The drawbridge

photo 3-3
View from the drawbridge.

I have two routes for riding my bike to work. Both begin with leaving my house and taking the bike path on Woodward. For route one I turn left on Flushing and after a block or so I turn right on Johnson which I take until it Ts at Manhattan. Option two is to take Woodward until it meets Metropolitan and then follow Metropolitan the rest of the way. Johnson takes longer but is more pleasant. Metropolitan is faster and less pleasant because of the traffic which is usually trucks full of exhaust.

On Thursday morning I wanted to get to work fast so I took the Metropolitan route. It was still dark out when I turned onto the four lane street. I hustled, passing cars and trucks that ran bumper to bumper. I sped through the section that I call the doldrums, full of dark warehouses. At the part of the road where it forks into Grand I stopped startled. The drawbridge was up. Yes, there is a drawbridge on Metropolitan many are surprised to learn. It is hardly ever raised. The water that runs under is usually still and smelly and it makes you wonder who would be doing anything on a boat around here but there was one–a boat–sailing in the dark on Thursday morning in Brooklyn’s waters.

I was annoyed at the inconvenience to my perfectly timed morning. And I mean perfectly timed in order to get me to work fifteen minutes early because that’s how I like it. But drawbridges, like ferries and train crossings, are strange places. They are places where willingly or unwillingly we relinquish control. We accept the unknown because, well, there’s no app that I know of that will tell me how much longer the drawbridge will be raised and have you ever waited at a train crossing amazed and also angry at how long some of these cargo trains are?

I may appear to be a free spirit, but a truth that I try to keep hidden away is that I like to be in control. Even when I take risks, they are calculated and I make sure I have many safety nets set up along the way. And that morning, at the drawbridge, I had a strong urge to take my fifteen minute safety net and go back to Johnson which would get me to work on time. But I don’t know I was feeling bold I guess, so slid off the seat of my bike, watched the boat inch across dark water, and decided to take my chances on the drawbridge.


  1. There’s some very interesting old movable bridges along the Gowanus that are probably not long for the world and worth a look. At least one of them is meant to be moved using human power. We don’t do a very good job of preserving such things in New York.

      1. It’s worth continuing down to the Erie Basin too. IKEA kind of ruined it but still interesting. It was the maritime terminus for the trade coming down from the west via the Erie Canal. Great old brick warehouses.

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