Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This Is Where We Are

Before the rain came we went out walking in this borough of summer life, winding up near a stretch of the BQE I didn't know, near Newtown Creek, near more defunct factories, all permeated by an intense river smell that I now realize is the Greenpoint Sewage Plant.

Finding a new stretch of the dear expressway made me want to pay it a little more homage, so I dug up this BQE history site, which contains a lot of interesting information. I especially like the depiction of BQE as underdog: "The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was plagued with design flaws. Sharp curves, lack of shoulders, short acceleration and deceleration ramps, and confusing left-exit configurations were characteristics of the pre-Interstate era expressway."

And the description - eerily foreshadowing today's development (yet also providing comfort that, yes, history is a cozy circle that hopefully is moving us, slowly, slowly forward) - of Robert Moses looking out over his misunderstood monster:
"During construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Moses rented the penthouse floor of the Marguerite Hotel - an old, sedate establishment right next to the expressway - and used it as an office. It had two advantages: only very few people knew of its existence, so he was interrupted by few telephone calls, and he could look down on the construction as he worked. And he spent a lot of time looking down at it, watching the cranes and derricks and earthmoving machines that looked like toys far below him moving about in the giant trench being cut through mile after mile of densely packed houses, a big black figure against the sunset in the late afternoon, like a giant gazing down on the giant road he was molding. 'And I'll tell you,' said one of the men who spent a lot of time at the old hotel with him, 'I never saw RM look happier than he did when he was looking down out of that window.'"

For those who want their Brooklyn looking, sounding, and smelling a little more lovely, come see Ravens & Chimes on Monday at the Bowery Ballroom.

"Do you think when he died
He was alone
There in the room with yellow walls?
When I left it was rising
Not the sun this time
The tide if I recall.
And you built there a fire
To remind us of the people,
The people that we are,
And the flames rose like spires
In the houses, yeah,
And each person there said,
'Do you think when I die,
I’ll be alone
Deep in the room with yellow walls?
Will you leave when its rising up all around you,
All around you?'
And you build me a fire
To remind you
of the person that I was,
And the flames rise like spires
In the houses
And each person there says,
'This is where we are.
This is where we are.
Don’t be frightened.'" Ravens & Chimes

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