Interview: Teri Tynes of Walking Off The Big Apple

walking is good for the soul

At first glance, Walking Off The Big Apple seems like a diary of one woman’s strolls on and off Manhattan. WOTBA, as Teri Tynes refers to it, is a curated account of her New York experiences on foot. But a closer look reveals her work is less about the walking and more about the vast history of our city, not to mention her knack for writing passionately about art, architecture and nearly everything that makes us love this place.

A quick visit to her five-year-old, Webby-honored site will have you lacing up your shoes to hit the pavement. Here are Teri’s suggestion for where to stretch our legs:

oM: What’s your favorite thing about Spring time in New York?
TT: Andy Warhol said, “My favorite smell is the first smell of spring in New York.” I like that, but my favorite part, I suppose, is you can feel the lightness of people when they’re outside in New York. It’s an almost palpable sense that the weight of winter is over and there is a kind of spring lightness and cheeriness to people’s steps.

oM: What do you bring with you when you walk?
TT: I always bring water, my credit card and my metro ticket. I also bring my cellphone. I take almost all my pictures for my blog with an iPhone. I’m updating the tradition of late 19th century France of the flâneur, the person who strolls and observes the world but in my updated version, I blog and I use a cellphone. In the spring time, I bring a sketch book. I will bring a little brush and a little water color set and some pencils. I keep a nature journal so when I’m near spring plants and budding trees, I can draw them. I love having that version of my experiences so I can have an offline account of some of my walks along with the online account.

oM: Do you have any gardens or parks that you visit this time of year?
TT: The Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx has a very rich garden life; the trees are beautiful and there are different types of shrubs and flowering plants. It’s kind of a wonder of nature with Beaux Arts crypts and mausoleums of famous new yorkers. It is a nice combination of being outside and beautiful architecture and it’s a quiet place where you have a sense of being in a small city. You can wander and see the hills and near the walls and the gates and you can find spring cropping up. Also back in the hay day of the Harlem renaissance, many of the jazz greats made a pact amongst themselves that they would like to be buried together and be together eternally – so you have the likes of Miles Davis and Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Max Roach. It’s fantastic.

oM: Any favorite spring walking getaways outside the city?
TT: I’ve got two really good ones. I went to Dia: Beacon and thought that was fabulous.  I was surprised by how easy it was to get there. The trip is great because it’s via Grand Central, and Metro North has one-day getaway specials where you can get discounted train travel round trip plus museum admission for a total of $31.50. The train trip lasts about an hour and twenty minutes and it’s beautiful because the train winds north along the Hudson River. After a very short half mile walk up the hill to the museum, you’re first presented with some very beautiful landscaped gardens all along the west side of Dia. You have the spectacular artwork inside with the natural light that beams in from the skylight, plus these flowering trees in bloom.

The other one is go to Hudson, New York and just outside Hudson is Olana; it’s the Persian style home of one of the great Hudson River Valley School Painters, Frederick Church. It is a must see. It is an extraordinary, unusual style of home that he designed and it sits south of the town on a tall hill overlooking the river. It is a really great day trip.

oM: Where do you go to get off Manhattan?
TT: I love walking Roosevelt Island. The new trams are up and running and they’re really nice. It’s easy to get up to 60th street and catch the tram over, and on the tram you have this glorious, minute and a half ride to the other side. Roosevelt Island is small, so it’s walkable. I love walking the perimeter of the island. There are the great ruins of the Small Pox hospital and it’s one of these sights you think you would see in maybe England but not in New York City. James Renwick is the architect who designed the hospital long ago and it’s in ruins and covered with ivy and such. It’s a spectacular sight.

oM: What’s your favorite part about walking?
Walking is one of the greatest things you can do. It’s mentally and physically good for you and it’s good for the environment. The more you walk, the more stimulated your thoughts are, the more brainstorming you can do. Walking Off The Big Apple, the way I thought about it originally, was this is how you deal with the stress of living in New York—you walk it off. New York is stressful, that’s why we leave. There’s a lot of pressures of living here. Whether it’s economic or social or career-wise—it can be a bit much. But to find the space, even in a full time job, to go carve out a time when you can walk it off, or a few moments a day, it greatly helps with that stress.

Photo: Margaret Anne Clarke