Pedestrian thoughts

Anyone who knows me knows I would sooner walk most places than drive. The exception being bridges, in which case I’d rather avoid crossing altogether. But if I must cross, I prefer to stay in the car, thank you very much.

I have crossed the East River on foot. No, I didn’t walk on water. But I did walk the Brooklyn Bridge. I just had to experience getting to Manhattan from Brooklyn without the aid of a taxi or mass transit. And I’ve walked the Tower Bridge in London, with plenty of pints to persuade me, and the Pont Neuf in Paris, with ample vin rouge in my veins. But when I had the opportunity to walk the Golden Gate Bridge, I stayed in the car. A river is one thing, a bay is another.

Fortunately I encounter only one small waterway on my way to and from the bookstore – Mauvaisterre Creek. And even I can handle that.

But I’m a minority out there hoofing it. There aren’t many of us around anymore, and most of my fellow walkers aren’t pedestrians by choice. They just can’t afford a car. Sally (Nurss, former owner of OTB) also used to walk to the bookstore every day. She has a car, but she too would rather walk more often than not. Maybe it’s a bookseller thing.

Maybe it’s a writer thing, too. Many writers have attested to the creative stimulation of walking. When I learned that Wallace Stevens used to walk two miles each way to and from his day job, I was thrilled, bonding over time and space with the great poet. “Me, too!” I fairly squealed. And, while a may not be the caliber of poet that he was, my day job is way cooler (if much less lucrative) than his. Insurance executive by day, Stevens penned some of the most profound lines in American history by night. Those walks home cleared his head of claims and premiums, providing the atmosphere conducive to elevated thought which would crystalize in rhythms, as though emerging from his own particular stride. Once home, a poem would arrive, almost fully formed.

But you needn’t write to benefit from walking. It’s not new advice, but it still holds true: fresh air is good for you. Especially if you’re moving in it. If I can be a contrarian for a moment, I don’t understand all these complaints about the lack of parking on the square. (And believe me, I realize I’m a minority in this regard, as well.) Sure, if someone is elderly or has a disability, I completely understand their need for a nearby space. But if you are relatively able-bodied, why not embrace the opportunity to walk across the newly renovated square? Take in the fresh air. Clear your head of the clamorous radio ad voiceovers. Work up a bit of an appetite walking to one of the restaurants downtown, and walk off a little lunch afterwards. Just a thought – one of many that come to me while I’m out walking.


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