My mistake was that I looked down. And in the spaces between the wooden planks, I could see the cars roaring underneath. Then there was the span of the East River. My palms began to sweat.
I have no idea when walking across the Brooklyn Bridge slipped into my bucketlist (yes, I have one of those, though it’s mostly in my head), but I knew that it was one of those things I wanted to do—crammed between taking a stroll in Central Park and oohing and aahing over Grand Central Terminal—when I do find myself in New York City.
Maybe because to my touristy eyes, walking the Brooklyn Bridge seemed like one of those iconic New York activities. Maybe because I’ve loved every photo I’ve seen of the bridge, with its towers and cables. The only problem was I didn’t realize that the pedestrian walkway of one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States was made of wooden planks with spaces in between them. And there on that lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon, I suddenly remembered I’ve always had a problem with hanging or suspension bridges. Apparently, when I included this in my bucketlist, my brain had begun to segregate my actual fears from the things I want to do.
For a few seconds I considered just getting my picture taken from one end of the bridge without actually crossing the bridge, and accept the fact that my friend from Queens, who accompanied me and also wanted to do the walk herself, was going to give me the you-have-to-be-kidding-yes-I-am-judging-you stare. I began to hyperventilate. Then the saner, braver voice in my head started to chide my wimpy self: ‘You’re here, thousands of miles away from home, you have to do this. The spaces are not even that big! Get a grip.’ So I did. (Besides, you don’t want to stand in the crowded walkway and hold up the throng of people with the intention of crossing the bridge.)
And it is a beautiful bridge. Worth overcoming any sweaty palms or irrational fears. I kept my eyes on the towers and the patterns made by the steel cables above to get my mind off the rushing traffic underneath and the river. (Never made the mistake of looking down again.)
We started from the Manhattan side of the bridge and if you’re doing the same thing, remember to look back once in a while to see the skyline. Or when you get down to the Brooklyn side, you can always take in the Manhattan skyline from Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).
I liked the neighborhood of Dumbo. You can spy on the Brooklyn Bridge from many of the streets, there are small, lovely shop houses (a bookshop that sells rare books!), pizza joints worth lining up for, an ice cream shop housed in an old fire boat house, a dreamy-looking carousel, and some park areas with playgrounds, picnic spots, and a waterfront walkway where you can watch the sunset and the Manhattan skyline.
[UPDATE] Itinerary for the day
On that sunny Sunday, I moved from my friend’s apartment in Jersey City to another friend’s place in Astoria, Queens, so we headed out past lunch and first explored her neighborhood.
Astoria Park: located on the edge of the East River, with the Tri-borough Bridge and the Hell Gate Bridge in between; there’s a track, tennis courts, basketball courts, playgrounds and a walkway and some benches along the perimeter overlooking Manhattan.
Brooklyn Bridge: took the train to Chambers St. at Brooklyn Bridge Station (J, M, Z) in Manhattan and crossed the bridge heading toward Brooklyn.
Dumbo: stop at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Fulton Ferry Landing Pier, Juliana’s, and the carousel, among other spots
Long Island City: went back to Queens to enjoy the evening at Gantry State Park. I liked this park almost as much as Central Park. It’s small but it has a beautiful waterfront promenade, where you can take in a view of Manhattan including the Empire State and Chrysler Building when they’re all lit up in the evening. A portion of the park was a former Pepsi bottling plant so there’s still an old, charming Pepsi-Cola sign… I think I need to write a post about Queens.