the electric company

I sit on grassy land alongside the new Interstate 195 between Wickenden Street and India Point Park in Providence.  The highway groans from its thousand metallic mouths.  To the west is the vaulting shell of the old Narragansett Electric power plant, about a seven minute walk away.  Though no longer humming with electric power, its presence is still imposing.  It is dark now, street lights casting a few weak rays through its soaring arched windows, serene darkness within.  The old plant’s facade suggests the containment of something tremendous.   Hollowed and dark, of cathedralesque proportions, it calls to mind the temple ruins of a Greco-Roman mystery cult.

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The still-active, much larger Narragansett Electric power generating station extends triune grayish stacks skyward, just to the left of the old one.  The new plant makes me think of a sphinx, or some other kind of oracular sentry, partly for the way that it defines the liminal zone between city and river.  At night, the stacks are black against the metropolitan halo, and there are red lights blinking at their crowns.  The blinks alternate, out of sync but subtly rhythmic, and my mind looks for patterns in the alternations as if reading a forgotten language.  I divine no meaning of course, but the patterns still linger on the imaginary threshold of legibility without ever crossing.

[image: the stacks as reflected in the river, a rotting dock to the left.  taken by Ani Od Chai, Flicker Commons: https://flic.kr/p/5u6Q5u]

Author: Sam Coren

I am a native of Providence, Rhode Island and current doctoral student in American Studies with a long-standing interest in the spatial morphology of cities, and more broadly, the impact of technology upon landscape. Feel free to contact me at sam dot coren8 at gmail dot com

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