When I was five years old I didn’t much care for the Chrysler Building. The EmpireState was the shape of my beloved pencil sharpener far more than it was a key feature of my built environment. Rockefeller Center presented a lovely array of skating and hot chocolate associations, but was merely the container for them: it’s hard to notice anything else when you’re ecstatically freezing yourself to death on the ice. I can, however, tell you what was once my all-in-one, hometown Taj Mahal and Tour Eiffel — because I’m sure you couldn’t guess it. It was a bread factory. In Queens.
Today it’s known as the Silvercup Studios, a soundstage for film, video and photo shoots, but in the 1970s, the large factory tucked next to the south-east corner of the 59th Street Bridge produced both Silvercup bread, and the most beautiful smell my young nose had yet experienced. Fresh baked bread, hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of loaves a day, bathed the end of the bridge in an invisible, ever-rising aroma of the gods. It was so strong it occasionally woke me from night-drive, pyjamaed slumbers, a sweet-scented welcome mat in front of the doorway to the city.
In a select circle, for a few years, (though it’s still heard occasionally here and there) the bridge was even rechristened “the B-is-for-bread bridge” in honor of the miracles there beheld, and Queens — though never visited — was imagined a borough of infinite delights, all of them olfactory. Alas for all of us, television became more important than bread in the early 80s, and with the successive advents of music videos, TV shows returning to the city for a little street cred and Sex In the City, well, bread never had a chance. (Resistance cells in the pro-bread underground are spreading, and flourishing in the face of recent blows to the Atkins-supported police state.)
So, late on a summer´s eve, keep the windows rolled down and cross the bridge with the noblest of intentions and the purest of hearts — you just might catch a whiff.