A secret home in the mall

A secret home in the mall

Some “artist”-types set up a secret apartment in an unused space of the parking garage at a mall in Providence and lived there off and on over the past four years.

Michael Townsend, 36, said he and seven other artists built the apartment in a 750-square-foot loft in the parking garage four years ago and lived there for up to three weeks at a time while documenting mall life.

The apartment included a sectional sofa and love seat, coffee and breakfast tables, chairs, lamps, rugs, paintings, a hutch filled with china, a waffle iron, TV and Sony Playstation 2 — although a burglar broke in and stole the Playstation last spring, Townsend said. The artists built a cinderblock wall and nondescript utility door to keep the loft hidden from the outside world.

Sounds similar to something I did years ago. Back in the late 80s, early 90s, after I dropped out of Boston University and before I went back to school, I worked at a factory that manufactured beverage dispensers. One of my primary workspaces was on the end of the production line where the machines were cleaned, prepped, and boxed up. In that area we had stacks and stacks of flattened cardboard boxes, thousands of them, in four-foot-square towers 30 feet high. There were many more boxes than the company would use in a year, which gives you some idea of how well-managed the company was. When we would get a new shipment of boxes, our crew would unload it, and in the midst of building up the giant stacks, someone surreptitiously would throw a spare pallet in, creating a void in the stacks. We called this “The Cave.”

The Cave was our little sanctuary, away from the prying eyes of our bosses, who were usually too busy working on their boat motors or bleeding a deer (yes, they did this once) to supervise us. We’d sneak off in shifts to take naps or just hang out and shoot the breeze. Many times, during the summer, someone would bring in some beers to stock The Cave. Once we even had a small TV and video game system.

Yes, we were overstaffed and underworked and I had much lower moral character then than I do now. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the company was bought out and everyone was laid off.

But there’s something in every boy/man that loves a secret space. If I ever build a home from scratch, it will have secret passageways. How could I not?

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
2 comments
  • But . . . in a MALL? 

    Is it just me, or wouldn’t most guys do almost anything to avoid a mall? 

    I mean, if it were in the deep recesses of Fenway, or in a brewery, I’d say “way to go!”

    But, in a Mall????

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