I came across 'Walking off the Big Apple' by complete chance, as one does on the internet, some years ago searching for something else. From then on it was a delight to turn away from 'wars and the rumours of wars' to read something gracious, enthusiastic, informed and spiritually generous once in a while. The site was run (single handedly at that) by Teri Tynes, a New Yorker from Texas.
Subtitled 'A strollers guide to New York City', Tynes recorded her walks around Manhattan Island (and occasionally beyond), illustrated with her own superb photographs, the sheer delight city life could bring to the observant and curious mind. However, 'All life is here' wouldn't be true of 'Walking ...'. Tynes left out the soiled and gruesome to elevate her gaze just so far, far enough. Of smart restaurants and snob pleasures there were few mentions, if only to highlight the self imposed chasm that separates those whose money insulates them from experience. Her aspiration was to re-invent the 19th century flanneur, the ironic, knowledgeable and essentially sympathetic wanderer, able to delight in all the inconsequential details of modern urban life; for most of us on this planet now, this is life. She succeeded.
Her energy was prodigious; the site developed and grew in scope; the Internet add-ons (that defeat me) she had a plenty; slideshows and maps, calendars of forthcoming art exhibitions and film reviews (Tynes is an accomplished film critic); historical detail and observations on architecture and eating out; all this combined to provide a user's guide to New York City like nothing else I have seen, since it was essentially the unique product of a single mind, a particularly fine one. She even found time to encourage your humble servant.
Earlier this year the steady steam of postings declined and then halted. Now Ms Tynes has issued a post on the site to announce her retirement. Many followers have added their thoughts to her comments thread, thanking her, regretting the passing of what was, for many, an essential recreational delight. The news came with evident sadness. Reflecting on this news afterwards, I was reminded of some lines by Keith Douglas (1920-44) –
the specimens, the lilies of ambition
still spring in their climate, still unpicked:
but time, time is all I lacked
to find them, as the great collectors before me.
But she had found much, shared much. Tynes' achievement is and remains wonderful, an exemplar. My own sadness is eased by the knowledge that much of what she wrote and photographed will remain up on the Internet. Who knows someone might produce a e-book of her postings. One thing is for certain, Teri Tyne's achievement will not be soon matched nor forgot.