When I first stumbled upon Brent Underwood and his revitalization project at Cerro Gordo Mines, I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one who was drawn to this adventurer and his vlogs on the YouTube channel Ghost Town Living.
The weekly videos have become something I look forward to, and watch with glee — my 1,5 year old son in my lap, equally interested (at least for the first 5 minutes.)
Both as someone heading a brand that shares many of the same values, a basic human being, and a thinker, I find myself pondering again and again what it is that makes Brent and his abandoned ghost town so enticing.
The charm of old things — 150 years of mining history
Old things have a charm that can’t be reproduced. Time is the most valuable asset of all time. When you see wooden buildings carry over a 100 years of patina from wind, rain, storms and stray bullets — you know none of that can be reproduced any time soon.
“Time is the most valuable asset of all time.”
Well… in one way it can, but as soon as you discover it’s fake, the charm is broken.
Wrinkles are a mark of honor in my opinion. Whether it’s creases in our wooden floors from the patter of generations of feet, or whether it’s age and wisdom showing on our faces.
My parent’s house has a scar. Once when I was pretty young, I fell down the staircase, and smashed through the railing. One of the spindles broke, and though it’s now more than 20 years ago, it hasn’t been replaced. I don’t know why, but every time I see it I remember, not only the fall, but the good times of my childhood, and all the fun we’ve had climbing back and forth through the gap in the railing.
Wrinkles add history. And to see somebody care for and restore old and wrinkled buildings is immensely satisfying. Now, it will last, instead of time grinding it to desert dust.
Cerro Gordo has the wrinkles, and Brent Underwood knows how to appreciate them, with a contagious passion.
The long term game — Brent is there to stay
When Brent began broadcasting from Cerro Gordo, he pulled some epic monologues about longevity that hit home with me. Chatting about how startup business culture, often have become about how quickly you can grow your idea to a full fledged company, and sell it.
The idea of putting your heart into something so that you can sell it off to pursue your actual goals, have never rhymed much with me. There is something about the discrepancy between where you put your daily hours, and where you want to be that makes me sad. I want to build something that I’ll enjoy being a part of until the end.
“There is something about the discrepancy between where you put your daily hours, and where you want to be that makes me sad.”
To see something age, you have to own it. Whether that be your family, relationships, your craft, your company. Brent Underwood said that he’s not in it for the short term — he will probably spend his life at Cerro Gordo. And that kind of commitment wins my attention.
(P.S. Should you want to back out earlier, Brent, that’s ok too.)
Till the very end — memento mori
I was both lucky and unlucky to experience the loss of a loved one very early in life. Death became a close acquaintance early on — one whom has been peeking over my shoulders almost every day since.
You who have experienced something similar knows that encountering death changes everything.
Memento mori, is an old latin phrase meaning remember your death. It’s about counting your days, so to speak, and spurring yourself to spend them well. What that means might be completely different from person to person, but it’s always worth talking about.
Growing up with that experience in the back pocket — or rather at the core of my being — I’ve often viewed the western culture I grew up in as shying away from death, rather than encouraging counting it into your plans.
Whether you believe in a life after or not, the idea that you have a finite time to make an impact, is only healthy, and might make you take some choices you wouldn’t normally take.
For Brent Underwood to be so frank as to speak out about this, he has my respect again, and it makes the videos feel like they have substance.
Mapping Cerro Gordo
I don’t completely understand the psychology behind this, but there is an immense satisfaction in going back to the same location again and again, and slowly expand your knowledge of one area.
It’s like getting to know a person. First you learn their name and profession, but it’s not until you know their hopes and dreams, fears and history that you truly love them.
I guess I am the type that like to dig deep instead of broad sweeps. My favorite vacation location is Norway, my own country. There are untold secrets hidden in those mountains, and each trip just makes me feel like I could explore so much more. So I find myself back, again and again, driving old roads over, but expanding slowly into new branches.
Watching Brent go into every nook and cranny of Cerro Gordo overground, and also map out each of the myriad of mine shafts gives me a sense of peace. It’s as if I trick myself into feeling like I have a grasp over something in life.
Imperfection is perfection
Some think that perfectionism is when you like things “perfect.” That’s only the kind brother of actual perfectionism. The ailment with the same name, is when you have your eye on a flawless unattainable fantasy, and nothing is ever good enough for you.
“All of us can sort of see ourselves in Brent’s shoes, as he leaves the city to pursue a dream that he has little knowledge of how to attain.”
This is something that infests social media and the internet as a whole. And when we find respite from that — an experience of real humanity among all the edited perfection — it makes us feel right at home. All of us can sort of see ourselves in Brent’s shoes, as he leaves the city to pursue a dream that he has little knowledge of how to attain (his words, not mine.)
And then we’re able to peek in on the journey as he solves problems. After I’ve watched one of his videos I’m ready to go solve some problems of my own.
I think ultimately, it’s this transparent humanity that makes the channel so satisfying to watch, and will be the thing that I will strive for in my own life.
Things will always be in motion and under construction. “Complete” doesn’t exist, so we might as well learn to enjoy the journey as we each try to polish the little piece of the world that is given into our care — our family, our friends, our colleagues, our crafts and belongings.
Now, what makes you love Brent and the Cerro Gordo project?