The Exercise of Meandering

I wrote about walking recently, and it’s been on my mind a lot. On my mind, because it isn’t in my life as much as is necessary to not think about it.

Some years ago, I would alter my after-work journey home with the errands I wanted to run.  I’d zing down the 6 to hit up The Strand Book Store, and then wile away the last hour of dusk in Union Square Park or window shop along 5th Avenue before hopping on the L train home. I’d walk over to Central Park to pick up a new read at the used book stand on Central Park South, and then take the F to 42nd Street and wander over to Grand Central Market to pick up a little gourmet something for dinner.  Or I’d take the F to West 4th and grab a cocktail at Do Hwa and then indulge in a cupcake at Magnolia ($1.25 at the time seemed extravagant), before moseying around the West Village until I was ready to go home.

I guess it’s both walking and public transit I’m talking about: the foot-to-ground, visceral connection to a city, literally mapping your community with the soles of your feet, public transit serving as a means to speed up the journey while keeping you contained in an area only as big as yourself (you get in a car and you’re twenty times your regular size, requiring a lot more space and energy).

I got tired of being underground so much, though, especially when I lived in Brooklyn. In Manhattan, I could walk or bike everywhere, the train simply being the quicker option.  In Brooklyn, the train was my only option (I’m not a gung-ho bicyclist, and was never prone to riding over bridges, nor was I near enough any of the bridges for this to be an efficient mode of transit).

In LA, I am above ground, and I see a lot of sunlight and trees, which is an improvement over the dripping concrete ceilings and rusted pipes of NYC subway stations.  However, I’m always just where I am, or going there, usually in my car.  I’m never meandering. Oh, to meander. I miss it so.  I regularly attempt it, often spending my lunch breaks wandering around the Hollywood and Vine area. It’s a fascinating stroll of opposites – urban and suburban, industrial and corporate – but it has no parks. Nowhere to sit, reflect, absorb. When I get back to my office, my legs are very tired, my shoulders browned by the sun, my forehead flecked with sweat.

Walking in LA. It’s an exercise, in more ways than one.