December 22, 2005
As a work-at-home guy, someone with a car, and someone who walks the bridge regularly the transit strike shouldn't have affected me that much... but it has been annoying. Driving in the city has become a nightmare, not because traffic is that bad, but because the police have blocked off both 5th Avenue and Madison making getting around anywhere above 14th street a real pain.
Yesterday we at lunch in Koreatown and then Jenn drove off with the baby & my brother in tow leaving me to fend for myself. Walking down an empty 5th Avenue a few days before Christmas was eerie. The whole city was dead feeling like a summer holiday when everyone decamps... but it wasn't summer, it was the first day of winter with December's blue light blinding everyone who was walking south. The only part of the city that seemed totally normal was Chinatown. Once I got to Canal Street a sense of normality returned with people hawking umbrellas and christmas lights and cheap radios. Past Canal Broadway became clogged with walkers heading for the Brooklyn Bridge.
At the base of the bridge an encampment of transit workers glumly shouted slogans and the masses trudged by ignoring them for the most part, but cursing the group under their breaths. In the words of one policeman, "Why does that fatso think he deserves more money than me for sitting in a tollbooth when I'm out on the streets breaking my neck." The bridge crowd was shoulder to shoulder. Bicyclers had to walk it. People were chatty. I heard several say this was the first time they had walked the bridge since September 11th. Wall Street guys fell neatly into their stereotypes with their Gordon Gekko hair, big cigars, and obnoxious talk (re the union leader's personal fine of $1000: "I wipe my ass with a G.")
I'm a fast walker, but most in the crowd were moving faster than me, perhaps because the wind was blowing making it very cold up there. Many stopped to admire the views and I heard several say "We should do this more often." In the middle of the bridge a girl in her 20s stood with a big "talk to me" sign. Nobody was talking to her and she looked sad. I said, "Hello there skinny." to make her smile and she did. News reporters kept pulling people out of the crowd trying to get someone to say something interesting... but this blog post notwithstanding what to say really? On the far side of the bridge several Brooklyn politicians welcomed people home with bullhorns and a girl in a skimpy Mrs. Santa suit doled out Christmas tea. She was really really cold.
I'll be glad when I can hop on the subway again. I'll be glad when I can drive from 34th and Lex to 35 and 7th without taking a detour to 8th Avenue and I'll be glad when I have the bridge to myself again.