I recently watched a fascinating NYC-centric documentary entitled "The World Before Your Feet". It is about a funemployed man named Matt Green who once walked across the country, and now is trying to walk all of the well over 8,000 miles of street, shoreline, and pathways in New York City. I have a similar, if way less ambitious goal, so everyone I knew messaged me about this film when it was released last year.
My own goal has been to simply explore every neighborhood in the city... I'm not done, but I'm very far along. Whether I’m working or not, I average 10-12 miles of walking a day. It’s the best way to experience New York, a city designed to be walked. Most people would be shocked to learn how little of the city even most lifelong New Yorkers have actually explored. But it can be an expensive city to live in, so if you’re here, why not take advantage of all the city has to offer, and see what’s out there? That’s been my motto, and partly what led me to tour guiding. I began discovering new neighborhoods over many years, and wanted to tell their stories and histories to visitors.
So, to me, on paper, the need to do *every* single street seemed to me kind of missing the point... a goal based more on OCD than a real enjoyment of the city. But Green is a unique person, and was clear from watching him that his goal in this is less "completism", and more an (obsessive?) desire to wander and explore. At one point, the documentary briefly speaks to two ex-girlfriends, where the relationship ended because he didn't like a normal life (even going to movies), he just wants to get up every day and walk. It's not a goal, it's a sincere lifestyle choice.
Many years in, and he's still not done, because in each neighborhood, he stops to look at little details-- unusual trees and flowers, synagogues turned churches, barber shops, talk to residents, really soak in all the nooks & crannies of this amazing city. He photographs, he documents. He lingers. No neighborhood is boring to him. And that's where the film draws you in. He finds beauty in the neighborhoods of the city even most New Yorkers often couldn't care less about.
I'd be curious to see how this movie plays to non-New Yorkers, who are certainly discovering a whole different side to NYC than they ever considered. And I’d love to take Mr. Green on a tour sometime, I’d bet he may even teach me a thing or two.