February 6th, 2004

hat

Nick moves into the Armory

Nick's finally moved into the Armory, and we went to visit last night. Holy shit that place is crazy!


The Armory was a National Guard barracks/training unit up to the 1940's. I've been looking for info about it on the web and haven't found much. Apparently it was a hotspot of labor unrest at one point, with National Guardsmen ordered to shoot to kill agitating strikers. I'm not sure when the National Guard left (70's?), but up until last Sunday it was a huge, scary uninhabited fortress. Now it's a huge, scary inhabited fortress.


There's only one way in; all the other gates are bolted and alarmed. When Nick rolled up his gate to let us in, we saw a breathtaking scene. Huge, open area, the size of the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, soaring arches, totally dark except for two lone lightbulbs planted in the center of the square, and Nick's airstream (which looked quite like a spaceship). Check it out (click for full size):






That picture doesn't even do justice to how beautiful, eerie and solemn this tableau was. And it was just the main room, where the guardsmen mustered and marched. It could hold 5000 people easily.


After having a few drinks in the airstream, Nick took us for a tour of the building. I was super excited because I've always wondered what it was like inside. There are no bats or rats, as I'd expected.


Walking through the abandoned offices, stables, bathrooms, quarters, etc. was really akin to playing Silent Hill 2. The corridors had that same mysterious aged quality to them. It reminded me of the part especially in SH2 where you're walking through the abandoned civil war prison.


There are two stories below the main one, containing rooms that were big enough to hold olympic-sized swimming pools. In fact some of them were swimming pools. When you go to the very bottom, there's all these rooms with pumps. Did you know there's an estuary running underneath San Francisco? I swear! We saw it! I had no idea. The pumps turn on and off automatically at odd intervals, startling you if you're not used to it.


Keep in mind it's really dark in all these rooms, although there are lights that can be switched on if you know where the breakers are. Nick had his headlamp and he lent me a flashlight, and Cos and Az. walked between us.


It wasn't as dark on the floors above the main one, because ambient light filtered in through the cracked and boarded windows in different places. There were so many rooms; the Armory is 10x as big as you'd think looking at it from the outside.


We ended the night sitting on the bleachers overlooking the main court. It was very quiet; you could just barely make out the sounds of the city. It takes a special sort of character to live in an RV inside an abandoned fortress, but I think Nick is capable of pulling it off. The neighborhood is mostly home to crackheads and dealers, but it's not that dangerous if you keep your wits about you. And inside it's pretty safe because... well, it's a fortress.


Oh, and the rent? $1 a month.