Walk Across America
"My walk across America started in the early 80's when, as a traveler, I'm the son of a traveling salesman ..... I took a freighter across the Pacific .... to Japan. It was the first time I had ever been there ..... As I pulled into the harbor, I hatched the notion, I will .... walk the country from coast to coast. It is not that big of a walk, not that big a challenge. I set off though these rice fields and I began to sort of wake up the notion of traveling ..... I use the horizon and the setting sun as my guide. I fished my way through rice fields and the whole thing worked rather well. You improvise your way. The more you are stuck for a place at night, the more you actually find some saving grace that is quite picturesque. So when that worked well, I came home and said, .... I'll walk the United States. Somewhere around '84, I left my New York apartment, cut across Central Park, and went past my alma mater Columbia University, across the George Washington Bridge and I was in New Jersey. Most of the time I was alone with my Sony Walkman and my notebook in my pocket. .... Over forty more excursions, about three a year, taking about twelve years, I crossed the entire United States." From the "Across America" Interview.
How have the press and Art Garfunkel's fans treated him during his walk?
"I was left almost totally alone. There were times that the press latched onto me and then I would have to strike a deal. If you leave me alone, I'll give you an interview in the coffee shop in the town I'm about to come to. ..... But I was never really hassled and I find the world .... is a safe place. Almost the entire world is trying to mind their own business and stay out of trouble and find their way to heaven in their own way. They just can't be bothered with you. There is another phenomena that my fellow celebrities may know. If you are wearing a non-persona, if behind your face, you are feeling like I'm not a famous singer, I'm just a guy looking out at the beauty of the landscape. The attitude that you project belies any sense of celebrity. So, even if somebody says, 'he seems to look like Art Garfunkel, but it can't be, look at his tone, his attitude, that couldn't be him.' So I never get hassled."From the "Across America" Interview.
While walking across America, what is the most surprising thing that had happened to you or that you had observed?
"In the Appalachians of West Virginia, the sun was going down and I was stuck for a place to stay. I knocked on the door of a private farm house. Three college-age girls were in the middle of an LSD trip. They recognized me as Art Garfunkel. I learned that they were three of thousands (millions?) who are "invisible" - pay no taxes, avoid the census taker; they are not on America's books." From the "1999 AG Website" Interview.
Tell me about that. What is this walking thing you've been doing?
"I walked around one-eighth of the northern hemisphere. Some years ago I took a freighter from San Francisco to Japan, and I had never been there, it was the early '80's. So when I arrived in Japan, I checked the little luggage I had, and I walked across Japan through the rice fields, and it took me three weeks because the country's not that wide, and I found it was very doable and very healthy, and nice, and settled me down. So I planned to do just that across the United States, and I did it from the mid-'80's to the mid-'90's in forty different excursions always flying home and then flying back to where I left off some months later..... Half the time I went out on my own with my music and a notebook, and half the time I was either with my wife or my brother, or Jimmy Webb joined me in Idaho."
When you first did it in Japan, did you have a plan? Did you have a goal in sight every day, did you know where you were going to wind up in five or six or eight hours?
"No, I trusted that I
would find a place to stay..... I had my American Express card in my back pocket, but I
basically woke up the spirit of travel and replaced that feeling of, "Where's my car
keys?" into, "There's West, and I have my map," and the rest is just follow
your sense of direction and cut through the earth as if you were two years old and an
unprogrammed human being who is going to just go, you know, that verb "to go"
and you see the hills that are 12 miles away, and you say, "I'm going there,"
and you walk there! ..... Although I have the curly, recognizable hair, out there in the
field with a cap on and a book and the sort of non-persona that I wear, I find it real
easy to be a nobody and to not get recognized. I think if people see me and if they would
think that I look like Art Garfunkel, their next thought must be, "No, it couldn't be
him. Look, this is a guy who's walking across the fields..."From the "WNEW-FM" Interview
Reprinted from jacket of Across America
"It's the not exactly knowing of the way, the map thrown away that makes the setting sun the guide, and makes the setting come alive."
Art Garfunkel was the focus of a four-page interview with Tom Dunkel in the October 15, 1990 issue of "Sports Illustrated." A summary follows:
The article is entitled "He's Gone to Look for America - Art Garfunkel is five years into a solo cross-country walk." Mr. Dunkel caught up with Art 2,200 miles into his 4,000+ mile walk in Nebraska during the Spring of 1990. The Walk is conducted in pick-up-where-you-left-off spurts of approximately one week and 100 miles. Every four months or so, Art flies from his Manhattan apartment and continues his walk through the back roads of America. The original plan was to walk a relatively straight line between New York and Oregon, "but evolved into a free-form squiggle." His footsteps "are plotted on a Rand McNally map that fills a wall of his third floor study." Within 24 hours of his decision in 1984 to walk from the East Coast to the West Coast, Art packed a small backpack and began his trek through Central Park, across the George Washington Bridge and into New Jersey.
Although 90% of his walk is logged alone, he has hiked with his brother Jerome, wife Kim and Jimmy Webb. No, Paul Simon has not joined him on his journey to "record the topography of the United States." According to Dunkel, "early on, Garfunkel would either hitch hike or double back on foot to the nearest motel every night. However, somewhere in West Virginia it occurred to him that all those wasted hours might add up to an extra decade on the road. Now, he says, he travels 'rich man style', with an assistant to drive him to that day's starting point, scout lunch and room accommodations, run errands and retrieve him at the end of the day." Dunkel observes that Art is "weighed down by only a road map, a pair of reading glasses, a watch..., a Walkman and eclectic selection of tapes, including Peter Gabriel, Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and poems of John Donne, read by Richard Burton."
Art has put his master's degree in mathematics to good use on The Walk. "He knows that his combined left-right strides measure five feet. That's exactly 2,112 steps per mile", or "2.6 miles per hour."
"There are a couple of walk rules which Art adheres to religiously. Walk Rule No. 1; no peeking. No exceptions." Whenever Alan Lipson, his assistant, "must drive him over a section of as yet unwalked road to get to their motel, Garfunkel rides with his eyes shut. Likewise, he will not fly in or out of an airport situated in untrod territory. Walk Rule No. 2; Keep moving. Constant starting and stopping is a waste of energy. The Walk was never envisioned as an opportunity to mingle with the masses. It isn't about socializing. It's about being the perfect stranger." Dunkel adds, "the rules are a reflection of Garfunkel's perfectionism. He is rock 'n' rolls Felix Unger. This is a man who keeps the 1,664 page Randon House Dictionary of the English Language on his kitchen table to read (albeit from Z to A). He has a Rolodex filled with words and their definitions, hand printed and catalogued by number." Dunkel quotes Garfunkel regarding his journey through the dictionary as "a very similar thing to The Walk." Dunkel concludes, "both are comprehensive in scope, dead serious in intent."
Video documents the Walk and the Concert recorded live in
The Registry Hall at Ellis Island, April 12th & 13th, 1996.
at the concert: Art Garfunkel, Kim Cermak Garfunkel, James Garfunkel,
Warren Bernhardt, David Biglin, Tommy Igoe and Michael Brecker. Special Guest Musician: James Taylor.
Having completed his "Walk Across America" Art Garfunkel has begun his journey across the European Continent.