Under the Bridge

Under the Bridge

Below me, the Trinity River (unless that was a little creek; I’m still not exactly sure) passed through the deep shade of an ancient and unstable looking railroad bridge. The water was misted with chill and reflecting back the last rays of the sun. In this mood, not a powerful one, when the water is just silver sky, and all innocence, it does make the US Army Corps of Engineers look unreasonably pig-headed about strict flood control requirements. It lazed under several weather-beaten bridges, until it finally ended up underneath my bridge, on which VIP’s (I guess), or workers, or party planners, or security guards were walking, looking small: some promenading like people who are going to be entertained, and some, like workers, hurrying on business on the bridge, whose delicate lines against the darkening sky would end up in the camera . . . not quite as sharp and cool as they had been in life.

I don’t know what made me take pictures of the piers. I wonder sometimes if I just love concrete. Plus, the shadows were deeper underneath the bridge than elsewhere, and I wanted dramatic light. Through the piers, I saw the city, bright under the sun. I hadn’t expected this parting shot to show just how the light had been at the end of that day, most beautiful of all.

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

I was running with my tripod, and my impressions of the bridge photo taking session are mostly of different kinds of light. The workmen’s lot was bare dirt. There were some inexplicable mounds of concrete, and a train track on one side. Behind the lot, the sun was setting over downtown, glinting off every surface, reflecting and re-reflecting off the glass city. The farther the sun dropped, the more golden the shining light. The shadows cast by the buildings were deep, however, and cold; the last stray bits of winter collected there, and every blade of grass was cold.

At the edge of the parking lot, a mound that could have passed for a low hill rose steeply and precisely. I didn’t recognize it as a levee. You can live in Dallas for years and never realize that it was built around a powerful river that floods and needs to be held back. The hill/levee was choked with brambles and clinging thorns: a mournful lot of these. Up the hill I went, ignoring the thorns, slipping on the scree, until I could look over the edge, across and down a field that was unnaturally green, past a strange platform surrounded by a fence with ‘KEEP OUT’ on it. I had a good vantage point. I could see lots of police cars. And a few helicopters. And the odd bird, strikingly silent and agile in the company of helicopters, and nearly blending in to the sky.

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Dallas celebrated a weekend of Bridge-o-Rama when the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge opened March 3. This very expensive, ethereal white bridge (well, ethereal and white when the sun is in its proper place in the sky) was designed by Santiago Calatrava, and has been variously described, by various posters to Unfair Park, as a vanity project; “a bridge to nowhere” (“nowhere” being La Bajada, a Latino neighborhood in west Dallas); “a bridge to somewhere”; “the stupid fake suspension bridge”; “an amazing addition to the skyline”; a kind of Eiffel Tower; “a world-class bridge”; and “a giant dildo”. Sorting this out is not very important to me, luckily.

I took bridge pictures on the evening before the public celebrations. There was a VIP banquet that night, with people parking on a workmen’s lot close to the piers on the bridge’s northern, glitzy end. I’d first tried to shoot from the southern end, but that part was closed off completely. One of the policemen stationed on Singleton Avenue assured me, though, with a rank southern partisanism that came pretty close to poetry, that if I could have taken pictures from the southwest side, those would have been the very most beautiful pictures that I could have taken, as the view from the southwest was the very best view, and the southwest part of the bridge was the best part of it. But in the meantime, this was forbidden, so I got over to the north side, near some bail bond establishments. A security guard let me through, only after hesitating and working over the matter. If you’re taking pictures of things that people approve of, your camera can sometimes be your pass, I think. Anyhow, he said, “You can only park here if you have an invitation. But I might not see you park here if you just go in and take your pictures and get out”.