Some walks are more special than others. Walking is usually a solitary activity for me, but I was glad to explore the city with my wife and daughter one October day. We combined a walk on the High Line with a side trip to the Brooklyn Bridge, and threw in a stroll and lunch in Chinatown, finishing with a hunt through the bargain racks at the Strand book store.
The High Line is an elevated section of train track, (EL for short), saved from demolition, that runs through the Chelsea neighborhood of lower Manhattan. It has been converted to a landscaped pedestrian walkway that includes many points of interest, and serves as an escape from the heavily-trafficked city streets below. According to the website, http://www.thehighline.org, the High Line was opened to the public in 2006 and has been extended and expanded twice to create its current length of 1.45 miles. (2.33 km)
After doing some research and calculation of the commuter railroad fares to the city from either Fairfield County, CT or the towns in neighboring Westchester County, NY, we decided a more convenient and economical choice was to book a parking space through SpotHero and drive down the West Side. We left after rush hour, enjoying the views of the Hudson along the way, and made great time. The valet garage was right across the street from one of the northernmost entrances of the park and cost $20 for the whole day.
Since it was already mid-October the foliage had already lost much of its color, and having watched the documentary and read about the park, I was surprised by the intimate scale of the High Line and understood how its close proximity to the surrounding buildings has inspired ad hoc artwork, fire escape performances and exhibitionism. There is even a sign that warns, or promises, “BEYOND THIS POINT YOU MAY ENCOUNTER NUDE SUNBATHERS.” There are small grassy areas and low sprinklers where kids of all ages tread barefoot on warm days, wooden slat chaise lounges in shaded and sunny spots, and seasonal planned gardens all around. Somehow the air feels fresher above the asphalt, and we were able to glimpse a stubborn bit of lingering Summer color. Several sections of the old tracks remain, with small trees and plants growing between them.
The pics are not great, but enjoy a little walk…
The High Line also functions as an open-air museum, and here are a few of the offbeat works we encountered during our walk. There was a car made of recycled rubber, a squiggly sculpture named Swan, a giant essay, I want a president, by Zoe Leonard, and a bizarre, too lifelike, sleepwalking statue in white briefs, among several others.
We descended the park at the southernmost point at Gansevoort Street and walked over to the Samsung store, which is designed to showcase their products. Luckily, none exploded during our visit. If they had, ISIS would most certainly have taken credit. We window shopped our way down to the subway on 14th Street where we headed to High Street on the Brooklyn side of the bridge.
A short walk brought us to the bridge entrance where we climbed the steps to the pedestrian walkway. It was fairly crowded with joggers, bikers and other walkers, but it was still a spiritual experience for me, one I had planned for years, but never followed through, until this day. Anyway, there are no words to describe the Brooklyn Bridge that approach those of Hart Crane. This is my favorite poem of all time and its themes and imagery haunt me.
To Brooklyn Bridge
How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty—
Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
—Till elevators drop us from our day . . .
I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;
And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,—
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!
Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.
Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.
And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.
O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet’s pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover’s cry,—
Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path—condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.
Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City’s fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .
O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.
Here’s the star of our walk. The approach from the Brooklyn side gives you the best view of the Manhattan skyline. I chronicled a couple of dopey trends; I can kind of understand the significance of the locks to couples in love, but I don’t get the litter of headphones. Hope you’re not too tired, or bored, yet…
Once on the Manhattan side of the bridge, we headed toward Chinatown, stopping to rest in a small square until we made our way to a cozy noodle shop for lunch. Then off to buy some vegetables from the street vendors before heading uptown a few blocks on the subway to get to the Strand. After grabbing a few $1 and $2 bargains, we were tired and ready to head back to our car. Since there was no straight line using public transportation, we decided to hail a yellow cab, completing our NYC experience.