22 May 2008

The View From The Bridge

I saw it almost every day for eleven years, outside my living room window, between my home and midtown, its gothic towers ever present in the day and its glittering swag of lights at night that follow its wide catenary arch. I loved the twinkling of vehicle lights as they scurried across the roadway.

I read David McCullough’s great book titled, “The Great Bridge.” Learned of Roebling and Tweed and the apache dance of vision and venality that is now hidden from view. And portions of poor Hart Crane’s great poem, The Bridge, which remains unfinished because its author could not endure life long enough. Like so many from my old ‘hood I have pictures of it. Not as many as most.

I walked it dozens of times, ran it a few times before my ankles broke into disbelieving laughter, and wished I had walked it even more times. While tourists gawk at the tall skyscrapers and grand lady liberty, I marvel at the geometric elegance of its wires and the boggling heft of its carrying cables. The hum of the roadway, punctuated by thumps and whines, a din that never ceases no matter the day or hour, runs below the wood planked walkway that also serves the bicycle rider. Each gets half and neither gets enough.

It is 125 years old this week, the Brooklyn Bridge, and for the first time in a long time I am homesick. While I still go back to visit friends and indulge the opera, those pangs of absence had abated almost entirely. My younger son has embraced the Midwest and promises never to leave. My spouse loves her house and the relative quiet and peace of our smaller city. My elder son has accepted his exile status, that he is a New Yorker but unable to live there for the present. As they have made their peace so have I.

But today, this week, I have felt the old sadness again. This is not limited to New York, as I feel it every fall when the leaves turn and the hills of Massachusetts come to mind. I cannot go to Chicago and not long to live there as I did thirty years ago, even in harsh winter. Nor can I resist a cheer for the Baltimore Orioles who will ever be my home team.

I suppose this is one of the blessings of age, to know many kinds of sadness. Like the Tin Man said, I know I have a heart because it’s breaking.

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