Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstice Walk Summary

This walk was basically a scavenger hunt, starting at sunset (4:31 PM) on the longest night of the year and ending at the following sunrise (7:17 AM). At the beginning, we each wrote down several places/things/activities on slips of paper and pooled them all together. We randomly drew three slips to start. Each time we checked off one thing, we would draw another to take its place. So we always had three goals in front of us at any point. We were not allowed to use maps during this walk; we had to rely on the knowledge and intuition of the group.

Here is the full list of our draws, in order of completion. I don't think I left any out.

1) Hospital. Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park.

2) Playground. The playground directly across 2nd Ave from Lutheran. We ran around and slid down some slides.

3) Someone's favorite something. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Dave's favorite Robert Moses project and Drew's favorite bridge.

4) Burger. Several people got burgers at Pipin's Pub in Bay Ridge. We placed an order, walked down to the Verrazano to check that off, then came back and picked up our food.

5) Crazy Christmas house. We passed several houses in Bay Ridge that could easily fulfill this goal, but we had larger prey in mind: Dyker Heights (84th St between 11th and 12th Aves, 12th Ave between 83rd and 84th Sts). We saw several qualifying houses here, including two that are pictured in blog entries below and one with a life-size Dickens village set up in the front yard, complete with animatronic characters. There was a lot of foot traffic in this area: people come from all over to see these houses.

6) Gravestone. We went to the dilapidated Old New Utrecht Cemetery in Bensonhurst. Debra snuck in a touched a stone to make it official.

7) Stained glass window. The New Utrecht Reformed Church next to the cemetery fit the bill.

8) Japanese gummy candy. After several failed attempts, we found some in a little grocery store in Bensonhurst.

9) Good sledding hill. We went to Prospect Park to find a good hill, and in the process discovered a partially-broken-but-still-functional saucer sled in the garbage. So we sledded.

10) Top of stairs. We found several successive staircases in the snowy woods of Prospect Park, and climbed to the top one.

11) Maze. This was the first time we had to fuzzily interpret our draw. The best thing we could come up with was the winding network of paths in the Prospect Park woods. This worked out better than I expected. There were several points where paths branched off from each other, and we all got thoroughly disoriented. There's probably been a worse maze somewhere in the annals of history.

12) Tangerine. From the Key Food near Grand Army Plaza.

13) Have a beer in a bar, preferably at closing time. We were nowhere near closing time, so we decided to just satisfy the main requirement of this draw. We went to Barrette in Prospect Heights and imbibed.

14) Store sign with a misspelling. Discount Music Kingdom on Flatbush advertises "Latin Instruments & Accesories".

15) Tall church. Trinity in Lower Manhattan.

16) Eat at a taxi stand place. A Bangladeshi/Pakistani place on Church St between Duane and Reade.

17) Karaoke. We made it to a karaoke place 15 minutes before closing time at 4 AM, only to be told that they had just closed. We decided we'd have to just wait until we heard music coming from somewhere, and then we'd sing along to it. As we approached some place called Back Fence in the Village, we heard music pumping from inside. We recognized the song as "A Long December" (What a fitting tune for this walk! How did I not notice this at the time?!?) by Counting Crows, and sang along on the street. A couple rather inebriated patrons of the establishment joined us.

18) Free jazz jam session. We performed an improvised free jazz piece in front of the Walgreens at Union Square.

19) An island that is not an island. We had to brainstorm for a while to come up with something here. John Donne tells us that "No man is an island". So we figured if one of the men in our group could, in some sense, become an island, he would be an island that is not an island. There were no sufficiently large puddles in the street for us to stand in, so we made our way to Madison Square Park, where I stood in a sea of green potted plants that fill up the water fountain during the winter months.

20) The projects. We walked a few blocks west to the Chelsea public housing projects.

21) Amusement park/mini golf. We decided the Chelsea Piers could count for this, but then found a dog park across the street that was a better fit. Yoav climbed in and played the role of amused dog.

22) Dancing. We turned on our crappy portable radio, discovered that the only stations we could get clearly were broadcasting classical music, and boogied in the street accordingly.

23) The Heights. Moses knew how to access the High Line and led us up there. A beautiful place on a snowy night!

24) Cactus shop. We went by all the floral shops on 28th St between 6th and 7th Aves. We could see into a couple of these shops, but couldn't spot a cactus. Liz guaranteed us that they sold cacti, though, and we decided she is an honest woman deserving of our trust. Anyway, shortly thereafter we got visual confirmation of several cacti amongst the floral offerings of a local bodega.

25) Beach/waterfront. The Hudson would have provided our closest waterfront, but we decided to head to the East River instead. We figured it was a more appropriate place to see the sunrise. We got there just a few minutes before the official sunrise time, although the sky was still so cloudy that we couldn't see the faintest trace of the sun.

The official tally for the night was 25 goals checked off and 29 miles walked. The weather was perfect for a winter solstice walk: temperature in the 20s and periodic snow. It was a great way to celebrate our city and our season, and I thank everyone who participated for making it a wonderful night!


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