One of the small but significant pedestrian pleasures I sometimes have, is to walk through parking lots (for my American readers) or car parks (for my English ones). Partly it’s because this is such a satisfyingly long way from being “good walking territory.” Also because it sometimes feels like trespassing, and I suppose in some cases it actually is, though I can’t say I’ve ever been challenged while walking through a parking lot.
When I’m driving and have to park in some giant open air lot, I always choose a spot in a far distant corner. Partly because there’s usually more room and it’s easier to park there, and also because it ensures that I do a certain amount (OK an absolutely minute amount) of walking. While others jockey for a place nearest to the mall or supermarket entrance, there I go striding across the lot, the flaneur of the tarmac. Also, there’s always a chance of being run down by distracted drivers, which tends to put the walker on his mettle.
Recently I was in Ridgecrest, California, taking a pre-breakfast stroll around the town and came across the rather gorgeous expanse above. To garble Raymond Chandler, few things look emptier than an empty parking lot. Chandler said the same thing about swimming pools. I couldn't resist walking across that wide open space.
When I lived in New York, I often went upstate at weekends, I became especially fond of a parking lot in Rosendale. It belonged to one of the saddest supermarkets I’ve even seen, so sad that it featured in Martin Parr’s book Boring Postcards USA, where it looked like this:
As you may or may not be able to read, it then went by the name of the Rosendale Food Center. When I was there it was Sunrise Farms, a pretty awful supermarket where there was always a good chance the meat was going to be off, still at least it was a local store. And then it closed down. It was a lot sadder then, and a lot more boring in one way, but at least you could walk across the parking lot without fear of getting run down.
And now I find, lurking on the internet, a picture of yours truly, in a car park in Brooklyn, in the rain, standing on one leg, thus:
Actually I suspect it’s been lurking there for years. The image is to be found on the website of the Temporary Travel Office, “a quasi-fictional tourist agency” run by Ryan Griffis. The picture is part of the documentation for an event called “Public Parking: a Tour of Parking Lots and Utopias: Brooklyn, NY.” I actually mention this expedition in The Lost Art of Walking. Ryan Griffis seems a thoroughly good man, and the Temporary Travel Office is obviously a Very Good Thing. Is it just me, or is ironic tourism suddenly a big growth area?
The Temporary Travel Office is here:
“Public Parking” is here: