Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Underground Tel Aviv
A friend phoned me about a small problem: he had opened a new shop and to receive the licence, the Health authorities required a drawing signed by a sanitary engineer showing that no sewage pipes ran over the food area. No, I take no money from friends, I said. Idiot, incurable.
His new health and organic food shop is located on the most elegant boulevard of Tel Aviv, on Dizengoff Street, in a monumental seventy - eighty years old building that used to house Tel Aviv's first theatre. In the early structures of Tel Aviv, the concrete was mixed with salty sea sand, as the enthusiastic pioneers knew nothing of local conditions and less about the building trade. The concrete is now desintegrating, the iron is corroded and blocks of sandy material are falling apart. The original occupants are long forgotten and a succession of shops renewed and repainted the place. My friend's shop sells PC coffee, goat yoghurt, soya pellets, exotic spices, organic fruit, painted primitive earth cookingware, bottles containing what seems to me colored water.
Generations of plumbers worked on the building. Pipes were blinded and new ones installed and again. Aluminium sheet aireation tunnels were tucked inside. The Municipality built new main sewers and forgot to disconnect the old ones. Tel Aviv real estate became valuable, and new underground levels and spaces were added.
From the street level I ascended to the coffee shop level and then descended into the main sales area, which is in a large underground hall. The lighting, the cool air conditioning, the exotic perfume of the spice, the music, the wall-to-wall carpeting, and the fresh slices of sweet organic melon and papaya offered by uniformed blond teenagers and you forget you are in the steaming Tel Aviv of July. I followed the sewage pipes down into the second underground level. Another sales hall not of this Earth, cool and confortable. The third level underground had the emergency doors and service areas, and here the decrepit skeleton of the building started to show itself. The water in the pipes flowed downward, toward the deep sandy heart of Earth.
Through suffocating stairs I continued down to the lowest level of the building. The heat and the lack of fresh air were frightening. I wondered if the H2S level would be toxic. I felt I was fainting. I searched for an air shaft and miracle, found a tiny current of fresh air. The pumping station was in the lowest part of the building. The submergible pump was in good working order. The signature of the plumber Dany Rubinstein witnessed his last visit - 1997.
I calculated that this deep hole was near the outer wall of the building, or under the street's walk way. The vertical riser was connected to a visible manhole on the street. Although I would advise a second standby pump, I can honestly state that there is little hazard of flooding with sewage the food area. I closed the door of this culus mundum, the scrotal point of this sacred theater, 20 - 25 meters under the boulevar. How sweet is sunlight.