As if photos of New York’s Central Park weren’t enough to make me miss Manhattan one week later, today I read a New Yorker article about Caleb Smith, a 34-year-old librarian who just completed a 31-month endeavor to walk every single street on the island of Manhattan.

One of the many reasons I love New York City is the fact it is imminently walkable. The first time I visited Manhattan was years ago when Chris went there on business and I explored the city while he was otherwise occupied during the workday. At first I was timid in my explorations, imagining my mother’s exhortations to “be careful” and “watch out for muggers” as I meekly entered what every cornfed Midwesterner imagines to be the national capital of urban violence: Central Park. What I found in Rudy Giuliani’s “zero tolerance” New York was a city that actually had (and I believe still has) a lower per capita homicide rate than my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Figuring that mothers wouldn’t (willingly) walk babies in a warzone, I allowed myself to explore any portion of Central Park where I saw baby-strollers, a gauge that has subsequently led me true in solitary walks in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

I’m glad I got over my initial trepidation about New York’s Central Park since it is a delightful mecca for dog-walkers, joggers, birders, frisbee-tossers, roller-bladers, cyclists, photographers, wedding parties, and nearly every other sort of New York City denizen. If it happens in Manhattan, it happens in Central Park, so if you’re looking for a quintessential “New York moment,” the green heart of Manhattan is the place to go.

That New York is a city of walkers is apparent in the fact that on even a cold, gray December day, the Mall was peopled with pedestrians both on the move and chatting casually on benches, bundled. Even in what is probably the walking capital of the world, though, Caleb Smith’s successful systematic endeavor to walk all of Manhattan’s streets is remarkable. Sequestered in neighborhood enclaves, many New Yorkers are as oxymoronically parochial as they are cosmopolitan, frequenting a handful of familiar cafes, restaurants, and shops. During one trip to Manhattan, Chris and I stayed in Greenwich Village, so during one of my solo workday expeditions, I decided to walk straight up Fifth Avenue from the head of Washington Square Park to the base of Central Park and the Central Park Zoo, one of my favorite Manhattan destinations. Halfway up Fifth Avenue, I stopped at a card shop to buy stamps and postcards…and the shop clerk nearly had a heart attack when I mentioned that I was walking some 50 blocks from the Village to Midtown. “Fasten up tight,” he fretted as I put my wallet and change back in my walking bag, a response that summed up his attitude that venturing out of one’s known neighborhood on foot is akin to leaving one’s own country, or even the planet.

According to that New Yorker article, Caleb Smith survived only “one aborted mugging” during his Manhattan transverse: not bad when you consider the range of neighborhoods he explored. During my own explorations of presumably “funky” urban areas, I’ve found that (most) people are like bees: they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. Although Caleb Smith’s website has re-ignited my desire to explore Manhattan on foot, the philosophy behind his quest can be applied to any city or town. Even Keene has streets I haven’t yet explored: unlike Caleb Smith, I haven’t yet sat down with a marker, a laminated map, and a plan to explore every inch of local pavement. This afternoon, though, the dog and I turned left where we usually turn right, and we subsequently walked down a short side-street I’d never yet explored. Caleb Smith might be Manhattan’s walking man, but I’m content (for now) to be Keene’s walking woman.