Walking New York

A fat lazy idiot tries to walk every street in Manhattan.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Finally Finding Bryan Murphy

This is going to be a very long story, with only a few pictures towards the end, so bear with me. I think it'll be good.

I was reading Time Out Magazine yesterday and saw this, an article about a random 30-something guy named Bryan Murphy, who was staging a Manhattan-wide event of epic Where's Waldo proportions. On Saturday, July 22, he was going to walk around Manhattan all day, and anyone who "found" him, would win something. The first person to find him after 9am would get a laptop. The last person to find him before 5pm would get an mp3 player. In between, he has t-shirts and Katz's salami.

Sounds random enough, but Bryan somehow got Yahoo to sponsor him, providing not only the laptop and mp3 player, but the ability to liveblog photos from his cell phone, providing clues to his whereabouts, creating a scavenger hunt of sorts with only one thing to find: the guy running it.

I've been a big fan of scavenger hunts since I was a little kid, and Manhattan has always seemed like the perfect place to stage one. I think there's still the opportunity to do something on a huge scale, involving multiple boroughs, teams, the subways, and requiring a really detailed knowledge of NYC, and/or great research abilities. Things like that have probably been done before too, but I've never been around for one. I also love the idea of random games in the city, like PacManhattan. I was discussing this with a friend from Brooklyn the other day, trying to think of ideas, and all of mine (neighborhood-wide tag = too ridiculous, Union Square water balloon fight = too messy) were coming up short. So I was excited to do this, which is like part game, part scavenger hunt, and a good way to see the city. The only problem was, it started at 9am.

My sleep schedule resembles that of an ER doctor/maniacal serial killer right now, so I regularly stay up until 5 or 6am. I knew that if I went to sleep early, I'd just lay there, and that if I actually fell asleep, there's no way I'd wake up to find this guy. So I decided to stay up all night.

I saw the latest movie I could find, Nacho Libre in Times Square at 12:15am. Got out around 2am, walked home, stopping to buy some nachos of course. Any time I see a movie referencing food in the slightest way, I have to eat that food right after. Super Size Me is one of the main reasons why I need to do this walk. So anyway, I ate some nachos, watched some TV, and around 5am, I was feeling tired, so I got into bed to try to sleep for 2 hours. Luckily I didn't fall asleep, because if I did, I would have not woken up for most of the day. So I laid there for an hour, got up around 6, and watched more TV. I left my apartment around 7am.

23rd Street at 7am on a Saturday is pretty awesome. I stepped on 2 metal spoons, saw a pretty nice looking belt, and watched birds pick apart a pile of delicious-looking unsliced panini bread. I took the subway up to 96th Street. Let me go back and explain my plan, before this turns into Memento. I would have done this even without prizes, but if I was going to try, I might as well go for the laptop, meaning I had to be the first one to find him after 9am. Obviously, I couldn't wait for the pictures to start loading, then go out to where he was. So I did what any amateur stalker would do - looked up his domain on WHOIS and found his address on the Upper East Side. My plan was to stake out the building starting around 7:30 and then to follow him after he left and to "find" him at exactly 9.

So I got to his block at about 7:45. I was highly suspicious of everyone else on the block. I just knew they were doing the same thing, and as soon as he'd come out, he'd be rushed by everyone. I felt like I was in a weird spy movie where you never know who's real and who's a spy, but none of these people had those twirly earplug things you can always tell by. So Bryan's apartment is on the same block as a Starbucks, so I got one of the $5 cups of caramel and ice. Tasty but kind of heavy for the morning after not sleeping. I brought a newspaper so I could hide behind it like The Beatles do in A Hard Day's Night, and fidgeted with my iPod and cell phone a lot.

One of the better ideas Bryan had was to wear a plain green shirt with Bryan on the front and Murphy on the back. Should avoid much confusion, although a Thomas Crown Affair scene with multiple Bryan Murphy shirts all over the city could have caused a major panic. So anyway, it quickly became clear to me at 7:45am on a Saturday that there was some kind of contest going on in the Upper East Side to see how many people could wear plain green shirts. Every single one I saw, I jumped a little. I saw a dog with a green collar on and I almost asked it about the laptop. Standing there and waiting was extremely tense, so I decided to relieve the tension by having four heart attacks in a row.

Around 8:15am, the door to the apartment opened and two people came out, one guy and one girl. The guy looked suspiciously like Bryan, but he was wearing a white shirt, and having only known about this for a day, I wasn't 100% sure it was him. But anyway, they walked right into the Starbucks, and I figured they'd get coffee to take back to the apartment before final preparations were made to leave at 9. As they walked from the apartment to Starbucks, I was across the street on the corner, standing there trying to blend in. Blending in was my third attempt at relieving the awkwardness of strolling up and down the same block dozens of times. First, I tried to look lost, but realized that nobody gets lost on the same quiet block for an hour and a half. Then I tried to do the waiting for a friend thing, but again, that only holds up for so long. So when they walked to Starbucks, I hid behind the newspaper, lowering it to peak at them, then raising it again. Then I hid behind a phone booth, thinking if they walked out with their coffee and I was still there, they'd get suspicious.

Remember that I've never spoken to Bryan, and don't know how he would feel about some guy finding out where he lives and waiting there all morning like some weird sniper/obsessed fan. For a brief moment I thought about just sitting on the sidewalk outside the apartment entrance, and when he walked out, looking up dramatically and saying "found you." That seemed too dark, even for me, and I also didn't want to ruin the contest. It's supposed to be walking around and finding him, not utilizing Internet-assisted stalking capabilities. So I debated walking up to him on the block when he came out, or following from afar for a while then going up right at 9. I was also afraid that if I got there before 9, he'd disqualify me, because that early "find" would be my only find allowed. Did I overthink the Find Bryan Murphy project? Enormously. But, a free laptop's a free laptop. I do my homework.

So after realizing that by hiding behind the Talladega Nights phone booth billboard, I wouldn't see them go back into the apartment, I started pacing up and down the block, reverting to previous lost/meeting someone excuses. I even walked by the Starbucks at one point but didn't want to look inside too carefully, for fear of being spotted. So I walked around some more, and after 15 minutes, I figured they must be having their coffee in there, so I took a chance and went in, ready to down another venti caramel syrup. But, much to my dismay, they had escaped. I realized immediately that they walked into the place with two big bags, and Bryan probably wasn't going to put on the green shirt until 9. They weren't going back to the apartment. I had kept pretty good surveillance on the Starbucks entrance, but then I noticed the 2nd door. One door opens onto Bryan's sidestreet, and the other onto the main avenue. They came in on the side street, and while I was walking up and down the block trying not to be noticed, they got out the avenue exit.

So I called previously mentioned Brooklyn friend and woke him up, and he loaded Bryan's page. This was around 8:40am. The picture of the Starbucks cup was already up, mocking me, and so were a few more, including one at 91st Street and 5th Avenue. I was still 10 minutes away from that. I punched myself in the face as best I could emotionally, and took off for the park. I was really worried along the way that if Bryan kept moving away from me, I could possibly never catch him all day. I could take a subway downtown and try to head him off, but I promised myself no cabs. Even if Bryan got into a cab, I would just have to take the subway to wherever they ended up. This comes despite the possibility for a fantastic "follow that cab and step on it" moment.

I entered the park at 90th Street, which I'm really unfamiliar with. On the east side, I rarely go above Dylan's Candy Bar in the low 60s, and although I've been to parts of the park up there, I stay mostly around 72nd. So I entered at 90th and Brooklyn friend described the trail Bryan was on, which I think I found. But I felt so far behind at that point that I took a higher road around the reservoir, which I hoped would let me see more and perhaps catch up quicker. Little did I know that walking clockwise around the reservoir is akin to pushing a hot dog cart up the wrong way of a one way street. I was bumped and crashed into by dozens of vicious joggers, and it wasn't until I finally elbowed an old man into the reservoir that I got the respect I deserved.

Anyway, the first Central Park experience of this morning was an insane blur. My friend on the phone described paths, fences, and lampposts, and I usually found the right path, but felt really far behind. Soon enough, the laptop was given away, somewhere around 9:05 I think on the east side of the park. This is the time when someone who's just in it for the Dell would give up and go home. But I've always been competitive, especially with myself, and I hate giving up on something, so I was determined to find the guy if it took all day.

At this point, I got so turned around in the park that I had absolutely no idea which direction I was heading. I'm not familiar with the buildings up there, so those that I could see didn't help, and usually I could only see trees anyway. I wandered into some kind of area called North End Walk or something, which was actually really amazing, very remote-seeming with a small waterfall and cool bridge to walk under. I was really afraid I would end up lost in the Ramble, which is a windy series of paths that no normal human could ever possibly know their way around. I've been lost in the Ramble for an hour before, and I couldn't afford that today, so I struggled for quite a while, trying to head south as much as I could. I spent probably an hour and a half in the park, trying to walk south after entering at 90th Street. When I finally asked a guy walking his dog which way 5th Avenue was, he told me, chuckled, and said, "Use the buildings." Great idea! Good thing no 2 buildings in upper Manhattan look similar and I'm familiar with the location of all of them. Anyway, when I got out of the park onto 5th, I expected to be in the 60s. I was at 104th Street. In all fairness, I think I hit a wormhole somewhere around the tennis courts, but still, that's crazy.

At this point, with hope of a laptop gone, Brooklyn friend went back to sleep. I was left alone. Luckily I called my mom, who called my aunt and uncle, who used to live in Westchester and know the city pretty well. They were surprisingly receptive to the idea of me staying up all night to follow a random guy I had never met or communicated with, and so they took over phone call duties. Bryan was posting a new picture every couple minutes, with some giving away his location blatantly, and some not. When I was at 104th and 5th, they called to say he was at the Met, down around 79th and 5th. It would have been really easy to take a cab, but I had vowed not to, and the subway was a 10 minute walk each way, plus waiting. I would have to walk.

After nearly stumbling off the planet in Central Park, I was exhausted, dirty from the gravel paths, covered in sweat, and incredibly thirsty. I would have killed someone for a bottle of water. I know people say that, but I really mean it. If there was a pleasant looking old lady reading Salinger on a bench with her adorable grandchildren playing behind her, and she had an unopened bottle of water next to her, she would not have survived. I'm kidding of course. I would have done it for an opened bottle too. Thankfully, I found an ice cream cart and bought a Gatorade, which I drank in a couple seconds while walking. When I got to the Guggenheim, I saw a young guy and girl sitting on a bench eating, and the guy wearing a plain green shirt. I came very close to approaching him, but as I got closer, I saw he didn't have the Bryan or the Murphy on it, and I saved myself potential embarrassment and pepper spray exposure, and kept on walking.

This is somewhere around 10 now, and as I get to the Met, I get a call that he's at a big fountain in Central Park. I know exactly where that is, and it's not far from the Met, so I walked down there. By the time I got there, he was gone of course, having posted a photo of the inside of the bathroom under the steps there. Central Park was pretty crowded today because of some kind of mini-marathon, possibly with the abstract title of Central Park Run. I tried to decide if Bryan would head into the crowd to be noticed, or away from it to save time, and I headed into it. I got a call in the middle of it saying he was at a walkway with benches and lampposts. Sounded like the mall, so I headed back and south. Right as I got to the end of it, I got another call saying he was on a busy street with wood posts along the side, just like the one right in front of me. I got excited, knowing this was the same street, 72nd I believe, but it runs both ways. In the picture, he was standing at a fork in the road, showing no indication which way he would go. As my aunt and uncle copied the picture from the website and tried to zoom in to see what the buildings were like, I knew I'd have to guess, and headed west, thinking he'd try to work Strawberry Fields into the walk.

The road ended up curving south anyway, which seemed fine because west was clearly an incorrect choice. My plan then was to get out of the park onto 59th Street and wait for him there. As I stood on 59th and 6th, the uncle called to say Bryan was by a big red LOVE sign, with the LO on one line and the VE on another. I know I've seen this about a million times, but couldn't think of where it is. Shockingly, the vendors didn't seem to know either, and joyously flaunted their unwillingness to learn the language of the people who buy things from them. I thought it was on Madison somewhere (aunt and uncle thought east side too and there was no median, so not Park). I walked 59th over to Madison, the Madison down a few blocks, but found nothing. Then they called to say he was back in the park. Disaster. I quickly decided not to follow him back into the crazy sociological experiment that is the Central Park sidewalk system, and just to wait in midtown. By this time, it was clear he was heading downtown.

I was well past 2 straight hours of intense, fast-paced walking, and my usually light gray shirt was completely dark with sweat. I had long since given up the iPod and I didn't even take any pictures with the small camera I brought, because I was afraid I'd lose time. So I walked back over to 5th Avenue and then down to about 45th Street. I found an empty bench there just to rest my feet, but right as I sat down, I got another call, saying he was at Radio City Music Hall. I crossed 45th to 6th and walked up to Radio City, around 51st Street, but he was long gone, and had taken another picture already at a place with white benches out front. Looking at it later, I know it was Rockefeller Center, and I even guessed on the phone, but aunt and uncle said no, it looks like more of a terrace outside an office building. So I walked back over to 5th, feeling pretty desperate by now. Along the way, while on the phone, I passed a guy who had made his own green Bryan Murphy shirt. We passed too quickly for me to stop him, and I didn't want to anyway (this was basically a race, mind you, no helping allowed). I thought that Bryan might be really popular in midtown, and maybe this was going to be really big. The homemade shirt was funny though, and in retrospect, I probably should have followed the guy.

My aunt then called to say he'd taken a couple more pictures, but she couldn't really make any locations out of them. She said she'd been reading his site, including the part where he describes the popular locations he'd like to hit, which are as specific as Herald Square and as vague as SoHo. She named all the places on the list that he hadn't hit yet, and it became clear he was heading for 42nd Street: Grand Central, Bryant Park, and Times Square were all on there. I was on 5th walking south, so I decided to head to Bryant Park, which is in the middle, with the most wide open, easily viewed space. It also always has open seats, which was a benefit, because my feet were killing me.

I got to 42nd and 5th, and aunt and uncle called to say he was at the post office on 33rd and 8th. I almost hit scavenger hunt rock bottom at that point, but then they said it could also be the public library (both buildings have similar columns-and-stone architecture). The library was right in front of me, so it sounded like maybe I had finally caught up with him. I crossed the street into Bryant Park and walked in a square around it, looking for him. The park was pretty empty and I saw nothing, and as I headed around the park onto 6th to start walking towards Times Square, my uncle called and said he recognized a building and that he had just uploaded a picture from 42nd and 6th. I was on 41st and 6th, walking their way. I was on the phone with my aunt and uncle when I spotted Bryan and his entourage - the Starbucks-escape lady, three cameramen, and the guy I had seen earlier with the makeshift green Bryan Murphy shirt.

Bryan was arranging for a picture so I waited for a second while he took it, then he turned to me and said something like, "You were at my apartment this morning, weren't you?" I said, "You're a tough man to find" and launched into the story. He was really excited by all of it, and didn't seem to mind the weird looking up of his address. Actually, he said he'd been prepared for it, and that's why he looked at me as they went into Starbucks. But since I didn't follow, he figured I was just standing around.

So we shook hands, took a picture for his site, and I continued the story of how they lost me at Starbucks and the great chase through Central Park, with the help from Brooklyn friend and aunt and uncle. I told him about this site and how I loved scavenger hunts and thought his was a great idea. He told me that had I just walked up to him when they went into Starbucks, I could have followed him until 9, and if I was the only one there, which I would have been, I would have gotten the laptop. So basically I totally blew the stake-out, and let them duck out a back door while I was covering my tracks. Amateur stuff, clearly not the work of someone who's seen hundreds of cop movies, and a true disappointment to myself.

Bryan was so impressed by the 4 hour ordeal (I got off the subway near his apartment at 7:30, started following him at 8:30, and finally found him in Bryant Park at 11:30) that he tried to take back the salami he had just awarded the homemade t-shirt guy to give to me. I said no thanks (although I really would have loved that salami - Katzs, amazing), because the t-shirt guy probably put more time into the overall event than I did, and was really excited and brought his laptop to carry around with them to see how the site was looking. So to make up for it, I got an "I Found Bryan Murphy!" t-shirt and a finger puppet that comes complete with a story. Starbucks-escape lady was very nice and bought me a water (1 liter of Fiji, the fancy stuff) because I looked and was completely exhausted. Bryan told me the story of the finger puppet. Earlier that morning, he had stopped to give one of his t-shirts to a homeless guy. Since this was presumably an Upper East Side homeless guy, the man had a bag full of cash. So to show his gratefulness for the shirt, he gave Bryan and crew 3 dollars. I don't know if the guy is aware of the prices of those I Love NY shirts on Canal Street, but he was being generous, and it's a nice quality shirt anyway, not made of butcher paper like the Canal Street ones are.

So later in the morning, Bryan spent one of the homeless guy's dollars on a finger puppet from a stand somewhere, which was supposed to look like Shrek. Here's a photo from Bryan's site:

Bryan also tried to give me the remaining 2 dollars from the homeless guy, but I turned him down. And homemade t-shirt guy generously offered half the salami, but I said no to that too, he had earned it. So what did I win? A t-shirt, a finger puppet, and a bottle of water. No laptop, no mp3 player, no salami. But as I sit here a couple hours later writing this, getting the feeling back in my feet, I still feel really satisfied, like I accomplished something. Bryan said I was the 5th or 6th person who had found him. I think when he gets down to the Village and SoHo and it gets into the afternoon, he'll be spotted a lot more (although it started raining right after I left, so that might slow things down). At 7pm he'll have a post-party at a bar somewhere (more details at his site - might be a few pages deep after all the photo posts).

My #1 overall feeling from all this is complete physical exhaustion, and the weather while I was out was great. The combination of no sleep and not having eaten anything since the post-Nacho Libre nachos started getting to me towards the end, but I ended up doing what was definitely my longest walk yet. I don't know yet if I'm going to count it for the total walk, because I can't even remember exactly where I went, but I might count parts of it, like 5th Avenue up near the park. Here's a very very rough idea of where I walked today, with paths through the reservoir for your amusement:

I couldn't duplicate how lost I got in Central Park, so I think it's safe to say I walked around 10-12 miles total. Bryan will do a lot more today, although not at such a crazy pace. I feel good about the whole experience, like I got out and did something I can tell (some) people about. I felt very nerdy, standing in Bryant Park in front of the camera people, talking about how I spent 4 hours finding this guy I don't know just because I liked the idea, and also how I found his address online and stayed up all night to try to win. It seems like a crazy way to waste a Saturday morning, but compared to how I usually waste Saturday mornings - by sleeping through them - this was a lot more fun and exciting.

I think I might be on ABC World News Tonight on Monday night, because a cameraman was there for that, and shot a lot with me in it. I was so tired from the walk and from not sleeping that I have absolutely no idea what I said, and I'm sure I'll look really stupid. Luckily nobody I know watches anything but Entourage and Full House, so I'll probably never hear about it. And I'll find a good place in my apartment for the finger puppet, which is a very solid momento of one of the crazier mornings of my life. I'm up for Find Bryan Murphy being a monthly event, or other people staging similar things. Or an all out 5 borough scavenger hunt. I could do it again tomorrow, in fact, if I wake up by then.

Friday, July 21, 2006

City in the Water

The vigilant weatherfolk at Gothamist explain why it feels hot after it rains, or something. More importantly, it looks like thunderstorms all weekend, and while I think I'll be able to get a few walks in, they'll probably be short and without pictures.

I wanted to do another Streets You've Never Heard Of today but I need my good camera to do that, and I'm not taking it out in any kind of rain. The picture above is from the bad camera I bought for rainy days and casual walking around. Quite a difference.

Anyway, it looks like it'll be nice during the week, then rainy again next weekend, so I'll just do the best I can. I have some other things to talk about, so there probably will be daily updates still, even if I don't walk. I'm also trying to figure out a way to get a map showing my total progress so far, but the Google Maps Pedometer site I use isn't set up for it (everything has to be connected in single lines). I'm keeping my own fold out map updated with a Sharpe, so I could always just take a picture of that, but I'm hoping for something more precise. So far I think I've covered about 40 miles worth of streets, which is over 10% of the total goal, and that's in just over a week. But I've started out fast, and as the weather gets rainier, then hotter, then colder, there will be more and more 2 or 3 mile walks, and less and less of the 6 mile ones. Still, I might as well walk as much as I can in the summer and the fall, because I've never spent more than a week at a time in winter weather (I'm from Florida), and I still don't know how to use a radiator, so who knows if I'll even survive this. And because I think New York looks great in the snow, I'll have to build (buy) some kind of protective casing (ziploc bag) for my camera to keep up with the photos through the winter.

And just to remind us of nicer times weather-wise, here are a couple pictures that didn't make it into yesterday's posts:

Staten Island Special

That title sounds like an order at a diner or something gross off of Urban Dictionary, doesn't it? Oh well.

I was reading something a couple weeks ago about the Staten Island Ferry, and I was impressed to learn that it runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and is always free. Even in the City That Never Sleeps Except In The Late Summer When Everyone Goes To The Hamptons, that's pretty cool. I don't know if I'm ready to meet the kind of people who ride the Staten Island Ferry at 3am yet, so I got on tonight around 8pm to check it out and take some pictures...

The entry to the station in Battery Park is pretty nice, with big old school neon lettering that reminds me of Spiderman for some reason, but I can't think of why. Something with the ride at Islands of Adventure, I think.

The inside of the ferry station in Manhattan feels like a small airport terminal, with bright lights, lots of seating, and some cafes. I was surprised to see no line or any semblance of order, and the reason for that is because the ships can hold up to 6,000 people, and since I'd imagine there are never that many people wanting to get to Staten Island, they're never full. So everyone just crowds around the door until the ferry comes.

The first ship, the Andrew J. Barberi was nicely designed with lots of seating and three outside decks. There were no views from the front or back of the ship, unless they were on the first deck and I missed them. So I had to try to take pictures from the sides only, meaning my Manhattan skyline pictures didn't come out so great, but my Statue of Liberty ones did.

I really abused my camera as we passed the Statue of Liberty with the sun setting in the background, snapping a ton of pictures in a short time at different shutter speeds. This is the one I liked the best.

It might seem like the station in Manhattan would be nice and the one in Staten Island old, or perhaps full of the city's garbage and corrupt sanitation officials, but they're actually both nice, and the Staten Island one is really futuristic and crazy. It also connects to the Staten Island Railroad, which I found out uses the very same turnstile system the subways in Manhattan do. I don't know why I was surprised by that, because it's like a couple miles away, but it feels like going to another country.

A far away view of Manhattan from outside the station in Staten Island. The stadium for the Staten Island Yankees is right behind there, and looks small but nice. No game tonight, so it was quiet in the area. I'll go back eventually either when it's totally light or totally dark out with a longer lens to get some better pictures of the skyline. Everything was sort of hazy over the water tonight, and the painstaking 4 hour process of day turning to night made it hard to get any decent pictures in. How come everywhere else I've lived, the sun sets and then it's dark out, but in New York, the sun sets, then it stays light for hours?

Back in the station in Staten Island, waiting for the ferry. It was insanely cold in there, and if it wasn't a 25 minute trip each way, it would be the perfect summer sanctuary. The most impressive thing was a map built into the tile on the floor, showing the route of the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island, with Liberty, Ellis, and Governor's Island also marked. I'm going to look more into Governor's Island, because it's really mysterious-seeming, and I think there's a ferry there for the summer only. And even then, just to a small part of it.

My least blurred shot of the lower Manhattan skyline at night. The 1 train goes right into the ferry terminal, and although it stops about a hundred times between there and midtown (Franklin Street? Sheridan Square? 14th, 18th, and 23rd? Are you serious?), it makes a trip to Staten Island pretty easy. Combine that with the American Indian Museum I mentioned in the last post (a couple blocks from the ferry station), and you've got yourself a free afternoon of lower Manhattan fun. Then immediately find a Starbucks and start wasting money again.

Day 9 Photos - Indians, Peanut Butter, Portholes, and Firetrucks

Trying to get some actual locations in there today, instead of just nice photos.

I got pretty scared when I passed this place, called Peanut Butter and Jane, because I thought that Peanut Butter & Co. might have a competitor I didn't know about. But upon closer inspection, it just looked like some weird hippie clothing store. This site says it offers "vintage baby and toddler clothes," which ranks among the worst ideas I've ever heard, but vintage clothing in general is cool and it seems like a fun little place around Hudson and 12th.

Greenwich meets West Broadway just north of the WTC site, and there's this giant shiny red ball sculpture that I also included a picture of here when I walked West Broadway. When I took that picture on Sunday, there was some crazy-looking female bodybuilder posing for a dude with a video camera. After today, I can say it's official that the shiny red ball sculpture attracts weird events, because this guy was riding his bike through the water, and several other people were standing awestruck and staring, including the very impressed little kid on the right. Appropriately, it's right outside some big federal building.

I think this was at Hudson and Reade, just outside Reade Park, and although the lights were on, it seemed like some kind of training event, not an actual emergency. No smoke, no sense of urgency, and most telling, no gawking crowd of onlookers.

Nice little building on 9th around 22nd Street, with that suburban attic-window feel.

The Maritime Hotel on 9th and 16th Street. Portholes. Lots of portholes.

The elusive Chelsea Market also on 9th and maybe 16th. The only sign outside is blended so perfectly into the building that it's invisible, and even the website doesn't make finding the place easy. You'd think the map, about, or contact sections would tell you how to get there, but you actually have to go the about section, then click the tiny link in the upper right. Anyway, finding it is half the fun, and I'll get more in depth on what's inside (cookies, lobster, and possibly Rachel Ray) when I walk 15th and 16th Streets.

The National Museum of the American Indian occupies this cool building near Battery Park, and since it's part of the Smithsonian, admission is free. The red, white, and blue buffalo on the lower right of the website is pretty awesome too.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day 9: 99% Done with 9th Avenue (4 miles)

Short walk today because once I got down to Battery Park, I decided to get on the Staten Island Ferry (I have nothing to do. Somebody give me a job). I'd never been to Staten Island before, and although I just walked around for a few minutes, I got some nice pictures on the ferry that I'll put up in a separate post.

So I walked all the way down 9th Avenue, which splits into Greenwich and Hudson (I took Hudson). At the World Trade Center site I got onto Church St, which becomes Trinity Place, and took that down to the ferry station. Nice walk. I need to walk 9th Avenue between 22nd and 25th Streets, then I'm done with it. I think my plan now is to finish up the avenues as best I can, then focus on the streets and the craziness downtown.

I actually bothered to look at a map of Manhattan today and the area above 110th Street really isn't that much. I'm going to cover south of 110th first, like I said I would, but I definitely plan to do all of Manhattan eventually. I'll probably do south of 110th, then try to do every sidewalk in Central Park (which will be more confusing than it is long), and then start north of 110th. I'm also definitely going to do Roosevelt Island, which is technically part of Manhattan I think, and I'll take the ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty if they're still running. Plus, I'll promise pictures of Manhattan from Jersey City and Brooklyn. None of it technically counts as part of the walk (except Roosevelt Island), but they're nice views and if I'm photographing every part of Manhattan, I might as well get every view of it too. But anyway, all that is a long way off, and we'll how well this works in the winter and after I get a job. I spent four hours today on the walk and the ferry to Staten Island, and I'm not going to have that kind of time forever.

Moving on. The blog was linked from Curbed yesterday, and in a comment below the post somebody mentioned this site, which is the same idea, actually completed, and organized into a great site. I also got an email from the guy who did the walk, Caleb Smith, wishing me well. I'm not surprised it's been done before, and it's cool to see it laid out into a website like that. He made his final block one right outside the Empire State Building and then went up to the roof to take some final pictures, which is a great idea. As this progresses, I'll start taking some suggestions for where to make my final block. It might be cool for it to be random, because that's kind of the whole point of the walk, but I do like the Empire State Building idea too. And like they said on Curbed, let's hope somebody steps up for Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

More Day 8 Photos - 9th Ave Through the 30s, 40s, and 50s

The best laundromat ever, from 55th and 9th Ave. It's like a wonderland of laundry amenities - TVs set in the walls, Internet access. If they had air conditioning, I would move in.

A nice enclosed garden on 25th just east of 9th. I don't know what it's for, but everyone loves some flowers.

At 42nd and 9th, a cool old hotel sign for what seems like a still-functioning hotel. I'll get the name when I walk 42nd and do some further research.

Two good things. Why not combine them? Next up: Sushi and Cream Puffs

Prison grade razor wire surrounding the back of the Time Warner Center (or the apartments on the very end of the block).

Imagine telling your friends you're a postal policeman. "I've got a siren and everything." Then they see you on driving around one day in this.

The most rusted sign I've seen so far, which alternates between wines and liquors. The store didn't look so bad. I think somewhere, there's something more rusted and disgusting looking in the city, and I'm going to find it.

The Time Warner Center as viewed from 58th and 9th.

Looking east on 33rd, past the incredible post office building, which is unfortunately under construction right now.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Day 8 Photos - The 70s and Above

A castle-type building in Theodore Roosevelt Park on Columbus and 79th Street. I didn't even know this park existed, and it seems really nice. More investigation to follow when I walk the streets up there.

On Columbus around 96th or so, there was a series of big tenement buildings (is tenement politically correct? No offense, tenement dwellers), which you can see here all look the same. They seemed to be in decent shape and had some nice green space, but the surrounding area was more rundown than Broadway is in that area.

This was somewhere around there as well.

I have no recollection of where this was, but it was a big fenced in basketball court and playground behind a school with a nice tiled mural at one end.

A Kosher market on Broadway in the 80s or 90s with Hanukkah-colored baskets.

I guess this is a glasses store, but I have no idea why there were at least a dozen handsaws in the window wearing glasses. My guess is that the store has a pun name like "Sawglass" and they're sticking with that for the design too, but I didn't look up and check.

Day 8: Hangman Path (6.25 miles)

Made it all the way to 110th for the first time today by walking up 9th Ave/Columbus. Good walk, because I've never seen most of the stuff along the way, aside from Lincoln Center and some of midtown. And because I walked back down Broadway from 110th to 86th, I'm done with Broadway except for the stretch between 50th and 86th. I could have made it to 50th today, but there's a lot to see in there and I wanted to be a little less tired so I could get better pictures.

Here's a shot from the boat sculpture outside Lincoln Center:

Much more impressive as a miracle of knot-tying than as art to me, but I like it nonetheless. A block north, what is either Alice Tully Hall or Julliard is under some fairly significant construction (click on any photo for a bigger version):

Lots more photos coming in the next couple posts. Let's end this one on the copyright infringement of the day, from Broadway and somewhere in the 90s:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

How Hot Is It? Fun with Exaggeration

Walked like three blocks all day today, to buy some peaches. Yesterday I walked Broadway from 50th to 23rd, which I'm not going to make a map for. Tomorrow the heat goes away and normal walking begins again.

I was looking at this webcam of Times Square today, and its temperature readout reminded me just how much I love some good old fashioned American exaggeration. Although I missed my chance to get a screenshot of it, when I looked at this at about 2pm today, it said the "feels like" temperature in Times Square was 109.6 degrees. Fahrenheit too, not even Kelvin. Anyway, for the sake of comparison, I took a screenshot of it around 9:30pm, and another of the mildly more reputable weather.com. Results below.

You may have to click the Earthcam one to see, but I'll summarize: Earthcam says it feels like 97.2 degrees. Weather.com says 88. They're pretty close on the humidity, wind, and actual temperature, so a 10 degree difference in the "feels like" category is a big deal. Is it possible that weather.com, the number one resource for people who want to feel sorry for themselves, is holding out on us? Neither site seems to offer an explanation of how the "feels like" is determined, although I'll assume it's buried in the FAQ of weather.com somewhere. It's just that it's 97 degrees out and I'm too hot to look.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Streets You've Never Heard Of: Albany Street Edition

I have a feeling almost all of the streets I pick for the Streets You've Never Heard Of posts will come from this area. I've never heard of Albany Street in my life, and I lived in the Financial District for a summer. You can click the maps above to get a better idea of where it's at, and although there are smaller streets down there (Albany runs a few blocks), this one seemed like a good start.

Albany runs from the Esplanade along the Hudson in Battery Park City to Greenwich Street, south of the World Trade Center site.

This is the view from the sidewalk along the water facing east onto Albany. The strange ceramic Stonehenge thing didn't have a plaque anywhere that I could see.

South End is probably not that familiar a street either, but knowing West End and East End, it's not as surprising as some of the other streets down there: Thames St, Maiden Lane, Coenties Alley, Marketfield Street, etc.

The street is basically all modern, nice apartment buildings, with at least one restaurant at the intersection at South End.

I wandered into an alley behind one of the buildings to look around, and found amongst the garbage this pile of fairly impressive books. I was too afraid to take anything from such an upscale area, but anyone who's more daring might want to look on the north side of Albany Street just west of South End.

Summer in the City

For fear of spontaneously combusting in midtown, I'm cutting back on the walks today and tomorrow. The heat index in Manhattan right now is 102 degrees (heat index is like the opposite of wind chill, it's the temperature it feels like given the actual temperature and the humidity). Tomorrow will be about the same, then it's back into the 80's for the next week.

I will probably chip away at a few blocks around here today and tomorrow, and maybe do a shorter walk at night when it plummets to a frigid 90. It's not that I'm walking too far, because 5 miles isn't that long, but with the time it takes to stop and get good pictures, a 5 mile walk takes about 2 hours. The 7 1/2 mile walk I did the other day without a camera took about 2 1/2 hours. With a camera it would have taken over 3. So that amount of time is just too long to be out in this kind of heat.

I have a bunch of pictures saved up so I'll still post some things the next couple days, and I'll recap the short distances I do walk (probably without photos or maps). Normal walking will resume on Wednesday.