Unlike some US cities, New York is fantastically easy to walk around (and we did plenty of that!). Its pretty much impossible to get lost anywhere north of Greenwich Village thanks to the layout of avenues (straight up, north-south), and streets (straight across, east-west!). The exception being Broadway, which is the only major avenue that cuts diagonally across Manhattan. A grid system that gives addresses, in my opinion, that special New York touch. 33rd and 3rd. 55th and 6th, and so on. Brilliant! Like I’ve said, stepping out of our hotel took us straight onto Broadway. Walking up four blocks would take us directly to the south end of Central Park, but that would have to wait a little while.
Today we were heading south again. Going east one block led straight to a subway station (55th and 7th). It seemed a waste to just jump on a train to get ourselves anywhere so we headed east a few blocks to 5th avenue and strolled down to 42nd street and another subway station. We got a train as far as 23rd street then with a combination of walking and hopping on the odd bus soon found ourselves close to City Hall Park.
NYC has 2,027 bridges (76 of which cross water), but it was one bridge in particular we had our sights set on today. The fabulous Brooklyn Bridge. Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was for years the largest suspension bridge in the world, linking Manhattan to Brooklyn, then two separate cities. The roadway from anchorage to anchorage is 3,579 feet. It was the German born engineer John A. Roebling who conceived the idea of a bridge spanning the East River while ice-bound on a ferry to Brooklyn. It took sixteen years to build, required six hundred workers and claimed over twenty lives, including Roebling`s, who’s foot was crushed between an incoming ferry and the ferry slip. He died three weeks later, just before construction started.
His son, Washington Roebling, finished the bridge, but in 1872 he himself suffered from `the bends` and became partly paralyzed. His wife, under his tutelage, took over with Washington directing things with the aid of a telescope! Most workers who died did so suffering from `the bends` (then called caisson disease), caused when coming up from underwater excavation chambers.
The two gothic double arches (each 277 ft high), one in Brooklyn the other in Manhattan, were meant to be portals of the cities. Of the steel cable wire, each cable contains 3,515 miles of wire, galvanized with zinc for protection from the wind rain and snow. It all makes up one damned impressive bridge! At the bridges opening in 1883, with around 20,000 people on it, it was reported that a sudden fear of imminent collapse caused the mass panic in which twelve pedestrians were trampled to death. Two years later, in may 1885, Robert Odlum was the first person to jump off the bridge, for a bet. He later died from internal bleeding. “All that trouble just to get to Brooklyn!” was the vaudevillian quip of the time!
So, the reason we’d made our way to City Hall Park was because we wanted to savour the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge, not just jump out of a cab and be right upon it. And what an approach! You can’t help being a touch envious of the people who use this bridge every day to get to and from work. I feel it lifts your spirits just looking at it.
Once on the pedestrian walkway above the road (18 feet above the road), you truly get the full magnificence and beauty of the bridge. The arches, all the cables and suspensions, not to mention the views! Looking ahead you get the relatively flat, low skyline of Brooklyn, looking back you get the outstanding skyscrapers of lower Manhattan.
The walkway was quite busy with cyclists, joggers, walkers (with and without dogs), and the likes of me and Malc, gawping again! Well if you can’t gawp in New York City, where can you? This was yet another view of the city we were enjoying. In his book `On the back roads (discovering small towns of America)`, Bill Graves mentions that creating memories are what certain days are for and that, tomorrow, this day will be forever one of them. I couldn’t agree more!
Once over the bridge and into Brooklyn, there wasn’t much happening and it was quite a walk to get along to where the streets were bustling again. I don’t know why but I was quite surprised at how quiet it was first stepping into Brooklyn. After calling into a store for a Pepsi and chewing gum (well, when in Rome), I noticed a couple of guys unloading a truck near a subway station.
Me and Malc were planning a visit down to Coney Island but weren’t sure which train we had to get.
“You guys wanna go to Coney Island?” said one of the fellas, sounding a bit surprised.
“Aye, we want to have a look at the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone from the film The Warriors” I told him, which for some reason brought lots of laughter from the two of them.
“You wanna go to Coney Island” he laughed again.
“That’s a looong way man, you wanna be going down there way before now.”
“Canny hike is it?” I asked.
This was when communications broke down a bit because of local accents. We did, however, get round to working out that a trip to Coney Island should be made early in the day.
After deciding to take the lad’s advice and leave it until tomorrow, they told us which tube to get back into Manhattan. “Friendly fellas” said Malc, as we walked away. “Aye” I agreed, “you think they know something we don’t though?”
After a bit more strolling we made our way to Macy`s, where we had an interesting encounter with a street vendor. It was just starting to get dark and I wanted a few photos of the shop all lit up. After taking a couple of snaps I suddenly heard an angry voice. “Hey, waddya think you’re doing?” I turned to see a man looking not too happy pointing at me.
I hadn’t even noticed him before now, but now I saw that he had a little fold away table set up at the roadside with stuff (couldn’t make out what), laid out on it. He started again.
“Who said you could take photos of me? You can’t take photos of me.”
“I’m not taking photos of you, I’m taking them of Macy`s.”
“No, you were taking photos of me. Give me your camera.”
“What? Calm yourself down man, I wasn’t taking your photo.”
“You were, give me your fucking camera.”
“Piss off; you’re not getting my camera.”
By now he was quickly packing his wares away and a few onlookers were taking an interest.
It was clear he thought I was taking snap shots of him as evidence or something. And he persisted.
“Give me the film out the camera.” (It was a use once-throw away camera).
“Not a chance pal.”
“Fucking cant do nothing in this city”, said Mr.Paranoid, before scooting away down the street.
Of course I should have answered him back with a loud “Get out of here you Shmuck” (proper New York speak), then we could have been on the same wavelength.
A few things are sacred in this life. One of them is trying to take a camera off me on my first visit to New York City!