Saturday, April 10, 2010

Subterranean Adventure

R. understands my penchant for adventure and for exploring the underappreciated and little-known parts of New York.  I know a place, he said.  It's subterranean.

I was a little hesitant at first.  The word subterranean conjures up dark and creepy images, akin to the world written about by Jennifer Toth (see my post Dark World). 

We hopped on an A train at the Port Authority station, and traveled to Washington Heights, the farthest north I've been in Manhattan.  We stepped off at 181st street station, and walked through a diverse neighborhood to find our destination: a subway entrance for the 1 train that is not on normal subway maps.  The entrance one would normally look for is on 191st street for the 191st stop.  This one is on Broadway, three city blocks away, via tunnel-- the longest tunnel in the transit system, and, if one online account is to be believed, it is actually considered a city street, though clearly not a normal one.

The Interborough Rapid Transit (I.R.T.) was the first subway line, privately owned until they and two other lines became property of the City in 1940.  I'd never even seen references to IRT until last night.

This tunnel used to be scary-- tons of crime, avoided by most commuters, a haven for drug dealers and home to large rats and mounds of garbage.  It was renovated in 2008- the station itself was renovated in 2004-2005-  and art won. 

The rollercoaster reference is appropriate-- this station is the deepest in the city, at 55m underground.

I really love this next one-- so true, the song that I hear every day:

The entrance to the tunnel is the most colorful part.  It gets grittier as one continues, though it never devolves into anything scary.

And then.  And then, and then, and then.  As we exited from the far end of the tunnel and entered into the main part of the 191st station, I gasped and got the by-now familiar thrill that comes when finding something completely unexpected. 

Oh, I so love these two people, blissfully and effortlessly floating through the sky.

Note the butterfly wings,
and the wings here as well:

Praise to the artist, Raúl Colón.  The piece is called Primavera. 


  1. Colón's art looks like an illustration from a magical realist novel...perhaps it could be called "The Family That Grew Wings."

  2. It does! I researched him online, and he's done similarly beautiful work, most notably for children's books: