Don’t read the news today. It’s quite simply depressing. Cats have been dumped or cut in half or set on fire or something that reflects our return to the cave man days. We still don’t have a ‘proper’ Prime Minister and the independents are practically salivating at the thought of manipulating the two major parties. There is news of drug busts and pornography sharing and murder and lies and Paul Hogan.

But the story that has me fascinated is the burst water main in the centre of our glorious city and then the more recent one in Carlingford. I know it’s not a biggie. It’s not as exciting or intriguing as other stories but it gets me thinking about what our cities are built on.

Did you know that New York City was built on top of kilometres of steam pipes!? There have been rumours and movies and fables about people living in the steam tunnels that reach as deep as some skyscrapers are tall. If you have ever been to Manhattan, you would have seen the famous steam vents on the road. It’s a classic scene; yellow taxi flies over steaming vent in Times Square. The purpose? They built this incredible steam system to heat the skyscrapers on the island. Pretty darn impressive, aye? But how safe could kilometres of steam in pipes be?

In 2007 there was a steam pipe explosion in midtown Manhattan which sent  steam and dirt and general yuck flying 40 storeys high. On this day, New Yorkers were able to view the bowels of their city. There were no mole people, just kilometres of large pipes stretching out as far as the eye could see through the steam and muck.

I love the thought that our mini-New York, Sydney, could be opened up and inspected in that same way. The damage may be horrendous and the hole huge and the disruption frustrating but we, unlike New York, may actually have mole people. Is our city built like NYC? Do we have kms of pipes and rats the size of young cows and people of the dark with white eyes and protuding teeth?

Imagine having secret history? Myths, legends and skeletons in ancient cupboards! Ghosts and ghouls and rotting pipes. A city on the edge. Could the whole thing simply implode? Is our harbour city doomed to be just a harbour? Have we had our day in the sun? Is this the dawn of the mole people?

Image by Michael David Hill 2005

Or perhaps the old pipes have just disintergrated, they need replacing and the next major water main to burst won’t be for a good five years.

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