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Thoughts on walking

I am reading Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking. Since I was little, I’ve been a walker. I walked to school from grades 3 through 12 (I lived within a mile of both schools I attended, a rarity in Los Angeles). I would walk weekends to the mall, and then I’d walk all around the mall. I’d walk along the beach, the boardwalk. When I moved to Berkeley, I’d walk up into the Berkeley hills. In San Francisco, I’d traverse high and low. In New York, well, it’s foolish not to walk.

And when I travel: walking. Heel toe. Heel toe. When I was younger, and I would travel with parents, I’d get a shitty hotel map, and just start wandering, meeting up with them at some appointed time and place. I walked San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, and London in such a fashion.

Anyway, as I read this book, it will spur various thoughts. Some of them I will write down.

A few so far:

For my money, perhaps the most haunting depiction of walking in literature is Yossarian’s ramble through the “Eternal City” in Catch-22. In an otherwise satirical and absurdist work, the bleakness of this chapter is deeply chilling.

Walking, or rather, bipedalism, is considered by some to be the original human trait. When I think about australopithecines walking around, the image that comes to mind is of the footprints found in the volcanic ash, left 3.7 millions years ago by a couple of ancestors, scurrying with some intent, quite possibly safety.

And something I just learned. The adjective “pedestrian,” meaning dull or prosaic, predates the noun “pedestrian,” meaning one who goes on foot.

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  1. And don’t forget Paris. You, your Mother and I left the Passy district to meet Joe at the Pomidou Center. Your Mother and I went to the Metro station but you decided to walk clear across town. And you beat us to the Pompidou.

  2. Solnit has a new book out –

    A Field Guide to Getting Lost

    haven’t read it yet, but I put it on reserve at the Ann Arbor District Library and hope to see it show up soon.

  3. If all of America loved walking as much as you do, I bet we’d all be in much better shape, and better spirits!

  4. Those are different footprints! Those are the footprints of the “first Americans.” The ones I’m talking about are australopithecine footprints from Laetoli in Africa.

  5. ‘Course the publisher is reprinting here in the UK right now, so can I get a-hold of this book for a Christmas present (under the guise of buying it for my partner of course…!) ??
    Not on your life (well for a hefty fee I could get it shipped from the States I guess!).

    Thanks for the review though!

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