The World Before Your Feet (2018) Movie Script

[gentle instrumental music]
[car horn honking]
[truck engine running]
[birds squawking]
[gentle instrumental music]
[train engine running]
[siren ringing]
[horn honking]
[birds chirping]
- There are a lot
of parts of New York
where you hear a lot of birds,
which you might not
think would be the case,
and a lot of times
you don't hear them
just cause you're not
listening for them.
- So she said she forgot.
- How you doing?
- Oh hi, what are you doing?
- I'm doing this
big walking project.
I'm walking every block
of the five boroughs.
- Okay.
- Over like a few years.
That's kind of my progress map.
- Okay, you walked a lot.
- I got a lot of
Staten Island left.
- Was you always slim, or
you was bigger than that?
- [laughing] I was
always about the same.
I was always about the same.
- You were the same?
'Cause you never know.
People lose weight
after all that walking.
- I know.
I never lost any weight.
Still just little gut here,
never goes away.
[camera shutter clicking]
[siren ringing]
[camera shutter clicking]
- You got it?
Need a hand?
- Yeah, I got it.
- [Matt] Okay.
- Thank you.
[horn honking]
- Nice garden.
How long has it been open?
- Oh man, we've been
here for 22 years.
- Oh yeah?
I'm Matt.
I see a lot of community
gardens, but this is a nice one.
- We've been here 12 years.
- [Matt] Oh yeah, there you are.
- [Man] Back when I was young.
- [laughing] Still
look young to me.
- Okay, yeah.
[gentle instrumental music]
[singing in a foreign language]
And you know just
what I wanna do
[upbeat instrumental music]
[electronic beeping]
- [Man] But you guys
got the fuck out.
[horn honking]
[siren ringing]
[birds chirping]
- So I don't have an apartment,
which is a big part of how
I can afford to do this walk
by not having to pay rent.
The place where
I'm staying today
is a friend of mine's apartment.
He has two kids, including
a 9 year old daughter
whose room this is,
although it's pretty
much my style too.
I would probably decorate
a place just like this,
so it feels like home.
[gentle instrumental music]
I have probably
stayed at somewhere
around 50 different places.
I've stayed in a very
wide variety of places.
You know, from someone
who has roommates,
like the couch in their
kind of common room,
to my own bedroom in like
really nice apartments.
Sometimes I'll just stay with
someone for a couple days.
Sometimes I'll be at a place
for two weeks or
more, house sitting,
and sometimes I'll just be
at a place for a day or two.
A lot of the places are
just friends of mine.
Some of them, I'll just say,
hey, can I come over
for a couple days?
And there are a
few people I've met
who just found my
blog and emailed me
and invited me to come over.
[cat hissing]
Cat sitting is one way that I
find a lot of places to stay.
I've probably taken care of
maybe two dozen different cats,
so this one here is Mufasa,
and let's see.
I've also watched Remy,
Ed and Huck,
Misha and Nico,
Mishi and Shimi,
Greta, Nanya,
Miss Kitty and Ralph,
Frosty, Dizzy and Miles,
and then a few dogs.
Milo, Sugar, another little guy,
I can't even remember
his name right now.
I think if I were really
kind of organized about it,
I could just cat sit
for the rest of my life
and like never
have an apartment.
I mean, I kind of estimate that
I spend on average probably
about $15 a day on basically,
pretty much transportation and
food are the only real costs.
[razor humming]
Some people, I think, are so
used to a life of spending
that my lifestyle seems
miserable to live or something,
that I'm like depriving
myself of the basics of life.
I mean, every once
in a while I'm like,
oh, I'd like to get a sandwich,
but that'll cost 6 bucks,
and I can go home and eat
rice and beans for 75 cents.
So it's just kind of helped
me find more satisfaction
in the basic stuff
of life that's free
or that's really cheap,
but yeah, pretty
much everything else,
I don't really miss it.
[subway engine running]
- [Woman] This is Bowling Green.
- [Man] Transfer is available
to the Staten Island Ferry.
[boat engine running]
[water flowing]
[wind blowing]
[birds squawking]
[snow crunching]
- Something people have
said a lot in regards
to what I'm doing,
that I could be doing
something much more useful
for the world,
so that's definitely criticism
that I've heard a lot of.
I mean, they just kind of
consider me to be some kid
who graduated from college
and never did anything
with his life.
When I tell them
I'm doing this walk,
they assume there's
some plan to turn this
into some kind of revenue
stream when I'm done,
whether that's writing a
book or becoming a tour guide
or whatever it is you could do
with this kind of knowledge,
and I don't think
there's a whole lot
of commercial use for it.
The people in the world
who captivate me the most
are people who do something
just because they want to do it.
They're not making
any money off of,
maybe that other
people think is stupid.
So I'm of two minds about it.
I have no problem
with people thinking
that I'm just being
a worthless bum,
but I'm also fully
engaged in this thing
that I really care about
and that I think is
important in some kind
of intangible way that
I can't really describe,
well, anyway.
The point of it all,
I mean, I don't entirely
know what the point is.
I'm kind of learning
that as I go along too.
[wind blowing]
[metal squeaking]
[train engine running]
- Matt and I have been friends
since I joined him for his
walk across every bridge
that touches Manhattan.
It was a 35 mile walk.
We started in New Jersey,
walked over the George
Washington Bridge,
and then made our way
down the East River,
finishing at the
Brooklyn Bridge.
So when Matt was
starting to prepare
for his New York walk,
I volunteered to make
a website for him.
The original idea was that he
would post one photo a day,
and then as he got on his walk,
he started posting
more and more photos.
Also, Matt sort of ended
up using the website
a lot differently.
Matt started doing
a ton of research.
He found a thing.
He got curious about it.
He'd stay up all night reading
newspapers from the 1800s,
and write a really
perfect description
of what this bridge was
and why it's interesting
and important.
I haven't looked at
stats in a long time.
I don't think Matt
looks at stats.
It's not like a ton of people
are coming to his website.
I would guess he probably
has a dozen or so people
looking a day, coming
to visit a day.
I suspect it's
pretty low, frankly.
- This is Mount
Olivet Baptist Church.
It's one of New York's
many churgagogues,
former synagogues
in neighborhoods
where most of the Jewish
population moved out,
and they've since
become churches.
In areas that used to
have big Jewish
populations that don't,
there's not but
so much you can do
with a big old kind
of sanctuary building,
so often times they
become churches.
Sometimes you can kind of get
a sense from the architecture
that it used to be a
synagogue or something,
but sometimes there's
more explicit symbols,
like here you can
see below the windows
there are little Stars of David.
So they kind of run the gamut.
Some of them are very
obviously former synagogues,
and others, just after
you've seen enough of them,
you kind of can recognize
the architecture.
Parts of Harlem had
big Jewish communities.
Harlem, South Bronx, East
New York, and Brownsville,
those are places that used
to have a lot of Jews,
so a lot of synagogues that
aren't synagogues anymore.
You can see the Ten
Commandment tablets in Hebrew
up above the name
of the church there.
[camera shutter clicking]
- [Man] Mikey.
- [Matt] I'm doing a big
project where I'm walking
every block in the whole
city, in the five boroughs.
- That sucks.
- Yo, can I shake
your hand, please?
- [Matt] It sucks?
- I need to shake your hand.
- [Matt] You want
to shake my hand?
- Oh, I want to shake
your hand please.
- Are you really
walking all of them?
- Hey, can you shake
my hand please?
- [Matt] I am.
- Can I do that with you?
I have a bike.
[upbeat instrumental music]
- Alright.
Oh, I'm doing this
big walking project.
I'm trying to walk every
block in all five boroughs.
- That's cool.
- Thanks man.
- Cool.
- Yeah.
- When do you assume
it's gonna be finished?
- At least another year,
but I also take a lot of photos
and kind of research stuff.
- So how long have
you been doing this?
- Over three years now.
- Three years?
- I thought it was
gonna take maybe two
to two and a half years,
but that was almost
five years ago now.
- So how much did you do so far?
- [Matt] Like 6,800 miles.
- What?
- Dang.
- I've got like 1,500 left.
- Are you serious?
- Yeah.
- Must be in good shape too.
- Right?
- Hell yeah.
- I hope I'd be in better
shape than I am but.
I used to be an engineer.
- Yeah.
- And I had a kind of desk job,
and I quit that job in 2009.
- So how do you
support yourself?
- I don't have an apartment.
- Good.
- I stay with people
and watch people's cats,
stuff like that.
- So you just walking
along, huh? [laughing]
- Yeah, walking
along, taking photos,
just seeing what I see, yeah.
- Sorry, I'm so sorry.
- Yeah, yeah.
- You just wander through
New York City streets?
[upbeat instrumental music]
- Morning.
- You guys shooting a movie?
- Yeah, yeah, I'm
doing this big project,
walking every block
of the five boroughs.
- Oh, you walking every
block in the five boroughs?
- Every block of the
five boroughs, yeah.
- Hey yo, come over here though.
- Aren't you tired?
- I'm a little tired.
Everything's tough
though, right?
- Yeah, you know, that's
what life is about.
- That's true.
It's about suffering.
- Yeah. [laughing]
- It's the only thing keeping
us going, the suffering.
So this is my progress map.
All the red stuff is
things I've walked.
- I wanna see.
I wanna see.
- Okay.
- So you can see that part
Brooklyn is basically done.
- Done, wow.
- I've been all over New York,
but there's not even,
there's no way you could
even cover a portion
[mumbling] 'cause I'm always
in the same neighborhoods.
- It's funny too.
Even the neighborhoods
you're in,
there's like streets a block
over you've never been on
'cause you just never have
any reason to go there.
You're always going
this way or that way.
- When I'm on those
streets, I'm like,
oh, I'm on this street
for the first time.
- Yeah, isn't that
a cool feeling?
You fix the trains?
- Nah, the buses.
- Oh, the buses, nice.
What garage you work out of?
- QV, Queens Village.
- Oh yeah, I walked by there.
I already walked by that one.
I remember that.
You live around here?
- Yeah, I live right here.
- Nice, you live
here a long time?
- Yeah, I'm watching the
football games right now.
- Who's on?
- Carolina.
- What's the score?
- 14, seven.
- Alright.
Is this tucked back?
- Yes.
- So it would be really
long if you pulled it.
I mean this part,
would this be longer
if you pulled it down?
- It's all here, yeah?
- Oh, it's pulled back.
This is beard hair?
- Yeah, in the ponytail.
- Only in New York,
man. [laughing]
- Alright man, good
to talk to you.
Thanks for all the info.
Well, it's good to talk to you.
- Nice to meet you.
- Yeah.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Good to meet you, man.
- Papo.
- Papo, Freddy.
- I'm Naomi.
- Naomi, Matt.
Nice to meet you too.
Hey, I'm Matt.
Good to meet you all.
- I'm Shaquana.
- Matt, Matt.
Good, Matt.
Matt, Matt, Matt.
- Matt?
- Yeah, what's your name?
- Matt.
- Matt, really?
- Okay, Matt.
- Alright, good to meet you.
- One day come in, come in.
One day come, I like you.
- Am I about to
embarrass myself?
- And there's no brakes,
I'm just letting you know.
- Alright, so use your foot?
- Yeah, just wiggle
back and forth.
- Like this?
- The hips, it's in the hips.
- [Matt] Aw, yeah, okay.
- [Man] Wiggle, yeah.
[upbeat instrumental music]
It's wrong how every day
another nigga getting shot
In the hood by another
minority or a cop
It's wrong so many
dudes that ain't seen 25
All because
their friend died
And they felt
they had to ride
It's wrong cause you living
Don't mean you
living your life
'Cause it could
be taken from you
If you ain't living it right
- That's it, man.
That's it.
That's it.
- [Matt] What's your name, man?
What's your name?
- My name's Cyrus.
- Cyrus.
- Cyrus, the one and only.
- [Matt] I take pictures
of interesting things,
so I saw the car with
the Pen license plate,
that one over there,
that one over there.
- Oh, okay, 'cause you
are taking pictures
of my license plate,
so, you know, what is this for?
- Just a personal project.
It's just a personal
project that I'm doing,
walking every block
in the whole city.
- [Officer] Walking every block?
- Uh huh.
- [Woman] And you
don't work for anybody?
- [Matt] I don't
work for anybody.
I'm walking every
block in New York City.
- [Woman] Oh, okay.
- Hey, turn that off.
Don't take pictures of me.
What you doing?
You can't take pictures
of the property.
- Yeah, you can take
pictures of property.
Yeah, as long as you're
standing in a public,
like in a public sidewalk.
- Says who?
- That's the law.
- No, you can't just take
pictures of people's property.
- Yeah, you can, yeah.
- No, you can't.
- Yeah.
- You don't just come to
people's neighborhood and--
- You can't walk onto
people's property.
- But still, that's not cool.
What you taking pictures for?
- I'm taking a picture of
this sign, Canal Avenue.
You know why it's called that?
- You tell me.
- Because there used to be,
well, you know there's
Coney Island Creek up there.
- Yeah, yeah, yeah.
- They made it into a canal--
- So you doing a
journalism or something?
- Yeah, kind of.
I'm doing this walk.
I'm walking every block--
- Good, man.
Good, man.
What's your name?
- Matt.
- Okay, now you
can take pictures.
- Alright, alright, man.
- [Child] So it's
like a mission?
- Yeah, it's a mission,
a personal quest.
- Mission impossible.
- Mission possible,
just difficult.
- That's cool.
[upbeat instrumental music]
[wind blowing]
- Just here this morning,
kind of a usual morning for me,
reading my copy of 29 Post,
the official newspaper of
P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill,
the John M. Harrigan School.
"Meet Matt Green,
The Walking Man.
"Matt Green is walking every
street in New York City.
"If you add it up
block by block,
"it would be 8,500
miles in total.
"Before he started walking
every street in New York City,
"he used to work as
a civil engineer,
"and did not like being
at a desk all the time.
"Green quit his job and
came up with an idea
"to walk across the
United States of America,
"which is approximately
3,100 miles.
"After walking the U.S., Green
wanted to walk even more."
Okay, I think we're ready maybe.
Ah, okay, here we go.
So I actually, the first
big walk that I did,
before I started this
walk in New York,
I did a walk across
the United States.
- [Kids] Wow.
- Have you guys been to
Rockaway Beach, in Queens?
- [Kids] Yes.
- I started there,
and I found out there's
a town in Oregon
called Rockaway Beach,
so I walked from one side
of the country to the other,
from Rockaway Beach
to Rockaway Beach.
So I did that back in 2010,
and it took about
five months to do.
- Imagine what it would be
like to walk across America.
Well, that's what one
New York man is doing.
29 year old Matt Green left
Rockaway Beach, New York,
on March 27th.
- [Man] He has a cart
full of essentials,
and he sets up camp along
the roads that he travels.
He says he has no cause,
just got tired of cubicle
life as a civil engineer
and wanted to live simply.
- Instead of using a backpack
to carry all my stuff
'cause it was so much weight,
I pushed everything
in this baby stroller.
This is kind of what I looked
like when I was walking,
except actually usually looked
a little crazier than that
because I had this big hat
to keep the sun off my face,
and when the wind would blow,
it would just lift
up off my head,
just like a weird
mushroom head person.
My name's Matt Green.
I walked from Rockaway
Beach, New York,
to Rockaway Beach, Oregon,
and that was a trip
of about 3,100 miles.
- So how did you
choose your route,
and talk a little bit about
the logistics and rules--
- Sure, okay, sure.
I chose my route just using
Google walking directions,
just kind of asking for
basically the shortest distance
between New York and Chicago,
where my brother
lived, to visit him,
and then Rockaway Beach, Oregon.
So just Googled directions,
with the idea of taking away
the decision making
aspect from me,
but it turned out to
be an important part
of my walk because
it basically changed
the way I was
traveling from the way
I had always
traveled before that,
which was to try to come up
with a list of cool things
to see and go from
one to the other,
and so, by just taking
these directions blindly,
whatever was around
me at any moment
was all that I had to
enjoy in the world.
- [Man] Green says
so far his walk
has gone better than expected.
- Just so many great
people I've met,
and I mean nothing bad
has happened to me.
I've just had so many people
take me into their houses
and feed me and
let me stay there
or take a shower or do laundry.
Just all kinds of generosity
pouring out of people.
- Why do you like to walk?
- [laughing] That's a
hard question to answer.
I don't know.
I mean, it's a cool way to
kind of really be in a place
but also be moving,
and you're moving at
a slow enough speed
that you can still kind of
take in what's around you,
so I feel like it's
just the perfect way
to explore the world.
Most of what I saw was just
kind of stuff like this,
just kind of simple things
in the middle of the country,
and I was really able
to appreciate them
'cause I was just kind
of moving very slowly.
You know, when you're
going in a car,
this just looks like one field,
and it's just flat and boring,
and when you're walking
you see individual plants,
and you can hear birds chirping,
and you can kind of look at
things in a lot more detail.
So again, especially in
the middle of the country,
this was just kind of a
lot of what I was seeing.
This is just a swamp somewhere,
but when you stop
and look at it,
and just take the
time to look at it,
it becomes really pretty.
- [Kids] Whoa.
- Same thing here.
This is just kind of
out in eastern Montana,
just kind of a little
deserty kind of area,
but it's really pretty
in its own way too.
- [Kids] Whoa.
- And this is maybe
the best example
because you can probably
kind of try to imagine
what it would be like to
just stand in the middle
of this field with bright
yellow flowers around
as far as you can see.
So it's the kind of thing that,
as beautiful and
as powerful it is
to stand there and look at it,
it's also kind of
invisible in a lot of ways
to people who aren't walking
because you wouldn't take
the time to go out here
just to see it,
but the thing about walking
is you can stop
anywhere you are.
You can just stop
and look around,
and you can take in
what's around you.
Every step was just kind of
something new to look at,
and all the way
across the country
it was just one more step and
one more thing to look at,
and it really opened up
my eyes to all the things
around me that I wouldn't
normally pay attention to.
[gentle instrumental music]
So this is Staten Island.
It's kind of northwest
corner of Staten Island.
That's the toll plaza
for the Goethals Bridge.
That's the Staten
Island Expressway,
and all of this area
used to be tank farms,
natural gas, and oil,
and now it's just this
huge tract of vacant land,
just kind of otherworldly.
[birds chirping]
There was this famous
disaster that happened back
in here at one of the
liquified natural gas tanks.
Something like it was
supposed to be empty,
and there were workers in
there cleaning the tank,
and there was some
kind of explosion,
and this giant roof just
collapsed and killed,
I think, essentially
all of them.
I think that's where the
NASCAR stadium was gonna be.
There was a proposal for
that five, 10 years ago
that didn't work out.
[camera shutter clicking]
Oh, we got a little
tree house up here.
Whoa, this is pretty cool.
This is like the penthouse view.
[plane engine running]
Oh, so there's
something going on here.
Looks like there's some
kind of work going on.
Maybe this is the early stages
of some development plan.
[car engine running]
- [Man] What you
got going on here?
- I'm walking every block
in the five boroughs,
every block of every street,
plus like parks and
beaches and stuff.
- [Man] You got a job or--
- No, that's all I do.
- [Man] Are you
like independently
wealthy or something?
- No, I'm
independently homeless.
I stay with people, watch
their cats and stuff.
I do this walk, take
photos, write about it.
- [Man] How many hours
in a day do you do?
- Depends.
- [Man] Are you a writer?
You going to write
book on all this stuff?
- I don't know.
I don't know.
There's no particular goal other
than just to see the whole city,
and then we'll see what happens.
- [Man] You get mugged and shit?
- No, never.
- [Man] Ever get beat up?
- Never got beat up,
never got mugged.
Unless you're about to mug me,
that would be the first time.
We're actually
going back that way
and then coming back through
here a little bit later.
I just wanted to get a picture
while there's still some
good light of this puddle.
It's a cool reflection.
- That puddle's like that--
- All year?
- All year. [laughing]
- That's cool.
- [Man] You gotta mark that,
The Puddle That Never Goes Away.
- Ah, looks good.
[camera shutter clicking]
[gentle instrumental music]
This is just somebody's bike.
Tires are full.
I think this is a ridable bike.
Don't ever show anyone this
footage of me not walking.
[metal squeaking]
See you, losers.
I mean, it works perfectly.
I gotta go drop it off
where I picked it up.
[birds squawking]
somewhere out near
the edge of Queens
on Linden Boulevard,
there was a really good one.
Ah, here we go.
[upbeat instrumental music]
Penny's Handz of Godz.
Yeah, we were just kind of
walking under the awning here,
and the barbershop
caught my eye,
and just realized I
needed to step back
and check the awning,
and in fact it did
have a Z in the title,
so I will take a photo of it.
[camera shutter clicking]
If anything kind of
started me on this,
it was back in, I think, 2009.
I was in Coney Island,
and I passed by a barbershop,
and it was called
Faderz, Kutz Wit Skillz,
and it had three Zs in it,
and that was kind of the
one that got me thinking
of all the Zs that
barbershops use.
Oh, ho, ho.
Got a good barbershop up here.
How you doing man?
Designz and Lignz,
a new barbershop.
I like the Lignz, L, I, G, N, Z.
Oh, we've got not
only a Z barbershop,
but one that is ripping off
the Brooklyn Nets' logo.
Pretty good, Brooklyn Cutz.
I was hoping to hit 200
by the end of the walk.
I think that's a
little ambitious,
but I think I'll
definitely be over 150.
C, U, T, Z is one of
the most common ways
to throw a Z in,
or its sibling, K, U, T, Z.
You know, people have
theories about everything.
People can tell you
why this is this way,
why this is this way.
Of course you can look at this
and say it has something
to do with hip hop culture
and how it's rooted
and how it's spreading,
and you can look at the
different ethnic neighborhoods
where the Zs are and kind of
come up with some theories,
and it could all make sense,
but what does that say?
Does it say anything?
Probably not.
So I think if it says anything,
it's not anything
about barbershops.
It's just about the value of
paying attention to something.
I like the sign.
It's a new sign.
- I'm Betty, and P is for Pedro.
- [Matt] Oh, B.P. over
there, Betty and Pedro.
- [Betty] Yes.
- I'm walking every block
in all of New York City,
all five boroughs.
I walk all over the city,
and I take pictures
of a bunch of stuff,
but I take a lot of pictures
of barbershop signs,
especially ones with the Zs.
I like the ones with
the Z on the name.
- Alright. [laughing]
- I seen a million barber shops.
This is the only
one with that name.
- There's only one A List Cutz.
- Yep, yep, and it's good.
You'll be up there in the
phone book starting with A.
- Exactly, so the next one
will be A List Cutz Two.
- Oh, you gonna franchise it?
Yeah, of course.
- And Z is, instead of
like Cuts, it's Cuts.
- It's got attitude, right?
- Yes. [laughing]
- Some people throw
a K in there too.
- With the Kutz, yeah.
- I like the purity of the C.
- Yeah, me too.
- You just change
the end, you know?
It's like normal and then
at the end, [mumbling].
Oh yeah, right over
there, right over there.
Oh, get that, okay.
[camera shutter clicking]
- [Betty] What's
your name again?
- [Matt] Matt.
- [Betty] Matt, I'm Betty.
- I walk because there's nothing
that gives you the
texture of a place,
the texture of its people,
and even your own texture
of yourself, like walking,
that walking puts me in
touch with my own humanity
and other people's humanity in
a way that nothing else does.
[gentle instrumental music]
As I began walking
around New York City,
I've been here almost a decade.
I moved from Jamaica,
and the first thing
I did was decided
to get to know the city
by walking and
exploring it on foot,
and so various friends
and acquaintances
and colleagues said, "Oh,
do you know Matt Green?
"You have to know Matt Green.
"You have to go walking
with Matt Green."
- I just Googled walk
every block in Manhattan,
and up came his website,
so I reached out to
him to just basically
get some logistics of how
he's mapping his route,
and then I had some
random questions
about where does he find
water and bathrooms.
- So yeah, so it's
not necessarily
by neighborhood or anything.
I try to walk wherever I
can that's kind of close
to where I'm staying,
but like today I was able to
just walk out of the door,
the apartment I was in
in downtown Brooklyn,
and just walk here and
mostly cover new ground.
- I'm Bill Helmreich.
I'm a professor of
sociology at City College,
and with the exception
of Matt Green,
I believe I am the only one
to have systematically
walked New York City.
I started that walk in 2008.
I completed it four
years later in 2012.
Walked it in rain,
sun, evenings,
mornings, afternoons, weekends.
Matt has identified the city
as being about 8,000 miles,
whereas I say 6,000,
but that's because Matt
is walking all the parks
and all the paths
and all the piers,
and I have generally
restricted myself
to the inhabited
streets of the city.
[rain falling]
- [Matt] Yeah, it's
kind of overwhelming
as I'm going through it.
- Are you from here?
- No, I'm from Virginia.
- Okay.
- My dad grew up here,
and I have cousins here,
so we're kind of
rooted in New York,
but I didn't spend much
time here growing up.
- Matt's approach to
doing this is not focused
on organizing what he sees.
It's focused on
describing what he sees.
His approach appears to
me to be more random,
to expose people and let
them see what the heart,
soul, and pulse of this city is,
and this is a case
where the parts
are actually greater
than the whole.
- The great thing
about New York City
is that every street feels
like a fossil record,
that you just peel
and peel and peel,
and there are stories
buried beneath stories.
No street becomes
the simple picture
of what you see
before your eyes,
that suddenly it's
rich with history,
and it's rich with adventure,
and it's a whole panoply
of stories waiting
for you to uncover them.
[camera shutter clicking]
- People grow up in
neighborhoods in New York.
They'll say, "Oh, I grew
up on the West Side.
"I know the West Side."
It often is not true
that you even know
the neighborhood you grew up in.
The block you walked on
because the subway was there
becomes more important
than the block
that nothing is there on.
The block where you
bought your candy
or where you did your
shopping becomes important,
but the block where you didn't
shop becomes irrelevant,
so that when people say
they know a neighborhood,
they really don't.
- A lot of this area, I
walked really early on,
and I found that,
I feel like I was almost
blind when I started.
Like I'll go back places
now, and I'll see things.
It's funny how long it
takes you to see stuff,
to get in the right
frame of mind, you know,
like all, yeah, these little--
- [Daniel] So great.
- [Matt] A little family.
- One of the wonderful things
about walking with Matt
also is that we get
to compare notes,
so for instance, I have a
whole costume, as I call it.
I go through a whole pantomime
to avoid the appearance
of criminality.
Time and again,
because of my race,
because I am black,
people are fearful of me,
and that in itself induces
a certain fear in me.
I try to dress in a certain way
that makes me appear
safe and non-threatening.
I'll have reading glasses
on the bridge of my nose
and a book.
I try to move in ways that
appear non-threatening,
no quick or sudden movements.
I avoid hoodies or dark clothes,
and so in walking with Matt,
it was refreshing just to
hear him telling me just ways
in which he doesn't
have to think
about some of the things
that I have to think about.
[birds chirping]
[wind blowing]
[plane engine running]
[bird squawking]
- We're about to go through
this really weird
kind of vacant part
where there used to
be beach houses there,
little bungalows,
and the city tore them down
as kind of like an
urban renewal effort,
and then never built
anything there.
So it's this kind
of part of Edgemere,
the southern part of Edgemere,
basically these streets that
kind of go toward the beach,
and then it's just all abandoned
until you get to the boardwalk.
This is pretty rare to just have
a totally wiped out
grid of streets.
I don't think there's anywhere
else like this in the city.
[siren ringing]
- My name is Nicky Rodriguez.
I met Matt probably
going on four years now.
I read about him in
The New York Times,
and at the time, I was
working in a kitchen basement.
I was really unhappy,
and then I read about
this guy who's out
seeing the world, exploring.
It was an interesting contrast
to what I was
experiencing at the time.
I was like, I gotta
meet this guy.
So we probably dated
for about two years.
I don't know.
I think I probably
fell in love with him
from the first day, and he
would probably debate that,
but I know how I feel.
[birds chirping]
- Matt and I met when
we were in college.
We were together for
three or four years
before we got engaged.
He and I moved in
together in New York City.
We got engaged and broke up six,
seven weeks before our wedding,
so never ended up
getting married.
We had already mailed out
our wedding invitations
and had started receiving RSVPs
and were sorting the
yes's and the no's
and figuring out how many
people would be there.
I used to say to him when
he and I were together,
oh, we're gonna turn 35.
We're gonna have kids.
It'll be fine,
and the closer and closer
we got to getting married,
it became clear that we
wanted very different things.
I wanted to get
married, have kids,
do the whole
settling down thing,
and I think Matt wanted
to go wander the country
or the city.
- I sometimes questioned
whether it was healthy,
all that isolation that
he would do with his walk.
[camera shutter clicking]
There were a lot of
times where I felt
like I was vying for attention.
Yeah, we fought a
lot about things
that I didn't even
realize were a big deal,
like going to the movies,
and he doesn't really
care for that stuff, and,
so his project,
although it was the thing
that drew me to him,
was also the thing
that separated us.
[train engine running]
I kind of badgered
him a little bit
at wanting to know when
the project would end.
He would give me two years out.
Then he would give
me three years out,
then four years out,
so I kind of decided
to just accept
that there is no known time
when this project is gonna end.
- He doesn't go to what's next,
and when you ask him
about what's next,
he gets vague and uninterested.
He's mostly interested in
what's happening today,
what he saw today, and what
he's planning for tomorrow.
- So yeah, I guess
it seems trivial.
Oh, you complain about
going to the movies,
but that kind of was
a big deal for us.
He didn't really get
enjoyment from those types
of things that I did,
like going to a nice
restaurant and--
[train engine running]
[wind blowing]
[plane engine running]
- It's our first big
snow of the season.
There were lots of blizzard
warnings and stuff today.
It's not too, too bad yet,
but it's supposed to
keep snowing all day
and through the night.
[camera shutter clicking]
The city is kind of a
whole different place
when it's covered in snow,
like the same kind of
skeleton of the city,
but the experience of being out
in it's completely different.
We'll see how far we go today.
I'm hoping to get in maybe,
like eight miles or
something would be good.
We'll see.
I just got a message
on my phone saying
that all non-emergency
vehicles have
to be off the streets of
New York City by 2:30 P.M,
so a little later in the day,
we'll have the streets
all to ourselves.
Oh, there's a football game
going on in the street.
[yelling and laughing]
Who's winning?
- It's four to three.
- [Matt] Four,
three, close game.
- [Man] What's your name?
- Matt Green.
- Matt, nice to meet you.
- Yeah, nice to meet you too.
- [Man] Go go, get in.
- [Man] Hold on.
Yo, this guy's in.
- [Man] Hut.
- [Man] He got it.
Let's go.
- [Man] Get him.
Get him.
Get him.
- [Man] Touchdown.
[wind blowing]
- We are in Brighton Beach now,
in this little kind
of sub-neighborhood
with these little pedestrian
alleys crisscrossing it.
It used to be a kind
of bungalow colony.
A lot of the bungalows
are gone now,
and then sometime,
I think in the late
'90s, early 2000s,
there was a big kind
of wave of development
where a lot of the
bungalows were knocked down
and replaced with these big
multi-unit developments,
but it was all just done
kind of thoughtlessly,
and then the economy crashed,
and now you just have all these
half built vacant buildings
just kind of looming
over the landscape.
Some of them have
just been half built
for like five years or more.
- I threw my kid away.
That's my daughter.
She's 6 years old.
She wanted to be buried
like in the beach.
- [Matt] Yeah, it's
like the winter version
of going to the beach.
- [Man] I had too many kids.
I had to throw one away.
[camera shutter clicking]
[car horn honking]
[car engine running]
[birds and insects chirping]
- So this is Ashland,
Virginia, my hometown.
This is the house
that I grew up in.
My parents still live here.
So Ashland is a little
town of, I think,
maybe 7,000 people now,
something like that.
It's kind of got
a small town feel
and a little downtown area.
The railroad tracks
run right through,
so there's a old
fashioned kind of feel.
[tool running]
I never thought that
I would ever want
to live in a big city,
New York least of all of them,
so yeah, I mean, I kind of
thought I was just a small town,
I thought that was kind
of the place for me.
So this is the backyard.
This is the old, we'll
call it a tree house
though there's no tree involved.
I was, quote, unquote,
helping my dad build this
when I was in third
grade or something,
which is where this
scar came from,
by smashing my
hand with a hammer.
- [Man] Wow, what do
you call this, Matthew?
I like this thing
your dad built.
What do you call it?
Is it a tree house
or what is it?
- It's a playhouse.
- [Man] Playhouse, did you
help him build it a little bit?
- Yeah.
- [Man] Great.
- I don't know.
I feel really lucky
in general, you know,
my parents and where I
was raised and everything.
We were really fortunate
to always have
everything we needed,
but we also, I had a
sense instilled in me
and my parents that stuff's
not what makes you
happy either though,
so it was like, if you
can just walk around
in the woods and be happy,
then you're kind of
set for life, you know?
[insects chirping]
- When people ask
us what he's doing,
I normally tell them that
he's very well educated,
that he was a licensed engineer,
but he didn't like it.
I guess maybe in the very
beginning it was a little odd
because their kids were all
going off and finding jobs,
but to me he really is
accomplishing something.
- It might not have
not been our choice
for what our son
would have done,
but he is happy doing
what he's doing.
It's his decision and his life.
I would like for him
to make money doing it,
so he'd have a way to live.
I mean, admittedly, he doesn't
make any money at his walk,
but he is able to
live on very little.
He doesn't ask us for anything.
He saved up his money
when he was working,
and he manages to
get by very well,
but we've had a
couple of instances,
one with him, one
with his brother,
where there was some life
threatening situations.
So Matthew was riding
his bike in Brooklyn.
There was an older driver,
and the driver apparently
became distracted,
and he hit Matthew.
He hit his head on the curb,
and he was knocked out.
Of course, if he didn't
have that helmet,
he wouldn't be here,
and then his brother Jonathan,
who is five years
younger than Matthew,
two and a half years ago had
a fairly major brain bleed.
He had something that
he was born with.
He had no symptoms
whatsoever until it blew.
- In the fall of
2012, I had a stroke,
and I was in the
hospital and rehab.
That was after Matt had
already started his walk,
but he came out to Chicago
and lived there
for several months.
I think that people
have experiences
that sort of reminds
them of the value of life
and of living,
so yeah, when he had his
bike accident in New York,
I don't know if
that was the thing
that set him off on this trip,
but I think his bike
accident and my stroke
remind us all that
we're not promised
any time on this earth.
- I would say that
maybe isn't the reason
that he goes out walking,
but I think at this
point in time he realizes
that stuff can happen.
I mean, it almost
happened to him.
It almost happened
to his brother.
I think it really
opens you up to life
and to the fact that
either you live it,
or you put it off
for the future,
and you don't know that the
future is gonna be there.
[gentle instrumental music]
[horn honking]
- Hey, look at that.
Fig tree.
You can see the
figs hanging off it.
Oh look, it's a whole little
patch of garden here even.
Oh, look at that,
a little broccoli or
broccoli rabe or something.
Oh yeah, some tomatoes
over here too.
[camera shutter clicking]
This is an edible plant
called lamb's quarter,
or some people call
it wild spinach.
Pretty tasty too,
I'm only not eating that
'cause it's at prime
like dog piss level.
Ah, here's a good example
of a squash trellis.
I mean, there's no dirt.
There's no soil here.
It's just a paved area,
but with a little ingenuity,
you put down a few
containers of soil.
You put up this trellis.
Let the vines climb up,
and all of a sudden you have
this giant canopy of green,
and you can see all the
squashes just dangling from it.
You could see moving
into this house saying,
"Ah, I just got this driveway.
"It's all paved, nothing
I can do about it,"
but a little ingenuity
and you could have this.
I'm a professional now.
[camera shutter clicking]
It's pretty surprising to me
how much I've
learned about plants,
about flowers and
trees, on this walk,
given that I'm in New York,
which is not a place you
associate with greenery
or any kind of
natural life really,
kind of concrete
and hard surfaces.
[camera shutter clicking]
Ah, there's some butterfly weed,
that cool orange flower.
I saw that in Marine
Park a couple years ago.
This giant tree right
here on Houston Street
is actually a redwood tree.
It's a type of redwood
called a dawn redwood
that was thought to be extinct,
and in the 1940s,
some were discovered
in central China,
and the seeds were
taken and spread out
around the world,
and now it's actually
a popular street tree
in New York City.
The first one I saw was
this giant one in Brooklyn,
and I figured out what
kind of tree it was
and was shocked to realize
that there are these redwoods
growing all around New York.
[camera shutter clicking]
That is a good looking tree.
There's a grape vine
down there, delicious.
There's a little mint here.
Can you smell it
through the camera?
[camera shutter clicking]
One of my favorite
examples is figs
because I didn't really,
I mean, I guess I
had a vague sense
of what a fig looks
like when you eat it,
but I had no idea
what they look like
growing on trees or anything,
and I started noticing.
A few months into my walk,
I started noticing these trees
with these little kind of
nodules growing off of them.
Actually, there's a fig
tree in a garbage bucket
right over there
as I'm saying this.
So this is a relatively
small fig tree.
The fig, we think
of it as a fruit,
but it's actually an
inside out inflorescence,
which means that it
has hundreds of flowers
growing inside of it.
You want a half a fig?
Here, I'll eat it if you eat it.
- Ew, I don't know what this is.
- It's good.
It's good.
It's a fruit.
Try it.
- Ew, what's it good for?
- It's a fruit,
like it's sweet.
People eat it for desserts.
- Ew.
- It's good.
Try it.
I just ate it.
I like that.
You're adventurous.
- Oh, it does taste good.
- It's not bad, right?
- Yeah, it does taste good.
I like it.
[horn honking]
[car engine running]
- Here we have the mighty
cornfields of Queens.
Geographically, I
knew what to expect
with the walk in terms
of the amount of time
it would take to
walk that distance,
but I didn't expect
that I would be spending
this much time
digging into things
that I saw after the fact.
That's ended up
taking up more time
than the walking itself,
which was a big surprise to me.
[upbeat instrumental music]
[birds squawking]
All these pock
marks in the facade
of the building are
almost 100 years old.
They're from this bombing
that happened here in 1920.
These Italian anarchists
set off a bomb.
It was the deadliest terror
attack in U.S. history
at that point.
I think close to 40 people died.
The bank intentionally
left all the marks here
as a reminder of that.
[bell ringing]
This is Trinity Churchyard,
so it's a little bit
of a incongruous scene,
seeing all these
graves in the middle
of all these skyscrapers.
There's Alexander Hamilton.
Lower Manhattan looks different
than the rest of the city.
It's where the original
settlement of New Amsterdam was,
and as a result of that,
streets are curving around.
Streets are narrower,
just this swirl of history
and so many layers of history,
and it makes it impossible to
take in even a small percent.
Well, just half
a block up there,
on Wall Street between
Pearl and Water,
that's apparently where
New York's municipal
slave market was
from 1711 to 1762,
and if it weren't
for this sign here,
I don't think I would
have any clue about it.
This is a particularly
poignant reminder
of a hidden story in New York,
but these hidden stories
are all over the city,
and I'm missing things
every single day.
I was just reading
recently about how garbage
has become such big
problem in Lower Manhattan.
Before 9/11, it was just
a business district.
Not that many people
lived down here.
Apparently now the
population's shot up,
the sidewalks are
narrow down here,
and so there's all these
problems with walls of trash.
I was surprised to learn there
was a big Vietnam memorial,
and I had never heard of it.
"We are all afraid to die,
"and all we do is count
the days till we go home.
"I want to hold my
head between my hands
"and run screaming
away from here."
[camera shutter clicking]
You know, I'll come back
from this walk today,
and I'll have a lot
more photos to add
into the pile of
thousands of photos
that I still have to go through.
Right now, I'm a year and
a half behind on my blog.
When I go out and walk,
I'm done with those blocks
when I'm done walking them,
and the photos,
they lag behind me,
and they're just creating
this giant weight
that I'm pulling
behind me all the time,
but I've never thought
about quitting,
about cutting back on anything,
about spending less
time doing research.
It's an integral part
of my personality
that I'll never quit
something once I've started,
which is not necessarily
always the greatest trait
in the real world,
to be so obsessed with details
and to lose sight of the
larger point of something
because you want to
finish it the exact way
that you want to finish it.
[metal clattering]
I was driving by on the BQE,
that elevated roadway up there,
and I saw really quick what
looked like a 9/11 mural,
a new 9/11 mural,
painted up on a building,
and I'm not trying
to constantly keep up
with every single new 9/11
memorial that sprouts up,
but since I saw it
I figured I should,
when I'm in the neighborhood,
get out and walk by it
and check it out.
[camera shutter clicking]
Standing down here
by the firehouse,
I can just look down the street,
and you get a clear view
of the new One World
Trade Center building.
People standing on
this spot on 9/11
would have seen the Twin
Towers crumbling down.
I think this is a 9/11 memorial.
"We will never forget,"
fireman kneeling.
Oh, that's the ruins of
the old World Trade Center.
[camera shutter clicking]
[gentle instrumental music]
When I first started this walk,
I had seen a number of
9/11 memorials beforehand,
and I had this idea that I
would just keep my eye out
for them as I walked.
I assumed they would all be
like the ones I had noticed,
which were classical
granite monument
with names on it maybe,
but I've been blown away
by the diversity of them.
I've seen so many
murals like this one.
I've seen homemade things
in people's front yards,
photos of victims with
flowers around them.
There's one that struck
me the hardest, I think.
It was an old fire call
box mounted on the wall
of a firehouse,
and inside, a silhouette
of the Twin Towers
and just a flame
burning inside it.
9/11 memorial.
How you doing?
[camera shutter clicking]
That's a new thing.
I've never seen the Statue
of Liberty crying before.
Also, Captain America pops in.
By the time I'm done walking,
I think I'll probably have
at least 300 memorials
that I've photographed,
which is, you know, a
stunning number to think of.
[gentle instrumental music]
[car engines running]
- [Man] Rolling.
- A wedding.
[horn honking]
[wind blowing]
[birds chirping]
So I've walked through
dozens of cemeteries already,
and to me they're kind of,
I walk them for the same
reason that I walk a park,
which is that it's just a
big outdoor public area.
To me that's just as important
as walking as a street,
and on top of that, so
many cemeteries in New York
are just gorgeous.
Some of the
landscaping is amazing.
The terrain's amazing.
There's just a lot of beautiful
statuary in cemeteries,
a lot of beautiful graves.
It's a great kind of look
at other people's lives,
little windows
onto who they were.
You see sometimes really,
really touching epitaphs,
just really unusual
way to kind of look
into a lot of people's
lives, just a little bit.
[gentle instrumental music]
This little area here is
called the Soldiers' Lot,
and it's full of
Civil War veterans,
most of whom were
killed during the war,
and up at the top
here is this statue
that says Our Drummer Boy.
Clarence D. MacKenzie,
he was the first soldier
from Brooklyn killed
in the Civil War,
and he was 12 years
old at the time,
and he was killed just
during a training exercise
by accident.
This symbol you
see a lot on stones
in Jewish cemeteries.
It's kind of hands like this.
When the Kohanim, which are
the priestly class of Jews,
bless the congregation,
they hold their
hands in this shape
while they're
saying the blessing,
and this is what inspired the
Vulcan salute in Star Trek
because Leonard Nimoy
remembered being
in synagogue as a kid,
and then many years
later he just pulled this
out of his memory banks.
Here is the tombstone of
the great Jackie Robinson.
My dad grew up in Brooklyn,
so in addition to his
kind of iconic symbolism
for all of baseball,
he also was a great local
player for my dad's team.
Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa.
Yeah, it is funny to
see this kind of row
of modest little headstones
and then to come across
a big, famous artist
who tragically died.
In fact, when I visited his
grave for the first time,
this family was
here, the Russos.
I think her sister was here,
and she was saying they
didn't know who this was,
but then they saw all
these things left here,
and then they read about him,
and just a funny
crossing of cultures
between this older
Italian-American family
and this young,
kind of punk artist,
and now they'll spend eternity
right next to each other.
This is the grave
of Emma Lazarus,
who wrote a well known poem
called The New Colossus
that can be found on
the Statue of Liberty.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
"your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free,
"the wretched refuse
of your teeming shore.
"Send these, the homeless,
tempest tossed to me.
"I lift my lamp beside
the golden door."
Harry Houdini.
[camera shutter clicking]
I wish I knew some kind
of magic trick to do.
Seems like the
appropriate place.
I see playing cards over
there, a lock and key.
Maybe I'll be
inspired by Houdini.
[leaves rustling]
[birds chirping]
You might think that
walking around a cemetery
is a very morbid thing to do,
that it's a very
sad place to be,
but when you spend
enough time there,
what you realize is
that all these stones
that you're seeing, of course,
represent somebody who died,
but what they are is a
reminder of that person's life.
You know, they had to die
to be in the cemetery,
but they had to live
a life to be here too.
[gentle instrumental music]
Charles Mile a Minute Murphy.
The Mile a Minute
part of his nickname,
he came up with this
idea in like the 1880s
that it would be possible,
if he rode behind a train,
to ride in the
slipstream of the train,
that he could ride a mile
in less than a minute,
and in his view,
he felt like the whole
world was laughing at him,
mocking him.
This could never be done.
He was a fool for thinking this,
and so he convinced the Long
Island Rail Road to build,
I think it was like a two
mile section of track,
and he failed the first time
or first two times or something,
and they had like one shot left,
and then he finally was able
to do it the third time.
The idea of someone just
having this weird dream
and just making it happen is
really appealing story to me.
There are some people out there
who just do things for
reasons they don't understand,
that other people
don't quite understand.
I mean, I don't know
anybody like that.
When you have this many
miles ahead of you,
you can't really just think
about how much is left.
Anyone who has taken
some kind of long journey
like that I guess kind
of knows that lesson,
that you just have to
take it one day at a time,
and if all you're
focused on is finishing,
then it's that much
easier to get overwhelmed
by how much is left,
but the goal of this walk
is not really to finish it.
The goal is to do
everything that happens
along the way to finishing it.
[wind blowing]
[water flowing]
There are lots of coconuts
in various odd parts of New York
you find washed up on the shore,
and I was always kind
of baffled by this,
[camera shutter clicking]
but then I read that
coconuts are often part
of this Hindu tradition that,
like back in India
people would be making
these offerings into
the Ganges River.
So then people
immigrate to New York,
and they gotta find some
kind of approximation,
so it makes sense that
if coconuts are thrown
into the water over here
that they'd get
washed in over here.
[gentle instrumental music]
This rusty little piece of metal
is a bristle from the brush
of a street cleaning truck.
They have hundreds of
these that rotate around,
and that's what kind of sweeps
stuff up off the streets.
If you were just
to look at my blog
and see the things
I've been taking photos
and writing about,
it probably seems like it's
a random list of stuff.
It's like, how is this
guy deciding what to do?
How does this all
fit into something?
And for me that's not a problem
because I'm not deciding
to look for anything,
and I'm not trying to
fit it into anything.
It fits into what it
ultimately becomes.
The collection of
all the random things
that I'm looking at
become the puzzle
that they are
pieces fitting into.
I don't have to know what the
puzzle was when I started.
These dots you see on any
kind of storm sewer inlet,
they are a mark
left by city workers
when they come to
treat the sewer
for West Nile virus,
so when they come back
by they can verify
that it had been
previously sprayed
by seeing if the dots are there.
Holy shit.
Damn, man.
One good example is right here.
This is the Queens Museum
in Flushing Meadows Park.
The building that
it's in was built
for the 1939 World's Fair.
It was the New
York City Building,
and I actually
just noticed this.
Underneath where it
says Queens Museum,
you can still see this
lettering from the World's Fair,
where it said The
City Of New York.
You can just faintly make out
that lettering
where it used to be.
There was actually, during
the '64 World's Fair,
there was a really cool
exhibit built in here.
It was called the Panorama
of the City of New York,
just a giant, three dimensional,
physical scale model
of New York City.
Huge model of New York,
each building's there.
There's almost a
million individual
buildings on this model.
It's just really mind boggling
kind of seeing the
scope of the whole city.
For me, there's a big difference
between reading about
a place in a book
and being there in person.
When I'm actually in the same
physical space as a place,
all of a sudden it
comes alive to me
because just being
there next to it,
just on a very human level,
gives me this relationship to it
that I don't have when all
I know about it is facts,
but when what I know about it
is what it feels to
stand in front of it,
what it feels like to touch it,
or what it feels like to
discover something about it,
to have found it for myself,
to have had some
kind of aha moment,
some kind of like,
oh, look at that.
This is the Audubon
Ballroom and Theater,
which is where Malcom X was
shot and killed in 1965.
You know, there's no
sign up or anything,
so I just thought this is
a cool looking building,
so I just took a photo of it,
and then found out the story.
Just like a person,
when you meet a
person you become
much more interested in them.
I think it's the same
thing with a city.
I mean, a city is a
thing built by people
and full of people,
and so I think it has a lot
of those same
characteristics that,
when you meet a
part of the city,
all of a sudden you care
about it a lot more,
and it's come alive to you.
It's an actual place
were you stood,
and you felt something there,
and you have some memory of it.
How you doing?
This is a memorial
to Eric Garner.
When he was being
choked to death,
he kept saying,
"I can't breathe.
"I can't breathe.
"I can't breathe."
This building, 42 Amboy Street,
what used to exist here
was 46 Amboy Street,
which was the
location of the first
birth control clinic in America.
It was opened by
Margaret Sanger in 1916.
I think the way that
I found out about it
was I was walking
in Brownsville,
and I had a photo of
something in the area,
and in reading
about that I somehow
came across this
birth control clinic.
You know what used to
be right over here?
- No.
- This was the first birth
control clinic in America.
- What?
- The first place
where birth control
was handed out to people.
- Wow.
- Yeah, it was only
open for nine days.
Then the government
shut it down,
so this, you can see that
same brick work up there.
This was the birth
control clinic,
what used to be right there.
- Wow.
- [Matt] So yeah, you can see
all these women out there.
- [Man] It's been closed.
That's really interesting--
- [Matt] You can see that
whole street there, yeah.
- [Man] Wow.
- The plaque on this rock,
right beside the service road
to the Long Island Expressway,
says, "General George
Washington traveled this road
"on his tour of Long
Island, April 24th, 1790."
Is that it?
[birds chirping]
We're looking for
the Queens Giant,
which is the tallest known
tree in New York City,
and the oldest, ah, there it is,
the oldest living
thing in the city.
It's estimated 350
to 450 years old.
It's not really a
public visiting place
'cause they're trying
to preserve the tree,
so there's not
like a clear trail
or signs to it or anything.
[gentle instrumental music]
[camera shutter clicking]
Whoa, here's the sign,
kind of hidden back here.
"This tulip tree is the
tallest carefully measured tree
"in New York City, with
a height of 133.8 feet.
"It is also probably
the oldest living thing
"in the city at an estimated
age of 400 years or more.
"It was standing tall when
General George Washington
"passed close by in 1790
on a tour of Long Island.
"It has survived
miraculously from a time
"when native Matinecock
people trod softly
"beneath it to an age
when automobiles roar
"by oblivious to its presence.
"If we leave it undisturbed,
"it may live among us for
another hundred years or so."
There's a big hole
in the tree here,
and it's kind of the bottom
of the trunk is hollowed out.
There's a Tupperware
container inside the tree.
It's got some note
paper and stuff in it.
Wow, this book is just
filled with poems people
have written or notes.
"If trees could only talk.
"The things it's seen,
the things it's felt.
"The wisest creatures of
us all can live without us,
"but we can't without them.
"Respect life."
"This is my first visit
to the Queens Giant.
"She is a wonderful creature
that has seen so much
"and nourished many lives.
"Even just meeting her now,
"it's undeniable that
her spirit shines,
"and the beat goes on."
Sounds like a class
came out here.
"I never knew this
thing was here.
"This is so awesome
to be able to be here
"with my friends and teachers.
"East Side Community
High for forever.
"Zipporah G."
Gabriel says, "I salute
this sentinel of life,
"this tower of what
is natural and good.
"May our own little
lives be inspired
"by its breathing
breadth and height."
"July 18th, 2013.
"Summertime and
the living's easy.
"Enjoy your life, every
moment, every memory,
"before it's over."
Wow, that's pretty awesome.
Just thinking about
the Queens Giant
being 400 years old or whatever
means that it's
essentially been there
for the entirety of the
existence of New York City,
from the earliest
Dutch settlement,
and so it's kind of mind blowing
to think that that
tree has been there
kind of seeing the entire
transformation of New York City
from a natural area into the
metropolis that it is today,
and kind of all of those
changes that mankind has wrought
on this enormous scale here,
that tree has just been
there through all of it.
You know, it seems in my
head almost like something
that exists on a
geologic time scale.
That it would have just
taken such monumental efforts
to turn New York City
into what it is today,
and that that tree has just
been kind of sitting there
watching the whole time.
[birds chirping]
Somewhere in this
last block, I think,
I just crossed 8,000
total miles for the walk.
I was just over a mile shy
at the start of the day,
and when I started the walk,
8,000 was the number I'd
throw out as, you know,
how far is it gonna be?
I don't know, maybe 8,000 miles.
So in that sense, it seems
like I'm getting pretty close
to the end,
but it doesn't feel
like that to me.
The research and writing
and blogging part
of this project has
just grown and grown,
and I have such a huge backlog
of posts left to write,
and I still have, I don't know,
maybe another 500 or 1,000 miles
till I'm actually done,
so all that combined
makes me feel
like I'm just somewhere
in the middle of
the project, really.
It doesn't feel like
I'm close to the end,
even though I've hit 8,000.
[water flowing]
[gentle instrumental music]
[gentle instrumental music]