Fatoush Sessions @ Gateway Community Hospital, East St. Louis

Over the summer, I’ve picked up the hobby of finding and exploring abandoned and new (to me) spaces around town, inc., so far, the Powell Square Building, Times Beach, Carondelet Coke and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, New Town St. Charles. It’s not a particularly unknown hobby, generally; plenty of folks around STL engage in it, writing and photographing about abandonment well.

Yesterday, Steve Smith and I accessed the old Gateway Community Hospital in East St. Louis, located at 16th and MLK, south of downtown ESL. We combed the four-story structure, finding everything from records rooms – teeming with moldy paperwork – to the maternity ward and its whimsical wall-paintings. Never quite located the elusive operating rooms, but did come across the physical plant, plenty of nurses’ stations and, best of all, the rooftop, with its abundant view of nearby ESL and the hazy STL skyline.

Joining us a bit later – delayed by an MIA band member and my own badly-given directions – were Eric Hall and Jeremy Brantlinger, who perform and record as the duo Fatoush; originally, it was to be Peanuts, the two along with the missing Sadeeq Holmes. Armed with a boombox, small MP3 player, digital recorder, some night-sticks and not much else, the three of us bid farewall to busy businessman Smith and headed back up to the fourth floor of the hospital, where Hall and Brantlinger set up a recording lab amidst the rubble. Percussive beats rang through the halls and out into the courtyard; if I’d lived nearby, I’m sure I would’ve assumed a round of demolition was underway, or a particularly vibrant ghost attack was taking place.

Shooting some video and taking pics, I eventually put down cameras and began to clang on pipes and tile walls. It was fun and somehow very freeing.

Despite the fact that dozens, if not hundreds, of people surely died in this facility, there was a strange sense of calm in the place, though I confess that the fourth floor seemed to come alive during the recording session. Doors began to slam, wind was whipping scraps of torn wallpaper, a tootin’ train passed and birds (and one tough-as-nails, yellow cat) began to take flight.
As creative Wednesday afternoons go, this one was a keeper.

Video uploaded soon. Pics at flickr now. Clicky-click, at your leisure.