Views From The Bridge
by Tim Moriarty
The Hudson River Palisades. photo: www.dougschneiderphoto.com
Every time I cross the Henry Hudson Bridge on my way into Manhattan, I make a point of glancing east and west. East you see the Bronx, a teeming sea of grime-tinged tenement and high-rise rooftops, billboards, warehouses and a grid of streets; west is the Hudson River and the Palisades, unmarked by so much as a shack. Surging water, sheer cliffs dense with trees--teeming with a different kind of life, of course, but very much as it has looked for millennia.
Paradise to the west and urban hellhole to the east? I beg to differ. I almost died one night up in the Palisades, and have never even had an unpleasant experience in the Bronx, if you discount those at Yankee Stadium.
When my girlfriend (and future wife) (same person, by the way) and I were dating in the early 1980s, we spent at least one day every weekend on our bikes, exploring the city and environs. One Saturday, with a tent and provisions, we biked up to the George Washington Bridge, across, and along an access road, north. We planned to pitch our tent and camp on the Palisades. But we timed it wrong; leaving our bikes behind, we found ourselves thrashing through dense woods as the sun set. Looking for a suitable clearing in pitch dark, guided only by our flashlights, we finally settled on a sloping, root-strewn clearing. Not perfect for camping purposes, but we were tired. We pitched the tent, ate something and went to fitful sleep.
It was only the next morning, when the sun was up, that we realized we had pitched our tent a mere yard or two from a sheer cliff. A few more stumbly steps in the dark and we might have fallen to our deaths.
That was a long time ago, and a different man. I would no sooner bike to a state park and camp out than I would tease a king cobra. Looking east and west on the Henry Hudson Bridge, I can wonder which direction I prefer: crazy, physically energetic but rock-stupid youth, or placid but savvy, deeply pleasurable and rewarding old age? But why bother? I don't have a choice. It's a bridge. I just drive.