I’ve always wanted to explore New York City’s subway tunnels and infrastructure. Being a railroad buff, the subway never ceased to fascinate me. What was in those dark, foreboding tunnels, how did the signal system work, what did all the track side signs mean? These were questions that demanded answers. I was a regular rider on the D train during high school and my constant exposure to the subway just made my thirst for subway knowledge that much greater. I was the kid riding in the first car of the train with my face pressed against the glass on the door which separated me from the answers.
I can’t count the number of times I was tempted to venture into the tunnels as I waited for a train on a sometimes nearly deserted station platform. Who would see me, who would care? The gate at the tunnel entrance said “Do Not Enter” but to me it said “Come on In.” I tried a few times to get past that damn gate but fear and maybe common sense stopped me in my tracks. Knowledge would have to be acquired by reading books and asking questions.
That all changed one fateful evening when a friend and I decided to throw caution to the wind and enter the darkness. We paid our fare, well at least I paid my fare, and we were now on the Bedford Park Boulevard platform of the IND line. Through my research, I knew that at the end of the northbound platform there was a spur that led to the Concourse subway yard. The distance from the platform to the yard was perhaps no more than two thousand feet at most. This was certainly doable. With no one around, we entered the tunnel and began our journey. It was everything I expected and more. Cables, signals, track and the occasional rat were within touching distance, no pesky train door to contend with this time. Since our journey began at 11:30 pm, the chances of encountering a train or a worker were slight. We walked in the darkness, taking care not to step on the energized third rail which provided 600 volts of power to the trains. I had a small flashlight but thankfully the tunnel was lit every hundred feet by a bare incandescent bulb. There was a small river of foul smelling water between the rails and the sound of dripping water could be heard in the distance. It was late November so it was cold and damp in the winding tunnel. At one point, we thought we heard something in the distance, was it a train? No, it was just our imaginations at work.
Our journey lasted about a half hour. During that time, we took in all the sights, sounds and smells that this forbidden world had to offer. We emerged from the tunnel unscathed and ran into the train yard, climbed a fence and adjourned to a nearby ball field where we celebrated our victory with some really bad fortified wine, Thunderbird comes to mind, and Tiparillo cigars. I felt like I just conquered Mount Everest!
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is one of my favorite poems. It was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in 1798. I re-read it today and the imagery and use of language is extraordinary. If you find the time, I highly recommend you give it a read. There are dozens of scholarly interpretations about the poem’s meaning. Like a fine wine, I prefer to enjoy the flavor and not the pedigree.
I am fortunate to have a best friend. We have known each other off and on for sixty years. I refer to him as “my brother from another mother.” We grew up together, went our separate ways for a while and then reunited. Our interests are similar in some ways and dissimilar in others, but this is never a problem. We always enjoy each other’s company and time passes quickly when we get together.
One of our favorite pastimes is to meet at a local coffee shop and have cappuccinos and cannoli. Afterwards, we adjourn for a leisurely walk along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. I always bring a fine cigar which we both enjoy, I the taste and he just the aroma. At times we will be deep in conversation, sometimes serious, other times frivolous and often there will be only silence as words aren’t always necessary. Consider yourself blessed if you have a best friend, I am.
In my younger years, I loved eating meat. Blood red steak, hamburgers, pork chops, bacon, lamb, veal; you name it and I ate it with gusto.
My attitude changed after researching how my favorite cuts were raised and processed. This was an eye opening experience. I began to question the entire sordid affair. Cruelty to living creatures changed my eating habits.
I had an experience that sealed the deal, I was going to cut back my meat consumption starting that day.
I was driving to work one brutally hot summer day and was stopped dead in a traffic jam. I looked to my left and saw a trailer overloaded with pigs obviously on their way to slaughter. They were distressed, lacked water and room to move. I made eye contact with one and it was almost asking for help. Anthropomorphism; perhaps, but this situation was wrong on all levels.
I called the State Police and told them what I saw but they didn’t seem to care. I was even thinking about buying a case of water for them but traffic began to move and we were separated. I called the trucking company but they never returned my call.
I understand that animals are essentially a food source, but I found what I saw and read appalling. All life has value and should be respected.
So now my meat consumption has been drastically reduced. Pasta and vegetables are now my main source of sustenance. Meat has its place in my diet, but not often. Although I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, I hope my reduction in consumption is doing a small part in curtailing demand.
I took this photograph on April 14th of this year. Spring was almost in full bloom. This tree is now a lush, dark green and in a few brief months its leaves will turn brown and return to the earth as compost. The cycle of life is all around us, we just have to look.
While walking along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail on a brisk autumn day in 2013, my friend and I stumbled across this objet d’art. This find made our day! The materials used were simple enough: a case of beer, some wire and a hubcap; basic yet creative. It must have been one hell of a party, wish I was there. Cheers!