something old, something new

[I swear I will shut up about this eventually.]

I went to the new bridge. Emerging from the maze of overpasses in Emeryville was like riding into my own marketing copy, some fundraising piece for urban greenways. Thousands of people had chosen this for their Sunday. I have spent most of my life in the Bay Area and never seen such a perfect parade of its Diversity™, a crowd so complete and so mixed and somewhere not serving alcohol. I saw an old man with skin like a speckled egg hold an iPhone aloft and explain to the screen in gravely, Russian-accented English: “You see, here is new one; here is old one.” I heard a child on a tricycle announce, “That was great, daddy, let’s do this every once a while.” I nosed my own bike around walkers and gawkers of every age, shape, and color, and I swear to their various gods that every last one looked happy to be there.

This path doesn’t even go anywhere yet!


I went to the old bridge, the sawn-off end of the old East Span. Its body was guarded by a lone white pickup and the reasonable assumption that acting on my trespass fantasies would result in my being shot on sight. On the upper deck, now stripped and open to the sky, the streetlights stood like an honor guard over the empty road. Below and behind the chain-link, lane lines receded into the shadows of the S-curve. I could hear the silence from behind the barricades. And I know, I know, I know, but I wanted to leave flowers.


/ span

I feel irrationally tragic about the old Bay Bridge.


In this overwrought piece of early-days Photoshop are reflections of freshman year, both the clunky camera and the amped-up ambient glow. I was (am?) a serious, suburban child: my town banned leaf-blowers and plastic lawn chairs; I never had a curfew because I always came home to my AP History notes of my own accord. So there was something to that particular bay crossing. It was summer, and I was riding to the city with boys. I had my nose to the glass, I remember, and the steel beams passed over my head like a benediction.

It’s a stupid expression in more ways that one, but since this is already leaning lachrymose I’ll say also that I’ve fallen both out of and in love on the lower deck, on each occasion in view of Treasure Island against the water. Possibly a bridge primes us for such transitions, suspends us alone with our dilemmas, catalyzes coalescence of something solid from the empty air. But like that picture this is fanciful abstraction. Reality is that the FS bus is a good place to cry, because it’s dim and loud and everyone’s facing forward, whereas the inside of a motorcycle helmet is not, because it fogs.

I don’t dislike the new bridge, exactly, but I must alas join the hipsters and native grouches and all the other wrongfully nostalgic in finding it sort of sterile. It’s too white, too obviously empty of whatever it was that the old one roared at you out of its bare bolts and bad pavement. But this is always the challenge, in the end: to find faith that in time all things might be acquired, to believe one day there will be more than what’s inherent in the build.