Take A Walk

Over the last century our species figured out, finally, how to overcome the force of gravity and take to the skies, and even to the great mysterious space beyond our atmosphere. With the internal combustion engine we already had motorized transportation that we measured in horsepower. In the centuries before the last we built chariots, carriages, and trains to move us forward at ever-increasing speeds.

Around 3,500 BC two developments changed the human experience forever: In Mesopotamia the first wheels were used, and in the Eurasian steppes the horse was domesticated. Somewhere between 4 and 5 centuries before that our ancestors figured out how to use balance, flotation, and the currents of water and air to paddle, then sail, our bodies on rivers, lakes, and seas at superhuman speed.
Before that we used our feet. 
A normal walking pace is 3 miles per hour. I found that out recently when I re-discovered the joys of walking. And there are distinctive joys in self-propulsion that should not be taken lightly. I see things when I walk that literally fly past me in other modes of transportation.
I am a disciple of the arts, not physical fitness. I search for inspiration and a stronger mind, not a fitter body. But if walking, like yoga or vegetarianism, leads to a healthier body, I’m cool with that.
But that’s not why I walk. 
I walk to watch the river move faster than me.


“When the world slips slow to darkness, when the office fire burns lower,
My heart goes out to Rouen, Rouen all the world away;
When other men remember, I remember our Adventure
And the trains that go from Rouen at the ending of the day.”
May Wedderburn Cannan

They call her the forgotten female poet of World War I. She became a nurse at the age of 18 and eventually reached the rank of quartermaster. She wrote three volumes of poetry between 1917-1923 and then published nothing until the end of her life, when she wrote her memoir, Grey Ghosts and Voices. It was published in 1976, three years after her death.

Her fiancé, Lieutenant Bevil Brian Quiller-Couch, survived wounds that earned him a citation for courage, only to die in one of the worst catastrophes in human history, the influenza pandemic of 1919 that killed between 20 and 40 million people.

We planned to shake the world together, you and I.
Being young, and very wise;
Now in the light of the green shaded lamp
Almost I see your eyes
Light with the old gay laughter; you and I
Dreamed greatly of an Empire in those days,
Setting our feet upon laborious ways,
And all you asked of fame
Was crossed swords in the Army List;
My Dear, against your name

May Wedderburn Cannan


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
 William Wordsworth

CitySketch – Farragut

“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” David Farragut (paraphrased)

David Glasgow Farragut was born in Tennessee and lived in Virginia prior to the Civil War but was a patriotic American who considered secession treason and moved his family to Hastings-on-Hudson before the outbreak of . He become one of the Union’s greatest naval officers.

Some of his exploits, from Wikipedia:

After two days of heavy bombardment, Farragut ran past forts Jackson and St. Philip and the Chalmette batteries to take the city and port of New Orleans on April 29, a decisive event in the war. Congress honored him by creating the rank of rear admiral on July 16, 1862, a rank never before used in the U.S. Navy. Before this time, the American Navy had resisted the rank of admiral, preferring the term “flag officer”, to distinguish the rank from the traditions of the European navies.
On August 5, 1864, Farragut won a great victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay. Mobile, Alabama, was then the Confederacy’s last major open port on the Gulf of Mexico. The bay was heavily mined (tethered naval mines were then known as “torpedoes”).Farragut ordered his fleet to charge the bay. When the monitor USS Tecumseh struck a mine and sank, the others began to pull back.


Farragut could see the ships pulling back from his high perch, where he was lashed to the rigging of his ship. 

“What’s the trouble?”, he shouted through a trumpet to USS Brooklyn

“Torpedoes”, was the shouted reply. 

“Damn the torpedoes.”, said Farragut, “Four bells, Captain Drayton, go ahead. Jouett, full speed.”

He died of a heart attack at the age of 69 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. A sculpture of Farragut was was dedicated in 1881, eleven years after his death, and is located in the northern end of Madison Square Park. It was created by Dublin-born artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens, whose Diana is located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

CitySketch – Post Office

In 440 BC the Greek historian Herodotus wrote about the Persian messenger system that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness of night” stood in their way. More than two millennia later, the main USPS building in NYC, the James A. Farley Post Office, ran an inspired inscription up Eighth Avenue.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

James Aloysius Farley was one of the first Irish American politicians to achieve success on a national level. He was instrumental in building the New Deal coalition of Catholics, labor unions, African-Americans, and farmers. He was chairman of the DNC and Postmaster General during FDR’s first two terms but didn’t believe a president should serve more than two terms and split with the president when he went for his third. Later, he devoted his energy to the passage of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution stating “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.” It was ratified in 1951.

The building covers 8 acres in the middle of Manhattan, which is a large chunk of land on such a densely packed island. It was designated a New York City Landmark in 1966.