Might I suggest you walk to Book Expo in New York? You heard me: walk. It's quite easy. You simply put one foot in front of the other and take what are called “steps.” I don't mean to sound sarcastic, but the notion of walking for utility, rather than pleasure, is nowadays so unfamiliar, that when it's proposed many just can't hear.
It's the same when the walker arrives: I've been walking to work for a few years now and have sparked some curious conversations. I once walked to my publishers' sales conference, which was being held in Eastbourne, on England's south coast. To get there I walked 20 miles from the ancient city of Lewes along the switchback white cliffs known as the Seven Sisters. It was a walk of unparalleled beauty on a magnificent early summer day, but when I arrived and explained how I'd got there, people refused to acknowledge it. “How was the drive?” they kept on at me, or “Train late?”
I think the reason the working walker arouses so much anxiety is that people think to themselves: if he spent 10 hours getting here, how long does he expect the meeting to go on, three days? Yet the point of walking to an appointment is not to prolong it; it's to discover where it is. Nothing gives you orientation in an unknown location better than walking. There are cities I visited for years, not really understanding how their parts connected; after a single day's walking, it all fell into place.
New York is a case in point. I'd been visiting the city regularly for 15 years, but it wasn't until last November, when I walked from my house in the inner London district of Stockwell, to Manhattan, that I truly felt I knew it at all.
Let me qualify that statement: when I say I walked to New York from my London home, what I mean is that I walked to Heathrow Airport, flew to JFK and then walked from there to my hotel in Manhattan. It took me two days. I arrived at 9 p.m. local time, walked off the airport, stayed in a hotel in Jamaica, Queens, then, wearing a small backpack, walked through East New York and Brooklyn the following day, arriving at my hotel in the East Village at four in the afternoon.
Doing this, I learned that the body's perception of space is far more significant than the psyche's; such was the ache in my calves and the veridical sensation of having covered 33-odd miles in two days that the almost 3,500-mile plane flight was rendered utterly insignificant. It was as if the Atlantic had been sucked into space and the southeast of Britain rammed into Long Island so that they formed one, continuous landmass.
Why not experience this strange origami of the Earth for yourself, by walking to BEA? It'll ensure that you travel light, stay svelte and have something to talk about—besides books—when you get there. If your own airport can be reached with a six-hour stomp, and the flight itself isn't more than two or three, you could even walk there in a long day.
If you're flying into La Guardia, it's hardly what I'd call a walk at all, and if you're coming into Newark, then heaven help you. But assuming you fly into JFK, your obvious route is through Queens, traversing the leafy suburbs of Kew Gardens and Forest Hills. If you're feeling sparky, you could detour to Flushing Meadows, site of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs, before toddling through Jackson Heights. Next, head across the Queensboro Bridge, which will deposit you in Manhattan, just north of 59th Street. From there it's only about 20 blocks south and 11 blocks west (about three miles) to the Javits Convention Center on 11th Avenue between 34th and 39th Streets—a mere stroll! You may arrive a little footsore, but the sense of achievement and sheer originality will more than compensate.
Besides, while your colleagues will have flown in from Chicago or Atlanta or Albuquerque, and have no more idea of where they are than if they'd been driven by kidnappers with a bag on their heads, you will have seen everything, every step of the way.
|Will Self's Psychogeography: Unpicking the Modern Conundrum of Psyche and Place, illustrated by Ralph Steadman, will be published by Bloomsbury in November.|