Monday, January 18, 2010

The Epic Walk

In New York City, sometimes the only thing that saves the restless soul from going crazy is the” epic walk”, as I like to call it. Since the day I arrived here, I have cherished my aimless strolls around the city, where window-shopping, or even occasionally stopping into a store is commonplace (as if I actually have the ability to buy anything). Sometimes, on my epic walks, I will grab a coffee and head down to the river near Carl Schurtz Park. There is something liberating about the tall trees in the park, the openness of the river, the seemingly endless boardwalk that runs alongside it. The sight of people sitting and reading or chatting on a sunny day is always calming. Gracie Mansion, which sits right on the edge of Carl Schurtz, makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back into a different era; it is a welcome anachronism in the middle of the busy city, where loud construction and herds of impatient people can sometimes be just a little too overbearing.

Spending all day in a tiny cubicle and cramped apartment is enough to drive anyone crazy; a New Yorker will quickly learn that the “epic walk” must become a part of their lifestyle if they are to maintain any sort of sanity in the big apple. Usually the epic walk has no destination, which is what makes them so much fun. You just never know what you will stumble upon- a small, privately owned bookshop that specializes in children’s literature, an antique jewelry store, market, or even a wide open natural space that may become your favorite place to unwind. The “epic walk” is all about discovery. Even if you do have a destination, you will still end up surprised at what you find.

When I take my “epic walks”, I not only like to discover new places, but I also simply like to observe the people around me. There are obviously a lot of amusing personas in this city, and there is never a dull moment here, purely because of the variety of people you find here. As an upper east side resident, I often see perfectly put- together mothers pushing their children in a stroller, always looking as if they are on a mission. These mothers usually have a crazed look in their eye, and I try to steer clear of them, for fear of being run over by the stroller. Sometimes I will walk around texting on my phone and accidentally almost crash into them. This is very dangerous. One does not want to accidentally bump into an Upper East Side mom. This may be a fatal collision. When walking around the West Village or Soho, I love to observe the “hipsters” around me, i.e the people who think they are too cool to speak to anybody else, especially a short blonde gal with cheetah print ballet flats and knock- off wayfarers from canal street. These avante garde personalities have a distinctive way of walking. They almost seem to hover or something; usually you can spot them with their jacket thrown over their shoulder, beret on the head, oversized sunglasses on the face.

These epic walks are a saving grace for the lonely, restless souls of New York City, or even just a temporary cure for the moments of restlessness; they are a chance to find yourself while observing everybody else doing the same. They are also a chance to stumble upon something that would otherwise not be on your radar. It is so easy to stick to your own neighborhood and find comfort in that, but that can become dull very fast. During some of my toughest points at the very beginning of my time here, epic walks made me feel free. They gave me a chance to escape the loneliness of my apartment and the rootlessness that I felt in a place that I was trying so desperately to make into a home all by myself. Now they have become more of a chance to explore the city that I am falling in love with as time goes by. Is the “epic walk” really as aimless as it seems to be? Maybe there's a subliminal purpose to it.

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