The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge in New York City and is one of the oldest bridges of either type in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning 1,595 feet over the East River. In 1883, construction of the bridge cost approximately $15 million ($1.5 billion in today’s dollars), and in 1901 a man was sentenced to two years of detention for ‘selling’ the bridge to a tourist.
My brother’s intention to resell the Brooklyn Bridge was unknown to me until the 8th grade, when during a chance introduction to his colleague, my math teacher identified me as the younger brother of the kid who had recently tried to sell him the bridge. The second teacher nodded in recognition. Apparently, my brother’s business plans were common knowledge among the faculty. “Well…we’re going to keep an eye on you!”
Having people “keep an eye” on me was not part of my plan. As a kid, I sought out obscurity. The tenets of my existence were: abide by the rules…stay in the shadows. I gained an early reputation in the family as being excessively virtuous…a “Goody Two-Shoes!” Siblings, however, are typically different…180 degrees different…and my brother and I were, no doubt, two ends of the same stick. Those differences can often “play off of each other”…in spectacular fashion…and it was for that reason that our parents often put us together in contentious situations…soley for the entertainment value.
The sign read “No Changing In Bathrooms!” It used an exclamation point! The exclamation point was the deciding factor for me. Despite our parents telling us to go change into our bathing suits in the gas station bathroom, we were not going to change into our bathing suits in that gas station bathroom. The ocean surf would have to wait. From the other end of the stick, my brother, predictably, had an opposing opinion, which he loudly expressed to me using many more exclamation points, which also caught the attention of onlookers.
My brother spent much of his vacation time as a youth with our dad in the family car; his penalty for over use of exclamation points. (I’m still waiting for the expected publication of his book “Great Vacation Spots I’ve Seen From the Backseat of Our Car!”) I, on the other hand, spent time in the ocean surf, in my bathing suit, having changed in the gas station bathroom, while everyone else was distracted by his exclamation points!!!! In hindsight, my smirk and wave as I walked by the car may have been too much, but I did overhear the beginnings of a conversation in the car. “I didn’t do it…!” I may have also heard my dad say something about the Brooklyn Bridge. A little while later, my brother was on the beach with the rest of the family. SOLD!
And so it went…my brother and I remained divergent souls. He continued to work on his reputation and I on mine. And never the twain shall meet….until high school…
By the time I entered high school, I had been enlightened to the pretense of my brother’s bridge selling acuity. He had a certain standing he occupied in the opinion of others. Venerated by his peers, but disparaged by the faculty, my brother’s reputation was known throughout our high school, even in the shadows, where it would remain until I passed through them seeking to maintain my obscurity two years later. It almost worked. For four years, I had no first name, but I shared his last name, and inherited all of his reputation…at least from the perspective of the faculty. In 10th grade, that reputation and that faculty rewarded my want of obscurity with my own detention. “What’s your name kid?” “Oh, really!” “We’re keeping an eye on you!” “I didn’t do it…!” Too late, I had crossed over the bridge! I was a bad boy by his reputation and there was no crossing back. I moved out from the shadows to become proficient in my own bridge selling technique. In hindsight, his reputation became the needed devil on my other shoulder when the opposing angel became predictably boring. And his reputation has its advantages!
“Hello ladies……….NO…the Brooklyn Bridge is not mine to sell!”
I just needed to work on it a little bit more!