Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hogarthian Walking

Journal Entry: June 2, 2010: Weight = 170.2 lbs.; Coinage = $2.93, 114 pennies (one wheat), 3 nickels, 5 dimes, 1 quarter, 1 dollar bill ( a paper find is always special); Glass bottles retrieved = 7; Ground Scores = 4.

Journal Entry: June 3, 2010: Weight = 172.6 lbs; Coinage = $1.39, 49 pennies, 4 nickels, 2 dimes, 2 quarters; Glass bottles = 6; Ground scores = 10; Best coinage find = a totally blackened quarter, a “step over” quarter, also a 5 peso coin.

Feature Entry: Hogarthian Walking

This morning during my walk Malick cried out Bob, Bob! He wanted to say hello. I had talked with him and two street companions on the day before. The three homeless men had talked about seeing me frequently walking the area and were curious about what I seemed to be doing. They could tell by my dress and determined look that I was not a typical walker in the neighborhood. I had met one of them before and he knew that I was a money walker.

The episode reminded me of William Hogarth(his "Beer Street" painting is featured above). About 250 years ago Hogarth, a noted painter and artist, walked the seedy streets of London and painted what he saw—usually impoverished men and women living in debauchery. New Orleans has always been a city with thin layers of wealthy and wretched communities existing side by side. Thus, as one walks in our city, one moves from opulence to Hogarthian-type low rent districts in a matter of minutes. In the Canadian Forum, a Hogarthian walk is interestingly described as follows: “You don't stand back and observe the city from a safe distance as you would with, say, Canaletto. You are swept along the alleyways, jostled from each side, forced to dodge the contents of an emptied piss-pot or to step over an inebriated harlot.”

There are places in New Orleans like that. The MoneyWalker avoids the ones known to be high crime areas. But an urban savanna is a full context of dwellings and situations, not just an oasis for the well educated. Not walking into the full range of neighborhoods is to completely miss the Hogarthian philosophy of walking. “One of William Hogarth’s consummate skills as an artist was his ability to make you feel part of his world.” New Orleans neighborhoods can be a seedy world? Many are places of indeterminacy, disorder, and confusion where lives are being played out in a way understood in no better way than by walking and reflecting on the sights, sounds, and smells of the neighborhoods.

The MoneyWalker is cautious and selective of the streets that are selected for walking, but if there is no reason to suspect that an area is inclined to support criminal behavior, he will allow his “psychogeographic” curiosity to direct his path; and, he thinks, better for it.



  1. What a well-written and interesting observation incorporating Hogarth. I especially liked this turn of phrase: "thin layers of wealthy and wretched communities existing side by side." Thanks for the sharp analysis and descriptions of the mental pulse of walking.

  2. Thanks Jan, it was your recommendation that led me to purchase "The Lost Art of Walking" by Geoff Nicholson. His perspective led me to include the "culture of walking" as a major focus of my blog. The Hogarth piece is an example.

  3. So what did you and Malick chat about?

  4. Malick just wanted to say hi, but the day before he wanted to know what I knew about the free food offered by FBCNO at Taylor Park on Wednesdays at 6:00 P.M. Malick is way to smart and to young to be on the streets.

  5. Nice post. I lived in Rio de Janeiro as a child (amongst other places) and one saw the same contrasts. We took a set of Marriage a La Mode and The Rake's Progress framed prints to each dining room whenever we moved, so I literally grew up beingreminded of the extremes, and the perils of Mother's ruin (ie: gin)!

    I didn't have a car til I was 31 so my perspective on the world is still primarily that of a walker. As a short female, walking was safer in bad neighborhood than sitting (a stationery target) waiting for a bus.

  6. Retriever, thank you for visiting my blog and for your contribution to the discussion. I wonder how you found the MoneyWalker?