On the George Washington Bridge Project: Tumblin Tumbleweeds


In which The Gay Recluse becomes increasingly obsessed with the George Washington Bridge.


Today the sky was windswept, which reminds of when I first moved to New York City and me and my friend Mike were walking around the Lower East Side one night — it was definitely winter — and we saw what could only be described as a tumbleweed that blew across the intersection, not far from where we stood with our mouths agape. We were both big fans of the Meat Puppets, of course, and as we continued on our way, we discussed the song “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds,” from the first Meat Puppets LP, a song I just learned — via Google — is a cover of a traditional folk song. Not that we would have cared about this at the time: we were only interested in the past so far as it extended back no more than ten-fifteen years (which seemed like a long time then), i.e., to the glory days of SST Records.


If this — to see a tumbleweed in Manhattan — happened now (assuming the entire LES hadn’t been transformed into an upscale shopping mall), we would no doubt have taken a photograph or video of it and posted it for everyone to see, but for us it became a memory that we shared and was one of those goofy jokes/events that I suppose — once you share enough of them — forms the foundation of any friendship. For years after we would say to each other, “do you remember that time we saw a tumbleweed?” (This was no doubt annoying to those who missed out or refused to believe such an improbable truth.)


Perhaps one casualty of ‘the Facebook age’ is a sort of passive destruction of any part of the present not documented with some kind of photographic (or via e-mail) textual reference; it’s almost like we don’t have to worry as much about filtering things out in our daily existence, because we can always do it later. I’m no less guilty of this, of course; I didn’t keep a journal on my recent trip to Europe, because I literally took a thousand photographs and will rely on those in the event I want to remember something.


Once I saw a tumbleweed blowing across the windswept streets of downtown Manhattan.


Because I didn’t take a photograph of this, it may or may not have happened.


Like fewer and fewer events in the modern age, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

2 Responses to “On the George Washington Bridge Project: Tumblin Tumbleweeds”

  1. a friend of mine is on the verge of divorce and then his hardrive crashed and he lost like 3 years worth of family photos, which he didn’t have backed up, and so now he’s devestated he’s losing his real and his virtual memories at the same time.

    my aa/hiv sponsor once told me, “just when you think your life is falling apart, that is when it is really all coming together.”

    it turns out he was right then, and now.

  2. 2 c.

    “Because I didn’t take a photograph of this, it may or may not have happened.”

    This distills the entire, disorienting, “before/after” quality I keep increasingly experiencing in my personal life, between my memories of life before 2000 (which is the bulk of it), and since. Oddly, the section since 2000, documented in a bazillion photos and long emails to people, seems less real than the nearly undocumented prior decades.

    Is a personal, remembered experience just simply that much more vivid than a virtual, electronic version of it? Or is youth just more substantial than middle age?

    In fact, wasn’t the tumbleweed a shared moment of living in the present, whereas all our electronic media is about freezing and cataloguing the past?

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