17 Mar 2012

Tunnels, Tags & Teapots

Posted by Teapots Happen

March 14, 2012

I got an unexpected email from another local urban explorer last Wednesday morning, while I was at work – it contained two images I’d requested to see, one several months earlier, the other, just two days previously.

The image I’d requested months ago was of an Action Squad tag I’d allegedly left on a bulletin board in a vacant former hydroelectric power substation, up above the NSP Tailrace Tunnels.

11 year-old Action Squad tag, seen for the first time since


I was pleased to finally see it – while I had no clear recollection of leaving the tag 11 years ago, it was clearly my handwriting and crude logo. Laughing nostalgically, I showed the picture to my co-worker Noah.

An hour or so later, it was time for lunch – I’d brought food, but it was insanely gorgeous out and Noah was going out to get something, so I decided to get outside by tagging along to wherever he decided to go.

We left the Warehouse District and crossed the Hennepin Bridge into North East – I figured we were going to Noah’s frequent lunch destination, Lunds.

But then he surprised me by turning into the Saint Anthony Main neighborhood. As we drove over the NSP Tailrace Tunnels, I commented on them – pointing out the NSP powerplant building that we’d accessed from the tunnels beneath, and reminiscing about how much fun I’d had exploring them when I’d gone to the nearby U of MN.


NSP hydroelectric building


They were the first Minneapolis tunnels I ever explored, I explained – I had been a freshman at the U of MN when a group of my co-workers at my new job (at the Weisman Art Museum) took me to explore them (and in doing so, opened my mind up to the possibility of actual amazing Gooniesque adventures, complete with underground bridges over underground canals, rust-choked machinery from the 1800s, cave crawfish, and access to active power infrastructure).


tunnel crawfish NSP Tunnels

tunnel crawfish '95 - first time into the NSP Tunnels (photo by Natasha)


At the time, riding in Noah’s car, it did not occur to me that the tag photograph I’d been emailed that morning (and showed Noah just before lunch) was from the subbasement of the very building we were looking at, or that I’d gotten into it to leave that tag through the very tunnels we were discussing.

We drove further, and then arrived at a destination that surprised me – Santana Foods. This place had been around forever – it had been old already when I had gone to the U in the late 90s.

In fact, I told Noah, Santana was the place that Action Squad would always stop into, after our long thirsty nights exploring the NSP Tunnels – it was not only nearby, on the way back to campus, but it was open absurdly late every night.


Santana Foods Minneapolis

Santana Foods



After work that day, I get a call from my friend Natasha, which was weird – we have stayed in touch since we both graduated from the U of MN, but generally only talk once a year, around early August, when we both have birthdays.

It turned out that she was calling because that afternoon, she’d driven past Santana Foods and been surprised to recognize me sitting alone at a table outside (Noah was inside ordering his lunch).

Pleased by the coincidence, I laughingly explained how I’d come to be there that day – and when I told her about how I’d just been reminiscing about the old days to Noah, I realized that Natasha had been one of the co-workers that was with me the first time I ever got into the NSP Tailraces – the specific trip that I’d been reminiscing about to Noah, on the way to Santana Foods. (Natasha was the person that took the photo of me holding the NSP Tunnel crawfish, above.)

And only then, having noticed the Natasha coincidence, did I also realize/remember that I’d been emailed a photograph from the NSP tunnels just before I left for lunch, and that I’d showed it to Noah (without telling him where it was taken) – just before he drove me past the building containing the tag, and just before he brought me to Santana, where I sat outside in the beautiful, unlikely March sunshine … as my former NSP-tunnel-exploring friend Natasha drove past.

Interesting … spring has come early to Minnesota this year, and with it, the crop of coincidences that seem to occur every year as winter melts away, I thought.

I was amused, but not yet really paying attention. Yeah, a neat chain of coincidences, but nothing to write home (or blog) about.

But tonight the other shoe dropped – leaving it hard to ignore that the universe seems to be winking at me …


I was hanging out with some friends in my living room, and was just beginning to tell them the same story that you just read – starting, as above, with the email I’d received with the photo of my old tag.

As I spoke, I almost left out what seemed to be a minor detail – that the explorer who’d emailed me the photograph of the old NSP tag had actually sent me two photos, not just the one of the Action Squad tag. I decided not to cut that fact out, thinking that it could be seen as an attempt to sensationalize the coincidence, if I made it sound as though the email before lunch had been only the photo of the tag … and then I went silent in mid-sentence, staring off into space, remembering what the other photo I’d been emailed was.

Because that other photo was of a buried teapot.

Not my teapot – a different one, found by other explorers digging into a long-sealed cave system. A teapot – the very symbol, for me, of mysterious coincidences – the signature move of synchronicity in my life.



Looking back, it was like I’d been willfully missing or dismissing each coincidence, as they chained together – until finally the chain of connections became too much to ignore, with the coup de grace of having been connected to teapots from the beginning.


I’m grateful for the reminder:


Teapots – they happen.



buried teapot Lilydale cave

"When coincidences pile up in this way, one cannot help being impressed by them—for the greater the number of terms in such a series, or the more unusual its character, the more improbable it becomes."(C. G. Jung)





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4 Responses to “Tunnels, Tags & Teapots”

  1. Great story–your posts always come just when I’m in the mood for a teapot reminder.



  2. <3!!!! Synchronicities inspire me and this one is beautiful 🙂



  3. I ask myself this a lot so I’ll ask you: how much of a role do you think instinct plays in what we call extraordinary coincidence?

    I’m so pleasantly surprised that there are so many teapots lying about!! I thought this nation was built on coffee, how very nice to see that tea is the great mover of our multidimensional selves.


    sharon woods

  4. OH: Natasha!!! 🙂 We adopted a dog 4 months ago: we named her for our favorite War and Peace character!

    Our previous dog passed over a year ago. This week, we were walking Natasha…
    When we ran into a neighbor whom we hadn’t seen since our previous dog passed.
    Her name? Natisha! 🙂


    sharon woods