Walking New York

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

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Day 19: Outside Central Park (6.25 miles)

Finally got around to doing the long-awaited Central Park loop this afternoon. I thought it'd be a pretty cool walk, but it was actually very frustrating to see a lot of interesting stuff in the park and to not be able to go in and look at it. And there weren't too many pictures to take, because it's really just apartments or museums all the way up both sides. Plus, the uneven stone path all the way up 5th Avenue really killed my feet, although I suspect that walking late last night and again this afternoon had something to do with that as well.

I was thinking along the way whether I would need to walk the parts of the streets that go through Central Park to officially consider Manhattan done. I did say I'd walk every street in Manhattan, although obviously the ones in the park that don't have sidewalks wouldn't count. The streets in there are really confusing, so what I've decided is this: I'll finish every street south of 110th not including anything in Central Park. Then, I'm going to do the whole park, streets, sidewalks, and all. This is assuming I can find a map of the sidewalks so I can actually keep track. And I'd need a total distance to figure out if this is even doable. If it's another 500 miles, I'd probably just do the streets. If it's 100 or 200 miles, I could probably handle it. And of course, when the Park is done, I'll start north of 110th. This is all a long way off, but if anybody knows the total distance of every sidewalk and street in Central Park, or knows where I could buy a really detailed map, post a comment here.

Okay, well, after a couple days of food coming first, let's try the 2nd most important thing: dogs. Sorry for the blurriness (they move quickly, the uptown dogs).

This rottweiler had some kind of weird boots on his two left legs that looked like wrestling shoes. I've been trying to think of how a dog could injure its two side legs, as opposed to just the front or just the back or all four, but it seems unlikely. I'd guess that it hurt one foot and walked strangely with only one boot on, so this helps balance it out somehow. Other explanations welcome.

After never seeing this kind of dog in my life, I think I've seen like 5 in the past 2 days. It looks like a cross between a greyhound and a sheep. Anyone know what breed this is? Here's another picture of the same one:

And now that I'm out of dog pictures, how about an Upper East Side squirrel?

Day 18 Photos - Food, St. Marks, Arches, Bikes

Looking west on St. Marks from where it ends, at Avenue A (Tompkins Square Park)

Tattoo parlor on St. Marks with a name that seems like the result of a miscommunication with the sign company

More exciting times to come when this automat opens in August on St. Marks and 2nd Avenue. For those of you under 80 who haven't seen Dark City, an automat is a big wall of clear windows with little doors, like a stack of mini-dryers. And inside the dryer doors is various food, which according to this place's website, will include mac and cheese, grilled cheese, hot dogs, pizza, chicken strips, and more. You can only open the doors after putting change into a slot next to the one you want. Think of it as a big vending machine with fresher, hot food. My opinion on the idea is that it could work from a convenience standpoint, but there's no way that any of the individual food can be as good as other local options. Like maybe it'll have decent hot dogs, but I can't imagine it being as good as other East Village options. And maybe the mac and cheese will be okay, but there's S'Mac right down the street. And pizza? Come on. So while I'm willing to give it a try just to feel like an old movie character, I don't see it lasting very long. I think it took over the New York Milkshake Company's spot, which may sound disappointing, but the milkshakes were just mediocre and way overpriced. So bring on the change machines, I guess.

Speaking of cheap food, it was garbage day at the healthiest place on earth, the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut/Krispy Kreme on 14th and University Place.

The order of these pictures is working nicely. It's like, you're walking on St. Marks, see the automat, but it's not open yet, so you eat at the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut/Krispy Kreme, getting the combo #1 (2 tacos, 2 pizzas, 2 donuts), and you end up here, a small random graveyard on 21st St. around 6th Ave.

Breaking away from the food theme, I passed this really nice arched entranceway to a building on 5th Avenue around 19th Street.

Down 5th Avenue about 10 blocks is another arch, at the entrance to Washington Square Park.

This sign reminded me of the controversy surrounding the Neistat Brothers after their prank-gone-wrong on some horrible FOX NY morning show caused one of those nice plastic anchorwomen to freak out. The reason they were on the show is this video on how easy it is to steal a bike in New York.

Day 18: East Village and Some Parks (5 miles)

The combined powers of rain, laziness, and errands resulted in no walk this afternoon, so after sitting around most of the day, I headed out at around 10pm. It's only the 2nd walk I've done at night since starting this, the other being Times Square from a couple days ago. As it starts getting dark earlier and assuming I one day become employed, there will be more nighttime pictures. But for now, the only other place besides Times Square I knew I had to do at night was St. Marks Place in the East Village.

So I walked a weird path down through Union Square, then Washington Square Park, through Astor Place, over to St. Marks, all the way to Tompkins Square Park, up Avenue B to 14th Street, and back over to the real world. Washington Square was surprisingly quiet, but Union Square was crowded and St. Marks of course was very busy. I walked east pretty far because I wanted to see at what point it would get a little scary around midnight. I walked to Avenue D at some point last summer during the day, and was a little worried there, so I made it as far as Avenue B tonight before turning north. Avenue B wasn't particularly bad, but was getting a little too abandoned for comfort.

As always, let's start with the food pictures. I lived on 3rd Avenue and 9th Street last summer, and one of the best late night snacks in the area was Chickpea, a falafel place open until 4am on weekends. I remember the hummus and pitas being solid, and the falafels being very good, although I can't eat falafels as often as I can eat, say, hamburgers. But anything that's like $3 and tastes reasonable is good enough in my book.

Chickpea is on 3rd Avenue between St. Marks and 9th, and as you can see here, the building is under construction, and so they've put a big stupid billboard that blocks the best part about Chickpea: the giant FALAFEL SHAWARMA painted on the side of the building. The restaurant itself also has a pretty cool industrial-style backlit Chickpea sign, visible here, but that's blocked by the scaffolding too.

Anyway, Chickpea is a recommended late night food source, and falafels make decent walking around food, so you can try to wander St. Marks while eating it. But the really big news of the day was something I stumbled upon completely by accident. While walking back on 14th Street, somewhere around 3rd Avenue, I saw this:

Another Chickpea! What?!! I thought maybe some place had just ripped off the Chickpea name, but the website on their sign is the same as the real St. Marks Chickpea. But, the website doesn't acknowledge the 14th Street one. And it's only like 5 blocks from the original. None of this makes any sense. All I know is that Chickpea is creeping closer to my neighborhood, and that's a good thing.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Streets You've Never Heard Of: Gay Street Edition

Today's street from the heart of Greenwich Village probably had its name made fun of a lot as a kid, but is actually named after a former New York Tribune editor who lived there, according to the occasionally-reliable New York Times.

The street runs one block, from Waverly Place to Christopher Street, and is made up of townhouses and apartment buildings only, no stores or restaurants. The two places on either end were pretty cool, though.

From the corner of Gay and Waverly, this coffee shop type place with a very serious amount of air conditioning.

On the other end of the street, Geppetto's Toy Box, on the corner of Gay and Christopher.

Here are some pictures of the street, looking towards Waverly. It was nice and quiet, looking a little like Boston to me. I've only been to Boston once, so I think my real impression of it is coming from the end of War of the Worlds, when after all the alien monsters eat everybody, the pregnant lady and the feeble old people are perfectly fine in their nice quiet townhouse.

The biggest thing on the street was the entry to this apartment building:

The always vigilant New York Post spotted Philip Seymour Hoffman checking out a $4.8 million apartment on Gay Street in early June. No word on whether he bought it. That's really all The Internet has to say about Gay Street, and so here's to adding one more Google hit to the very short list.

Day 17 Photos - Buildings Old and New

The best wine store ever on Lafayette on East 4th

Inside the amazing wine store. They also have a cool room, which is like a big walk-in fridge with glass walls so you can see the cold people inside. It's a cool cool room.

Really scary gargoyles outside a Chinese restaurant on Centre Street.

Some kind of public art piece at Lafayette and Kenmore Streets, on display there until early August. Eh, if I want trailers, I go here.

One of the nicest buildings in the city, in my opinion, which now houses a Bed Bath and Beyond, TJ Maxx, and Filene's Basement. Capitalism wins again, at 19th and 6th.

An amazingly old chemist/drug store from 1838. Sadly, it's pretty modern inside, but the sign is still cool.

Basically the opposite of the picture above, the super-modern glass building looming over the button at Astor Place. Sad.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Day 17: Canal Street and Back (5.25 miles)

Covered a good chunk of 6th Avenue, then came back up Lafayette, walking through Chelsea, the Village, SoHo, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, NoHo, and Gramercy along the way. It was pretty gray and dreary out, so most of the better pictures I got were of actual locations. I also have three new additions to Streets You've Never Heard Of, one of which I'll post tonight. The other two I'll save for the next few days.

If it's nice out tomorrow, I'm going to do the loop around Central Park, which would be about 6 miles. If it's cloudy, I'll probably stay downtown. I'd like to have a big map that I update every day with my overall progress, but haven't figured out a way to do that online yet. If anybody has any suggestions, let me know. Because I'm overlapping some streets each walk, the mileage I'm listing is no longer reliable as a measurement of my progress. I have a foldout map that I'm marking with a Sharpe, but if anyone knows a way to get something like that on here, let me know. Other than that, nothing new to report, so on to the pictures.

First, as always, the food. The only line I remember from Elf is when Santa is warning Will Ferrell about the dangers of New York, saying "there are, like, thirty Ray's Pizzas. They all claim to be the original. But the real one's on 11th." So when I walked by a Ray's on 11th and 6th today, I had to get a picture.

Further research suggests that this was long-considered the first and most famous Ray's in the city, although technically the one on Prince Street started first (and later was used for mafia-run heroin distribution - fun!). There's also something about some people in London ordering pizza from the 11th Street one and coming to get it, but it's from Wikipedia, so who knows.

It may seem like family-farmed organically raised chow is completely at odds with Sparky's tagline: "All-American Food," but I am completely sold on this place just from one picture in a New York Times article from December. If you're not registered for the Times online, you may not be able to see the picture, but trust me, it's worth registering for.

Sparky's opened in November after a successful run in Manhattan's restaurant farm team (Brooklyn), offering burgers, grilled cheese, BLTs, and most importantly, hot dogs. With tons of cheap hot dog options down there like Crif Dogs, Dawgs on Park, and Underdogs, Sparky's would have to be pretty great to survive. The Times story also features two other recently opened Lower East Side hot dog places: Dash Dogs and BroomeDoggs. Sparky's offers Chicago hot dogs, which are surprisingly rare in Manhattan (and the versions that are around, like at Shake Shack, are nothing special), and really incredible looking jalapeno cheese fries (look at the picture, seriously).

I think I've had Dawgs on Park and Underdogs once or twice, but the only hot dog place down there I can really speak for is Crif Dogs on St. Marks around Avenue A, which I think is great. The hot dogs themselves are solid, especially entries from the Cholesterol Hall of Fame like the Good Morning Dog (hot dog wrapped in bacon, covered with a fried egg and cheese), but the real highlight is still the tater tots. Katz's also has excellent hot dogs, although in a very different atmosphere, obviously. So Sparky's seems worth a try, although BroomeDoggs' "fixin bar" seems promising as well. Basically, if you're drunk enough to really need a Lower East Side hot dog at 2am, try all three of these places, then post a comment right after, because you're not going to remember it in the morning.

More Day 16 Photos - Fun with Shutter Speed

Because of all the lights around the city, my night photos were coming out blurred or too bright. I managed to figure out some decent manual settings to get better balanced pictures, but while I was at it, I figured I'd shoot some intentionally blurred ones too. In order for the backgrounds (buildings, signs) to stay still and the foregrounds (cars, people) to blur, I had to leave the camera shutter open for up to 20 seconds sometimes, meaning I'd have to rest the camera on something so it didn't move at all. So that's why some of these have skewed angles and weird poles in the foreground, but these are the five best. As always, click a photo to see it bigger.

Looking west on 35th and 8th

42nd and 7th


Looking north on 9th Ave at 14th Street

42nd Street again

Day 16 Photos - Times Square

The answer to this question is, "No, because he is a large talking fictional giraffe."

42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues

Looking south from TRLville around 45th

McDonalds from the future on 42nd Street (notice the size of the crowd - this was around 11pm on a Wednesday night)

It seems like Times Square is the last place Spiderman would go, with the secrecy and all, but he's always there.

From the Last Thing You Want To See Outside Your Apartment Building file

Day 16: Not Much New (5 miles)

Because today was officially Get Your Life Together Day, I didn't get around to a walk until tonight. But I had been wanting to get some nighttime pictures up here anyway, especially of Times Square. The route is kind of weird and covers a lot of streets I've already done, but I went that way because I wanted to stop by the screening of Jaws on Pier 54.

I'm not someone who throws around "favorite movie ever" loosely, and my top 5 list varies almost daily, depending how long I'm willing to argue with myself, but Jaws is always in there. (Right now I'd say Jaws, The Graduate, and Annie Hall are constantly in the top 5, and the other two spots rotate between a long list, including Goodfellas, Magnolia, Some Like It Hot, Airplane, Back to the Future, A Clockwork Orange, Vertigo, Good Will Hunting, Pulp Fiction, and Hoop Dreams.) Jaws was shown as part of the Bryant Park Film Series a summer or two ago, but I missed it, and so when I read on Gothamist at like 9pm tonight that RiverFlicks was showing it tonight on the pier, I basically ran out the door immediately. Here's really the only decent picture I could get:

The screen was pretty small (much smaller than Bryant Park) and the sound was low, but popcorn was free and the couple hundred people there seemed into it. I got there during the USS Indianapolis scene and stayed for Farewell and Adieu of course. Then I walked east on 14th, up 8th Avenue, and around Times Square for a while. Took a lot of pictures with long exposures to get a motion blur. More on that in a later post though.

I'll do Times Square pictures in a different post too, but for now, a couple from on the way there.


From 22nd and I think 9th Avenue. I don't know if the sarcasm is needed when referring to the quality of the food, but I'd still buy that pre-packaged sushi from there.

I love the Whopper as much as the next guy, but does America really need this right now?