Friday, April 21, 2006

Coppers, Sprained Ankles, and Tetanus

I did street outreach in abandoned buildings yesterday. This used to be my thing! I realize that after being pretty much a desk jockey for the last year and a half (the desk jockey thing came from a taunting by another outreach person who noticed my new shortcomings), I've lost my street chops.

I was really excited, but also a little anxious because I knew the amount of work piled on my desk. Can I really use this time for outreach? If I enjoy it this much, is it work?

The second spot we hit was the "Lost City", where I sprained my ankle jumping over a trench of green goo. I played it off that it didn't hurt, but it's a little swollen and pretty sore.

Most of the action happened in the first building, an old brewery that I shall not name (mostly because it's SO FREAKIN' cool that every person that reads this will go running through it...and it's really not all that safe).

We got in by rolling under a fence that held a No Trespassing sign. These have never stopped us before. Especially not now, one of the agencies present has a contract with the city of St. Louis...we were confident we could talk our way out of any trouble that came our way (ie. police).

The inside was dark and creepy, and also beautiful. Old staircases wound overhead with too many steps missing for us to climb. We found a back staircase and headed up. There wasn't as much graffiti as we expected being this was a prime squatters spot.

My first indication that I was out of street shape was that it was harder to navigate broken steps and walkways. I had a hard time getting up a board and actually cut my hand on the nastiest, most corroded, rustiest sharp thing ever (I went in today and got a tetanus shot since it had been 15 years or more). Since I take Aspirin to thin my high cholesterol blood, I bled the rest of the time.

Then we got to the top floor and I went to look out...and who should be staring up at me? An officer in a patrol car...parked across from the marked outreach van. I'm sure they suspected we were in there after seeing the van. I jumped back and reported my find.

New mission: find a back way out so we don't get arrested (note: initially, we were all cocky about talking our way out. After seeing an actual threat we all agreed getting arrested was a real thing). We backtracked, wound through the mazing beast of urban decay. I began trying to pry open a back exit. P suggested it wasn't the best way to get out...if we were caught, we weren't just in trouble for trespassing, then we'd have damaged property. Good call.

Finally, we came back around to the original entrance. I tried to peek out. I couldn't get around far enough. P went to the next floor down and craned his neck upwards. Too short. He built a little platform out of bricks that were strewn about (a little too neat and OCDish for the situation we were in). Not tall enough. I told him to go higher. Still too short.

And then he said what I knew all along..."This is just like the RV. I say we walk out". For anyone that read my blog entry on getting stuck on top of the RV...this same character was with me both then and in the building. This time we'd dragged an MSW/JD student from WashU into our mess.

When we were stuck on the RV, he eventually went down the front and we were embarassed to realize that it was really easy. So now, in this building which was symbolic of the RV situation...he walked out the door and into the sunlight. The student and I followed him.

The police were gone.

(I did not take the above photos. I got them online, but I chose them because they really closely resemble where we were.)


Blogger elanflux said...

O-Kay, listen chic. This is what I want to do with you this summer! I am so amazingly jealous of you right now its sick! I was JUST talking about urban spelunking the other day, wishing I reason to go in and a partner to do it with, too scared to go at it alone. I know that is not the main objective, but it's a perk I want to be involved in! I know I'll probably just answer phones, which is still satisfying, but I want to actually help, in person, on the streets and in these beautifully decrepit buildings that hold so much mystery and misery.

3:27 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home