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High and cold on High Line

I look through my window. The skies are blue. Not a single cloud blocks sunshine rays. The streets are empty. The traffic is thin. Today is Thanksgiving, a celebrated family holiday with a long weekend. It’s a perfect day. For running.

But here is the catch. The temperature is 26F and with the wind chill factor it feels like 18F. There is no doubt in mind, I shall run. 

 

I ran in Omaha Nebraska in 9F and in Moscow in minus 13F. I am well dressed; gloves and hat. My top is covered with three layers and with two long running pants. I know I am prepared.

 

I warm up by running in my building's corridor. It is 80 yards long. I run several times back and forth. I feel like I am a stuntman in a B movie about prisoners' exercising in a jail yard. I go down to Washington Square and begin my run on 5th Avenue. After six blocks –roughly a quarter of mile - I turn left, on 12th street and reach 7th Ave, the intersection with St. Vincent Triangle.

 

It's a small park with a few benches, and the location of the NYC AIDS Memorial Site, honoring the 100,000+ New Yorkers who died from AIDS. Visual artist Jenny Holzer designed it with granite pavement, arranged as passages from Walt Whitman’s "Song of Myself" that celebrates hope, unity, and human dignity.

 

https://nycaidsmemorial.org/

 

I continue half a mile and reach 14th St, at Chelsea, not far from the Hudson. The cold is tolerable, except in narrow streets or by tall buildings, which create a sort of wind tunnel, blowing waves of chill penetrating my skin.

At the corner stands the modern structure of the Whitney Museum of American Arts. 

 

It is named after Gertrud Vanderbilt Whitney, a 20th century sculpture, socialite and patron of arts who inherited her money from her father. Cornelius Vanderbilt accumulated his wealth in the 19th century by investing in shipping and railroads. Like the other notorious "Robber Barons", Cornelius became rich through ruthless and unscrupulous business practices.

 

The museum's major exhibition until March 2019, is "Andy Warhol From A To B and Back Again" .The exhibition - the first Warhol retrospective since his death in 1987 - reconsiders the work of one of the most inventive, influential, and important American artists. I saw the exhibition a few days earlier. It's highly recommended.

 

 

 

I climb the stairs to the High Line. It is one of the best and most fun courses to run in NYC. But unfortunately it is usually very crowded with tens of thousands of tourists and visitors. Thus, it is recommended to run here early in the morning or after dusk. The course length, which curves its way between 10th and 11th avenues is 1.4 miles, before ending at 34th Street.

 

Here is a link to the park's site: https://www.thehighline.org/

 

The High Line is a new park built on the old railroad line a few meters above the ground and completed in 2014. Originally the line was built in 1847 at ground level near one of the Hudson terminals. Boats carried food, construction materials and everything needed to this part of south Manhattan, and loaded the freight on the train, run by the New York Central Railroad. .

 

But soon the city life-line turned into a death line. Despite being a very slow train, it often collided with wagons, horses and pedestrians. Indeed, 10th Avenue was nicknamed "Death Avenue". By 1910, an estimated 540 people were killed by trains.

To reduce the rising death toll, in 1933 the company elevated the tracks from the street level and created an elevated rail line.

 

Over the years, The High Line’s business attraction and importance diminished. Once train traffic came to a halt, the tracks decayed. For many New Yorkers the view was an eyesore. In 2001 Mayor Rudi Giuliani signed a demolition order. 

Luckily enough, a group of architects, landscapers and activists persuaded Mayor Michael Bloomberg to salvage the route.

 

The park is narrow– no more than 5-6 yards in width – snaking through modern posh residential and office buildings, food stalls, murals, graffiti,  and observation corners, overlooking both the river and the urban landscape.

 

Yet as with most gentrification catalysts, many members of the local community living in nearby public housing, had found themselves isolated and excluded. The park also spurred a real estate boom that has drastically changed the face of Chelsea.

 Running on the soft surface – some of it is paved with wooden decks – is pleasant. I run northbound on the flat course and

jwhen I reach its northern tip, on 34th Street, I head back to my starting point.

 

For the skeptics I ask a nice young couple to take my photo.  The brave woman takes off her gloves in the freezing cold. I thank her and continue running.

 

 

 

 

It is already 4pm and the sky prepares for a glorious sunset over the Hudson. I return home and review the physical damage. My lips are dry and cracked. One of my fingers is frozen. I pour hot water over it and after a minute or two I regain my sensations.

I feel elated. I finally ran on the High Line and survived the cold. I even enjoyed. I also added another 7 miles to my running autobiography.

 

 

 

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