Monday, June 01, 2009


If you exit the Palisades Parkway South to cross the George Washington Bridge, immediately before merging onto the Bridge traffic, you pass beneath a pedestrian overpass from which hangs an unadorned green sign with white lettering that says Pip Helix.

I noticed this sign for the first time two Saturdays ago, after what must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of passages under it, depending on how long it’s been hanging there. I assume the strange words identify something in the immediate area, but what? The pedestrian overpass? The merge ramp? A Native American ley line?

Google yielded tantalizing leads:
– A band called Pip Helix put out an album in 1996.
– One or more individuals calling themselves Pip Helix are occasional posters on a couple of Websites called, respectively, and Cute Overload.
– Pip Helix is mentioned in Jennys Blogg, which is otherwise in Swedish.
– Pip Helix (The band? The Swede? The sex guide aficionado?) is a project of Simco Engineering.
Tantalizing yes, helpful, no. Pip Helix remained a puzzlement.

After a day or two of deep thought, my wife and I recalled that the ramp that goes from the toll area to the GW proper is spiral-shaped – not unlike a helix, you might say, if you’d ever heard the word helix used to describe anything other than a strand of DNA, which I certainly have not. Even though the sign is at the very end of the entrance, arguably not on the ramp at all but rather the merge lane, our best guess was that Pip Helix referred to the on-ramp because it’s the only thing around that’s, you know, helical (surprising adjectival form, no?).

Now only one question remained: Pourqui Pip?

More googling and much too much time pottering around the New Jersey Website were both to no avail. I told myself all would be revealed eventually, but first I’d have to let it go, stop thinking about, just as I did some time ago, when I couldn’t recall the name of the actor who’d played Ishmael in John Huston’s Moby Dick and less than an hour after I’d vowed to stop thinking about the damn movie, which wasn’t really that good to begin with, I suddenly realized it was Richard Basehart.

Finally I called my friend John, who has lived in New Jersey for twenty years or so and who I hoped might have some knowledge of local lore. No dice. He suggested Google, of course, and Mapquest, which I had already tried too. Something came over his intercom at that moment and he said he’d call me back. When he did he was strangely quiet.

“I know what it is but I’m reluctant to say. I think you’ll be embarrassed.”
“Tell me!” I yelled. Yelling works more often then one would think.
“Palisades Interstate Parkway.”
“Is that what everyone calls it in New Jersey? Have you ever called the Parkway the Pip?”
“Not before today.”
“How did you figure it out?”
“It’s an Enn-jay thing, baby.”


Pip Helix said...

I was very amused to find your blog posting about Pip Helix (via Googling same). I spotted that same green sign a few years ago, and also wondered how many times I had passed below it before noticing it. Then, I mused about what a great band name that would be. No, wait! It would make an even better screen a name!

Ever since that thought, I have been, for most online purposes, Pip Helix. And yes, I am the Pip Helix who has posted on But please allow me to verify that the poster to the sex site is quite another Pip Helix, thank you very much. And sadly, I am not in a band, nor a computer geek - no insult intended to those Pips.

To shed a little more light on the name, the traffic term "helix" is used once in a while to designate that shape of ramp, as you mentioned - in the same way "cloverleaf" is used for traffic patterns such as what was once the dreadful and deadly Route 4 and Route 17 interchange in Paramus, New Jersey. (Thank the gods they re-engineered that deathride.)

As your friend revealed, PIP does stand for Palisades Interstate Parkway. However, no one calls it the "Pip". The locals call it the "pea-eye-pea", and Rockland County drivers seem to sometimes call it "The Parkway". However, no New Jersey resident worth their saltwater taffy would ever call it that, because in New Jersey, "The Parkway" is the Garden State Parkway, and you take that all the way down to "the shore", baby - never "the beach".

Chronic Diary "A" said...
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Chronic Diary "A" said...
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Ethan Son Of Bob Silverman said...
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