Tuesday, January 24, 2006

WALKING


walk this way, talk this way
Originally uploaded by fubuki.

For most of my life, I've been a walker. It wasn't really a choice. Unlike these crows, I couldn't fly; and I often drove unreliable vehicles that spent more time in the shop or broken down in the driveway than they did taking me where I wanted to go. There was one particular Volkswagen bug that had to be jumped every time I drove it, coming and going. It got to the point where my poor, beleaguered neighbors just saw me on the street and they ran for cover. It was usually easier to walk; and I did-- miles and miles, often dragging my two oldest kids with me. Pushing one in a stroller, the other clinging onto the side as we trucked our clothes to the laundromat may have felt tough at times, but it now provides me with some sweet memories

Then there was my job. In all my years of waitressing, I probably took enough steps to traverse a couple of continents. But the only place I ever arrived was tired out in my kitchen, sucking on a beer or a cup of hot chocolate as I counted out my tips at the end of the day. It was a good life in a lot of ways. I loved the motion of it, and the new faces that popped up every time I took a few steps in another direction. Even better, I could sneak greasy hors d'hoevres or leftover wedding cake till I dropped and never gain an ounce. Bemused, I watched diet fads come and go.

But in the past couple of months, my life has been different. I stopped being a walker and became a sitter. Instead of serving up coffee and soup to folks of all kinds, I sat at my computer and invented my own people. Like the ones I've met in restaurants, country clubs and wedding tents, some of the people in my stories are easier to get along with than others. In fact, some of them are so obnoxious, I wish I could walk away from them, slink off to the kitchen and vent with my co-workers like I used to. Did you see that character on page 6? What a jerk!

Now my only co-workers are my dogs; and they don't care a bit if I get fat, sitting around and snacking all day. In fact, they're all for it as long as I share the bounty. In two short months, I've become a world class sitter--and my "shrinking" jeans are beginning to reflect the consequences. I got all excited when I read a review of a book called The Sonoma Diet in Sunday's NY Times Book Review. So what if the reviewer pretty much trashed the book, saying its book length advice could fit onto two index cards? People are pretty thin in Sonoma, aren't they? (Not that I'd know. Like I said, most of my traveling has been on foot, and in circular patterns around various dining rooms.)

So today, with the temperature hovering preternaturally around 50 degrees and my daily writing finished, I committed a revolutionary act. I walked for no reason--not to get anywhere, or to earn a living, but just for the sake of walking. It wasn't a short walk either. I walked three miles to the local convenience store, congratulating myself on my new "exercise program" every step of the way, and three miles back, whining and wondering where I ever got this crazy idea.

I blamed my surroundings, the cars on the road, the damn hills that all were all of the up variety on the way home. Really, the area where I live is not all that conducive to walking for no reason, and would probably be even less friendly to anyone who actually needed to get somewhere. I walked a mile or two down a major road, with big SUVs and pickup trucks driving me closer to the guard rails. And you can't help noticing the way people look at you when you're walking on the road like that--as if they're probably wondering why you don't have a car. What's wrong with you. It's what Woody Guthrie (yes, I know I'm obsessed) called the "born to lose" look.

At home, the dogs were giving me their own look--one that said, I can't believe you went without us. But once I settled myself back in my study with the requisite snacks, all was forgiven.

The Sonoma Diet, huh? Maybe I'm going to have to check that out.

29 comments:

Melly said...

I can't imagine you walking to the side of a highway, that actually doesn't sound too healthy, but I know that problem of shrinking jeans -- quite annoying! -- So I understand why you tried to do that. But choose something else, will ya? :)

Patry Francis said...

Melly: Maybe highway is the wrong word; it's more like a "big road", but that doesn't sound nearly as impressive. I think I will try something else though. Maybe join a gym and get on the treadmill to nowhere...

Kerstin said...

This made me laugh. And it reminded me of my exercise 'regime' back in the UK where we lived in a US type development with the safest method of transport to the nearest shops being the car. Very un-European! But I needed to exercise and walked almost five miles every other day, alongside the 'big road' which thankfully had a green strip in the middle that I could use for more comfort and safety. The truck drivers honking at me were a little disconcerting, mind ...

Of course now I live in proper US and I am so thankful for moving to a downtown flat soon where the car will stay in the nearby parking garage (to which we have to walk!) and everything can be reached by foot.

Anyway, you don't strike me as the type to enjoy a treadmill to nowhere (love that expression!) but I am curious, where do you take your dogs for THEIR walks?

Alexandra S said...

What a wonderful post! I keep telling myself that walks in the rain are amazing and that I love them, but I think in reality I've only gone for like 2 walks all winter long! (I live in Portland, Oregon)-
Heres to both of us getting moving! But if you decide not to, you sound like you've created a wonderful little nook for yourself right there in your own home-Enjoy!

Amishlaw said...

Your comment about the strange looks you get while walking reminded me of a book by Larry McMurtry, "Duane is Depressed," in which the main character, all of a sudden gives up his pickup truck and starts walking around his area of Texas. You don't just walk, unless something is wrong with you or your vehicle in much of America. McMurtry's book is a great book, and also contains a very useful tip about reading Proust. (Just 10 pages a day will get through the entire set of Proust in a year.)

Patry Francis said...

Kerstin: Your comment made me miss Noho, which is really a walker-friendly place--especially near the center. Thanks for asking about my dogs. I walk them around the block or (their favorite) take them in the car to the beach where they can explore and walk at the same time. But my lab is 10, and she walks very slo-owly, not really providing her human with much exercise.

alexandra: walking in the rain in Portland sounds divine! I'll vow to get out on the "big road" and do it again if you do.

amishlaw: thanks for the feedback. After I put this up, I was afraid that readers would also be giving me "strange looks," as they imagined me trudging me down the street avoiding speeding SUVs. You've definitely convinced me to read Duane is Depressed. The title has intrigued me for years--but the Proust suggestion was the clincher.

MB said...

I am fortunate in having a wealth of good walking territory available. But there are times I wind up on the treadmill - the only thing that makes it remotely tolerable is if I listen to books on tape or read while I'm there. (Reading can be tricky if the print's too small to make out as I bounce along.) I'm sure you'll figure something out that suits you.

Perfect Virgo said...

Aha the dreaded shrinking jeans syndrome! I walk about 5 miles a day on both roads and forest tracks. I tried the gym but it numbed my mind. Luckily I'm one of those who can graze all day and remain weightless (whether I walk or not.)

Like you I find the home is a good place to spend most of the day. I share the space with Smartie the-not-so-small-any-more kitten and my wife comes home top domestic neatness.

I am a cleaner and a tidier by nature (virgo of course) so I can't write in a tangle. Cleaning first, writing later, then walking or motor cycle riding (racing!) I am becoming accustomed to this life.

Perfect Virgo said...

... and did you notice Patry, the caption beneath my last post says "5 comments" yet oddly there are only 4 comments visble - so your words were registered somewhere they just remain invisible. Let's call it a glitch...

rdl said...

nice post!
Yea, what happened to the gym and the gymlady? what's her name?
my jeans must be in the same dryer as yours. I read that S.A.D. makes you crave sweets and carbs. pasta and hot fudge yum.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

We scout out great walking places. We have walks we walk to, walks we bike ride over to, and walks we drive to. We try to get in at least two walks a week. More if the weather permits. It is one of the ways we find inspiration for writing, for gardening, for getting through the day.

I hope you find a walk that doesn't have trucks and SUVs making you hug the guardrails. A quiet walk is like a meditation, and it's good for those shrinking jeans.

Vickie said...

The radio did a thing this morning. Ten reasons why diets fail. One of those reasons is the purchase of the latest diet book. Another is skipping breakfast. A third is eating anything you want just because you exercise. I don't remember the rest.

I track my steps and have for the past year and a half. I also try to do 20 minutes on the bike each day. It isn't much, but it has been something that I can stick to and I will lose weight. I was down 14 lbs at one time.

Good luck to you.

Stephanie said...

I love walking. It can be so empowering if you sit at your desk to get up and physically move.

I got a pedometer for Christmas, which I love, but it also reminds me when I haven't taken more than 2000 steps in a day.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I think you'd like Jean's recent posts This Too: she's decided to walk 1,000 miles in 2006. Here and here.

Patry Francis said...

mb: I'm thinking of moving, and one of my main criterions is proximity to good places to walk. I have mystified more realtors than I can say.

r: Oh yeah, the gym. I might have to go back. Not only did I get exercise, but sometimes I even talked to real live humans (something a stay-at-home-writer sorely needs).

p.v. Isn't staying at home grand? As long as you find a balance in life, of course--which it sounds like you have. I like the idea of a tidy Virgo writer turning into a mad motorcycle racer when he puts on his leather jacket. Now that's balance.

r.d.: I could drive to a nice place to walk and probably will since my initial plan didn't work too well. But I wish that more areas were more hospitable to walking--that we could both get exercise and run an errand without using our cars.

Vickie: What you say about buying a diet book makes a lot of sense. Often we would rather go out and buy something--a book or a gadget or a gym membership we'll never use--than go about the hard work of real change.


Stephanie: I have a pedometer, too. I used to wear it to work where I regularly logged 5 -8 miles in an eight hour shift. I guess I'm going to have to get it out again and figure out a way to compensate for all that lost activity.

Patry Francis said...

richard: Thanks's for steering me toward Jean's blog. Her posts were indeed inspiring. So after yesterday's 5 mile walk, I've only got 995 more to go. Look out SUVs, here I come!

Tink said...

I love the fact that some of your own characters irritate you! There's just something twisted and funny about having control over the outcome of something and still making it displeasing. Great blog.

Patricia said...

Keep walking honey, you're one brave woman, and...it's not the ring bloggers, it's, google zoetrope virtual studio, it's a writers workshop online...an excellent place for feedback and conversation, zoetrope virtual studio, great post Patry..xoxo

colleen said...

I relate. I stopped doing fulltime foster care in May and don't have a forced schedule. Lots more sitting at the computer than ever before. When does a passion become an obsession, I'm asking myself? Writing is a solitary activity. I'm already a solitary type so I have to watch out it doesn't go overboard. I also want to talk more about writing I'm working on but have to hold it in until it's ready to put out....and usually by then I'm so over it.

Sky said...

OK, it is time for yoga and pilates, girlfriend! Walking down big roads is dangerous! Be safe and comfy, do something inside! You could even invest in a treadmill and read a good book while you "walk!"
Good post! :)

Patry Francis said...

Tink: You wouldn't believe some of the nasty types who come walking into the middle of my stories unbidden, but that's okay. A writer who tries to rein them in too tightly makes the story lifeless IMHO. Thanks for your comment!

Colleen: And if writing didn't keep us at our desks long enough, now there's blogging!

Sky: Good suggestion. I LOVE pilates, and it always makes me stand up so straight.

floots said...

up here, the walkers sometimes outnumber the vehicles
(so i can be strange with impunity - save for the ambiguous and unblinking welcome of the cat)
i enjoyed this - so keep up that cerebral stepping too :)

Patry Francis said...

floots: a place where walkers outnumber vehicles? sounds like my idea of paradise.

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