Taking my Self for a walk


My wife sent me the following article from the New York Times, “A Literary Visitor Strolls in From the Airport” by Charles McGrath (the Times requires compulsory registration, so if you’re not already a member use a fake login from Bug Me Not). The article is about English novelist Will Self who likes to walk. For his recent trip to New York he walked to Heathrow Airport and upon arrival at JFK Aiport walked to Manhattan.

By Mr. Self’s usual standards, the walk from Kennedy to Manhattan, about 20 miles, is a mere stroll. What recommended it was that it would take him through parts of the city that most people never notice while driving in a car: an experience that Mr. Self, a student of psycho-geography, believes has imposed a “windscreen-based virtuality” on travel, cutting us off from experiencing our own topography.

“People don’t know where they are anymore, “ he said, adding: “In the post-industrial age, this is the only form of real exploration left. Anyone can go and see the Ituri pygmy, but how many people have walked all the way from the airport to the city?”

I like to walk but I’ve never considered walking to Logan Airport primarily because it’s on a penisula on the opposite side of Boston Harbor. Walking to Logan would require passing through the eerie Produce District, a post-apocalpytic landscape of warehouses, oil refineries, and sleazy motels for truck drivers. Certainly not the place I want to walk through if I have a pre-dawn departure, especially if I have to pass by King Arthur’s Motel and Lounge.

I do like long walks though. Inspired by Michael Rockland’s Snowshoeing Through Sewers I walked the entire length of Broadway from Marble Hill to Bowling Green on a visit to New York last year. I have plans for similar ventures in Boston, such as walking Massachusetts Avenue from Lexington to Dorchester or Washington Street from the Dedham border to Government Center.

One guy I read about on the web walked every street in Manhattan which gives me ideas. With the twisted web of streets in Boston it would be hard to know if one ever find all the streets much less walk them. Somerville might be easier. At least on foot I don’t have to worry about the one way streets or potholes. I just hope I can find sidewalks where I need them.

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