Brooklyn Bridge

The Photo Opportunity

“So bellisima,” said the Italian tourists, indicating the Brooklyn Bridge, which arched in its hybrid cable-stayed suspension majesty behind us.  The skyline of Manhattan, sporting crystal clear blue skies and puffy white clouds tinged with the grey that would bring afternoon rain, framed the tableau. 

They had stopped me, as tourists on the bridge often do, to ask me to take their picture.  Is it my countenance?  Who knows?  On my daily hikes across the bridge, I have seen brides, grooms, ponies pulling carts, painters, tchotchke hustlers, hat sellers, juice squeezers and mostly thousands and thousands of tourists from every corner of the world. 

They traverse the bridge taking in the wondrous sights; to the south, the harbor, Ellis Island and the lady with the torch; to the north the skyline of Manhattan.  They seem to want to surround themselves and capture something in time; the wooden slats at their feet, the graceful symmetry of the cables, the solidity of the stone arches grant them a sense of permanence, of something rising and never falling; the dreams of freedom represented and the beauty in those dreams.

The Cost

I wonder how many of them know that at least twenty people died building the bridge.  I wonder if they know that in order to sink the caissons for the bridge, workers, mostly newly arrived immigrants, had to dive under the East River so far that they got a condition known as “the bends,” or decompression disease, from which they never recovered.  I wonder if they know the man who designed the bridge died and his son took over.  His son also got the bends and his wife took over for the final years.  He watched the opening ceremonies from his sickbed in Brooklyn Heights.  This thing of majesty took fourteen years to build.  Every inch of its symmetry was planned and executed with precision and extraordinary labor.  Beauty and grandeur come at a cost. 

The Backdrop of Life

The Manhattan Bridge can be seen from the Brooklyn Bridge.  If the Brooklyn Bridge is the elegant queen, the royalty among bridges, the Manhattan Bridge is the humble peasant. 

Brooklyn Bridge

The Q train rumbles across the Manhattan Bridge and provides an exquisite, if transitory, view of it’s stunning neighbor.  If you ride the Q in the late afternoon, with the sun beginning to set, it’s muted rays shine on the faces of riders coming home from workdays in Manhattan.  The Brooklyn Bridge is not a wonder to them.  It is a permanent backdrop to the rhythm of their lives. 

Yesterday three riders napped in the dappled sun as it spilled through the dust smeared subway window.  A laborer still wearing his yellow helmet, his chin nodding on his green neon safety vest.  A young woman with a tight bun, an ABT gym bag and long legs splayed out, surely a ballerina.  A twenty something man wearing a turban, a diamond-studded belt slung impossibly low on his hips and bright orange platform sneakers.  His head was curled in on an arm on which I could see the words TRUTH/BEAUTY tattoed.  They all looked beatific to me, rocked to sleep, dreaming on the Q train, high above the East River right next to the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Kate Fuglei

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Kate Fuglei

Kate Fuglei is an actress and singer who divides her time between Studio City and Brooklyn. She has appeared in over forty episodes of television, including most recently in one of the first episodes of STAR TREK/PICARD.  She is a published author with two novels based on the lives of the physicist Enrico Fermi and the educator Maria Montessori. The greatest blessing in her life is her marriage to writer Ken LaZebnik and her two sons, Jack LaZebnik and Ben LaZebnik.  They inspire her every single day.

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