I need to walk more. Generally, and like most people with jobs, I commute in my car. I walk down our front stairs, get in the car and speed away. Twenty minutes later, I'm at work. No, wait. Twenty minutes later, I'm near work. Twenty minutes after that, I'm parked and walking into work.
During this time, my only input comes from the radio. That usually means sports or music. I may also carry on one-way conversations with other drivers or pedestrians, but lord help me if they actually talk back. I arrive at work in a mild headache fog, usually irritated because I've spent 20 minutes looking for a parking spot. Net impact of city life on mine: zero.
Today, since I had plenty of time and no Jawa pickup resonsibilities, I took BART downtown and then walked the remaining 6 blocks to work. Net impact of city life on mine: infinity.
Prior to adopting my upright citizen facade, I spent a large part of each day walking. It began when I was 22 and visiting Sydney, Australia and flourished during the years I lived in Seattle. Remember, I am an Orange County guy. Nobody walks in Southern California. Even the illegal aliens who gather on the corner of Chapman and Hewes waiting for work are driven to their location.
There are only two rules to walking in the city, and the fact that I followed neither of them while walking today shows that I have gotten too far from my walking roots. They are as follows:
1) Cross with whatever light is green.
2) Always cross to get a closer look at an interesting girl, car or motorcycle.
(Rule #2 once blew up in my face when the interesting girl I crossed the street to see turned out to be Sandra Bullock's best friend. Interesting. I am so sadly emasculated that I went home and immediately told S. Bullock about the incident. She chuckled, then called her friend, who was flattered. A scary and dangerous man am I.)
Though today's walk was not a classic meander, it did remind me of what I've been missing by driving everywhere. The casual pace of walking down the hill, stopping to buy a newspaper and BART ticket, then waiting for the next train. Reading one of the ridiculous free weekly newspapers and realizing that we, as a family, take very little advantage of all of the cultural and gastronomic options offered by our city. The constant sensory input. The woman in the sandwich place telling her friend that she was "going to find (him) a nice Italian girl to marry."
I arrived sweaty and relaxed. My laptop bag was heavy, but if I could have I would have continued walking for the rest of the day.
Of course, once I arrived here about 15 minutes passed before I felt the loss of my car. No way can I go home and put on a sportcoat for my 5 pm client meeting. It would take me 2 hours to get there and back.
Back in the Seattle days, I would leave my house and walk for hours. Besides the two rules of city walking, there were no borders to my walk, save for exhaustion. And since I was 24, exhaustion wasn't an issue. I walked through any neighborhood unafraid, because I was young, strong and dressed in a way to blend in wherever I walked. Nobody cared about me. I just walked through. People seem to be suspicious of a 40-year-old guy walking aimlessly through a city. Unless you're not speaking the native tongue, you're viewed warily or with pity.
I once thought of writing a memoir based on walking. Sadly, it, like every single other great idea I've ever had in my life, died in my head, long before execution.
One night, two days before I met Sandra Bullock, I walked from downtown to Fremont, a distance of approximately 5 miles, in a driving snowstorm. Just for kicks, and to get to a party.
Today I walked six blocks through downtown in my best Banana Republic finery and it completely made my day. I need to walk more.