Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jay Goes Where God Never Intended Man To Go

I was all set to make a long-overdue visit to the Freakatorium this afternoon. The Freakatorium bills itself as the largest freak museum in the northeast, which is probably part self-aggrandizing hyperbole and part true — I mean, just how large of a freak museum do you have to be in order to be the largest in the northeast? It's not like it's a shopping mall or anything. I took a trip down to the Freakatorium back when I was in college, not because I have any particular interest in the sideshow but because I've already seen everything at the Metropolitan Museum of Art five or six times. When I got down to Clinton Street and found the place, which may as well have been on Tristan da Cunha for how goddamn out of the way it is, I taken aback: "Five dollar admission fee? Screw this." I don't really remember, but I probably wound up spending that afternoon at the Met's Shoin Room. Again.

I finally decided to go back as part of my new kick to break out of the routine that is my life, but like many of my planned desitnations, it seems like this one's no longer a hundred percent extant. 57 Clinton Street is now this enterprise at left, and judging by the hearts in the windows, it's not the Freakatorium. Either that or there's some sort of corporate merger between the freak museum and a junior misses retailer. It might not be too, too far-fetched, but — call me a purist here — I think the forays into the fashion market would kind of cut some of the Freakatorium's integrity and street cred.

Instead, I sweated a lot, got some overpriced blended coffee drink at a teeny tiny cafe that smelled like the Mexican dive across the street, then double-checked the address. Nope, I had the address right, and when I passed by 57 Clinton Street again, they hadn't torn down the boutique and put up a freak museum in the hour between my visits. Rats.

I was at the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge and I guess I wasn't exhausted or sunburned enough, so I decided I'd walk across it. Five or six years ago, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and got some really nice pictures......okay, I remember the picture being a lot nicer than that, but anyway I had two hours till my train and my camera all primed and batteried-up for the Freakatorium, and I figured what the hell. The Williamsburg Bridge might not be the landmark that the Brooklyn Bridge is; it might not be as aesthetically pleasing or historically or architecturally interesting, but it's still a huge structure suspended over a body of water. How bad could it be?

Vertigo. Turns out that if God wanted me a hundred and thirty feet above the East River, He would've made me a bird. I'm not really afraid of heights — aside from the panophobia, of course — but there's something a little disconcerting about being a few meters over an eight-lane highway, a hundred or so feet above a river, and having the ground beneath your feet rumbling and jittering. I had to keep forcing that black-and-white video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge out of my mind.

The bridge turned into this drawn-out epistemological quandry for me every time a motorcycle passed by and started a miniature earthquake under my feet or I looked up to quickly and lost my equilibrium for a second: I knew — whatever that means — that the bridge won't collapse and I knew that I wasn't going to develop the necessary mutant powers it would take for me to pass through the steel fences enclosing the pedestrian walkway and fall into the East River... but what good is that knowledge if I'm going to behave like the possibility of a bridge collapse is a fuzzy proposition? Can I really say that I even remotely understand the physics behind a suspension bridge if I'm going to involuntarily grab the guard rail every time a bicyclist or a jogger passes me, or can I really say that I appreciate the possibility that I'll die of a heart attack on the bridge (which is much more likely than the bridge collapsing) if I'm not carrying nitroglycerin pills with me across the river? I don't know — damn you bridge, for making me ponder deep questions!

I can't say I'm that impressed by the pictures, partly because I think I seriously underestimated how wide-angle my camera lens is, partly because the afternoon sunlight doesn't quite leave the same visual effect in May that it does in December, when I was on the Brooklyn Bridge, and partly because of that steel fence that's keeping me from losing my balance and falling onto the expressway. Nevertheless, here are a few of my favorites.

The prototypical snapshot of one of the bridge's towers.

A closer-up of the tower.
And the prototypical one-point perspective snapshot.
I was on my way back across the bridge into Manhattan before realizing that I never bothered to look straight up.
My favorite picture. I was standing directly under the west tower, and the sun seemed to scatter over the mesh workmen's netting.


Mike said...

Don't worry. Nitroglycerin wouldn't stop your heart attack it just relieves symptoms of angina, so you're philosophically safe. Nice pictures, though.

DL said...

Wow, great pictures.