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Photography

Saturday, March 15, 2008 Portrait of the Brooklyn Bridge

Our Man in Paris, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, isn't in Paris at the moment he's in Queens.  And here's a Thursday afternoon in New York.  No one tries to sell him the Brooklyn Bridge. He decides to photograph it, and more.

Portrait of the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge, photo by Ric Erickson

New York - Thursday, March 13 - I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time in December of 2001. It was bitter cold, it was cruel windy and it was a long, long walk. The thing it wasn't, it wasn't a good place to get photos of the bridge. The view from Brooklyn, from the outlook park there, is better of lower Manhattan than the bridge. Just where is that magic spot? The spot where the Brooklyn Bridge looks like the Brooklyn Bridge.

Since that cold day in December of that unspeakable year I have spied the bridge from the Manhattan side, from Greenpoint and Water Taxi Beach, and from one of the yellow water taxis sailing beneath it. I even tried the Staten Island Ferry, but it was too far offside somehow.

So this was why I was in Brooklyn again today. The MTA's subway map, a colorful and fanciful representation of New York's boroughs, showed a stop named York Street, located somewhere in Brooklyn in a close relationship to the Manhattan Bridge. Of course it was vague, in, I guess Dumbo. Down under the bridge. It's a great place - all dirty concrete, ramps, overpasses, big trucks and yellow taxis bounding out of Hummer-swallowing potholes.

After some casual exploration of crosswalks dominated by the red hand, I decided that the first thing to do before attempting the bridge was to find a restroom. Half a mile into Brooklyn did not look better. On one side a church and on the other many wide streets with more red hands, some leading to the Brooklyn Bridge.

There was a guy doing something with the traffic so I asked him where I could get a coffee. He said - we were standing in front of a lonely cafe - that there might be a Starbucks straight ahead, turn left and go three of four blocks towards... hmm. Fifteen minutes later, only halfway across some onramp to the Brooklyn Bridge, I retraced my steps to the cafe and went in, sat at the counter years. I think I shall wait a few years until the next one.

I got on the wrong side of the street and kept on past a barricade, to the foot entry of the bridge. It was big and imposing. There was a fairly wide walk with a yellow stripe, disappearing up the slope.

After several days, and increased elevation, I came to a part overlooking the foreshore of Brooklyn - a pocket park - and there was the Brooklyn Bridge beyond, stretching like a filigree of gauze across the East River to lower Manhattan. Everything was far away. The middle of the bridge was far away too. It felt like it was possible to see as far as Portugal, but I suppose it was only New Jersey. The downhill side was like the uphill side in reverse.

Presently I was near Manhattan and above Chinatown. Except for all the signs in Chinese, it looked like you think New York is going to look but mostly it doesn't because you can't see much of it unless you are standing in the middle of 34th Street looking down Fifth Avenue, which is not a safe place to stand rubbernecking.

NY C Chinatown, photo by Ric Erickson

The end of the Manhattan Bridge touches ground near the terminal of the Chinatown bus, so it is near Chinatown as well as being in it. With my Brooklyn Bridge photos in the can, as they say, I headed toward downtown. After some fooling around I found Broadway, somewhere around Fulton Street.

NY C Chinatown, photo by Ric Erickson

There's nothing remarkable there, except for the feeling of folks making money by staging sub-prime situations. In the middle, in an open space on either side of a cratered Broadway, there is a bank forecourt occupied by a gaggle of food carts. Crashing sun slicing between buildings, smoke from the grills, colorful and folkloric signs - public art! - steel beams painted red - and a hole in the sky beyond, enclosing the ghost of everybody knows what, but only the tourists come to see it. New Yorkers climb and hustle past it to the counting houses with nary a backward thought.

Wall Street, photo by Ric Erickson

And then, Brooklyn Bridge, bonus Chinatown, fried smoke, in the can, I drifted up Broadway towards City Hall and the subway to Queens. You know what? Moved it since last week! I had to take the slow-moving R line, 99 stops to darkest Queens, standing up the whole way. It's a hard, hard grind, this Brooklyn Bridge photo stuff.

- Ric

Text and Photos Copyright © 2008 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

[Brooklyn Bridge]

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 - Alan M. Pavlik