Raw, quick, unedited, sometimes stream-of-conscious writing about a walking experiment in a small urban environment
A Walking Only Experiment
Intro: It is one week before I begin a new kind of lifestyle in which I will no longer rely on an automobile to get me wherever I want to go and am forced to either walk, take public transportation and/or hail taxi services (only when absolutely necessary).
This does not seem like a great challenge to millions of people who live in places like New York City, but for me it is an enormous challenge for the following reasons:
I have a substantial case of neuropathy in my legs and feet from type 2 diabetes I’ve had most of my life. Because of this I need to walk more to keep my circulation going, and I walk relatively slow, probably more like a man in his mid-70s instead of his early 60s. (Basically by forcing myself to walk I am getting the exercise I need to survive and thrive.)
The last time I took public transportation other than airline oriented and one recent and horrible Amtrak trip from Buffalo to Boston and back, was as a high school student taking the local bus system to school every day over four years.
Like many Americans I have come to rely heavily on my car for just about everything I do. I don’t live in a large urban center where you could survive without a car.
I am doing this in Ann Arbor for a total of 38 days. I am sub leasing a small one-bedroom condo that is about one mile away from a great park and all the shopping amenities one would need such as a Whole Foods grocery store and numerous restaurants and other retail outlets on a main drag that cuts through the heart of Ann Arbor – Washtenaw avenue.
As many a good urban historian will say, our cities have been built around ugly highways and cars. Ann Arbor is particularly in bad shape because of a very poorly designed and inadequate roads system.
Even here in Buffalo, where traffic is not nearly as congested as most cities, I lose my patience and get angry every time I get into my car. Some days are worse than others, and I am still amazed by the sheer large number of poor, unsafe and/or inconsiderate drivers there are on the roads, mostly senior citizens because I live in an area that has a high population of seniors.
Many of us have grown to accept this as the only and best way to live, never really questioning if perhaps there is a better way.
I’ve been practicing living more ambulatory in preparation for the upcoming 38-days experiment. Walking puts you in an entirely different world, where you more steadfastly become your true planet, swirling in your independent orbit in one of many solar systems, infinitum – I think this thought may have originated from something I read many years ago by John Steinbeck. Basically, what I am saying is that when you walk, everything changes. The way you interact with people, the way you interact with yourself, the amount of energy you expend – everything is altered to the max. Life is anew.
So, I am doing a kind of “Travels with Charlie”- without the dog and without the truck – recording here. And like Steinbeck, I suspect I will cheat now and then and simply rent a car for a while (he supposedly snuck into a few hotels along the way of his famous writing trip across America after saying that he did everything entirely from his RV-like truck), but for now I am going to give this total walking experience a shot to see if it indeed can be a better way to live.
My grandfather never owned a car and was an avid walker. He lived a happy and healthy life well into his 90s.
This minor experiment will also be a kind of inner journey because I will be doing this alone, something I haven’t done in more than 25 years except for a short period of time several years ago when I house sat in beautiful California. For some people, a brief spousal or family separation can be good for everyone concerned.
I have some awesome things to help – number one is the best pair of walking shoes man can buy, at least for me – and this is in no way an advertisement. I have always said having comfortable shoes makes life so much more enjoyable. It is an important aspect of our daily lives that we often don’t pay close enough attention to. I have 4E wide New Balance XYZ (get picture). The size is hard to get and they are expensive shoes in the 250 range when adding a special insole for even more top-notch comfort and support. I have had them for more than a year and they are still like brand new – with no noticeable wear and tear. I suspect they will last me a few more years at least, making them more than worth the initial outlay of cash.
In addition, I have great apparel to protect me from the elements – I am one who gets bitten alive by insects whenever I go outdoors. My blood basically attracts mosquitos – so I have to cover up my skin. On top I wear long-sleeve tee-shirts made from an awesome company called Crazy Shirts (show photos). In my opinion these are the best tee-shirts you can buy. I have yet to find a tee-shirt anywhere that matches the quality of Crazy Shirts. I need to find some inexpensive shades next.
My new backpack is the most important item I will be carrying with me. It is a black Kenneth Cole backpack that cost $89 plus tax. It is very well-built and sturdy, with strong straps and padding to make your load feel light on your shoulders. The inside has plenty of padding to protect all my electronic equipment, which I have too much of with a laptop, camera, video camera, kindle Paperwhite, Amazon Fire, Windows phone, along with all the wires and charging devices for all of these. So, I am a walking Radio Shak – I know that this load can be lightened if I put my mind to getting the right stuff, such as one charger for everything to begin with as well as having a still camera, video camera and phone in one device.
I don’t think the route I’ll be walking the most frequently puts me in a position to get mugged. I’ll be walking along a sidewalk that borders a relatively wide and busy street that intersects with Ann Arbor’s main drag. Near the end of one mile I am at the entrance of a fairly large park that is snap dap in the middle of Ann Arbor. I have not made the walk yet, but I am assuming that early in the morning will be an ideal time to make the trek, with little auto traffic and probably an extremely minimum number of walkers. I am looking forward to the first trek to the park and the shopping center only .3 of a mile across from the park. These are going to be my stomping grounds.
It is unfortunate that we have to think about the safety of any given walk we may decide to pursue. It is a fact of life that must be dealt with. My initial foray into the area where I’m going, which was taken by car when I last visited Ann Arbor a month ago showed me that this was a pretty mellow, no-crime area. The fact that there are typically a good number of people mulling about the shopping center along with the streets ablaze with cars – but to a much lesser degree than during the months when school was in a full-time session – make it lesser of a target for criminals who operate in sight unseen areas of town or ghetto-like areas of town.
The town’s population is dramatically reduced during the summer months, making this trip probably a lot more pleasant – at least that is what I am hoping. When I was there last it was commencement week and the city of Ann Arbor was loaded with people from all over the country attending graduation ceremonies on campus and in the stadium where thousands of students were graduating. Getting around town was a complete nightmare. I was frazzled by it all actually. This particular time of the year, as well as other times when Ann Arbor gets busy, would best be approached by having a friendly, fair and knowledgeable taxi cab driver take you everywhere if you can afford it.
Of course, as a walker, I need not even have to think about traffic other than watching for cars that might hit me when crossing the street. And in Ann Arbor, the pedestrian is king. People in Ann Arbor obey this law religiously, which is wonderful. In Buffalo, the pedestrian often does not get the right-away.
From the age of about 10 up through the age of 16, when I eventually got a license and started to drive, I relied entirely on my legs (and often a bike) to get me wherever I wanted to go. This was six years of pure discovery and learning like no other period in my life. It is a way of life that is not so common for today’s youth. I had complete freedom to travel to any place my legs would take me within my city neighborhood, called Iron Island. Sometimes I would venture farther to other neighborhoods, which was always a bit dangerous.
The Island had one center main street that stretched east-to-west through 10 core city blocks. To the north and south were another line of city blocks, so essentially the entire Island was comprised of at least 36 to 40 city blocks overall.
The entire area was surrounded by railroad tracks – hence the name Iron Island. This was my boyhood domain to freely walk and explore. It was a learning experience that obviously helped to create who I am today.
At the far west end of the Island there was a small city park with tennis courts, a basketball court, a public pool and a community recreation center with a gym, ping pong and pool tables, a lounge, etc. The community center was a big point of interest where the neighborhood’s youth hung out. We also hung out on various corners of the main drag, including on a corner where there was, what we called, a “soda bar” – a primary focal point for after-school socializing.
I lived on the far eastern end of the Island and I would consistently walk to the park, making my way pretty much across the entire Island. This is how I became street wise. I would also occasionally ramble over to the reservoir that was at the very end of the eastern part of the Island just over a small hill and across the railroad tracks. Lots of nefarious activities happened there – another learning experience.
These were the days of small mom and pop grocery stores, replaced today by convenience stores and gas stations. If I had some cash, I would stop and get some candy – life was good.
Thinking back, of course, smart phones did not exist. I was fully attentive to my walk and surroundings. I would always run into fellow Island residents – people who eventually became friends, both young and old.
So here I am today at the age of 61 going back to a lifestyle that I experienced more than 50 years ago. Could it be an old-age crisis that I am experiencing? A crisis in which I am so afraid of death that I want to relive my boyhood days just to be more authentic and more in tune with who I truly am before I leave the planet?
I know the life of a walker from living in a rust belt city neighborhood and having parents who simply gave me the freedom to go wherever I pleased. Even before the age of 10 I would go to a I am journeying back to my boyhood and my innate desire to explore my environs with no pre-conceived notions about anything or anyone I happen to interact with. Most of us forget how we accepted everything when we were younger and simply altered our paths when necessary and kept going forward or backward without any side effects or illusions or expectations.
I am going to try to include still photos and videos of my experience if possible. I’m still trying to learn how to do them in the most efficient and highest-quality process. I’ve started with a couple of shots of the local park that I have been walking to – it’s a path that is about 1.5 miles that includes a .5 mile wooden boardwalk that crosses over a swamp.
It is a strange path, and I’m going to be getting off it. There is something bizarre about it that I can’t really pin down. It’s awkward walking pass people on the boardwalk. It is not like walking down a busy street obviously where you can ignore everyone and go your merry way.
There’s a short circular path that goes around a fairly wooded area right after the boardwalk that has lots of uprooted and broken trees. The photo I’m showing, however, is looking over a small stream where geese frequently land. It is strange, though, as if more geese probably used to come here at one time and now the area is only a small frame of what it used to be.
It is nonetheless very nice and soothing to look at. Living in an urban area puts me in close proximity to small parks where one can hang-out with nature. It’s a great thing to be just sitting on a park bench with a nice view of a verdant piece of land even though it is a small view, not like an expansive ocean view, which is the my most preferable view of all views to experience. Being as close as possible to an ocean sunset is the best way, in my opinion, to maintain an inner peace of mind like no other.
It is obviously important to get outside just to feel air and sun and a sense of renewal after a harsh winter. Getting out of the start of the next winter coming this year is a goal that I am very much hoping to accomplish. I can’t yet figure out where that might be. The closest interesting thing I found was a 1,000 per month studio in one of those refinished hotels on Daytona Beach.
I’m trying to come up with a nicer Florida location that is not urban like and on the ocean’s shore. You can start with Airbnb to get a sense for what might be available and early the better in the year is the best time to do an Airbnb search. Maybe I can find a peaceful, low-population, uncongested, friendly place within walking distance of a nice white-sand beach.
Okay enough sloppy rambling…. Until another day….
According to Wendy Bumgardner, About.com Walking Expert, “sedentary people in the USA generally move only 2,000-3,000 steps a day. Previous studies have shown that moving 6,000 steps a day significantly reduces risk of death, and 8,000-10,000 a day promotes weight loss.” Two thousands steps equals about one mile. She defines sedentary as expending less than approximately 3,000 steps daily, which is a walk of about 25 minutes or less depending on your pace.
I don’t have a pedometer and should probably get one – another device, taking me to a total of eight devices I’ll be carrying with me. Am I nuts?
My best guess is that I have been expending anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 steps a day when I go for my park walk which has been anywhere from five to six days a week. My goal is to increase my steps and make it about 10,000 steps a day, seven days a week. My only concern is when the weather might bring a challenge or annoyance. I’m fairly wimpy when it comes to walking in the rain or against the wind.
Your senses are obviously changed when walking. You are not in a compartment on wheels with a dashboard, etc., to distract you from your inner thoughts that need to be listened to. Everything is heightened just by the mere fact that your body is pumping blood to your brain. Whenever I walk in the morning, I get a morning inspiration to write something that I feel is so important that it needs to be recorded. So when I get to my spot, I write some notes that percolated during the walk and email them to myself. I also take a few pictures when the feeling strikes.
Your other senses of hearing, seeing, smelling and touch are also heightened. What is so cool today is that we can adjust our hearing levels to music that we love, which is why I have an iPod with headphones. Think about this for a moment . . . It was not that long ago that doing this was impossible and not even thinkable.
Finally for today’s post, I’ve discovered that perhaps I should get one of those iPoles – yes, another gadget – as you can see in the photo here, I could not really get a full body shot of myself without a pole extension. So a pedometer and a pole might be added to may weapons bag.
So, I am on my way to another one of my favorite retail outlets, Best Buy.
I keep thinking about my younger ambulatory self – it gives me energy to keep on task here.
I like to use the words “Living Large” a lot. The definition of Living Large is one hell-of-a complex one to explain – and that is to put it mildly. Where to begin?
Money – the challenge is how can I reduce my expenses considerably, because, in retirement (a word I hate to use except for simply segmentation purposes), I will not have much of it. Never have though.
You do need to first pay your rent and utilities, of course. Then food. . . Then, just think about the savings you will realize if you don’t have car insurance, nor gas expenditures, not to mention maintenance responsibilities.
Your expenses just got reduced dramatically.
Years ago a man’s horse could be interpreted as the same as a car is today. The most prestigious horse owners had the healthiest and strongest horses, while poor guys, like a character in Fielding’s Tom Jones, if my memory does not fail me, had a broken-down horse that he could barely afford to feed. Over my lifetime I have had numerous broken-down cars as well as numerous finely tuned, new and clean cars.
All these cars, I guess, have made me tired of them – I simply want to exist without a car. In doing so I want to also be living in an environment where walking works, where all I need can be easily obtainable by walking. That is the experiment….. It does not sound like much, but upon close inspection, the change from driver to walker is a big one. They are distinctly different lifestyles.
Today was my first official walk day in Ann Arbor. I left at 7:30 a.m. without my backpack, carrying only my Windows phone and a water bottle that hangs from my pinky.
The first thing I noticed was that I will have to change my course to one that is less noisy or leave earlier. I’m walking along the sidewalk on a fairly busy small city street. About 15 to 20 cars wiz by about 10 feet from where I am walking every 10 to 15 seconds. People are on their way to work and they seem to be driving a bit over the speed limit. This part of the walk is not pleasant.
After about 15 minutes of slow walking, I arrived at the park, where, of course, the parks crew is mowing and blowing away. I managed to find a shady spot where the sounds were muffled enough to tolerate.
Today the urban park is not fitting the billing I was seeking, as I was really some quiet solitude in a natural setting for a morning respite. The spot I found was the closest I could get to peace and quiet. I stayed for about 45 minutes, with the sound of lawn mowers in the distance, and took some pictures of wire-like sculptures that are located in various spots near the park’s entranceways. Not so sure about the sculptures, although they do have an interesting quality to them that I really cannot describe.
I then headed to Washtenaw Street, located about .3 of a mile from the park.
I cut across a short back alley of a shopping plaza that borders Washtenaw and came upon this really large and modern bistro that serves breakfast. It had a very long bar and plenty of seating both indoors and outdoors. Great spot for a cup of Joe. This place served French Press half or full pots. I had some kind of Ethiopian blend that was really smooth along with some toast and jam. This was the first time I had French Press coffee served in a pot at a restaurant.
I tried to add an Uber account to my phone to test out the service for getting back home, but I had all kinds of technical issues. After hanging at the bistro for another 45 minutes or so, I headed back with my legs. The weather was perfect, in the mid-60s with a lot of sunshine.
Once I got home, I was able to set the Uber account all up. Now, if and when I may need a quick taxicab that will come directly to my location via my phone’s GPS, I can have that happen with a quick online notification via my Windows phone. Everything will be automatically charged to my cc, including the driver’s tip.
Tomorrow I am thinking along the lines of bringing my laptop to the café and having breakfast there – or I might travel across the street to the Barnes and Noble or Penara’s and test out their wifi and then possibly pick something up that I might need from the Whole Foods Grocery store.
Left at 7 a.m. with backpack carrying my laptop and my camera and phone. I took a better route, but still not the best experience. Since my destination took me to another part of Washtenaw Avenue, I had to walk partially on another busy street where another large body of early-morning-to-work traffic polluted the early morning sunshine.
When I got to the main intersection of Washtenaw directly bordering the plaza I was aiming for – where the Panera’s was located, I was shocked to see an enormous amount of traffic barreling through. I pressed the crosswalk button and watched trucks and cars noisily speed by me. It was irritating just standing there waiting for the traffic light to give me the white, go-ahead hand.
A large truck with two payloads came through at a very high speed. I could see the driver looking at a paper manifest atop his steering wheel – instead of being solely attentive to the busy intersection he was passing through – it was very disturbing to see. The death and destruction that could have resulted from that driver’s foolishness was mind blowing to me. These kinds of experiences only deepen the hatred for automobile traffic I already have – something that I did not think was possible.
The hand sign turned white to go, but only for about three seconds. As I crossed through the intersection, everything looked safe, all cars were stopped in every direction, but a small yet significant thought that the cross walk signage was not working properly, that a driver could possibly be too close for comfort, lingered until I fully crossed to the sidewalk bordering the plaza.
When I safely got to the plaza, the enticing aroma of breakfast coming from Panera’s made me anxious to eat something, and I had a delicious spinach and artichoke omelet.
I easily hooked up my laptop to Panera’s Wi-Fi; and with my phone, I was able to make this spot my office for as long as I wanted.
Think about how different that mere fact is to a walker of the not-too-distant past. There I was in a relatively private corner of an air-conditioned restaurant working on an assignment I had, taking care of business between bits of a delicious omelet and sips of freshly brewed Hazelnut coffee — how truly amazing when you really think about it.
I think I stayed for an hour and then headed over to the Barnes & Noble a few doors down. I bought a small, pocket-size notebook for taking notes, checked out the magazine racks and picked up Inc, Forbes and Fast Company to keep me occupied while munching down a blueberry muffin and sipping a vanilla latte – boy, life is good this morning for sure. I am fortunate and grateful to be “Living Large.”
After about 45 minutes at the book store I headed for the park, where there was a lot of activity by the kids’ playground on such a gorgeous day with plenty of sunshine and moderate summer temperatures in the 60s. What a great day.
Henry David Thoreau was a famous essay writer and avid walker from the early 19th century.
“Here is this vast, savage, hovering mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man”… wrote Thoreau in his famous “Walking” essay.
I am not, of course, in any sense as the aforementioned, instilling myself within Nature as Thoreau did, but I am definitely walking. Today was an intermittent walk of about 3.5 to 4 miles total, which for me is pretty damn good, especially with about 10 pounds on my back. When I got home, I was fully damp with sweat soaking my clothes and I was breathing very heavily. Doing this every day is great from a health perspective – that is part of the mission, even though it is only for one month.
Thoreau referred to true walkers as “saunterers,” saying that the word is derived from the Middle Ages when sojourners would be found going “a la sainte terre,” meaning to the holy land. Other saunterers were people without a home, “but equally at home everywhere.” He preferred the holy land version because he thought of every walk as a crusade of sorts. I prefer the second, as wherever I go I do feel comfortable walking and owning my own space.
Thoreau walked as much as four hours a day “at least,” he wrote, “sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” But he also noted that “as a man grows older his ability to be still and follow in-door occupations increases. He grows verspertinal (active at nighttime) in his habits, as the evening of life approaches, till at last he comes forth only just before sundown, and gets all the walk that he requires in half an hour.”
While my walk is accomplished first thing in the morning, and I rarely go out at night anymore, I am like the elderly man requiring only half an hour daily and anything more is a good thing. Today it was a bit more than one hour overall to all the places I visited: Panera’s, Barnes and Noble, and the park. Does not sound like much, but I was fairly exhausted by the time I got back home.
Until tomorrow. . .
The gods are messing with me . . . Everything was going smoothly until the waitress served the omelet I ordered from the fancy restaurant I had walked to this morning. I was sitting outside and suddenly a delivery truck backed into a spot in the restaurant’s parking lot about six feet from my table. He did not bother to turn his truck off causing gasoline fumes to flow over my spot, ruining my breakfast experience. The driver was oblivious. He had no idea that his truck’s noise and gasoline fumes disturbed what was once a comfortable seat on the restaurant’s outdoor patio for a good breakfast. Was this another example of how automobiles are killing us in more ways than we can imagine?
I did not stay long and headed to the park, where, of course, another park employee was blowing dust all around with one of those loud, unnerving blowers attached to his back. These blowers ought to be outlawed primarily because their users tend to noisily blow and blow and blow the same spots over and over in some kind of mesmerized hypnosis.
Before this a dog on a lease of an elderly woman who was in the vicinity had growled at me on my pathway, and I was forced to alter my course a bit to avoid a dog that was acting like it was about to attack me.
Earlier on my walk I had encountered what I call “yap” dogs. These are small pets that make a lot of noise until you challenge them and they then run away yapping loudly.
I’m thinking of Thoreau again and how his walking experiences were so much more authentic than mine.
“It is hard for me to believe that I shall find fair landscapes, or sufficient Wildness and Freedom behind the eastern horizon,” he wrote. “I am not excited by the prospect of a walk thither; but I believe that the forest which I see in the western horizon stretches uninterruptedly towards the setting sun, and that there are no towns nor cities in it of enough consequence to disturb me. Let me live where I will, on this side is the city, on that the wilderness, and ever I am leaving the city more and more, and withdrawing into the wilderness.”
Withdrawing to the wilderness is not doable from where I am located. The closest thing to wilderness is the park, and I have yet to venture into its deeper parts that are relatively undisturbed – perhaps for next week, however.
In another telling paragraph, Thoreau wrote: “Give me the Ocean, the desert, or the wilderness. In the desert a pure air and solitude compensate for want of moisture and fertility. The traveller Burton says of it ‘Your morale improves: you become frank and cordial, hospitable and single-minded. . . . In the desert spirituous liquors excite only disgust. There is a keen enjoyment in a mere animal existence.’ They who have been travelling long on the steppes of Tartary, say ‘On reëntering cultivated lands, the agitation, perplexity and turmoil of civilization oppressed and suffocated us; the air seemed to fail us, and we felt every moment as if about to die of asphyxia.’”
Today is a day when having an automobile can be a true benefit – something that makes life easier, less of a battle.
The battle today is weather related – there is a rain/wind storm shooting temps down to the 40s and 50s. Weather, of course, is the great blockade if you live in the wrong place. Today I am living in the wrong place. The question becomes what place in the U.S. is the best, weather-wise, for living a walking life?
In any event, it is Sunday, the day I typically read the New York Times. Being in Ann Arbor right now would have made me also purchase the Sunday Detroit Free Press, thus making this day a pleasant reading of two major metropolitan newspapers. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. I could do an Uber ride to and from the supermarket, but that just seems like a true waste of money. I am not at that level of finances to comfortably approve an expense of that nature. I suppose if I were wealthy I would simply call Uber and not only get the two newspapers but also something interesting to eat for a Sunday lunch or dinner perhaps. I could probably even ask the Uber driver to do that for me without even taking the ride. All I would need to do is notify Uber through my smart phone app, and, in under 30 minutes, an Uber driver would be outside my front door. I would not have to pull out any cold cash as everything would be charged to my credit card listed with Uber, including the driver’s tip. Now that is a really unparalleled convenience in the world of inner-urban travel.
In the future, perhaps, we will simply walk out our door and somehow be electronically whisked to wherever we wish to go by some driverless electronic transportation system – ala George Jettson – that takes you to and from your destination in minutes. Not in my lifetime, of course, but when you do comparisons to how we traveled in the past to what it’s like today, you can see that the future of travel would more than likely be something that’s difficult to conceive of actually happening.
Getting back to walking, one thing that you learn right away is that you have to plan your days more effectively. If, for instance, like me right now, you are about a 30-minute walk to the retail outlets you need in order to survive and thrive, you have to make sure you have enough provisions in stock for days like today. I would certainly love having the newspapers, but it ain’t happening. I do, however, have everything I need, such as fresh coffee; food and drink for a solid breakfast, lunch and dinner; all my work sitting around me in papers, books and on my connected laptop. There is really no need to go anywhere, and I am comfortable, doing some work while waiting for “Meet to Press” and “Face the Nation” to come on the cable-connected, large-screen TV in my small living room. Now that is an easy, comfortable life, indeed.
I am grateful.
Because I have been driving all of my adult life, I often have to force myself to walk. It is too easy to simply lounge in my living room with a fresh cup of coffee watching the morning news and slowly get ready for my work routine.
I had to force myself to venture outside this morning. I took an empty back pack along for a 1.5 mile trek to Whole Foods. I loaded up on some berries, Ezekiel Bread, a bag of unbelievably awesome Michigan-grown organic cherries, and two bags of bean chips. Everything fit snugly in my pack. After having a cup of coffee and an egg and cheese breakfast quesadilla with a side of bacon, I headed back home.
I am glad that I got my mandatory miles in for the day and all is good. The walk definitely had a very positive physical and mental influence on my overall well-being for today. I was slumping from taking two days off from walking due to the inclement weather.
The weather forecast for the week looks excellent, making this first day of the month and the days ahead looking very positive and invigorating.
I came upon a madman this morning standing on the same corner as I was. He mumbled some profanity at me. I looked at him and he looked back at me with a very mean face. I kept looking at him and he turned around and went in a different direction. It was disturbing – he seemed harmless, really, just completely mad unfortunately.
Later when I was walking back from Whole Foods again (where I had one of their delicious muffins), another person crossed my path as I stood waiting for a traffic light to change. This Whole Food, btw, seems to be run by a bunch of idiots. There are so many things wrong with this store that I cannot even begin. I have yet to go to a grocery store that rivals Wegmans, which is the greatest of all grocery stores in the world, I think.
Anyway, he was a man in his 40s or 50s perhaps wearing a black fedora, jeans, a nice leather jacket, and pointy cockroach killers on his feet that clicked as he hit the ground. He lit up a cigarette with his zippo lighter as he was standing near me on the corner, basically polluting the area with his smoke. I was about to say something to him about it, but thought it better to avoid a possible confrontation.
He passed me as we crossed and was gone in no time. I continued with a thoroughly enjoyable walk back home on a day that seemed miraculous – in the 50s, no wind at all, sun shining extraordinarily bright – what a great walk it was indeed.
Another gorgeous day. The sun seems so much brighter here, and it is not my imagination. Brightness is more important to our well-being than we realize. In Buffalo, it is frequently cloudy, even during the non-winter months. I could look it up, but I am sure that Western New York is low on the amount of bright sunshine it gets on average each year. I remember how magnificent it was to live in Hawaii where the sun was always in full view over a majestic ocean no matter where you happen to be walking or driving.
I did my breakfast at Whole Foods again, sat for a bit in the shade at Penara’s outdoor seating and then went to Walgreens to get a pill slicer, as I am reducing my pain medication by cutting my pills in half with the goal of completely eliminating all medication I take. It ain’t gonna be easy, but I feel it is the wisest thing I can do for overall better health. Shot back to the park for a good 30 minutes or so just sitting in the shade on a park bench beneath the trees.
Here in Ann Arbor there is a very large community of natural healing practitioners of many shapes, sizes and beliefs, everything from Rolfing to Reflexology to psychic healers – you name it. There really is nothing comparable in Buffalo area. For that reason alone, I am learning toward moving here permanently in my old age.
The walking is becoming more and more beneficial to my overall well-being as well. Combined with the June weather, it is renewing me in both physical and mental capacities. I’ve come to look forward to each morning now, which is a very good thing for me in general. I’m also enjoying the semi seclusion right now, thinking about the way things are, how life moves and changes and is generally unpredictable. So be happy for the good days like today.
When I got to the main crosswalk I witnessed a very close call accident down a bit from me as a pickup truck pulled out too soon into on-coming traffic – horns were blowing and the truck was skidding around, almost to a point where it looked like it could have jumped up onto the pedestrian walkway. Coincidentally, on the news today, it was broadcasted that a bus did something very similar in downtown Chicago this morning, killing an innocent bystander who was out early enjoying the great weather. What a horrible tragedy, indeed, and just another example of how we need to really change our traffic ways and means.
You cannot just simply walk on the sidewalk of a busy street without being fully aware of the automobile traffic running next to you. Today, I almost got crushed over by a huge delivery truck that came turning at a high speed into a driveway I was just starting to walk across – he did not even have his blinker on to notify both pedestrians such as me and the traffic around him that he was turning into a driveway. He barely slowed down his truck – it was truly horrible, and it made me very angry. I could have easily gotten killed due to an ignorant individual’s decision to drive recklessly in a very big and dangerous truck. Fortunately my timing at getting to that driveway was early enough to spot the truck turning before it was too late for me to move. I stopped and watched this driving idiot wiz by me without a care. My experiment is telling me that walking has to be very carefully planned out, and you the walker have to always be very alert to all sides of your surroundings at all times. The days of carefree walking do not exist in many places. You have to discover the best places to walk based on auto traffic in the area, crosswalk access, traffic lights, intersection size, and whether or not you are likely to encounter other pedestrians, not to mention the scenery.