Bridges-You Know I Hate ‘Em

9247350_sBridges.  Do you like them?  Yes, I know, they stand as architectural marvels, but if it were left to me, I’d rather scull my way from shore to shore.  Or, what about a ferry?  Have you ever heard of a little thing called Gephyrophobia?  No?  What is it you ask? Simple – it’s known as a fear of bridges.  Well, not so simple.  Combine that with Acrophobia (fear of heights), and you’ve got a mix right up there with a ticking time bomb, or a block of C4 waiting for detonation.  Bear with me, while I explain the symptoms – sweaty hands, a pins and needles sensation streaming up and down the legs, stomach on a course between nausea and butterflies, light-headedness, difficulty breathing, and a racing heart.  Although you want to speed across, your foot can’t seem to move the accelerator to a speed past 40 mph.  It’s not the fear of falling, it’s the fact that you’re hundreds of feet in the air, and there is no other way to the opposite side.  When did this begin for me? I think when my parents drove me over one of the scariest bridges ever.  The William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge (Bay Bridge), which sits off Route 50/301 in Maryland.  If you wanted to get to Virginia back in the day, you had no other choice.

Usually, we plan our road trips so that when it’s my turn to drive, it’s either way before, or after we’ve crossed that dreaded Delaware Memorial Bridge.  The one where you get on in Delaware, and by the time you get to the other shore, you’re in the state of New Jersey.  When I had to travel back and forth to my mothers before she passed away, I had to make my way across that Varina-Enon Bridge on 295S, which takes you to I95, and usually, on my own.  But, you see, what does it for me is the height.  Now, the James River Bridge, which is 4 1/2 miles long, doesn’t bother me as much, because it’s low to the water.  The causeway that is a part of I64 east doesn’t bother me; again, it’s close to the water.  My husband knows, and if he catches me tensing as we come on any big bridge, he always assures me, “I know, just give me a chance to get around these cars, and I’ll get in the middle.”  Are you laughing yet?  Just remember, everyone has one type of fear or another, don’t they?

I’m certain you already know where this is going, right?  That’s right- all the talk and the goings on over the now, third bridge mishap we’ve had.  If you begin on August 1, 2007, there have been three.  On that date a portion of the Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota fell to the ground taking cars and passengers with it.  Now, here we are, six years later, and on May 23rd a tractor-trailer hit the Skagit River Bridge in Washington State, causing it to plummet in to the river.  This left us shaking our heads.  But then, two days later another accident – one that upended yet, one more bridge.  Of course, we know this last incident had nothing to do with any type of disrepair, but it did take vehicles and passengers in those cars down as well.  Over the past few days, I’ve heard cable news anchors discuss the issue, and one, talked about her grandmother who has a fear of bridges.  While yet a second anchor shared that he, without hesitation, would give up crossing certain bridges.  That’s a strong statement since, its public knowledge many of the news people who work in Manhattan live in New Jersey.  When you go in to the city, you go by bridge, or tunnel, there is no other way.  I believe all of these recent events have left people all across the country talking and worrying about America’s infrastructure.

I came in the house one day, and hubbie watched a special on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  One of the workers walked on the extreme top of one of those spans as he checked for problems.  Yes, he did have himself securely tethered, but “head for heights,” or not, I’m simply writing about it, and I have that “pins & needles” sensation traveling up my legs.

Did you know there are 66,749 structurally deficient bridges and 84,748 functionally obsolete ones in this country?  That is, according to the Federal Highway Administration.  The total bridge count nationally is estimated at 607,000, which put the count needing repair at around one-quarter.  As a child, I always thought the country could just print more money for whatever it needed.  But, that is a child’s mind.  Not to put a bad spin on anything, or invoke fear, but after listening to the experts who have fine combed the reports and figures, it’s a pretty grime picture.  I believe one could pick a person in any state, and they could tell you of one particular viaduct that needed work, and I’ve known for some time that many in New York are in desperate need of refurbishing.

If you ask me, it all sounds like a bad science fiction novel where all the viaducts fall, and each area that is cut off has to become its own state, or division.  Or, we’d simply have to revert to a time when everything and everyone had to come and go via boat.  And, like I said that would be fine with me. My bridge phobia is way less than my fear of heights.  I know this, because I have driven, and made it across; slowly, but I made it.  But now, that irrational fear has become more of a reality.  When you mix those two – knowing a structure can actually come crashing down – where does that put someone with a severe case?  Please, tell me what you think.

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

Information courtesy of NBC News.com, Travel & Leisure.com, Philly Roads.com & Roads To The Future.com

Novelist vs. Screenwriter

9908245_s[1]The other day as I watched Bridges of Madison County for the….uh, maybe…100th time?  Is there a Bridges Club like the one someone began for the movie Dirty Dancing?  Anyway, I kept repeating to myself:  “You’ve seen this, how many times?  Just, go and begin working on your next blog piece.”  But, I couldn’t tear myself away.  Ah, the romance keeps ’em coming back every time, doesn’t it?  Then, just as Robert (Clint) took Francesca (Meryl) in his arms for that forever romantic, and passionate dance scene – you know, the one done to the song, I See Your Face Before Me, sung by Johnny Hartman – this question came to me.  Novelist or Screenwriter?  I don’t know why. Sometimes, I think the brain really can exist outside the body.

But, getting back to the question, I think a part of the answer lies in whether you are a lover of words.  Yes?  Think about it – as a screenwriter one cannot discuss the design in the floor tile that takes the character back to a time when he or she remembers first coming across the pattern on a carousel, while preparing to say good-bye to their mother who is ready to leave the strained relationship with the child. Or something to that effect.  That, of course will be handled in another sense, maybe in back story as the film people take you on a ride back in time.  Am I right?

As a novelist, the writer has the job of director.  When I began to write and inhaled how-to material like a wood-chipper, I came across a chapter on that subject.  In choosing viewpoints for a story, the writer should consider themselves the camera person who doesn’t only perceive visual images, but sensory perceptions as well; emotions, and thoughts.  Shifting the camera gives you first, second, third or an omniscient narrator.  Now, as a screenwriter you give up that ability.  Personally, I haven’t found any excitement in “Fade In.”  Now, as a novelist, in describing that carousel scene, it sends descriptive nouns and adjectives rolling through my brain as if they were on a marquee.  At all times, I perceive words as having the appearance and color of that fabulous dress or suit in the window of your favorite clothier.  As book people, we can grab the frills, tapestries, and colors that match or compliment each other.  As a screenwriter, you’re limited.  This person, also has the ability to take a piece and make it unrecognizable.  But, believe me this can also be done by a publisher.

Taking this all a step further, over time, there have been a number of myths flying about on these two categories. Some more ridiculous than the next.  Here are just a few that I’ve heard:

  • People on the west coast want to write screenplays;
  • East coasters like to write novels;
  • Extroverts want to write screenplays, since they have the need for the spotlight;
  • Only philosophical people write novels;
  • Introverts write novels.

Ridiculous, right?  Who comes up with this stuff?  To me that’s the same as saying anyone who writes a book, will make one million dollars.  That would put them in the section with the person who envies what you do, but cannot spend one minute of their own time being productive.  There is a lot of talk on these two topics, and I guess one is just as difficult in its own right.  For me however, I am a lover of words – I love explaining scenery, food, and even problems, poetically.  When all is said and done, it is without doubt, a personal thing.  But, I think, being objective there are just as many reasons to like either or, of these jobs.  What do you think?

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Photos courtesy of 123rf.com

Permission to Invent

Today, I’d like to talk about the different forms of writing, which reminds me of a line in the movie, Bridges of Madison County.  Clint Eastwood said, “….Problem with being a journalist too long is, you stop giving yourself permission to invent.”  He continued, “They (National Geographic) like their wild life in focus, and without any personal comment.”  We know that writing is writing, but there is such a diversity in this field.  Can I begin with the journalists who either like the news or are trapped, and have been doing that for so long, like Clint Eastwood’s character, they’ve lost their creative edge?  Then, there are the script people handling all those sitcoms.  We also have travel shows where descriptions of each locale are given, and their creativity is sneaked into a sentence describing a town built into the side of a mountain.  For instance, “The whitewashed homes on this hillside sparkle and reflect not only the personality of its residents….”

Then, my favorite – the tons of history broadcasts, which in my old age has become extremely interesting.  I really don’t know where that came from, I hated history in school.  But, I love the narratives to do with World War II, and Eastern Europe.  The other day my husband laughed and said, “Why weren’t you a Historian.” Who knew.  In any event these are the most complicated, I think.  He or she has to provide as much information as possible, and usually fit it all into a sixty minute time slot.  Who could do that?  With all the hours I’ve logged watching this stuff, I consider it quite difficult to figure out how to describe the Wannsee Conference or Germany’s taking of Poland in that amount of time.  Yes, I know the information is provided, but I’m pretty certain I would have one of two problems – I’d have too much information, and not be able to cut it down or only be able to come up with one paragraph.

Next, those goofy World’s Dumbest Driver’s videos.  I always wonder, do they watch all the way through and then, come up with their humorous descriptions?  But, as I think about it, I guess they’d have to, huh?  I know I said the history pen person’s job proved most difficult, but I think this category also ranks up there as challenging.  An inebriated driver is butchering the alphabet while swaying to and fro with his hands behind his back.  A script is devised to the effect – “This alphabet alchi is aching for apprehension.”  Or, “This swaying and smashed inebriate is headed for the slammer.” (Woo, that hurt). I would seriously believe, one would profess a comedic background to fill those shoes.  It’s gotten so bad or should I say good in my house that whenever we go to the movies or are watching a movie on the television, while I’m engrossed on the screen, yelling at the characters, my husband is reminding me – PLOT.  And while at the theatre, one can tell three rows back, this man is married to a writer or maybe he is the author.

Moving on, everyone in my immediate peer group tells stories – developing pictures through words.  Yes, we have given ourselves permission to invent – create; characters, quirky or otherwise, places, weather, on and on.  I think developing tales in this way is so much fun, although it can be very frustrating at times.  I remember Nora Roberts mentioning at one of her workshops she enjoyed being at her computer making up stories, because she could control the environment.  Does that mean that all of us writers are controlling people?  I don’ t believe so, but it certainly gets the endorphins cranked, doesn’t it?  To work for one of these shows, yes, is a paycheck.  But, does the professional receive a sense of fulfillment when checking that bank statement or say to him/herself – “Well, it’s a paycheck,” wishing all the time they had never gotten into that end of the writing game?  For me, I’ll continue concocting stories, controlling my characters in my little make-believe town/city.  Because, although I and a lot of my peers are not published as of yet – like reaching the gates of Heaven – can’t you anticipate one day witnessing that marvelously colored book cover with your picture imprinted on the back. And that is an unquestionable accomplishment.  Wouldn’t you agree?