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Dug It [Dec. 1st, 2005|04:17 am]
A night of furious rain and abundant, cold wind made me happy to be inside a cozy room (though I did, of course, step out onto the porch now and then to enjoy the dim but loud spectacle, and catch a bit of spray while the aggressive air tugged at my clothes.) The cat is distraught, and constantly complains to me of my thoughtlessness in causing the sky to open and drop hateful water on her world. Poor kitty. She just can't believe that I won't make it stop. If the rain gutter clogs and overflows and floods the covered flower bed next to the porch where she likes to roll in the dirt, she's really going to get pissed.

Luckily, the rain has not soaked the telephone box on the wall, so I've still got teh Internets. Thus, I was able to read a post which links to BLDGBLOG, an urban architecture site where I found London Topological, an article (with pictures) about many of the strange and fascinating structures under the city, both well-known and little-known. The site has a few other articles on underground structures around Britain as well, and also provided me with a link to Subterranea Britannica, a site maintained by an organization which specializes in the study and investigation of man-made and man-used underground places.

One comment in the London article led me to an old (march, 2003) article about Japanese journalist Shun Akiba in The Japan Times Online. Akiba has written a book (not yet translated into English) in which he speculates about a secret, government-built underground city which he believes exists beneath Tokyo. Some of his arguments verge on the paranoid, but it does seem clear that there is more construction underground in many cities than the public realizes. (For the people on my friends list who read Japanese, in case you're interested, Akiba's book is called Teito Tokyo Kakusareta Chikamono Himitsu.)

I've been fascinated with such places ever since I first saw Carol Reed's The Third Man when I was about twelve years old. I was greatly impressed by the vast halls and labyrinthine passages of Vienna's sewers that were depicted in the movie. Later, I heard tales of the less unpleasantly scented labyrinth of tunnels and rooms which lie beneath the campus of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. I've known a couple of people who have actually explored parts of them, and I've always wished that I could go poking around in them, myself.

I was also a bit disappointed as a kid that we didn't have one of those 1950's fallout shelters in our back yard-- not because I was thinking about surviving a nuclear war, but because I thought it would be really neat to have an underground fort to play in. Kids are sometimes much more practical than adults. Later, when I played Dungeons and Dragons a few times, I found the tedious process of fighting various monsters much less interesting than the exploring of the caverns, and discovering the things hidden in them. I think I must have some vole DNA. Maybe some bat, too. Oddly, though, I have never had any desire to spelunk, and most natural caverns hold no interest for me. My fantasies are more Neil Gaiman than Tom Sawyer.

Oh, it sounds as though the rain is easing up. I think I'll let the cat out for a while. Maybe there'll be a glimpse of stars before night ends. If so, I'll imagine I'm seeing them after emerging from some vast underground complex I've been exploring.

[User Picture]From: marseille
2005-12-03 03:06 am (UTC)
I think most of us are fascinated by the idea of hidden cities, underground secrets. Hence the popularity of a novel featuring underground society below London (forget the name) and that series with a city below New York City.
As for the fallout shelters, I imagined they'd be fun, myself, not then being able to imagine the worst. Also, I had older cousins who dug a BIG underground hiding place in their backyard. Their parents decided it was unsafe, but I got to go in once to check it out, though I was only 5 or 6, before it got filled in.
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