It was an area left to its own devices.  Rotting pilings, collapsing piers, concrete and fennel, warehouses left to the realms of rust and graffiti, the broken window, the gray heron.  On the bay side, sunny when the rest of the city was shrouded in fog, massive dry docks, power co-generation, an electrical substation for much of the city.  There were artist's studios tucked into crumbling century-old warehouses and galleries to which no one ever came, all the more hip for their delicate and rare, off-the-map obscurity.

Into this industrial and derelict labyrinth they made their way, roared actually, though the metaphor is not exactly apt, since the chopper carried two carefully reverent persons, parishioners in the church of rust and decay and broken concrete.

A new chain link gate, ridiculously high, topped with razorwire blocked the sea and its civic-designated dangers from the curious.  And from the dozens of fishermen, Asian and Central American men, who pulled fish out of the heavy metal waters of the bay.

But fences, old ones, chain link ones, ones that protect us from ourselves are always porous.  The trainyard, the abandoned factory; there are always holes worked into the fences, clever and person-sized holes behind bushes and worried into the seams and corners.  This one was no exception and Bay and Rico set about undaunted and laughing to pour themselves through this barrier into the sea.

An unlocked gate.  A fence flap secured with a single twist of baling wire.  The sea.  And endless armful of bay with surprisingly clear waters breaking gently over colorful gravel and concrete.  "There's always a way," says Rico.

"I stopped growing at age eleven," says Bay, folding and unfolding herself through the cut in the chain link.

"Six foot in, what is that, fifth grade?"  Couldn't have made the awkward years of junior high easier."

"Six one.  No.  Where are we going?"

"A place I've been.  Maybe a year ago though last.  It was easier.  Fishermen.  They come out here."

They walk to the end of a short pier and through the railing of another fence and then around clinging to a concrete ledge, back toward the shore, but on the other side of the fence now.

A long concrete pier far out into the bay is across a broad channel of water in the direction they are moving.  The pilings have rotted beneath, dunking a portion of the pier.  This section lies catywumpus at a forty-five degree angle, waves lapping freely at one edge.  It challenges everything we know about civic institutions.  It is precisely rotated forty-five degrees from okay, neither horizontal nor vertical, precarious and deadly looking.  A rusty piece of half inch rebar or four inch welded wire holding it in place maybe.  Perhaps nothing.  Waiting.  The weight of a person, two people maybe, making the difference.  The collapse of a ten ton slap of steel reinforced concrete into the bay.  There are already large portions of the old pier that are tellingly absent.

"Are we going there?" Bay gestures.

"Maybe.  You wanna?  Beautiful.  Goes all the way out there."


"We are motha fuckin' intrepid.  We are intrepid motha fuckers."  Rico leaps down to the debris strewn shore of the channel.  "This is like 90% rust," he says standing on a red and flaky shape, once part of a ship maybe, now part of the beach, solidly embedded.  Rico leaps from bulky shape to shape, alive in the feeling of muscles, childhood leaps from rock to rock on a rugged shore.  "No, maybe 100% rust.  What the fuck?  What is beneath here?"  Bay jumps down to the shore.

The smell of the sea, aging seaweed, salt tang, an unidentified base note beneath the surface.  Later when they hug, Bay says, "You smell like sunshine." Rico doesn't know what she smells like. "You smell like, I don't know, you.  Perfect."  Spicy and warm and slightly sweet.

"Evan has no sense of smell," she says.  "Isn't that the most tragic thing you've ever heard?"

"Tragic.  He can't taste your food."  He can't smell you.

Across the channel and up a fallen piling to the beginning of the collapsed pier.  Through a fence and through a forest of fennel there is a warehouse over some distance of weedy concrete.  "Ah, there," says Rico.  There is a small hole cut in the fence just large enough for a small person.

"I come out here on a sunny day when I'm in the city.  Smoke a cigar.  Take off my shirt.  Though I used to be able to drive in and park there.

Bay is quiet, and Rico is self-conscious.  Always telling a story, talking into other people's silences, trying to ferret out their personal experiences by exposing his.  A long discovered magic, strength through vulnerability.  Courageous or compulsive.  One or the other.

Bay, this quietly charismatic woman with a razor sharp intelligence behind big, liquid eyes.  Seeing everything, watching, ever moving.  A blur.  Quiet?  No, not really, but right now shy, perhaps.  Or observing.  Economical maybe, with just nothing to say in this moment.  A place Rico, never lacking in words his whole life, finds himself with increasing frequency.  Four decades and now he finds there are moments in which there is nothing that needs to be said.

Perhaps these moments were always there.  This embarrasses him.

Rico wiggles through the hole in the fence.  This big man squeezing through a little hole, turning his shoulders as he goes through feet first so they fit.  Care taken with cut wire ends.  "Reminds me of caving," he says.  He reaches through and offers to take her bag which he does.  Bay wiggles through, a tall lanky woman, with relative grace.

"It's beautiful," says Bay approaching the warehouse.  "Graffiti.  Broken windows."  She looks up, around.  Nearly every window is broken out, but not every one.  How is it some have survived how many years of rock throwers?

"You've been here before," Bay looks at Rico with those deep blue eyes.  Soft blue with a rim of dark around the iris.  An open smile.

"On sunny days," he says, "I've always been here alone."  He looks back trying to absorb this moment.  Her pant leg is torn, revealing a deep scratch.  She waves it off.  "These jeans have seen better days."

The warehouse is a cathedral.  A huge open airy space.  This is a church God would approve of, if he existed.  Floor to ceiling writing, pictures, names, scrawls all in bright colors.  Windows from here to the far away rafters.  Steel supports crisscross the walls.  Broken glass bejewels the floor everywhere.  Their feet make a hushed crunch.  Gutter diamonds.

"A swing!"

"A piano!"

Indeed both.  A rope swing hung from the high rafters, stories high.  A fucked up piano with many missing keys.  "Holy shit, this is cool," Rico runs with the swing and, kicking off a small skateboard ramp, takes off into the air.

Bay plays several out-of-tune notes.  Rico runs from the swing to the piano.  A little boy's excitement.  He plays an impromptu concert with sticks directly on the piano harp, more percussive than melodic.

Bay pulls herself up on the swing, sitting on the bit of broken piano tied to the end.  "Check it," she says swinging out into space.  She is beaming.  Light rays of joy spill out of her as she moves through the air.  A tanktop, bare arms with a hidden strength beneath the skin.  Rico gives her a big push, running beneath her.  She captures him with her legs as she swings back.

Rico climbs up a ladder into the rafters.  He swings down and runs to join Bay exploring the warehouse further.

She stands facing the sea.  Part of the warehouse has lost its metal siding and the bay comes right to the concrete foundation.  There are buildings, collapsed piers sunk in the water.  A lost world of Atlantis right here in the city.  Metal rooftops peaking from beneath the gentle waves.

The waters look so green and clear.  The  sunny day, the warm air.  Bay extends her hand and Rico takes it.  Or maybe it's the other way around. Not sure. 

[audio|bgcolor=#B8B29A]Night Ride - V101 - Urban Exploration - hour 1

[audio|bgcolor=#B8B29A]Night Ride - V101 - Urban Exploration - hour 2


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