9 October 2004
4:22 pm to 5:22 pm
Ending point: the Brooklyn Bridge!
Distance from home: 0.8334 miles
Literature received: Cell phone accessories special (“Our store offers the best deals for Verizon Wireless Phones & Accessories”), J&R Music World (“$10 Off Coupon Valid with purchase over $100″)
Coin: 1965 P quarter
I headed west to the World Trade Center, which was surrounded by tourists and people with folding card tables, selling memorabilia related to the 9/11 attack, only some of which was titled “Day of Terror.” I remembered how a few days after 9/11, an elderly friend who lived on the Upper West Side bought ten postcards that included images of the Twin Towers, which had been marked up to a dollar each. That week, it seemed as sensible a response as any.
I kept heading west.
The city was littered with bad public art: giant apples, decorated by various artists and sponsored by corporations. The cow parade a few years back was cute, but these explosions of pandas and other random objects had become completely predictable. In Battery Park City, on the esplanade, I saw the first apple I liked. Sponsored by the Mercantile Exchange, it had a crank on the side so one could blow around scraps of paper inside the apple, which had been decorated to look like the trading floor. Unfortunately, most of the paper had gotten caught and no longer moved when I twisted the crank. “It has such potential,” said a woman sitting on a nearby bench.
The sky was gray, with ribbons of pink. Somebody said “He lived next to Dollywood. I want to go there so bad.” A Korean family on bicycles passed by. A dog ran away, with a man chasing after the leash, shouting “Maxie!”
I walked by the water for a little while, and turned east, and kept going, all the way across the island. And then, much to my astonishment, I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. I felt like I had cracked the genetic code, or like Alice after she finally made it through the door into the gardens. A gentle breeze blew, and the water rippled underneath me. Tourists marched to the center of the bridge so they could stand, suspended over the water, and see two boroughs in all their glory.
I realized that people at the World Trade Center were going somewhere to look at nothing, while people on the Brooklyn Bridge were going nowhere to look at something.