"People don't know where they are anymore, " [the writer Will Self] said, adding: "In the post-industrial age, [walking] is the only form of real exploration left. Anyone can go and see the Ituri pygmy, but how many people have walked all the way from the airport to the city?â€
This is from A Literary Visitor Strolls in From the Airport, a New York Times account of writer Will Self's walk from JFK to his hotel in Manhattan. Self walks 20 miles through a colorful cross-section of Queens, taking photos and chatting about his philosophy of perambulation. Cars (and TVs and computers and so on) have imposed a "windscreen-based virtuality," he says, effectively cutting us off from the landscape around us. The NYT writer name-checks psychogeography in connection with this discussion, but doesn't elaborate. Apparently, psychogeography is a common, everyday concept in which everyone is conversant. (I would guess that it's not). Also discussed: Self's seat-of-the-pants route-planning (he relied upon native New Yorker Rick Moody), and his experiences in the less-traveled parts of the borough:
Not long after negotiating the Cross Bay Parkway overpass, Mr. Self decided to go "off piste,â€ as he put it, borrowing the term used to describe [the act of leaving] groomed ski runs [to explore wild terrain]. He ignored Mr. Moody's instructions and headed straight west on Glenmore Avenue, through East New York and Brownsville. Glenmore at this point slices through a long, grim stretch of low-rise apartments, pocket-size auto-body shops, razor-wired vacant lots harboring high-strung dogs, and a surprising number of churches, including one, Glenmore Avenue Presbyterian, that featured a Sunday-morning "Apocalipsisâ€ service."What could be more suitable?â€ said Mr. Self, who had just been discussing the apocalyptic theme in his own novel and those of H. G. Wells.
A related personal account: Once, in the fall of 1997, my flight had arrived late to JFK, and I was racing to catch the last Delta commuter flight to Boston, which was leaving from a different terminal. When I arrived at the curb, the security guard told me that the shuttle bus had just left, and that I'd probably miss my flight. He mentioned that the terminal was "just beyond that big TWA hanger over there," and I thanked him and set off walking. Needless to say, there weren't sidewalks connecting the two, and I spent much of my time "off piste," scurrying along the shoulders of frontage roads and across parking lots. It was scary and fun, with planes periodically screeching just overheard, but I arrived just in time, and since then I've always wanted a chance to do it again.