Like All the Light In the World

Then out of all the darkness I see Mother’s white hands rising from her lap like they were powered and lit from inside. Like all the light in the world has been poured out to shape those hands. She’s reaching over for the steering wheel, locking onto it with her knuckles tight. The car jumps to the side and skips up onto the sidewalk. She’s trying to take us over the edge. There’s no doubt this time.
—–Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club: A Memoir

Mockingbird Pedestrian Bridge

There is the Katy trail – built along the old abandoned railroad bed – crossing the city right north of Downtown Dallas. And there was the new trail system running from Mockingbird to White Rock, with its trail ecosystem noosing the lake and branches running north in two directions and south back to downtown.

The final obstacle in this maze of human-powered transportation system was Mockingbird Lane – eight or so deadly lanes of speeding steel. I mean, you could cross at a light… after walking along a cracked and narrow sidewalk and waiting for the little white-light man – only to still have to dodge left-turners and other blind killers.

But there had to be a better way.

It was way too expensive and took way too long but they finally built this huge, over-engineered cable stay monstrosity right there at Mockingbird station. It took years.

But finally, a bit over a year ago they finished the Mockingbird Pedestrian (and bicycle) bridge. And… I guess it was worth waiting for.

A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 11 – The Old Man at the Bridge, by Ernest Hemingway

Railroad Bridge, Waco, Texas

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 11 – The Old Man at the Bridge, by Ernest Hemingway

Read it online here:
The Old Man at the Bridge, by Ernest Hemingway

An old man with steel rimmed spectacles and very dusty clothes sat by the side of the road. There was a pontoon bridge across the river and carts, trucks, and men, women and children were crossing it. The mule-drawn carts staggered up the steep bank from the bridge with soldiers helping push against the spokes of the wheels. The trucks ground up and away heading out of it all and the peasants plodded along in the ankle deep dust. But the old man sat there without moving. He was too tired to go any farther.
—-Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man at the Bridge, opening paragraph.

I love reading Ernest Hemingway. More than anything else, I feel he respects his readers. We are all busy, we have real lives to live. Hemingway doesn’t waste our time with any extra words.

Look at two sentences in this very short story:

It was my business to cross the bridge, explore the bridgehead beyond and find out to what point the enemy had advanced. I did this and returned over the bridge.

A lesser writer, a different writer, would have filled pages with description at this point, of how afraid the narrator was, of the close calls he had with the enemy, of how satisfied he was that he completed his mission and returned alive. The author would have been very pleased with himself – with his skill, artistry, and clever way with words.

But Hemingway knows that none of that matters. He knows the real story is the old man waiting at the bridge. The rest is fluff and we don’t have time for fluff.

That’s why I like reading Hemingway. The unnoticed old man at the bridge tells the story of the world.

Interview with Hemingway:

“That’s something you have to learn about yourself. The important thing is to work every day. I work from about seven until about noon. Then I go fishing or swimming, or whatever I want. The best way is always to stop when you are going good. If you do that you’ll never be stuck. And don’t think or worry about it until you start to write again the next day. That way your subconscious will be working on it all the time, but if you worry about it, your brain will get tired before you start again. But work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.”

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, from the Commerce Street Viaduct
Dallas, Texas

Crescent Park

There is nothing more boring than riding an exercise bike. In order to try and get my bad-weather (ie over 100 degrees) exercise going, one thing I like to do is watch POV YouTube videos of other people riding their bikes in more interesting places than my spare room. I know that’s pretty bad – but you have to do what you have to do.

I mounted a monitor and speakers to my bike, and watch videos while I ride. One of the ones I like to ride to is this hour-long ride around New Orleans.

At the nine-minute fifty-second mark in the video, the riders climb over some crazy rusted-steel arch-shaped bridge. I’ve wondered what that thing is… it looks like it’s in the Bywater area, but I can’t be sure.

The other day, on my last day in New Orleans for the writing marathon, my son Lee and I drove down to the quarter for lunch and I mentioned the strange bridge. He knew exactly what I was talking about and we hopped in his car and drove there.

Crescent Park Bridge, New Orleans

It’s a really cool park, Crescent Park, built along the Mississippi from the French Market area down to the Bywater neighborhood.

The bridge takes pedestrians (and cyclists, if they carry their bikes) over the levee and the railroad tracks into the park. It’s a beautiful spot – a new favorite in the Big Easy. I have to visit it with my bike next time.

My son, Lee, on the Crescent Park bridge.

The river and the Hwy 90 double bridge from the Crescent Park Bridge, New Orleans

Turning around, looking back the other way from the Crescent Park Bridge, Bywater Neighborhood, New Orleans

Bywater, from the Crescent Park Bridge, New Orleans

The river and downtown, from the Crescent Park Bridge, New Orleans

Rusted

The army sent him halfway around the world and forgot him. He was wounded and they remembered him long enough to take the shrapnel out of his chest – they said they took it out but they never showed it to him and he felt it still in there, rusted, and poisoning him – and then they sent him to another desert and forgot him again. He had all the time he could want to study his soul in and assure himself that it was not there. When he was thoroughly convinced, he saw that this was something that he had always known.”
― Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

Railroad Bridge, Waco, Texas

All They Did Was Persist

“Shit, money, and the World, the three American truths, powering the American mobility, claimed the Slothrops, clasped them for good to the country’s fate. But they did not prosper… about all they did was persist”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Dallas, Texas

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
Dallas, Texas

I Want Merely To Gain In Strength

“I don’t really want to become normal, average, standard. I want merely to gain in strength, in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more. I want to develop even more original and more unconventional traits”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

Bike Trail, Spring Creek Natural Area Richardson, Texas

Bike Trail, Spring Creek Natural Area
Richardson, Texas