The mission was indeed obvious. I had blown an opportunity to walk in the sun the day before. Spent that day cooking my special glop-n-dogfood and trying to convince myself I'd be more productive at some later point in the day, or the weekend. It snowed later that night, and today I was faced with a total gray bleakness and a six inch layer of slush covering the city. The mission would be more difficult, but perhaps, I thought, I'd be more rewarded for it.
I gobbled down my breakfast of scorpions and headed for my Bridges.
I had a thought of maybe recreating the epic seven bridge journey I'd made one Easter a few years back; from the 59th to the Roosevelt up n' over the Tri-boro then onto the 125th Street Bridge. The Brooklyn, Manhattan and then final, my old n' Wiley Williamsburg (the bridge of mere mortals)... na, thought better of it. I concluded that it being President's Day, my objective would be OK, ok, corny and obvious, I'd walk the George Washington Bridge... hey what the ho, maybe I could start a new holiday tradition.
Like many of my bridge walks this one started with a hoof over the Pulaski Bridge on my way to the 7 train. As with many of these long weekend bridge walks, I got to the 7 only to find that, fuck, it was closed again! Luckily I caught a shuttle-bus right away and had a nice above ground bus trip through that beautifully ugly part of Long Island City on up to Queens Plaza. Being dumped immediately at the base of the 59th Street Bridge called out for a warm-up walk so off I went. Last time I'd done the 59th was late that same year's Christmas Eve. I had walked it at 2:30 in the morning after midnight mass at the Great Anglican (or as they call it, Episcopalian) Church in lower uptown. Now, the 59th Street is not my favorite, but probably the most meaningful, after all, it had been our means of escape a few falls back. You know, when that all happened one sunny day...
A grand old bridge, the last one built before the Ammann dynasty. Some think it ugly in it's overwhelming sturdiness, I prefer to enjoy the almost "added-on" ornamentation that tries desperately to decorate it's utilitarianism Hey, it's MY escape bridge, the one I see out my window. A familiar old lady who has helped me out and given me a warm feeling when crossing her old crusty soul into or out of our beloved city. I only hope they don't paint the life out of the old rusty bitch over the course of her current restoration.
As I usually do, I had ad a nice chat with the old gal as I crossed head long into a blustery sleety headwind. Exiting the 59th, on either end, is mostly un-ceremonial. The city side more so in so much as you are literally dumped into a tiny hole of an intersection with a gaggle of cars trying desperately to navigate what god himself would not have been able to design as an inner city through-fair into one that might have ever worked. [Of course, when I say god in reference to NY bridges and intersections, you do know that I am, of course referring to Moses].
I got the first soaker of the day stepping off the old lady and into one of the city's famous relocating pot holes. But I was undeterred and kept moving towards the President's Bridge. I half attempted to make it uptown to the GWB entirely above ground by bus. That objective came to an end when I crawled down into the hole and jumped the 1 train up to 181st street. I was bit wobbly from the 59th Street Bridge walk. I think the weekend had caught up to me and that, coupled with the miserable day, had left me a bit pooped. I think I was half hoping the GWB would be closed due to the miserably windy weather, hey at least a hole hearted attempt would have been made. As I approached the gate, it did almost looked closed, but it was just the angel (perhaps the angles), the bridge was indeed, open. SO, it had to be WALKED.
Sometimes I do feel a little manic when in the midst of these pursuits. Other times I don't quite have that total overwhelming desire, the zeal: nor do I always get that rush of satisfaction after getting over one of these bridges. Indeed, crossing the old lady didn't whip me up n' ready for this next crossing. Maybe it was only because, of all the cities Bridges the GWB is the least personal to me; more a pursuit of triumph and conquest rather than a mystical metaphor for some fanciful moment of realization that the East River Bridges provide me. Maybe because the only thing you can really do once you cross the GWB is cross it back home again. Maybe because once crossed, you're in Jersey, an ugly bland part of Jersey at that.
I decided on creating a rather pedestrian quest for this trip, I'd cross then go in search of a bar I could still smoke in. This pedestrian quest helped little to raise any spirituality in the moment, especially when I found out that the bridge had not been plowed. I had an almost miles walk across the damned thing through six inches of dirty brown slush while in constant fear of being blown over it's too low railing and off to my perilous death and into the Hudson. I walked hugging the roadside railing putting me on target for great globs of salty muck flying from the wheels of the cars and trucks zooming along I-95. Sleety rain had soaked my glasses and a crushing fog had all but buried the city, couldn't see a damned thing so I basically put my head down, walked in low large steps, keeping my center of gravity down and trudged my way to the Great State of New Jersey.
I couldn't wait to get down off that Revolutionary be damned Presidential monstrosity and have that beer.
I've already mentioned that the Jersey side of the GWB is kind of grim. I had forgotten and was totally unprepared for just how grim it would be. Fort Lee really is a frikin' wasteland. Under six inches of wet slush-n-snow, it's an annoying frikin' wasteland empty of any redeeming feature, or... bar. I found one that seemed closed, not just for the holiday, but forever. I walked through empty streets beholden of nothing more than these bleak 14 story mid rise apartment building, not built to house the poor, but rather built to house the almost poor who had no clue as to why they were alive, sad New Jersians (or is it Jersyites) who'd been given no warning that living in these lifeless slabs on this bleak side of the GWB would eventually suck the last ounce of interest in anything out of their souls.
I finally found a renovated shopping area, unfortunately it was in a bizarrely manifested New Jersey version of Koreatown and, unfortunately, and apparently so, Koreans in Fort Lee New Jersey don't seem to drink, hence didn't feel any responsibility to provide me a bar. I settled on the Plaza Diner, a place I'd passed earlier but moved on along on in hope I'd find a little familiar looking local. I settled for a wine at the Plaza instead of beer and was happy to see an ashtray on the counter. The waitress was nice, she showered me with the usual number of "huns", "sweeties" and the "are you going to order something now darling"'s you expect when being served at an old classic diner, in the snow, in Jersey, after walking over the damned slop-n-slush-soaked GWB.
She even joined me in a glass of wine and gave me the heads up on how to catch a bus back to the city.
Although I had entertained an inkling of an idea to end my day on my old buddy n pal of a good god damned good bridge, the ol' n' Willey Williamsburg; I had NO intension of walking back across the GWB. The bus ride back to the city included some nice new views I'd never seen, but after the first few miles it all started to look horribly the same. Miles and miles of busted down old discount stores peppered with the usual pizza shops, nail salons and Duane Reade drug stores. I guess I was more tired than I thought as after a time, I just stopped looking out the window, went into my head only to find my weekend companion, this sadness still hanging around, playing a game of solitaire waiting for me to get home so it could pound another shot into my stomach...
Bridge walks are not specifically meant to lift one's spirits, they're just a nice thing to do when you have time to fill and things to think about and/or talk to yourself about. What one can think about while bridge walking is as varied as the weather one faces while making a crossing. They definitely aren't meant to cheer you up on a lonely day, AND for the most part they are a totally solo endeavor. OK, crossing with Dan has always been a pleasure, AND those very few times a special guest has followed through and joined me has been, well, special; but for the most part a bridge crossed alone, is a good bridge crossed.
I probably did have certain expectations that a good bridge walk or two would have cleared some cobwebs and helped me deal. I guess I have just reminded myself not to have these expectation or risk diminishing a perfectly good bridge walk. Maybe I should dump a bunch of the other expectations I'm currently holding tight to, as well. Get comfy with the notion of settling in for a long bought of the "alones" with not much else to do. AND… indeed… maybe if it's nice tonight I'll walk home over the Williamsburg Bridge.
The pretty boy under construction in what one day, stupidly would be called... DUMBO (D)own (U)nder the (M)anhattan (B)ridge (O)verpass
My good pal "bones" posted this pic on my Facebook Page today, I felt it required a response....
Dear Arthur, I doubt you know just how intimate a relationship I have with these bridges, all of them. I often "fluff-off" the Manhattan as the "pretty-boy" of the bunch. All beauty with very little... hmmm... umph. The rattle and clang of all that metal on spindly metal each and every 15 minutes simply drove all us DUMBO-ites slowly insane everyday... AND it always seemed to be broken in one way or another. He IS pretty though. - Thanks for this bones. I'd never seen this picture before. I can now imagine it's birth; and that gives me a new found perspective on this place in time!