January 2, 2011

"Some adventurers have taken to exploring the sometimes dangerous subterranean world in the sewers and tunnels beneath New York."

That's the teaser on the front page right now. Here's the article it refers to. Excerpt:
We inspect our exit point — a manhole in the middle of the road. Will Hunt, a bespectacled 26-year-old who is writing a book about the underground (“The last frontier,” he says, “in an over-mapped, Google-Earthed world.”) will serve as our spotter. Will’s job is to watch for traffic: ascending from the hole, we do not wish to be hit by a car. We are to communicate by walkie-talkie. Will ties a long pink ribbon to the inside of the manhole cover. Dangling downward, this will be our signal we have reached the end....

Filthy, backpacked, smelling of the sewer, we board a rush-hour subway....

The sewer under Greene Street was only four feet high (Erling is 6 foot 3.) It got smaller and smaller, until they were forced on hands and knees, then eventually on their bellies. Crawling through raw sewage. The ceiling was higher on Canal Street, they report, but the floor was caked with so much feces they sank in it like quicksand. They were turned back by an impassable mountain of waste....
Time to hop on the subway again?

Where should the intrepid explorer go when the world is totally over-mapped and Google-Earthed? Where do you go? And why? A rewrite of my favorite quote:
Why do we require a trip through the sewers in order to be able to perceive one moment of reality? I mean...  is the sewer more "real"? I mean, isn't New York "real"? I mean, you see, I think if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next door to this restaurant, I think it would just blow your brains out! I mean... isn't there just as much "reality" to be perceived in the cigar store as there is in the sewers? I mean, what do you think? You see, I think that not only is there nothing more real about the sewers I think there's nothing that different, in a certain way. I mean, because reality is uniform, in a way. So that if you're — if your perceptions — I mean, if your own mechanism is operating correctly, it would become irrelevant to go into the sewers, and sort of absurd! Because, I mean, it's just — I mean, of course, on some level, I mean, obviously it's very different from a cigar store on Seventh Avenue, but I mean...

But, well, I agree with you...  But the problem is that people can't see the cigar store, now. I mean, things don't affect people the way they used to. I mean, it may very well be that ten years from now people will pay ten thousand dollars in cash to be castrated, just in order to be affected by something!

Well, why...why do you think that is? I mean, why is that? I mean, is it just because people are lazy today? Or they're bored? I mean, are we just like bored, spoiled children who've just been lying in the bathtub all day just playing with their plastic duck and now they're just thinking: "Well! what can I do?"

Okay! Yes! We're bored! We're all bored now! But has it ever occurred to you, Wally, that the process that creates this boredom that we see in the world now may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brain-washing, created by a world totalitarian government based on money? And that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? And it's not just a question of individual survival, Wally, but that somebody who's bored is asleep, and somebody who's asleep will not say "no"? See, I keep meeting these people, I mean, uh, just a few days ago I met this man whom I greatly admire...? And he told me that he no longer watches television, he doesn't read newspapers and he doesn't read magazines. He's completely cut them out of his life, because he really does feel that we're living in some kind of Orwellian nightmare now, and that everything that you hear now contributes to turning you into a robot!

47 comments:

dont tread 2012 said...

I'm fine with leaving the sewer-spelunking to the likes of Mike Rowe or Alan Grayson.

jimbino said...

People will probably pay to be castrated. They already pay to be circumcised.

Lem said...

Life is like a stone: you rub it, you rub it. You go over these questions over and over. You rub and then you rub and then *just* when you think you're getting *this* much, you die!

Andre Gregory as the Party Philosopher in Always (1985)

Robert Burnham said...

It's real problem: What to do with those young humans who crave adventure -- to test themselves or to relieve boredom.

Used to be we had an army or navy that would take people like this on and give them all the adventure they could stand (and then some).

So what do we do with them today?

Ralph L said...

If they still have foreskins, they'll probably pick up infections from the sewage. OTOH, the shit stink will overwhelm their own.

mesquito said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lem said...

And that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? And it's not just a question of individual survival, Wally, but that somebody who's bored is asleep, and somebody who's asleep will not say "no"?

mesquito said...

When people are bored it is primarily with themselves.

-Eric Hoffer

lemondog said...

subterranean world in the sewers and tunnels beneath New York......ascending from the hole.......crawling through raw sewage....

Isn't that where politician-trolls exist, feed and gather strength?

Pogo said...

The process that creates this boredom that we see in the world may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of dissatisfaction with things-as-they-are, no matter how wonderful.

Boredom spurs the intellect to explore, invent, create, renew, solve, address, mitigate, stimulate.

A perpetual scratch to itch, an intellectual rash that can make the world a better place.



For the whiners and devils of the world, however, dissatisfaction is the outcome of a pattern of abuse by The Conspiracy of Unseen Rulers, jews, capitalists, the Masons, the Illuminati, The Current Administration, etc. And destruction, rather than creation, is their chosen solution.

AllenS said...

If you decide to retire, Professor, and you find your new life boring, there'll always be the sewers to explore. Meade can handle the manhole covers for you.

mesquito said...

When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored. The consciousness of a barren, meaningless existence is the main fountainhead of boredom. People who are not conscious of their individual separatedness, as is the case with those who are members or a compact tribe, church, party, etcetera, are not accessible to boredom. The differentiated individual is free of boredom only when he is engaged either in creative work or some absorbing occupation or when he is wholly engrossed in the struggle for existence. Pleasure-chasing and dissipation are ineffective palliatives. Where people live autonomous lives and are not badly off, yet are without abilities or opportunities for creative work or useful action, there is no telling to what desperate and fantastic shifts they might resort in order to give meaning and purpose to their lives.

-Eric Hoffer, The True Believer

traditionalguy said...

Sewers may be the real filth that attracts kindred spirits in those trapped in a post-Christian culture of filth.

MrBuddwing said...

"Boredom is rage spread thin." _ Paul Tillich.

Word verification: untari.

Ron said...

"Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?" -- Nietzsche

TML said...

I'm calling bullshit on this. There's a world difference between the STORM sewers and the SANITARY sewers. I've been through the storm sewers in Bloomington Indiana, where I went to school. It was very cool. I really doubt anyone got access to the sanitary sewers under NYC. It would be unbelievably dangerous and stupid.

rhhardin said...

Some gaps have been left in life's choices, though the NYT wouldn't want you to think so.

ricpic said...

Shit to the right of them
Shit to the left of them
Shit right in front of them
Besmirched and besmeared
Slimed with caca and crap
Grimly they listed and lurched
Into the lap of death
Into the arms of hell
Slogged the two madmen

Jack said...

I've heard of the NY Tours that track the underground streams that were cemented over as the city grew....

But I agree with TML.... going down a manhole cover into the storm sewer is one thing... ending up someplace else covered in feces is another.

edutcher said...

They will go for the same reason people walk through the sewers in Paris, except they'll be walking not in the footsteps of Jean Valjean, but Ed Norton.

Robert Burnham said...

It's real problem: What to do with those young humans who crave adventure -- to test themselves or to relieve boredom.

Used to be we had an army or navy that would take people like this on and give them all the adventure they could stand (and then some).


Well, what with open homosexuality and all, how much more adventure do you need? A walk to the latrine could make getting across Omaha Beach look like a walk in the park.

Roger Sweeny said...

I seem to recall that New York City, like many older cities, does not have a separate system of storm sewers and sanitary sewers.

Lem said...

There's a world difference between the STORM sewers and the SANITARY sewers.

About 70 percent of that vast (NYC) sewer system consists of combined sewers..

TML said...

Apparently NYC has what's called a CSS, Combined Sewer System. I'm reading the Wiki now. But not as much clarity as I'd like. I'm surprised. Especially given how shallow the tunnels these folks described seem to be. In a storm, I can only imagine the hideous problems with back flow and overloading in the tunnels. It would be a huge disaster and public health hazard. Anyone have any particular knowledge about how NYC's (Manhattan's and Brooklyn's) sewers are set up?

TML said...

Jack, that underground stream thing--do you mean actual, real brooks and creeks and such from 200 years ago? That would actually be pretty damned cool.

TML said...

Lem, Roger, yep, I'm a step behind you guys. Interesting to read that. It seems like a dodgy set-up in a huge deluge.

The Musket said...

Back in the 80s it was a big deal to hike in the steam tunnels at my university - part of the adventure was that it was illegal.

I thought of Les Mis, too -- great minds and all that.

Sewers and storm drains were connected in NJ back when I lived there - I assume they still are. Definitely a problem when there's enough rain to cause flooding. There was/is some sort of problem with the sewer overflowing into the potable water sources (underground rivers) when rain caused the storm drains to back up -- we'd have to boil our tap water before using.

Fred4Pres said...

Did they find these guys?

ironrailsironweights said...

And then there are the "mole people," numbering in the thousands, who live in various tunnels under the city. Some have created small underground communities. There's only one problem: they don't actually exist.

Peter

Freeman Hunt said...

This should be called "poop hiking."

Hiking in tunnels sounds fun. Hiking in tunnels filled with the stuff of toilets is just disgusting.

Greg Hlatky said...

No albino alligators?

c3 said...

I'll wait for Google sewer to come out, if its just the same to you.

TML said...

Freeman, on one of our journeys under Bloomington from Dunn Meadow to the west side of town, we followed the Jordan River all the way. We found a canoe, a mannequin, 5 bicycles and a more shopping carts than we could count. No animals. It was fun watching all the people on Kirkwood through the storm drains as we moved through the tunnel. The canoe was unusable, unfortunately.

bandmeeting said...

Define overmapped.

Jack said...

here's a link to some Maps of Manhattan's underground streams through google images....

http://tinyurl.com/26a567b

search google, you'll find stories of people fishing these streams from basements, etc....

Palladian said...

"Well, what with open homosexuality and all, how much more adventure do you need? A walk to the latrine could make getting across Omaha Beach look like a walk in the park."

Is that all you pussies think about? I'm one of the most egregiously horny homosexuals on the planet and I don't think about gay sex as much as you fag-bashers do.

Perhaps you need to do a little "tunnel exploration" of your own and get something out of your system.

verification word: creemi. I was walking through a tunnel and suddenly I slipped on something creemi...

TML said...

Jack's link led to this:

http://kottke.org/plus/viele-map/

A zoomable and searchable map of Manhattan still used by city engineers to see where waterwaysand springs are/were located. Fascinating stuff. This guy has a blog:

http://watercourses.typepad.com/watercourses

That's all about:

"Looking for the lost streams, kills, rivers, brooks, ponds, lakes, burns, brakes, and springs of New York City."

It's pretty damned cool as well.

tim maguire said...

I imagine someone who grew up on Mt. Everest would find a cigar store on 7th Avenue quite exciting.

As for the person who cut himself off--I love to do that every few years. A complete news blackout for 6 weeks. No news on TV, radio, papers, magazines, avoid discussions, etc. It's tougher than it used to be because we are assaulted by media like never before (some elevators have TVs that broadcast news).

I find it incredibly refreshing (but temporary, I have no desire to make it permanent). An important reminder of how utterly irrelevant current events are to our everyday lives.

Virtually nothing in the news affects me and I am powerless to affect it. The notion that it is important to keep up with current events is a hollow affectation.

tim maguire said...

Abandoned train tunnels beneath NYC are far less filthy, easier to walk in, and much more likely to reward with an interesting discovery.

Class factotum said...

The sewer museum in Paris was really interesting. They didn't do as much with their gift shop as they could, though.

jeff said...

They run into Jeremy down there?

AST said...

Beware the C.H.U.D!

They need to explore that giant cave discovered in Vietnam with a jungle inside it. (See Instapundit) They might find the lost ten tribes of Israel, or bunch of animals we thought were extinct, cities of gold, that kind of stuff.

Youngblood said...

The tunnels described under the Bronx and Queens are obviously storm sewers. (The size of the tunnel makes that obvious, but there were no rats, the water in the Queens tunnel was clear, and the team was willing to press on despite torn waders and a dead gas detector.)

As far as the Canal Street tunnel goes, that story is total bull. Decaying shit isn't just icky, it gives off byproducts that are highly toxic. If the tunnel was as cramped as they claimed and blocked off by a mountain of crap, they wouldn't have merrily wandered off to another tunnel, they would have gotten sick. (Notice that they pressed the reporter into service as a spotter on that trip!)

What a bunch of douchebags.

Christy said...

Neil Gaiman had a delightful TV series called NeverWhere that explores the London Underground. He turned it into a book during the filming and eventually into a graphic novel. Lots of adventure, love, betrayal....

Methadras said...

jimbino said...

People will probably pay to be castrated. They already pay to be circumcised.


People pay to become Nullo as well.

Methadras said...

There is a serious problem in this country and it's called manhood or rather the lack of a rite to manhood. It's been stripped away by misandry over the last 4 decades.

junyo said...

Sounds like a smelly off shoot of urban exploring. Which can be cool, you can see some neat stuff; you'd never imagine the stuff that gets left behind when a place gets abandoned, or the forgotten places in the middle of urban areas, or the detail they used to put into the most mundane utilitarian things. And there's that bracing, low level fear when you're in someplace/doing something that will hurt/maim/kill you if you screw it up. I'm assuming it's something like mountain climbing, only with fewer Sherpas and less travel time. Did some tunnel walks, but nothing like this, which sounds like a bit much. No thank you.

mythusmage said...

Just because somebody else once explored an area doesn't mean you know anything about it. It's one thing to read about a territory in a book or magazine article, or to look at it through film or video, it is quite another to explore the landscape for yourself.

And if you want to explore a land that no one else has explored, you could do a lot worse than to explore Siberia. Thousands of square miles of terrain no one has seen before.

Anybody who says we've explored and know the whole of the world knows nothing about what we do know and what we have explored.