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Refreshed by the gladness of the river

No child to mind...no client to produce for...a glorious day to myself in waning summer, sprung while the day is young from another horrible brush with jury duty in downtown Brooklyn. Did I sprint from the Supreme Court building back home to wield my heat gun on the remaining unstripped front-door paint? Nooooooo. I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.


Wow, what a thrill--and one I've never experienced in all my life as a New Yorker and 24 years as a Brooklynite. Driving over the bridge is a cramped, chore-like business, but walking over it--preferably from Brooklyn into  Manhattan--is pure drama, a sky-wrapped promenade, cables swinging up all around you, one set of Gothic arches rising up framed by another. I had left my camera at home to avoid its confiscation by the Mean-Faced Court Officers, but took a few pictures for tourists with their own wee cameras, kneeling way down to get a nice dramatic angle with the American flag in the background. Helicopters crisscrossed overhead, a few pleasure boats cut up and down the East River, and the grimy old yellow Staten Island Ferry chugged along in the distance under the gaze of Miss Liberty. It's a long walk, longer than you think it's going to be, but one to put on your life list, now, if you've never done it(Note to outlanders: Take the F train to Jay St./Boro Hall stop, then get out and walk to the bridge so you can head back into Manhattan.) And when you come to the bronze bas-relief marker showing the skyline ahead of you, don't hestitate to run your fingers over the Twin Towers as you gaze at where they stood; so many people have done so ahead of you that the two rectangles are polished, like the toe of a saint's statue in a pilgrimage shrine. My friend Walt, with his "curious abrupt questionings" as he leaned into this wind on this crossing, could he ever have questioned as we have, who have polished that little spot of bronze with our remembering fingertips?

As I turned and looked back at the Brooklyn waterfront, poised for its painful transformation in coming years to a forest of skyscrapers, I felt a surge of delight in being a Bridge and Tunnel New Yorker: Somewhere back there, in the green heart of the borough, were my home and my raspberry bushes, but right over there, rising up gleaming, was the urban heart of the world. In need of some antidote to all this ecstasy, I decided to have a look for Mayor Bloomberg in City Hall, which is, appropriately enough, the very first thing that greets you as you ramble off the span in "the city." No luck; thanks to Homeland Security measures, you can only gaze on the steps from afar (although a few news crews are permanently planted around the periphery in case of a Sudden Outbreak of News).

But I enjoyed an iced coffee and some people-watching near the gorgeous City Hall Park fountain, then went uptown to the one museum that would be least intriguing to the absent Child, The Morgan Library. I hadn't seen it since the new fancy architecture was added to knit its robber-baron buildings together; the result is delightful, an airy web of glass and blond wood floating around the shadowy gilt-edged, velvet-lined jewel boxes of Morgan's original follies. I gazed right down on Beethoven's scribbled themes for the Emperor Concerto while listening to the same measure on headphones, tears stinging my eyes in a true Schroeder moment.  I felt sorry for the priceless books, though, especially the children's storybooks; they are prisoners of their exquisite conservatorship, never destined to be grabbed off a shelf, casually flipped open, and then devoured by a delighted rainy-day reader.

I headed home on the subway with the gainfully employed commuters, feet worn out but happy. When I got to my own front porch, the paint was still there on the doorframe.

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;

Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;

Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d;

Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood, yet was hurried;

Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships, and the thick-stem’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I too lived—Brooklyn, of ample hills, was mine;

I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan Island, and bathed in the waters around it;

I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,

In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes they came upon me,

In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my bed, they came upon me.

--Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Photo taken by: Fanny Granger Becker, my grandmother

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2007 at 11:24AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments1 Comment

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Reader Comments (1)

There is a poem rattling around my notebooks somewhere about the bridge. My one visit to the big NY city was in the late 80's and we stayed a few nights in one of the old warehouses there on the Brooklyn side - they were officially 'artist's lofts' and not approved for habitation, but the artists that lived there couldn't afford primary housing, so there they were.

The Brooklyn Bridge, being double stacked, carries trains below the cars and pedestrians. The sound of those trains pouring off the bridge in the wee hours of the morning is forever in my sound memory garden.

Of such things a life is made.

September 2, 2007 at 02:15PM | Unregistered CommenterJenn

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