tv QA Neil King Walking to New York City CSPAN May 16, 2021 11:00pm-11:59pm EDT
washington dc to new york city to connect with american history. after that, queen elizabeth her annual address at the state opening of parliament in london. then a form on the israeli-palestinian conflict. susan: welcome to c-span. neil: pleasure to be here. susan: i wanted to start our conversation with the photo you posted, this is you in washington, d.c. as you are beginning a walk from washington to new york city. how and why did this come about? neil: i had puzzled over this
for years, where it had struck me, i had wanted to walk, what would it entail? i was taken by the idea because i have lived in washington, lived in new york, we have placed between those two places. the sli corridor, like to joke is named after a shortened, accelerated version of the word accelerate. even though the train is not that fast, it is still our fast train. it was fascinating to walk through the slo corridor, what would that entail? i was taken by the absurd he of it. i started to look closely at the history of the area, it became more alluring and fascinating, and i finally got around to doing it. susan: you wrote on social media the trip was intended as a history infused exploration of
our national psyche, but the events of the last year get the project an additional sense of urgent the. -- urgency. neil: i was going to do it last year at the end of march, the end of march last year raised a lot of complications. so i had to scratch it. it was quite fortuitous in a way, i'm not saying covid, but during it are your later when all that had happened, all of us being shut in, walking around behind masks, that long covid winter which was pretty horrific, the events we saw play out on january 6, the contested election. there was a lot of bad blood in the air overall. to go out, i think it was the fifth day of spring, see it unfold. look up close and very slowly at
the country, meeting people along the way, trying to understand where are we as a country at the moment. this is not a science, but it really made the historical setting perfect in so many ways. susan: you are in a writer -- you are a writer. did you feel a writer's legacy? neil: funny you asked that question. if you go back to the 1830's and 1840's, there was a stream of travelers that came from europe to the young united states. that travel through it. there were travel logs. they would go to boston or new york, than they would come down to washington.
i had read a lot of those accounts. they were fascinating for a bunch of reasons. my goal in some ways was to go in with that kind of wide-eyed, never having seen it before, only -- almost naivety those people brought to the united states and try to judge it what i saw. susan: pit we have the map -- we have the map you posted on social media. how long did this trip take? it's a long walk. neil: it took 26 days of various forms of motion. in philadelphia i actually spent three days. in lancaster, i also spent a
day. in imprints and i spent a day. there were basically five days of non-motion and about 19 days of motion. my days averaged -- the longest day down in northern maryland, i did about 24 miles, that was pretty grueling, the third day. the days averaged probably about 14 miles a day. susan: how much preplanning was involved? neil: a lot, but i also allow for a lot of slack for things to just happen. it's fascinating. if you go into that area, it is extremely hard to find lodging of any kind throughout that whole area up to york. through that whole area i did airbnb's and people's houses. when i got to southern pennsylvania, i got to an interesting inn called the jackson house.
in york i stayed at some airbnb's. you had to plan the lodging. there were places that i also planned to meet various people, because i did not want to leave all the encounters up to chance. i met with historians and writers and various people like that. in many ways, the best was the serendipitous ones. susan: how did covid impact this process? neil: surprisingly little. year ago, when it was pretty clear that covid was coming on fast, places i want to go over closing and i was being told they were closing. in this case, number of those places were opening. i didn't really -- i was in uncrowded places. when i dealt with people, for the most part they were either vaccinated or we were across some distance. susan: how did your family react to the idea? neil: the amusement --
bemusement. a lot of people see you walking up i-95 and going into service stations and eating cinnabon's, so it's like, what? there was a certain amount -- i was very persistent and stubborn that it was going to happen. they were totally supportive and generally appreciative. susan: as you were coming into the studio, he remarked how you used to be on this network all the time. i found her last appearance on the network, i wanted to show a bit of that. [video clip] neil: i did an informal poll. of the three i asked, what was the thing you want congress to do, once a corporate tax reform, once at immigration reform, the
third said yes, both of those. if it were to look at corporate tax reform, senator, ru of the mind that your own caucus can actually rally around a distinct corporate tax reform plan that would advance, and but without look like? susan: we are still talking about the same things. that was 2014. what has been your journey from last time we saw you two today? neil: the end of 2016i left the journal and went out and did some consulting research with some friends of mine through 2019. at the end of 2019, i decided to take an adult gap year and do a bunch of things that were writing related. one of the things was going to be the walk. then covid got in the way of that. and up taking a job at the rockefeller foundation rhyme doing various writing and consulting work with them. in official.
susan: you also posted a rather poignant essay on social media about dealing with some health problems, which were especially thought-provoking during the covid year. can you tell us about that story? neil: it's all of these things playing into everything. at the end of the summer of 2017, i had one of those diagnoses where you hear the word cancer. i embarked on a whole journey that was a classic cancer journey with chemo, radiation, that odds at the start. don't pay attention to the odds. it was two and a half or maybe three years of a lot of uncertainty. as a like to say it reset my sense of time, and it cleanse my vision of a lot of things in
ways i am grateful for now, at least at the moment, i would like to say, i am in a clearing but i'm not in the clear. i don't know, who knows? susan: are you feeling well? neil: totally. susan: some other projects related to this period is something called gotham canoe. neil: when i left the journal i did a lot of writing of different kinds. i published this piece in the new york times that was about cancer and covid, had written some things for the atlantic and other places. i wanted to have some freedom to just buy things out without having to wait for someone. to approve it or edit it so i created this site, which is about finding wildness and beauty anywhere, including in cities, which part of the gotham part. a lot of other people, primarily
friends, have written a variety of things for it. it has been fun. it's just another place to post writing. susan: another project that people can find online is a long piece you wrote about searching for frederick douglass'roots. why we so intrigued with that and spent so much time? neil: i'm glad you brought that up. during the covid year, i had the pleasure of being able to spend a lot of it on the eastern shore of maryland across chesapeake. i was doing work remotely like a lot of people. while i was there, i became not just aware of, because a lot of people know frederick douglass spent most of his teenage years in that area. and enslaved person at that time, the late 1820's, 1830's.
this farmer he had been sent to spend a year vc a mile and a half from where i was staying. i went to this field, there was a famous fight douglass had with this slave owner. i became obsessed by how it was unrecognized, there was no notice of any kind that he had ever been there. i tried to do an oral history project right started talking to people to see how many people knew that douglas had spent this year there. the two things that were important about the walk, with the importance of place, acknowledging the history in certain places that might have been washed away, and also a different view of this fight we are all having overweight statues to have and which ones to maintain, teardown. part of my point is, we can have
that debate about which statues to take down, but we should also be debating which things to note, which things to either celebrate or highlight that we might not already be celebrating or highlighting. a lot of my walk was animated by the desire to find those places and be in those places. susan: all of the threats come together. before we get into the specifics, i thick a lot of people were very curious about the logistics around an enterprise like this. i had a series of questions just about how you get ready and prepare. what shoes did you choose? [laughter] neil: particular lightweight walking shoe that had good treads. i really wanted them to be -- to dry quickly and not have it matter if i walk into rivers with them. neil: one pair of shoes for the
entire walk? wow. susan: how did you prepare for the physicality of it? neil: i did a lot of walking every day. i was averaging probably nine miles or 10 miles a day for the year. for the last month or so, i just put weights in it that would equal about 19 pounds, 20 pounds. i would train my back and that kind of thing. i would do 12 or 13 miles a day with my pack on. susan: what was in that backpack? neil: when i left, if you add up the weight, i took my laptop, 2.1 pounds. i had very few clothes. i think i brought essentially three very lightweight thermal shirts, obviously a rain slick,
a warmer patagonia down jacket, and a couple of pairs of socks. i got in the habit of every night i would do laundry and hang it up, and constantly be turning it that way. i went very minimalist. had a couple of books, oddly, i tried to be very spare but i brought. some of its cop at 18 pounds and say probably could go to 12 pounds. it was fine, the weight was never an issue. susan: but electronics did you bring? neil: we call them phones. cameras, recording devices, mapping. i brought an iphone which was invaluable in every imaginable way, and i brought a laptop. susan: did you use gps? neil: i did. i also had the torn out pages of
detailed atlases which were helpful. i did use the gps. susan: how did the weather treat you? neil: surprisingly well considering april is the cruelest month, but also one of the rainiest month. i also had one day that was seriously complicated by heavy rain, otherwise i got hit a couple of times but it was not a big thing. one day, i was snowed on, but it was brief and beautiful. susan: did you create playlists or books on tape? neil: i did not listen to one second of anything in my ears, and i did not intend that to happen, i just got so that when i was walking i do not want any interference, so i never listens to books on tape, podcast, anything else. we can talk about this more as this goes on. i became entranced by thinking and looking, and i did not want any other distractions. susan: you took photos,
obviously, but did you record in any other way? did you stop to take notes? neil: that's a good question. i got quite good at the notes function on my phone, which if you get good at it you can dictate. i would actually do, i'm sitting here now, talking to susan. then it would write it out. i would take pretty voluminous notes as i went. at the end of the day, i would have 1400, 1500 words in that form. and my pattern was in the morning, i would get up around 5:00, kind of a machine about all of this, and i would write a full account of the day before. and i actually sent them out to several hundred people. had a list of people i was emailing. they became very popular. it was pretty funny. it was a great discipline because i really wanted to get a first draft of everything, and
then he gave a certain satisfaction. i would head out at 8:00 knowing i'd counted for the day before, and then i repeated it every day. susan: you are alone by walking on some urban and country roads by yourself and you posted your wrist before hand. to you have any security issues? neil: know, but i had quite a few, seven or eight people that popped up that recognize that i must be that guy doing this thing. the first one was in york county on easter sunday. i'm walking along the highway on my way from york to wrightsville, and a woman pulled her car in the parking lot and said, you are that guy walking to new york. it was so funny, we took a selfie. there were a number of times or that happened. susan: what does that suggest to you about the power of social media? neil: it has quite amazing reach. i was really glad for that,
because it brought some really interesting people. i was walking tort -- down the delaware canal, and i was trying to think about washington's crossing of the delaware, christmas of 1776, which i was going to do the next day. this guy is walking the other way, he's on the phone, sees me. he started walking together. for 25 minutes, we walked and he started talking to me about washington's crossing, that he was quite knowledgeable about what that night was like in the soldiers roundabouts. i joked, where you sent here to be my tutor? he was super helpful saying i'm going to leave now, so when you go forward you receive these graves of patriots buried along the river.
there were some any moments like that. people just popped up mysteriously, suggested things or gave me directions that proved to be really useful. susan: and places to eat along the way. neil: all kinds of things like that. susan: you also have a number of local media interviews along the way, reporters found you on twitter and interviewed you. what was that like? neil: it hit a chord, because we were all just kind of breaking out, mass mandates were pretty strong in most places. the interest was high. i didn't interview in york, i did one in lancaster for both print and television, i did one for bucks county north of philadelphia, i did several radio related things on siriusxm you and other places. at the end, new york one, the
big new york station, i have sent them a bunch of videos i had taken from a trip and they didn't interview the morning that i crossed over into manhattan. they ran a bunch of the video clips of me kayaking under the jersey turnpike middle of this crazy stuff. it was a funny six minute long thing, which is pretty long for television. susan: you suggested is because people were just coming out of the pandemic. you are doing something people cannot think about they cannot get started on? neil: i think there is an element of fascination people have something that resembles a pilgrimage. unlike if i had chosen a lot of point a to point b, there was fascination about washington to new york, why would you do that
and how would you do that? it did stir a lot of interest. susan: they're going to some of your journey. let's go back to the early part. you talk about how rural it gets outside of washington, d.c.. what were the differences that you noticed about the way people live in cities versus rural america? neil: you really notice if you pay attention to the kind of rings of cities, how they are organized. i paid a lot of attention. it was rings of wealthier, bigger homeowners, than a ring of people who have smaller houses, service workers of different kinds. expands into plan developments, then it gives way
to building suspense for when i was going to see my first barn, bona fide manure, cows. it took about a day and a half before i actually got into that kind of territory. sparsely populated areas, particular in northern maryland, going up towards the mason-dixon line. that was a fascinating scratch. susan: the town names you posted on twitter are pretty colorful, railroad pennsylvania, freedom, maryland. but -- what kind of glimpse do they give you? neil: i was fascinated by my approach to the border, because as we all know for a large portion of really history, really an important border between maryland and pennsylvania, slavery and the
free states. i think that is one of the reasons for these. there were a lot of things around in that area that had freedom in their name. young man fancy was funny because it popped up on my phone as a place, unclear what place. there was no mention on google or anything like that. i had to go down a road called young man fancy drive and get to the top of this hill, young man fancy actually was a farm that went back to the 1830's and someone back in the day had named it that. she said this is it, this is my farm. susan: the mason-dixon line seems to be of particular interest. here is a picture. neil: this was an extraordinary find. i was up on a hill at a distance from this farm, i looked and the
road, to tulane dirt road -- that two lane dirt road is the mason-dixon line. that is an 1830's stone farmhouse, probably billed by a german-american. no one was living there. you can see the drapes. i had a feeling that the owners of this farmhouse have a new house on top of the hill. i was so fascinated by the fact that at one time, when that person built the farm, that balcony would have literally been on the edge of that line between freedom and slavery. the whole thing was so poetic. i spent a fair bit of time just walking around the property and taking photos and videos. you can see the well. ed is such an amazingly well-preserved remnant from that time. susan: you wrote up the mason-dixon line that you had
dreamt about it. neil: i guess because for the number of people where the crossing was a dream, such a huge thing and terrifying thing to make that journey. when you're walking along those roads, is easy to identify in some ways with that would have been like, because you can look at the woods and figure how people would have had to try and scramble from place to place, and whether they would trust some farmer or help along the way for being on their side or not. it is a very powerful symbol in our history. susan: when you got to york, pennsylvania, the graffiti intrigued you. by was graffiti of particular interest? neil: i had spent the day with a historian, former newspaper editor. he took me to this wall, quite a
large wall. to changes -- it changes, not daily, but he called it the city's newspaper. people just change things according to the venture going on. this is something that is sanctioned by the city. it's actually a pedestrian bridge that goes over a railway. i found that to be interesting and colorful. susan: what about graffiti and general -- in general? neil: i did not spend -- it's interesting painting on walls, when you get to philadelphia which has a robust tradition of murals, it is a huge part of the city. there was a lot of that public art. i did see graffiti along the roadways, people like to leave their names or tags on railroad bridges, that kind of thing.
that wasn't something i paid huge amounts of attention to. susan: something that didn't seem to catch your attention, old cemeteries. neil: i spend a lot of times in old cemeteries. they tell you a lot of the place you are going through in terms of early settlements and names. i also find them fascinating because of what they say about time in the evolution of time. you go to some crumbling cemetery, filled with sentiments, turns out they have been forgotten. i was also fascinated near young man fancy where i noticed a bizarre moment, where up through this -- the 19 teens,
where is it someone died at 72 years, however many years, they always said years, months, days. sometime around 1916, 1917, they stopped doing that. susan: another fascination seem to be rivers and bridges. wiper rivers and bridges so fascinating? vbc neil: announcer: neil: this is the 1930's bridge it goes over the susquehanna, which is carrying the lincoln highway. established around that time. those are the footings for what was actually a series of bridges, including some of the footings for the civil war era bridge which they set on fire so confederate forces cannot get across.
the other bridge is highway 30. in the old days, the susquehanna river with the ultimate frontier. it was difficult across, getting across make you were in a different place. m,. ? those river crossings were of huge importance waiting for days for a ferry to take them across. i spent some time there. it was rather cold. i felt i had to take a dip on easter sunday. i felt reference every time i got to these big rivers, because they are such vital importance. now because transportation methods are trains and everything else, we don't rely on them in the way that we did. but they are worthy of a lot of respect. susan: between new york and
philadelphia, lancaster county. thaddeus stevens and james buchanan. neil: i walked into lancaster. such a potent moment in our history. james buchanan with the last president before the civil war, he was very much of a southern sympathizing pennsylvanian, they called those types of democrats don't face. i would say he is a tragic president because i don't think there was much he could have done either way. thaddeus stevens was an incredible, fiery abolitionist. a truly righteous person. both were lawyers, both lived in the same town. thaddeus stevens is one of the
two or three most important people in the 19th century. those who came after push forward on reconstruction for the length of time that that lasted. stevens is instrumental in the house of representatives. in lancaster, there was this see sewing of whose reputation was going up and down. james buchanan, the only president from pennsylvania, has -- his reputation is in the doghouse. susan: there is now a second president from pennsylvania. joe biden is born in scranton. neil: interesting point. susan: the other group of people that you took photographs and wrote about where the mennonites. for people who are not familiar. neil: there with these different
types of groups who came to the united states, mainly in the 1700s, from different parts of northern europe, were breakaway sects from mainline protestantism. the quakers and other founders of pennsylvania were very welcoming to all of these different religious sects. the mennonites for the first big settlers of lancaster county. it is an amazing place to this day, when you go there, you are in many ways going back in time. a lot of these people, particular the amish, stick killer horses -- stick to their horses. plowing the fields, using mules. there are a lot of difference in terms of their accommodations with modernity. i did not have many interactions with the amish. the mennonites, i had some
fantastic encounters with. susan: i have a couple pictures from this period. what are we seeing here? neil: this was a guy who is a horseshoer. i saw his sign on the highway and i could hear he was horse chewing, i ended up spending 45 minutes. it was fantastic. the guide was horse that was, his buggy was right outside. is quick to pull the buggy. he gave me a satchel of cookies. that was a fantastic conversation. susan: you just walked up and introduce yourself? neil: he said, what do we have here. he found a bizarre a stranger was walking in with a backpack on. it was welcoming, and it was a
fun conversation. susan:susan: we have photos of mennonite children. neil: this is an amazing sequence. i am walking along this road, coming past the school, and i see these kids playing softball. there are two diamonds, there playing this rowdy, aggressive, full on form of softball. all of the women are wearing full length dresses and bright bonnets on their head, and they are incredible softball players. they were sliding into bases, the whole nine yards. at the end when the bell rang, recess was over, the teacher came over and asked what i was up to. he then wanted me to give a talk to the kids. they all gathered around. after about 10 minutes, one of
the girls proposed to the teacher that they sing for me, which astonished me. i went into the school and they ended up singing to mennonite hands -- two mennonite hymms. it was unprompted from the kids themselves. they were overjoyed to do it. i was blown away. susan: you posted a sketch of a historical character called benjamin. neil: goes along with steady stevens -- thaddeus stevens. i wanted to pay homage to these people. he was a four foot tall, hunchbacked dwarf, quaker, very fiery, strongly anti-slavery.
he in the end was essentially pushed out of the quaker meeting house. he died well before the revolution. but he was friends with benjamin franklin. he was -- the quakers, this is right around the 1870's, fought off slavery in their own right and then became a major force. one of the main reasons was this man because it was a fervent advocate of illuminating slavery. -- eliminating slavery. susan: from there, you go to philadelphia. where you happy? neil: i was regretful to leave lancaster county. i was apprehensive about what it would mean to be getting into freeway areas of the country. in reality, a lot of that was wrong what i thought.
but i thought was coming up was not quite as congested as i thought it was going to be. susan: because of the pandemic? neil: part of it was the routes i took. it was not until a week and a half later when i had an encounter with i-95, which was the moment i was really anticipating with dread but fascination. then i get into the trafficked areas of the country. by then i was 40 miles from new york, that part of new jersey. susan: philadelphia has this google river. one of the famous sites is a victorian era boathouse. you made some musings on social media about the change in american life from hard work to more leisure activities. what were you thinking about? neil: when you look at our history, there are two things going on in the second half of the 19th century. one is the coming and going of the civil war.
the other is the industrialization and creating of a different kind of workforce, which brought about the existence of weekends, looking at countryside as a place to go to for leisure. it was the beginning of thumb in a more organized way. baseball, golf, horse racing. boat houses along the river. there was one that had been built in 1859, just before the civil war. all of the others are 1865 and after. that became the mecca for that particular organized rowing. i was mainly making the point, the late 1860's was the beginning of fun in america in some ways. susan: north of philadelphia there is something called the mercer museum. it seemed like it was a significant stop for you. where are you in this picture? neil: this guy was a fascinating
figure. this was the studio of his tile works. it turns out i know the woman who recently took over. she did me a very solid favor by insisting i sleep there. that bed, this is not a lodging. she turned it a lodging for the night. it was this medieval setting, had a big fireplace. i got to spend the night there and it was incredible. the mercer museum is downtown. and mercer's whole thing was that he was very eager to preserve and save parts of american heritage before it was consumed by the industrial revolution. cider mills, sawmills. he went around the country and around the world and collected the axes and saws and everything
we used to break the country, and created this museum which i highly recommend people go to. that is unlike any other museum. henry ford said back in the day it was the only museum worth visiting in america, and he did his own version of it in detroit. he was kind of independently wealthy, but in the end it was a very famous tile maker. he has a wild mansion right next to the tile works. susan: the next parapet to in the footsteps of george washington. valley forge. neil: the fascinating thing, i went to valley forge. replica of places that the troops stated that winter. and has become an iconic place, 1976, 1977. the troops are wintering their,
there is not a battle there. i wanted to go there to understand how and when we decided to care about valley forge. i met a great historian, and she has written about when we decided to care about valley forge. it took about a century before we cared about the place, and started to memorialize it and expand it. now it is a major attraction. that kind of layering of when we care, how we recognize events that occurred there is i think really interesting to look out. new hope. new hope was actually -- this is standing on the bridge across the delaware. washington's crossing is actually south of here.
i walk that afternoon down washington's crossing, a friend of mine had come down with two kayaks and we kayaked across. their different weather, -- very different weather. different circumstance. we were not standing up. i was greeted on the underside -- other side by a hiking club. it was funny that they showed up there. susan: they came to me you? neil: yes. susan: george washington's footsteps. i am wondering what you are thinking about george washington's contributions to our country. neil: is fascinating. i totally welcome and upload our way more nuanced, wide-eyed understanding of what these people were, and it is a reality
that washington was a major slaveholder and not a particular benevolent one, even though in his will did free his slaves. the thing that fascinated me were not things that i knew that much about washington. when the revolutionary war started in 1775, he left mount vernon and that the confidence army -- continental army without once going home, he was gone perpetually for six years, trying to keep that effort going, which is really quite amazing. we look at him as the ultimate founding father, and i think most people would make the argument that had it not been for his stubbornness and keeping that small band of patriot soldiers together, particularly in the first six or seven months, they could easily have fallen apart. that aspect of it i came to
understand a lot better. susan: the i-95 corridor. many new jerseyans identify themselves by what exit they live off of. what was your experience like? neil: i focused on this place called cranberry, which is a fascinating town on exit eight a. i spent a good morning there, i met with a bunch of historical people saying it was the best preserved 19th-century town in america. it is spotless. the freeway is right there. i was bath ended by the place, because you have this perfectly preserved, 19th-century cranberry, and right on the edge of town there is a sea of huge distribution warehouses, amazon, cosco, wayfarer. i decided i wanted to go between does warehouses and under the jersey turnpike on this brook called cranberry brook.
long story short, it was going to be impossible to do on foot, but the people in cranberry that i met made a point of saying you are going to borrow the kayak, and i went up the river on a kayak, underneath the jersey turnpike. susan: what was it like under their? neil: the whole thing was amazing. other than the quality of the water, it was probably unchanged. the most mysterious stretch of the entire trip in a lot of ways. big lily pads, blue herons, docs. fallen trees. went under all 12 lanes of the jersey turnpike which was loud. that i got to the other side, came back later that day and recovered it and brought it back.
i was now very distinctly in a different place, the other side of the jersey turnpike. susan: you could have approached new york from a couple of different ways. why did you decide to go into staten island? neil: i try to understand how the colonial, pre-training era people made the trip from washington, d.c. made the trip to new york. that is what they did, they would go up philadelphia, across the delaware, go up through cranberry, goat through south amboy across the river, then across to staten island and make their way up, and finally across the hudson, basically where jersey city is now. i wanted to mirror that exact route. susan: one person that helped to but named stu conway. i think we have a video. [video clip]
neil: i had to get across the arthur kill. i went down to the yet club. it was the afternoon before, i went there and started talking, somebody said i think i know a guy. i got a hold of this guy stu, who sailed around the world, fantastic person. he and his friend came in that morning, set i will meet you on the dock at 9:00. it was quite windy. it was treacherous. he took me across. they had driven in our into perth amboy to do it for me, just wanted to do a favor. that was a great moment. susan: when you got to staten
island, what did you see? neil: a lot of people think of it as the landfill, nature park. is a very mixed place. it is all of america and one island. there are parts that are wild and untouched, rural, places that are cookie-cutter suburban housing, parts that are quite urban. it is the boro that is by far the least understood, and i had never walk through it. i found a lot of really bizarre pockets that very few new yorkers are aware of. i had a great time. i walked 13 miles or staten island. susan: how many days into the trip? neil: two days away from being done. susan: we have the photograph of
your first view of manhattan. after all this time. what was your emotion? neil: i was coming at the bayonne bridge, and i was not anticipating it being there. i was just walking up the pedestrian ramp and when i saw it, i was totally overwhelmed. i sat there for 20 minutes taking it in. you can see the shimmer of the harbor. it brings to mind these captains rouse quotes about ever renewing nature of new york, its beauty. this is a city that has been through so much, through the covid period, when you see it there it is so unscathed. susan: another river you had to cross? this is kevin murray. what was his role? neil: kevin was a fantastic --
he took that picture. i tracked him down at a place called urban paddle, kayak aberration. -- kayak operation. we were going to go across the river. it got windy, and the end he borrowed a boston whaler and took me across. kevin is a fantastic person, one of many i thanks to. he me across to a marina. susan: did you pass the statue of liberty? neil: off to the right, we did. then became into the marina that is right by the 9/11 site. i was shocked, i have not visited it. and i covered nine american -- 9/11 in the wall street journal. it was quite powerful to go there. that was the beginning of my five hour walk through manhattan, which was also quite moving. i was struck because i had been
to so many mind events, memorials. unless i'm missing something, it was the first thing i had memorialized -- been to that memorialized something all of us had experienced and left a mark in our country. it was quite something to be there, take that site in. its quite a powerful place. susan: how did you book and the trip? neil: i joked it was going to be a ramble to the ramble, the famous area of central park with all these twisting paths. in some ways, i said when i got to the ramble and walk through those twisting paths, i officially ended. truth but told, the real end was when i met my wife, walking down through central park and i came along the reservoir. it was an incredible day. i can say this for certain, but
that it was the first totally spring, we are going to get out of this, we are going to survive. the place was packed, couples were out on the rowboats. the blossoms were crazy. it was great seeing my wife. susan: about four minutes left. my walk to new york, many things, almost too many to count. what are some of those? neil: the chief things are, alike to say the per -- place, the concept of common ground, the importance of talking to people on the same patch of ground no matter how different we might be, conversations with people whose politics i might necessarily agree with, but i enjoy spending time with. just slowing down. i have said to people that ed is an easy calculation, it is at
least 20 times as rich and valuable what you encounter. there was also the openness, i felt spiritual openness that the walking gave me. the image of manhattan left an impact on me that was kind of surreal and almost religious that probably would not have happened if i had not walk for 25 days. susan: here is one last thought, you wrote i completed my 26th day ramble, if anyone line stands out its one by a mennonite teacher, " do not be conformed to the world bye-bye transformed by the renewing of your mind" neil: that was in the basement of the church. i asked him to explain their
faith, and he read that line to me. anyone who is a new testament person will recognize. i was not that familiar, is a line from st. paul to the romans. it's a fascinating line, saying don't let the world form you, form yourself, transform yourself through the renewing of your mind, which is a constant process. to me, walk was a renewing of my mind in many ways. it is something i would wish on a lot of people, because it did leave an impact. susan: next is to create this into a book. when will that happen? neil: over the next few months. i'm hoping it will be sold i will find a publisher and neck days even for that matter, that i will have five or six months. i have a lot of stuff for it. i definitely want to expand the historical aspects,
philosophical illuminations. the corbett with just that incredible people i met, unexpectedly beautiful sites along the way. pretty traffic part of the country. i think the book is going to drive home some of those points. susan: neil king, we are delighted to have you back. neil: i appreciate it. >> all q&a programs are available on our website or as a podcast at c-span.org.
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