In travel it does not always have to be those places planned upon and set in the way that inspire and transform. If anything, the ability to use The Googles to locate just about any point on the map and then view that location – if not view years of development at the click of a button – may detract from what previous generations experienced. The unknown and the unexpected. May allow us to avoid those moments unplanned and unexpected that allow us to live what some call “in the moment.”
This is not to detract from the wonder of just typing in a random address and another one and then plotting the journey. Using the street view to find the contours as well as hazards of a trip. We can select to see this map plot my car route to avoid tolls, my journey by public conveyance of rail, bus, and ferry, on foot and know exactly how long it takes to walk, and by bicycle (still in beta, report all unusual activity).
I was looking up a prospective hire. A simple action of viewing an address on a resume, nothing intrusive – and there at once was the individual’s house. Their front door. The trash outside waiting pickup – at least June 2014. I considered in these days all is out in the open. We need no longer just come from a “good neighborhood” and have perfect credit to impress, we must also ensure the apartment we rent doesn’t have a frightening facade and that the trash has been picked up before the Googles, Bings, Yahoos of the world come whizzing clicking shuddering by.
I looked at the house I grew up. Yes, my junk car was under a tarp waiting restoration (Sept. 2013). I wondered how my own address would look to current or future employers. What a dismal entry way I have now.
So I plotted my journey on The Googles. It was for work and just on the outer edges of Gothem where the penumbra of poverty gives way to extreme wealth. I had chosen to walk from the rail station for my constitution if little else. It was a dismally gray day, the fog lifted off the ice chunks in the river and the damp now and again turned into little pellets of rain. I trudged up and over the hills. I measured my steps against the estimate Uncle Internet had provided. I rechecked directions when my iThingy buzzed in my pocket. I arrived. Tired and damp but within a few minutes of the estimated time.
The machine in the ghost.
On the route back to the station, I passed the entrance to the Harlem Aqueduct. A marvel of the Industrial Age, perhaps the pinnacle of Western Civilization. To place a pipe for hundreds of miles to bring water to the tired and sick city. Above the pipe is a trail for bikers and joggers and rapists. By trail this path is little more than an afterthought. is an unlit muddy path marked by large chimneys upon which rest manholes in order to access the massive fixtures below the surface. In the dimming winter light as night quickly enveloped the palisades and the river of a dark blue turned black and still, I thought it was a rather Lovecraftian environment. I wondered at what lurked beneath my feet that sank into sand here and mud there as I wondered what or who (or is it whom?) lay in the bushes or about the many water chimneys marking even intervals.
The night also brought a shift in temperature. The fog grew. Ice was soon to be in the air.
Here I was. Alone. In the dark. And my iThingy battery almost dead.
I knew this path would lead to the rail station. The river below me on one side, the cliffs of madness to the other, this was no matter of getting lost. Not that I appeared as a blue dot on my map. The satellites of love that had heretofore guided me as angels and microwaves had lost me and accordingly I was on the road far below. Passing Not Not Not Ray’s Pizza shope and not some bumble of wood torn up and sawed upon by machines or the gnashing of some hidden teeth lurking within the fixtures and fitting below.
Then. Suddenly in my sight a house. Devoid of life and torn open long ago. And in front of this a set of steps. And guarding the steps were statues. So real they appeared fake.
A lion. Marble and spray-painted and hit and trashed but yet standing. And his royal partner a horse or perhaps a unicorn since the head had been bashed off by gypsies, Vandals, Visigoths, or someone’s uncle Larry.
It was a complete surprise. I stood in wonder and as most these days reached for my iThingamajigy in order to use my dying batter life, my connection to space and the world, to take pictures. And so I did. Until the screen was dark. And there was now no way to know where I was. The best or shortest or fewest tolls or least highway or most walking. No way to know what I was looking at. Who built this? Why? Who carved these statues and why were they abandoned? Who painted “Hi” on the lion and then walked away? The looming decayed glooming other than a ruin and two majestic statutes silently guarding as they have so done, long before Wikipedia.
I find that apart from travel related to my employment i do not look too closely at maps. I do not read the reviews or recommendations more than I have to. I do not wander down the street view in order to know the things I will see.
As clever as this innovation is. Does it rob us of exploring? Or the unknown? Or discovering a ruined house perhaps that of Slenderman himself and wondering the entire ride back home – what was that? And having to answer those questions alone. And without the benefit of satellites of loving grace.