Wednesday, October 17, 2018
New York Stories #3: Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge
Two very different songs came to me in Brooklyn.
The first was perhaps inevitably, given my generation, when I realized we were not only in Brooklyn, but Brooklyn Heights.
"But Patty's only seen the sights a girl can see from Brooklyn Heights...."
The "Patty Duke Show" theme song. My wife was amazed I remembered it. But I have a mind for that kind of thing.
The other came as we shopped around for bagels. That was the idea—take the subway to Brooklyn, sample bagel places, return walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Edie had Googled "best bagels in Brooklyn" and had a list, and I was following along. As good a way as any to pass a Saturday morning, though we decided that none of the actual New York bagels were as good as the ones at New York Bagels on Dempster Street. Too big and airy, not dense and chewy enough.
We ended up walking down Montague Street. I noticed a plaque—here was where Arthur Miller wrote his first Broadway play. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do with the information, but it did drive home what street I was on, and evoked a line from Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue."
"I lived with them on Montague Street, the basement down the stairs, there was music in the cafes at night, and revolution in the air."
Must have been nice. But don't look for a plaque—while Dylan lived in Greenwich Village (on 4th Street, hence "Positively 4th Street") I couldn't find any evidence he lived with anybody on Montague Street, which dead-ends into the riverside promenade. It was just a story he made up.
My wife and I took a right, then found our way to the Brooklyn Bridge and walked across.
For some reason we were surprised to find it crowded, though of course it would be. How many sights in New York are famous, historic and, oh yes, free?
Jammed, the pedestrian half anyway, with enough bikes blowing at top speed along the bike lane to keep walkers packed onto their side. Someone is going to get killed there, one of these days, if they haven't already.
We bought a bag of cucumbers and a bag of mangoes to munch.
Halfway across the bridge I noticed something truly extraordinary: a plaque to Emily Warren Roebling, who completed construction of the bridge after her husband, chief engineer Washington Roebling, became ill, a victim of the bends, it is believed, having taken over from his father, John Roebling, the bridge's designer, who died, of tetanus. after his foot was crushed while surveying the site, one of dozens of men who perished during its construction.
The New York Times, in their series of belated obituaries celebrating overlooked women, included Emily Roebling, even though she was not overlooked, in her time. “How the Wife of the Brooklyn Bridge Engineer Has Assisted Her Husband,” read the headline of one article after the bridge opened—she was the first person to walk across the completed bridge, carrying a rooster—it is said—for good luck.
I pointed out the plaque to my wife, worried she would take the epigram, “Back of every great work we can find the self-sacrificing devotion of a woman," in the wrong light. But she seemed unperturbed by it.