Where Kindness & Balance Begin: The Goodkind Bridges of New
by Jessica Teal
Now what caught Ray"s eye about these bridges was the interesting graffiti on the Edison side that could be partially seen from some of the side streets that wind under the pillars near Route 1. Also, the 2,000 foot-long bridges are exactly parallel but have an obvious difference in age. The Northbound one, named after Morris Goodkind, was built in 1929 and is actually quite picturesque (for a Jersey bridge) with graceful swooping arches and classical looking pillar-towers with commemorative plaques. The Southbound one, named after Morris"s son, Donald, was built over 30 years later and reflects the modern ideal of bridge aesthetics, which is, I guess, cost-driven and makes the economic most out of the expensive steel and iron-work, which really means it"s just ugly and boring. What"s not so ugly or boring is the graffiti that lines the bottom pillars and the RR Team was quite impressed by the artwork and tags that make many statements about the artists and their respective territories. It was while examining this work that Ray & I saw some tagging done in some impossible looking places- namely the outer ledges up near the top of the Donald Bridge. Now the drop from that spot is just plain scary. I later found out that we're talking over 200 feet above ground and water. How did the artist get up there, we wondered. And could we possibly do the same?
The answer is yes, but let me say right now- DO NOT TRY THIS YOURSELF. There is a tiny little scaffold ladder that runs under the bridge that is extremely difficult to get to. Ray managed to get to it by scaling a pipe that ran up one of the shorter pillars and as agile as he is (he"s a friggin" spider-monkey), he nearly got injured in all kinds of gruesome and scary ways in the risky ascent. As an uhhh, mildly interested observer, I was sweating, flinching and seriously visualizing his funeral as he slowly pulled himself up the ledges of the pillars, often with nothing more than the slightest bit of narrow ledge to brace his weight upon. It was while I was drafting my memorial service speech to Ray"s friends and loved ones that I noticed how incredibly high and long the bridges ran. The Raritan may not be the Mississippi, but it"s a formidable body of water and to drop into the water from that height would certainly mean death with a resounding plop. I later read that this bridge in fact was the stage for a suicide attempt in October of 2005. Luckily, the woman was rescued from the ledge in that instance, but clearly this not a place to play around. Ray demonstrated some amazing balance, bravery and focus in his pursuit of going where only the bravest taggers of all had ever dared, but as far as plain old common sense goes, this is no spot for the foolhardy, reckless or stupid. When Ray was on the scaffolding, which at least offered secure footing, I felt greatly relieved, but the height he was at made him little more than a dot far up above me. I couldn"t communicate with him in any possible way from the ground and I hoped he wasn"t going to cross the entire length over to New Brunswick. His head was directly underneath the roaring cars, trucks and buses and I could make out that he was stooped and could only slowly sort of creep along the scaffold.
He did eventually stop though, and the reason was not apparent to me until his return back to land. As it turned out, the scaffold path was blocked by a large bird"s nest, with its owner roosted on-site, which Ray would have had to push or mangle in some way to pass. He made the smart choice to leave the bird and its nest unmolested and turn back around at that point, as he knew he was tempting the fates as it was by being in such a precarious position. To oust an innocent bird and/or its nestlings would have just been wrong. The bird, itself, seemed rather stunned to see a human in its aerial habitat- but who knows how it would have defended itself if messed with. Karmic balance aside, the bird and its nest belonged on this bridge and Ray respected that fact. A little kindness apparently goes a good way on the Goodkind bridge because I"m happy to report that our fearless friend made it safely back down with only a few tricky moments on his descent back down the pole.
Rutgers Rarities is hardly a project about stunts, although we sometimes get into physically demanding situations due to the habitat/geography/locales of our investigations. I've said it in other accounts, like the Waksman Tower account, and I"ll say it again - Ray"s got some set of balls on him. The man has absolutely no fear of heights and his physical agility and flabbergasting dexterity are without question. He"s a Rutgers Rarity in his own right and I"m beginning to wonder just what his limits are. Apparently they're dictated by conscionable decisions regarding the local fowl-life while imminent death and/or injury rank a distant second. On our way out we noticed Ray"s feathered friend peering down at us from the distant ledge of the scaffolding and I"m certain that like me, that bird had a heck of a story to tell its friends that night over a cold one. Check out these bridges sometime and drop us a line to tell us how crazy/stupid/amazing/fearless Ray is. All opinions are welcome.
Close Encounters of the Goodkind aka What's Good and Kind and
Bridge All Over?
by Ray Brennan
The pillars at the base of the bridge which allowed access to the scaffold after some upward mobility. Attached to the right pillar is the powder blue pipe that was scaled to reach the summit.
Views from the top and a look down the scaffold and at the landscape below.
Shots from the concrete pillar looking up at the scaffold (left) and some shots of the Raritan below from both the pillar (center) and the scaffold (right).
It's me - shots from the ladder and the air between me and the ground.
Forget Waldo - can you find Jess in the pictures above?.
The bridge gap inches above my head as I stood on the beams. The gap with no cars (left) and some shots with unidentified vehicles within reach (center, right).