Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Today I rode my bike into Manhattan from Bay Ridge and as I was riding over the Brooklyn Bridge I remembered that it was a day like today, late May 2005, that I wrote a song about the Brooklyn Bridge. I was still leaving in Albany and it was my first time walking over the bridge. According to the article below crossing from Brooklyn to Manhattan could be quite en ordeal before the construction of the bridge:

“PEOPLE who seventeen years ago divided an amphibious existence between New York and Brooklyn will long remember their arctic voyages in the East River during the severe winter of 1866-7. There were days in that season when passengers from New York to Albany arrived earlier than those who set out the same morning from their breakfast tables in Brooklyn for their desks in New York. The newspapers were filled for weeks with reports of the ice gorges, and with vehement demand for and discussion of the bridge, which all agreed must be built at once from New York to Brooklyn.Harper’s Monthly 1883 .

The construction of the suspended Gothic style bridge took 13 years -from 1870 to 1883, the life of 27 workers and two architects. The German immigrant architect/engineer John A. Roebling died of tetanus before the first stone was laid. While surveying the project his foot was crushed by a ferry boat. He was succeeded by his son Washington Roebling who died of caisson disease -a.k.a “the bends”- a disease that can also affects divers if then come up to the surface too fast. If you want to know all the politics & construction details of the bridge you must read the Harper’s Monthly 1883 article.

The song was inspired by the research I had done at that time. The text is reprinted below and click on the video to listen to a never released recorded version. There is another version that made it on my cd “La Garbure Transcontinentale / The Bi-Continental Chowder”. The musicians are the same: George Muscatello on guitar and Danny Welchel on percussion. It was recorded at Bender Lane Studio in Delmar NY, But I can’t remember when. Hope you enjoy!

Brooklyn Bridge

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny spring day
Hanging over the East River on a sunny spring day

Suspended lives tramping their lines
Wired above a tidal straight
Gothic towers to bridge cultures

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny spring day
Hanging over the East River on a sunny spring day

Deep in bedrock below water
Cables of steel lifting spirits
Granite towers make concrete links

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny spring day
Hanging over the East River on a sunny spring day

Trussing device pins down the land
Hell gate in sight I arch my span
Bearing the height holding the light

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny spring day
Hanging over the East River on a sunny spring day

Nicole Peyrafitte 05/12/05

Spring Meditations Places in NYC (I)

Spring Meditations Places in NYC (I)

No need to go faraway, nor to spend a lot of money, to feel a total change of scenery when you live in NYC. My childhood friend Marika was visiting from Toulouse for two weeks and I wanted her to grasp the contrasts of the megapolis. The last post, Limulus Polyphemus, came out our long walk on the beach of to Coney Island. Friday after walking over the Brooklyn Bridge we headed to Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn.

Green-Wood opened in 1838. It is the resting place of 600.000 New Yorkers and among them some famous ones: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, Lola Montez, George Catlin, Horace Greeley, Steinway and Bernard St Gaudens.

Bernard St Gaudens, was born June 26th 1816 in the village of Aspet in the French Pyrenees. This village is only 20 miles away from my birth town of Luchon. After spending time in Carcassonne, Paris, London and Dublin as a Compagnon du devoir, Bernard emigrated from Ireland in 1848 with his wife Mary McGuiness and their six months old infant: Augustus. Bernard became a successful shoemaker in NYC and Augustus Saint Gaudens (1848-1907) became the most famous American sculptor of his time. Last year I was commissioned to create a documentary performance for the 100th anniversary of Augustus Saint Gaudens death and got to do extensive research on his life and especially his French Pyrenean family. With the help of the Saint Gaudens National Historic Site staff I was able to find out where was Bernard’s final resting place.

Under a very simple white marble tombstone lay the remains of Bernard the father, Mary McGuiness the mother, and Andrew St Gaudens, the younger brother. Only Mary’s name is barely decipherable, thought she was the first buried there in 1875. it is a bit of an enigma why neither Augustus nor his brother Louis -who was also a very accomplished sculptor- didn’t erect a more significant tomb stone or plaque for their parents. Especially that Augustus and Louis made a beautiful tomb for the Stewart Family (Isabella Gardner’s father) in the very same cemetery! (see the picture below). Anyhow this is not a post about the Saint Gaudenses, though I love being carried away on that subject, and it is why I got to discover Green-Wood where I keep returning for guided tours, by the very knowledgeable Jeff Richman, the cemetery’s historian and author of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery: New York’s Buried Treasure, or just for walks like Friday with Marika.

One of the big project of the cemetery is to mark the graves with specific gravestones for the nearly 3,000 Civil War veterans buried there. Among them the Prentiss Brothers who fought on opposite sides. They were wounded and reunited on the same battleground and brought to the Armory Square Hospital in Washington where their nurse was Walt Whitman. Below is a sample –with a beautiful French name– of the 3,000 gravestones that can be found close by the Saint Gaudenses grave.

Another interesting fact about Green-Wood is that it was the very site of the Battle of Brooklyn (A.K.A. the Battle of Long Island), the first battle of the American Revolution fought on August 27, 1776 by General Washington. The Minerva below was erected in 1920 to commemorate the Battle of Brooklyn. Minerva salutes the Statue of Liberty across the harbor. This clear view is being threaten by commercial developers. The website “save the vista” provides some info.

and below is what i am looking at:

I will conclude my post today with some views of the blooming grounds of this very peaceful place. Next post will be about the Chinese Scholar Garden in Staten Island.

Photos Marika Frioli & Nicole Peyrafitte

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