Saturday, August 19, 2006

Those Stairwell Spaces

My piece on urbex a.k.a. urban exploration will be appearing next month in the first issue of Geek Monthly. I have to admit right off the bat two things: First is that I have never really explored any off limits places outside of the boiler room at my parent's house and an unfortunate (and semi-sober) attic crawl in college. Second is that I am totally obsessed with subterranean places and the spaces beneath our feet.

If you've ever spent time in NYC you are constantly made aware of the fact that there are "things" going on under the city. The subway is obvious but even on the street there are these yawning maws of basement stores and storage rooms that threaten to suck down unwary passersby. When I was sixteen we took this sort of pilgrimage to NYC and spent time on the lower east side wandering around. I took a shit in the filthiest McDonald's bathroom I'd ever been in and watched some crack heads hustle in one of these sub-basement stairwells. Most of these places are blocked by heavy metal doors that you tramp across all day. They are usually rusted and look like something to keep Draculas at bay. On the off chance that one is open you have two choices: A. you can peer into it and hope to catch a glimpse of something or B. you can zoom right by and pray nothing grabs your ankles.

If you take the chance and pause – usually something not recommended in the city – you'll see either an incredibly dull set of concrete stairs or if you're lucky you'll see some covert slice of capitalism taking place. Here's what I've seen or thought I saw (not including the aforementioned crack heads):

A fat guy lugging rice sacks into a storage room
A Divine-esque drag queen in boots with licking red flames talking on a cell about Mondo films
A hairy man slumped over a stack of newspapers
Two women in short skirts smoking
A stray dog – dingo-lite – sniffing through kitty litter
A pile of diapers
Three Japanese men shouting at each other and pointing fingers
A man in a suit enjoying a slice of pepperoni pizza
A woman sitting on a plastic crate of records
A drug deal – hash
A drug deal – coke
A drug deal – meth
A drug deal – grass
A drug deal – some voodoo looking shit
An African man selling art books
Two hipsters in comparing scars
Seven tween boys huddled around an issue of Playboy (March, '86 if I wasn't mistaken)
An elderly man in a rocking chair
A woman braiding a child's hair
Five men and two women of unknown nationality speaking an unknown tongue in hushed tones
A filthy boy in overalls with a Bob Dylan record (Blood on the Tracks)
A female cameraman and a male reporter

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