There are places in the world that somehow are not part of the world. There’s something in the atmosphere, perhaps the ionization, perhaps the scent, who knows. There's something 'not right' about them, and you know this on a visceral, primal level. You enter these places, and somehow, the normal rules of time and space and many times, all that is holy in any ten religions of your choice, cease to apply. NYC seems to have an abundance of these, but a few stand out.
There’s the 8th avenue tunnel. It’s this connecting tunnel for a bunch of subways. I had not been back in years, and yet, on one of the recent biz trips to our Brooklyn office, there I found myself, back in the tunnel, and it still had that creepy, alternative universe feel. Your step slows. The light is yellow bright, but you always feel shadows behind you. Sound dulls yet echoes at the same time. You move through it at your normal pace, and sometimes you speed up, and still it takes far longer to get from end to end than it should. I used to think that the tunnel was a portal to other worlds. That has not changed. Imagine, all the strings of dimensions, twisting through the time/space continuum, brushing like charged wires up against one another, sharing currents and other things they shouldn't. Things passing through worlds they were never meant to visit, perhaps staying long enough to subvert the natural order, if only for a few hours.
Then, there’s the Cross Bronx Expressway. No matter the time of day, day of the week, week of the month of the year, you get on the Cross Bronx and you stop moving. There is nothing remotely Express about this stretch of maniacal roadway. The last time I was traveling on it, a few weeks past, a police car was in the far left lane, herding traffic. That’s right. Herding. No other way to describe it, really. Traffic had come to a dead halt in that lane for no reason. There was no accident ahead, nor was there construction, protestors, or aliens landing. The cars had just stopped. So the cop picked a point and began flashing the lights and sending of the sirens encouraging motorists to actually put it in gear and get it the hell going. Of all the places I’ve been on this Earth, the Cross Bronx is the place I’ve come closest to stroking out. Multiple times. Poor Tim. He had no idea how much rage his dear wife could summon when exposed to the right stimuli. It wasn't really the traffic, it was the blatent disregard for the vaunted: F=M*A (Force = Mass X Acceleration). Until the police came along to enforce the proper laws of physics, that is.
Then there’s the trip between Queens and the 23rd St. stop on the subway. It’s this long tunnel that travels underwater. You usually lose power to the lights intermittently. The conductors always lay pedal to the metal and the train rockets through, swaying wildly, curling and whipping in a frenzy, always on the verge of jumping the track and careening into oblivion. The same freaky power permeates that run as does the loop in the train at Battery park, which leads me to conclude that it is a power related to the River. One run travels under the water, the other run loops close enough to kiss, then turns away at the last second to point back uptown. I can recall traveling down into each, this shiver going up my spine. Something ethereal, laughing, dangerous waiting for me and my fellow travelers.
Perhaps it’s the subways in general. So many tunnels beneath the city, lines re-routed, access ways closed off, things built upon one another, again and again and again, like a hive gone mad. So much forgotten from the conscious awareness, lurking beneath the surface.