I came to this event from the little town of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh. I had never been to any part of New York City before. I left the night before and drove about four and half hours to the Econolodge in Bordentown, N.J. The next morning I left the hotel at 4:00 A.M., drove to the NJ Transit station in Hamilton, caught the train to the NYC Penn Station, and then a taxi to Fraunces Tavern. I was off schedule but got there a little before 8:00. From there I began the Great Saunter a few minutes later after registering and using the bathroom.
What awed me more than anything about New York City was the shoreline walk itself. I have fallen in love with rivers after building a 50 dollar wooden boat, and have since seen many of them. I suspect that many New Yorkers, even some of your Shorewalkers, may not grasp what you have. I was able to hike along a well maintained and paved walkway, with mostly unobstructed views of the Hudson and East River, for over 20 miles. There maybe no other place in the New World, or even the whole world, where seeing so much of a river on foot is possible. All the others that I have ever seen are mostly blocked from shoreline view by vegetation and have many stretches where barge shipping or dangerous rapids make a small personal boat impossible. I will say it again that New Yorkers may not grasp what they have, if they haven’t lived elsewhere.
The Hudson and East River were nothing at all like what I expected to see. Because of the inevitable hype that your iconic city gets, I was expecting to see open sewers full of floating garbage and unnatural foams. But what I did see were rivers of spectacular width, as breathtaking beautiful as any I have seen. I could have spent the whole day just staring at either of them and feeling my breath catch, if I didn’t have that hike to do.
The streets inside the city that I saw were also not what I expected. Again from the hype, I thought I would see an old, dirty, decaying town full of dangerous people not to meet after dark. But I saw nothing remotely of the sort, even though I was told these were not the upper crust neighborhoods I was seeing but the average ones. They were much like any city’s, but collectively extraordinary.
I think of cities as population concentrations with infrastructures. But from what I could see of New York City on the Great Saunter, your home is unique. It seemed to me not so much a city as a living, breathing organism of stationary structures and moving life, in most all ways identical to a natural forest. I should think that an inhabitant could live there all her life and never need to leave the boundaries of the city to see and do all the things that most of us do. How cool is that?
The Taxi Ride to Fraunces Tavern
The one experience that did match the hype was my taxicab ride from Penn Station to Fraunces. Had the driver looked Eastern Asian, I would have presumed he was former kamikaze pilot resurrected from the dead. By every turn of the minute hand there was a near-death experience, but he got me to Fraunces in no time when I was running late, and kept the fare low. I would have tipped him out of social politeness alone, but instead I did
so instead out of genuine gratitude for his service. He was a bargain for what I got, and would not have wanted the taxi ride to have been any different.
I also cannot say enough praise for all the time and work your Shorewalkers did to make this event possible. You gave me something I lived to experience, by getting my second chance at life. I have no words that are great enough for this gift you gave to me.