Sunday, 3 May 2009

The Mole People

"Many tunnel people are solitary loonies not unlike the guys you see living aboveground in cardboard boxes in any large American city. In a few cases, though--this is where it gets truly weird--sizable communities have coalesced, some allegedly numbering 200 people or more, complete with "mayors," elaborate social structures, even electricity. Toth describes one enclave deep under Grand Central with showers using hot water from a leaky steam pipe, cooking and laundry facilities, and an exercise room. The community has a teacher, a nurse, and scampering children. "Runners" return frequently to the surface to scavenge food and such, but others--the real "mole people"--routinely go for a week or more without seeing the light of day.

Sounds almost homey, eh? Like hell. According to Toth, most of the people living in the tunnels are alcoholic, addicted to drugs, or mentally ill. They're terrorized by roving gangs, ravaged by illness, hassled by cops, and preyed upon by each other. The majority live like animals. In one memorable passage, Toth describes a fellow who traps "track rabbits"--raccoon-size rats--which he kills by slamming against a wall, roasts over a fire, and eats."