Monday, March 28, 2016


Back when I was a Taxi Driver I found this space completely by accident. This is the old abandoned Iron works. It goes on for acres and acres. Once upon a time, Joliet was known as the city of stone and steel. Many of those once glorious and state of the art mills and factories are now closed and abandoned like this one.

One night we had a major thunderstorm and the seemingly unthinkable happened. The 2 way radios went out and half of Joliet lost power. I looked at my phone and found out there were tornadoes nearby. Lost in the dark with pouring rain and only frequent lightning to show me a path I got turned around in the dark.

I was on a gravel path with no clue where the hell I was and the wind was picking up. It was raining sideways. I was scared. I could not see it, but I could hear a tree fall not too far away from me. In the dark I saw a open warehouse door? Yes, it sure was! I turned into it. Suddenly the headlights were working and my wipers were no longer needed. I was inside an abandoned warehouse. The one in this picture. 

But it was not abandoned. Scared and huddled eyes could be seen in the headlights. They were the homeless. The homeless that could not get shelter in one of the many homeless shelters. Most of the time when that happens, they are either criminals, violent, suffer from emotional disorders, underage or a mixture of a few of the above. 

There were about a dozen of them, doing the very same thing I was. Seeking shelter from the storm that raged outside. With eyes upon me I opened the car door and slowly got out. I saw a few shrink back and one elderly black man with a white beard advance on me with a broken bottle in his hand. 

"Whoa, whoa whoa, old man," I said calmly and firmly with palms out in a sign of peace,"I ain't gonna hurt you and you ain't gonna hurt me. Okay?"

"What you doing here?" He screamed waving the broken bottle.

"Same as you," I replied, "trying to stay out of that storm."

"How did you get in here?" he demanded.

"I don't know," I said. "I don't even know where I am. All I know is I'm in an abandoned warehouse."

"Abandoned!" He laughed,"First sensible thing you said. Yeah, it's abandoned. We all abandoned. That makes you abandoned. We all abandoned. You got a smoke, son?"

"You put down that bottle, I got a square for ya."

He put down the bottle and I gave him a cigarette and lit it. I often kept a case of water in my trunk and this was one of those nights. Some of the others gathered around my taxi and we smoked cigarettes and drank bottled water while the storm raged on. One of them passed a bottle of clear liquid. I was offered some. I am not sure, but I may have taken a sip of gasoline. It was the worst home brewed liquor I ever tasted. 

We never exchanged names, we did not share our life stories. We mostly sat in silence watching the storm rage on. The storm passed and the radio came back on and I could see lights not too far away. I got back in my taxi and as I did the old man yelled after me,"You one of us now. You abandoned. We all abandoned together. You one of us." and then he laughed until he hacked and continued laughing anyway. 

Until just now, I never told a soul about how I rode out that storm or where I was. 

Often we feel abandoned and run down. Like the warehouse, we may feel good for nothing other than to be victims of random acts of vandalism further diminishing our worth and value. We may be like the homeless lives with no shelter, even from those spaces promising shelter in the name of a once homeless god. 

But in the midst of life's most violent storms, we the abandoned can sometimes find shelter in each other and an acceptance that needs no words...because we understand and are understood. In those moments, we realize that we can be alone together and we are abandoned together. Which makes us no longer alone or abandoned. It makes us beautiful survivors who understand the honesty and beauty of our shared existence. 

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