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PATH Train Approaching

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posted by David Woo alias Wootang01 on Saturday 1st of September 2007 02:35:33 AM

I originally planned to go into New York City to photograph counterfeit Louis Vuitton bags. I wanted to blog about the frequent sightings of Coach, Burberry, and Louis Vuitton handbags at CVS. In my naivety, I used to believe all the bags were authentic. However, I believe now that while the majority of the Coach and Burberry bags were real, the clear majority of Louis Vuitton fashions were counterfeit. My suspicions were confirmed upon my numerous conversations with customers about their handbags. Many of them would mention they "fell off the truck" at Canal Street when I commented about their pretty handbags. In fact, the only confirmation of an authentic Louis Vuitton fashion was from a man who had a Vuitton wallet. When I asked him about the plethora of counterfeits running around, he also mentioned Canal Street. He has seen the counterfeits himself and they look absolutely authentic. I, too, had to see these gorgeous counterfeits. Thus, began an excursion to Canal Street to start my Blackout Day! Paul accompanied me on this excursion to the City. We were supposed to have lunch with our friend Peter, but he was unavailable and would soon disappear into a cellular void. We headed into NYC via the Newport/Pavonia PATH station and then hopped out on Christopher Street only to hop into a subway to take us to Chinatown and into the heart of mystery. We noticed alot of scenes like this on Canal Street. Hordes of people would gather around in a small circle while a Chinese merchant would quickly lift up a tarp covering a table in order to reveal the counterfeit merchandise beneath; all the while, the merchant would nervously glance up and around the sidewalk area. Presumably they were looking for cops, but maybe they were just looking for suspicious activity counter to their own. The merchant in this picture quickly closed up shop and sent the customers away after he caught me taking pictures of his business. Paul and I continued to walk along Canal Street observing the suspicious activities of the day. Merchants would often not even have the counterfeit merchandise underneath the tarp. They would just have a paper with pictures of all the products with them. After a customer chose a product, the merchant would then retrieve the fake Vuitton bag. I found it extremely difficult to photograph a bag because there weren't any around! I was also afraid that merchants would try to seize my camera or break my legs if they caught me taking pictures of them. I walked into a store and saw this woman clutching a Vuitton bag. My eyes immediately lit up and I asked her (in spanish) if I could photograph her bag. I finally had a photo of a Vuitton bag! Her companion insisted that it was a real bag when I asked about its authenticity. I'm not sure whether to believe him or not. Later in the day, I would continue to ask people if I could photograph their Vuitton bags, only to receive strange looks in return. I would end up just photographing their bags without their permission. We then made a quick stop at City Hall to photograph the infrastructure in order to "examine" its vulnerabilities and weaknesses. After I took this photo, the officer of the USMS SDNY (United States Marshal Service - Southern District of New York) who is pointing on the left, walked up to me and ordered me to stop photographing government property. I burned with rage as I wished again for a hidden camera. After this encounter, we went to Union Square for a drink at the Heartland brewery. We both had their Indiana Pale Ale, which was pretty good. Paul and I planned to head over to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn for a drink, then head back here to buy a gallon of beer to take home. Little did we know what was in store for us on the subway to Brooklyn. This is the subway car I was trapped in for over an hour. This L-line subway left the 1st Avenue station and was heading over to Brooklyn when at about 4:20 the subway stopped and the lights went off. The crew reassured us that it was just the subway line and that things we were going to start moving very soon. However, it was soon apparent we weren't going anywhere, and the problem was probably larger than we expected. After all, where were the cops and fire department to help us? The man in the forefront of this photograph pointed this out. The chickens on the train grew restless as the air got really fucking thick and the temperature must've been around 100 degrees inside the car. People from the cars in front of us began an exodus to the back of the train - it was a light trickle of people at first and then it became quite obvious that people were trying to leave. Some gangbangers in the back of our car climbed out onto the catwalk and disappeared into the darkness. Eventually everyone realized this subway train had to be evacuated. Oh boy! The procession to the back of the train was slow and aggravating. Apparently only the front and the back of the train had doors open to the catwalk. So we made a run for the back of the train and encountered a mass of humanity in the second to last car, where there was an opening. It was even hotter inside this car than the car we were stuck in because there were so many people jammed together trying to get out. We were all penned in and sharing bodyheat and it was nasty. People in the car started losing their nerves and tried prying other doors open and yelling for people to push and get out of the way. Quite scary. Eventually we all got out onto the catwalk. The catwalk was narrow and dirty to the max. I refused to touch anything except the girl in front of me ;) Paul would later emerge out of the train station with hands that were black as night. I felt like I was in the Temple of Doom. The tunnel was pitch black, save for a few flashlights of the engine company that was there to assist us. The catwalk would go from narrow to extremely narrow without warning and there were multiple "dirty" obstacles in the way. I luckily used my LCD screen on my camera to help light my way (which unfortunately used the battery power I wish I had later in the night). I tried to shut my camera off for a second to conserve the battery, but I found myself horribly frightened at negotiating the catwalk in pitch black darkness. After emerging from the darkness back onto the surface, we headed back to Union Square (and we'd be back again!). It was amazing to see all the throngs of people walking uptown on the avenue. It was like thousands of salmon pushing upstream to spawnsville. Cars tried to wrest back control of the streets with intermittent success, but the humans put up fierce resistance. Eventually, the machines were allowed one lane, and pedestrians controlled the rest of the avenue. We marched onto Times Square, where there were thousands of more people milling around. It was so strange to see the place without electricity. This Square is notorious for light pollution that makes the night seem like the afternoon. John Stossel from ABC's 20/20 was there to work the crowd and report about the courageous self-control the humans have displayed in not looting and actually helping other people out. At this point in time, I was fully expecting a riot come nightfall. Paul and I decided to check out the Ferry to see if it was a viable means to return to New Jersey. However, it was quite a mess. The lines had to be at least 10 blocks long with no movement in sight. Another pedestrian we talked to said that she had been on line for half an hour and didn't move anywhere - and she even cut the line! So, with that in mind, our next alternative was to walk to the Lincoln tunnel and see if we could walk the tunnel to New Jersey. Who would've thought that it would come to this!? When we reached the tunnel, it was apparent that there would be no walking, and apparently very limited driving inside the tunnel. Floods of buses came through the tunnel and into New York. Probably every bus in the region came to lend a hand. They lined the streets for blocks and people would walk up to the bus driver's window and ask where the bus was heading. If the destination was suitable, the pedestrians would hop on in. What convenience! We had an opportunity to exit New York and take a bus to Hoboken. Fortunately, we burned that bridge and opted to wait for nightfall and the possibility of social unrest. There was an obscene number of people sprawled on the ground at the makeshift refugee camp aka Madison Square Garden. I do not know what they were waiting for, but there were alot of them to negotiate through. At this point, we began to scour for food. New York City's resources were being rapidly depleted, we had to get our share. Many bodegas and deli's were closed. Some ingenious entrepreneurs moved all of their perishable foodstuffs and drinks outside onto the sidewalk. The Happy Blackout Day streetfair had begun! Even more ingenious storeowners parked cars on vertically on the sidewalk with their headlights beaming into this store. One deli that we inexplicably frequented numerous times yesterday had a jeep parked on the sidewalk with its high-beams shining inside. They really ripped us off price-wise, but hey, you pay for the atmosphere. Radios also played a critical part in hearing about news from the outside world. On more than one occasion, Paul and I would stop to listen in on Julia Poppa of 10/10 WINS The news was never good, but the communal experience of sharing a radio with fellow transient peoples on a pitch black street was comforting. Sometime during the night, we eventually made our way back to Union Square a third time. We were drawn by the hint of light and the loud sound of rhythmic drum beats. There was a huge orgy of dancing and merriment in the square. The closest thing I can relate it to is the Zion rave scene in the Matrix Reloaded. This place was off the wall - it was a huge celebration of societal goodwill. At this point in time, Paul and I were resting up - Paul bought a 6-pack of Beck's and we eagerly took long swigs in front of the Po-Po! It was a great place to have some beers, eat some Pirate's booty and take in the atmosphere. There would be no rioting tonight, just alot of orgies. After Union Square, we dropped by Washington Square and saw the same festivities being led by NYU frat boys. Paul and I wandered around for a long time in the dark and kept walking in circles. Eventually we made our way to the Christopher Street station to take the Path home - as usual, there were police officers outside it. However, Paul wanted to go to Battery Park and take the ferry back from there. I relented - I wanted to extend the experience too, but not as long as it would eventually turn out. We first dropped by this park on the Hudson river and watched the Jersey City skyline while drinking beer and sitting on the grass like hippies. Then there was this hour long trek to Battery Park only to find out the ferry wasn't operating. I think Paul lost his cool here, but he'll really lose it in Hoboken! After a cabbie offered to take us to Newark for $40 (then $30), we found a cool cabbie that would take us back to Christopher Street station for whatever price we found fit. This cabbie was actually heading to Jersey himself since he was low on gas - I hope he found some. Anyway, we finally got on the Path and opted to get off in Hoboken. What a mistake! We anticipated that the car garage would be closed at this hour (1AM) and it would be easier for Jason to pick us up from here. However, Jason wasn't able to pick us up, and Paul's dad would be able Newark. So we went back into the station, waited a little longer in the sweatbox (the entire station was being run on by generator) and finally Paul talked to a PATH employee and found out there would be no more trains coming into Hoboken because the train signals were not working. We got off the last train in Hoboken! Ahhh! Prudence and Expediency were on our side at last when NJ Transit offered to take us and 3 other people to Newark Penn Station, for free! Hooray for NJ Transit! They were the super happy ending to this 15 hour journey of mystery and excitement! This is my favorite picture of the evening; it was snapped while we were aimlessly wandering the city. In the afternoon I was at unease because I was having negative fantasies about the origins of this event. I felt much more at peace during the dark evening. Yesterday I logged the most miles in a day for my feet, and yet I enjoyed every moment of it. Maybe it was because I will never experience another day like this again. I will never be able to see the stars from the middle of New York City like I did that night. I will never again be able to be in the middle of the financial district, and look up to see the only illumination comes from the moon. What a beautiful sight that was. There were also some less metaphysical achievements accomplished yesterday. When is the next time I will be able to take a public leak in Battery Park, Greenwich village, Financial District, and some other place in lower Manhattan? I also probably won't be able to walk in the middle of an unlit street while drinking a beer again. Everyone had free reign of the city yesterday, and everyone had a good time at it. Oh yeah, we also saw Jay-Z leave a bar ;)

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