If you’re looking for stories on New York City, you don’t have to look far to find articles bemoaning the fact that the Big Apple has changed so much, isn’t what it used to be, and blah, blah, blah.
Last time I looked, I ain’t what I used to be, and I’ve changed a hell of a lot. But I’m still pretty interesting. And, if you ask me, so is New York City.
We have a long and storied history, New York and me. I’m a world traveler now, but at one time, and for the longest time, I had not been further from my home in Western Massachusetts than New York City, two hundred miles away. Yet what a trip it was! Five years old, and in the fabled (and now closed for remodeling) Waldorf Astoria with my handsome daddy, who I would lose suddenly when I was ten, my doting mom, who has since joined daddy in a place better than here, and two of my five sisters, one of whom was taking classes to be a dance teacher at that very hotel. The best part about it was that we had no business staying in the Waldorf, and the only way we could afford it was because we were getting a discount while my sister took her dance education classes. We went back the next year, too, so she could complete her course of study. And love was born.
I’ve never quite gotten over New York, and return often. For the past couple of years my objective has been to make up long walking routes to challenge my upper mileage limits. Last weekend was my biggest yet, and I set a personal record for steps in a day:
Yes, that’s 50,000, which is just a bit under twenty-one miles. I won’t be doing quite that much anytime soon, but here’s the route I took.
Every plan I make starts with an objective, and the objective of my walk was to see the grave of Montgomery Clift, who died the same year I was born, and was buried in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in a cemetery that a lot of people don’t even know exists. If you don’t know Monty, look up the classic films “From Here to Eternity” and “A Place in the Sun.” Big fan. And I’m one of the those weirdos that likes to be in bone yards.
As you can see, Monty is having a really good laugh at my expense, because after a little bit more research, I found out that I really wasn’t going to see his grave, unless I got extremely lucky. The graveyard in question is called Friends Cemetery and is private, locked, and belongs to Quakers who don’t want you to know where Monty is interred. That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try! And if I didn’t see it I was still going to have a pretty nice haul.
Amtrak pulls into cavernous Pennsylvania Station, a place I usually spend as little time as possible in, though it isn’t quite as tacky as Port Authority, New York’s main bus terminal. I’d prefer Grand Central to both of them, but am not a fan of Metro North trains from New Haven. Amtrak has stepped up the game, and coach class now looks like business class. And they have a quiet car, though you can always count on some detractor yammering on a phone or letting their kid loose on your solitude.
Round trip to Prospect Park from Penn turned out to be fourteen miles, but after working out to the Beastie Boys a few weeks previous to my trip I decided that while in Brooklyn I also had to go to Adam Yauch Park, named after the member of the group better known as MCA, and I wanted to cross both the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. First, I had to get to the tip of Manhattan and wanted to take a route I’d never taken before, so I chose to cross the island partially on 8th Avenue, then start weaving (my usual habit) until I ended up in Alphabet City (the Lower East Side, part of the East Village, so named for its lettered avenues,) and later, the East River Park:
That’s actually the Williamsburg Bridge. The East River trail, full of in-shape New Yorkers running, cycling, and occasionally skateboarding, runs underneath. Jet skis bounced across the river, and continued on to my Bucket List. A few miles later I found the pedestrian entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. The photo at the top of this blog was taken on my way across. This bridge offers a view of the much more famous and much more populated Brooklyn Bridge, which I would walk later for the third time.
Once on Flatbush Avenue on the other side of the bridge, I legged it through Long Island University territory, where my oldest sister went to school. Brooklynites were out in full force in Prospect Park. I rested my feet, after 25,000 steps, and ate lunch, before seeking out Friends Cemetery.
Yeah, I’m guilty of sticking my phone through the front gate for this shot! I’m also guilty of forgetting to bring the directions I wrote down months ago that would have gotten me as close to Monty as I could have gotten from the outside. Well, maybe someday! But for that day, with my feet already feeling pretty mushy, I had to do my biz at Adam Yauch Park (small, but in leafy Brooklyn Heights,) and head back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge before I got much more exhausted.
The Brooklyn Bridge should be in everyone’s plan book at least once. If you expect the hundreds of other walkers to have the same selfie agenda as you, you’re golden.
My feet were toast by the time I got back to Penn Station ten hours later! And my back was butter for the toast. The good news is that several subway lines cross the bridges and can help get you from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and back again.
Here’s New York’s 2018 subway map:
My next trip will be in October. But New York is never far from my mind…or my heart!