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The Other Side of the Puer: the Senex

March 15, 2014

Hey y’all. Puer coming at you with my dreaded [original] shadow, the Senex, that old man chasing me with a stick as I play in his yard!

I’ve been spending a lot of my time trying to understand more of the relationship between the ego and the Self, and even looking back over a correspondence I had with someone very Jungian, and which it was taking time to digest (I initially spent a lot of time seeing it purely in the light of John Beebe’s particular brand of the theory regarding the functions and associated archetypes), but am still beginning to understand more.

The key thing that just clicked for me recently regarding the definition of the Senex (recall, I had all along been trying to gather what really constellates the complexes Beebe associates with the “unconscious” functions “#5-8” for each type) was that it was said to personify the human drive to develop an ego.

Not only that, but when a psychological process matures through consciousness into order, it becomes habitual and dominant, and thus, unconscious again. (This helps explain stuff I had been reading, such as the anima trying to “drag the ego back into unconsciousness”). “Unconscious” (similar to “object/subject” and “concrete/abstract”) has several different meanings in Jungian parlance.*

*Jung’s different levels of “unconscious”
Unconscious: “shadow” (undeveloped functions, complexes, etc); “introversion”; “iNtuition”.

Shadow functions are unconscious to ego’s “executive” control
introversion is unconscious to the external world
iNtuition is unconscious to the tangible/concrete world.

So an iNtuitive has conscious control over unconscious impressions (incoming data not gained from the senses)
An introverted Sensor has conscious control over tangible data that comes from the unconscious (the internal “storehouse” rather than emergent reality).
An NP or SJ can take in emergent tangible data, but is not in conscious control of it as much as an SP or mature NJ.

While it is felt through the auxiliary (“Parent”) function in the opposite attitude, the Senex archetype is present in any process that has become rigid and authoritarian.
It’s usually constellated when the strongest function has become too one-sided, where we take our knowledge for granted and feel most certain, making us the least reflective and short-sighted.

This will harden into a brittle ego-centricity around the power of “I know”. The Senex does a lot of great works with his knowledge, but has lost the instinctual dynamism of youth and uncertainty.

Of course, these attitudes also comprise “inflation“, which is when the ego identifies with the larger Self.
So when ego is inflated, everything that goes against it seems like negation, which was something else I gathered as a trigger for the complex.

In the midst of this, comes yet another catastrophic destruction of old buildings, and it seems my emotions are getting stronger as each one occurs. (Recall the Seaside fire from last summer. Doesn’t even seem that long ago already!)

It started as a routine morning, and suddenly a Ch7 “breaking news”, and my wife even says “uh, oh, something bad happened somewhere”. The reporter describes an explosion, but can’t see anything but fire on the top of a building and part of a roof collapsing. Soon, we get the corner, and smoke in the area, but not directly which lot it was coming from. Then we do get overhead views of smoke coming from between two [new-looking] buildings, and it’s hard to make out what was what. So I went and found it on Google Street View where I saw it was actually two buildings, and tweeted it to ABC (they shortly after began showing a similar “before” picture, but it said “Verizon” on it instead of Google).

To see “before”, sound looking fronts, nice 100 year old era masonry, in good condition, look like they had been renovated at some point; a real picture of health, vitality and “color” (in contrast to all the similar buildings that succumbed to urban decay, arson, or just replacement with modern development. With all the new buildings in the area, these two had obviously survived all of that).
And then, smoking rubble (which quickly erupted into huge flames), in an instant.
It is so ominous.

I recently mentioned here: a childhood friend who grew up to own a brownstone bed & breakfast. Well that was only a few blocks away. (She surely must have felt, heard and smelled it, if home. People much further away did. She’s not online, so I haven’t had a direct way to contact her).
Contacting her mother, I hear that two of the fatalities and one of the seriously injured attend her church (not the one shown on the news, but another one nevertheless close by, and whom an old friend of my wife’s attends also)!

I had just gone over there, passing not too far from this scene, when visiting in December. I went over from 125th on the Lexington, but would have gotten of at 116th (as originally planned) and passed right by there if I had been on the 6 instead of the 4 or 5. (And I had stopped at the Fairway on 86th looking for Chobani 100 and the new Zevia formula I only more recently found, and the express came first).
It’s not a corner I’m ever really on (pass by mainly on the Metro North, the rare occasions I’ve been on that).

One person at work (a few hours later, when I was on a break) commented something that crossed my mind: in a few years, you’ll see another skinny high rise there, suggesting this was deliberate. I’ve seen a lot of old buildings destroyed “accidentally”, before these new monstrosities go up. The nice terra-cotta adorned one that a crane collapsed on a few years ago lower down on 3rd Ave. (looked like it could be repaired, but was demolished instead) was surrounded by newer larger construction, and now, the owner gets to put another one in that lot.

I then feel so down, and of course hope no one was killed, but of course the death toll slowly goes up. (Just like the horrible Metro North crash not too long ago. And right as a plane disappears on the other side of the globe and no one knows what happened to it!)
Seeing something like this happen to apparently sound NYC buildings (not even some derelict sitting there decaying for years, like so many others), I don’t know which one will fall next. It could happen to ones that mean more to me and my experience.

(Then, that evening, when gathering some information on construction types for the companion article I’m splitting off, and running into these firefighting sites with videos of all these horrible fires I couldn’t help but watch).
The rear half of one building was left (almost as nothing happened when viewed from the rear; didn’t hear about any survivors being in those back rooms, which led to the fire escape), but after two days taken down.

I should mention, it seems the “childhood innocence” of the neighborhood was essentially shattered by a huge fire that leveled a row of one story stores on the avenue right next to us. It gave us a new play field for years, but still was a big scar on the neighborhood, and was terrifying as it was occurring, at the end of a spate of smaller fires in the neighborhood, signaling its going “down”, and my increasing worry that it would happen to us some day.
(BTW, the others in our reunions for some reason mis-remember this as occurring in 1977, but I clearly remember it as summer 1976. I remember the music that was out in that period, and everything. This was also, ironically, the year I first heard the word “ego”, which my father suddenly began tossing at me on the Bicentennial, trying to get me to not be so self-involved).
I also mentioned in the Porches, Points and Poverty article a dream about Springfield, MA, at 13, that got me into prewar apartment buildings in the first place, from comparing the architecture in the different cities.

I realize from this tragedy and the last one that these reactions are part of a constellation of the Senex complex, and I had already been considering the point about the “one sidedness”, and also Robert Johnson’s statement that “depression compensates inflation”. (See

A great book on my type I just finished reading is A.J Drenth’s INTP (Personality Junkie), and it mentions two kinds of narcissism: both somatic and cerebral (p.25). When we think of narcissism, we usually think of the somatic (bodily, visual) kind. But it can be cerebral as well. I never thought of myself as a narcissist (and would have been highly offended, in an almost “taken aback” way if called one), but it seems cerebrally, I definitely am.

So I’ve been realizing that a lot of these feelings might be associated with this condition.

What I think happened with me is that I’ve spent so much time imagining a perfect existence, a perfect outing, a perfect living environment, etc. and it’s all “ordered” by Ti (introverted Thinking); and colored by extraverted iNtuition {Ne} and introverted Sensing {Si}); where everything makes sense, everything’s fair; symmetrical even, according to the subjective standards. People and good times with them, and even love would always be involved, but the backdrop would be the logically ordered world.

So this is the one-sidedness that constellates the Senex; ESPECIALLY since things never work out that way. (Life “busts my bubble”).

So my fantasy progression would then suddenly turn dark, as a negative introverted iNtuition would erupt and give this premonition that something really bad would happen.
A fictional blueprint was the Brady episode where they went to Hawaii, and all those horrible things started happening. I go into more of this here:
Significantly enough, it would be said that when long running shows start doing stuff like that (leaving the home setting and traveling, or other extravagant “stunts”), that they’ve “jumped the shark”, and are near their final demise. (And didn’t Fonzie “wipe out” or was feared to have done so when he did the actual stunt the trope was named after?)

In real life, you have the AD70 War of Israel, the Jim Jones tragedy, Waco, other cults and political movements that promised utopia; that they would “not fall” but instead usher in a perfect “Kingdom”, and the prophetic warning against stuff like this, that “when they shall say ‘peace and safety’, then shall come sudden destruction”; and in my own experience, cutting my finger bad on what seemed like it would be a “perfect Saturday” (re: recent article on that day of the week) on my first time staying for the Big Splash weekend.

So hence, some really cool things, like this new “Happy” song (which seemed so “perfect”, with its retro funk sound even, catchy rhythm, the words, etc. and my wife was so enthusiastic about it), will give me this uneasy feeling. It’s like “too perfect”. (It was hard for me to explain why I was not as enthusiastic about it, several weeks ago, when it started playing).

The Senex is basically the model of an old miser who is cranky about everything, for some unknown [to everyone] bunch of reasons. Looking like nothing at all; cranky just to be cranky, or just because everyone is happy.
In reality, the Senex (and its female counterpart, the Crone, or Witch in Beebe’s model; minus the magic) is someone who was once respected for their knowledge, but now negated by the modern world (the “young whippersnappers”) as it moved on.

It had been pointed out to me that a lot of what I’m going through is normal for midlife, when the ego, with its “successes”, runs dry, and the Self is trying to pull the energy away from the ego’s Persona. But I wondered what exactly this meant for me, who never attained that “King” or “Lover” stage that marked “prime of life” success (see, and thus felt I didn’t have any real successes.
Now, I realize, for me, “success” apparently isn’t [necessarily] external, but since the dominant function is internal, then being able to square things away internally is the ego “success” that runs dry and constellates the Senex along with the rest of the midlife pull of the Self. (Since the internal world is driven by logic, then the internal world is not trusted for the values or concepts needed for “faith” and other transpersonal states).

As part of my “cerebral narcissism”, I’ve been trying to find a sense of identity in being a New Yorker, growing up in the “old” city, especially with the Harlem godmother who at first lived in a tenement like this one before moving to the projects (albeit the low rise Harlem River Houses) and attending a store front church on Boston Road in the heart of the bombed out South Bronx (surrounded by buildings that looked just like this), and the old subways to get back and forth, thus seeing first hand the cycle of decay, and the rebirth that would begin at the very end of the 70’s.

Destroying the old just sweeps aside; obliterates all that “life” and memories, in favor of some cold formulaic “corporate” culture of rich condo-dwelling. As I had said before (, many of the low rise structures attempt to include a lot of the retro masonry features, but almost always mess it up with “corporate look” features such as window size, and uneven roofs, for decks and penthouses (milking every penny they can out of the property).

Also thinking more about the people. Even the “inanimate object” (building) focus is ultimately my way of caring about people. As I said in the PPP article, buildings are made for people.

I’ve had people around me comment about focusing on inanimate objects rather than the people involved. A big part of this is AS, which no one knew about until recently. But it’s also simply a deeply “iNtuitive” (typologically speaking) perspective that was not readily apparent to many people who’ve known me, being Sensing types (who focus on tangible reality). So on a more indirect, “abstract” level, this represents people (and “life” in general), more symbolically. Most people expect one to consider people directly, in a “concrete” fashion.

I think what I’m doing is projecting my own admiration for the buildings to the unfortunate residents, and then introjecting how much worse it must be to not only lose it, but to have their own livelihood and possibly lives (or loved ones) destroyed on top of it.
It’s a reminder of the frailty of human life.

After all, that could have been me, or someone close to me, and I would imagine feeling safe and “in the place to be” in this sound-looking “cool” Harlem, NYC building, and then all of a sudden, without warning, it all comes to a violent end.

Now, it’s like my whole romanticized image of Harlem has been marred by this. Like my whole fantasy world is just unraveling a piece at a time. I feel almost like wishing they would just demolish all these types of buildings and replace with the stronger new ones and get it over with already. (LA reportedly once considered something like that, for the earthquakes).

I had also been told how the Trickster (the mirror of the Senex in the shadow, and the negative parallel to the Puer) arises in midlife individuation, to pose double binds to the ego so that it can grow past its preferred perspective. According to Alan A MacKenzie “Enquiry on the Anima” (November 2006) the Trickster (whom he identifies as “Hermes”) “slips in when we are least expecting him, and pulls the rug of safe expectations out from under our feet.”

And that’s almost what it feels like. This is what must be happening with these buildings (I had been looking for where this could be occurring in my psyche). They represent my life, the vitality and sights and sounds of the city (which I had apparently become so attached to; hence feeling so homesick in places like Springfield) and “concrete” (literally!) stability (where people are so fickle and unpredictable, as well as easily killed), but this is showing that the buildings too are not so fixed.
Where the Senex for my type is felt through Ni, the Trickster is felt through Se; current emergent tangible data.

From MacKenzie:

This second transition [“liminal space”; second of three stages formulated by Murray Stein (1983) in In Midlife: A Jungian Perspective; the first being “Separation” in which a crisis occurs that “cuts the person off from the known ways in which s/he controls his/her thinking, feeling and acting” associated with “an earlier identity, the persona”, and the third being “reinstatement”; “the return to life with changed consciousness.”] “involves some meeting with an aspect of our unconscious – some power previously excluded or shunned.
To go through liminality, the person needs to ‘find the corpse’ and then to bury it – to identify the source of pain and then to put the past to rest by grieving, mourning and burying it. But the nature of the loss needs to be understood and worked through before a person can move on.

This is what I’m trying to do now, sorting through a lot of stuff that has apparently constellated all these imaginal representations I’m expressing my midlife depression through. (Recently, had a vivid dream framed around a painful experience with peers in high school —and happened to be on the birthday of a girl I really liked, and basically blew it with).

[Edit: a year later, this is repeated on the lower East side, at 2ndAve@7th St. This time, appartently it was the back of the buildings that were blown off, so you see simply a blowout of the storefront of one building, then the gradual fire, while everything else looks totally untouched, but suddenly, the fire has taken over completely the building next door from top to bottom, until it collapses, and then it takes over the original buuilding, until it collapses, and then the building on the corner, which looked relatively untouched the whle time, finally collapses. The cause of these explosions is suspected to be people tampering with the gas lines. totally scary!]

Spun off:
Building Construction Types (For Fire)

  1. Seems like type 3’s and 4’s have been dropping like flies —between cockloft fires that take out the whole top; one the other day in NJ, and a synagogue in NJ; and more explosions, the most recent in Boro Park, of a 3 story storefront, which took out the building next door too. They at first thought it was from someone trying to move a stove upon moving out, but then, they thought it was more intentional, with some other accelerant. Haven’t heard anything further on that. (Another explosion, making the third out of four since East Harlem, was in a type 1 school, which only knocked out part of the wall, but the structure seems otherwise OK). There was also the collapse of a very old 3 story small scale (and thus likely ante-bellum) tenement I pass by every day, right near the Marcy Av. station.

    I then run across a huge fire I had heard of, but knew nothing about. 2900 Stillwell Ave., right across the street from the huge Stillwell terminal (and particularly the D-West End tracks 7 and 8 platform). On the transit forum or FB page awhile back, in a photo or either a bus or train, someone mentioned it since burning to the ground.

    This was a three story former “Terminal Hotel” (with the signs still up) that was abandoned upstairs, but still had the retail on the ground floor. It had been a fast food joint when I was working out there, and by now was another corner store, appaently like the one next door.

    I had noticed it since ’83-86, when we had gotten a car and would drive out there on some summer nights when no one felt like cooking, and we would go to Nathan’s. One time, c.’85, we were parked right next to it on Mermaid, waiting for someone to return so we could go home. I noted how it too was sitting there vacant upstairs, like so many other buildings (including Nathan’s itself, which is simply the ground floor of a vacant wooden former hotel behind all the big signs. There was another one next to it which formerly had an arcade on the ground floor, but then was abandoned, and that I now see was eventually demolished to expand the Nathan’s seating table area).

    This was in days when we would end up driving all around Coney Island looking for parking spaces, and I saw the utter blight of the area to the west of Stillwell and the remaining amusement area on the other side of Surf. With its mix of highrise projects, old wooden and brick 3 story tenements, and little 1920’s two story houses, I called it “Brownsville by the Sea” (Usually, newer lowrise areas like that are in good condition and more nearly suburban-like, but both of these areas and parts of East New York were the exception).

    When the guy who owned the Kansas Fried Chicken chain, with its flagship outlet in the big vacant former theater and hotel or whatever that was, on the corner of Stillwell and Surf, began taking about an ambitious plan to rebuild Steeplechase Park (what was then the totally flattened out core of the whole bombed out area, to the west of Nathan’s), I vowed never to return to the area until it was finished.
    Coney Island was that depressing back then! (This was when I entered my 20’s, and traveled around by myself more, and the family sort of split, with my mother going to Albany and back, and sometimes taking my brother. So those family car outings basically ceased, and I never ventured over there anymore. This plan even included the multi-track mechanical horse ride, with the new wooden horses already being carved in Germany, as reported by an article, and now you would be able to control the speed a bit, almost like racing the ones next to you).

    It was not until 15 years later that I ever set foot in the area again, from working there, in Transit. (And even then, still never crossed Surf again). This became where my work was concentrated the most, mainly because of the train equipment (even though the at the time newest cars, the R-68’s, can be tricky with the braking, I still got used to them, and was much more comfortable with them, then with the old R-42’s on the “BMT Eastern Division” where I lived, especially with the grueling four round trip J jobs on the weekends. So I stuck in the “BMT South” for the first 8 years, until the current R-160’s were widespread enough in my area. Plus, the nostalgia of being on “that side of Brooklyn”, where I grew up (on the Brighton), but hardly ever saw anymore, since it was like “the other side of the world” from over here, and I didn’t go to Coney Island anymore.

    But the Steeplechase plans never materialized (the guy said the city, under Giuliani, by that time, blocked him or something. I guess they already were plotting on what did finally develop there). When the huge dereliect (but nevertheless landmarked) parachute jump was deemed in danger of falling, he was pressed on that, being apart of his property, then. He eventually want bankrupt, IIRC, folded all his business, and later died. The abandoned rollercoaster (likely the sole one I was ever on) also apart of his property, burned with the old wooden house under it, as would figure, and was completely demolished.
    The rest of that plot was finally built on with the ball park, and the parachute jump dismantled about 2/3 of the way down, and rebuilt, with a huge LED display, right in my last days of working out there. (They had also completely redone the Transit terminal from the ground up, as I worked out there, and with all but the West End cut back, I would at times be at Kings Hway on one of the other lines, instead).
    And they continue to plan for the rest of the plot, and you hear of stuff like hotels, mall, casinos, even.

    But the rest of the area had continued to burn or just be cleared by the time I even got back out there.
    The abandoned Stauch’s bath on the Boardwalk had burned, sat empty for years, and was eventually demolished. All of Surf, between the former KYFC and the highrises further out, was gone, replaced by school bus lots and such, and including an interesting row of abandoned 20’s style apartment buildings on W17th next to a gas station we always went to; I always hoped would be fixed up. (The theater building had been fixed up, but still vacant, including the former ground floor eatery, and is falling into disrepair again).

    A wooden frame tenement on Stillwell sat abandoned, and already had some fire damage from a long time ago, and also had rotted beams exposed under the old shingles that had flaked off. One day, at work on the D, I hear a commotion outside the crew facility, and the garage behind this building is burning. I didn’t expect them to fix any of this up, but by the time I stopped working there, the front house is gone, though the garage was still there. They also began building one or two new brick condos on Stillwell.
    There was also a wooden building on the other Stillwell/Mermaid corner, which you could tell once had a second story front porch, that was walled in, though you could still see the angle-braced porch beams in the resulting indentation. It had one of those beachside variety stores on the ground floor. This they just one day demolished to make way for the new McDonald’s. (That was in a way beneficial, as I liked making my own tea with the little creams at McDonald’s along with often getting hot cakes and/or yogurt parfait and apple pie back in those pre-diabetic days, and Transit bad begun trying to crack down on the convenient “coffee club” in the crew room, which had would close up in the AM some times before I got there, anyway. Now, I make my own tea at home, with stevia, and bring to work in a thermos).

    So I had hoped the whole area would all be fixed up or “redeemed” [the old buildings, that is. To be demolished is to “succumb” to the blight, in my view], assuming the Steeplechase redevelopment would anchor it. (I remember the one house a few blocks out, that narrowed to about one room wide, and had a back porch facing Surf).

    So this one particular building I found disturbing because I would always see it, and note how “untouched” it was by fire or even other damage. You figure many abandoned buildings end up burning, mainly because of the homeless taking refuge in them. Generally, all the windows would be knocked out, which weren’t boarded or bricked up. But this one, while having most windows boarded up, had some with the glass panes intact on the old wood sashes, on the side above the one story stores next door. (For some reason, only the between-floor hall stairway landing windows were bricked up).

    But then to do a search of some other fires, and suddenly run across the YouTube video, of fire in every window of this building, was a bit shocking. It sat there so long, virtually “untouched” by fire (one of the videos mentioned “many fires” there, but there was no apparent visible damage from them), and then to one day have, not just “a fire”, but the whole thing ablaze (the front at one point being a solid wall of fire, like it was wood), was very unsettling! (This is a very archetypal thing. Sort of like the innocent looking girl you liked and you hoped would become yours alone turns out to be the biggest “ho”, either suddenly becoming that at some point after you came to know her, or perhaps you suddenly discovering she was all along, on the downlow. Had to deal with something like this in teens, possibly, from what I heard).

    Especially startling since NYC type 3’s don’t usually burn like that (outside the cockloft). But again, when abandoned, especially in a salt-air filled seaside area like that, then the inside is like match sticks. (You even see the store awning lights stay on for awhile, but then suddenly all go dark when the fire has spread down enough. The last snuffing out of the sole “life” of the building. As for real life, which I should not ignore, no one was hurt in this one, I believe, since only the store was occupied).

    Something like this had happened with part of the row my grandmother lived in, from my mother’s teens, until I was 7. (Next comment). There’s a very similar building right on my corner, with only a part time doctor’s office or something, on the ground floor. Even the boards in the windows are so old they are warped, corroded and dried. (Though luckily, there is a fire house across the street from it. But that may not even be quick enough to stop any fire that starts in there, unseen behind the boards until too late).
    I don’t know why landlords are allowed to have these hazards sitting around for decades like this. We talk of “private property”, and the “freedoms” to do with it was we please; but these things obviously affect other people, and gravely, at that (both residents and businesses. Not to mention the firefighters called to fight these things. Then, it’s the residents in these neighborhoods, who have to suffer this, who are then trashed for destroying the neighborhood!)

    It was actually ten months ago, now, last December. I don’t know how this pretty much escaped the news. It’s basically amateur video, and even on the news sites (like abc7), there’s no actual report, just an embedded video. They themselves never covered it, even thugh this was such a significant area.
    I’ve been sort of expecting this at Nathan’s, since that is a likely similarly empty building, with all of this heat from all the stoves (and fires often start from grease buildup in the flues going up through the building). All wood construction; that would be very “spectacular”, and make the headlines, since Nathan’s is perhaps the number one Coney Island attraction (perhaps moreso than the Cyclone, since everyone does not go on rollercoasters, but everyone does need to eat). It would fit in so much with this area.

    —This area, that even with the ballpark, is still rather ugly looking. Coney Island was supposed to be about “fun”, but has become so tainted, and seemingly associated with fire. Like other seaside areas, incuding the ones that had big fires connected to Sandy. So this was just par for the course. (In my earlier childhood, I saw it as still good and fun, though the 70’s is usually seen as when it really went downhill. This downfall seemed to start with the closure of Steeplechase, in ’64-5; I believe, and thus before my time. But I do remember there still being some arcades and maybe a couple of rides on the land in the early 70’s. But I guess I was too young to notice anything else, including the surrounding area; which I really did not start noticing until the mid 80’s, when, again, it was really bad!

    On a somewhat different tip, that search for fires was sparked by seeing a picture of another fire as part of an ad for an alarm or something on Facebook. The whole roof of the building was on fire, but not the top floor.
    So I wondered if this was a big fire I had seen on the news years ago, but never could find on the Google map. This was right after the M line had been rerouted through the Chrystie St. connecter to the former V route up 6th Ave. which I was already working that day, and while service was not affected, I was still passing very near it underground, but never found out exactly where.
    So in this photo, I saw the highrise next to it, and then looked at the area on Google, and found it. It by now was fixed up. I had probably seen it on an earlier search, but there’s no sign of the fire now.
    This was Houston St. at Essex or Ave. A. It was an old 1860’s-70’s tenement row (with the arched lintel design, like the 1863 tenement museum building at 97 Orchard), but it was being renovated, and apparently had been converted to a single type 1 building, as this huge, huge fire had stayed completely on the roof, and was not coming out of any windows. Any type 3 tar and wood construction would have turned to ash under a fire that big, and quickly take out the top floor, if not the whole building, through collapses.

    So that one was an amazing building “survival” story. The roof had been covered with I imagine wooden panel flooring, and perhaps turf and other flammable stuff, as it was designed to be accessed by the residents, and they were reportedly running wires and stuff under that material. It had to be concrete under that stuff, but it, and whatever tar there may have been produced an incredible inferno.

    In this same search, I find a West Philadelphia 20’s style apartment complex (which you usually don’t see there; as that region is mostly those little narrow old row houses), which had a fire that intially was mostly confined to the roof, but eventually took out the whole top floor. This one didn’t survive. (In this one, plus the similar one in a 50’s [postwar!] building near Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital from a lightning strike, the people were barred from ever getting their stuff, but then thieves were able to manage to loot the place. The latter building is still boarded up, with a gutted top floor. Don’t know why the West Philly building couldn’t be fixed up).

    And then, the Washington Ave. building, that end-capped a bowfronted row I had long noticed, which was completely gutted for renovation, but then exacly like Stillwell, a fire starts on the 2nd floor, and quickly takes the whole thing out, darkening the store on the ground floor, along the way. (Something like this could have happened at my grandmother’s when they were finally renovating it, as I worried [next comment]).

    Even after this search (these posts were held up by the typological project, as I wasn’t looking forward to writing them), another big recent fire was on a side street in Chelsea, in what was probably one of those loft buildings, but the masonry design resembled a turn of the century tenement (keystoned jack arches, etc), and was being converted to condos (i.e. like Washington Ave. under renovation). In this one, a fire took out the top two floors, and then they said collapse was immanent.

    Riding the 7 not too long ago, I notice the sole narrow 20’s building next to the substation on Jackson Ave. which had been abandoned for several years, is now gone. As many other buildings in the burgeoning Long Island City, which is becoming an extension of Midtown.


  2. Splitting off the long tome on my grandmother’s old building.

    The iconic family photo was a younger Dad standing in the small hallway landing outside her door, with her answering. I always rememered him arriving to pick me up, in a deep voice “Hello, Mrs. Thomas”, and then going down the creaky wooden stairs (with that green painted textured walls, and this old hallway smell), and out to the glass-strewn ghetto streets, to walk several blocks of burned out buildings to one of the southbound bus routes to come back home to the newer, nicer 20’s Flatbush neighborhood with its fancy fireproof hallways with steel and marble stairs. (So her house, with its old incandescent table lamps, and the smell of her cooking or the coffee percolator was like an oasis of “warmth” in the midst of this cold environment).

    The fourth building (which her rear light bay windows faced) was always abandoned, and they were supposed to tear it down, but never did. (In addition to a concrete warehouse on the corner of the next street; visible from her bedroom).
    The neighborhood continues to go down, and my grandmother moves out. Eventually, her building and the one on the other side of it, were abandoned, but the one on the corner, with the stores, stays inhabited a while longer. My grandmother’s close friend still lived in [and owned] the brownstone two doors away, and my grandmother would occasionally visit on Saturdays, often having her hair done in the makeshift parlor in the old 19th century cellar with its low ceiling and archways. When visiting on such weekends, I would often go outside, just to look around, wishing they would fix the apartments up. At first, the doors were just locked (and perhaps chained), and the windows closed, but everything looked the same as when she lived there. Soon, all the windows and front door were knocked out, and it was completely opened. I was terrified of them burning it down, but they never did.
    I would look into the hallway, and see that the bottom steps of the wooden staircase were missing. I was tempted to go up to take a peak at my grandmother’s apartment (on the top floor), maybe see if the old typewriter she left behind was still there, and grab it, but that was just too much risk. (I and some other kids occasionally did venture into an abandoned building across the back yard from my own house; —the blight of inner city Brooklyn had finally spread to Flatbush; but that was a familiar area, and the stairs and hallway were at least metal/marble, and more stable; though a step here and there nevertheless missing. I didn’t go into it as much as other kids. I did find a 1964 TV Guide in there, which I still have).
    They eventually began bricking up the doorways and ground floor windows, but people kept knocking holes into them.

    Again, I found it amazing that no one had ever set fire. Some hope arrived in ’79, when they began fixing up some of the numerous abandoned buildings by then dotting my own area; particularly the one on the corner of my block (gradually abandoned after a string of fires, the last one, Christmas night, ’74. my mother thought it might have been from someone’s Christmas lights on the block, but I recognized it as the building on the corner. The one across from us was finally redone several years later, right as we left the area).
    But on grandma’s corner, it continued to get worse. Sometime in ’82, driving by in a family friend’s car, the whole row is now totally dark. (I saw that the rear one story commercial extension of the corner building abutting the warehouse had apparently had an arcade, with a PacMan drawn on the front sign. I then asked my father when all of this would ever be fixed up, and he surmised who knows. A century maybe? It really did seem like all of this would never be cleaned up!)

    It stayed this way another decade, into courtship, when I was now passing by on the B38 bus, and would see the complex and get depressed; and terrified of it being destroyed.
    But now, sometime in ’92 I pass by, and can see there was finally a fire on the top of the corner building (on Marcus Garvey, and the one that had remained occupied the longest). It wasn’t terribly big, confined mostly to the leftmost half. (And this building actually resembled 2900 Stillwell a bit, with the tan brick construction and especially the terra-cotta walled pair of columns of bathroom windows down the middle of the side). Shortly afterward, on a bus heading downtown on DeKalb, in some light rain that was IIRC the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, I can see that the whole top two floors were gone. I couldn’t see what was going on with the other three buildings. Thankfully, they were still there. It was a miracle that they didn’t take the opportunity to just clear the whole thing. But for how much longer? (Grandma had a few years earlier died, but her friend was still in the brownstone, and had started being included in our family Thankgivings, still hosted by my mother, so we would all head over there in the car and pick her up. So that year, I got some pictures of the remaining three buildings, never knowing whether this would be the last time I see them. With the side bay of the next building now exposed, you could see where the wall near a drain pipe next to a window was badly corroded all the way down, and had started to collapse on the top floor. It really did not look good.

    Luckily, two years later; by now married, and passing by on the B38 every Sunday from Church, I saw signs of them gutting the buildings for something. Eventually, I would see the new bricks on the crumbled part of wall! They also gutted the three buildings completely (with it looking like a full demolition inside with all the old wooden floors collapsed), with only a few select floor joists retained, most on the upper floor. It was all stripped out, and I worried that the remaining brick shell was vulnerable, standing alone like that. I soon went to the site to look myself, and even spoke to a construction worker. Eventually, the new type 3 wooden members were added (I had hoped for a type 1 completely fireproof rehab, as occurred in other buildings).

    So by my 30th birthday, it was finished, and people had moved in. They had transformed all three into a single building, with my grandmother’s old entrance, in the middle, as the new sole entry, and holding the address. (Just as they had done with the buildings on the corner of my old block. So the building that had all along been slated for demolition was saved, but the one that had remained inhabitable the longest was the one that didn’t make it. The lot had been made into a garden or something, as most of the corner lots up and down Marcus Garvey/Sumner).
    On the afternoon of my birthday, a big blizzard began, and by the evening of the next day, I was left stranded after work, and had to get from Foley Sq. Manhattan (Five Points, basically) to home, and on the trains could only get as close as the G Bedford-Nostrand station. The streets were all snowed in. So I ended up walking, and got to pass by the buildings, and the door was open, so I could look inside the hallway. It was now a bland, “cold”, modern, brightly lit, long concrete block hallway running left to right, with a single metal stairway (no elevator, as had been added to the one in my neighborhood even though it too was only four floors. I thought that law had changed to require and elevator for four stories, but I guess not. The ones across the backyard from where we lived and which remained three separate buildings, didn’t get elevators either).

    It almost still matched an old dream I once had, about finding something new there (and wondering how much of the old building was left. These modern demolitions, where they build the new type 1 frame inside first, then remove most of the old structure afterward, so they could say it is the “same building”, renovated, for some sort of tax or other monetary purpose, when nearly none of it is really left, brought that to mind. It also reminded me of one of the old “gothic” CCNY buildings [most likely Baskerville Hall], with my wife attending school at the time; where they had gutted out the old interior and made it all cold and modern, with corrugated metal walls, and exposed round duct pipes everywhere, which is a kind of modern style. The other gothic buildings still had their old interiors).

    I then stopped by my grandmother’s friend, still there in her last years, who knew I was happy the buildings were fixed; and then called a cab to go the rest of the way home. (Which was still nearly impossble on the streets. I remember at some point encountering a mound of snow on those narrow streets, and having to get out of a cab. Not sure if it was that same trip).

  3. [con’t from first comment]
    I’m realizing that I have to continue to try to detach from these type 3’s. Since I grew up with them, they represent my “world”, and an extension of my ego (sense of “identity”), which I feel is being chipped away, at an increasing pace, in favor of these modern often “corporate look” things, designed basically for the rich (or, perhaps, some upwardly mobile or hipsterish people who manage to scrape up enough money and roomates to share the cost).

    Fire is something that destroys irrevocably. It is a about a “finality” of destruction. Which is why it became so prominent in the Bible account of “salvation history” and Law and judgment. Of course, in the final “Christianity” that eventually emanated out of that, fire has come to represent a metaphorical “destruction” of ongoing physical pain that does not actually destroy the conscious entity, but only “torments” them for the sole sake of the “physical” discomfort. But originally, Gehenna, the “lake of fire and brimstone” was about the destruction of Jerusalem, and it’s Temple, which the people trusted in with their whole identity; their corporate “ego”.

    Obviously, the whole “untouched” thing is ultimately about the loss of “Eden”. It’s come to be projected onto women, in the form of a demand for virginity (as I discuss more In fact, just this week, there was a point in the news of a wedding between two virgins who had committed to purity, so that the bride actually presented to her father a big certificate of it that as was pointed out (on The View, IIRC), looked nicer than the wedding certificate itself!
    Of course, the “secular” commenters scoff at that, as so outmoded and misogynistic, but in my view, it’s good that the couple can save that for each other (as was done in my marriage as well). Though I do agree, they’re probably going a bit overboard with it, with the certificate and making it such a big news story. The non-Christians just don’t understand the value, and it actually can skew the view of what the Gospel really is about (in practice, it’s become clearly all about behavior; “works”, which Paul spends the bulk of the New Testament speaking so much against).

    So that too is something that can be lost in a moment, with energy that starts small, and grows suddenly and gets out of hand. (I had mentioned in the previous related topic, here about how in a discussion with my wife, the orchestration of the Barry Manilow song “Could It Be Magic” could be interpreted as passion buildup, or fire buildup —or both! The common element is “energy”. Obviously, a higher pitched musical sound involves more energy, as does the progression of fire and sexual passion. This is one way music can subconsciously connect with either emotions, as I discussed in the recent “Pretzel Emotions” article).

    With all I have been sifting through in life, I see I am trying to hold on to ego (in my own Aspie way); which I have attached to the sights of the city, namely the old buildings, which provided the “backdrop” to the world to be explored. It’s basically like the “adornment” (Greek kosmos; as one of the words used in scripture for the “world”).

    It was, as discussed elsewhere, greatly kicked up by noticing how different Springfield, MA (where my other grandmother was) was from NY. This, it should be noted, was greatly fueled by her being such a hard person to deal with, and South End was very run down at the time, (and yet, this time, “grandma’s house” was not a nice oasis in the midst of it, like the one in Brooklyn; but instead the central part and parcel of the whole negative experience), so it was like a kind of “traumatized” feeling, with this different looking city as the background, making me ever more homesick; and in typical TiNe fashion, wondering why it was different, and wanting to compensate by finding some sort of “coniunctio” between the two different cities. (i.e. elements of one in the other, and the transitional places inbetween; with the most visible features becoming the fire escapes vs porches).
    This eventually leads to the whole 24 Baxter intrigue and from there the Five Points (in which case, most old buildings are already long gone, so there’s less to worry about for the future. I would greatly hate to see anything happen to the survivors to the east, though. But as these explosions show, no matter how good they are with fire, any type 3 URM can still go at any time).

    It’s like I caught the very end of this interesting architectural period, as the ornate architecture started in the late 19th century, and ran up to the middle of the 20th (around the “War” that marks the dividing line in building age), and still well before I was born. So the buildings were already “old” when I was growing up, and among them, the older ones would begin burning and often going abandoned in the ghettoes, if not demolished for slum clearance or other construction projects that could occur anywhere. For awhile, it seems more were being fixed up, but in recent years, it’s tearing down for condo style buildings, again. I already realized when seeing certain buildings demolished in LIC, that this was about me feeling pieces of my world (even if some individual buildings were never part of my life) were disappearing one at a time.


    • Here, we see new fire training, using small, plywood dollhouse-sized model structures. It seems they’re finally questioning the common practice of “vertical ventilation”, which is cutting holes on the roof, to vent the heat.
      There are several similar videos, and in the comments, you can see veteran firemen battling over the techniques, and who knows better, who’s really “qualified”, calling each other “amateurs” or “armchair firemen”, etc. “Vertical Ventilators” (“VV”) seems to be a “thing”, like a whole “school of thought” in firefighting (i.e. one of the videos says “to all you vertical ventilators…” and using removable panels in these models, shows how it makes the fire worse (it begins puffing as it grows), while cutting off the airflow can practically knock the fire down. A “rookie” will often knock out a window and make the fire worse. Here in NYC, all they do is knock out ALL windows right away, and then I was surprised to see fires in other cities, where they didn’t do that. Also discussed are things like “neutral plane”, which is the line in the air where cool air is sucked in below, and the hot gases are released above, and this also tells you which level the fire is on. It puffs, because it’s like “breathing” in and out!)

      These models generally use four rooms, with panels on the outside and between rooms, and most have gabled attics. It seems to be a proscribed pattern where the fire is started in room 1, the lower left, and it actually will go through room two, the lower right, and flare up worse in room 4, the upper right, and all this before even spreading to room 3, upper left, directly above the original “fire room”. Eventually, it begins burning through the back, and ventilating the bottom makes it spread faster to the attic.

      Makes sense. After seeing large fires on the news, and especially if the cockloft is involved, it always seemed you had moderate smoke and it looked contained, and they tried venting it, then a few moments later, the other news stories are suddenly interrupted to show the whole roof or top floor engulfed. I had thought, that they just added air to it! (And it actually seems to be worse in post-war buildings that have vents on the cockloft, which you can see just under the roofline. I saw a commenter on a Passaic, NJ total top floor fire say “cockloft [fire] always wins”, to which someone added “and balloon frame”.
      This latest fire search was sparked off by finding out that a unique building in Long Branch we used to pass on the way to Ocean Grove had burned to the ground, actually spreading from a one story store next door, and spreading all the way to the house on the other side. When I checked the recent Google views, it was all a big grassy lot with the small building on the corner left, which was evidence of a big fire, and quickly found it on YouTube. It was actually five, almost six years ago. It stood out for looking like it was lifted straight out of Connecticut, with a front and back porch, and even the front porch had stairs [from the 3rd to the 2nd floor, as the ground floor was stores], which is unusual; along with a fancy balustrade. It had a stone façade with frame bay windows, and regular red brick side and rear, but was apparently really wooden balloon frame construction. In some aftermath photos, you just see part of the frame left standing by itself, and in others, a side or rear wall. In NY, even our completely wood frame buildings hold out better than that. In the comments of one of the videos, someone said the firemen didn’t handle it right

      I see here the counter-rationale, that they are trying to release “flammable gases” as well to make it safer to fight from inside, but it seems all they did was assure that the gases ignite (“light up”), with the added air. In some videos (like a fire in a one story furniture store on W6th and Kings Hwy that started out looking not even too big), it looks like they’re not even putting a lot of water on it, and instead just wait for the full external backdraft (“rollout”, which is the term for when the visible flames start coming out the window, which is preceded by dense, rollicking black smoke), and I wondered if this was just some sort of protocol that doesn’t fit every situation. (Like what I face in my own field. Extraverted Thinking with introverted Sensing are used to determine what’s “correct” based on solely on previous convention. Have to wonder how many properties, and even lives, may have been needlessly lost because of this).
      Some argue, again, that you can’t see the men inside fighting it (and then, you hear the call for them to evacuate), but still, the crew standing around outside could have been spraying in through the front. (On W6th St., someone said these were really rescuers or something).

      I know a few years ago when they were transitioning Governor’s Island into a park, they allowed the FDNY to train on several of the condemned USCG base structures (which I had hoped would be turned into a neighborhood, but they wanted the island to be all park), and it was said they were reconsidering the V V tactic.

      So I don’t understand how are fire departments just now learning that this method (adding air to the fire) doesn’t work?

  4. I’ve been grappling with “faith” in the world, where we’re told that the world (what is “seen”) is passing away, so we should look to what is “not seen”. Which also seems to refer to what is not tangible.

    It was thinking on all of this, that got me thinking about better terms for the Sensing/iNtuition perspective, leading to the recent redoing of my writings on the subject. I’m an iNtuitive type (N; hence all this deep stuff I talk about), so you would think “faith in the unseen” should be right up my alley. But I found myself demanding tangible (S) “validation”, instead. That’s where I came up with the new S/N definition, in terms of our own “images”. “When the images are based directly on physical material (superstrings vibrating an a way that produces fields that we cannot pass through, and thus stimulates our nerve sensors, and reflect photons and other waves which also stimulate sensors), then we are experiencing sensation (S), and we call these fields “material”, and can say that it is empirically “what IS”. The material reality forces everyone to agree with what image is seen (even if they try not to see it, or interpret it as something else).”

    This is why faith has been so hard. It’s ultimately subjective (no matter how “objective”; i.e. “from God”, they claim it is. They say “God spoke to me”, and we’re supposed to read this as “GOD spoke to me“. But no matter how you slice it, that “me” is still what it’s being funneled through; God is not speaking to all of us at once, in flaming clouds or mountain tops anymore, where all would be seeing and hearing the same thing, undeniably.
    So you can’t escape the fact that you could be wrong, and no one else has any way of knowing what you have experienced internally like that. You then say “wait and see what comes to pass”, but that’s just putting it off to some other time that may or may not; [and often does not], ever come).

    So, men’s interpretation is fallible, as it can be skewed. Religion uses “divine enlightenment” to get around this. But it ignores that they can be wrong about being enlightened.
    On the other hand, secular science (which is heavily S or “empirical”) uses consensus, but they too ignore that even a consensus can be skewed (string pulling, like their “scientific” institutions being power bases that can just as much as religion, quash any unaccepted ideas; etc.)

    So as an N, I feel vulnerable in matters of Sensation. When S provides a problem N cannot solve (like one of those “that’s just life” situations), then I begin demanding Sensory (i.e. practical) fulfillment to my frustration. Offering another iNtuitive outlook, (such as “faith”, or the various “principles” of secular self-help), I feel it cannot counter the tangible, “sensory” problem that continuously drowns out my N images.

    Again, with S, everyone will have to acknowledge, or shape their movements around what’s there, whether they want to, or not. With N, I can easily (in my mind, of course) change things to the way I want. But then that makes it all “neither here nor there” (which is how the S type will experience it first), and this also makes it easier for the outside world of S to muscle in and squelch the N images.
    Like when popular religious teachings almost universally say something like “When you’re suffering, just go to God; He is there, and will take care of you”. (To those completely against all “psychological “therapy”, this is the sole “Biblical answer”, even). But the catch is, this does not mean actually getting you out of it (the memes often say “He will get you through it, not out of it”). But yet, you’re still in the tangible situation in the meantime. What about that? It just doesn’t seem to matter.
    Hence, I continue to demand S solutions or at least validation.

    (On the flipside, it seems that when S types feel vulnerable in N matters that S can’t solve [like “meaning of life”], they will demand N solutions, which they find in stuff like faith and self-help. And the drawback for them, is that while this may give them a “better attitude” on the surface, the abstract concepts still don’t solve the problem, and they ultimately remain frustrated with life, although often putting on a “poker face”.
    We’ve now flipped the traditional roles that marked earlier life: I‘m the one who wants to be “down to earth”, and see them as having their heads in the clouds!)

    So ideas without substance (imaginal awareness without material; stories not experienced or “lived out”) are so easily drowned out by current reality. No one else can even recognize them. So I’ll enjoy my worlds of fantasy, but eventually get tired (especially when “reality” makes itself known) and want them lived out.

    Substance without an idea behind it (material without imagery; experience without “story” or meaning) is just robotics or animal existence. So the S type will likely be content with the solid grounding of “reality”, but then feel something is missing.

    It seems much of my negative emotional reaction (particularly to S and even T products) is from being coldly told “that’s life” and my feelings being so dismissed, even as I was harshly being criticized for not considering others’ feelings. Already hard for an inferior F position, it was also mechanically “false” in its asymmetry (injustice). It creates a very negative “story” (N).
    So I may seem to have an aversion to “cold logic” (in addition to “cold facts” [which is probably more S+T than pure S. Fact includes an element of judgment]. Particularly environmentally determined logic); particularly as it’s involved in things I don’t like.
    This aversion, and the strong “feelings” accompanying it, are what may make me seem like an F at times.

    While I am drawn to the technical aspect of existence, including our own, I still have always felt very uncomfortable with the “vulnerability” of flesh and blood existance. It’s not the T aspect in favor of F, it’s the S world, where material is easily destroyed and many times cannot be replaced, as is the case with physical death (from the destruction of our bodies or some of their functions). Also, the F world, where we are personally affected by death and destruction (of others, or the fear of us suffering it ourselves), and the need to deal with emotions.

    So it can be hard for me to be reminded of the physicality of the human body, for that same organism which is “fearfully and wonderfully made”, is so easily destructable (which makes it hard to watch even fictional stuff like Aliens or Jurassic Park), and it’s not clear what sort of existence is after this. (So it’s really hard to take root in that; I need some sort of clear assurance. Christians speak as if “setting our sights on above” erases the need to get through this life. Some then say it only “changes our attitude about it”, but the original context of that in scripture was that the Law [which they were being persecuted over] was earthly, and Grace [freedom from condemnation] was heavenly, not about coping with life in general).

    It seems I’d be much happier with a purely abstract, logical world, made of “ideas”, which are essentially indestructable, and do not depend on practical “use” and stuff like a need of “survival”. (But then I would want there to be some sort of tangible manifestation, for it to be undeniably perceivable).

    Buildings seemed to be a more solid element, that can last hundreds of years. The NYC type 3’s especially seemed very resilient. But it becomes clear that they are all just as vulnerable as us.

    So while an “S” reality may be so solid and “concrete” that everyone has to agree on and work around the material objects marked by vibrating strings, and can easily drown out the misty unsupported “images” of N; those S world strings can easily change their arrangements in ways that dissolve the material objects they comprise, forever (at least in this unflexible timeline, and with entropy, where it’s hard to restore matter to a particular state it was once in), and hence, it doesn’t do any good to become attached to any of it. Still, what do you do in the meantime, when embedded in the material world and quickly becoming used to it?

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