Bridges as Barriers

As a bridgetender for nearly two decades, I’ve come to view bridges as ways to connect people. They can often be the fastest route from one side of a river to another. They’re a delightful transition from here to there.

At the same time, I’ve known many people who see bridges as things to avoid. If it takes you 5 miles to get from point A to point B, and there’s a bridge along the route, many people will go 7 miles to avoid what they see as a bottleneck. The thing is, they’re often using interstates to avoid these bridges, even though the distance between exits is much longer than the average bridge, and in fact they’re often going over several overpasses in the process. Interstates tend to jam a lot more often than drawbridges. So I don’t get this aversion that people seem to have about them.

This is not the first time I’ve ranted about this subject, so when a friend came across an article entitled, “In Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago, Bridges Have Become Barricades”, she naturally thought of me. (Thanks, Jen!) But this adds a whole new spin to my rant. Mayor Lightfoot is intentionally causing bridges to hinder passage. This horrifies me.

It seems that during recent Chicago riots, the mayor has been ordering the city to raise the drawbridges and keep them raised. Yes, I’m sure this is rather effective in keeping looters from their targets, but there are several issues with this concept that bother me. First of all, I can’t imagine that this is putting the city’s bridgetenders in the most comfortable position. They can now be targeted by the rioters and will be every bit as trapped as the rioters are. Also, I would hate for Chicago’s beautiful bridges to be the focus of vandalism.

But the thing that bugs me the most about this concept is the inhibition of the free flow of Americans. I’ve spent my entire career trying to make my bridge openings as short as possible to avoid impeding traffic too much. We are even told that we should continue our bridge openings even if there’s an ambulance or a firetruck en route so as to speed the vessel’s passage through and close as soon as possible, but every bridgetender worth his or her salt will raise a traffic gate back up for an emergency vehicle if it’s at all possible.

Using a bridge as a barricade is making it perfectly clear that some neighborhoods are better than others. It sends the message that more privileged areas need to be protected from the unwashed masses. It pits one part of a city against another.

I love bridges. I look at them as sacred. I hate the idea that they are being politicized in this fashion.

I think a better idea is making the protestors feel heard. Listen to their needs. They deserve accommodation as much as any other citizen does. If they’re treated with dignity rather than met with teargas and walls, they will be more willing take pride in the community in which they are an integral part.

Another side rant is that the article I link to above refers to us as “bridge tenders”. Would you call someone a bar tender? No. It’s bartender. It’s bridgetender. I don’t care what your spell check says. Get it right.

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10 Day Album Challenge #7: NNAMDÏ, BRAT

If you haven’t been following this series of posts, a friend of mine nominated me to do an album challenge. “The task is to post once per day for the next 10 days about the top ten albums that have an impact on your life, and to pay it forward by nominating someone else each day to do the same.”

Okay, so I’ll play. But I’m changing the rules to suit me. First of all, I’m not writing about this for 10 days in a row. I will write about 10 albums, but only on the occasional “Music Monday”. And I refuse to nominate anyone else, because I try to avoid adding stress to the lives of the people I love. Having said that, if you’re reading this, and would like to take up the challenge, go for it!

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Once again, my commute with NPR has sent me to an unexpected, yet delightful, place. (In my mind, anyway. I always manage to get to work or home, despite my flights of fancy while in transit.)

When I first turned on the radio, a song by NNAMDÏ was playing. I thought that maybe my speakers needed adjusting. Or perhaps I was actually at the dentist office, reclined in the chair, grooving with some much-needed nitrus oxide. I was hearing sounds I’d never heard before, and they made me disoriented in that calm, pleasurable, laughing gas kind of way. Naturally, I wanted more.

NNAMDÏ is an artist from Chicago, and BRAT is not his first album. You can tell he has a knowledge of music, and all the ingredients thereof, to the point where he can experiment with the musical recipe and cook up things that shouldn’t taste good, but actually do.

I struggle to choose the songs from BRAT that deserve the most attention, but here’s my best effort on this given day. (Ask me tomorrow, and the answer would be different. I recommend the whole album.)

The first amazing song that I hope you’ll listen to is It’s OK. I find this song extremely comforting in the stressful times in which we all live. He says, “There’s no need to pretend you’re OK if you’re not,” and the way he sings it, it feels like a much needed hug.

On the other hand, Glass Casket makes you feel like you’re floating through space. “I wish I was a farmer, I wish I was an astronaut, so I could feed my family, and then take them somewhere very far away.” This song makes you want to take that journey with him.

The third song I highly recommend is Price Went Up. It’s accompanied by a fascinating music video. It’s about frustration, but it makes you feel like frustration is the stuff of aliens, so that kind of makes everything all right. But I think everyone’s price is going up in this riotous atmosphere, so maybe the aliens have landed.

I listened to the entire album on Youtube, and I loved the emotions that washed over me. They were both intense and remote. And that made me feel like I could handle anything.

If concerts ever become a thing again, I’d love to see NNAMDÏ live. I’d probably be the only fat, 55-year-old white chick in the audience, but you know what? It’d be worth it.

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The Seattle Pun Slam

On a recent Sunday night, it was my pleasure to attend the Seattle Pun Slam, called Pundamonium, with a date. It’s held the second Wednesday and the forth Sunday of each month at the Peddler Brewing Company in the Ballard neighborhood. Tickets are 6 dollars.

Pundamonium also happens in Chicago, Los Angeles, Madison, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. If you live in any of those fair cities, I highly recommend pun slams. They’re a great deal of fun. (But then, I do love a good pun. It’s just how I roll.)

Think poetry slam without the poetry. Contestants compete against each other. In the first round, you are given a topic up to an hour in advance, and you have to come up with as many puns as you can when you take the mic for two minutes. Each contestant is scored by a panel of judges.

In round two, the contestants only get 30 seconds to come up with puns on a topic they pull out of a hat. (Here’s where I would crumble. I’m not a spontaneous punster. I need time to mull things over. My comebacks usually aren’t very snappy.) I have to say that watching this and the next round was increasingly excruciating but also hilarious. Again, they’re scored.

In the third round, the top four punsters go head to head on stage with absolutely no prep. I really admired their courage. (I did kind of lose respect for one guy, though, when one of his puns was a thinly veiled insult directed at a competitor, and it clearly struck its mark. That was unnecessary.)

The puns were running fast and furious, and the beer and the food was good (and clearly that was the only reason some people were there, but what the heck, we’re all adults), so a good time was had by all.

If you do come to the one in Seattle, I recommend that you dress warmly, as it’s held outdoors in a tented courtyard. They do have gas heaters here and there, but I was kind of glad I had someone to snuggle up with.

In this increasingly tense world, it’s a pleasure to have some lighthearted, apolitical fun for a change. It feels good to be laughing again. More, please.

Maybe I’ll see you there sometime!

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Hithering and Thithering

True confession: I’ve been to 22 countries, but I’ve never been to Chicago, not even to change planes at the airport. How is that even possible? With all the hithering and thithering and to-ing and fro-ing I’ve done, you’d think I’d have at least briefly set foot in this major travel hub. But no.

It’s not as if I’ve made an effort to avoid Chicago. In fact, I think it would be well worth a visit. There’s much to do and see there. Our stars just don’t seem to have aligned.

Even on my epic drive across country on historic Route 66 I missed Chicago, where it starts. I didn’t have enough time. So instead of getting my kicks from Chicago to LA, as the song says, I instead went from St. Louis to LA. One does have to make sacrifices now and then.

Finances have cut my travels way, way back in recent years, but I still have the travel bug, and I always will. It’s my reason for being. So, dear Chicago, perhaps we will meet some day after all. Until then, think of me kindly, and please don’t take my neglect personally.

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