Spy readers may remember the name of Neil King from a few months ago when he generously contributed a masterful treatment of Frederick Douglass and the historic landscapes of the Eastern Shore. But he is best known as the well-respected global economics editor for the Wall Street Journal, who now calls Claiborne, a hamlet a few miles east of St. Michaels, his weekend home, where he works on independent projects that capture his imagination.
So shortly after he completed one of those projects for the Spy, he fulfilled a long-term aspiration this spring by opening the front door of his house in Washington, D.C. one morning and walking to the heart of Manhattan over the next 26 days.
There were several motivations for this particular journey. Neil had wanted for some time to retrace the steps of many of the founding fathers in the 18th Century who were required to make similar trips between the new country’s northern and southern regions. He also thought the experience would make an interesting book that continued the tradition of such travel writers as de Tocqueville and Dickens in documenting Mid-Atlantic America.
But what King didn’t anticipate during this leisurely stroll (he stayed at B&B’s and hotels along the way) through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey was how his daily encounters with “real Americans” would result in what he could only describe as a religious experience. For it was not only the sense of connection with people who were so different from his own background and political beliefs but how stunning and meaningful this old pathway had become for him and his hopes for America’s future
The Spy sat down with Neil at the Claiborne Village Hall last week to talk about that experience as he prepares to collect his journals, images, and thoughts for a book we can hardly wait for.
This video is approximately ten minutes in length.