For a while now I’ve been really enjoying the website I’m Just Walkin’ run by Matt Green (that’s him above with the camera - pic is from the NY Times) who previously walked across America from Rockaway Beach in New York, to Rockaway Beach in Oregon. I think his title maybe a reference to the Sonic Youth song “The Wonder,” the lyrics of which run “I’m just walkin’ around, Your city is a wonder town,” though I’m not sure about that.
Green’s current grand project is to walk every street in all of New York’s five boroughs. He’ll be the first to do this, I think. A few people have definitely walked ever street in Manhattan, but as far as I know he’s the only one to have gone for the whole bagel.
The online project is largely visual – he takes photographs of the interesting things he sees as he walks, and much of it is the kind of thing that interests me when I walk: architectural curiosities, quirky signs, graffiti, eccentric gardens, soulful old cars, “portals of the day.” But the site isn’t merely “Hey look at this cool stuff,” it’s also very well researched. Many of the photographs come with very knowledgeable captions or links that reveal amazing snippets of the history of the city. If you want to call this “deep topology,” you'll get no argument from me.
Green charts his progress as he goes. The Google map on the website shows the city increasingly covered by spidery red lines, indicating the streets he’s already walked down. So far Staten Island is looking a little thin but no doubt he’ll get there soon enough.
Anyway, a little while back the featured portal of the day was the above quasi-geodesic entrance to a children’s playground in a park in Queens, named for Louis Windmuller, who I admit I had never heard of, but he turns out to be a very interesting man.
Windmuller was a 19th century German immigrant to New York, who did well in banking and insurance, before turning to civic life. He wrote articles about economics and public affairs, including one titled “The Vexations of City Pedestrians.” His suggestion was that cars “should be restricted to inclosed (sic) roads of their own, as locomotives very properly are.”
He was also founder of the Pedestrians Club, an organization that almost certainly wouldn’t have welcomed the likes of you or me as members, prestigious enough to merit a news item in the New York Times, of February 7, 1913, which described it as “the most exclusive, distinguished and enthusiastic walking club in America,” dedicated to “furthering the fine art of walking and enjoying it right here in the City of New York.”
Windmuller is described as “the noblest walker of them all” and he’s interviewed in the piece, and he says he walks for 4 hours a day. However he recommends walking fairly slowly, not much more than two miles per hour, so that you take in more of your surroundings. He says, “You should see what is about you as you go. Don’t let the automobiles frighten you. Learn to dodge, like I have. They nearly got me once, but they can’t any more, and I am 78 years old.”
Here's Matt Green's website: