Sunday, July 31, 2011

Urban Death Marching...

There’s been a lot of movies and television
shows about New York City. Many have barely scratched the surface of what it’s like to live here.

Some barely have a toe in reality. A brave few have captured the beloved hustle, angst, neurosis and charm of hanging on for the ride, whatever your hopes, dreams, schemes and conspiracies may be.

Two works in particular, though, caused me to put my foot down and cry foul of reality.

In the motion picture After Hours and the televison series Kate And Allie, the protagonists both find themselves without money or means to get from Uptown to Soho/Greenwich Village, or vice versa, and therefore find themselves in a dire strait tantamount to Ulysses, Dorothy Gale and Benji combined.

Are you kidding me? Please tell me you’re joking. Pretty please with a cherry on top and a you-gotta-be-joking chaser.

I’ve been doing such a trek since high school and, more than ever, I do it to this day. I don’t do it out of desperate circumstances and a destitute struggle to get home. I do it for recreation.

I call it the Urban Death March.

I do it on sunny days. I do it in the rain. I do it on cold windy days. Okay, I don’t do it during a blizzard. Cut me some slack, here.

The Urban Death March is the essential romance between you, your sneakers and the vast canyons and open spaces of at least one of the five boroughs. I’m not going to posture a Spartan love of the cold and wet, so let’s talk about Spring through Autumn here, okay? Okay.

I’m also going to use Manhattan as our template. The grid of its civic engineering and lack of suddenly coming across an impassable expressway makes it the perfect delineated playing field.

Get yourself some comfortable footwear. This is the key element to the molecule of marching. Next is your clothing. As you can guess from my previous sermons, less is more. Let’s say it’s a  theoretical summer day. Let’s say t-shirt, shorts and maybe a hat is all that’s allowed. In cooler weather, adjust apparel accordingly, but I always lean towards the leaner. I rather stay warm by staying in motion.

Like in previous reports, I usually do the sun screen before I head out, but I don’t want to endanger anybody. Okay, you’re allowed to bring sun screen. I am a tough but caring taskmaster.

Last, but oh so not least- water!

Keep your inside wet and your outside dry! Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate or die!

That’s a little song I sing to myself when I go extreme camping, but that, my babies, is another story.
Now, of course, the maximum effect using the Manhattan scenario is traveling in a North-South (or South-North) fashion. Start out easy if you feel the need to build up UDM stamina. Do a circuit of the Central Park Reservoir, then shoot down to Central Park South. That’s a good first march.

Walk vigorously! Use you whole body! Get into it. Rest when you have to, but use that down time to stretch and bend and celebrate your arms, your legs, your spine. I go so far as to use ankle and wrists weights, but use caution if you want to start getting into weighted walking. They don’t look or feel like much, but they can wear and tear if you’re not used to them.

Okay, so I’m advising you to bring water and sun screen. Now I’m throwing in the prospect of extra, no matter how incidental, equipment. You’re also going to have your optional hat and maybe a light windbreaker for what I call the CYAJIC factor. Extra credit to anyone who figures out what CYAJIC means.

One of my favorite pieces of extreme travel equipment is my all purpose nylon gym/duffel/shoulder bag. It’s only about 21" from end to end and about the same in circumference. Shoulder bags, even slung over the head and over, just never balance out on long hikes, plus they’re constantly rocking and rolling and banging against you and making you cranky.

Listen up to how I devised the best of both worlds- at least as far as the shoulder bag and back pack debate is concerned. I don’t have a step by step diagram of this maneuver, so try to picture what I do.
I take my duffel sling it down over my whole body until it’s around my waist, with the actual bag in front. Then I scoot the straps up to below my arms. Then I flip the bag over my head, where it sits perfectly behind my shoulders.

It will take some trial and error to adjust the perfect strap length to get over your head and yet nestle snugly, but that’s part of the fun. I also wrap the strap hooks with bandanas to cushion them against digging into me. A gentleman or a lady should always have a hankie, and now you have two!

Now, you may be asking, “DJ, you’ve got me wandering around NYC for hours, chugging water out of fear of death! Errr... you know...”

There’s a million accessible rest rooms out there! You just gotta know where to look. Book stores, parks, even major subway stations have them, just to name a few. I welcome any reader’s comments on their favorite secret facility.

Bring food. Not to the bathroom, I mean in general. You are going to need fuel, but respect it as a fuel. Don’t pig out, or you’ll sabotage your efforts with carbs and sugar and just want to take a nap. The calories burned on a great Urban Death March will deserve a great meal later. A great, guilt-free and well deserved spoil of war.

Be creative! As your marches increase, start planning themes and goals.

Two of my past favorites are:

The Apollo To Zappa: Connecting the Apollo Theater to St. Mark’s Place

The Big Smile: Down the West Side walkways, starting around 96th Street, all the way down to the Battery (take a moment to respectfully nod to where Roberta loses her memory in Desperately Seeking Susan), around the horn and up the East side to the United Nations (or at least as far as they let you get these days)
But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You got to make your own kind of music. Walk your own walk and talk your own talk.

Happy marching!