Thursday, May 27, 2010

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge opened on this date in 1937. Construction began on January 5, 1933, at the height of the Great Depression.

orkers overcame many difficulties: strong tides, frequent storms and fogs, and the problem of blasting rock 65 feet below the water to plant earthquake-proof foundations. Eleven men died during construction. On May 27, 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to great acclaim, a symbol of progress in the Bay Area during a time of economic crisis. At 4,200 feet, it was the longest bridge in the world until the completion of New York City's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964. Today, the Golden Gate Bridge remains one of the world's most recognizable architectural structures.

Tragically, it is estimated that over 1200 people have committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. It is the most popular suicide spot in the entire world. The fall takes over 4 seconds and the jumper hits the water at 75 mph, a speed that renders the surface of the water like concrete. 98% of those who jump die on impact. I once talked a guy out of jumping during my first year on the air. He called in while I was on 7-midnight and claimed to be a jumper. I asked why. He said because his girlfriend left him. I told him that was the dumbest reason to jump I ever heard. If I felt like that every time I broke up with someone, I'd be dead twenty times over by now! I suggested he call a buddy and go have few cold ones. He called back the next night and thanked me. Apparently she just wasn't worth it! I have since met this guy at gigs over the years and he always refers to me as "the guy who saved my life" but I'm not really. He is. I just pointed out the obvious.

The bridge is still the #1 tourist spot in the Bay Area. I always take out of towners there for sight-seeing, even my mother when she was still alive.

Once, when my son Ry was about 10 years old, we bought some balsa wood gliders and walked out to the middle of the bridge and threw them off. They sailed forever before hitting the water- must have been miles! What a thrill. You can't do that anymore. There are laws now that prohibit throwing anything off the bridge- much less balsa wood airplanes.

The Golden Gate Bridge has always represented the California dream to me. When I first came here from Baltimore, I went out and saw it and it filled me with wonder. I knew I was in God's country. Anything was possible here. Is that still the dream? Is it still possible? I don't know anymore.

Remember the words of the immortal John F. Kennedy when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather, what you can do for your country!" My God, what an idea! We need to get back to that philosophy.

On tomorrow's show- comedian Pablo Francisco!

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