The big red crane, which has been a part of the Broadway skyline for over three years, was recently taken down. Its disassembly left a giant hole in the sky the size and shape of a crane, but the biggest hole it left was in our hearts. You know what I mean.
They say the big red crane is being taken to Roosevelt to help build another station, so it’s not necessarily going to a better place, though Roosevelt does have a good selection of audio equipment stores.
A welcome arrival in the neighborhood, the crane was originally purchased by Sound Transit contractors and seemed very useful in helping to construct the beginnings of the Capitol Hill Station, as well as the U-Link light rail tunnels. But the crane was more than that. It was beautiful.
Look at how that red steel melded with the sky, creating a stunning industrial aesthetic above the Hill’s low-rise buildings (ooh). Had it been a blue or brown crane (I don’t think they make cranes in those colors), the effect wouldn’t have seemed as dramatic.
With a red crane, a blue sky, and white clouds, it was like looking at the stars and stripes every day, and filled my heart with American pride. I certainly don’t react that way when I see a construction pylon or one of those concrete dividers. But someone might, I guess.
It’s nearly impossible to imagine the skyline without it. Whereas once we had a stark red crane, emphasizing the triumph of civilization against the torrid void of nature in an empty blue sky, now we only have that void, sometimes blue, often gray, taunting us with its sheer nothingness, reminding us that all our buildings will eventually fall and return to the dust, and that no monument to human progress will ever outlive the unrepentant march of time and erosion. And you thought cranes only lifted really heavy things (as they do).
I’m not sure how to get around Capitol Hill without the crane, since I frequently used it as a beacon for direction. “OK,” I’d say to myself, “if I’m on 12th, and the big red crane is over there, then Canada is that way!” Sometimes I would still be confused, and the crane would kindly swing and point in the direction I needed to head in, sending blocks of concrete and wood flying. You just don’t get that kind of service from other inanimate objects.
It appeared in countless pictures I took over the years, always standing in the background like a watchful protector. There are photos of me eating ice cream underneath the crane, bouncing a basketball with the crane, and using a porta-potty while the crane picked it up with me in it in a humorous fashion (you had to be there).
One time I had trouble opening a jar of pickles, and the crane hoisted it up, raised it over 500 feet in the air, and then let the jar fall and smash on the ground. It’s not how I would have done it, but I did get to eat those pickles.
There are so many memories! I use to climb the crane every night and stand athwart it, listening to the city hum. When I heard sirens I would make the slow, arduous journey down and head to the scene of the crime to stop it, but by the time I got there it was long dealt with (how does Batman do it?). On a particular warm summer evening in July, I took a date to the top of the crane for a picnic, though she didn’t eat anything and mostly screamed the entire time. But I thought it was romantic.
I wonder how they removed the crane. My sources tell me that another, smaller crane was brought into to remove it, but then how did they remove that crane? You’d have to keep bringing in slightly smaller cranes until you were left with a crane that was only an inch off the ground. Then a construction worker could just pick it up and put it in his pocket.
Perhaps a worker climbed all way to the top with a wrench and began the slow process of taking it apart. “I built this crane, dammit,” he probably said, “and no one else but me is going to take it down.” Working quickly, he tossed each piece from the crane until it was all a pile of parts, and then handed the wrench to his boss. “Now it is done. What day is this?”
So goodbye big red crane. Sure, there are plenty of big red cranes all over the world, but you were our big red crane, and we loved you for it. You came here, you completed your task, and you left with dignity. You’re the opposite of Bertha.