Let’s be honest: Provincetown is a giant sandbar. Many of the homes here are built on sand. Some have basements, but there are some that don’t, especially the older ones.
I had to opportunity to go exploring beneath one of the older homes here on Thursday. My next-door neighbor Pete had to go beneath a house to make sure there wasn’t anything that needed immediate attention, like broken water pipes. We opened up an access hatch in the kitchen floor and shimmied down a narrow ladder into a musty, spider-infested jigsaw puzzle of rocks and boulders.
The floor was beach sand peppered with brittle driftwood; mats of dried seaweed—probably from prior to the foundation’s caulking—were thick over old rusted sewer pipes and broken cement. What was most interesting were the concrete blocks stacked in odd places. “Holding up the joists,” Pete pointed out. “Just wedged in there. Totally unstable.”
Rooting around down there made me think. Sometimes a situation in life is like a house built on sand: even if the house itself is simultaneously old, familiar, comfortable, and charming, underneath, it can be unstable and full of issues and dead seaweed. My little journey served as a reminder that sometimes we need to make the decision on whether or not it’s worth it to make repairs—or simply let the damn thing fall into the sea.
Pictures and video of our trip below. The video is of a seaweed-jammed broken sewer pipe; we shined the flashlight on it so hopefully you can get a sense of what it looked like.
This is the hatch in the floor. We ended up shifting the ladder so it didn't close well. Took us a while to figure that one out.
I wasn't using the flash, but here's the sandy floor. Notice the broken wood pieces. They were everyplace.
This is part of the foundation that looks like it was put in much later. Probably to help stabilize the damn thing.
The newer foundation, which we were standing in, is surrounded by the older foundation. These crawl spaces go all the way back to the original foundation.
A close-up of the cement and seaweed. God knows how thick that blanket is.
This caulking was done much later, probably, in an attempt to keep the sea out. More explained in the video below.
This is part of the same rusted old sewer pipe shown in the video, I think.
Here's the same pipe system, but this part of it is in pieces.
We were trying to figure out what this was. Maybe an old fireplace, or the bottom of one, where they dump the hot ashes? If anybody has an idea, gimmie a shout-out.
Spider webs. Yup. I was covered with 'em when we got back. And a few of their residents, too!
These are some of the blocks holding up the first floor of the house. I referenced these in the entry.
Me, coming up out of the floor. There's very little clearance between the ladder and the pipe, which is an active pipe but I'm not sure what for (but I know it's not for water). We had to be very careful not to bust it. I'm not thin anymore, but at least I was still thin enough to make it through there.
Here I'm laughing because my sweater got caught on the pipe (you know, I didn't bring appropriate urban explorer attire to P-Town; I didn't think I'd be doing any of this up here). Pete had to reach down and get me un-caught.
A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of both the New England Horror Writers and the Horror Writers Association. Follow her adventures at kristipetersenschoonover.com.