They don't build cities like they used to—which is, to say, by simply backfilling and constructing on top of older architecture, leaving behind a layered time machine just ripe for adventure. The idea that some very old cities, like Rome, are three stories taller than they originally were—that the ground you walk on today is not really, precisely, the ground at all—is still completely mind-blowing to me. Even after I've been below, and seen the buildings-built-atop-buildings with my own eyes.
That's why I love stories like this one from NPR, where professional explorer Erling Kagge accompanies amateur adventurer Steve Duncan on a 25-mile journey through the sewers of New York City. It's no Golden Palace of Nero, but there are some little historical thrills. The photo above, for instance, taken by Duncan, which shows THE canal for which Canal Street was named. Bricked over in 1812—you can see the line between the different stages of brickwork—it's now a sewer. And a clogged one, at that.
The story even includes a short interview with one of the so-called Mole People—homeless people who have figured out how to live more comfortably below ground than on the street.
One of them, Brooklyn, lives in an "igloo," as she put it -- a sort of dump beneath the tracks, which were lined with mural after mural of intense, weird graffiti.
"What do you think people above ground do wrong in life?" Kagge asked her.
"It's called appreciate what you got," Brooklyn said. "And hold on to it. And don't lose it. I don't know why people are miserable -- they got everything that I don't have. And I'm happier than them."
Soon, she burst into Sister Sledge's "We Are Family."
Via Christopher Ryan
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.