Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Out of the Depths

In some parts of New York City, especially in the outer boroughs – that is Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx – the subway lines often run above ground on elevated tracks, affording riders breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline as well as graffiti clad buildings, roof tops cluttered with satellite dishes, laundry hanging out to dry, billboards, and occasional glimpses into private dwellings and public office spaces. While there are a few places in northern Manhattan where the tracks are also elevated, for the most part all the subway lines in Manhattan are below ground.

After a forty-five minute subway ride that started at a station in another Borough miles away, you never know for certain what you will find as you ascend out of a Manhattan subway station. More than once I have entered the subway when the sun was shining and the sky was blue only to exit into a rain or snow storm, or vice versa. I have walked down into the subterranean world in daylight and exited an hour later into night.

Since radio reception is nil in the subterranean world of the subway, a radio dead zone, all contact with the outside world is lost while commuting. I remember entering the “L” line at the Halsey Street Station one day to the news that a commercial airliner had crashed in the Hudson, only to emerge an hour later to the news that all the passengers appeared to be safe and were being rescued.

Like Plato scrambling out of the cave of ignorance, leaving the shadowy subterranean world of the subway behind to once again walk in a world illuminated by sunshine and neon can be an enlightening experience. If the underground subway in anyway resembles a tomb and a subway ride akin at all to crossing the river Styx, then each and every exit from the system is a resurrection.

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