For the first time since the spring I walked to Chinatown from home. In the past this has been my favorite form of exercise, and I think I have felt healthiest when doing it regularly. Although the number of calories I burn per hour isn't comparable to what I can do on an elliptical machine, it is a longer course of exercise than I ever do on a machine and there is a strong meditative component to it. Above all, the "music of the city street" succors me like nothing else.
I got up at 7:45, enough time to leave at 8:00 and be on East Broadway by 10:30, after a leisurely walk along the river. East Broadway is far enough east that a little extra time has to be left beyond simply reaching Canal St. on the West Side. But I looked out the window at the frozen slush and couldn't motivate myself to go out the door. A proper morning walk is easiest if you start immediately on rising, without thinking. I let the moment pass and decided to take the train at 9:30.
But at 8:20 I was already feeling regrets. On the principle that whatever I don't feel like doing is precisely what I should do, I got my shoes on and was on the road at 8:31. Rather than follow the river, I took a different route, also slower than necessary, heading to the East Side through Central Park first. Normally I would follow Broadway, the most time-efficient path because Broadway cuts gently eastward at a diagonal through the grid, imposing its humanity on the bureaucratic structure. I was sure I'd be late. But to my great surprise I arrived at 10:32, essentially in perfect time. I admit I pushed myself to take longer and faster strides than usual because I didn't want to leave my food-partner waiting, and so I ran for about three of the blocks. I also lost my willpower at one moment near the end and hailed a passing #15 bus. But the bus driver ignored me, and I found my own drive fully refreshed by the slight.
Discomforts of the walk to Chinatown from Columbia:
- On the Broadway route it is stressful facing the "uncity" hordes in Times Square. This has gotten worse since the area was closed to traffic. I can deal with cars much better than with tourists — in the old days, my method was to walk in the street at the edge of the traffic, basically a safe and happy between-space for me. But now there are no cars and the best idea is to head east around the pedestrian-only area. I'm technically a pedestrian, but then again not exactly.
- The river route brings you into conflict with bicyclists, while all the far West Side routes (10th Avenue and west) put you at the mercy of uncity drivers who think they are on a highway rather than in New York.
- On the East Side, on weekends one encounters dog walkers who, though not uncity in the formal sense, seem to dwell in a subjective suburb all the same, unaware that their long leashes are a dangerous obstacle to people like me because their whole attention is on the sound in their headphones. On weekdays there are many commuters on the street — angrier with the world, it seems to me, on the East Side than on the West.