New York City

Day 320

Undeterred by the uproar in New Jersey about a question of safety in Newark’s Branch Brook Park, the New York Times ran a front page story this week about pedestrian safety in the Big Apple. Some of the interesting statistics to come out of a just-released Department of Transportation study:

* It’s safer to jaywalk than to cross in the cross walk (yes, I did double check my logic on that one).

* BUT –  jaywalkers who are hit by an automobile are more likely to die in the collision than those in the cross walk who are hit.

* People who live in Manhattan are more likely to be killed walking there than visitors from outside the borough (47% of those killed in Manhattan live there).

* It’s safer to walk to the RIGHT of moving traffic, rather than to the left.

* Taxis account for half of NYC’s traffic on any given day.

For the full story, check out Tuesday’s New York Times under the headline: DEADLIEST FOR WALKERS: Male Drivers, Turning Left.


Day 316

Frank and I took a wrong turn on our way to the tennis courts yesterday and ended up at 10th Street in Manhattan. Naturally when you are in your blue tennis skirt in NYC with no tennis courts in sight the only thing to do is to walk the High Line. In case I haven’t said this before, IMPROVISING is one of the keys to happiness, n’est pas? If one door doesn’t open, look for a window — or in this case, a staircase — and follow it. Up.

We found ourselves on a landscaped, elevated platform above 10th Avenue, on part 1 of what is to be a 1.5-mile walk along a redesigned 1930s freight car line. The High Line is planted with indigenous shrubbery, grasses, and trees that are designed to be regenerative while also requiring little maintenance. But the best thing about the walk, for me, was the art.

High Line art is integrated into the landscape and plays with your senses. Stephen Vitiello’s “A Bell for Every Minute” at the 14th Street Passage is an auditory piece of public art — something I don’t recall ever seeing (or hearing) in my many urban wanderings. He’s literally recorded the sound of 59 different bells from all around the city — from bicycle bells to cathedral bells to dinner bells — and replays them, one a minute, throughout each hour.

The art — like Richard Galpin’s “Viewing Station” brass plate that reframes the horizon — invites you to interact and merge with the landscape in new ways. Which is what our shadows are doing, here.

You can visit the High Line any day, or take a walking tour of the line with the landscape gardeners on the first Tuesday of every month, or stargaze every Tuesday evening at dusk with the a group of amateur astronomers — they even provide the telescopes!

Day 265

I lived in New York City HOW many years and didn’t  know this helpful tip from MyBigWalker Robin?

Follow San Remo Apartment Towers to GO WEST

Helpful secret I learned on a walking tour of Central Park: there are numbers embossed on the lampposts that indicate the nearest cross-streets–the first couple of digits tell you what the cross streets would be if they extended thru the park, and some are even marked with E or W.

I checked out a walking tour site, Forgotten NY / Street Scenes, and found this:

There’s really no excuse for getting lost in Central Park, if you know where to look.

Cast iron lampposts designed by architect Henry Bacon (who also designed the Lincoln Memorial) in 1907 are standard issue throughout Central Park, as well as in parks citywide. They occasionally even make appearances on side streets for atmosphere. For thicker, expanded versions of the Henry Bacon theme, check out the new lampposts along Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, which used the Bacon posts as a template during the Parkway’s renovation in the 1990s. The distinctive new luminaires were designed by Kent Bloomer and Associates of New Haven, Connecticut.

For some years now, the city has marked most of Central Park’s lampposts with embossed numbered metal plaques. The first two or three digits correspond to the cross street you would be on if that street extended through the park. So, the post above is located where 61st Street would be.

The park’s 1960s-style octagonal poles
and Deskeys have been given the same treatment, as well as a green coat of paint (unique in the city). In addition to the cross street, some of them also bear a W, C, or E, corresponding, respectively, to the western, central or eastern part of the park.

Who knew?!

Day 262

Walking across Central Park is a lot like walking in Soho now that the Twin Towers are gone. I used to use the Towers as a compass point.  No need for the North Star when those landmarks were visible from anywhere, marking due South.

But ever since the Towers fell, I find myself easily disoriented downtown as soon as I’m off the grid or away from a major avenue. Often I am reduced to asking something innocuous, like “is Broadway this way?” so that I can orient myself without looking like an absolute loser. It’s funny, because Frank told me the most common question he gets from tourists (read – people with accents and guidebooks) in midtown is “Which way is the Hudson River?” I guess everybody’s trying to look like they know where they’re going in NYC. But that’s another story.

I hate being disoriented below West 4th Street almost as much as I hate being disoriented in Central Park, above 72nd Street.

It should be easy to walk across the park from the West to East side or visa versa without getting lost: walk away from the buildings behind you, and go toward those in front of you.

And it would be easy if Central Park didn’t dip in the middle — a pretty deep valley, really — and the sidewalks wind and curve in no relation to the road. A few years ago I was showing a visitor from France across the park. It turned dark, and started to rain. We kept our spirits high, and hurried toward the buildings as soon as I saw them…only to find ourselves back on the West side, where we’d started.

Today when I walked through Central Park I was determined to enjoy the walk without getting lost. I had a lunch date uptown, and a library book in my hand. I entered around East 72 Street, and took a seat beside the Alice in Wonderland statue, where I watched kids of all ages — from toddler to teen — climbing up and scrambling around Alice and her friends.

From there I went North-West-East-South-West-and-North again. I almost got lost. But then I saw the Belvedere Castle and soon spied the lovely twin spires of the San Remo Apartment towers reaching above the trees, and I knew I’d made it across town without getting lost. Which felt like something of an accomplishment, even if it shouldn’t have!

I celebrated by having lunch with Jenny at PicNic on Broadway and 101st Street. Their Lyon Salad is yummy, if you’re up that way you should try it.

Day 236
Shelf Awareness : Daily Enlightenment for the Book Trade

I am happy to report that I spent 3 days in Manhattan walking in some of my most fashionable shoes. I carried the sandals that make me look like I’ve escaped from the kibbutz but I only put them on once!

Pam, who also covered the book expo for the publishing media, says I should line up all my shoes, take photos of them, and let them tell their own little stories about life on MyBigWalk.

I think that’s a wonderful idea — watch for it next week.

Meanwhile, On my last day at BEA I covered a library panel because my favorite editor, Chuck Adams, was scheduled to be there. He wasn’t. But I met a very wonderful writer — Joseph Skibell — whose newest book, A Curable Romantic, is set in Vienna and elsewhere in the Jewish diaspora of eastern and northern Europe between 1890 and 1940, and I think it was a serendipitous meeting ( I’m going to Vienna in another month myself, to begin research on a new book).

And as we know, guys, serendipity is the spice of life.

Day 216

NYC skyline from Mills Reservation

“You know what?” Cynthia said on Saturday. “You really get around, don’t you?”

I can assure you, folks, she meant that in the best possible way. Anyway, she’s right. I do get around.

Seeing new towns, cities, and countries, meeting new people and learning how others live — whether it’s in India like our Mittaipink walker Kalyani; in  Lambertville NJ where a walk along my sister-in-law’s  gorgeous country road takes you by a  ramshackled Rod ‘n Gun Club; or in Paris…the discovery and advenutre of the new and unfamiliar is stimulating and expansive. It makes me feel like an active citizen of the world, and that makes me feel engaged and alive.

On the other hand, trying something new every week or every day might also be my way of trying to escape, or avoid, my own backyard. And if I like my life, my house, my family and my friends, it seems like I might be missing out on something if I’m always sauntering as far from home as I can get on a given day.

So last week I decided to stay close to home. Every walk I took was a walk in Montclair, either right from my own front door, or wherever a five minute drive would find me.

As many times as I’ve walked through Mills Reservation on the edge of town, I found new sights and fresh beauty when I walked there twice during the week. The sun coming through the trees like an inspirational poster that says “Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life”, a man walking along the rim of the ridge reading a book (!) while his dog trailed behind him, and the beauty of seeing the city skyline from the small piece of forest in my town just 12 miles west of the Lincoln Tunnel, were all reminders that there’s plenty  that is fresh, lovely, and surprising close to home.  If only I can resist the impulse to travel further afield to find those things.

Please tell me what you like the most about walking close to home. Is it pleasure in the familiar? Comfort in routine? Or is it something else? I’d love to hear from you. You can post here, or write to me at Who knows, your observations may find their way into the MyBigWalk book some day.

** Henry David Thoreau said this in his lecture cum essay, Walking, circa 1861.

Day 183

Saint Patrick's Cathedral NYC, Easter 2010

WALK TO WORSHIP can be construed to mean the act of walking is an act of worship. In this case, it would be “to worship” as a verb (to worship/worshipping, and so on). But the sentence might also be a simple, declarative verb/noun instruction: do not drive, do not cycle, do not stay  home on your couch but walk to your  church/temple/altar/what-have-you.

On this gorgeous spring day, which happens to be Easter Sunday, I walked to several places of worship. In fact, I walked to 7 churches: 3 in Montclair, and 4 in New York City. Along the way I took some photos, enjoyed sun and the little girls and boys out in their new Spring clothes, and meditated on Grace, Generocity, and Gratitude.

In fact, I have been thinking about this three-part approach to life for a few weeks now. Grace, Gratitude, and Generosity. Here’s my feeling: happiness is fleeting, money vanishes, beauty and health are only partially in our control and are limited anyway. But grace, gratitude, and generosity can be yours no matter your age, place in life, wealth, influence, or even the circumstances of your happiness.

I’m sort of tired out from all the walking I did today (besides walking to worship I walked the New York Auto Show and then walked up to the Apple store on 5th Avenue & 60th Street). But I promise to have more on this soon.

Johnny, Minnie, and me


Get Out Your Magnifying Glass...that's Me on the St. James walkway today!

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