I wrote this piece as a guest blog, but it never got used... so I am posting it here now!
I get really excited about buildings.
Not just any building, though. I prefer a specific breed of building - typically the type that is so run down, entire sides of the building are missing, exposing it’s guts: inner framework protruding like ribs behind it’s crumbling, brick flesh. It’s skin is painted brightly with layers of colorful tags and graffiti from talented, budding artists surrounded by a silver guardian, a chain link fence, plastered with signs everywhere that read “NO TRESPASSING.” A warning that might deter some, but not me. If anyone points it out, suddenly, I can’t read.
I’ve been to so many of these buildings in my hometown, I’ve come to think of them as old friends. Like humans, they too change with time, aging as they weather the storms life throws.
Each building throws a different entry challenge at me. One requires a massive climb vertically up the side of a building, terrifying everyone who joins me on the trek, giving reason to wonder if I’ve lead them to their death. Up is only the beginning of the challenge: the descent scares me every time too, no matter how many times I’ve made it safely down. I still feel my heart drop into the pit of my stomach as I s t r e t c h out each limb to it’s max, snaking down the vertical make-shift ladder, praying that this time won’t be the time I fall to my death.
One building entry demands a long walk through a park, across a train track, through a bush and a slight ducking through what might have once been a brick garage of some sort - or maybe it was an outhouse? The place is so run down, you can let your imagination run wild with possibilities as to what the original purpose for each structure was. Yet another entry requires a quick duck under a fence during a break in the cars going by on a busy street and another building requires squeezing through a tiny hole in a wall (Being small has major perks such as this.).
A lot of significant memories I carry have come from visits with these run-down, brick friends. I’ve watched a guy film his rap music video atop one building rooftop at 6:30am as I photographed the sunrise. One building received a rock sculpture from me on its rooftop, signifying my undying love for my city. I’ve laid on top of a cement pillar you have to jump across a hole to get onto and watched the stars for hours with someone I adored, possibly even sighting a UFO flying over Earth. I’ve sung my lungs out with a small chorus of friends, creating the most beautiful sounding rendition of Amazing Grace possibly ever… there’s a 15 second clip of that someplace, but, being there, completely enveloped in the sound, was better than any recording could ever capture. I’ve watched the sunset from one of the rooftops with my best of friends, silently wishing my city goodbye just days before I moved 2,000 miles away.
There is something so special about laying on a rooftop like that, staring at the stars, knowing you are at a place where no one can find you to bother you and you feel free letting whatever you want to talk about tumble out of your mouth. I can sing out loud as I possibly can and no one will know or hear me unless I invite them along for this adventure.
I’ve created secret places out of these buildings that I like to share with special people. I have to be honest: my name is tagged at a few of these buildings...I felt the need to make my claim.
To many, these buildings are featured along their daily commute to work, but curiosity has not convinced them to go sneak a visit. Ever have that urge to visit a place or building seemingly calling out to you? Follow through with that urge; go visit! Once, I photographed a project in an old, abandoned bus station one day, and the very next day, that building was completely torn down, reduced to a useless pile of rubble. I’m glad I listened to the call of curiosity that day. I could have missed that opportunity!
I’ve learned recently that while I’ve been away, one of my dear building friends was demolished to make room for new plans and progress. I have mourned these buildings I have lost. Not just because it feels like losing someone I knew well, but because the building being torn down is a tangible example of my city and the friends in that city changing with or without me present. Change can be scary or even sad. But change isn’t always bad. Sometimes, change is a reminder to treasure what was.
My beloved buildings have been the backdrop for many adventures and wonderful memories for me. Regardless of if my brick beauties are reduced to dust or remain standing for years more, I have collected memories of many happy times, many times of reflection, times of tearful confessions, times of flirting and giggling under the watchful moon, times of joyful dancing, playful banter and singing into the dark with wild, open abandon.