Bridges to Downtown, and beyond

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February 12, 2002 // UPDATED 1:13 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Julie Landsman
Julie Landsman

Decades ago, her father looped under the Golden Gate Bridge; now,

Downtown's new Washington Avenue completes a loop for her

At my father's funeral, 80-year-old men in loose-fitting uniforms sat on damask sofa cushions and told stories about their days at the Naval Air Force. Until that day, I had never quite believed my father when he said he had taken a plane from the base one morning before dawn, flew to San Francisco, then looped under the Golden Gate Bridge a few times just as the sun was rising on the dappled Pacific. Those men, their eyes still rebellious, convinced me it was all true, and that he even made it back in time for coffee and pancakes after his trip, a grin on his face tipping them off to the success of his stunt.

I had watched his large hands maneuver assorted airplanes ever since I was a baby and he took us on trips to Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard or just to troll the skies on a Saturday morning. And while I have never flown, I share his love of structures that span water, and even those that span neighborhoods, or rise up over freeways. When the Lake Street Bridge was rebuilt I missed crossing it to St. Paul each day where I was working. With its elegant new lighting, its wide surface, and the new rowing club just beneath it, I relish its views again as the seasons change.

And now the Washington Avenue Bridge is open Downtown. I drive along this street over the sturdy new structure toward the city's North Side, just to feel the shift, the crossing, in my body. I want to get used to the transition in my life, to Downtown living, gradually. I can imagine myself in our loft now that I can get there driving straight down Washington, that long connector between east and west Minneapolis.

Yet even with the bridge open I am amazed at how far away this new Warehouse District section of the city feels from my present house near the River Road, tucked back into a street with small houses, snow piled on red plastic toys left out in our warm December. I remember reading an article in the New York Times by a woman who was moving just ten blocks, from one apartment to another, and how radical this move felt to her. I understand what she meant. It is not just that the bridge I drive over will be smaller, waterless, and without that extended arch of the one near my present house. It is that all the faces will be different when I walk our dog, that the crossings will be tricky until I learn which are ones where cars really do stop, and which I had better wait for as I hold Louis straining on his leash.

It must be the need to establish intimacy in the new neighborhood, the importance of getting used to neon signs, pale light reflected in office windows across the street, parking in a ramp, that makes this move feel so dramatic.

Many of us are creatures who strive for security and I am one of them. We look for predictability in colors, corners, the sounds of piano practice next door, or cars moving along at rush hour. Whichever the setting, we look for repetition, of face, taste, smells of garlic from the restaurant on the corner, a coffee shop where we know the owner and can discuss with her our bad back, our leaking faucet.

And even though I can walk between my old home and new home, I know that in all its angles and landscape, in all its shapes and faces, I will enter a new universe in June. Even with this bridge to connect me to my friends on 43rd Avenue, I feel like I am doing something daring, moving Downtown after 25 years in the same house.

I have always loved to travel, yet I love to come home even more. I have always wanted a physical courage I have never had: to climb mountains, camp out alone near a river, or live in a desert country, building a well with men and women who need water. I have wanted some of my father's chutzpah, his relationship to bridges, his risky trips under the Golden Gate at dawn. For now, I want to find a corner to set up this computer, so that the light angles just right from a new window, and I can have continuity, the bridge of language and work, from one part of town to another.

Julie Landsman, a writer and teacher, will be moving from southeast Minneapolis to her Downtown loft lhis summer.