The Ambiguity of Bridges

Bridges are metaphors, and another way to get there from here.

For those who have lived intimately with a bridge, crossed it to reach the world, depended on it, a bridge is a complicated thing. Always, it is a presence that speaks our connection to the mainland, our fixed link. Unappreciated and expected, it just is. The structure creeps into our lives, though. The bridge orients us to the to world, shapes our identities. Its steel arms open to the world beyond and welcome us home.

The bridge divides. It begs the question: is a bridged island still an island? Geography be damned; does the identity of self-sufficiency remain once an island is tethered to the main by spidery steel? Or must a community (an individual?) struggle harder to define, justify, and recognize itself in light of this fixed link?

The bridge unites, gathers the island and the world close like cloth knotted just so: everything is limited and delimited here. It could be just a means, you say. It’s not. Sometimes I wish it were.

Small towns squeeze the heart. Islands, doubly so. Crossing the bridge is like leaving with the ebb tide: I’m sure to return.

* * * * *

Jessica Brophy is a an islophile and nissologist working as a small-town newspaper reporter. Her other contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest: Week 32

Another fantastic week at Dr. Hurley’s: This week we saw the beginning of an exciting series in Will Henderson’s memoir – the next post will appear on Tuesday the 18th. Also, we saw the beginning of a fabulous photo series: Luca Napoli’s commuters.

Coming up this week we have our first-ever guest-edited week of posts. Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke is bringing us a week of posts from Townsville, Australia.

Finally, we’ve decided to extend the deadline of our Sonnet Contest! Send us your sonnet by next Sunday, October 23!

With no further ado here’s what you missed last week!





Exposure № 029: Tacheles

Tacheles, Berlin. This is the scene behind the former department store-turned squat cum artist’s co-op. This is far from a new story, but it bears telling anyway. After the Wall came down, artists and punks and all kinds of loveable vagrants fled – not away from the former East, but toward it, sniffing out deserted real estate and setting up utopian enclaves organized around loosely defined principles of freedom and independence and anti-establishment glee.  Tacheles isn’t unique in that respect. It is unique for the concentration of artists who set up workshops and actually produced art (as well as living in an almost performance-art style, not wholly private, not wholly public), but also for the nearly legitimate businesses that inhabited the space alongside the decidedly illegal residents – a cinema and a couple of cafes conducted business in the building that previously housed the department store.

Sadly Tacheles has lost its uniqueness as a squat that had survived gentrification. It was one of the last really well known squats standing until a few months ago when the owner of the real estate began making moves to uproot the inhabitants. This has been happening all over Berlin for years, but Tacheles seemed, to some, untouchable. Finally, the cafes and cinema up and left and eventually the city stepped in to help the owner of the property root out the artists and – with a touch of tragic irony – build a wall to keep them out.

This photo dates from January 2011, when Tacheles was still inhabited, though very quiet. Shot on 35mm Fuji Velvia 100 and cross-processed, which accounts for the rosy hue. Fitting, I thought.

POTUS #1, #3, #26, & #16: Carved in Stone

Mount Rushmore: Ready for Its Close-up

Final hair and makeup touch-ups before Mount Rushmore’s completion in 1941.

Completed actually is a bit of a stretch. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s original plan called for the figures to be carved head to waist but insufficient funding cut the presidents off at the throat.

Even in truncated form, the project’s price tag approached $1 million, which Austin Powers would appreciate as an enormous sum in an era when trillion wasn’t even a word. South Dakota schoolchildren chipped in $1,700, or the equivalent of  170,000 Lincoln pennies, 34,000 Jefferson nickels or 6,800 Washington quarters. Sucks to be Roosevelt, who not only doesn’t merit a coin but is forced to spend eternity staring at Lincoln’s mole (which measures 16” square, in case you were wondering, and isn’t visible from the main visitor area). Not that Teddy’s complaining. At least he snagged a spot, unlike Susan B. Anthony whose addition was banned by an act of Congress. If the Susan B. Anthony dollar was meant as some sort of belated compensation, it fell woefully short of the mark.

Mount Rushmore: As You’ve Never Seen It

All that debris makes it look like the memorial is constantly shedding boulders, but actually Mount Rushmore’s granite is quite stable, eroding at a rate of 1 inch every 10,000 years. Compare that with Niagara Falls, which loses a foot a year. Every fall, park service employees rappel down the face of the sculpture looking for cracks and fissures, which they caulk with silicone. (The average granite counter top in your kitchen does not require a similar annual sealing, despite what the quartz lobby would have you believe. Just a little inside joke for home remodelers.)

No, what you have at the base of the carving is essentially a giant garbage dump. About 450,000 tons of rock were blasted off the mountain during the 14 years the carvings were under construction. Not surprisingly, this junk pile is cropped out of pretty much every photo the public has ever seen of Mt. Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore: Keep Off!

Gutzon Borglum’s son, who completed the memorial when his father died unexpectedly in 1941, was named Lincoln. Coincidence? Did he have a secretary named Kennedy?

It’s doubtful that either Borglum senior or junior would recognize the “improvements” the park service made to Mt. Rushmore in the 1990s. A walkway positioned at the entrace to the memorial is bordered by pillars displaying flags from all 50 states and U.S. territories, whose sole purpose seems to be to obscure the carvings from view. Perhaps most disappointing for fans of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest: Visitors, and that would have included Cary Grant, aren’t allowed anywhere near the presidents. Access to the top is prohibited, to say nothing of scampering up Washington’s nose (which, at 21 feet, is a foot wider than the others’).

Mount Rushmore: A Sucker Born Every Minute

Mount Rushmore was initially conceived as a tourist trap. State historian Doane Robinson thought people would flock to South Dakota’s Black Hills if the mountains were peppered with images of personalities like Lewis and Clark and Buffalo Bill Cody. Borglum stepped in with the more dignified notion of carving the presidents. Washington was chosen to represent the birth of our country, Jefferson the expansion, Lincoln the preservation and Roosevelt the development.

It’s all so very high-minded, one might lose sight of the fact that Robinson ultimately had the last laugh. Two million people trek to the memorial annually, in a state with a population of roughly 800,000, to look at a rock. Keep in mind that many of these same folks, particularly those traveling along I-90 from the east, also stop off for a glimpse of the Corn Palace, a building stuccoed in corn.