MPH speed limit on that road?)

Alas, I’m learning too late that one small rant cannot possibly contain all of my obvious, clichéd frustrations with the transportation woes of modern urban life. I’ve barely even scratched the surface of my own mild affliction with terminal road rage. Once the boiling blood in my brain and sour bile in my throat have receded enough for me to be able to see and comprehend the computer keyboard again, I will file another installment.