Where The Stores Are All Closed

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Gary, Industrial, Residential

[continued from part 5]

Just like everywhere else in Gary, all it took was a quick look around the block to find yet more places to explore. Above and next to the theater there were more storefront-type places that weren’t all that interesting on their own, but did still have a few products left, and this idyllic mural — could this have been Gary in its early days?

There isn’t much of a village left here, but who knows, maybe Gary will rise again someday…

I didn’t have to go far to find still more abandonment, this time an entire block of storefronts and factories that seem to have met their fate quite a while ago.

These buildings surrendered most of their front walls to the sidewalk, literally wide open to explorers and the elements. Someone, though, left helpful hints through them of where there were danger zones or holes (most of which led straight into collapsed, flooded basements)

Behind this, headed back toward Broadway again, the entrance to the Coronet store, one of far too many abandoned retail relics, presented itself, along with a reminder that we weren’t quite in Illinois.

Even for an abandoned building, Coronet was a disaster, ravaged, it seems, as much by fire as the water it took to put the fire out.

We took a try at a school on the east side but this opening wasn’t going to do it for me…

[continued in part 7]

The Aristocrats

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Gary, Industrial, Residential

The environment for exploring here is truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen… we saw this building from the roof of the Methodist Church and thought it looked interesting, so we walked down 6th street toward it. A local saw us and our cameras and, instead of being suspicious or avaricious, asked us if we were going to see “the Aristocrats”. I said, maybe — we didn’t know where they were — and he told us that it was the abandoned hotel we saw, and that it was once the residence of U.S. Steel executives when they spent time in Gary, before being made into apartments and finally abandoned in the 90s.

(Upon further research, this wasn’t quite right. This building was actually called the Ambassador, and the US Steel executives actually stayed at Mahencia, a few blocks further down 6th Street. But it was the thought that counts!)

It’s not exactly in the best shape anymore. The stairs were, to put it kindly, an adventure, finding some with enough steps intact to even get to the upper floors.

Not going to the roof. Nope. Nope.

Overall, it was a pretty trashed place, and a total asbestosfest, but quite a big building for a surprise discovery… from there, we got back on our intended course through the “buffet line” of Broadway, to the old Post Office. Like most of Gary so far, it’s a cliché destination, but who gives a damn? We aren’t trying to compete with anyone, just to see as much as we can in one weekend.

I have to wonder what the architect was thinking having offices connected by this impossibly narrow corridor?

Actually not much made sense about this building at all. I can’t even guess what this room might have been.

Oh look! We found the morgue!

(continued in part 4)

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!

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.

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.

Fluid Dynamics 204

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

And, just a week after Staten Island, the chance came again! Two noted explorers this time, the legendary NAN, and Buffalo’s Zephyr, both active UERers who I’m sure just met up with me to be nice, but still made a good afternoon of it. One of the rules we’d agreed on, which I respect from these people, is that we could only go to places that I’ve already been to, so I wouldn’t release any information on account of them, and so we’d know in advance that they would be places I could get into. With both of them already having had their fill of Buffalo (and me not knowing about the best spots in town, apparently,) we decided on Niagara Falls and the Tesla power plant, which has always been one of my favorites since coincidentally discovering it a few summers ago while lost in the area.

This place never gets old.

After that, we tried to get into the abandoned Fallsview Hotel (which I was at once a couple of summers ago), but there wasn’t any way to get in at my level, and I kind of thought one of the cars going round and round the block was a bit suspicious. Neither of them were particularly happy that we didn’t get in, especially with a window 5 feet up and wide open, but I tried my best to hide that I was afraid to try (and especially afraid to fail at) climbing in. So they decided we’d go to Lockport instead, and go to whatever was left of Flintkote. There was a fresh new fence with some barbed wire around two sides of the place, but the rest was wide open at least.

The whole ride back home was an hour and a half long interview from Nan. Neither of us could fit a minute of silence in edgewise, as soon as I finished what I had to say there’d be another question. Almost like a therapy session or something. I didn’t really mind, but I feel like I ought to mention this, considering that she blocked me yesterday for “talking too much”. Meh. Seemed like a good enough trip to me.