So, the reason for a whole new site, a new blog, a new path really. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First I need to write a little about what exactly I was doing that led to this.
Like I’ve written about before, in my old blog, I like to explore places. Usually it’s just driving around the backwoods of Mid-Maine, listening to music. Yep, I’m a country boy. But, if the conditions are right and I happen upon an interesting site, I’ll park my car and see what there is to see. Usually all that there is are the broken remains of Maine’s former mill industry. That’s not to say that there are no mills left up here but, they’re fewer in number and there are plenty of abandoned ones littering the Pine Tree State.
This didn’t involve any mills, though. I was down south a bit, rolling around Portland with an old buddy from high-school. We had hit a bar and were well into the reminiscing phase of our conversation when he had to take a dive and go back home to his girlfriend.
“It’s another beer with you and then the couch to sleep on or, I can head back now and ‘cuddle.’” were his parting words.
I wished him luck in his endeavor and left the bar feeling like I’d just been dumped.
So, plans dashed with some beer in my belly, I got to walking. Portland is a good town to tread on, saddle-shaped with half of it being downhill, there’s great views of the city and the coast from both hills and the people are an odd but friendly mix of young and old, left and right.
It was after leveling off my blood-alcohol content with a five dollar bottle of red wine—not bad either—that I found the place. The sky had turned too, only the warm vermilion wake of the sun remained. It was a dump, broken and blacked out windows caked thick with dust and doors welded shut; all of it wrapped tightly in grime covered brick. I think it was near Spring Street or Middle Street, not really sure, I didn’t get the best look at the street signs from my vantage point behind a dumpster.
Relieved, I continued to marvel at the building, pawing at the muddied bricks with their failing mortar. At that point, walking a straight line was a bit beyond me, still I think I would have passed as almost sober. I can remember that the night clubs and bars were just opening, the sound of them all flooding the air. Everything on the building was boarded up tight, at least on the street side and that first alley I had pissed in. On the darker side, though, I spied one of the windows, the sheet metal it had been secured with torn out of shape as if some beast had burst out of it. Drunk Henry thought, “I can climb up there.”
And climb drunk Henry did. I slipped a couple times and snagged my hand on the shorn edge of the sheet metal but, I got into the place. The soundscape of Portland died down immediately. The cars, the people, the drunk cackling that had just started up, all of it disappeared from my world. It was like being an astronaut. All that I could hear was what noise I could make and it all sounded far too loud in that space.
Not having planned this particular tour, my mini-mag was MIA but, my phone was charged enough to use it as a flashlight for a little while. Its light spilled out into that place, weakly pushing back a few shadows at a time, allowing me to see part of the building’s interior. It was dusty as fuck. To be expected, really.
I wasn’t the first one to have been in there. Plenty of prints were laying in the dust beneath my feet and, as always, there were loads of empty beer cans and bottles. I can remember imagining all of the teenage indiscretions that must have happened in that space. Why there, though? Really, it wasn’t a nice place. Maybe it was the alcohol eating away at my resolve but, even before my first steps into that buildings… I don’t know. I or, it felt wrong. Not very descriptive, I know but, it was just odd to me.
If I had to compare it to something, I guess it was most like the feeling I have during the climbing phase on a roller coaster. You know, feeling each inch ratcheting into position, eliciting only the worst ideas from your imagination.
Click, you’re stuck in place, no way out now.
Another click, all the more potential for mishap.
Another click, your body marinating in fear.
Another click and…release.
I was feeling the ‘clicks’ just standing there. Luckily some rat scurried near enough to hear, near enough to knock me out of my mind trip.
Like the outside, the interior was dumpy but, I bet during the day it looks pretty gnarly with single blades of light piercing through the broken windows and faulty ducts. The regular kind of bullshit graffiti littered the upstairs walls, tag signs and penises were splashed all over the place.
The ground floor was different, though. It looked less travelled; more dust, fewer footprints. It was also more well-made than the second floor, there was trim on the ceilings and finished wood for what cabinetry was apparently too heavy or out of style to remove when they had boarded the place up.
I think it might have been a half-built hotel. The upstairs was definitely never finished, with its bare wood and framing and lack of electrical work. There were odd rooms flanking the main entrance with what looked like a counter on the left side of it all. I don’t know, I’m no architect but, it looked kinda like a hotel entrance.
I tried to take a couple of shots with the camera on my phone but, they just aren’t worth the time to post on here. Even with the flash, all that was caught were curtains of inky black shadows occasionally cut by the dusty corner of some piece of furniture that became the object of the auto-focus’ desire. I wish I had brought my car there, my whole kit is always there. Maybe in a later post, I can revisit the place properly prepared.
The basement looked like it hadn’t been seen in a long time. It was also really cold. I know it’s April in Maine but, still. That clicking feeling came back while I was on the stairs, every piece of me wanting to turn around but unable to do so. In that blackness I started to lose it, a bit. Kinda like I was weightless. I didn’t notice any footprints in the dust down there, apart from the ones I was laying down. The photos and the flashlight had eaten most of my phone’s battery life but, I figured a quick look around couldn’t hurt. It was a “finished” basement, with four rooms branching off of a central hallway. Remarkably, there was little clutter down there, no graffiti, no broken glass and only a couple of oddly placed items, like what looked like an ashtray in the middle of the hallway.
There were some hookups in one of the rooms, like power cords and water pipes, making me think it might have been a laundry room.
And now we get to it. My find. The only cool thing I’ve ever managed to pull from one of these “visits” of mine. The last room on the left must have been a records room, there were a bunch of old shelves, some empty boxes—half-eaten by rodents—remained between them.
My phone at this point had fallen into power saving mode, I definitely didn’t want to get stuck in some abandoned basement without having told anyone where and when I was going; I’ve watched 127 Hours and I didn’t want to reenact anything from that misadventure. I turned around and almost immediately tripped on a box, my phone went flying as if it were pulled from my hand and I landed kinda hard onto some of the shelves.
I have to admit it, I panicked a little bit laying there drowning in those shadows with pain shooting up my arm from where I caught myself; I didn’t really know what had just happened. That more animal part of my mind kicked into gear and I figured I had been ambushed by an animal, by a bum, by whatever might have been living in there.
Quickly I fumbled for my phone, crawling across the room, openly cursing at myself. The battery was super low, I remember seeing it on four percent. I just grabbed it and the small box I had tripped over. The box had some weight to it and I wanted to see what was inside.
My phone died before I made it out of there but, at least I was already on the stairs to the second floor when it shut down. When I was finally outside again it was quiet, really quiet. Without my phone to work with I don’t know what time it was but, it felt like it was really late, like two or three in the morning. It sure hadn’t felt like I’d been in there for that long but, the party scene was already dying down in the streets of Portland.
With half the moon and a nearby piss-yellow streetlamp as my light sources, I opened the box. Right then and there, all I saw were musty old papers. Some of them looked really well preserved, others had definitely been put through the ringer. There were some that had obviously been torn and put back together using tape and others that were blacked out by a thick marker.
What I could see though, even in that light was that these papers had meant something. Each and every single one of them held a State Seal.
I’m posting this now before it gets put on the back burner; I really don’t want work to get in the way of this. I’ll get you guys and gals some scanned shots of the paperwork when I have a chance to do that for you.
Fingers crossed that this stuff is as interesting as I feel it must be.