Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Welcome to Ash-Land

Saw a poster in the 61st St.-Woodside LIRR station for an "Escorted Day Trip with the Long Island Rail Road to the Gatsby Mansion Tour." Hats off to the MTA for figuring out a tie-in to the new 3D Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio. It gave us an idea at the BTB Travel Bureau for an "Escorted Day Trip with the MTA to the Valley of the Ashes." That's right, folks, take the 7 train to the site of what Fitzgerald described as the "Valley of the Ashes" as seen from the train between Manhattan and West Egg, Long Island:

"A fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air." 

The superb scholarship of Literary Kicks blog locates the events described in the novel in and around a then massive trash-burning operation outside Flushing, Queens. Which would soon be dismantled, and the river it skirted drained, to create Flushing Meadows Park, home to two Worlds Fairs. As LK points out, traces of the neighborhood, "under the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg," where Tom's mistress Myrtle's husband George runs an auto garage,  live on in the car repair shops and associate businesses of the Iron Triangle.

This afternoon, the Park was filled for an event Scott or his characters could scarcely have imagined: Cinco de Mayo.

1 comment:

  1. The field of ashes wasn't trash burning--it was the DUMP for coal ashes. At a time when many heated there homes (and many apartment buildings) used coal--ash disposal was an issue.

    coal embers can burn and smolder for a long time. Special garbage trucks picked up the ashes, (which had to be disposed of in heavy STEEL cans, not lightweight aluminum ones)

    Flushing "Meadow" was a wet lands. (it still floods--and was flooded during SANDY back in the fall--One of very few north shore places that did flood)
    The plan was, dump ashes here, and eventually, they would sink and stop smoldering. some of the smoke was from burning coal embers, some of it was steam (as the embers were extinguished)

    The city had incinerators for garbage (i remember the one on Zerega Avenue--in soundview (BX).)

    I laugh at the signs on the highway (Grand Central & Van Wyck--lauding "forever natural". There is very little natural about Flushing Meadow. (the ash field was closed and the ground covered over for the 1936 world fair.

    Part of Grand Central still flood--from underground streams that still exist and feed into the meadow lands.