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The bridge whisperer: Bridge needs a serious weight-loss plan

"Holy lift bridge!" I exclaimed as I stumbled toward the controversial blue edifice. I had just finished a late-night tour of Canal Park's finest drinking establishments. It was a fine, warm night and the route back to my car was blocked by the i...

Broken slip bridge
The Minnesota Slip Bridge sits out of service Sunday, July 7, 2013, after a cable broke. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

"Holy lift bridge!" I exclaimed as I stumbled toward the controversial blue edifice. I had just finished a late-night tour of Canal Park's finest drinking establishments. It was a fine, warm night and the route back to my car was blocked by the inoperable, upright, unreliable, glorified, Erector-set of a bridge. Frustrated, I paused and hazily contemplated my next move.

Then I heard a low moaning and a soft, deep voice emanating from the bowels of the pedestrian bridge.

"Ohhhh, why must I endure this misery?"

"What?" I replied. "Bridges can't talk. At least you've never been known to."

"That's because I've never felt quite this bad before, and I've never been this old. Year in and year out since the early 1980s I've faithfully performed my job to the best of the abilities I was given, lifting the heavy wooden planking on my deck and then lowering it again. Every spring the wood became sodden with rain and twice as heavy.

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"I call it elder abuse," the voice from the bowels of the bridge continued. "I'm not young anymore, you know. Why can't some whiz-kid city engineer replace the tons of wood decking with textured aluminum at one fourth the weight? It would sure help my tendons and ligaments, I mean cables and pulleys, and make them last longer.

"Decades ago, yuppie, Baby-Boomer backpackers like Sam Cook effortlessly carried 70-pound packs through the woods. But they've aged, too, and now they have magnesium and Kevlar gear that weighs half as much and gives their human pulleys and cables, I mean connective tissue, a break. Don't I deserve as much?

"Take all that medieval-era, heavy, damp, wood decking and build a giant sand box and shelter for homeless cats in the Bayfront park playground, for all I care. But give me lightweight aluminum or give me death. Your choice."

Ken Lindberg has been a Canal Park merchant since 2000. He's also a teetotaler but believes in poetic license.

Related Topics: CANAL PARK
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