Friday, January 30, 2004

Snotstorm, Jinx magazine

So the weekend is here. Overall I had a great week at work

I worked incredibly hard over these last few weeks, mostly because I feel I've lost my love for being there. And I got sad after S left in November. It's been a hard adjustment for me to work for A, and I think it's hard on her too because I'm not the 100% perfect person for this job.

But this week and last week -- these were great weeks. Salad days. Aaah. Yes. Salad.

I'm getting incredibly psyched for this Super Bowl, although compared to two years ago I haven't written much about football. Two years ago I was all about the football here in this journal. I couldn't shut up about the Patriots. Now they're going again, and I'm giddy as all get out about them. I looked back on my journal entry from 2 years ago when Ben and I went to Boston for the rally welcoming the team back. I still can't get over the fact the jumbotron broke.

So I'm psyched for one of my favorite teams to be here (face it, if it's the Steelers, the Pats or the Packers I'm a happy gal). And I'm excited about the commercials (there's a Simpsons commercial) and... the food.

I've got to go to the super market and get some good munchies for the big game. Any requests?


We do a lot of reading around here, all four of us, especially Doug. Lately I've been reading a book that he picked out for himself... I didn't know that I'd get as sucked into it as I have.

It's called "Invisible Frontier" by the writers of Jinx Magazine. Jinx is an online magazine/community dedicated to urban exploration. The invisibles beneath our feet, around our bodies and over our heads. The infrastructure of urban areas which people often times don't know about or don't realize the history surrounding.

One of the more popular articles features Agent Bleach who for his first Jinx assignment rode the NYC subway system for 24 straight hours.

"Invisible" Frontier takes you from the depths to the heights of the leviathan of New York City, in the adventures our intrepid explorers waged during the summer of 2001.

Yes, NYC, the summer of 2001. Right before Sept. 11th. Which is very key for how wonderful this book is, as Jinx has suspended a great deal of its explorations, stating as a preface to the book:

"Jinx has ceased its unlawful trespassing activities for the duration of the present period of war and heightened alert in the United States; though neither odious nor evil, the activities of urban exploration create the hazard of false alarms and could possibly divert police resources from serious matters. Obedience of just laws is not a private matter. Every crime undermines our safety by making the staggering task of law enforcement harder in this period of terrorism and war."

Each of the urban explorations in this book, from the Croton Aqueduct to the top of the George Washington Bridge, all happened before Sept. 11th when sneaking around Manhattan in dress clothes and dark sunglasses meant you were strange but not suspicious. After all, it was New York City. People are weird. If a group of seven comes into a coffee shop in the middle of the night dressed to the nines and covered with mud, it's peculiar, but not perilous.

Having grown up on Long Island, I knew there was a lot of NY history that I either slept through in the public schools or I simply had forgotten, or, as the case probably was in the 70s and 80s, certain aspects of history were passed over and we got to read Walt Whitman poems over and over again. (Don't forget, "I hate you Walt Freakin' Whitman! Leaves of Grass my ASS!")

So I found this book fascinating, mind blowing... it is a collection of stories about urban exploration with clear historical documentation as to why each of these locations is.

One of the most chilling little passages in the book is in the chapter about North Brother Island, and the 1904 wreck of the General Slocum.

Reported by L.B. Deyo, he writes:

" 'Hey, mister!' Twelve-year old Frank Perditsky busted into the bridge. 'The boat's on fire!' "

"[Captain William] Van Schaick shot the kid a glare, the fixed his eyes back on the river. He wasn't going in for pranks, not now, with Hell Gate churning in front of him. 'You shut your trap,' he told the boy. 'Get out of here.'

"It was ten more minutes before Captain Van Schaick learned the truth. By then the fire was out of control, burning hay and fuel oil, spitting a column of black into the sky. 'Full speed,' he ordered, scanning for a safe berth. He had already Left Manhattan behind; here the river threaded the Bronx and Queens. There were piers along both banks, but they were too dangerous, crowded with lumber and other flammable materials. He made a decision. 'Put her on North Brother Island.' It was just a mile ahead.

"The acceleration whipped flames back along the length of the Slocum. The crew panicked. Old cork life preservers dissolved in the brine as the first passengers leaped over-board. For years the owners of the General Slocum had ignored safety requirements and training; the lifeboats were bolted to the sides of the ship, the fire hoses were rotten. Now the burning decks swarmed with children.

"North Brother came into view. It was a good choice - it had a ferry slip pier, and it housed the brand-new Riverside Hospital. They were seconds away when Van Schaick made his error.

"Something caught his eye in the Bronx, and he decided to head there instead. A moment later he thought better of it and jerked the wheel back toward the ferry slip on North Brother. The Slocum was going too fast for that turn; it broke the ship. Passengers were thrown across the upper deck into the guardrail, carrying it overboard.

"The river boiled. Oily flames spread across its back, stewing the dead and dying. Currents battered the survivors as they swam, hauling them out to the deepest draught of the river. One boy was pulled into the water wheel. Some men returned to the breached ferry to search for children, and they had the clothes burned off their backs. Those who touched the walls fused their skin to the paint. Rescuers rushed to the scene; some fought to save lives, others robbed desperate women before helping them ashore. A few prisoners from nearby Rikers Island actually escaped so they could help in the rescue.

"It remains, in the summer of 2001, the worst disaster in New York History. One thousand twenty-one persons died. As night fell, the doctors and nurses of Riverside Hospital laid out some six hundred corpses along the grassy shores of North Brother. As they worked, these doctors and nurses knew they had seen an unprecedented catastrophe. They didn't know that just three years later a new trouble would touch their shores, a trouble to eclipse the wreck of the General Slocum. A patient was coming to North Brother Island, a patient who would bring a hundred years of infamy."

-pgs 158-159

And, of course the patient that came to North Brother Island was Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary.

And of course, less than 100 years later New York's worst disaster was eclipsed by the fall of the World Trade Center, upon which Jinx unfortunately was not able to plant its flag.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this -- it's funny, it's enlightening, it's chock full of historical fact (tell me who designed the Croton Aqueduct. Anyone? Anyone? Okay then, tell me the names of the painters most prominently featured in the Freedom Tunnel. Anyone? See. I thought not). If you enjoy New York, if you enjoy history, if you enjoy geocaching, hunting, treasure finding... if you think that exploration isn't dead on earth and strictly reserved for Mars and the moon, please get this book. Read the content in jinx magazine online too. Enjoy.

And in closing -- a funny. The woman over the cube wall from me started laughing hysterically this morning. I asked her what was so funny. She almost couldn't get it out.

"I was typing an email and I typo'ed something," she said. I started to laugh, trying to figure out what could possibly be so funny. So I asked her to tell me what she typo'ed.

"Well, I meant to type 'snowstorm,' but I didn't. I typed, I ... typed" she's laughing again. I'm laughing too...


"You typed 'snotstorm' instead of 'snowstorm?'" I asked, laughing. Yes. So the two of us laughed our asses off. I had a picture in my mind that aside from possibly a shitstorm, a snotstorm would be the worst place on earth to possibly be.

So kids, with this -- I urge you. Stay out of the snotstorms of life. And have a great evening.

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