: Max Action, Tourette's
Exploration : Max Action, Agent
It was the
third afternoon of Action Squad's "Saint Paul Vacancy
Tour." I'd obtained a list of the abandoned buildings
that were registered with the city of Saint Paul, entered
into a spreadsheet, and sorted it so that we could best concentrate
our efforts on commercial structures, rather than abandoned
info we had were addresses; no names, or indications of size
or purpose. Day one had focused on the buildings that had
been abandoned the longest. That solo trip had been cut short
when my car started overheating and I locked my keys in my
car while parked in downtown Saint Paul looking under the
Foxilla and I had checked out the remains of the previous
day's list, plus some more recently-vacated structures.
day, day three, Tourettes and I were hitting the final listing
of buildings that I thought might be of interest.
I almost blew off the place: it was a drab building, and it
seemed unlikely that we'd find a way in. By this point, I
was a bit fatigued from driving all over the city just to
look at what were mostly totally crappy places that would
not even have been all that interesting to get into when I
was 13 years old.
I was about
to drive off without even doing the obligatory "hop out
and walk all the way around looking for access points"
(with clipboard and pen in hand to look vaguely official),
when Tourettes pointed out the sign out front. Hmmm, the place
had been a bowling alley. This piqued my interest
always wondered what the machines look like that set up the
pins and return the bowling balls.
So, we parked
the car and started walking the perimeter, scanning for open
doors, climbing routes to the roof, unlocked windows, etc.
Nada. There was very little reason to be hopeful as we rounded
the corner to check out the final side of the building, which
featured only a set of metal doors.
just as has happened so many times before, the most obvious
route was the one left accessible; when I yanked on the door,
it pulled open grudgingly. Someone had done a half-assed job
of securing the door, by twisting some wire around the inside
handle and then twisting the other end around a pipe in the
ceiling several feet away. It wouldn't have kept an 8 year-old
child out, and it didn't keep us out, either.
became aware that I was standing in broad daylight in full
view of the busy street with the open door in my hand. Before
anyone could notice, we quickly slammed the door shut again
and nonchalantly strolled back to the car. Tourettes was kicking
herself for having made other plans for the evening, and I
was already excitedly planning to return that night, under
the cover of darkness.
Agent Wop and I parked the car near the bowling alley around
9 PM and walked toward the Hillcrest. As quickly as possible,
we popped the door open and slipped inside. When we turned
our lights on, we were greeted by a rather disappointing sight:
the interior space had been totally gutted. Exposed wiring,
concrete, and plumbing were the only things we could see in
the dusty, grey space around us.
Squad, of course, we quickly adjusted our expectations downward
and merrily started seeing what this new forbidden zone had
to offer. The discovery of a couple of heavy safes,
given the scant promise of such an empty place, was cause
for excitement and photographs.
A door led
through into a water-damaged hallway, which went to the right
and left. Right went to a locked glass exterior door, which
we were cautious not to shine our flashlights around for fear
of attracting unwanted attention. I led the way to the left,
and was the first through the door at the end, which had an
asbestos warning poster taped
the door, fully expecting more gutted, grey, open spaces
but instead laid eyes on a beautiful sight. The bowling alley
was intact! A long corridor with rows of lockers led off to
the left, toward the bowling area. The lanes were straight
ahead over a low dividing wall, from left to right. To the
right, a door marked "Employees
Only" drew me like a bug to a zapper, because I immediately
knew it had to lead into the mystery-shrouded pin-setting
opened easily, if creakily. We tried to keep our voices down
as we filed in, but it was tricky. There were so damn many
things to see and excitedly point out to the others
from the machines themselves, each as big as a compact car,
to the various objects that had been left behind. It appeared
that the owners had not taken anything with them when they
shuttered the place: there were tools, signs, bowling balls,
pins, and more every place we looked. The mood was one of
frantic and childlike joy, as we all scattered throughout
the long, narrow back room
to see as many new things as possible.
we exited the back room by crawling
out through the pin machines and into the bowling lanes,
which was pretty dang neat. The rest of the level proved just
as interesting: a bar, lounge,
shoe rental station, kitchen,
all dust-choked and ghostly, yet still almost
fully stocked, as though the alley was just forgotten one
night after a normal nightly closing.
were not boarded, so we were paranoid about someone noticing
our flashlights. The mood got a bit tense when we thought
we heard noises from the front of the building
someone coming in after us? We all stood frozen, ears straining,
lights turned off.
whispered "I swear I hear someone at the front door,"
and I quickly led the three of us, tiptoeing through the inky
blackness, toward the back-up plan route I'd mentally book-marked
earlier (I always try to have a "flight plan" in
mind in case we're discovered). It wasn't quite an escape,
but it would be a good hiding place that also allowed us to
see what the heck was really going on outside.
I'd noticed that a large storage and janitor's closet featured
a ladder leading up to a trapdoor, which was wide open. So
we crept out, trying to be quiet on the gravel. We couldn't
hear any cause for alarm, so I carefully walked over to each
of the roof's edges in turn, peeking over and half expecting
to see a squad car. But there wasn't anybody there; either
our ears were fucking with us, or it had just been the sounds
of a building settling.
So it was
back to exploring. Instead of making us more cautious, the
false alarm scare seemed to have the opposite effect. Re-emboldened
for no good reason, we relaxed a bit and even did a bit of
bowling, and we all had a small token drink from the bar (which
was still semi-stocked, with all the nastiest, cheapest booze
so much shit to see, it was overwhelming. A hulking big screen
TV. A small stage, complete
with PAs. A sound equipment room. Rows of bowling trophies.
Storage closets full of bowling
balls. Hundreds of lockers, many still with belongings
in them. Scores of old-style leather bowling shoes. Piles
of Hafner's drink tokens. Basically, almost everything you'd
find in an active bar/bowling alley combo. Wow.
our desire to try to see everything on the main floor was
overshadowed by our desire to find out what was down the stairs
we'd seen when we first got into the bowling alley area. So
out that our fun was just getting started
another full bowling alley down there, another pin machine
room (this one was flooded),
and another bar!
We had a
blast checking out the whole basement, but kept thinking we
heard noises from upstairs, which put us on edge.
to get that feeling
the one that tells me, "hey,
so far, so good ... but quit pushing your luck, and get outta
So as soon
as we'd seen everything, we headed back upstairs, killed our
lights, and slipped away into the night undetected, with the
huge, triumphant grins on our faces that only a successful
night of Action Squadding can provoke.