So after making my previous entry this morning, the following transpired:
I stepped onto 42nd Street. I was surprised to find the sky clear blue and the sun shining. It was still cold though, the wind split by buildings only to merge together again in more forecful gusts to whip the coattails and hair of pedestrians. The husky voice of John Lee Hooker rasped in my ears about not having his rent and looking for a "jawb". I made my way through throngs of tourists standing precariously on street curbs, their backs to the steel skyline while friends, wives, and lovers pointed cameras.
I ducked out of the biting wind into subway station at the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Ave. Out of the corner of my eye, the cornucopia of color flickering in Times Square was drawing people in like moths to the front porch light in summer.
The Q train brought me to Canal St. in Chinatown. I walked up the street to where the stairs lead down into the sidewalk for the downtown 6 train. Nestled between a tourist trap and an open air seafood market sits my favorite Chinese in the world at the moment. I can't even tell you the name of it. It has a huge, plate glass window which gives a street view of the butchers block. The order cook spends his day cutting Chinese spare ribs while bustling wait staff swarm around him greeting customers walking in the door and retrieving orders from the sumbwaiter behind the counter. Apparently the actual kitchen for the establishment is in the basement. I'm convinced this is to secure the secret of their hot and sour soup. It is thick and rich, topped with fresh green onions.
The place is packed and I'm seated at a table with a middle aged Asian gentlemen who's nearly completed his pepper steak and rice. I'm quickly poured a glass of steaming tea and left with my dining companion and a menu. The warm tea is a welcome beverage on this blustery day and it is smooth and light flavored. Not too weak or too strong; brewed perfection. In addition to the obligatory hot and sour soup I order the shrimp and tomato for an entree and proceed to read my copy of the New York Press which I had picked up on the street earlier.
Over an hour later, after leisurely dining and reading my paper I hit the pavment again for the subway station and catch the J train downtown to Chambers St at the entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge to find it's been raining, and now snowing, downtown. Not discouraged, I began my hike onto the engineering marvel that is the Brooklyn Bridge. According to the copious plaques along my journey I'm informed of its history. Built in the 19th century, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was finished. It's creator was actually killed in an on-site inspection tour and his son who was tapped to complete the project fell ill to the bends, a condition that apparently results from rapid changes in air pressue over sustained periods of time. The elaborate systems of airlocks that were used to descend into the depths of the East River during the construction of the arches probably resulted in his illness. He never got to see the finished project as his condition prevented him from ever visitng the site again and his wife became his administrative assistant and was essential in doing the leg work that got the bridge built.
I'm such a geek about stuff like that. The bridge itself is magnificent. The promenade traverses the span dead center of the bridge, through the two great arch supports in the middle of the river. It is constructed of wood planks and raised about 30 feet above the roadway, with traffic operating in both directions on either side of it. Along the way are benches for rest stops and antique looking lamp posts for illuminating the promenade at night. It's interesting to see Manhattan shrink away slowly. I left the northern end of the financial district, with its massive skyscrapes looming overhead and walk over the FDR expressway and out into the river. I can barely see the tip of the Empire State Building's spire above the apartment buildings of the lower east side as I begin my journey, but it slowly rises to its dominant place on the skyline. A nice view of Chinatown along Canal Street was made available. By mid-bridge, all of the financial district and midtown Manhattan were in full view. Not nearly as impressive as the skyline is from the New Jersey shore, but enough for a lingering look. Ships scurried about below and docked along the piers, the masts of large sailing vessels poked out above the boathouses. Out in the harbor, Lady Liberty could be seen holding her ever-present beacon of hope high above her head as she always has, unwavering and strong.
Feet firmly on the terra firma of the new boro, I began exploring a little bit of my new surroundings. The difference between Brooklyn and Manhattan is immediately evident to the casual observer and somewhat striking. The elevated which snake into the area here is one of the first things you notice; lanes coming off of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, the Queens-Brooklyn Expressway and lanes heading toward the Tri-boro Bridge/Cross Bronx Expressway. The other main thing is the general untidiness. Garbage and clothing strewn all over the sidewalk and streets.
(to be continued)