Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
It’s been snowing for hours
and the only people on this street tonight
are you and some woman who was also
on the train late, and the driver of the beat-up
looking Taxi waiting patiently for a fare.
Then he’s driving like a madman, and when
he skids to the address of the woman, she
scolds she’s been terrified. He laughs and says,
“I’m a cowboy!” His skinny legs in his jeans
slamming down on the gas pedals as the taxi
slides around the banks of snow, just you
and him now, aiming for your home. He
opens his window to let the crisp cold air swirl
in, flecked with snow, and he tells you how
he sleeps on the couch of a buddy he stays
with, he used to drink too much, and somebody
owes him money, at least you think he said that
but your heart clenched at that last skid, so maybe not.
He’s seen wolves that everyone says must have
been coyotes since we’re in the suburbs. He turns
to look at you, they were wolves, and he’s
seen bobcats, too. You ask him to face the road
as you tell him you believe him, and you do,
as he’s handed you this slice of night that he owns
which might be the only thing he has got,
but it’s enough right now, this portion, the taxi
skidding down the slick roads, his fearless cowboy
laugh, and the way the street lights are shining
on the snow like bits of broken stars.
Oranges, the way my mother ate them.
Standing at the sink, eating the slices
one by one in rapid succession, in-between
chores, determined to get in her ration
of vitamin C. I didn’t offer to help her
with the chores, only sighed and did them
grudgingly when asked. Enamored by
the song, Suzanne, where Leonard Cohen
sang about the bewitching girl by the harbor
who fed him tea and oranges, I wanted my mother
to sit at the table, her orange slices on a china
plate, offer me one as we sipped Lapsang-souchong
from a delicate tea cup. I think of this as I eat
my slices of oranges over the kitchen sink, their
juicy brightness on my tongue, an efficient joy.
Oranges, before the tasks, now mine to do.
I am from the whistle of a tea kettle always calling
from the stove, and a Scottish calendar tacked on
the kitchen wall. I am from turquoise shutters
on a tall white house where bees hummed over
carefully planted flowers no children could touch.
I am from long sidewalks and the rush of commuter
trains, parks that roamed the rind of the Long Island
Sound, and the flash of bicycle spokes in the sun.
I am from hymns and Hollywood musicals, turning
the pages of sheet music as my mother played piano.
I am from the voices of my father’s TV shows winding
up the stairs, better than a night light. I am from
Jesus Loves You, and Wait Until Your Father Gets Home.
I am from Scots off a boat and Midwestern farmers
with French roots. From stout black tea and blood
pudding, Grandma’s Alsace Lorraine vegetable soup,
and Mom’s By Golly pork chops. Hot chocolate at two
in the morning when my mother couldn’t sleep.
I am from people who believed in love no matter
how rough the road. From falling down and rising up and
try try again. From a dog at the foot of a bed. From prayers.
I am from summer beaches, and church Sundays,
from lunches out, and long evening walks. I am from
After Your Chores, and pull up a chair at that round
kitchen table, a plate of shortbread cookies and just
perked coffee, a conversation starting.
The Tappan Zee Bridge is the longest bridge in New York State, spanning the Hudson River at its widest point and connecting South Nyack in Rockland County to Tarrytown in Westchester County. Crossing the bridge is a familiar route for New Yorkers fleeing the city on sizzling summer weekends for cooler destinations upstate. The bridge, unfortunately, also is known as a favorite jumping off point for suicide victims, thus those many signs along the span declaring: “Life is worth living,” and giving numbers for suicide help lines.
Opened to traffic on December 15, 1955, the bridge has withstood decades of traffic, an average of 138,000 vehicles a day. That wear and tear has taken a toll. One report called the Tappan Zee “one of the most deceprit and dangerous bridges in the U.S.” Something had to be done and so in 2013, construction began on a replacement bridge which is expected to open in 2018.
Those who are familiar with the original bridge, however, have memories. None expressed more eloquently than those in this poem by Susan Moorhead.
From the window of the Tarrytown library at night, you
can see the green lights of the bridge, bright over dark water.
When I was little, I thought they were strands of emeralds looped
across the water, as my father drove us home from visiting
relatives on the Jersey side. The new Tappan Zee will shine
with LED lights states the local news alongside comments
including “the old bridge sucks” from some opinionated
Matthew. It’s something, watching it rise from the Hudson,
this new bridge. My parents grew up in New Jersey. We
moved from NJ to NY then NJ to NY, and then they returned
to NJ, and I grew up and went NY CT NY, surprising myself
by ending up a local girl back by the Westchester town I grew
up in. It’s officially the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan
Zee Bridge. Zee means sea. Years ago, just after dawn,
I dozed off in the line at a toll booth and tapped some guy’s
bumper. I still remember the look of fury on his face until
he saw I was just some kid, still in my wedding guest
fanciest and he settled for shaking a finger at me as I
mouthed sorry through the window. It’s a cantilever
bridge: a beam anchored on one end only is a cantilever.
I can drive from the Tarrytown, New York side to
Ridgewood, New Jersey with closed eyes if I had to,
all 16,013 feet of bridge. I drove home after we settled
my mother in the hospital, raced back at three a.m. after
the phone call about her emergency surgery. It’s the largest
bridge in New York State. Feels that when you drive over it
begging God not to take her tonight. When you drive over it
practicing your eulogy for your father who surprises everyone
by going first. They are buried in a graveyard beyond the coiling
highways in New Jersey. I see them in mind every day in the kitchen
overlooking the long yard where he putters, she is calling across
the bridge, over the long stretch of shimmering water for someone
to put on the water for tea.