MB Maher revisits the High Line February 2019

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Mitch sent me a short note and some photos documenting his recent wintry visit to the High Line, which I present here unedited, the better to showcase the antic epistolary style that always cracks me up. Some quick backstory: When I read about the abandoned railway line years before its reincarnation as the High Line, I urged Mitch to check it out for me when in NYC, and he dutifully sourced a friend of a friend whose bathroom window opened onto the defunct elevated railway that was being unobtrusively recolonized with bird-and-wind-seeded plantings. This is the bathroom window that he is concerned about identifying these many years later. Otherwise, I think it’s fairly self-explanatory.

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MB Maher: “There’s construction on the High Line where it moves through the
Standard Hotel, so scaffolding and caution tape are in evidence, but
still the skyway is full of people bundled tight speaking every

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“And the plantings are SO dead — no effort was made by
anyone to even partially ameliorate the deafening thud of winter —
not an evergreen in sight — brittle sad rumors of prairie grasses,
scraggly thistles — it’s a sad scene.  And yet the magic remains.
The novelty of walking at hip-height to a skyscraper, the persistence
of the natural world bursting through railroad ties, the reliability
of youthful birch.  All here!”

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“I concerned my photographic inquiries with finding the apartment where I first clambered onto the High Line in 2004, when it was in fact a freight line, and I became anxious with all the new construction in Chelsea that the apartment had ceased to
exist.  His name was Aidan, he had an excellent sweater selection, and
he seemed partway between non-plussed and ambivalent about our desire
to use his bathroom window to scramble out onto the derelict rails.
He hustled about the apartment (in a killer turtleneck) and instructed
us to lock up as we left after our urban archeology, he himself was
out the door to a Guggenheim fundraiser.  The walk along the tracks
(without iphone flashlights, or light of any kind) was sublime and too
detailed to be related here, but my frustration today in 2019 is in
not knowing which bathroom window I had so industriously used all
those years ago.”

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“Was it this piece of red masonry, all bricked over
to prevent future ingress?”

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“Was it this run-down apartment building with such a crazy gap to jump?
Was the bathroom window a casualty of meat-packing gentrification?  No

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That old dilapidated railway is certainly laying down new tracks in imaginations across the country: “There is a movement in cities across the world to reclaim underutilized infrastructure and reimagine it as public space.” The High Line Network

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6 Responses to MB Maher revisits the High Line February 2019

  1. Alison says:

    What a great post. I loved the nostalgic look back at the illicit antics climbing out the bathroom window onto the abandoned tracks.

  2. hb says:

    Beautiful photos. Nice to see them and read the story. It all looks different, I guess, when you reach somewhere by climbing out of the window, instead of by climbing back in.

    I saw your comment on Bonny Lassie about seeing Tim Curry doing Rocky Horror at the Roxy, quite a surprise as I saw him there also, with his silky red underpants, fishnet stockings, and garter belt about a foot from my innocent high school girl face. It was amazing in all sorts of ways.

    I read TC is or was, before his stroke, quite the gardener…

  3. Kris P says:

    “Urban archaeology” sounds like a great new field of inquiry to me. It certainly makes for great photos.

  4. Denise says:

    @Alison, hooray for illicit antics!
    @Hoov, so funny that you were at the Roxy too — who knows, it might have been the same night!
    @Kris, when Mitch landed the city was crisp and clear then turned progressively snowier and colder. I guess Newyorkers get used to the cold — the layers of clothing I’m seeing in the photos is kinda what I put on when going for a walk this cold February in Los Angeles except no fur collars — I use a scarf.

  5. Peter says:

    Great photos and Mitch’s writing is fabulous and brought a smile. Interesting to see the High Line in winter.

  6. Jeremy says:

    Mitch’s writing is as compelling as his images. It’s been fascinating to follow his adventures (and yours) at this site over the years.

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