October 3rd, 2012

Penn Hills

It is no secret that the northeast is thickly littered with abandoned hotels and resorts. Not too long ago it was tremendously popular
to travel to the Catskill mountains or the Poconos with one's family, to briefly escape from the clamor of daily life, if even just for
a single weekend. This is the mindset of a past era, as it seems modern day leaves little room for such simple pleasures.
We are a society of digital escapism; no longer does one need to load up a car and drive off into the woods to get away from it all.
Today, simply switching on of the television or computer can suffice to distance the mind from the hardships of reality.

During its prime (in the 1960's and 1970's) Penn Hills was the honeymoon resort of choice in the Poconos, often requiring guests
to make reservations months in advance. Always crowded, even during the winter months, Penn Hills was a place renowned for its
on-site accommodations. Swimming, skiing, snowmobiling, archery, ice skating, and tennis were the key points of entertainment.
In addition there was also an indoor game room, as well as a massive dining hall and night club, to keep guests busy after the sun had set.
All this, though interesting, is not what made Penn Hills such an intriguing place to me. As it would turn out; this is the very resort which
my mother and father spent their honeymoon back in 1970, a fact which I learned of just prior to making my trip.

It's not often that I have a personal connection with a location that I'm filming. Yes, there is always some kind of emotional attachment to
the subject at hand, but very rarely has the location actually been tied to my life in any way. To me, it was more than a bit surreal filming
the badly decayed bungalows where my parents once stayed, seeing the overgrown field where they rode snowmobiles, or setting foot
in the now dead-silent reception hall and standing in front of the desk which they checked in at over forty years ago. The quiet and the
dark of this old resort holds a deeper meaning to me than it does to many others. It also shows that the significance of a place is impossible to clearly define.

As time went on, especially after crossing over into the new millennium, Penn Hills began a slow and steady decline.
Though it had fallen out of popularity, the resort had always maintained a clean (though out-dated) environment for travelers.
The years were taking their toll upon the buildings, and without proper funding to maintain and repair things, small problems began
to turn into very large ones over the years. In the end Penn Hills was doing nothing short of committing online fraud; promising a
romantic getaway via their website, while in reality offering guests musty bedrooms decorated with out-dated furniture, a stagnate
swimming pool, and shag carpeting full of dead insects. The resort eventually died at the hands of foreclosure in 2009, though many
parts of the facility had fallen into disrepair long before.

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