Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Abandoned Subway

About three weeks ago, I went with a couple of friends to see Rochester’s abandoned subway. This is a story I believe can be told almost entirely through disclaimers, so here is the first one:

Disclaimer: We were not trespassing. This was a tour given by the Canal Society of New York State, as part of Rochester’s River Romance festival. It’s still not clear to me how a dark, dusty underground cavern that smells strongly of urine in some places is romantic. Not surprisingly, at no point did any of my fellow tourists propose to any other tourists. For one thing, you do not want to get down on one knee in that dirt. You might as well roll in kitty litter. For another, they were probably waiting for the cemetary tour later in the weekend. Because you want to start a new life with the person you love in a place where corpses are decaying beneath your feet. That’s what we call romance in Rochester.

We started at the South Ave entrance, right next to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. In the picture below, left to right: Minas Morgul (eye of Sauron out of order), the First Federal Building with the funny hat which apparently used to rotate, and the red brick Dinosaur building. And below that, a portal to what the River Romance guide calls “Rochester’s historic underbelly.” I have never heard of an “historic underbelly,” but I have heard of a “seedy underbelly” and I can only assume that’s what they meant.

Disclaimer: The abandoned subway is not safe and nobody should go down there even though I and two hundred other people did. The Canal Society of New York would like to turn the subway back into a canal, or something, it’s hard to picture exactly, and therefore opposes the city’s plan to fill it in. That’s why they hold these occasional tours. The city, however, makes the rather compelling argument that the tunnel is not structurally sound. So I repeat: people really should not go down there even though it is totally cool.

This was the last tour, and we just barely caught it. I didn’t actually see or hear the tour guide until the very end, because he was way ahead of us. Therefore, when I took this picture of hordes of people marching trustingly into pitch blackness, I could not be totally certain that the Pied Piper was not at the front of the line.

It’s tempting to make a lot of jokes about Moria. Like, if only I had Gandalf's magical 120-watt staff, I wouldn’t have had to use the flash on my camera and therefore catch all of the dust in the air.

Up these stairs, that’s where the orcs live.
Pretty sure they live here, too.
Oh, and definitely here.
I have no idea what this was for, but the fact that it has windows suggests how extremely different it must have once been down there. The way it is now, those windows would hardly let in any light at all, and even if they did, it isn’t as if there’s a view.

Little House in the Subway

Some parts of the subway were curiously pretty:

But those were the parts with sunlight. Once the tunnel goes underground, it becomes less pretty, and exponentially more menacing. We hadn’t realized they were going to let us roam free (I thought that would be asking for a lawsuit), and didn’t bring a flashlight. It started to look like this:

Here are the smart people with flashlights:

Here's one of the random pictures I took because I was using my flash to tell me what was in front of me:

I might die here, but at least Jesus loves me.

At a certain point, the absolute pitch blackness was too overwhelming, and we turned around. Moria jokes aside, it really was very much like being in a mine. Fascinating, and at the same time horrible and suffocating. In short, I’m glad we did it and gladder we came out alive.

The real value of the subway now, in my opinion, is the atmospheric combination of art and decay. It’s like a huge museum, but if the city of Rochester were to make it safe enough and palatable enough to be opened to the public, the effect would be completely ruined. For it to mean anything, it has to remain ungoverned, heading toward destruction. As Wallace Stevens says, Death is the mother of beauty.

Disclaimer: I have not scrutinized the graffiti in these photos. Even if I had, I would not have been able to figure out what most of it means. But I’m guessing much of it could be taken as offensive. Especially if you like grape Now and Laters. (Any opinions of grape Now and Laters expressed by graffiti artists are not necessarily those of the proprieters of this blog.)

In chronological order:

“Specialized To Vandalize”

Possibly Animatronic Thing In Blue

Possibly Organic Thing In Blue


There’s something really ominous about that shovel.

Angry and Antennaed From Here To Oblivion

Few People are Familiar with Jackson Pollock's Brief "Badass" Period

See Above Disclaimer

I do not really know what this is...

...but I think it might be scary.

No comment.

Pretty colors.

Insert Final Insipid Caption Here.
I think uploading those pictures took more time than I spent in the tunnel. But there's one more. Upon emerging once again into sunlight and fresh air, this cement thing with weeds in it (garbage too, but I managed not to show it) struck me as beautifully natural. Happily, it is hiding the very bad words in the graffiti behind it.

Seriously kids, don't go down there.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

when life gives you lemons...

I: ugh, the hairdresser gave me BANGS. I don't know what to do with myself.
C: well, you could be sexy Sarah Palin for Halloween...

time to buy some barrettes.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I have had the internet for about half an hour. Already I have:

1. Checked my e-mail eight times.
2. Discussed Latin, Chaucer, Heath Ledger, and brush fires with Ivan.
3. Read
4. Watched a useless YouTube video.
5. Gotten unreasonably annoyed by the comments on the useless YouTube video.
6. Written a pointless blog post.

It's so good to be back!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


After meeting a live python in Marcella's living room, I didn't think I would be so sufficiently creeped out for quite awhile. Not much can rival a snake amidst your DVDs and comfy couches. And operating under this assumption I traveled to Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park last weekend. A lovely place. Sequoia is full of non-threatening things like Very Large Trees and bears that mosey. I thought the most threatening thing about Sequoia was the campfire we started using some flame retardant cardboard that glowed green and smoked in a violent way... honestly, doesn't hold a candle to the python. But that was just day one...

Day two of the trip was spent in Kings Canyon-- an amazing place. Gorgeous views, scenic byways, killer trees, giant cave spiders, Sequoia cemeteries. Typical national park experience.

The day was beautiful and we decided to find a lunch spot... and for some reason picked a sad tree graveyard. I thought all the damage had been done by loggers, but then we passed this tree. Apparently the logging industry had NOTHING to do with the death of those giants-- it was all this guy. Asshole.

We left Killer Tree Grove before the Ents came to life and decided to see one of the lovely area caves. I read about the cave as we drove "wow, they've discovered new species of troglobites and pseudoscorpians in here!" To me this means nothing. The last movie I saw where someone explored a cave ended up in Fraggle Rock and I saw no reason this should end differently.

The cave tour was an hour long and looked boring, so the helpful cave ticket seller stuck out her tongue ring and suggested we take our headlamps across the street to the unofficial cavern. In retrospect, I see this as equal to the time the man running the ski lift told us if we didn't want to pay, we were welcome to walk up the mountain underneath the lift for free. Two hours later knee deep in loose shale, you start to realize you've been had. We shimmied into the cave and popped out into a shallow cavern. Cool! I'm spelunking! And then I swung my light around to look at my cave companion and realized we were not alone! Aside from the human, I was joined by a hoard of EXTREMELY large cave spiders. My Co-Spelunker will tell you they were not that intimidating, but honestly, HOLY FREAKING SHIT, CAVE SPIDERS. Yes. They looked like that. And I live in constant terror that not unlike the movie arachnophobia, I brought one home and it's currently nesting inside the cat. So I saw the giant cave spiders and I booked it out of that cave. In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that my co-spelunker had a broken leg and I left the poor man in there without even thinking. I am a horrible, horrible person that had absolutely no desire to die at the eight evil legs of one of those bastards. In defense of my co-spelunker: after dragging himself from the cave, he still gave me a ride home.

Thank goodness for the good souls.