Archive for March, 2009

Golden Gotham

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2009 by wally426

25-03-2009   Brooklyn, NY

The walk began before dawn. My legs stretched down Flatbush avenue as the wind kicked up plastic cups and bales of crumpled newspaper. The pieces of garbage danced in an odd waltz near one of the subway grates. It was cold, but not that biting cold that eats through your marrow in January. This fine March morning, my nose detected the faint smell of spring – a mix of budding crocuses, rain clouds, and frayed grass fighting its way through the half-frozen earth. Soon the city would emerge from its wintry cocoon and come to life again.

I looked up and saw the long shadow of Brooklyn’s tallest building – the old Williamsburg Savings Bank – peering over the borough like a once proud Eagle watching over a sordid nest of brick and smoke. The lights had gone out in the clocktower again, which meant another day had officially begun. It was an odd time of the day. One when the night urchins and early risers passed each other in a complete haze, both parties looking half dead as they tiptoed through the early morning. After walking past the blinking bulbs of Junior’s restaurant, I saw the Manhattan bridge poking its majestic head above the Avenue’s final ridge.

It wasn’t until recently that I developed an appreciation for one of New York’s most forgotten (and most magnificent) structures. The Manhattan bridge will celebrate its centennial on New Year’s eve this year, but I doubt much fuss will be made. The peeling baby blue paint will simply endure another day in its history as one of the city’s finest work horses. This diligent span carries two car lanes, a walkway, a bikeway, and four train lines over it. Through the past century, it hasn’t commanded an inch of respect from the ants that crawl past on a daily basis.

As I entered the span through a slit in the fence on Jay street, the fading blue beauty stretched into the distance. A homeless man lay bundled near the train tracks, looking like a large paisley mummy on a cold concrete slab. He must have had enough to drink last night… The two small empty flasks of Hennessy laying nearby undoubtedly drowned out the constant rumbling of trains all night. I wondered what kind of dreams he was having. Perhaps a picture would capture them? I snapped a shot and walked on.

The walkway along the bridge is much slimmer than that of the Brooklyn bridge’s expansive boardwalk, only stretching 10 feet across. The bridge also isn’t for the acrophobic as there is no ‘safety net’ below the warped concrete walkway. The Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges both have roadways below their walkways so that, in an unfortunate incident of collapse, there’s at least something to break your fall. With this span, there’s only the cold green waters of the East River to break your fall. One gets the feeling of playing Russian roulette with every crossing. It’s quite an exciting trip, even if the fear is unfounded. The view that day was beautiful, with the sun gently rising above the clouds to the Northeast, painting the buildings of lower Manhattan a deep orange. Before reaching the bridge’s terminus on Canal Street in Chinatown, I saw something that made me take a second look – A half eaten pig’s head lay alongside the walkway. Its pink snout was all that was distinguishable in the mess of bone and tendon. I briefly thought of when I was a child. My cousins and I used to pick at the face of the roasted suckling pig my grandfather would make once a year. Remembering how good it tasted then, I couldn’t really blame whoever had indulged in the same savage act.

As I passed over the Bowery onto Canal Street, a young black girl approached me. It was quite windy that day and tears streamed down her cheeks. “Can I ask you a question, sir?”. I nodded yes. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your savior?”. I shook my head no. Even though I was still walking, she kept on about how she had been “saved” by the Jehovah’s witnesses and that the opportunity was there for me as well. Even though I told her that I had no interest, she kept following me to the train station, tears streaming down her cheeks onto her nice black dress. I wanted to wipe them off, but she didn’t seem to mind. “Oh my!” she gasped as we entered the stairwell on Broadway, “I didn’t realize how far I’d gone from my post!”. I told her that I was late for work, shook her hand, took one of her brochures and headed down the steps. It never ceases to amaze me how taking a simple walk through the city (at any hour) can be an adventure. The rest of the day, I was accompanied with beautiful visions of golden sunshine and glistening tears as I crunched numbers. Needless to say, walking to work will be a larger part of the routine as the weather warms up.