Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Forgot about Boston - Part 5 (Philly)

Ameris dropped me off at the train station, I couldn't wait to be on the move again. I was also excited to be getting out of NY. I like the state just fine but it seems a lot of the people are afraid, afraid of other people, afraid of their law enforcement, paranoid of anyone who doesn't look like they belong. I found the people in NY are too worried about what you are doing. I was told I shouldn't carry my respirator on my backpack because it makes me look like a terrorist, granted it is a full face industrial respirator, but still.....the thought never occurred to me.

So, full of glee to be going to Philly I boarded my train, but not before I took a cell shot of the bridge I was arrested on.

I made it to Philly and called my friend Dereck who was letting me crash on his couch for a few days. I hopped the right bus and was soon at his house. Dereck has been delving into his creative side with music lately. His "office" is a veritable cornucopia of knobs, sliders, petals, mics and instruments. You should check out what he does (Lostwars). That night Dereck and his awesome wife Rebecca took me out for mexican. On the way to the place we came across this dilapidated old church with attached rectory. Dereck and Rebecca mentioned the neighbors have been fighting with the old man that owns it for years. The old man and his wife inherited this property by some fluke and are trying to sell it for 1 Million dollars.......yes $1,000,000. I need to see this church!

After dinner and back at the house Dereck and I partake in a six pack or 2 and I get the great idea of going for a walk so I could scope out this church. With some gentle coaxing Dereck is willing to come. We get to the church and the main doors are locked up tight, I move to the rectory's front door, it's not even closed so I slip inside. I text Dereck to let him know I'm in, he had seen me and wants to come in too, He chooses the right moment and lets himself in. I did not come prepared for night exploring, all I had was my cellphone and wallet. With the flashlight app on my notaniPhone we poke around the place. The house looked as if someone was living in it, if it wasn't for the layers of dust and cobwebs on everything. The second floor consisted of 2 or 3 bedrooms, all of them with beds made up as if someone would be sleeping in them that night, one even had clothes laid out for the tomorrow that never came. I wish I had brought my camera so badly.

Finished exploring the house I realized I hadn't found an entrance to the church, rectory's are typically attached inside at some point. I frantically go through the small house looking for something I could have missed, maybe a tunnel in the basement?

"That's a loose step.....Dereck be careful"


"Are you ok?"
"ya I'm fine"

I got to the point where I was ready to move giant pieces of furniture in the living room to see if the door was barricaded. Dereck advised against this and suggested we head back home.

The next morning Dereck and I walk to Starbucks, I talk him into buying a G1 phone (referral bonus WOOT) and we go check out the church again. The caretaker is outside taking care of the property, that's what caretakers do by definition.....anyway, I stop him and ask if it's possible I could get some pictures of the inside of the church. He goes through some business of telling me that he doesn't want the pictures to stir up no drama for him and doesn't want the newspaper looking into him but sure I can shoot the church. I get all excited and run back to the house to get my gear. On the way back Dereck runs into another neighbor if his, apparently this guy is the one making all the drama about the church. Dereck tells him I'm going to shoot the church and the guy immediately starts in about how it's an eye sore in the neighborhood and they just wish someone would do something about it. I don't care for this guy at all and just go about doing my thing.

The nosy neighbor managed to nose his way into the church using me and Dereck, because of this the caretaker started to get all worried and asked us nicely to please leave. Later Dereck sent me an article about the church. The article mentions graffiti in the rectory but when I was there the place was untouched.

I spent the rest of the day looking for anyone who wanted to explore Philly with me. I wasn't able to get anyone to respond so decide I am going to hit Philly on my own the next day. I got a lead on an abandoned factory that had a tall roof and I knew I wanted to see the rooftop of Divine Lorraine, so with tazer in hand I hit the mean streets of Philly early the next day.

I found the factory with ease, and thanks to some careless squatters found the entrance with ease as well. When I got inside I realized that the building was full of people who where sleeping and probably living here. This became very apparent when I came to the 4th or 5th floor and found a guy and girl sitting around a crude table cooking some heroin in a spoon. They had spotted me so I quickly explained that I'm here to take pictures of the building and not them and that I wasn't here to start any trouble. They asked me if I had found the building on the internet, like on trainhoppers.com (not a real site). I let him know that a friend told me about it and that I was just going to head to the roof so as not to disturb anyone. He told me to be careful cause there's a crazy dude that lives there as well and he carries around a baseball bat and won't think twice about killing someone. I continue exploring through the floors, a little more cautious this time, till I make it to the roof, the only place worth seeing in this building.

While sitting up here enjoying the view I get a PM from Byberrian Fanman (forgot his real name). He says that he would like to go exploring with me. I let him know I'm heading over to Divine Lorraine and I would meet him inside, he said he would be there in about an hour. I made my way out of the factory and as I crossed the street I stopped to take a picture of the building on my cell phone.

An old lady notices this and mentions her grandmother used to work there as a seamstress. She seems nice so I tell her that it's just a shell of a building now and it's home of some of the saddest people I have come across in journeys, she shrugs her shoulders and tells me to have a good day.

It wasn't long before I could see the sign on top of Divine Lorraine that gave it away. The building itself is epic in it's design and prominence in the neighborhood. The area is so run down and obviously poor but in the middle of it stands what used to be home to some of the snobbiest richest socialites in Philly's history. I quickly case the perimeter and spot my entrance. On the inside I make my way to the first floor and quickly realize I am not alone. Not wanting to die and have no one know where I am I upload a geo-tagged photo of the lobby with the title

"if no one hears from me. I was jacked here. Divine Loraine"

This is the only shot I was able to get of the first floor. I came face to face with the others I had heard, they size me up while I position the tazer in my pocket. Our conversation went like this.

Me: "I'm only here to take pictures, I don't want no trouble"
Guy in front: "Ya it's cool man, go ahead"
Guy in back: "Nah wait up man! wait up"
Guy in front: "Nah man it's not worth it, we're cool, just go ahead and take your pictures"

This exchange made me uncomfortable so I quickly make my way upstairs. As I'm going through the floors I came to the realization that they where all stripped bare! There was nothing but bad concrete and 2x4's on each floor.

Some of the balconies in the middle where pretty cool though.

Finally I made my way to the roof.

I had been here for about an hour and still had not heard from Byberrian Fanman. I make my way off the roof and notice a smaller building attached by a fire escape in the back. I make my way in and find an extremely cluttered building. The place was stuffed with old bureaus, beds, chairs and wardrobes. I assume when they gutted the main building they put everything in here. Because of the clutter and boarded windows it was hard to get good shots in here. But I did find one lonely chair that needed my company.

Satisfied with my explore I make my way out and buy some lemonade and nuts from the bodega across the street and proceed to wait for Byberrian Fanman to get in touch with me. At some point I missed a call to my cell so I call the # back. I ask if someone called me from this # and the guy tells me some dorky white kid borrowed his phone a few minutes ago and left. He could offer me no other info, so I continue to wait. As I'm waiting a curious thing happened in front of me, 4 well dressed black kids and a large REALLY well dressed black man got out of an Escalade and started selling pies on the street. They never asked me if I wanted a pie, but I was extremely confused by this, I assume so was everyone else because they were not buying any pies. This went on for about 30 minutes and then they disappeared.

Byberrian Fanman finally arrived, he was given away by the fact that he and I where the only dorky white kids around, and he had a tripod with him. He was also carrying a broke ass mountain bike. Apparently his back rim decided to blow up while he was peddling over and this is why he was late. He had stopped to borrow someone's cell phone but was unable to get through to me. I let him know that I had finished Divine Lorraine and had no other sites I knew of, but I had spied a few schools from the roof. He advised they where not worth seeing and suggested we check out Pooley Furniture. I took his suggestion and we headed that way.

Pooley Furniture is the same factory every town has. A long tall empty building with concrete pillars tapered out at the top, floor to ceiling windows and nothing to see at all. I was able to get a few shots out of some of the vines growing throughout the building but otherwise was wholly unimpressed with the site.

On the plus side there was an antique bus in the basement but it was pitch dark and impossible to shoot. I said my farewell to Byberrian Fanman and thanked him for trying so hard to make it out and meet with me.

The next day I was shipping out to Harrisburg where I was going to meet with Lynn again. This time we where headed to Detroit for what would later be called Nanopex. Dereck dropped me off at the train station where I quickly realized it was Sept 11th! Cops and dogs where swarming the station. They had passenger's baggage neatly laid out in the middle of the station and the dogs where going to each one looking for something. Knowing that I had an hour to kill and a good amount of herbal medication on me I found a quiet corner and quickly busied myself on my cell phone to kill the time. I had no problems with the police this day.

All in all I like Philly. It's the only city where I had fears for my own safety, but only inside abandoned buildings. Everyone on the streets of Philly greeted me with a smile, regardless if I fit into that neighborhood or not. I would like to return soon to see more as I know I missed a great deal!

Next: Detroit

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