Monday, May 16, 2005

I raised the wall, and I will be the one to knock it down

On Saturday afternoon I biked up to Washington Heights to see the landslide before it was all cleaned up. I was biking up Riverside Drive until I reached traffic cones where the road was blocked off. In hindsight (after seeing what was ahead) I probably could have kept going past the cones on a bike without worrying about getting a ton of dirt dumped on me, since there was a distinction between "Road Closed Use Detour" and "POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS". But I didn't know that, so I followed the cars to the detour and found myself on the onramp for the George Washington Bridge and the Cross-Bronx Expressway (see map). It was just like all the antics on the BQE, Verrazano, etc., during the Five Boro Bike Tour, except there were cars there! They didn't really expect to see a bike. I took the exit for 178th St, and weaved around the local streets, taking advantage of my amphibious nature as a vehicle and a pedestrian until I found a vantage point to view the disaster scene. There were emergency vehicles of every kind imaginable (except ambulances, because miraculously no one was hurt), and a parked Fire Department "Mobile Command Unit" with a big TV screen on the side that was looking at whatever the front of the truck was looking at. So yeah, the actual collapse looked just like the pictures in the media, but it was still worth seeing in person. There was a small crowd gathered to watch the backhoes moving dirt. It was a diverse composition of people with black hats and people without black hats and others.

On the way back I looked around and thought about how many levels of built infrastructure this city has. This is especially apparent around there, where the George Washington Bridge is roughly at street level, and then it's a long way down to the parkway, and then a long way down from there to the river. And everything is held up by concrete pillars and retaining walls. Nekavim nekavim chalulim chalulim .... she'im yipateich echad meihem o yisateim echad meihem .... (If any one of them should open, or if any one of them should close....) I wonder how high the street level (anywhere) is above the original ground level. The thing that made the largest impression on me at Ground Zero (back when it was still fresh), other than thinking about the tragedy and all that, was looking down into the pit and seeing how deep the human-made structures go down into the ground, like Isengard in the Lord of the Rings movies, except not computer graphics. And every day I go to work eight floors above an entire neighborhood made of landfill.


  1. You are a fascinating person, Ben. Now if only you could have done that in Hebrew font...

  2. Oops, that was meant for the previous post, Aleph-null elef alfei alafim