Reacting to the West Portal Tunnel Calamity, one of our Entrances to Hell in San Francisco posts, Lew Ellingham sent in the following comment recently:
Plotinus, my familiar, drew my attention to the stench. It seemed more than the usual petroleum-tinged motes of Upper Market Street as we walked westward from the Harvey Milk station at 17th St., Castro and Market, with its new little park at the door of the Glass Coffin Bar. Plotinus is small, so we tarried, and I am old, so we tarried more, but eventually the slanting hole of the Collingword entrance to the Twin Peaks Tunnel hove to view. This once was also the Eureka Street Station, long ago abandoned, though the platforms remain in the tunnel itself. Perhaps the closing of this entrance introduced the karma that has blighted the setting for decades; one wonders. Train drivers who race their speeding trains in the wee hours, thinking to save time or rush home from a final shift: a few have derailed. Other trains have killed workers on the tracks, derailed for no apparent reason, passengers have disappeared -- whither? The stench grew stronger; sorry vines and old weeds festooned along the collapsing walls of the tunnel entrance, the old metal gate weary from whatever, once a bright gray and now the color of a mothballed warship, pealing.
I bent to pick Plotinus up, to carry; he was struggling, slowing down. Only the size of a small dog, I often have to do this, though in some situations he is way ahead of me, jumping and turning quickly, racing about within his small compass. But as I touched him, he flew from my hand, which in any case had not closed over him, and hurtled toward the old metal gate of the Collingwood entrance. A huge sound accompanied. Deafening. A movement of air, a sucking. And indeed, the detritus of the street drew and massed with Plotinus as all flew toward the rattling doors, the whole portal trembling, as if a jet plane were about the emerge or collide. My bladder yielded to the horror. These distractions dulled my understanding of the event as a whole, the images more like sequenced still photography than motion pictures, but I did see Plotinus together with a large tree branch hit the grating above the metal doors and bounce heavenward in a large arc toward Collingwood Street. On the street’s surface both landed, but the entrance itself was but a swirl of tumbling, flying junk and noise, dimming only as the orifice itself began to disappear behind the impacting debris.
I had fallen, unaware of it until I tried to rush to Plotinus and found myself crawling. So horrible! Was he dead? His huge starring eyes were open, but then he seldom blinks them; he rested on one side. In a moment I had grabbed him, tucked him beneath my open jacket, hidden him from the maelstrom. Can I hide myself? So awful, so awful. I couldn’t see clearly. Tears, yes, but the atmosphere was cluttered, the light rapidly failing. Was time passing quickly, like the strong wind? I could hardly clear my nose from phlegm, and was gasping. Was this over? Was it just the beginning?