Navy Blues

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Albany, Industrial, Institutional, Memphis

Once we got out of the power plant, the rest of Amsterdam was more or less a bust. Without cars, or a solid idea of where we were going, the best we could do was guess and look around, wandering from one seemingly derelict building to another without finding any of them quite dead enough. We eventually settled for a stop at a bar downtown, and waiting for our bus to Albany and onward.

The bus finally arrived about half an hour late, and thoroughly packed, besides being the last one of the day. The driver wanted to leave us, and a few other travelers, stranded in Amsterdam but with some palavering he agreed to let us on even though there were no seats. As soon as the bus started moving, we were serenaded to “Fat Bottomed Girls”, belted out by, well, a fat-bottomed girl. The next 45 minutes consisted of “only in America” weirdness that would make even less sense in the written word as it did at the time. Once that was over, we did get to Albany though, and went to a Thai restaurant I’d eaten at a few times before, then on a bus to Watervliet for a night explore at AlTech Steel.

As soon as we got to AlTech, something felt wrong. It was one of those explores for me where I just started going through the motions, didn’t even bother to take a single picture the whole time (all of a few minutes) that we were there, and as ennui as I felt, Ben was downright creeped out by the place, all he wanted was a few shots from the roof, and I couldn’t find the way up, all the paths between the buildings consumed by night and summertime growth. That and maybe I was a bit too sober for AlTech, I’d never been there even remotely close to sober.

So we disposed of the rest of the night waiting too long at the bus station, then going to New York, and from there to Newark, and a plane to Atlanta, and another plane to Memphis. This was supposed to be the highlight of our trip: a rare tour of Memphis Marine Hospital, a more or less untouched and unexplored complex just south of downtown on the Mississippi River. We arrived at the hospital to the typical Southern hospitality, a table set out in front to welcome us, and an open door to explore as we pleased!

And it was everything I could have hoped for, even if I found myself there with an inert brick of a camera, and a point and shoot I’d just bought in Albany…

It only took me a few minutes to discover that my camera woes weren’t over. As if I didn’t have enough trouble already, the battery on this thing lasted maybe 1/10 as long as my actual camera, and it started spontaneously shutting off after every shot.

And then, having seen just half of one building, that camera failed completely, and of course, being an abandoned building, there wasn’t a working outlet to be found.

I was reduced to a smartphone for my photo-taking abilities. Not exactly my brightest moment. I should be better at this living in the Instagram generation but I’ve never really tried to take serious phone photos. Some people can do amazing things with an Android — for that matter some people can do amazing things with a camera and I manage mediocre things. Oh well.

Given the situation, I felt like it was my obligation to take a selfie.

This must have gone over so well in a Navy hospital?

Power Struggle

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Albany, Industrial

I’ve heard it’s possible that sometimes everything goes according to plan. I say bullshit. We made plenty of plans, big ones, too big even — exploring Albany, Memphis and Chicago in one crazy jet-setting weekend, taking advantage of some deeply discounted Southwest tickets. I was ready to give just about anything a try, I had a chance to meet up with a real explorer, and one coming all the way from England no less, so I aimed to impress, as much as I could at my level anyway, and went along as the plans got bigger and bolder.

The trip could hardly have gotten off to a more inauspicious start. Still half (or more) drunk from overdoing it hashing the night before, dumbass me set my alarm for when the train was supposed to leave, without setting aside any time to get to the station. I hauled ass as fast as I could there, got to the station 25 minutes late, and somehow managed to catch the train that was 26 minutes late. About halfway between Utica and Amsterdam the sun came up and I wanted to get some pictures of the foggy morning, and my camera would not turn on! I thought it might be the battery and plugged it in…still nothing happened! So I googled away frantically for any possible resets, and nothing seemed to work. Defeated, an explorer with no camera, I wandered over to a park and contemplated taking the thing apart, and eventually settled for whacking it against a park bench a few times in case the old sledgehammer fix might do the trick. It didn’t.

Eventually Ben’s train came in, and we decided to walk to the nearest place that we might be able to get a camera, which took much longer than we expected, and all straight uphill to get there, on a surprisingly hot September afternoon, but I spent more than I would have liked and bought a point-and-shoot to at least get something out of the weekend, it seemed stupid not to with how much traveling I’d be doing!

We found our way from there to the Mohasco Power Plant, near but not quite on a massive mill complex currently being demolished. I was afraid to try, admittedly, with the workers being what seemed like so close, but there was a river in between, so I was convinced into going for it.

And it was everything I could have hoped for: rusty, crusty, greasy 19th century industrial steel!

Even the point and shoot was much less of a disappointment than I would have expected.

And it seemed at last we were on our way, we could pull it off and this would be the epic adventure we’d been dreaming of all summer…

February Made Me Shiver

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Albany, Fuck It Tour, Industrial

I chose Albany because it just seemed so appropriate after how bad Providence was. It was always where I’d escape to when things got out of control, back when I was with Laura, maybe even before that; a place where I knew I was still wanted, or at least understood, even if what happened there rarely went to plan. At the end of the last four Februaries I found myself in the capital district, and here I was again, and by odd coincidence, so was my best friend I’d gone to see all these times (which was something I wouldn’t know until I was about to leave anyway)

By the time I got to Albany, at least I realized it couldn’t be any worse than yesterday. Even if the people I was trying to meet here were nowhere to be found, and my attempt at saving a ruined weekend didn’t amount to anything, at least I’d be on my way out of here soon enough and back home for another helping of defeat. But, after waiting on Capitol Hill for an hour, eventually Darren did show up. I was ready for anything after Providence, and sure enough, I got “special” treatment: we could explore, but any abandoned locations were too sensitive for him to go to with me just yet, so he dragged me out to Poestenskill Falls, to take pictures of a very cold, icy waterfall. Of course, on the way down to the falls I found some old barbed wire and tore a giant slice out of my pants, after having just ruined my other ones the day before — so maybe it still wasn’t quite my day yet.

This wasn’t quite how I’d intended to spend my Sunday, and apparently I failed whatever test he meant to give me by bringing me all the way out there. He wouldn’t ‘take the chance of’ exploring with me, only asked me if I knew any new places to go around there. Whatever his reasoning though, once I told him about my annual trips to Albany, he had no problem dropping me off at an abandoned warehouse that he didn’t know about. I was hoping maybe if it wasn’t “his preciousssss” Darren might be more interested in exploring… but that wouldn’t be the case, he thanked me for the new location and sent me on my way. While nowhere near at Ryan’s level, he still thought I needed some work, and exploring alone might do the trick.

It didn’t.

I still went through the motions, lacking anything better to do, and hoping that maybe I would learn something after all, but it just wasn’t the same. Where he described a peaceful, relaxing environment without anyone getting in the way, I found only an intense, unsettling environment with no one there when it all went wrong. I’d done it once before, also in Albany, and it wasn’t so bad, but maybe I was in a better state of mind then, not having someone go out of their way to destroy my adventure the night before. I was out exploring, can’t argue with that, but I was out exploring with all of the stress and about none of the fun of just about every other place I’d been.

I still didn’t want to be there. As right as it should have felt to be back on familiar ground (I’d already explored this place once, exactly a year ago, with my friend and a screaming throbbing hangover) I couldn’t escape thinking there was something lurking around ready to ruin my day. (Did I mention I don’t explore alone?)

Going downstairs, I saw that really nothing had changed in a whole year. All those mysterious Recession-era office furnishings? Still there, still unclaimed by their owners, corporations that must have downsized, forgotten about them, and bought all new when the economy didn’t collapse as direly as predicted.

And then I finally figured out what was wrong. I heard a truck coming from far too close, and hid behind one of the many stacks of boxes of old advertising, waiting for the inevitable. If there’s one positive about this place, at least it’s easy to hide in plain sight.

The truck turned out to be far closer than I could have imagined. It wasn’t outside at the loading docks — it was a Chevy pickup, doing hot laps and maybe even some donuts on the warehouse floor until the driver (security?) hit a patch of ice and drifted into one of the columns, jumped out of his truck, stomped around and swore like a climber for a while, and finally peeled out of there, smashing down another loading dock on his way.

I left through the brand new exit, more than ready to get out and very convinced not to explore alone ever again.

As soon as I was out, I called Christian and let him know what happened in our building that we discovered by mistake that one time. As it turned out, he was just about to leave from Troy to Rochester, so we tried to explore one more place together (Proctor’s Theater, and we were just a bit too late). At least I finally, for the trip home, if nothing else, got to meet up with an actual friend, and didn’t get thrown under even one bus. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to get home from a weekend of exploring!

Office Space

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Albany, Industrial

The last stop on my Albany adventure for this year, this warehouse in Menands seems to have been a casualty of the recession. While it was originally a national leader in magazine printing (Williams Press, contractor for the northeast printings of Condé Nast magazines), a decline in the print business forced Williams to close in 1999. The next tenant, judging by what still remains, must have been a moving/storage facility for Manhattan offices, containing neatly stacked regiments of furniture from the likes of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, undoubtedly hidden away, perhaps on pawn, until the recession thawed, but left out to the weather when those once proud and massive firms failed (and possibly the warehousing firm along with them).

Row after row of shrink wrapped furniture

And a failboat, up on blocks in its own floor of the warehouse

This giant mural (of Gutenberg?) is in a pitch black room that was once the corporate boardroom and is now piled high with trash

But wait! There’s more!

Let’s play danger carts!

Abandoned sunsets are the best

Scrap Pile Hospital

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Albany, Institutional

This was one of the few places in the Albany area I’d researched, and the only one any local explorers would help me out finding. As you might expect, it sucked. Genesee hospital was torn to shit, but this one, Seton Hospital, took it to an entirely new level. Anything of any value was missing, anything that could be smashed was, and most surfaces that would hold paint, were covered in graffiti. Making matters worse, it was a cold, rainy, February morning, an unphotogenic day for a downright ugly hospital, and I was dragging around a pounding hangover from round after round of Belgian Landmines the night before!

(insert obligatory lonely chair)

This is about all this place was…

The operating room. There should be a surgery table here. There isn’t.

Posted on order of the Ministry of Silly Signs

At least there was a morgue. First one I’ve ever seen, for that matter.

Fallen Giants

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Albany, Industrial

By the time I was thoroughly fed up with my fool’s errand in Albany looking for people to explore with (and had the first few of many drinks on Lark street), I decided I may as well at least explore something before the weekend got any worse. Out by myself (which never happens) and in absolutely no mood to get caught, I went back to the one place I knew I could get into, AlTech Steel, for some night photos.

Even when it was still alive I’d have to imagine this place was incredibly drab. Industrial wasteland hardly does it justice now, rows of quarter-mile-long steel caverns that once contained the grating sounds of heavy industry, and still hold the metallic, chemical air of the brownfield.

For the last 20 years these buildings have become the territory of explorers and taggers, the only signs of life left are a few vivid pieces of graffiti

This one is probably my favorite

Especially since you can see it all the way clear through the largest warehouse.

The very visible hand pointed me this way, into another warehouse just like the last one

…until the whole building shook with the roar of a freight train right next to it at full speed!

It’s been a while since I made a pi tunnel. All these clippy numbers on the ground were just asking for it!

I can’t say I enjoy being stranded very much ever, but being piss drunk in an abandoned building while it happens makes it that much less awful

Even if every photo I took absolutely sucked again

Except maybe this one–

And this is the point where I just said fuck it, wandered back to Albany, and drank more. Even though Poughkeepsie was a total bust and Watervliet wasn’t all that much better, I’d only have to wait a few more hours for my friend to be back, and to have a better exploration tomorrow. Or so I thought, waiting there until the bar closed, downing Belgian Land Mines trying to forget about my wonderful “friends” in the UE scene, wondering how my actual friend would ever find me with a dead phone. Then somehow that worked itself out too, and by 4am we caught up with each other at the local drunk-food dive, and things started to be almost OK again, and all I had to show for it was 8 less facebook friends, and a few gigabytes of absolute photo-shit.