When I walked away from Walking is Transportation.com for an extended period in 2008, I wasn’t sure I’d be back—or that anyone would notice.
But people did notice, and one of them was journalist Brian Berger, who, writing on his own blog (see below), noted WIT’s reappearance with these words:
“Welcome back to Walking is Transportation, our favorite Staten Island blog, which took a hiatus but has been re-pounding the pavement in St. George since last December."
I first met Brian at the Everything Goes Book Café in Tompkinsville, at a reading promoting his recent book, New York Calling (Reaktion Books, 2007), a collection of essays by writers as different as Anthony Haden-Guest, a columnist for The Financial Times, and Robert Sietsema, restaurant reviewer for The Village Voice. Berger co-edited the book with historian Marshall Berman.
The collection adds up to a clear-eyed remembrance of the city as it was in the 1970s, amply supplemented with photos of the period. New York Calling is available in the New Books section at the Everything Goes Book Café, 208 Bay Street (near Victory Boulevard; opposite Tompkinsville Park), Tompkinsville, S.I.
Brian Berger is also the publisher of Who Walk in Brooklyn [whowalkinbrooklyn.com], which he describes on the site itelf as “a collaborative website dedicated to the exploration, culture and history of Brooklyn—and New York City— as a whole. Writing about or from or inspired by other places, especially Georgia, Florida , Texas, West Africa and the West Indies pops up as well. The opinions herein do not necessarily reflect those of anyone, not even their authors. Caveat lector.”
Thanks for noticing WIT's absence, Brian, and its return.
Late afternoon on St. Marks Place near Westervelt Avenue, St. George, Staten Island, January 31, 2007
NEW YEAR, NEW DIRECTION
Today--the first day of Bushyear the Last--begins the re-launch of WALKING IS TRANSPORTATION.com. As regular readers know, I've felt hemmed in by the narrow scope of the subject--the way I always had to ask myself, as I started to write, "What does this have to do with walking or transportation?" The blog began to feel like an impediment rather than a pathway.
But what really prompted the decision to re-launch this blog was your enthusiastic responses to my series, "The Vertical Life," which profiled in words and digital photos the lives we lead on the mostly-walker-friendly hills of Stapleton, Tompkinsville, St. George and New Brighton in the New York City borough of Staten Island. Some of you wrote from places as nearby as Vermont and as far away as Washington State.
So, very generally, my plan is to observe in words and images the life lived in these neighborhoods--a (comparatively) dense and diverse urban sector of New York City's most suburban borough. I hope you'll be pleased enough with the results to keep on reading.
The main thing I wanted to say is that WALKING IS TRANSPORTATION.com is back.
When you see these walking shoes at the top of a post, it means the text concerns the blog, the blogger, or both.
IT WASN'T MY IDEA
Last February, when I was working on a Staten Island transportation story for STREETSBLOG (http://www.streetsblog.org), Editor-in-Chief Aaron Naperstek suggested I write a blog on Staten Island transportation issues, sort of a Son of Streetsblog, in content if not in name.
I pooh-poohed the idea at the time. But obviously Aaron's idea, or some variant of it, stayed with me. Walking is Transportation.com (WIT.com) began appearing online this past August, about six months later.
At first, WIT was very clearly focused, arguing for the idea behind its own name. And nary a visual image in sight. Soon enough, though, that focus began to feel like a limitation, and I admitted as much in a post dated September 30, declaring my need to widen WIT's focus a bit.
That was about the time I got a digital camera, enabling me to make WIT's format more airy and open, less text-heavy. The camera also allowed me to take the picture of clay and fiber artist Steve Nutt's walking shoes, shown above. [From now on, that image at the top of a post tells you that the text concerns the blog, the blogger, or both.]
But more important, what the camera did was encourage me to look at my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods more closely, hungrily even, searching for images either as literal illustration or as symbol. I felt freed, letting the camera tell the story with minimal text. The stories were still about walking, still about transportation, but more and more, Staten Island was the setting and, in part, the subject.
Up to that point, I had considered Staten Island as a subject or setting if not verboten, then certainly something to be avoided. No one was going to accuse me of being parochial, by God. But the more I thought about it, the more I became persuaded that a focus on Staten Island transportation issues might be helpful in promoting not just walking, but the whole progressive transportation agenda, on Staten Island and elsewhere in the city. And besides, the north shore of the borough, where I live, is very photogenic.
So . . . WIT.com readers can expect the same transportation focus in future, with more photos and more about my part of what St. George visual artist Cynthia von Buhler calls The Prodigal Borough (http:/www.prodigalborough.com).
Detail, mezzanine wall decoration, Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum station (#2 and #3 trains), Brooklyn, N.Y.
UPCOMING BOOK EVENT WITH A STATEN ISLAND SLANT
Staten Islanders aren't used to media attention, particularly positive media attention, that doesn't start and end with The Staten Island Advance.So if you're a Staten Islander, I think you'll be interested to read the generally positive (meaning--surprise!--not negative) coverage Staten Island's getting on Brian Berger's blog, Who Walk in Brooklyn ( http://www.whowalkinbrooklyn.com ).
Berger will be appearing this Saturday night at the ETG Book Café--along with Staten Island essayist Steve Maluk and Village Voice food writer Robert Sietsema--in connection with Berger's just-published book, co-edited with Marshall Berman, New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (University of Chicago Press). As one reviewer observed about the book, "For once, all five boroughs are represented," an assessment that has special meaning here in The Forgotten Borough.
Berger, Maluk and Sietsema promise an evening of words, photos and discussion, all of it focused on the place we call home.
BRIAN BERGER, STEVE MALUK and ROBERT SIETSEMA
Saturday, November 3, 2007, 8 p.m. EVERYTHING GOES BOOK CAFE and NEIGHBORHOOD STAGE
208 Bay Street (between Victory Boulevard and Hannah Street)
"Welcome to WALKING IS TRANSPORTATION," my introductory post declares, "a blog about walking as a practical means of personal mobility."
Nearly two months and 26 posts later, I've decided it's more than time to revise that tidy little description. It wasn't wrong, as far as it went. Trouble is, it didn't go far enough. It was too narrow, too ideological, too confining. It made expressions of awe, delight or even fear seem somehow off-topic.
So I've decided to unlock the door to this cage of my own devising and step outside. From this post forward, this blog is about Walking As Transportation––and about everything else walking is as well.
[Those beautifully beat-up walking shoes shown at the top of the page belong to Staten Island clay and fiber artist Steve Nutt.]
Though I'm as linear as the next soon-to-be 65-year-old, a core attraction of the web log form is its start-anywhere, go-anywhere, end-anywhere openness and randomness. That's important to someone who reserves the right to change his mind, his preferences and his positions without prior notice.
What prompted this blog was a desire to reposition walking as something more than
--a mode of transportation you're forced to adopt when you can't drive anymore
--a good-health strategy
--a spiritual practice
--a specialized activity unrelated to everyday life (as in, driving to the park to take a walk or ride a bike)
At first, good communications practice told me I had to be single-minded in my approach in order to accomplish that repositioning: Focus on walking as a practical activity:
But that was too confining.
I needed a framework loose enough to consider, for example, the near-certainty that walking sometimes inspires, that you're aligned with the wind and ground both, almost a parallel force, the three of you moving forward together.
I experience this certainty in physical, not mystical, terms. It feels embedded in the way I move.