Archive for October, 2010

Logbook, 2007 – Present

Here is a very unformed/unworked piece of sh—experimental work. Basically, I was playing with the information in my dive log and yet again, seeing how I provided information. To someone who doesn’t know what happened on those dives, some of the results are a little interesting to say the least. I collected this with Wakefield, Quebec and Tobermory, Ontario for my submission to a new reading series at Concordia called Synapse. We’ll see what comes of that.

 

Logbook, 2007 – Present

ARTIFICIAL RESPIRATION:

A. Tilt head and pinch nostrils. B. Seal and Blow. C. Watch and Listen.

 

DIVE #7, Santa Lucia, Cuba.

1st OCEAN DIVE! Mike’s first open water dive. Saw nurse shark, barracuda, stingray, played with a spider crab! COCO BEACH. HUGE WRECK, over 100 years old. Ton of LION FISH. Also, BLUE TANG, Butterfly fish, cephalopod-like ball with many legs that danced. BARRACUDA followed us. Fed yellow & blue fish. Ton of fish. Pet some.

 

DIVE #10, Tobermory, Ontario. Niagara II.

“Captain Fish” and the reason we’re gonna use a slate from now on.

 

DIVE #13,Tobermory, Ontario. Scoville.

The cord is at like 100ft even though other side of boat may attain 30 ft. We came right back up from 60 – it sucked.

 

DIVE #15, Tobermory, Ontario. Caroline Rose.

This boat is on the $100 bill. Nice.

 

DIVE #19, Tobermory, Ontario. Wetmore.

Beautiful boiler! Rudder hugely impressive – big! Great dive. Breathtaking. (Not literally because that would be bad when you’re underwater.)

 

DIVE #20, Tobermory, Ontario. Newaygo. (Yay, 20 dives!)

Wreck is on shallow land of horseshoe formation. Spread out over ~700 feet. 3 pieces. Saw first. Had trouble navigating. Very shallow.

 

DIVE #21, Kingston, Ontario. Wolfe Islander II.

Went to wheel house/front of ship. INSIDE! Very open ship. Went up stairs & through “observation” hall. Lots of fish. Water/air “mirrors” on ceiling. Ton of fish. Sheephead cousin of carp had big news: pregnant. Tom messed with bicycle on deck under wheelhouse. Saw garden gnomes drinking. Beefeater. Bottle of Black Seal. Trouble equalizing ears on way up. Went for a ride on rope underwater when boat adjusted.

 

DIVE #23, Kingston, Ontario. Wolfe Islander II.

Started at back & worked our way forward. 2 Motorcycles on rear deck and one bicycle other than one near wheelhouse. Then followed pregnant sheephead. “Newbie” Etienne kept running into me.

 

DIVE #25, Wakefield, Quebec. Morrison Quarry.

Weather: fucking cold – had a fire going all day

Horrible dive. Orientation dive. Conflict with dive buddy. Compensation like yoyos. Very frustrating.

 

DIVE #26, Wakefield, Quebec. Morrison Quarry. (NIGHT)

Night dive. Nice enough. Calm. Turning off flashlight was fun. Did everything alone, start and finish.

 

DIVE #27, Wakefield, Quebec. Morrison Quarry.

My first “deep” dive. Everything was brown. Didn’t really do much except try and keep my buddy next to me. No visible narcosis effects. Thoughts did seem slower.

 

DIVE #28, Wakefield, Quebec. Morrison Quarry.

“Rescue” exercise. Eric was eaten by a shark – very sad. Had to do it twice. Hard work!

 

DIVE #34, Cardinal, Ontario. Conestoga.

Tom lost his weights. Hate Sherwood integrated weight system. Did a continuous dive. They were near shore. A “drift” dive. Not much current, lots of noobs.

 

DIVE #39, Flintkote Quarry, Quebec.

Shallow side – group dive with Tom, Brad, Mike, Dylan, Bobby (the Bulgarian). Doing Serge a favour due to prior incidents with Bobby and Dylan.

 

DIVE #40, Flintkote Quarry, Quebec.

COLD! Went to the bus on the deep side. Tom got nitrogen narcosis – fell and didn’t seem to care. His gloves + crotch = holes. He was too cold to stay long. Bus was cool. Love the mirror in the bathroom and the metal scorpion.

 

DIVE #45, Kingston, Ontario. Milton Island. (Wolfe-Islander II aborted.)

Unplanned dive in unknown territory. Horrible windy weather (tropical storm Earl) – five foot waves where we were, much worse around the Wolfe. Could have torn moorings off Wolfe.

Bad current. Silly divers swam on surface. Bad weeds and lily pads. Saw ~4 2-3 ft. long fish. Tom found a spatula. Others found 2 anchors, 3 bottles, 1 broken vase. Was on lookout in Rescue capacity. Oh man.

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“The Hobby” v3.1

Here is the version of my more or less latest story that was workshopped in class (today – yesterday?). I’ll hopefully have another draft before I have to make a portfolio at the end of the semester. There are still plenty of kinks to work out – thanks to my awesome workshoppers for helping with that – both those that read it before I handed it out and those that read it for class.

Okay, so basically what I wanted to do was play with how I was providing information in the story. I also had some inspiration partway through when I tried to do some research and found these links:

http://www.ny1.com/?SecID=1000&ArID=47947
http://www.satanslaundromat.com/sl/archives/000367.html
http://www.satanslaundromat.com/sl/archives/000368.html

Look out for another draft of this!

The Hobby

The subway rattled with the last run, that summer evening in August. They had all heard the warnings – knew why the subway was closing. Some maintained that it was pure fear-mongering, but it all went dark. Except chemical safety lights and incandescents at each station – those ones wired never to go off, strategically placed to make you feel safe. They were more necessary after that night than ever before, for those that began to travel underground.

Pieter’s hobby was going to the abandoned stations, even before the subway was shut down – he fancied himself an urban spelunker. He had a home. It was usually well-lit, the fridge well-stocked, the neighbours uncomplaining. It just didn’t do it for him the way the train tunnels did. He had told Katja about moving to New York for the subway system three years ago. Pieter knew that she could dig it – they had met in the subway tunnels, and he had been showing her around ever since. Except that he hadn’t seen her for awhile, which scared him with so many people still sick.

“Tried doing this in Montreal once,” she had told him as they walked from one avenue to the next beneath the surface. “The system is too linear, too straight-forward. It doesn’t make a latticework under the entire city the way that it does here. They don’t have the entire alphabet going in both directions. They have too few service tunnels.”

Amen. The secret abandoned stations were just the icing on the cake when you had as many intersecting lines as New York did. Katja in particular seemed to enjoy seeing these hubs, these nexus points. Sometimes, city planners changed their minds – he should know. They had panicked when they realized that the subway was an open system, one where contact between the citizens could not be controlled. So now it was like the catacombs in Paris. You could do anything there, from holding a rave to filming a porno. He could see the ad: Get married under Paris. Get married in the beautiful and historic catacombs! So there weren’t rooms full of skulls or entrances from churches, or centuries of buried monks. These were catacombs in their infancy, less than a hundred years old and already abandoned – temporarily, they were assured. If they were built with a different purpose in mind, it was because the church never needed a place to bury their dead as much as New Yorkers needed a place to bury their infrastructure.

Even before all this, Pieter had avoided the hubbub upstairs. Aside from that however-many kilometer traffic jam in China, New York traffic was some of the worst that Pieter knew. Pieter still took the subway, just not in the way that it used to mean – and now he wore a mask over his mouth and nostrils.

Sometimes, Pieter picked things up in the tunnels that he categorized as being anthropologically interesting. He had a collection: things that the cleaners had missed, that the rats had moved, that squatters left behind. He had jewelry, notes, a basketball signed by the 1995 incarnation of the New York Knicks, several pounds of hashish, a couple of sets of car keys – and that was just for starters. He didn’t tell anybody about the really good stuff – except Katja. He hoped to run into Katja soon to show her how his collection had grown in her absence. He never carried anything out of the tunnels. He had cleared out a maintenance closet near the Museum of Natural History, brought his own tools and changed the lock. There, he kept his kunstkammer, as they called it back home, his curios.

He was sifting through the moist rubble of a collapsed wall with a stick, wondering if Katja was dead (ha-ha). He planned to make that joke to her when they finally caught up with one another. In the wall fragments, he found a woman’s ring. It seemed like the wall had crumbled because of a long-blocked sewer, and that the torrent of water had worn holes through the concrete. In some places, water streamed right through from the sewers, in rivulets. Hence, the ring: small enough to fit through just such an artery, or maybe it had just come through a backed-up pipe.

Pieter dried the ring and put it in his left pocket. Then, he took a folded piece of paper from his right, and opened it up. He erased a solid line on the map and put a dotted one in its place, turning the wall into rubble on the page.

It was two days after he found the new service entrance that he saw Katja again. She had dyed her hair and given herself a trim. He told her it looked nice. He lifted his surgical mask to smile at her.

“I was wondering if I could still count you among the living – ha-ha,” he said, as rehearsed.

Katja glowered. “It’s been hell up there these past few months. I’m sure you know.”

“Yeah, sure, since it all went down,” said Pieter. “Do you regret leaving Germany?”

“Do you? I had no family left there.”

Peter shrugged. “I’ve seen a great deal since leaving. By the way, have you a map? I was worried you were lost somewhere, since last I saw you.”

Katja shook her head. “It’s all up here. Plus, that’s what I have you for.”

“I’ve found some new places since we last talked,” said Pieter, taking out the folded plan for the station they were currently walking around.

“If you’ll take me there, I’ll remember the way.”

Pieter told her that he would be more than happy to do so. He told her about the new additions to his kunst closet, and they exchanged anecdotes while they walked, whiling away the time and warding off the ominous aspects of the dark.

“It’s a little spooky down here,” admitted Katja. “Tell me a story or something.”

“Well, I found a walkman recently. It had a mix tape in it from God knows when ––– ”

Pieter had slipped on a slick patch of lime and water, and looking up from the flat of his back, found his flashlight pointing at part of a spray-painted word.

– CA –

“What is that stuff? It looks like ice but it’s dripping from the ceiling…?”

“Limestone and water, I think – but Katja, there are words on the ceiling. Help me find the beginning.”

“Is it old?”

“I can’t tell. It’s not faded but it lacks sheen.”

This was a horse of a different colour.

CALLING ALL TUNNEL FREAKS – MEDICAL CARE DOWN CORRIDOR G3-139+50. WE DON’T WANT ANY CASH, JUST SUPPLIES IF YOU’VE GOT THEM. WE TREAT FOR INFECTION.

All this, written in a tidy line as they walked down the corridor. It was amazing what you could still organize considering how everything had gone to hell.

“Okay, so we know to avoid that tunnel,” murmured Katja.

“I would like to meet them.”

“They’re probably all gone or dead. Large groups with supplies make attractive targets, if they didn’t lose interest in helping to begin with once it wasn’t all Scrubs and House’s Anatomy. If they didn’t all catch it.”

“I think those that were going to catch it already have.”

“So, tell me your story, Pete,” she said, a distraction. It worked.

“Oh! So the walkman had this mix tape…”

“No, not that. Your actual story.”

“Well, I’m a civil engineer – or I was. I was born in Bavaria, a land with no metro cars. So I moved; there wasn’t much civil engineering to be done on the cows.”

“And the subway?”

“Well, it used to be a hobby, but now I spend most of my time down here – between what’s going on topside and all the things I’m discovering. Well, how about you? Why stay here above, say, fleeing the city?”

“Fleeing could have left me stuck in a car instead of in a much stronger concrete and metal structure, yeah? Plus, there wasn’t enough information. Initially, us plebes all thought we were going to be bombed. That’s why they shut down the subway…”

“Somebody didn’t think that one through. Don’t they know how many buildings connect in the underground? From museums to old factories…Not to mention that, with big enough bombs, even if the subway tunnels blew with no one in them, they would still take out half the city at least! Everything is built on top of it,” said Pieter. “It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The city is only empty because people ran scared.”

“I know, right? That’s exactly why I started hanging around down here – the connectedness, and it’s a lot safer than traveling above. At least it’s supposed to be empty.”

Pieter pursed his lips. He had often thought of moving his few belongings down here. But eventually, even with two-thirds of the population fled, someone would think of reopening things down here (even if the citizenry had reopened it for themselves). The shut-down hadn’t been done in a hurry. Each train waited on its own side track, in its own berth. Some bleeding heart had even left the lights on in the stations, for that last run and afterwards. Somebody out there like them couldn’t stand to see the stations go dark, succumbed to some unproven threat.

“Two-thirds of the population is gone,” murmured Pieter suddenly, voicing his thoughts. “That’s more than the bubonic plague managed, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Please don’t give the germs a will of their own, Pieter. It scares me – and anyway, most of the people are slowly coming back,” said Katja. She drew her voluminous sweater in around her, light from her flashlight darting across the wall with her sudden movements. “It’s not two-thirds dead. What are the statistics – a one percent mortality rate?”

“You’re right – and even if it weren’t, there are still people who might be alive in tunnel gee three dash one-thirty-nine plus fifty. Where’s the harm in checking out that corridor?”

“I just don’t want to be disappointed again. I have investigated so many of these messages since the city was evacuated. I like to think of them busily tending patients, happy and well-fed. I can’t undo the knowing when I find that it’s not so,” admitted Katja. “And you know, that corridor is bound to be quite far.”

“Do you have anything else to do?” Pieter lifted his mask and took a sip from his water bottle, aware now that he didn’t know what Katja’s profession was.

“Eh…fine, but let’s not be stupid. Meet me at Herald Square with food and supplies tomorrow morning at seven. I’ll go to the pharmacy and get them their supplies…if they’re still around to receive them.”

“Okay. I’ll also find out where that tunnel is. I’ll check the blueprints,” said Pieter. He was glad to have a reason to spend time with Katja. He thought of the ring, still in his pocket.

“Right. Good idea. So I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Pieter went home to check his more detailed Subway plans, laying station upon station next to each other in blueprint form. He found his neighbours obligingly quiet at usual. Where was tunnel G3-139+50? Was it a fairy-tale – a fiction? Maybe they were setting themselves up for disappointment. Maybe the tunnel had been built after these plans had been archived. He had only finagled his way into getting them by claiming it was for a civil engineering study, which, in a way, he supposed, this was. Where the hell was this place?

Katja met him at seven the next morning with two thermoses full of coffee, God bless her. She was waiting for him just inside the station entrance. He couldn’t tell her expression beneath the mask.

“Well, just how far is it? You look like somebody stole the sun.”

“I can’t find it, period. It’s not in any of my blueprints. We’ll need more information if we’re going to find this tunnel.”

“Eh? You must have missed it!”

“No – tunnel numbers have a sequence, a code, which means…” Pieter’s lips parted slightly in surprise. He understood. “Which means that I do know which lines it ought to connect to – but it doesn’t exist. The line ends.”

Katja sipped coffee. “Okay, so it doesn’t exist. I know the pharmacist; she’ll probably let me return this stuff.”

Pieter was mollified, finally noticing the large duffle bag slung over her shoulder. “You were going to donate so much…”

“Not everyone is as fortunate as we are, among us survivors. I mean, they can’t even afford to rent an empty building for their clinic, if they’re down in the tunnels.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Let’s get them these supplies. Keep an eye on your bag, now that we’ll be on the thoroughfare. This isn’t our usual dead part of the subway.”

“I generally keep away from here. A lot of people congregate around here. Let’s go quickly.”

“Right, so we’ll go to the end of this line,” he said, pointing out a branch on the map inside the station.

They descended into the subway station, past the dusty turnstiles, past the one or two drowsing people. Some stared, but Pieter imagined that it was only his own self-consciousness that made him feel out of place. As they passed people, he figured that he should ask about the tunnel number, but no one gave off a friendly vibe. When he did ask, all he got was blank stares, or scoffs.

“How can you think of looking for some dumb tunnel when people are dying?” said one charming lady with dried snot on her upper lip. Pieter thanked her for her time.

“I’ll ask when we get closer to where we’re going,” he whispered to himself when they had taken their leave, taking Katja’s hand to lead her through the “crowded” area. She didn’t seem to mind.

It took a few hours to arrive at their destination, and naturally (according to Katja), they still hadn’t found anything about the tunnel. They sat down to break their fast. Katja laid out jam sandwiches, tinned clingstone peaches, pickles, and diet iced tea. She then blushed, saying that the coffee had gone right through her, and started down a side tunnel, duffle in tow. Pieter offered to take it, but she said she had toilet paper in it, so she might as well bring it along. When she came back, she sat closer to Pieter.

“It would be nice if right about now a wise bearded man arrived asking for hospitality. A historian, maybe,” said Katja.

“Or a civil engineer who had been here a bit longer before the fall,” suggested Pieter. “Say, some decades.”

“Well, we can’t quit before we’ve even begun. The search for it is kind of the point.”

“Nobody knew anything on the way over. I think we had the right idea with the historian thing,” said Pieter. “As a last resort, we can go through old newspaper articles.”

“Maybe our question was too specific – all those numbers?”

They walked back along the tunnel, Pieter offering to take the duffle bag for a while, and Katja reluctantly accepting. It was heavier than he expected. They didn’t run into anyone.

“What are the chances that we’ll accidentally stumble on an expert in subway construction in New York down here with two-thirds of the population gone?” said Pieter, getting discouraged.

“Pretty good chances that any living subway experts would have a propensity to hang out in the subway, wouldn’t you say?”

The voice came out of a darkened service tunnel, making Katja (and Pieter) jump. They had gotten used to being alone, and had run out of anecdotes some time ago.  Pieter’s comment had been the first to break the silence in a long time.

“Are we that lucky today?” called out Katja.

“I was just fucking with you about the whole subway expert thing, but it does make a lot of sense, eh?” Shuffling towards them was a very portly man, dressed in grey jogging pants and a university sweatshirt that Pieter didn’t recognize. He could hear the man’s wheezing breaths.

“Yeah,” laughed Pieter. “I guess.”

“Still, what are you looking for?” He gave a wet-sounding cough.

“Ah, nothing important. Some tunnel that’s not on the subway blueprints that I have,” said Pieter.

“We want to bring something there,” said Katja.

“What do you have blueprints for – that could be dangerous, eh? If the average Joe had a map of the air ducts or something? Or the not so average…”

“I’m a civil engineer,” said Pieter.

The fat man turned his attention to Katja. “Then I suppose you’re the bomb expert?”

Katja’s eyebrow twitched. “You know, Pieter, let’s find someone who won’t aggravate their angina from venting their paranoia at us.”

“Say, now! Just because I made a bad joke, doesn’t mean things have to turn nasty between us. Tell me more about your tunnel,” said the man, taking big, gulping breaths. “Are there women like you there?”

Pieter explained about where they suspected the tunnel must lie. The fat man clapped his hands together with a moist sound. “I know what you’re looking for!”

“Well, can you tell me, please?”

“So that you can leave me alone down here again?” He wiped a sweaty hand on his sweatshirt and coughed. Pieter and Katja both drew farther away from him, still listening intently despite all the warning signs. He smiled. “What do I get for telling?”

Katja raised an eyebrow. Pieter stood in front of her. “Don’t trouble yourself…we’ll find it on our own.”

“No – Pieter…” Katja put a hand on his shoulder. “What if he really knows?”

“Well, if he won’t tell us, we’ll just have to leave, won’t we?”

“No! Stick around awhile – don’t be unfriendly,” said the obviously dying man, his eyes large and watery, his voice getting increasingly quavery. He spat out a wad of blood-specked sputum. “They dug for that line in the seventies. Only they never implemented it. There was talk before this latest mess of finishing the job. The Second Avenue subway line.”

“That’s it. But where is it? How do you get to it?” said Katja, holding Peter’s arm in front of her.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” said the sick man. “How would the workers have gotten in? Through tunnels, lowered down a hole? Only stay and we’ll figure it out.”

Pieter closed his eyes a moment, visualizing. “It would have to be connected to a safety exit in case of emergency. Something stable, already built. It must connect to a maintenance tunnel. We assumed that the tunnels were dead ends, and that this tunnel would be all by its lonesome. We thought we’d see a sign about construction being underway. But if it hasn’t been underway since the seventies…”

Katja nodded, her expression manic. “Yeah, Pieter, we get it. So let’s go back! Please.”

So they did, leaving the sick man behind. Pieter had wanted to give him a tip – after all, he had done his best to be helpful. Katja said that the supplies were for the clinic, and left it at that. The man started to cry when they went – Pieter had to harden his heart. He realized that they had nothing to give that would help the man anyhow.

The unfinished, nameless station was joined up to the second maintenance tunnel they checked, coming from that last station where they had stopped for lunch. It wasn’t on any of the maps, and it fit the pattern of tunnel numberings that Pieter had expected. Once they realized how to get into the half-constructed station, it was only a matter of time. They were on the right track – literally. The platform for the train was nothing but a bare concrete slab. A stairwell leading upwards was encased in plywood at alternating landings. They split briefly to take the time to explore, confident that they would find the tunnel later. G3-139+50 could only be one of the tunnels beneath them.

Out of the ten landings of the stairs leading to just below the surface (with no way to actually exit the subway), the five upper ones were completely covered in graffiti – it was a crazy mash-up of colours, symbols and shapes, combining black and pink and small and big. Peter stopped when he saw an eight and a half by eleven sheet that declared, in several languages, some of which were misspelled:

“YOU ARE LEAVING

THE AMERICAN SECTOR

Bbl BbIE3 Ж AETE И

AMEPИKAHCKOTO CEKTOPA

VOUS SOTREZ

DU SECTEUR AMERICAIN

SIE VERIASSEN DEN AMERIKANISCHEN SEKTOR

USTED ESTA SALIENDO DEL SECTOR AMERICANO”

Pieter called down to Katja when he saw it, not sure where she had gotten to. “Katja, they have one of the checkpoint signs from the Wall – well, a copy!”

Katja didn’t answer, so Pieter went to find her, sure that the sign would interest her, an East German. He found her pointed headfirst into a crawlspace downstairs and hoisted the duffle onto his shoulder. It seemed lighter than this morning. “Hey, find anything interesting?”

He must have startled her – she was out of the narrow space in a flash.

“Ah, no… I didn’t find anything,” she said, straightening up. Her damp hair clung to her forehead, and her shoulders and arms were covered in dust.

“Oh!” said Pieter, the sight of her pretty face calling to mind the ring that he had forgotten to place in his kunstkabinet. “Look what I found.”

“Ah – very nice,” said Katja. “Here, let me carry the duffle.”

“Nah, it’s light enough,” said Pieter. “Come see this graffiti.”

“Okay,” said Katja. “Then the tunnel and the medical supplies?”

“Yeah – you know, after we’ve found that tunnel, we will have walked through every part of the New York subway system. I’m proud of myself in a nerdy way,” said Pieter, grinning – then remembering that she couldn’t see beneath the filter mask.

“Yeah, I know,” said Katja.

As he had expected, Katja seemed to like the graffiti. She seemed to want to linger. Neither of them mentioned the ring again, but Pieter was thinking about it. They found their goal exactly where it should be, according to the layouts of other stations. Naturally, no one was there. There were two folding cots standing upended in a corner. Peter sank back against a wall, bitterly disappointed. Katja put a hand on his shoulder.

“Damn,” said Pieter. “And we toted this halfway across New York.”

He hoisted the duffle, not realizing that a zipper was open. Out fell a rectangular black box. Katja snatched it up.

“Is that a medical supply?” asked Pieter. He thought back to the fat man.

“No,” said Katja calmly. “It’s a radio – for communication. I – I thought that they needed something better than spray-paint on the ceilings of tunnels.”

She took the strap of the duffle bag in hand.

“Ah,” said Pieter, not letting go of the duffle. He reached a hand in, touching a soft substance covered in plastic. He drew a packet of it out.  He tried to keep his tone light. “Gelignite?”

“No – reusable ice packs – are you thinking of that – that dead man?” Katja pulled the duffle away from Pieter. “You’re scaring me. You sound paranoid.”

Pieter dropped the plastic-covered substance back into the bag. He didn’t know enough to identify what the substance was, could barely see in the dark. All those times that she had been alone, down side hallways, in the far-off places that he had guided her to see: structural supports, load-bearing pillars versus decorative ones, arches holding up tons of earth and concrete…The weeks that she had been missing…

“Pieter?”

Katja still held the black box in her hand – the radio. Pieter laid a hand over hers.