Another Modernist Masterpiece

I love driving across the Bay Bridge under the following conditions:

  • there is so little traffic you suddenly think there’s been a nuclear conflagration further back and so everyone who lives in Orinda has decided to stay home for the day — or better yet, you’ve been transported to 1952 (except of course the problem there is that you’d be staying home for the day too, making tuna mousse in your flowered apron and wondering if it’s too early to start watching television)
  • it’s so clear you can see Japan or, if you’re a less romantic sort, Marin County
  • there’s something good playing on KFOG, a radio station where the people who speak into the microphone in the morning don’t yell things at you
  • you don’t have too much work waiting for you when you arrive and, possibly, there is the hope of a good lunch.

A few days ago, all those things, with the exception of nuclear conflagration and time travel, happened. (Which is good, because Orinda is where my friend Debby’s from, and where Maria and Lisa and Lisa’s lovely daughter in law and nice son with the new baby all can be found!) I took my camera out and pointed it in the general direction of the sky and there was the bridge, a modernist masterpiece if I’ve ever seen one. And no, it won’t sharpen a pencil or dispense tape, like its younger siblings (the ones that have been featured here for the last couple of weeks.) It is a stirring sight — you come out of a tunnel and there they are, these huge, beautiful spans for which the word “soaring” is actually accurate.

But I don’t think I’ll be trying to simulataneously steer my car and aim a camera again. The no- traffic thing is unlikely to be repeated under these same conditions in my lifetime.

I hope for all of you a workday that involves some patch of clear weather, or good music, or a nice lunch, or not too much to do when you sit down to do it.


18 thoughts on “Another Modernist Masterpiece

  1. One of my favorite memories of the Bay Area was a night I was following my friend Zach into the city from Oakland over the Bay Bridge. I felt like a kid in a go-cart because the arch of the bridge is so high and the the bridge itself is fairly long. Yay for the Bay Bridge!

  2. Justin, That’s such a great image. I’d think that, at night, when you actually have a hope of moving at a speed above a few miles an hour, the feeling of really flying, low to the ground, above the bay, must have been so much fun. (And welcome, by the way!)

  3. Bridges are often a modern work of art. There are many great ones that are a marvel to behold.
    Happy to see that you took a moment to enjoy this beauty that most will take for granted today.

  4. BL, I loved reading your zany associations with the bridge. I think there are probably a dozen haiku in those observations that would delight Ms. Slice, wherever she is these days. Just distill them out and take them to that class you are promising to take a poem to with MaryMom. Or start a contest allowing us to make our own haiku from your observations. Another contest, or project actually, that you inspire, would be to make and market tape dispensers and pencil sharpeners in the shapes of, for example, the Bay Bridge (tape dispenser, obviously, with yellow center line on grey duct? tape) and the TransAmerica building (pencil sharpener, defintitely). I suppose all of our minds have some everyday objects that all of life can be reduced to, compared to, and judged against, and are weirdly wired into our minds. Yours are obvious–stationery items.
    I think mine are 3×5 notebooks, C-clamps (in the garage, not an operating room), and, oh God, this is confession time, sheds. And this reminds me that I heard summarized, have bought, and almost started reading George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s 1979 book, Metaphors We LIve By.

  5. I am in the anti-bridge camp. I HATE bridges, they terrify me. Make any sense? None whatsover. The whole time i lived in pittsburgh I continuously had to go over bridges and so I was always nerved up. Around Michigan where I live there are fewer bridges although I have to go over some rather traumatic ones to visit my parents. See, I took your beautiful blog entry and ruined it with my…hmmm, what’s the proper term for a fear of bridges? bridgeaphobia? Anyway. I need to leave now. Please post again soon, maybe a picture of some lovely tuna mousse or, what went with it? Carrot soup?

    (PS – I did have a lovely lunch, though – spanikopita and lemon and rice soup – my favorite combination for lunch)

  6. Courtney, you poor thing. It makes a lot of sense in fact. I tried to ride my bike across the Golden Gate Bridge once and was so terrified up there I couldn’t go forward or backward. My husband had to pry my cold hands from the railings and lead me back. It was both humbling and humiliating. Glad you had a nice lunch — no tuna mousse in the future, but some roast chicken might be coming up soon.

    Smokey, You need to get to work on those office supplies. I’ll bet you’ll make a bundle selling them to people like …. me!

    Hello ToBeMe — I see you’ve been crossing some bridges yourself today! Best, BL

  7. everythinginbetween reminds me that I was also afraid of bridges as a child but also later along with steep streets when I moved to the San Francisco/East Bay Area as an adult (away from flat Ohio with small covered bridges). I still have bad dreams of big bad bridges. Not sure how I overcame those fears. Automatic rather than stick shift helped a lot in one case. Maybe getting used to earth quakes.

  8. I love the Bay Bridge too. But, due to heavy traffic, it is definitely not a pleasure much of the time (can’t beat the views though). I’ve been stuck on the approach to SF for over 3 hours (can’t remember the event, but something was happening and everybody from the East Bay was trying to get onto or over the bridge). Not fun. I have driven over it in extreme weather conditions in a very small car. Also not fun.

    However, I am probably one of the few who has had the pleasure of running across the Bay Bridge from SF into Oakland. And, THAT is fun! The bridge is waaaay bigger and higher than it appears from the confines of a car. It is awe-inspiring. We ran up the approach from San Francisco, to the top level, which is ordinarily the level bringing traffic into SF (the bottom level is for those returning to the East Bay). Two (or three) lanes of the top level were closed and so we ran against traffic on the north side. It was one of the best running experiences I ever had and I feel fortunate to have experienced it. I doubt they would close the bridge for a foot race anymore. And that’s all I have to say about that Lily.

  9. It is lovely when life slows for a second and presents you with a vista that’s already a memory in the making. A few years ago I was heading off through college to the faculty to conduct oral exams. Now I hate doing that kind of thing, but it was a beautiful morning in early October and the view across the river and backs of the other colleges was stunningly lovely. A few ethereal wreaths of mist cloaking the ground, a brilliant china blue sky, the leaves just tinged with gold on the ancient oak trees. I stood there for a few minutes, just letting the beauty of it sooth my own anxieties.

    I was slightly concerned about you taking a photo whilst driving – glad you managed it so dextrously!!

  10. Beautiful post– there is such deep symbolic meaning in bridges, for us, isn’t there? To cross over water and keep your feet dry is a great thing. I wish they had put BART up on the bridge, instead of shooting people like rats through a tube under the Bay, with no view. Take care, BL, mary

  11. Hi Mary — There are days when being a rat in a tube is so horrible I drive over the bridge even though I have to pay for parking and fight the traffic.

    Hey Charlotte — Yes, well, the most dangerous things get around here is that.

    Hello litlove, How beautiful. Thank you for telling us about that moment.

    My goodness Debby, I don’t remember you running across the bridge. That’s amazing! It must have been sort of wonderful and scary at the same time.

    Smokey, The trick is to raise your feet as you cross over the bridge, something you can only do if you’re a passenger, though.

  12. I’ve never been over the Bay Bridge, in fact I’ve only ever seen it once in person. I was visiting friends in San Fran for New Year’s a few years ago and we went on a long beach walk, and there she was, half hidden in fog, bigger, yet more graceful than the bridges we have here in the city. Those I walk across all the time… a feat I’m not sure my stomach could handle on yours!

    (at least, i think it was the Bay Bridge… my head was a little foggy…. it was a beach with, maybe a hotel or a fort on a cliff, and once you passed that it became far rougher and more desolate, and there was a guy surfing, and another guy swimming in the surf training for a triathalon, and the surf was so intense! and then we rounded a bend, and that’s where the bridge was… or am I crazy?)

    either way, not to invoke Mark Helprin and “Winter’s Tale” on your blog again, but, it was that book that not only convinced me to move to NYC but also that I loved bridges, that they were some of the most important manmade structures in the world.

  13. I love the Bay Bridge, and also the Golden Gate Bridge. When it was the 50th anniversary year for them we lived in the Bay Area. Now we live in mid Missouri (yes you may give us your condolences), but the 50th anniversary poster of the Bay Bridge is on my wall here. That was the poster they sent you if you donated money to help light the bridge permanently. Great piece of art, truly.

    Thanks to streaming audio on the world wide web we enjoy KFOG regularly right here in our Ozarks living room. We particularly like Acoustic Sunrise.

    I never ran across any bridge, but I was one of the people who walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on the 50th Anniv. bridge walk. I was there at 5:30 a.m. after the guards had given up trying to keep the hordes at bay until the official opening time of 7 a.m. There still were not the hundreds of thousands of people, and it was magical to be in the middle of that span in the early morning silence and hear the strands that suspend the bridge singing in the early morning sea breeze.

  14. I love the bridges in the Bay Area, which rivals NYC and London when it comes to great bridges. The first time I ever visited San Francisco, I was in Golden Gate Park with the friend with whom I was staying, and the fog was so thick (surprise, surprise), the bridge was basically invisible. I made him take me to it, so I could walk on it and experience it that way. Thankfully, the fog eventually cleared, and I got fabulous views of all the bridges during the rest of my stay.

  15. Dear Ann — Whenever someone says something I don’t get, I’m going to start saying, “good heavens, that’s about as clear as the Golden Gate Bridge on a foggy day.” But what is clear is that I’ve got to read “Winter’s Tale.” I’ve always wanted to live in NYC but I’m afraid that’s not going to happen for a very long time.

    I remember that bridge walk, and the way the bridge sort of dipped down — your description of it is marvelous ms. Magic Hands!

    Hi Emily — it’s really magical when the fog lifts. I just wish it happened more often in the winter.

  16. I’ll tell you, that wa an amazing day. I happened to be somewhere in the middle of that dip when it happened to dip, and it was one of the most terrifying and uplifting experiences of my whole life. Terrifying, because at that moment, we were all jammed together truly shoulder to shoulder. We could feel the bridge shifting. There was a terrible stillness and you could literally feel the strain that marvellous piece of engineering was under. We suddenly realized that it was possible that it could break under the load.

    There was no room except for your own body. I saw people who had ridden their beautiful and expensive 10 speed bikes drop them over the edge of the bridge because there was NO ROOM for them to be there on the span. I saw a woman having a panic attack from her claustrophobia.

    What made it uplifting was the way people were helping each other out. The neighbors of the panicked woman were helping her to calm down. A man near me had a beautiful black lab with him, the dog was in danger of being trampled. His owner was carrying the dog, which was a real impressive load. People around him were sharing the job of carrying the dog, passing him from hand to hand to give the owner a break.

    When I got off the bridge, finally, a couple of hours had passed. I walked back to my home on 48th Avenue and Lincoln. That was how much I did not want to be in another crowd, even the bus home was too much.

    I had planned to go to Crissy Field to watch the fireworks, but I gave it a pass and watched it on tv instead. I don’t think I could have been in a crowd again that day.

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