3.25.2012

matt green is just walkin' again. this time in nyc.

Some two years ago, I posted about Matt Green, who (as I said at the time) was living my oldest dream: walking across the United States.

Now Matt Green is walking every street in New York City, all five boroughs, about 8,000 miles worth of walk.
In 2010, Matt Green, 31, a former civil engineer, walked across the United States from Rockaway Beach, Queens, to Rockaway Beach, Ore. The journey took five months, during which he averaged 20 miles a day, pitched his tent on front lawns and wore through three pairs of Timberland Chocorua Trail boots.

The plan was to take a break from the work force in the hopes of re-entering it in a more fulfilling capacity later on.

“The problem with that idea,” Mr. Green said recently, “is that after you walk for five months straight, the last thing you want to do is go back to a desk.”

So Mr. Green, a bearded Virginia native with a gleeful look in his eye, spent the next year and a half working odd jobs (data collector, farmhand) while he plotted where to walk next. Finally, at noon on Dec. 31, he set off from a randomly selected address on Staten Island with a new goal in mind: to walk every street in every borough of New York City.

Many people have walked every street in Manhattan. The local historian John McNamara, who died in 2004, walked every street in the Bronx. But Mr. Green believes he is the first to try for every block in all five boroughs — a distance he calculates at roughly 8,000 miles, counting parks, paths, cemeteries and occasional overlaps. He estimates that the project will take him more than two years of full-time walking to complete.

Each morning, Mr. Green, who once lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, but now sleeps on friends’ couches throughout the city, scrawls the day’s route into a three-by-five-inch Caliber notebook. He starts walking between 10 a.m. and noon and keeps going until the sun goes down. At night, he updates a Google map tracking his progress, uploads photographs to his Web site, imjustwalkin.com, and then researches online the things he saw that day until he falls asleep, often around 4 a.m. To survive, he rations his expenses to less than $15 a day and solicits small PayPal donations on his blog; he has received $1,100 to date.

NEW York is a city of walkers.

As such, those who walk for the sake of walking are called on to distinguish themselves from ordinary pedestrians. In Teju Cole’s recent novel “Open City,” the narrator, a psychiatric fellow at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, takes aimless walks “as a release from the tightly regimented mental environment of work.” The British novelist Will Self — who has published two books on psychogeography, or the effect of topography on the human psyche — once trekked 20 miles from Kennedy Airport to Manhattan. “I walk,” he said, “in order to somatically medicate myself against the psychosis of contemporary urban living.”

Mr. Green’s reasons are less succinct, though similar in spirit. “People tend to narrativize neighborhoods in New York, saying such and such a place is hip, or poor, or ugly or barren,” he said. “This walk is a way of understanding a place on its own terms, instead of taking someone else’s word for it.

“Some people have asked if I’m on a quest to figure out what to do with my life, but it’s almost the exact opposite,” he added. “When I’m outside, I get so immersed in wherever I am that it’s sort of impossible to think about my long-term future.”

This is, in a sense, the point.
My own dream, which has changed to become more manageable over the years, but has never gone away, now involves an RV and a drive across Canada with my sweetie and the pups. I'm determined to make this happen. But Matt Green still makes me unspeakably envious.

Matt Green, I'm Just Walkin'

2 comments:

juna said...

I just bookmarked this site. What an amazing way to truly know the city.

laura k said...

I know. I wonder if he's going to write a book, or publish a book of his photo blog. I hope so.