Walk #17

1 December 2004
1:12 pm to 2:12 pm
Heads: 39
Tails: 48
Intersections: 59
Ending point: corner of North Moore Street and West Street (aka the West Side Highway)
Latitude/longitude: 40:43:13.109N/74:00:44.276W
Distance from home: 0.9015 miles
Literature received: J&R Music World flyer (“All Roads Lead to J&R”)
Coin: 1986 P quarter, 2000 P quarter (Maryland)

When I stepped outside, gales of wind surrounded me like a tornado. I flipped the quarter, it danced in the air like a knuckleball, and floated right into an open sewer. I didn’t have any other coins in my pockets, so I had to go back inside and down to the basement so I could use the laundry-room change machine. I successfully broke a dollar; in addition, somebody had left a copy of the New York Daily News in the laundry room. I took the paper–since it would have cost me 25 cents from a hawker, my journey was now, financially at least, a break-even proposition.

I headed north, through City Hall Park, which was hosting an AIDS memorial. They had five microphones set up and people were simultaneously reading litanies of names: presumably an inventory of the dead. The overlapping names made it feel more like a piece of performance art than a remembrance, but it was still quite moving. As I walked through the event, I reflected on how life and death was a coin-flip proposition. You keep flipping the coin: another day passes where you don’t get hit by a bus or fall victim to a terrible disease. Eventually, the coin comes up “death” for everybody.

Up Broadway to Worth, then west. Leaves and fast-food clamshells were blowing furiously through the air, people on the sidewalk were wobbling and being shifted from side to side. Also floating in the air: fast-food clamshells. Somebody had abandoned an inside-out umbrella. South on Hudson, further west to Greenwich, back north to Harrison, past the Borough of Manhattan Community College. This took me almost all the way to the Hudson River. I headed south, walking alongside West Street on a temporary wooden sidewalk. This made me feel like I was strolling down the boardwalk, except I was pushing my body into the winter wind and instead of kids in bathing suits being underfoot, there were cars zipping past me.