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!

A Bridge Too Far

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

Stop #6, so to speak, on my Fuck It Tour was another try at an online meetup at midnight on a miserably cold January night a few days after Philadelphia. We weren’t plagued by technical difficulties this time, but only Craig, Justin and the Providence crew showed up, out of 30 or 40 people who seemed interested in the last one (where one could only see, hear or speak, but not all three at once!), I still considered it more or less a success though, considering that I got a somewhat surprising invitation out to Providence, where Charles was going to create a meetup just for me so I could finally complete that years-long quest!

Everything seemed straightforward enough at first; I took the train out through Boston (stopping for breakfast at Bagel Rising Allston, which was just as delicious as I was told it would be!) to Attleboro, and (this still surprises me every time…) Ryan was there at the station to meet me, on an unseasonably warm bluebird’s day! We walked back to what Ryan said was his house, which seemed believable enough, every inch of wall space is covered in memorabilia from abandoned places and punk bands, and met his girlfriend and a few other friends there.

I first started to wonder if something was wrong when I found out that for some reason Charles who organized this whole thing decided to go off to Philly for the weekend, and wouldn’t be joining us, which I thought was only minorly problematic, considering that I was supposed to stay with him the next two nights, but Ryan assured me it would all get figured out, and there would be someone at the party that night who could at least give me some couch space. He asked me what I wanted to explore, and I said I’d be glad to do just about anything but climbing, but I’d prefer to save the drains and tunnels for night and not waste daylight where I could be taking photos. So he tells me we’ve got a plan, and off we go, stopping by a Taco Bell on the way.

After a bit of traffic on the 95, and some wandering around in circles undoubtedly intended to make sure I had no idea where we were, or what the location even was, we arrived at our first explore: an abandoned railroad bridge. Now, didn’t I just mention I didn’t want to climb bridges?!

The approach to the bridge wasn’t too bad overall, walking on rotting railroad ties high above the Seekonk River, in a slightly gusting wind, but I never particularly thought I’d fall in. At the end, where the drawbridge is permanently drawn into a state of rictus, there was a bit of a crawl under the rails, and onto the stub end of the track under the mechanisms, and we chilled there for a while. Ryan wanted to climb, more than anything, and so he did, up this thing. And expected me to follow.

I probably could have done it, but I really didn’t see the reason to, and I’d already specifically asked not to climb, and still got taken here, so I let him do his thing while I enjoyed the view further down the river.

And, I’ll admit, I eventually went up a little bit just for a better view.

On the way back, the winds increased to an entirely new level, giving the bridge an unsettling shake, and to make matters worse, I broke through one of the railroad ties, becoming rather stuck in an awkward half-split, ripping my pants in the process, and yelled for a little help from Ryan or Sam. Neither one wanted to assist me at first (“you can do it!” is the last thing I want to hear when I’m one slip away from an 80-foot fall into the river!) but Ryan finally did, calling me a pussy-wuss for it, and for being a bit shaken up for the rest of the walk off of the bridge span. At the time I thought he was at least part sarcastic, but I think now he’s serious that’s what he thinks of me, just because I basically fell through a rotten floor that wasn’t my fault!

After that, we went on to a train tunnel that was recently re-barred shut (which apparently they already knew, but just wanted to show me the entrance, or something?), which required walking through this slushy creek bed. Of course they had extra shoes in the car for the inevitable wet feet… probably just wanted to get me cold and wet so I’d (1) complain more, or (2) want to quit exploring.

From there, after a stop at a grocery store for snacks, we went on to (of course) a drain. Not just any drain, but Ryan’s admitted least favorite one. Complete with 6-12 inches of fast flowing water, and ice-cold gushers to walk through. I didn’t even bring my camera in, out of protest, but once I realized what was going on, I insisted on leading everyone as far into the drain as we could possibly go… I wasn’t about to let 33 degree water stop me, especially when I already had a bit of a scarlet letter from earlier in the day, so I thought I had something to prove.

After the drain, everyone else was cold and wet and wanted to go home, and there was less than an hour until sunset and I’d yet to even see an abandoned building. So I insisted to Ryan that we stop by one, just until dark, so I could at least get a few pictures out of the first day of our little meetup. Just to shut me up I guess, he agreed, and showed me the entrance, saying I had 8 minutes to explore as much as I could, and if I wasn’t back to the car in 8 minutes, they’d drive off and leave me there.

So I ran around furiously for a few minutes, shooting more or less blind.

It was one of the worst abandoned factories I’d ever been in, but at least it was something, and walk-in easy.

This is the only interior shot I kind of liked from the place. And only because it’s the best of what I had.

I happened to find the roof on my way out…

I just barely made it to the car on time. Apparently I’d taken 8 minutes and 20 seconds, although the timer on my phone had yet to ring when I got back to the street. I had to wonder if they would really have left me if I took any longer. I think now they probably would have.

We went back to Ryan’s house, which wasn’t actually Ryan’s house apparently, changed into drier clothes, got stoned in the basement, and as far as I knew were getting ready for some rooftopping and a tunnel party later on. I thought it seemed a bit odd that Samantha reminded me to get my backpack when we went on a beer and dinner run, but once we loaded up on 30-racks of Narragansett (that I had to pay for, of course) and ate our fill at Taco Bell, we pulled into a Dunkin’ unexpectedly, and Ryan went in for something or other, and came out saying he had to work that night. Mind you, I’m pretty sure Ryan doesn’t work at a Dunkin’ Donuts. At least he never told me that…

Sam then checked her phone, and apparently got “called in” too. Bullshit, I say.

Ever the ray of sunshine, Ryan advised that I’d have to find my own place to spend the night, and there wasn’t really anywhere suitable to be homeless in Attleboro since the police have really cracked down, and even in Pawtucket it was no place to be alone and white. Well played, Ryan. Obviously I wasn’t planning to spend the night alone on the streets of Attleboro, asshole.

So after a bit of a kerfuffle they agreed they had enough time before “work” to drop me off at the Attleboro metro station. I waited there for about 20 minutes before a southbound train came by, I asked someone who got off it when the next northbound was (I couldn’t figure out for myself with a dead phone, undoubtedly intentional too since Ryan insisted we use it for music in the car all day), and there wasn’t one. Luckily, one of the commuters at the park-and-ride was nice enough to bring me a few miles over to a station that DID have trains, and lacking any better option I went to Boston.

On the train, I finally had a chance to charge my phone, and started asking everyone I knew in Boston if I’d be able to crash at their place, or maybe even explore the next day, and no one answered until my college friend Rachel suggested I join a LARP or at least meet at Denny’s afterward. I couldn’t help but notice that Ryan and Samantha were most certainly not at work, and were actually lighting up Instagram with one picture after another of their rooftop and abandoned factory adventures (and even a plan to bring a bunch of people to Norwich in the morning!) I spent the whole train ride rage posting at the lot of them. It truly takes a fuckwad to send me down shit creek on a douche canoe then have the gall to post about how they’re doing just what they were going to do anyway, just without me!

Unfortunately my journey on the T turned into something all too reminiscent of Charlie’s, and I ended up getting off the green line a few miles away from where I thought I was headed, but after missing the LARP (and taking an explosive shit in the woods somewhere along the River Charles — damn you Taco Bell) I eventually found the right Denny’s, and met up with my friend, who I am incredibly thankful for giving me a place to spend the night and a chance to regroup and get a ticket to Albany for the morning…

The Reason I Owe You $11

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

After the church, I decided, kind of against Christian’s advice, that maybe I should go to the mysterious party after all.

(kind of related complaint: it is incredibly hard to buy beer in PA. You have to go to a beer distributor, and even then they won’t let you buy less than 24 at a time. Whatever, I thought, I’d just have some to share. And get absolutely hammered besides.)

So Christian drops me off there, at the Budd Building, somewhere in a bleak, industrial part of the city. I can’t help but think I’m in the absolute wrong place. It’s that same kind of post-industrial foreboding atmosphere as Palahniuk’s Wilmington, or Coppola’s Brooklyn. I’m actually surprised when the person behind the mystery phone actually answers, and shows me the way in. The party itself is on the top floor of the warehouse, and about as far from the street as one could get, looking out onto some roofs and a courtyard.

I don’t recognize many of the guests at first, but they all seem to know me. Of course they would – my face had been plastered on the Memester page enough times, and here I was in his city, quite possibly in his presence. As they introduced themselves I started to realize I knew a few of them as the trolls who were giving me so much trouble last year, but at least this one night we all seemed to get along, pissing the night away around a bum fire in an abandoned factory while police helicopters buzzed around looking for something that wasn’t us.

Somewhere around 1am the party started to break up, and (of course) the people I was supposed to spend the night with were nowhere to be found anymore, and people were going on about taking me to Delaware, which didn’t quite seem right. As I should have expected, I was well too far gone to make any reasonable decisions, but I followed people to a nightclub downtown that I’m not sure any of us really wanted to go to, but it was a place, and there were things there, and maybe friends. And far too many people, and shitty music. We would have walked right out right then if we didn’t have to pay a $15 cover charge no one told us about.

I don’t really have any idea what happened next. Apparently I left the club – next thing I knew it was 8.30am, and I was on the floor of some girl’s bedroom, laying on a pink shaggy rug as two cats woke me up playing “king of my face”. She wasn’t even home, and I didn’t have any clue where I was, but I figured I should get out of the house and, as it turns out, back to Philadelphia, considering I had somehow made it all the way to New Castle, Delaware with no recollection of when or how.

By this time I was lost and late, but I still wanted to try to meet up with Brendan and explore the rest of where we partied last night. I found my way there, and they said they were driving all over looking for a Wawa for breakfast. So I asked them to bring me something too, and they got me a bagel, which didn’t seem like any big deal at the time, and for me to pay for their gas to come meet me there and drive me back to the train station, which I parted with $20.

And once that was settled (ish) we explored the Packard Plant’s east coast cousin, Budd.

Well, I explored it, while Higgins and Ray looked for shit they could steal and sell.

This is an awful picture, but I’m pretty sure this was the party room, and the fire was in that basin sink thing.

And I think these are the stairs I fell down drunk on the way out.

I left Philly thinking everything turned out right in the end, and I’d be likely to come back there eventually. But apparently they were just playing nice and actually think I’m mentally unstable and owe someone $11. Oh well. If anyone would have me back, I’d love to see more of Philly. And whoever it is who is missing $11, let me know and I’ll set that right too.

St. Melba’s Church

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Fuck It Tour, Philadelphia, Religious

After the asylum, my hosts introduced me to the legendary oasis of Wawa, then we continued on to South Philly to see a church, which I know almost nothing about, except that it’s in Philadelphia. That being said, it’s certainly better than any of the abandoned churches in Buffalo!

At least no one has ever done this to me… apparently I still have farther to fall into ignominy.

Every time I see an abandoned piano I want to play it… then I wonder if someone would hear the music and decide we were better off caught.

This is the kind of picture I never thought I’d see.

Hippo Campus

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Fuck It Tour, Institutional, Philadelphia

If the last few trips had unusual beginnings, this one was absolutely weird… starting on the bus ride home from Cincinnati, I began to get unsolicited calls from apparent explorers (caller ID blocked, of course) telling me to go to Philly next weekend for some mysterious UER party. Of course, this being the Fuck It Tour, I obliged; the goal, after all, has been to explore a new area every weekend, and meet new people, who might be part of my comeback, and whoever these strange characters were, it seemed as it might be in my best interest to meet them. Obviously they could be setting a trap, but I’d be more likely to trust people I didn’t know, than people I know, in the UE scene. So, to reduce the odds of getting screwed, I made conflicting plans, both in Philly, and decided I’d go with whoever showed up first, then regardless of what I did during the day, show up to the mystery party.

About an hour after I got to Philly, surprisingly, Christian and Melba actually showed up, and we decided on one of their favorite places, Embreeville State Hospital, or something about a hippo. I never saw any hippos there, must be the wrong time of year.

After what seemed like an impossibly long tunnel from the entrance, we emerged into the main (or perhaps only) building abandoned by the hospital, apparently a school for disabled or mentally unstable children.

I wonder if this is where the hippo used to be?

Someone tagged Kings Park up with “URBEX” all over everything. Here, they had the wonderful idea of putting “UER” in the middle of the wall, like it’s some gang tag or something. Which I guess it kind of is.

How the hell is this bathtub full? Did someone actually bring water in for a photo, since there isn’t any plumbing left…

…and then we noticed security starting to circle around and found our way back into the tunnel and out of here. But the fact remained, only a few months after I thought I’d never get to explore an asylum, this was my fifth in a year, and finally a place I’ve been that the UER types are going on about. Even if I never got the chance to ride the hippo.

Ohio Defiance

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

As angry as I was about Cincinnati and the missed meet, I knew I had to make something of it and give the reeking armpit of the United States a second chance. This time, with my friend actually in the area, and still having a list of places from the meet just a month ago, I thought maybe we’d be able to follow in their footsteps and at least get to see the same places, even if not actually at the meet. The reality was something entirely different though – one place after another that seemed to be promising was actually either well above my level, or well leveled and suddenly a pile of rubble. After lunch we FINALLY had one success, in a paper mill about half an hour out of Cincinnati.

Stay away from the brown acid!

It’s kind of unusual for there to be any of the finished product left in an abandoned factory. But this seems to be it, a giant roll of moldy cardstock or package stock ready to be sent off to the print shop

I found your car… and you thought I didn’t know where this would be? #VCXP3X

Unfortunately, this would be about all the success we’d have on this trip. Our next stop was a grain elevator that was a lot more intact last month when the meet was here… Like this, which used to be the stairway to the top.

Or this ladder, which was a disaster waiting to happen, about a second after I took this picture, the ice shattered.

This place just didn’t want to let me in, but yes, Jason, I know where this is too!

And this, with its fresh set of boards.

Our night explores were similarly dismal, as winter dumped its mixed bag onto us and we couldn’t get into Huedepohl (despite quite a bit of effort and some help from my friend, who can easily climb a fence), or the Bavarian Brewery (which would have required an incredibly sketchy 25 foot climb up a drain pipe). We couldn’t even get into any of the caves in Lexington, wandering around aimlessly for one and finding the other, full of water and treacherous ice.

So we got some beer and acid and wandered off into the woods, and forgot about the scene and the bullshit and humanity for a while, and everything was better.

We woke up much too late Sunday morning, just an hour before I had to be on a bus out of Cincinnati, as the trip took a turn toward the Amazing Race. We ran out of gas on the 71 somewhere in Kentucky, and managed to reach a gas station on momentum and fumes, and when we finally found our way to the station, I made it onto the bus by about 15 seconds! So maybe I have some exploring luck left…

Just after I left Cincinnati, the bus stopped at a truckstop with a Skyline Chili right next to it. The Internet is right. Cincinnati “chili”, shitpuke in a bowl, on top of spaghetti, truly is worse than getting hit by a car, for certain cars and certain bowls of “chili”. Let this be your warning. AVOID AVOID AVOID. 0/10 will not try again.