This is the first in a series of NYC walking tours from Inside New York.
You’ll notice a trend at New York City parties: a good third of the young people “want to write.” This is a city steeped in stories—a walk through New York is a walk through the stomping grounds both of beloved wordsmiths and the characters they penned. With a good pair of shoes, an MTA day pass, and a Moleskin notebook, you can explore the sites that have inspired the likes of Jack Kerouac, Dorothy Parker, and Walt Whitman… and perhaps be inspired yourself.
Begin by taking the 1 train to 150th St and Riverside Drive. Standing across the street from the apartment of the Invisible Man author, the Ralph Ellison Memorial is an austere six-inch sheet of metal sporting a man-shaped cutout. Come back another time and frame the sunset through it.
Walk south and a bit east to get back on the 1 at 145th St, and ride it down to 116th and Broadway. Columbia University (2960 Broadway & 116th St) brims with literary history, but many of the prominent writers who studied there scorned i t. Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca lived in John Jay Hall (corner of 114th St & Amsterdam Ave) and Furnald Hall (corner of 115th St & Broadway). He was enrolled in Columbia’s School of General Studies, but spent most of his time romping through the city, intoxicated by “its extrahuman architecture, its furious rhythm, its geometry and anguish.” Likewise, Langston Hughes spent most of his truncated undergraduate career off campus exploring Harlem.