Here's a piece from several years ago. Now that I'm involved in The Bergen Arches Project I've decided to bump it to the top of the queue. The graffiti 'landscape" has changed since then, and I've made some notations about that. "WAAGNFNP" is, of course, the We Are All Nuclear Fireball Now Party, which I've written about a bit earlier, and 3Tops is the Party's enforcer.
About two weeks ago (I'm writing this on 23 July 2007) I was checking my Flickr account to see if anyone had commented on any of my photos. I hit paydirt. One PLASMA SLuGS (red ribbon for WAR} had made the following comment on one of my graffiti photographs: “please if u dont mind tell me where n how to get here.” Bingo!
As some of you party loyalists may know, I've been photographing local graffiti since last fall. The visage of our fine and noble 3Tops is, in fact, one of the pieces I'd found, not to mention other WAAGNFNP notables, such as Toothy. Graffits, however, is generally illegal, and the people who paint them don't leave contact information on them. Thus, while I now have hundreds, thousands even, of photographs of graffiti within a mile or so of my apartment, I don't know who painted them. And, since I have no roots in the area, I've got no social network through which I can track them down.
That's one of the reason I'd started posting my photos to Flickr. I figured that some of the writers (a term of art) would see them and perhaps, one day, one of them would contact me about them. SLuGS is the first.
Of course, I told him where the picture was taken - in Jersey City, about a mile in from the Holland Tunnel near the old Long Dock Tunnel. I also offered to take him on a tour of the local graffiti. He took me up on my offer and showed up that Sunday afternoon with a woman he introduced as his wife, a backpack full of spray paint, and a Canon single-lens reflex camera. I revved up Google Earth and showed them where we were, where the graffiti is, and off we went, with the intention of going into the Erie Cut.
On the way there SLuGS did a little painting, with both his wife and I snapping pictures:
|Still there, though faded a bit.|
That's the SLuG, his identifying mark that he uses instead of the name that most writers use. It's painted on the base of one of the columns supporting I78 as it comes down off the Jersey Heights (or the Jersey Palisades) and feeds into the Holland Tunnel. He's done thousands of these here and there, mostly I'd guess in the New York City area, but other places as well. He's been to Amsterdam and he's made cooperative arrangements to get the PLASMA SLuG up all over.
|The Sluggs are still there, but the pile is not.|
After that we started making our way to the entrance of the Erie Cut. On the way there we had to go over the bridge beneath which one finds the image of 3Tops:
I'm standing on the bridge; 3Tops is below me and to the left; and the train is going into the Long Dock Tunnel, which was created in the mid-19th century.
That's SLuGS hanging onto the bridge while he paints some SLuGS on it. You can see 3Tops' tail below him at the bottom of the picture. That's his wife at the top walking across the bridge. We followed her across and then I led them up the hill to the right and down into the Erie Cut. Here's the approach:
And here's what's painted underneath that arch:
|These have been painted over, several times.|
The Cut is 85 feet deep and almost a mile long. It was cut into solid rock in the early 20th century to bring four railroad tracks to the port at Jersey City. Jersey City - like Hoboken to its immediate North (where “On the Waterfront” was set) - is no longer a port city; those tracks have been abandoned and only one of them remains (you see it at the bottom of the picture). No one goes into the Cut except graffiti writers, historic preservationists, and other assorted miscreants and adventurers.
Once you're in the Cut you're in another world. Yes, New York City is two or three miles to the east across the Hudson and Jersey City is all over the place 85 feet up. But down in the Cut, those places aren't real. The Cut is its own world, lush vegetation, crumbling masonry, rusting rails, trash strewn about here and there, mud and muck, and mosquitoes, those damn mosquitoes! Nope, it's not Machu Pichu and it's not Victoria Falls, but it's pretty damn good for being in the middle of one of the densest urban areas in the freakin' world.
And so we walked on in muck and wonder and SLuGS painted and his wife took pictures and so did I. That creature to the left was painted by Jersey Joe, aka Rime:
|Rime's dog (at the left) is still there.|
Here we see that there were others along on this adventure:
|The Slug may still be there, though faded.|
And this one is beneath an arch, actually, it's more like a short tunnel (it's dark in there and that's a slightly blurred long-exposure picture):
|These have been gone over.|
We made our way through the Cut where there was more painting and photographing. And stickering; here we see SLuGS' sticker on the left and his wife's on the right:
|I believe the elephant is still there.|
She paints too, but not on this trip.
Now that we'd made it through the Cut we had to decide how to get back. While the walk wasn't difficult, we'd all picked up some mud, mosquito bites, and scratches. Was there an easier way back?
Well, there was the Long Dock Tunnel, the one into which we'd seen a long freight train go an hour before, the one that would lead us straight back to 3Tops. It came out about 30 yards away from the western mouth of the Erie Cut. We could walk back through the tunnel. It's less than a mile long and you can see straight through it. I'd walked into the tunnel many times on my photo excursions and given serious thought to walking through it. Now that I had companions, who had brought up the idea of walking the Tunnel . . . And so we decided to walk back through the tunnel.
I figured there were two potential sources of danger, a train coming along (forcing us to the sides of the tunnel, where there seemed to be plenty of room) and the lack of light making footing treacherous. No train came along while we were in the tunnel; it was Sunday, after all.
The lack of light, however, proved to be troublesome. While you can see through the tunnel from one end to the other, once you get more than, say, 50 to 60 yards into the tunnel, you can't see your feet. You can see light at either end of the tunnel, but your feet are invisible. And that's troublesome because walking train tracks is awkward. The ties are at an awkward distance. The distance between adjacent ties is longer than a single (adult) step, but a step length of two ties is a bit long - though doable. So, you have to be careful what you're doing. Of course, you don't have to walk on the tracks, you can walk beside them. Ha! There you have coarse gravel that isn't wide enough for a comfortable footpath. So, there's no place that's convenient to walk.
We ended up flashing our cameras to get some light. That helped. But, still, I managed to stumble and fall. Got dirty, ripped my jeans, bruises and scrapes, lost the lens cap to my camera, but nothing serious. Minor scrapes for a small-scale adventure.
We exited the tunnel and there saw the throwies SLuGS had done earlier up on the bridge except that now, of course, we were on the ground:
We passed 3Tops (by Japan Joe) on our way out:
|Gone, about a year-and-a-half or two years ago.|