My birthday wasn’t too terribly long ago, and Alex and I though that it was an appropriate occasion to get out of town for a few days. Not that I don’t like the city; quite the opposite, I love NYC. But every so often, New York City will crap on my heart and taking a little break is good for our relationship. For Alex and myself, this little break was needed because our upstairs neighbor doesn’t understand how her washing machine works, and she flooded our apartment. The resulting water damage caused a huge chunk of our ceiling to fall down, destroying everything in its path. This is the same upstairs neighbor who lodged a formal complaint with the city when I used a window fan, by the way. I don’t care for her.
So my birthday seemed like a nice excuse to see some nature for a weekend, where I could cool down and not have an altercation with the harpy who lives above me. We hopped on the Metro North, and went to Cold Spring, which is a delightful little town north of the city. We did all the fun touristy stuff like hiking, eating, seeing goofy shops filled with old creepy dolls, you know, the usual. But for us nerds, we had a specific reason for picking Cold Spring. Washington and Emily Roebling are buried there, and we thought we could find their graves and pay our respects to the engineers of the Brooklyn Bridge.
When we got to town, many of the people there asked why we chose Cold Spring, and Alex and I would respond, “Because we want to find Washington and Emily!” No one had any idea what the hell we were talking about. Not one person in the town even knew who they were. We went to the information booth in town and asked where our heroes were buried, and the guy who ran the booth (who was easily 1000 years old) shrugged his shoulders and told us about a lovely hiking trail. Seriously, Cold Spring? Do you have such a surplus of 19th century engineering geniuses that it’s hard to keep track of them all? God!
We decided to find them our damned selves. We got a map, found the cemetery, and hiked to it. When we arrived, I still half expected a giant neon sign at the entrance that read “This way to the exact thing that Jonathan wants to find right now!” But no such luck. Our strategy to finding Washington and Emily was to look for graves marked “Warren”, as that was Emily’s maiden name and much of her family lived in Cold Spring. This also didn’t pan out.
Now we started to walk around, and hoped that something would just fall into my outstretched hand that would lead me to the Roeblings. We hadn’t been walking for more than ten minutes, when we happened across them. This was a big cemetery, but we found then almost right away. After all the shenanigans we had with the townspeople, it was like kismet to find them so quickly.
Their plot was gorgeous and peaceful; no mention at all of the bridge, which I think, in a way, Washington would have liked. It was a powerful moment for Alex and I. We had spent so much time trying to find them, that we were at a loss of words to see Washington and Emily side by side after all these years. The day was perfect; blue skies, cool, with a slight breeze rustling the leaves in the nearby forest. I held Alex’s hand, and we stood quietly with Washington and Emily for a time. It was exactly what I wanted.
Now I’m back in the city. I can’t leave my apartment because I know that the instant I’m out the door, our super will show up to fix the hole in the ceiling. I can hear my upstairs neighbor banging around, I can only assume she called the cops because me typing on my computer has somehow ruined her day. Junebug the cat has been in the litter box for a while now doing something unspeakable. But, despite all that, I’m happy to be here in the city. Our moment with the Roeblings has left me rejuvenated, and ready to march over the bridge again and again. I’m happy that Alex was there to share the moment with me, and I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather have at my side.
So thank you, Washington and Emily for all that you accomplished. It’s an honor to tell your amazing story to anyone who will listen. Cold Spring may have forgotten you, but Alex and I will do our best to make sure that New York City never will!