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Nunc Dimittis

Urban Sublime

On hiking.


Every time my friends visit me in New York City, we go on long walks. We usually start in the mid-afternoon and walk until late. Last March we walked the length of the island of Manhattan, from Battery Park to Spuyten Duyvil Creek. In December we walked from the South Bronx across the R.F.K. Bridge, through Astoria into Maspeth. Deep into the night, we passed endless silent cemeteries and an expanse of warehouses half-hidden in fog and found ourselves at the intersection of Fifty-ninth Street, Fifty-ninth Place, Fifty-ninth Drive, and Fifty-ninth Lane. This was the netherworld of Queens of which I had often heard tell.

One time, while the bars in New York were still under curfew, we even went to New Jersey for a night on the town. The bars in Hoboken stayed open until three in the morning. When they closed, we walked up the cliffs to Union City and looked out across the Hudson. It must be nice to live in New Jersey, I remember saying, because then you can look across the water and think, wouldn’t it be nice to live over there? Another walk was seventeen miles, from north Brooklyn to Prospect Park and then a straight line down to the ocean at Brighton Beach. We did it on a twenty-degree day
in February.

We started doing these walks during the lock- downs because there wasn’t so much else to do and because we like walking. But the real reason is that we are Westerners. And since we’re Westerners, we like walking, just not the way that real New Yorkers like walking.

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Nick Burns is editor at Americas Quarterly.