How it all works.

I'm trolling New York City collecting maps from flyers, government reports, informational brochures and such with the notion that all these maps will all somehow join together to create a complete map of NYC. The maps have to exist in real life- no downloads and cannot be rescaled or cut to fit.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Method of Collection

Also, quite often people ask me by what method I gather the maps that make up the pieces of the Great New York City Mapping Project; where I go, how I come to the decision to go there, and what I do when I get there. Well, the method I use to collect the maps has evolved since the random meanderings of the beginning of the project which, while providing a perfectly sound solution for densely mapped Manhattan, would prove to be woefully inadequate for the wastelands of The Bronx and Queens.

It was after two such useless forays into the South Bronx that I developed the method by which I find the maps. See, it’s easy to wander aimlessly in Manhattan because shops are everywhere and generally on the avenues and no shops on the streets. This is not the case in The Bronx where shops and restaurants are much less obviously placed than in Manhattan and where, in any case, it’s very hard to tell which is avenue and which is street. 

Since about 70% of the maps I was able to collect are from restaurants, I thought it would be a good idea if I started making a route for myself using Google maps. I pick a nice area that I think I can walk around in about 4 hours (after 4 hours my brain starts to melt), the Google finds all the restaurants in the given area, and I plot a course using that information. If there are some other interesting features like a park or a hospital or such I add those addresses in too. I write the addresses down in a filthy old diary which is the easiest way of doing things. It looks like this:

I choose the area to be explored based on the area I last explored. For reasons beyond my ability to write about in an interesting way, doing things in order in this fashion is the only way to make a big complex map like this. Anybody who works like this will already know and anybody who doesn’t will not give a damn. Basically, I discovered after much trial and error that it is easier to fit the maps together in Photoshop if they follow a steady movement in one direction. For a while I was obsessed with this aspect of the project and I would sit on the toilet staring at a street map planning routes and areas of discovery and figuring out where I would be in one week’s time and two months’ time and what I will find when I finally get to Staten Island. It was a wild time. 

Then it’s just a case of getting to the neighborhood, finding the shop or whatever it is and asking the fellow if they have a little menu or such for me to look at just to see if it has a map on it and having a little chat with him about his wee shop and about the neighborhood. Ha ha, just kidding, that’s not how it works. How about not talking to anyone, sullenly lurching into their place of business, mumble some incomplete greeting and rifle through their flyers and menus and shit. I then leave without thanks and without looking back. Well that’s one way of doing things. That’s my method when I’m tired and hungry. I usually feel bad after a session like this because I don’t remember much about their neighborhood and I vow to go back when I’m in a better mood and fed and rested but I never do. It is better when I sit and chat with people about the place and about the project and things. Those are the good times. I get better photos and more maps and everybody’s happy but it’s not always convenient.

I used to return menus that had no maps, but too many restaurateurs seemed saddened or offended that I gave their menu such short shrift. I can’t possibly explain to everybody that I’m looking for a map for some weirdo project, they wouldn’t understand, so now I take their stupid menu outside and throw it in the bin.
When I get home I take a highlighter and colour in the area I completed on my big white map of Queens and Brooklyn I got from Greiner Maltz. That’s the best part. I assess my haul, scan it into the computy and arrange them into the Great New York Mapping Project. For the interest of some select people I include a haul from a recent run. This is a good haul. Sometimes I get nothing. You can also see how they incorporate themselves into the map. It’s the most fun I ever had.
I’m supposed to write about that area too but I don’t because I’m lazy and stupid. Months later I write about it at Eli’s when I’m supposed to be working. I don’t like that part so don’t do it nearly enough. I’m also very bad at it.