Leah and I are the first people to live in our apartment, building constructed circa 1898. Where we now eat, read, and pretend we have a dog was at its height America’s largest flannel mill. I love the character of the place; there are ceiling fans on tracks, which used to zip around and blow lint off of machines, there are chutes and doors in second and third floor walls, which Leah and I have luckily never fallen out of, and it’s all brick and hardwood floors. New walls have been fitted around older wooden beams and the rooms are small, but each one is unique, and the eighteen foot ceilings open everything up nicely.
The residential side has about 150 apartments. On the other side of the complex are the businesses, and there isn’t much rhyme or reason to who sets up shop—there are insurance offices, doctor’s offices, lawyers, interior designers, a seamstress (where Leah got her wedding dress fitted), a t-shirt designer, a video game company, a fish tank light maker, an urn manufacturer, a high school rowing gym, and wedding grounds. The bottom floor has art galleries, and outside there’s a pizzeria, where certain people spend too much time—Leah and I have a little “Cheers” action going on—and a brewery.
But enough of that overview. So I’m… inquisitive, and one month when a friend was visiting we allegedly explored underneath the complex. Half of it sits on concrete pilings over a creek, and I just happened to have water shoes (which my parents bought at a garage sale for seventy-five cents—thanks Mom and Dad). In our exploration we allegedly found a bunch of old glass Coca-Coca bottles, mud, and a raccoon, so a pretty sweet deal. But more importantly, we found, allegedly, an unexplored basement which we could see, allegedly, via a tiny window which was at the top of a metal ladder allegedly set into one of the building’s pilings.
That secret basement got filed (allegedly) away in my mind. Now fast forward to when Leah is taking a shower one night—a night ripe for exploration. You can get almost anywhere in the mill currently because it is still under construction. New walls are constantly going up, and one last, un-renovated building is supposed to become a hotel. So people can sneak through different construction zones to get to said basements, though those same people get nervous that some of the newly constructed doors might lock behind him. So sneaky people set bricks in doors to keep them open, lest they get trapped in an obscure place where they have no business being.
To make a long story short, open doors trip silent alarms. Getting chewed out by a security guard in the middle of the night is much better than having charges pressed against you, though worse than having a good-humored wife who wonders where you’ve been and then thinks you getting caught is hilarious. And that might be the story of why Leah and I are on a first name basis with the security staff. They’re nice people—in fact everyone who works in the mill is nice and we even had our pre-wedding dinner here. But are the people who run the sister renovated mill complex in nearby Winston-Salem as nice? Hopefully we’ll find out soon.
–Jeff and Leah