The Strolling Year in Review 2008: Favorite Experiences 2008

Happy New Year!

It's one of these odd days today, Friday, January 2, a day wedged between a holiday and the weekend. I don't know if it's appropriate to do serious work today, the kind an employer would expect, but I'm guessing it's not. I'm taking the liberty of giving everyone in the listening area the day off.

While I look forward to launching new strolls for 2009, I have accumulated many notes from the past year, and today seems like a good day to share them. Here's the first installment. In addition to favorite streets and pictures, I have an assortment of favorite experiences:

• Walking through most of Central Park and experiencing the park in each of the seasons is on the top of my list. We must thank the Central Part Conservancy for an extraordinary job restoring, renovating and maintaining this city treasure.

• Reading Richard Price's Lush Life (and following its detective trail through the Lower East Side) and Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, both novels with New York settings, is very much on the top of my list. Revisiting some of the classics, such as Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's and Wharton's The House of Mirth, raised parallels with life in 2008.

• Best mystery I discovered on my own while walking through the Lower East Side: the mural on Ludlow. What's left of Loew's Canal Street movie theater?

• Best new place: Le Poisson Rouge, Bleecker Street's multi-arts venue in the old Village Gate theater. I saw an opera and had a drink at the bar downstairs. When I saw a sign out front one afternoon that advertised absinthe and free wi-fi, my heart was won.

• John Cage's 49 Waltzes in Five Boroughs: Playing a part in this happening in April of 2008 helped me listen in ways I hadn't experienced ever.

Following in Melville's shoes: "Circumambulate" (to walk around) is now part of my vocabulary, thanks to Melville's opening of Moby Dick. When I took the writer seriously with his lines, "Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall northward. What do you see? ," I subsequently discovered many intriguing places while circumambulating Manhattan.

• Summer Streets: New York City's experiment in August to open up a thoroughfare free from traffic on successive Saturdays provided a sense of fun but also danger. Cyclists loved it. Pedestrians, like myself, learned that fast cyclists, especially en masse, bring fear.

• Wall Street protest: The first large protest of the bailout of Wall Street brought out some angry people, but in my mind, it was a good way to release a sense of collective frustration. Pictures here from September 25, 2008.

• East River and the Tram & Roosevelt Island: In retrospect, walking along the East River, confronting the fumes from cars along FDR, seems fun and hilarious now. It was awful at the time. My ill temper explains whi I was so happy to get to Roosevelt Island.

• Hudson River near Christopher Street, at sunset in the summer: Sometimes I feel sorry for New Yorkers who think they have to leave the city in the summertime. I cherish the long and hot days in the city, and I love walking over to the Hudson River Park to watch the sunset.

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