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I'll always remember 2006. And not for many positive things. New Year's Eve, 2005…if I would have known then what I know now, I would have taken a 12-month nap. And we still have 3 more months to go.

The first time we met Seth was August 21st, 2004. He had shown up on ForgottenMichigan (Chad's site) introducing himself, though we already knew him from the early-Deggi5 days. He was the only explorer that I know of who actually hailed from Gary, Indiana. Sure, you may say he lived in Hobart which is a suburb of Gary, but I can tell you that he had a relationship with the city of Gary closer than 99.9% of us can even understand. When you're going through tough times and don't have anywhere to stay, the lines between mere explorer and "resident" blur. Gary was a part of him, and he was a part of Gary. Northwest Indiana was Seth's home and he was a product of that environment in the fullest sense. He was the guru. The go-to guy. The gatekeeper. As the city's self-appointed renegade urban-archaeologist and only tour-guide, he was probably the only good thing that has happened to Gary in the past several decades, and it owes a debt to him. In fact, the city should probably erect a bronze statue in his memory, heh heh heh…!

Seth was also the first explorer who had ever come to visit us in Detroit. Pretty much everyone else in "the exploring community" (whatever that is) has always been afraid of Detroit—and for good reason. Most were content to admire from a distance. Only to a guy from Gary would the ghetto of Detroit feel like home sweet home! And only for a guy like that would we welcome him as warmly, knowing that he was from similar circumstances as ourselves. He had posted a picture of himself with long hair, drinking a brew on the roof of the Ambassador Hotel in Gary. Right away we could tell he was our kinda people. I remember he showed up wearing a yellow t-shirt that said "I'M FROM GARY" and had a picture of a gun on it. This was not your usual over-sheltered, yuppie computer-programmer photo/art-snob type of explorer…he was one of us. We clicked right from the get-go. Like us, he was from the rusty Great Lakes region, so it was like we were all on the same page…he was as down to earth as it gets, not some naïve weirdo into overanalyzing everything like a lot of explorer kids do nowadays.

He was also the only person who ever had the decency to do research beforehand—which shows that he was the real deal…a true explorer is not in the game to be chauffeured around like a tourist; he idealized the concept of what this is all about by taking time to educate himself on some Detroit history and by studying maps. He was a do-it-yourselfer, and an independent, self-sufficient human being which—in today's world, sadly enough—is rare. That, more than anything is what earned him my respect. I was amazed by how knowledgeable he was in Detroit architecture and history, and simply that he already sort-of knew his way around. The typical guest will ask a question like, "What building is this," or "What's the history of this building?" Seth instead asked questions like "The Donovan Blg was another one designed by Albert Kahn, right?" Or, "That's Woodward over there, right? And that does go to the Davison, right?" I could see that he was asking me these things not because he didn't know, but in order to quiz himself so he could hone that which he had already begun studying up on…because he was actually interested in learning and remembering it. He was hungry for knowledge in his favorite field; it was not merely a passing fancy of his to go take "cool looking pictures of urban decay"…Seth truly was dedicated to educating himself in, and documenting the history of industry.

I was even more amazed at his fascination with the "Northville Tunnels"…which was of course the place that brought Syd, R3d, Chad, and myself into the whole "urban exploring online community thing" when we started our website dedicated to it. The name "Northville Tunnels" was our nickname for the Wayne County Training School—the local abandoned "asylum" that us Detroit explorers grew up with in the days before the internet. Seth's interest in helping us discover the lost history of the place impressed me immensely because I would never have expected an out-of-stater to care about such in-depth things as that. What I mean to say is I personally couldn't foresee myself having any kind of vested interest in the in-depth history of a long-demolished institution in another state, so for him to have done so showed a true passion on his part for knowledge and wanting to immerse himself in the culture of Michigan. It was like he was starting to do with Detroit that which he had already done in Gary—to engross himself in its culture and history. Seth came back to the D as much as he could, often catching a ride with Syd or whoever was coming this way. A couple of those times were for our annual Northville-Tunnels.com meetings, where those of us who used to explore the old Northville got together to trade stories, show-off artifacts & photos, and discuss its history. Though Seth was completely the odd-man-out in the room, being from a different state, and never even having seen the old Northville, he was able to take an educated part in conversations and relate nonetheless to anyone else in the room, most of whom just assumed that he too was an old Northville explorer.

We spent all of August 21st, 2004 exploring in downtown Detroit with Seth, and took him to the former Motown Records home offices in the Donovan Blg, the Fort Shelby Hotel, and finished the evening off on top of the 35-story Broderick Tower watching the fireworks display after the Tigers game at Comerica Park. After that was over, we decided to go down to the third floor and see if we could sneak into the illegal rave that usually was held there on Saturday nights. Our group crept down from the barricaded stairwell onto the third floor, and we noticed that it hadn't started yet; the place was deserted. We wandered around checking out the party rooms for a minute before a couple bouncers showed up to set up the sound equipment. They saw us and there was a moment of awkward stares, followed by drunken scrambling as we all tried to quickly run back up the barricaded stairs to the "exit" on the 7th floor. My heart was racing, and I remember I made a point of looking at Seth's face to see if he was going to panic at the sudden pinch. Nope, not a sign; this guy was cool so I wasn't worried. We got out fine and it was a fun night to be remembered.

Remembered, yes, but I had no idea that it would be remembered the way it has. You'll recall earlier this year the tragic death of Alex Kaber, another Detroit explorer who was present with us and Seth that night. At his funeral, the eulogy recalled how Alex always told his other friends that watching the fireworks and exploring the Broderick for the first time that night was the best time of his life. Now here we are again. It's a bit eerie that Seth's last post on Northville-Tunnels.com was about Alex, and remembering that same night.

The Packard Plant was Seth's true love of Detroit buildings; for him it held the most historical and architectural significance, seeing as he was into architecture/engineering, classic cars, industry, and the early underground techno raves. Fans in any of these areas would find the Packard Plant to be their Mecca, so I think that is what attracted Seth to it. He found time to visit it at least twice in his trips to the D, and in fact it was the very last building he explored here, and that was the last time I saw him. Other places that we explored with him were the rarely infiltrated American Hotel, the Continental Motors Plant, Michigan Central Station, Lee Plaza, Fisher Body Plant 21, and many others, but I remember a certain warehouse on the East Side in particular…as soon as we all got in we heard an alarm, and when we all ran out of there, but Seth's bootlace got caught on a nail in the window and since we were all nearly panicked he said "just kick it!" So I kicked his foot until the bootlace broke. I think I was the last one out. Then we ran out of there and had dinner at Armando's down in Mexicantown. I'll probably keep recalling little scraps of memory like these unexpectedly over the years, most likely while wandering through the Packard Plant where he left his mark in quite a few places.

It has become trendy in the media today for many celebrities to say, "Oh, I love Detroit!" when the topic comes up as if they hang out here all the time, when in reality they probably don't give a shit and wouldn't condescend to be seen, much less spend any time here unless they had to. Seth was the opposite of that attitude. He loved Detroit for what it is; he understood it, respected it…instead of just treating it as a place to take "cool pictures of urban decay" as if it were a wax museum that you drive through with your car doors locked. But more than anything, I think he loved his hometown of Gary.

Seth lived more in his 23 short years on this planet than most people will experience in 60. At least he died doing what he loved. How many of us will be able to say that?

--Nailhed, of the Survival Crackas crew