GROUND ZERO

Lowline Lab, an open laboratory and technical exhibit, has converted an abandoned underground terminal in New York into a park, powered by solar technology. For the project, James Ramsey of Raad Studio created a “remote skylight” made of fibre optics and reflectors that evenly distribute sunlight and aid greenery. Website: www.thelowline.org

GROUND ZERO Photo Gallery



People mostly just stood in the open doorway and started urinating in the general direction of what was believed to be the urinal. People who wanted to defecate either had to be very brave or desperate. Those poor souls who couldn’t wait felt their way deeper into the gloom and squatted where they could, dumping their goods God-knows-where. Occasionally, someone would fall over as they squatted, causing them to howl and curse and eventually emerge smeared with piss and shit and slime and every other revolting paste imaginable. The scurry of rats was endemic. I could not bring myself to go near the doorway and instead urinated against the wall outside, like most sensible people. Two grunting forms made the beast-with-two-backs in the pitch dark shadow a few feet away. Man and woman or man and man-woman; I didn’t want to know. By 5.00 a. m., we were too drunk to continue speaking and sat slumped on our stools, watching the strange world we were in start to wind down. The food stalls were putting out their charcoal and the tables were being put away as they were vacated. Buckets of water were being thrown down to swill the night’s excesses away into the monsoon drains. Beer was still being served, although trade was much slacker now. We caught two trishaws back to Anson Road, John and I shared while Barry slumped in his own one. As the wind caught our faces, we livened up and cajoled the ancient men who were peddling into a race, which they entered into with some enthusiasm in anticipation of a tip. We careered through the empty streets in the pre-dawn, seeing the early starters scratching and stretching on the pavements. Barry won by a long way. I fell onto my pillow at 6. 00 a.m., for two hours of saturated sleep before rising for the day’s work. As I sank into the darkness, I felt a stab of envy for John, who had his day off and could lie in and take several hours heavy slumber. When the Vexilla slipped out of Keppel in the early morning several days later, I felt a certain relief. I needed sleep and a break from the succession of nights that went on in wild relief until breakfast was approaching. I wanted the clean sea air in my lungs and I wanted hard work to flush out my system, I wanted to sleep for seven unbroken hours, I wanted an evening where I would drink no more than half a dozen cans a beer and smoke no more than ten cigarettes. I wanted the hot sun on my brown back as I sweated on deck. I wanted all the poisons leeched out of me. We steamed the four miles across the crowded Singapore harbour, weaving between the ships at anchor, to Pulau Bukom, the big oil refinery loading port of the Far East.

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