Walk it back

As you probably know if you’re reading this, I virtually never see movies. It’s basically a personality trait of mine at this point. And yet, 2 of my 3 most recent posts are now movie reviews. Go figure.

Not too long ago, I was tempted away from my anti-movie baseline to see The World Before Your Feet, a documentary about Matt Green, who’s walking every block of New York City. Other people have done this before, but Green’s doing it a bit more intensely—he’s including destinations like parks and cemeteries. In fact, it turns out the whole project ultimately takes on a Zeno’s paradox aspect; it’s not clear that Green’s gotten any closer to finishing his travels by the movie’s end.

I especially enjoyed this movie because I went on a couple of walks with Green once upon a time, when he used to lead groups on all sorts of adventures. Once we admired window decorations in Bay Ridge then trekked all the way down to Coney Island, including some waterfront adventures; the other time, we walked on the beach along Sheepshead Bay, saw some model planes and semi-abandoned hangars at Floyd Bennett Field, and crossed the Marine Parkway Bridge to the Rockaways. (Green intended to keep going onward to Breezy Point and back; my companion and I begged off, having already walked miles in the double digits.)

Watching the movie was a bittersweet experience. I loved seeing how Green had kept up with his mission all these years, and the movie has lots of great moments of humor and even drama. It acknowledges the quixotic nature of Green’s quest, but doesn’t make (too much) light of it. Parts of the movie touch upon the privileges Green has that facilitate his project (he crashes with friends and doesn’t have to spend much money; as a white man, he has not found himself in the sorts of threating situations that, say, Garnette Cadogan experiences walking while black. And there are times when Green’s interpersonal relationships strain under the pressure of his desire to walk; for example, a former girlfriend discusses how he never wanted to do things she was interested in, like going to the movies, preferring to walk instead. I can relate. As a counterpoint to these more serious issues, though Green doesn’t consider himself a people person, or his walk to be a social activity, there are some great moments of connection between him and the people he encounters on his way. Plus he does some great research as he goes; perhaps this is the project more than the walking itself.

At the same time, sitting in the movie theater with my sore back and knees was so frustrating. I envy Green’s ability to just take off and go wherever he wants; this feeling is a constant low-level ache behind everything I do these days, which the movie only exacerbated. (I appreciate that Green doesn’t take it for granted: he survived a serious crash as a cyclist and his family has had some other health scares; the movie suggests that his project arose in response.) Get out there and walk while you can, friends. I myself am going to leave you to take a spin around the block now.


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