Season 6, Episode 2
January 30, 2022
It’s been a while since I’ve taken the train to New York or Boston from home. It is a trip I made relatively often as a child, thanks in large part to my dad’s employment with Amtrak. Because he spent Tuesday through Saturday banging his hands in the Wilmington shops, we – he, mom, James and me – had access to ride the train for free. Around Christmastime, we’d hop on in Wilmington and disembark in New York to enjoy the claustrophobia and energy that Manhattan has to offer at that time of year. And later, when I moved to New England, the train was a great option to get home without driving.
These trips gave me the opportunity to see two landmarks. The first is the FDNY training grounds outside of New York where John and John ran around while filming the “Ana Ng” music video. The second is a bridge in Trenton, NJ. Now, I’m certainly no engineer or general bridge aficionado; this prevents me from commenting on the quality or style of the bridge. To be honest, the Lower Trenton Bridge itself, which opened on January 30, 1806, isn’t what sticks in my brain – it’s what is attached to the bridge that is memorable. In 1935, a slogan was added to its southern side, which has been modernized since but remains today: TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES.
So much meaning is packed into those five oversized words. There’s certainly a braggadocio about it, as if it’s claiming, “You wouldn’t survive without us.” But there’s also a pride: “Say what you will about Trenton, or even New Jersey, but we make things that are useful.” It’s a declaration of purpose, of self-worth.
Twenty years to the day after the Lower Trenton Bridge opened, the Menai Suspension Bridge did too. This bridge is located in a different country, connecting the island of Anglesey to the mainland of Wales. This bridge is notable not for what is spelled on its side, but for its status as the first major suspension bridge in the world. Initially built in part as a way to more safely transport cattle across the Menai Strait, the bridge has seen upgrades and improvements allowing it to be used for a variety of purposes – the main of which is safely crossing a body of water with two sets of tides.
The idea of a bridge as a metaphor for safe crossing is common, but I’m sure there are some other takes on the topic. Whatever resonates with you about the theme of bridges, pick one song and add it to our playlist by the 22nd.