Vacant New Jersey

Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital

Status: Region: Type: Gallery:
Restored New Jersey Hospital 45 Photos

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The eyes of a city are many, looking everywhere but seeing nothing. It took me years to realize this, years of sneaking around, worrying about who might have saw what, or who would notice, or look up, or care. I would stay away from the cities, I feared the humans, all the watchful eyes; but I did not yet understand. I limited myself to adventures in suburbia, a landscape of trees, mountains, malls, fast-food, and asphalt. But along the distant horizon, existing as a grey silhouette of jagged edges just before the sky folds into the land, the city taunts. I admired its infrastructure and built environment; the skyscrapers, trains, bridges, tunnels, railroads, graffiti, noises, sirens, smells, rivers, crowded streets. The constant movement of everything within seems to defy physics, flowing in harmony and chaos all at once. Occasional misadventures into the cities only worked to strengthen such an infatuation with the concrete jungle. Yet still I felt fear there, as if I was always being watched, the people of the cities were too many and always about, I didn't like them one bit. Far too many potential walking conversational time bombs I hadn't a single bit of interest upon sparking up.

So for years I remained content with exploring suburbia, the adventures were plentiful and the amount of people seemingly limited and certainly manageable, all cooped up in cubicles during the day and in houses at night. During the weekends the people would emerge like a cloud of thirsty mosquitos after a summer rainstorm, searching for the fresh blood of entertainment, any stimulus for which to suck the life out of in order to fulfill an appetite spoiled by the monotony of the work week. Fortunately, like any common pest, with a hint of disregard they could generally be ignored. This predictable timetable of suburban human emergence greatly appealed to me, and it so became the environment I felt comfortable within. But with time I found myself growing ever anxious of the same tired explorations into the suburban landscape. The game of adventure here became too predictable, too easy, no fear, no challenge.

Sneaking into the abandoned insane asylums, industrial waste lands, or forgotten farmhouses obscured by trees and foliage in suburbia New Jersey became just as little of a rush as it turned out to be in suburban New York or in the rural sticks of Pennsylvania. Sure, with each new location explored comes a change of architecture, a new perspective, a different internal environment, all still however fundamentally characterized by a lack of fear, a fear suppressed by comfort zones I refused to step out from. I had mastered being sly, flying under the radar and thus the more comfortable I felt exploring and sneaking into places regardless of the location the more boring the adventure eventually came to exist and the less interest I had in fulfilling my quickly fading curiosities.

Despite being able to avoid the pests of suburbia rather efficiently, days still passed where I'd find myself trapped in unwanted conversation. If I became bitten I could do nothing but ignore and pretend to engage, despite wanting to swat away. I'd act as if I was truly interested in how nice the weather was, or what my plans for the weekend were, or how my day went, or how I'm doing, or any other such trivial gossip to pass the awkwardness of two like-beings coming into contact with one another, having to say something for the sake of trying to appear normal. Upon breaking conversation the discomfort would not subside, no, a wound, a side effect of small talk would swell up into an itchy bump which need be incessantly scratched to mask the rising discomfort. At times the itch became mental and unable to scratch my brain, I discovered only facing fear could alleviate such irritation. And so I found myself ever encroaching the boundaries of that distant silhouette. I began to notice at night how the outline glowed and the sky above illuminated with a tantalizing draw. I began to feel like the thirsty pests around me, drawn to the city lights in the distance. Suppressed desires to climb skyscrapers, scale bridges, dodge trains, crawl through tunnels, write on walls all started to surface, existing as a new and exciting medium for adventure. But still the people, all the damn people, if only they'd disappear for I yet feared their abundance, their watchful eyes and wordy mouths. But the more I became bitten in suburban culture the more appealing the cities came to exist, if only for its ability to heal the itch through facing the new environments and the uncertainties, the fast pace, copious amounts of people, fears.

Standing on the roof, shoes glued within a pool of sticky sun baked tar, I gazed over the edge, looked down at the city-scape around. The people of the city below do not care. With so much stimulation abound there is no need to constantly feed off everything and everyone you come into contact with. There is no reason to look up nor straight ahead. Instead you look down, eyes to the ground. There is only desire follow your feet, wherever they may bring you. Everyone is always moving within the city, a flow of people, all sort-of lost together. The people of the city lifestyle seem more human than pest, for to walk right on by them with eyes down is the norm, no need for a silly conversation starter nor even a hello. But to also look up and gaze at the environment around, the skyscrapers, bridges, buildings, is not forsaken, rather just mostly unnoticed, perhaps a bit peculiar in a crowd, for the millions of eyes around are glued to the sidewalk, difficult to pry. Upon this newfound discovery, I began too understand the cities as playground. The dusty suburban game of adventure was reborn, because in the city the game is new, it's exciting, challenging, high, deep, and full of scary human obstacles to soothe the itch. In the city everyone looks but few see, all too busy passing on by.