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Urban Explorer's Handbook 2006

Turn The Key



Everybody thinks the life of a reporter is one long series of amazing, exciting adventures. If you cover restaurants, you get to dine every night on scrumptious food at glorious places like Upstream or Dolce Ristorante Italiano. If you cover music, you spend your nights hanging out backstage with the likes of Andre 3000, Ryan Adams, Shakira or at least members of local bands the Talk and La Rúa. If you review movies, your days are a swirl of Spike Lee, Pedro Almodóvar, Martin Scorsese and Fernando Meirelles. And if you report the news, you're the brave souls who don fatigues and travel to the front lines of gangland while dodging bullets or cross the border in search of illegal immigrants and their wily coyotes.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The great adventures are few and far between. The restaurant writer spends as much time eating crap food at bad diners as she does sipping expensive wine with her gamberi alla griglia. The film reviewer has to suffer through as many lunkheaded action flicks as he does hip, art-house fare. And trust us, backstage at rock concerts is duller than watching bowling on an old black-and-white TV on a rainy day -- but a lot more pretentious. As for dodging bullets ... our reporters spend more time in excruciatingly slow city council meetings for one hot political story and copy down a million arrest reports for the six or seven best blotter items.

Still, we wouldn't trade our jobs for all the money in ... well, Gastonia. And we do get to see some things most folks are barred from. So this week we bring you our second annual Urban Explorer issue. Last year, we combed the coolest neighborhoods in Charlotte; this year, we're taking you to places you either can't get into without a press pass or you don't want to get into (but wouldn't mind getting a little peek of).

Some of our writers' favorites included looking down onto the stage at the new Children's Theatre from way up in the fly space; listening to an embalmer talk about watching dead people twitch; even taking a legitimately needed ride in an ambulance. What was it that Mick Jagger once sang? Oh yes: "If I could stick my pen in my heart,/spill it all over the stage/would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya/would you think the boy is strange?" Yeah, yeah, we know -- it's only rock & roll, but we like it.

And we know you do, too.

There were several places even our veteran reporters couldn't sneak into. When we asked to see the archives at the Mint Museum, the bigwigs there, apparently thinking they're running the Louvre, responded, "I'm sorry but we don't publicize anything pertaining to collections storage for security purposes," but added that they'd just love some publicity for their "new building/expansion plans instead." (Here you go.)

Did you know that Charlotte has its own trading floor -- just like on Wall Street? We didn't either. And we couldn't get into the place to show it to you. Finally, when we asked for a peek inside that big, beautiful pink building (aka, the Big Pink) on South Boulevard, developer Jim Gross just scoffed at us. "The press coverage on the color of the building has been unreasonable at best," Gross told us. "I think your magazine has also taken some pot shots at my building." (Gosh, we just called it beautiful, Mr., um, Gross.)

We know our CL team only skimmed the surface of places you'd like to get inside of in the Charlotte area, and we'd like to hear what you think we missed. So enjoy the stories and tell us where we should go for future urban exploration.

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