The folks who run a weekly radio show called Cityscape at WFUV in New York City kindly invited me to read from a piece I’d written many years ago, The Bridges of New York City, from my 1995 fictional folk-rock record album Queensboro Ballads, for an episode of their show devoted to, well, the bridges of New York City. The show aired this morning, and you can listen to the podcast here.
I was particularly glad they’d aptly dug up this old piece of mine for this show, because at the time I wrote it The Bridges of New York City represented an important step forward in the evolution of my writing. After I created Literary Kicks in 1994 I began doing a lot of writing about literature and, as the website became popular, found myself widely read for the first time in my life. But I had an urge at this point to try something different. I wanted to write about my beliefs, about the philosophy of my life; I wanted to preach.
It takes some nerve to follow an urge like this. The Bridges of New York City represented my first attempt to write boldly in a declarative voice about how I believed we were meant to live. I was working for the JP Morgan bank on Wall Street at the time, and my experience on Wall Street had been a crushing disappointment. I had expected this job to be the pinnacle of my career, but my work was dull and my co-workers duller. I was also incensed — I find this funny now, but I took it quite seriously then — that nobody but me seemed the least bit excited to be working on one of the most famous streets in the world, with the Statue of Liberty, Trinity Church, the World Trade Center and the Brooklyn Bridge right outside our windows. We were just supposed to pay attention to our work.
My feelings about this boring job were the kicking-off point of The Bridges of New York City. I still believe today that life is an utterly joyous thing, but that anyone who wants to bask openly in this joy will have to fend off a lot of conformist disapproval in order to do so. I just listened to the podcast of my reading with my wife Caryn, who laughed when she heard me complain about the culture at work, because it’s the same exact things she hears me say today. Some things never change! Anyway, please check out this fine podcast, which also includes a few other guests talking about their favorite New York City bridges, or go to the text version to read my piece in its entirety.
Or, if you can, just get up and take a walk across a bridge. It always works for me.