Friday, March 14, 2008

Book Recommendations

Gang Leader for a Day

When Venkatesh walked into an abandoned building in one of Chicago's most notorious housing projects, he was looking for people to take a multiple-choice survey on urban poverty. A first-year grad student hoping to impress his professors with his boldness, he never imagined that as a result of the assignment he would befriend a gang leader named JT and spend the better part of a decade inside the projects under JT's protection, documenting what he saw there.

I first read this in Freakanomics, basically he infiltrates the gang during a study for graduate school and shows why the bottom level drug dealers still live with their moms. A real life study of risk and return.

Fletcher Street

Deep in the heart of Philadelphia, past row houses and vacant lots, run-down playgrounds and dilapidated schools, is a little place called Fletcher Street. It has everything one would expect to find down an alley in the ghetto, with one addition: horses. The men and boys of Fletcher Street have used their passion for riding and bonds with their rides to build their and their community’s sense of worth. They describe their passion for horses as having kept them from the temptations of street life. Fletcher Street by Martha Camarillo documents the lives of these men and the boys they mentor, who board their horses in abandoned houses or makeshift stables, and ride them through the streets of Philly.

This is a more recent update of what happened on Fletcher St. just last year. The bulldozers knocked down the building on Fletcher Street piece by piece. All that's left is a pile of rubble. About 95 percent of the property was condemned.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tunnel Exploration

I know up until this point all of the posts have been related to what I know and what we know. However whenever I come across some shit thats different than what I know I get curious too. As was the case when I discovered this young kid who has a real affinity for crawling through the dingy, dark tunnels of NYC's subways. This is what I came up with....

How did you get into this?

Ever since around 5 years old (if I can remember right), I thought the subways were the shit. Although back then I didn't really think I would be exploring the tunnels at 3 in the morning. It began when I first started learning about graffiti, then I started to creep up on what I call ‘explorer flicks’. It all just came together man and I don't know how to explain it, but I'm here now. Cats think the NYC subway is a dirty place and it is, but they don't know how much stuff is down there. It would blow your mind, I probably only explored like .03% of it.


You ever have any problems with the law, workers, trains or the third rail?

I’ve had a couple close encounters with work bums and they never spotted me out. I never had problems with the law underground, but I did on the street. But I've had problems with trains…a lot of problems. Problems ranging from being salty and having to step in between pillars to sparks shooting from the third rail. I was taking a flick one time and a train was passing by on a local track and sparked up the third rail out of nowhere. It almost knocked me back.


What are the most exciting tracks you ever had the opportunity to walk down? What’s your favorite line?

The most exciting was probably the Queens IND between **th and Queens Plaza. It's got trains coming in from all directions. E,F,G,R, and V trains. It's a mad colorful and open tunnel too. You have to watch out in this tunnel though because trains still run express and people think that they don't because it's a "late night".
My favorite line would probably have to be the Brooklyn 2/5 and the Brooklyn 3/4 trains. Also the Queens ****** Ave, because they stay having trains laid up on the express tracks. Walking down those tunnels is fun too.

Does your mom know about this shit?

Haha yeah. She knows. Just like any other parent, she hates it.


You ever seen some craziness down there?

Yeah son, bums doing some nasty shit in the hatch exits. I fuckin' dipped out after that.

How long can you picture yourself doing this for?

Man, I have no idea.

I'm gonna explore every tunnel before the cameras get in the stations!! They're getting mad deep with those cameras. They can have you really salty sometimes, but I don't think they check them unless something big goes down. There's a new line being built. The T. I want to get down in that tunnel. I've seen a couple people that have already.

Any words of advice for those reading into the same thing?


Yes, those trains are quiet and fast. For anyone wanting to go into the tunnels, don't go down there unless you know what you're looking at. If you don't even know what the third rail is or what it looks like or what a white/red stripped line means, don't even think about it. Learn your shit and check out the tunnels before you go in. If the line still has cars with a rail-fan window, just look out and scope the tunnel out before you decide to go exploring.

Keep us updated and be safe man.

I appreciate the interview and your blog is the shit.