So yesterday I walked from the northernmost tip of Manhattan to the southernmost tip, which took me a good part of the day: just under 6 and a half hours to cover probably somewhere between 15 and 16 miles. Why'd I do it? Partly because it was an small accomplishment I could achieve on a day off, partly because I wanted to get back in the exercise routine, and partly because it was just such a nice day and I wanted to enjoy it outside. Now, walking is technically a free activity, but of course, I had to stay hydrated along the way. I drank nearly a gallon of liquids, which I mostly bought at delis and drug stores, or had with my lunch. Yet, as you might imagine on such a hot day, I barely had to stop for restroom breaks, having sweated most of it off. So if you add my lunch plus all my drinks, it was probably a $20 outing.
What did I notice? The city has an amazing way of hiding its vast number of residents. I probably actually saw no more than a few thousand people throughout the day, and yet this island alone is home to more than a million. At any given time of the day, we're all stowed away in some little corner of some building, big or small. Much of Inwood and Washington Heights felt rather empty. Harlem showed a few more people and so did Central Park. Then from the East 80s on down, there was a steady stream of people around me. But still, imagine what it would be like if everyone left their buildings, their offices and their apartments, etc., and stood on the street. Perhaps those of you who were here on 9/11 or during the most recent blackout got a glimpse of what that would be like. During times like those, it was probably hard to conceive visually how so many people live their lives in such a relatively small space.
I noticed how the city and its people have attempted in so many places to preserve green and create spaces to breathe amid all the concrete. There are corners of the island which the city has designated parks, which are so tiny they'd be laughable anywhere else, and yet we are grateful for even their 0.05 acres of greenery.
What else did I notice? Flowers everywhere: cherry blossoms, magnolias, daffodils, tulips, black-eyed susans, and the like, all smelling lovely and mixing with the other street smells. Children in lines: running around the perimeter of blacktop schoolyards, lining up at the end of an activity to be herded off elsewhere, crossing a street in Central Park and proudly raising their palms ("Stop! Stop! Stop!") to the bikers and cars in the distance. Children in their strollers: pushed by their mothers or grandmothers, or -- seemingly more often in New York's nicer neighborhoods -- by their nannies. Old people in their wheelchairs: being pushed outside the hospital complexes for a breath of fresh air. People plugged into iPods and occasionally other kinds of MP3 players or portable CD players. (I had my music on from Inwood through to the beginning of Harlem, at which point I took off the headphones.)
I'm sore from all the exertion, but I have to say I have a better sense of the way many of Manhattan's neighborhoods are connected, of what they share and what separates them.
For a slideshow of photos from my day (roughly arranged in north to south order), click here.