Less well known is the race of giant tortoises who hold up New York City. Your engineer, the very definition of quotidian, will insist on schist — Manhattan, for instance, is said to be “gneiss but full of schist” — as the foundation of all that challenges the sky, but those of us in the know, know better. It is upon their mighty backs, their rock-like carapaces, that all of this Oz rests.
The trouble with these stout, bold, strong creatures, doing the heavy lifting of our metropolis, is that they are rarely seen. They shun the limelight, they have no interest in celebrity, or even, it may be said, humanity, at all. Well, you know how I like keep my eyes peeled like a grape for evidence of the world rushing in, so when I was in SoHo recently — an aberration on my part, but the tarts are delicious — I happened to catch one of these secretive animals passing below the sidewalk grating. Zounds! The shell is a full yard long! The creature was of course lumbering in that deliberate time-is-different-for-us way. Judging from the shiny baubles around its bullish neck, I’d say it was either returning from a bender, if not N’Orleans, or an anointing by a cult of Kurma-worshippers. March on, noble Testudinidae!