Skip to main content

The Strolling Year in Review 2008: The Top 12 New York Walks

Looking back on 2008, I realize just how a simple stroll can become a joyous, enriching, and revelatory adventure. The set of steps now etch a treasured place in my life experiences, a trail I can revisit in memory. Fortunately, if memory fails, I have written down the accumulated steps on these pages and mapped most of them for posterity.

The year's dominating news stories, the Presidential election season and the financial meltdown, crept into many of these walks, even while purporting to be about something else. While I was walking through Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, for example, the Wall Street crisis informed how I read the book and vice versa. Indeed, the mayhem played out in the financial news rivaled many of the city's honored fictional tales of wealth, social class, gossip and scandal. One important thing I learned this year - Mediocre New York novels only focus on the wealthy, while the great ones involve the anxiety of status and class.

In retrospect, the bursting of the housing and financial bubbles seemed less important than how larger values about money and status suddenly changed this autumn, especially in this city. While I don't consider myself a materialistic person, before September I sometimes felt bad that I could not enjoy many of New York's expensive restaurants, ticket prices, and specialty stores advertised for our consideration. I watched the hedge fund people spend ridiculous amounts of money on condos and cuisine, and I would sometimes become jealous when I saw visitors from overseas buying items I could not afford in the stores down the street from me. Now, interestingly, somewhat sadly, they're gone (at least their critical mass), and the autumn's financial strife has brought only more humility. It's somewhat a relief. We're all walking now.

The following list constitutes most of the major walks I explored in 2008, listed in order by month. (Links included.) Several strolls became the means for me to explore the themes and New York settings of established works by American authors (Patrick Dennis, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Edith Wharton, O. Henry, etc.) while others focused on issues of memory, nature, architecture and place. I found that literally walking through some of the literary settings, where I approximated locating in real life the often-fictional equivalents, deepened my understanding of the respective work or provided new insight into the lives of the artist or writer.

Fifth Avenue and the High Road to Taos: Mabel Dodge and Georgia O'Keeffe (January)
New York of Raymond Hood, Architect (February)
Walking Off Tribeca (March)
Classic New York of Mame Dennis (April)
Central Park Walks (May)
Lower East Side (May)
East River and Roosevelt Island (June)
Places from The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath's New York (June-July)
The New York of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth (September)
Mapping Holly Golightly: Walking Off Breakfast at Tiffany's (October)
An Autumn Walk in Prospect Park (November)
A Walk for a New York Christmas (December)

In subsequent posts, I will sort out some of the memorable highlights from these walks and from many of the short pleasurable walks about town.

Image: Tribeca's most tripped-out vista, one of the most surprising and pleasurable images from 2008 (also coming soon, a list of favorite pix). When I took this picture, I was standing near the entrance of the Borough of Manhattan Community College and looking downtown. I noticed that suddenly everything looked like a Second Life image of New York.

Comments

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Popular posts from this blog

25 Things To Do Near the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

(updated 2016) The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at 11 W. 53rd Street is near many other New York City attractions, so before or after a trip to the museum, a short walk in any direction could easily take in additional experiences. Drawing a square on a map with the museum at the center, a shape bounded by 58th Street to the north and 48th Street to the south, with 7th Avenue to the west and Park Avenue to the east, proves the point of the area's cultural richness. (A map follows the list below.) While well-known sightseeing stops fall with these boundaries, most notably Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the great swath of famous Fifth Avenue stores, cultural visitors may also want to check out places such as the Austrian Cultural Forum, the 57th Street galleries, the Onassis Cultural Center, and the Municipal Art Society. The image above shows an intriguing glimpse of the tops of two Beaux-Arts buildings through an opening of the wall inside MoMA's scu

Taking a Constitutional Walk

A long time ago individuals going out for a walk, especially to get fresh air and exercise, often referred to the activity as "taking a constitutional walk." The word "constitutional" refers to one's constitution or physical makeup, so a constitutional walk was considered beneficial to one's overall wellbeing. (Or, as some would prefer to call it, "wellness.") The phrase is more common in British literature than in American letters. As early as the mid-nineteenth century, many American commentators expressed concern that their countrymen were falling into lazy and unhealthy habits. Newspaper columnists and editorial writers urged their readers to take up the practice of the "constitutional" walk. One such essay, " Walking as an Exercise," originally printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and reprinted in New England Farmer , Volume 11, 1859, urges the people of farm areas to take up walking. City dwellers seemed to have the

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Please see this post for current announcements of reopenings . Please consult the museum websites for changes in days and hours. UPDATED September 23, 2020 Advance tickets required for many museum reopenings. Please check museum websites for details. • The  Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  reopened to the public on  August 27 , with new hours for the first month, through September 27: from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public; and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  on Mondays for MoMA members on ly. Admission will be free to all visitors Tuesday through Sunday, through September 27, made possible by UNIQLO. See this  new post on WOTBA for a sense of the experience attending the museum . •  New-York Historical Society  reopened on  August 14  with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine

From Penn Station to New York Landmarks: Measuring Walking Distance and Time in Manhattan

(revised 2017) How long does it take to walk from Penn Station/Madison Square Garden to well-known destinations in Manhattan? What are the best walking routes ? What if I don't want to see anything in particular but just want to walk around? In addition to the thousands of working commuters from the surrounding area, especially from New Jersey and Long Island who arrive at Penn Station via New Jersey Transit or the Long Island Rail Road, many people arrive at the station just to spend time in The City. Some have questions. Furthermore, a sporting event may have brought you to Madison Square Garden (above Penn Station), and you want to check out what the city offers near the event. This post if for you.  The map below should help you measure walking distances and times from the station to well-known destinations in Manhattan - Bryant Park , the Metropolitan Museum of Art , the Empire State Building , Times Square , Rockefeller Center , Washington Square Park , the High Line

25 Things to Do Near the American Museum of Natural History

After visiting the American Museum of Natural History, explore attractions on the Upper West Side or in Central Park. Visitors to New York often run around from one major tourist site to the next, sometimes from one side of the city to the other, and in the process, exhaust themselves thoroughly. Ambitious itineraries often include something like coffee in the Village in the morning, lunch near MoMA, a couple of hours in the museum, a ride on the Staten Island Ferry in the afternoon, cocktails at the midtown hotel, a quick dinner, and then a Broadway show. It's a wonder people don't pass out at the theater. While sitting on the steps of the American Museum of History, consider exploring the Upper West Side and nearby sites of interest in Central Park. There's a better way to plan a New York trip. Consider grouping attractions together geographically. Several posts on this site address this recommended approach. The Wild West of the Tecumseh Playground Groupin

25 Things to Do Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(updated) Sitting on the steps in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of those iconic things to do in New York City. On a sunny day, the wide steps can become crowded with the young and old, the tourist and the resident. It's tempting to stay awhile and soak in the sun and the sights. Everyone has reasons for lingering there, with one being the shared pleasure of people watching along this expansive stretch of Fifth Avenue, a painting come to life. Certainly, just getting off one's feet for a moment is welcome, especially if the previous hours involved walking through the entirety of art history from prehistoric to the contemporary. The entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue The Metropolitan Museum of Art should be a singular pilgrimage, uninterrupted by feeble attempts to take in more exhibitions along Museum Mile. Pity the poor visitor who tries "to do" multiple museum exhibitions in one day, albeit ambitious, noble, and uplift

Exploring the East River

This week's subject is the East River . We won't call it mighty, but we can describe it as a complicated but lovable character straight out of a classic Hollywood movie. While the Hudson River on the west tends to play a leading role, as subject of romantic landscape paintings and historic river discoveries, the East River is handed the minor part of the tough smart-talking kid. In the past few years, however, as the city revamps itself as a recreational playground, direct access to the shoreline - meaning something beyond the always exceptional walk across the Brooklyn Bridge - has received more attention in the form of improved shoreline pathways along the east and west shores and the new ferry service. It's time for the East River to land that leading role. The East River, looking north from Waterside Plaza Explore the East River from many view points, north and south - • Tentative Steps along the East River Park Promenade (East Houston to E. 10th) While t

10 Favorite Places in New York for Walking Off the Big Apple

Over the past year I've enjoyed many occasions to visit both well-known New York attractions and several places off the beaten path. While I still have many miles to walk and many new places to discover in the course of my urban walking life, I have built up a repertory of places that I like to revisit over and over again. Sometimes, when I'm out on a walk, the kind with no predetermined ending or set path, I'll sometimes find myself drawn back to places that have resonated with me before. It's a little like comfort food, warm pumpkin cupcakes , for example, or the longing, at the end of a long vacation, to curl up on one's own bed. I like to wander out of my comfort zone much of the time, but when I feel like I need to reconnect with the city, the following places are where I feel like I can come home. This blog is titled "Walking Off the Big Apple" for several reasons. One meaning has to do with burning calories (walking off the BIG apple, walking off

A New York Spring Calendar: Blooming Times and Seasonal Events

See the UPDATED 2018 CALENDAR HERE . Updated for 2017 . At this time of year, thoughts turn to spring. Let's spring forward to blooming times, the best locations for witnessing spring's beginnings, and springtime events in the big city. While the occasional snow could blow through the city, we're just weeks now from callery pears in bloom and opening day at the ballpark. In The Ramble, Central Park. mid-April Blooming Times •  Central Park Conservancy's website  lists blooming times within the park. During the month of March we begin to see crocus, daffodils, forsythia, snowdrops, witch-hazel, and hellebores. Species tulips will emerge in several places, but the Shakespeare Garden and Conservatory Garden are particularly good places to catch the beginning of Spring blooms. Central Park near E. 72nd St., saucer magnolia, typically end of March. •  Citywide Blooming Calendar from New York City Department of Parks & Recreation April is u

E. B. White and the New York of Stuart Little

(updated July 31, 2017) Of the many books that give young people their first and almost always glamorous introduction to New York City, one of the most loved is E. B. White's Stuart Little , published in 1945. Yet, while Hollywood made a n enchanting film of the classic in 1999, one that further glamorized the city adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick C. Little's proper little mouse boy, the original tale is a curious story that breaks several conventions. For starters, in White's book, unlike in the movie where the Littles find him in an orphanage, Stuart is the Little's biological child (!), albeit an unusual one. He looks like a mouse, can walk within weeks after he's born, and he never gets taller than a fraction over two inches. In modern parlance we might describe Stuart as "a special needs child." He requires necessary adjustments in his domestic arrangement so he can climb up to the bathroom sink to brush his teeth. The largest problem is