In the opening chapter of Moby Dick, Herman Melville describes a common wanderlust among Manhattoes for the sea. Sometimes, however, for those of us raised among flatland and spread-out landscapes beyond New York, a walk to the river's edge comes not out of longing for seafaring adventure but just to look at the sky. The city's density and urban canyons can become overbearing at times, and while not nearly matching the terror of closing walls of Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum, it's sometimes necessary to escape them. A walk along the river provides the quick vacation, a time and place to reflect on the meaning of rivers, life, eternity, and New Jersey. Once refreshed, it's time to return to the city for coffee and a lightly toasted buttered bagel with cream cheese. Or, at night, some vino and pasta.
Near the closing of the day, a look west may suggest the potential for a beautiful sunset, especially the presence of pink, rose, and lavender in the sky. For those of us who live below 59th Street in Manhattan, Hudson River Park (official site) is just the place. Opening in eagerly anticipated stages, with North Chelsea Cove the most recent, the park features good lighting, esplanades, special events and rest facilities. The Greenwich Village section, pictured here along with nearby streets, was the first opened in the park. Pier 45 extends far out into the water and is popular during warm days. Those tallish modernist apartment buildings were designed by architect Richard Meier. I also recommend a walk farther north, from Pier 51 near Jane Street and then winding back toward Washington Square Park. Once out on the piers on a warm night, Manhattan can look like the Riviera.
View Through the West Village to the Hudson in a larger map
After the sun goes down, the Village comes alive, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, as visitors descend on the neighborhood. The winding streets, European-style cafes with outdoor seating, sports bars, small stores, music clubs, theaters and public parks offer so much that many stay awake all night to enjoy the neighborhood. I know this to be true, because I can hear revelers, especially the kind that are given to song after drink, outside my window. I try to get some sleep regardless, because the following day offers a chance for another walk, perhaps to a quiet spot on the East River to watch the morning sun rise over Brooklyn.
Note on map: This route is 2 miles, a good walk of healthy distance, but is more over-determined than necessary. A point of reference only, walking west through the Village should allow a good amount of improvisation, just like in the jazz and comedy clubs.
Images of Friday Night Lights by Walking Off the Big Apple, an infrequently homesick Texas-born resident of Greenwich Village, from Friday evening, May 8, 2009. Sometimes, WOTBA just needs some sky.