Sunday, May 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Brooklyn Bridge

May 25, 2008

It was 125 years ago yesterday that the first pedestrians crossed the finished Brooklyn bridge. The bridge was started when John Roebling completed the design in 1869.

It took 14 years to build, at the sacrifice of 21 lives, including Roebling himself. He died of lockjaw 16 days after having his foot crushed by a ferry that crashed into a pier upon which Roebling stoodon the NY side of the river.

I think the bridge is amazing. I am seriously in love with it. On my frequent evening walks in Brooklyn Heights, I gaze at it in awe each time I lay eyes upon it. The Brooklyn Bridge is my favorite historic landmark.

Fascinated by its 1,595-foot span that floats about 135 feet above the East River, I read a book about the building of the bridge last weekend--before I even realized we were closing in on its significant birthday. It was an amazing engineering feat in the late 1800's, back when some attempts at suspension bridges failed as the bridges crashed down with the first gale winds.

In honor of its anniversary, Brooklyn has been celebrating this week. Friday evening I walked over to Fulton Ferry Park (also known as the Brooklyn Bridge Park), just beneath and to the north of the east tower of the bridge. Free movies were being aired on the big lawn. Kids were running around, adults were flashing photos with their digital cameras, and there were lots of viewers with their picnics laid out on blankets. There was also plenty of free popcorn.

Just after 9PM, the light show on the bridge started. A friend of mine at work had told me about it. I didn't know at all what to expect.

Looking up at the Brooklyn tower, suddenly the arches of that tower was alive with color. It was a spectacular sight! The NY tower also changed colors--from yellow to orange to an azure blue, then green, bright pink, and white. Even the roadway along the side of the bridge was lit.

Saturday night was a repeat of Friday night's festivities, and this time I took my camera with me. I could have stared at that beautiful bridge all night.

Walking home on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade last night, I glanced back at the bridge one last time. The long roadway was lit up in blue, and the towers were orange. I recall thinking, "If only Roebling could see this now."

Yesterday afternoon I jogged across the bridge, against the hordes of Saturday tourists meandering along with no regard for the other pedestrians on the narrow path. The only reason I ran instead of walked was to avoid being pushed into the bike lane one more time.

The bridge gets crowded on sunny weekend days, so normally I take the Manhattan bridge on my walk. But, in honor of its May 24 anniversary, I fought the crowds of walkers, runners, picture-taking tourists, bicyclists, roller-bladers, and even a bride. . . .

On the other side, I walked across Manhattan to the Hudson, and then down the promenade to Battery Park. It was a gorgeous day, but clouds rolled in when I got to the other side. Today is supposed to be even better - sunny and 70. And I'll be off to my first visit to Yankee stadium soon.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Celebrity Near-sighting

Saturday May 17, 2008

Today turned out to be gorgeous - sunny and 70 degrees, a beautiful spring day, instead of the cold rainy weather we'd had Friday. Residents of NY were beginning to think that spring would never show up and stick around. Hopefully it's here now.

So I did my errands then left my apartment in Brooklyn Heights at 12:23PM to go walking. I didn't have much of a plan except to cross the Manhattan Bridge and, this time, go north instead of south when I got to the other side of the East River. Last time, I went south and returned home via the Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

When I got to the base of the bridge on the Brooklyn side today, a guy sitting up on the concrete wall next to the stairs told me that the pedestrian walkway (on the south side of the bridge) was closed and that I had to use the bike path on the north side instead. Cool - I'd get to see the world from the other side of the bridge, for a change.

As I was walking along I failed to notice that there were no cars heading into Brooklyn on the bridge. Finally I did notice when I came upon a spot on the bridge where the road off to my left (on the south side) was blocked off by several NYPD cars. My first thought was "bad accident." I continued to walk and look, being wary of speeding bicyclists zipping past me with no warning.

Beyond the cop cars was a row of stopped vehicles full of people waiting. Many had their windows open. Some were out walking around. But it was eerily quiet. It was several minutes later when I realized what was missing - the sound of horns blowing.

Meanwhile, I came across a nice-looking man who had stopped to watch the commotion. "What's up?" I asked. He said that they were filming a movie - "they're remaking Pelham 1-2-3." I said, "Oh, I remember that one!" Actually, I didn't remember the movie - just the name and the timeframe (the 70's). The very nice man told me that John Travolta was in it. I love John Travolta, so that bit of news got me all excited.

"Ooooh! Is he here?!" I asked the fellow. "No, he was earlier but I think they're on a break."


Had I left a tad earlier I could have found myself within spitting distance of the John Travolta! So I kept walking, slowing my brisk pace down just a tad, craning my neck to get a glimpse of a celebrity. I wondered how Mr. Travolta would make it back to the set and thought maybe they'll use a golf cart on the pedestrian walkway on the other side. A minute later I saw a golf cart, albeit on the roadway, making its way through the parked vehicles. I stopped and looked for him, but it was just some of the crew.

As I walked, I kept my head turned left. Lots of golf carts and guys in headsets but no John Travolta. There was a point on the bridge where there were no cars - just empty roadway (that's always a bizarre sight to behold in NYC) - so I wondered if the people in the parked cars were there deliberately, as extras. Probably.

I looked up the movie on IMDB when I got home. It turns out that the Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 was made in 1974, when I was 10 years old. It starred Walter Mathau and Robert Shaw. Tonight I immediately moved it to the top of my Netflix queue so I can watch it next week.

Funny, last weekend when I took a tour of landmark homes in Brooklyn Heights, the gray clapboard row house on Hicks Street that I toured was also recently featured in a movie starring George Clooney, John Malcovich, Frances McDormand, and Brad Pitt - it's called Burn After Reading. I'll have to watch for that one in September.

What a gorgeous day today. My walk took me all the way up the East River (along FDR Drive) as far north as E. 38th Street, where the walkway came to an upbrupt end, much to my dismay. I wound my way over and up to the Chrysler building at 42nd and Lex, then walked up 42nd Street to Bryant Park. I grabbed a slice of pizza and did what hundreds of other people were doing, which was soaking up rays on the great green grassy lawn of the park. It was just wonderful. My feet were aching after walking nearly 9 miles, so I took a 30-minute rest.

I watched as this one large gray and blue pigeon made his way deliberately through the park, walking from one party to the next, very patiently seeking a hand-out.

I'd planned to go home afterward and was very close to getting on the subway when instead I stopped in a runner's store inside Grand Central Terminal. There was a particular sneaker I'd been looking for and wanted to see if they had it. No, but the woman told me to check out Paragon at 18th and Broadway. They have everything, she told me. So, instead of going home I took the 5 train down to Union Square and walked from 14th Street to the sports store at 18th.

Sure enough, they had the shoes I'd been trying to find for a week or two - or at least the new model of the same shoe. (Asics brand.) And they were on sale! So I got those and thought I'd head home.

Out on the sidewalk I remembered I needed something at Home Depot. It was just another 6 or 7 blocks, so I thought What the heck? I went there and got the home items I needed. My feet were screaming at me to go home. As I headed to the 1 train on 7th Avenue I glanced over and noticed the Burlington Coat Factory. I'd been needing a light-weight coat. I may as well go in, I'm so close and it won't take long.

Well, I ended up spending way more time in there than I'd planned, stopping to try on clothes that I didn't need. Not sure why I did that because dressing rooms always make me feel like I need to lose a thousand pounds.

After nearly an hour I left without buying anything and decided I was definitely going to go straight home! It was already 6:30PM. I also decided I was going to keep the tags on everything I'd bought today until next week when I find out if I'm getting laid off from my job or not. Ha!

I had to wait for the train. By the time I got home from my walk (that I'd started just after noon), it was after 7:00! My poor feet. I filled up my large jetted tub, lit some candles, and soaked my tired bones. That was my kind of Saturday.

So remember when you see the new "Pelham 1-2-3" movie this fall, I was on the Manhattan bridge (that's the blue suspension bridge) the same day they were shooting there! How cool is that? (Well, not quite as cool as seeing John Travolta. . . . Oh well, can't win 'em all.)