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December 13, 2005

Urban walking - musin' on cruisin'

The chapters I'm reading in Wanderlust dwell on urban walking. Solnit points out that, in the early 1800s, walking around cities was quite the daring affair.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, it brought to mind some of the seamier experiences I've had on foot. This is probably true for every peripatetic male -- at some point, you will be cruised.

End of the Innocence

The first time it happened, I was 12 or 13. I was hanging out at the Santa Monica Pier, playing video games. I had with me a copy of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I planned to read as I walked the mile-and-a-half home.

As I walked up the ramp that connects the pier with the city of Santa Monica, I was joined by a skinny mustachioed guy, probably in his late 20s or early 30s. I remember seeing him down in the arcade, where I didn't think anything of it. Being somewhat oblivious (well, and 12 or 13), I didn't think much of it as he struck up a conversation with me.

It didn't occur to me to do anything other than converse with him. So, as we're heading down Ocean Ave., we're talking about lord knows what, when he invites me to his trailer to play video games. He had an Atari or Colecovision or something (this would have been 1985 or sp), and his trailer or whatever he lived in was parked in the lot next to the RAND corporation.

Well, it was at this point that I realized what was going on. I didn't make a scene out of it -- in fact, the conversation kept me from boredom. I rebuffed his offer, though he was dogged in sweetening the deal (and if memory serves, that might have been literal -- he might have talked about candy he had).

After about a mile, as I was turning down 3rd Street to head home, this guy realized he wasn't getting anywhere, and peeled off. I read my book the rest of the way home, and told my parents what happened. They were, more than anything, bemused.

Beantown Buggery

A more recent incident happened a couple years ago in Boston. I had been hanging out near downtown, and as dusk turned to dark, I decided to walk back to my hotel in Cambridge. There's a park along the Charles River that leads to a bridge.

Walking in the park, a man on a bicycle heads toward me. I must have made eye contact, because he promptly stopped, turned around, got off his bike, and walked with me. Unlike my youthful experience, this was far more... direct and ribald. I don't remember exactly how the conversation unfolded, but in short order he claimed a 9-inch penis and that he was quite good with otherwise straight men.

I professed my disinterest from the word Go, but he was persistent, striding alongside me for, I don't know, half a mile or so. Finally he realized he was wasting effort, got on his bike, and departed.

As I crossed the bridge, I called Stacy (back in the Bay Area) to tell her what happened. "Guess what, honey! I was cruised by a guy with a 9 inch dick!" She wanted to know if I had actually seen proof, and I had to admit that I hadn't. You mean, that guy might have been lying?

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Posted by peterme at December 13, 2005 02:56 PM

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This is, of course, one of the many hazards that walking women face -- it never occurred to me that men (well, in these stories, boys) face similar problems. Thanks!

I too love to walk and walk a lot when I can. When I travel, in particular, it's a terrific way to see a city, and walking around my own city of Berkeley I'm always seeing new things. And I resent the fact that often I can't walk because I don't feel safe. Periodically I have conversations with male friends that bring home for both of us our fundamentally different experience of the world at large: safety is a much more pervasive concern for a 5'3" woman than for, say, a 6' man.

Posted by: Nancy at December 14, 2005 08:05 AM

That reminded your Mother of the time we were all in Seattle; we were out at night and you were at the hotel. I don't know what downtown street we were walking, probably hand-in-hand, when a lone man approached, tall and black, and suddenly grabbed for my crotch. My reflex was to whack his wrist, which he grasped in pain and whined, "Hey, man, what you do that for?" and scampered off.

I guess I didn't understand the friendly gestures of Seattle, which some folks call the San Francisco of the North.

Posted by: BJMe at December 14, 2005 08:42 AM