In the City of Light, Parisian workmen are taking a load off. Until very recently, the Pont des Arts Bridge was the site of true love and some clearly clunky symbolism. For many years, love drunk couples have inscribed their names on padlocks, locked them to the bridge, pledged their eternal love and then, flung the lock keys into the rolling Seine below. Reno, Nevada, is known as the divorce capital of the world. Reno stayed prosperous during the Great Depression by offering quickee, no fault divorces. The matrimonially shackled, mostly women, would get their walking papers at the Washoe County Courthouse, kiss a courthouse column for luck and then make the short walk to the Virginia Street Bridge. There, they would hurl the offending ovals on their left hands into the Truckee River below. Reno granted over 30,000 divorces in the 1930’s and was known to some as the Great Divide. If divorce can inspire nostalgia, here it is.
Be it Paris or Reno, marital hopes and regrets disappear into the watery depths eventually. It has been reported that the accumulated padlocks on the Pont des Arts Bridge weigh some 4.5 tons and are being removed for the good of the structure and the cooing duos upon it. Plexiglass will be installed on the sides and the only things able to be locked there will be a couple’s good intentions. Perhaps the padlock tradition could have remained if just under half of all of them had been removed each day to reflect the unions that won’t make it. Maybe the crowds could have been kept down by requiring speed marital counseling to get on the bridge and a three day cooling off period before couples are allowed to add their locks to the mass of ardently placed stainless steel, copper and tumblers.
This is mainly a political blog and nothing is more political than a marriage. To take part in that august institution requires making promises that cannot be fulfilled. It takes ceaseless campaigning, great expense and pleasing a distinct constituency by bending the truth as needed. The bride to be will perform field polling on her prospective husband with a hand picked focus group over Manhattans and dirty martinis. The prospective groom will be vetted for solvency and old skeletons will be dredged up, rattled and inspected if there are any bones to be found at all. Otherwise, he will make discreet inquires as to how his potential mother-in-law is holding up as a long term romantic barometer. Opposition research is never pretty. Some traditions must die and others evolve. As such, I declare that the Pont des Arts span will now be known as the Pinky Swear Bridge.
The Pinky Swear is a particularly awkward yet intimate mutual pledge. The sign of the hooked pinkies has formally existed in American culture since 1860 and is known in other contexts as “The Red String of Fate”. The legend says that the gods will tie an invisible, red string between two intended soulmates. With the new Pinky Swear Bridge, couples could have tied red strings to the sides but the Plexiglass won’t allow for that. The idea would have solved the weight problem while eliminating thousands of metal keys in the water below.
Christopher Morley once said, “The trouble with wedlock is that there’s not enough wed and too much lock”. This quote shall be displayed prominently at the rededicated Pont des Arts Bridge. In this oldest and most tempestuous of political unions, the red string will seal the Pinky Swear of devotion and fealty. Pledges will be made, the strings will float dreamily to their watery rest and coach tickets to Reno will be exchanged, along with the rings, at the altar as an open acknowledgement of the impermanence of the best of intentions. Guys, why pay a lawyer to help you divide your assets? Reno, baby! For the women, no fault and no baggage may have advantages over a good settlement. Is it really worth the fight? My solution is romantic, realistic, yet environmentally friendly. Come to think of it, I may be too pragmatic for Paris and padlocks are overpriced anyway.
So is that peculiar institution called, marriage.