Monday, August 15, 2022

Hoofin' It in Mil-WALK-ee

I don't have a lot of vacation time. It's not because I'm a work-a-holic or because I work for myself and can't afford to take time off, it's because I change jobs too much and I haven't been anywhere long enough to build up a reservoir of time off. Be that as it may, the family and I recently took a trip to the Midwest to visit some colleges my daughter is interested in attending. On the list were DePaul and Loyola in Chicago, Illinois, and Marquette in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

We drove to Milwaukee from Maryland, by way of Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada. (Not exactly a direct route ... it's a long story). Anyway, we arrived in Milwaukee late on Thursday, August 4. That was by design. We had a 10:00 am appointment to tour Marquette University the next day (Friday), which was ideal, because it left the rest of day after that for walking around the city. And walk we did (see the red lines on the map above).

If there's one thing I love to do, it's wander aimless around a city with which I'm unfamiliar. This more than fit the bill. Fortunately, Marquette was right down the street from our hotel, so we didn't have to worry about parking or strolling too far from wherever we put it. We were able to leave in the hotel parking garage and forget about it for the day.

Anyway, about the walking.... After hoofing it around Marquette and its lovely campus, we headed east, toward the Public Market for some lunch. It was a decent walk and our proverbial dogs were barking by the time we arrived. Then, after a nice lunch, we headed further east toward the water and, eventually, the art museum (but we didn't go it). Then we did a 180, and headed west, back into the city toward the river. Once we hit the RiverWalk, we set about hunting for the famed Bronze Fonz statue. As luck would have it, we were close by, so it only took us a few minutes to find it. 

We had more trouble finding one of the city's purportedly best used bookstores. Visiting used bookstores in foreign cities is my second favorite thing to do in a strange town and, after scanning the web for advice, I zero-ed in on the store I wanted to check out and set aside the time to get there. According to the info I had, the Bronze Fonz was close to the bookstore, so I dragged my family members through the streets and the hot afternoon sun to with the promise of browsing in what was sure to be an air-conditioned store full of great books. It took us about 15 minutes to find that address. Unfortunately, that's all we found. The store was no longer there. To make sure I had the correct info, I re-checked the website that informed me about the store. That's when I discovered the info on the website was from 2002! D'oh. Live and learn.

From there it was back to the RiverWalk and then back to our hotel, where we decided to take it easy and relax a bit before dinner. That was largely it for walking on this Friday -- dinner was in another part of town, miles away from where we were staying, so we had to drive. But that was okay. When all was said and done, we'd walked more than seven miles and taken more than 20,000 steps. I was pleased.


Just Perfect ...

As far as the meaning of life goes, we each find our own way eventually. Deep down, I truly believe none of us is ever more comfortable, happy, or satisfied with our own self than when we're walking down some street alone, standing in some forest alone, floating slowly across our living room floor alone, talking quietly to ourselves, saying, "Damn. This is perfect. This moment right here, right now? It's just fucking perfect.


From "A Love Letter to Being a Loner"

Thursday, June 23, 2022

You Could Walk without a Dog ...

I really enjoy the work of Tom Hodgkinson. Although I haven't seen an actual issue of The Idler, his two books: The Idler's Companion and How to Be Idle have a special place on my bookshelf and in my heart. 

Of particular interest to my purposes here are his comments on walking, or rambling, and how it complements an idle life. There is one area, however, on which Hodgkinson and I are completely at odds: Walking with a dog. 

Consider the following from the chapter on walking in How to be Idle:

The twentieth-century philosopher and radical political thinker Walter Benjamin was particularly captivated by the idea of the flaneur. He produced a giant piece of work called the. Arcades, which is a compendium of thousands of short reflections and aphorisms, some his own, some quoted from others. It is a classic piece of flânerie; the reader can easily picture Benjamin, notebook in one hand, pipe in the other, taking notes on his observations. It is in this work, for example, that Benjamin imparts the following gem:

In 1819 it was considered elegant to take a tortoise out walking. This gives us an idea of the tempo of the flânerie in the arcades.

A tortoise on a lead! How wonderful. And so much more calming than the hyperactive, sniffing, yapping, snorting, pissing, dashing dog. (Why do people have dogs? I do not understand them.) 

What is it exactly that Hodgkinson doesn't understand? The dogs or the people who have them? Never mind, it doesn't matter, because he's wrong, wrong, wrong.

Dogs are the best. Yes, dogs can be hyper, sniffy, yappy, pissy, and dashing, but not snorty (dogs typically don't snort), and the best canine walking companions are none (... or almost none) of these things. 

Donut, who's pictured here, is one such dog. He's the ultimate walking buddy, and my regular walking companion. And you can tell by the look on his face that he thinks Hodgkinson's take is rubbish. He can go for miles and miles and miles and, aside from pissing on things, he's pretty calm, cool, and collected. He never barks or yaps and doesn't even know the word hyper. He is sniffy -- he's a hound, after all -- but, nose to the ground, he's always down to grind his nails on cement and or pavement anywhere, at any time, and at any speed.

Hodgkinson's take on dogs and walking has a similar flavor to the assertions of the uptight religious set who contend that animals don't have souls. Clearly, anyone who believes this has never bonded with an animal. That's their loss, but because they don't know or they're incapable of doing so, they stick their noses in the air and fling arbitrary edicts from their illusory positions of authority. F them and their judgemental judgey-ness.

My guess is that Hodgkinson doesn't like dogs because he doesn't know dogs. (Perhaps he's too lazy to make an effort?) After all, if Hodgkinson deems a slow stroll with a dog an impossibility, then he should find an old dog and test this theory. If he did, I bet he'd find that no animal strolls, rambles, or even saunters like an old, gray-haired mutt.




Monday, June 20, 2022

The Pure Sensation of Being

A stretch of the path along Macarthur
Boulevard, Glen Echo, Maryland.
Taken 6.2.22 at 8:50 pm

"A day will surely come when we will just stop worrying, stop being taken over and imprisoned by chores (while we know very well that we have invented most of them, imposed them on ourselves). Working: accumulating savings, perpetual anxiety not to miss any career opportunity, coveting this or that job, rushing the work, worrying about competitors. Do this, take a look at that, invite so-and-so: special constraints, cultural fashion, busy, busy, busy....

"You're doing nothing when you walk. Nothing walking. But having nothing to do but walk makes it possible to recover the pure sensation of being, to rediscover the simple joy of existing, the joy that permeates the whole of childhood. So that walking, by unburdening us, prising us from the obsession with doing, puts us in touch with that childhood eternity once again."

-- Frederic Gros, A Philosophy of Walking

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Walking the University of Maryland Campus (Evening Walk #1)

As much as I enjoy walking a good distance, I just can't spend 3 to four hours walking around on a "school night." I have a job and then obligations in the evening (e.g., taking the kids where they need to go, grocery shopping, walking the dog, so on and so forth). At most, I have an hour or two to spare. So, on those nights wherein walking around the neighborhood with the dog just won't do, I sometimes travel to more thrilling and scenic destinations. Among my favorite is the University of Maryland's flagship campus in College Park.*

I used to live in College Park, and although I never went to school there, I feel a certain affinity for this UMD campus. I've been walking around the place since 1999 and, between then an now, I've seen it grow. There are huge sections of this place that weren't there back in the day, I tell you what. 

Normally, I tend to cast a cold eye on development -- especially the swanky, modern, sterile-looking type of development that's sweeping through UMD (and College Park in general). However, in this instance, I don't mind it quite so much because it's given me more places to walk. And because UMD has a lot of students walking around, the pedestrian infrastructure is top notch.

Anyhoo, over the years, my walks around the UMD campus have taken different routes. This is the one I've been walking as of late. According to my pedometer, this particular route (see map) is just under three miles. I have some small additions ... tweaks if you will ... that make it a little longer and take it over that three-mile mark, but I guess I forgot to do them this time around. 

* Note: I do sometimes bring the dog with me, but he poops every time I walk him and it's embarrassing when he poops in front of groups of students, who then comment and laugh as I pick it up.

Typically, I begin my walks by the Comcast Center because it has a huge parking lot where I can stow my vehicle for free. It's also kinda secluded and a good distance away from the main part of campus, which makes a nice way to enter the other-worldliness of the University of Maryland campus.

From the parking area, I walk South down Regents drive, past a slew of new engineering and computer science buildings. This part of the walk is like strolling through some not-too distant future jammed with rectangular, glass-sheathed buildings.

From Regents Drive, I hang a Ralph at the corner of the Martin building (I didn't know the building was named that until right now), and walk down the sidewalk that hugs the a series of classroom and office spaces. This is one of my favorite parts of campus because it is so green. The university's landscape architects did a stellar job here.

After walking by the lush shrubbery, talk oak trees, and some nice fountains (which haven't been on recently), my route takes me across Campus drive to the heart of campus. There is construction here right now, and it kind of kills the mood, so I try to scoot through here as quick as possible.

Right around the corner, though, is a nice stretch of walkway across from the McKeldin Mall. I like this part of campus too because of all the huge oaks the ring the top of the mall. Good job, UMD, for not cutting down these magnificent trees!

From here I make another Ralph and walk along the south side of the mall, past a bunch of nice looking buildings that I believe are full of classrooms and offices. I have a friend who teaches at the university and I believe his office is in one of the buildings I pass by. Of course, I take this walk at night and I'm sure he's long gone by the time I pass by.

Continuing in a straight line, I go all the way down the mall, past the library, and up the hill. Then I make a quick left and a quick right until I find myself at the top of a set of stairs that leads down to a walkway that goes through a new part of campus by the Robert H. Smith School of Future Capitalist Monsters (or whatever it's called). The picture makes it look like the walkway goes on for ever. Don't be fooled.

If you do talk that walkway all the way to the end, you come to a road, which I believe is called Mowatt Lane. When I hit the road, I take a right and follow it along past the backsides of educational buildings,  different centers of worship (on the far side of the road), and, eventually, a bunch of swanky new apartment buildings with fancy names like "The Liar." They are both impressive and ridiculous.

After taking Mowatt to the traffic circle, I stay to the right until I make it to one of my favorite recent finds, a long staircase/walkway I've dubbed "The Grand Staircase." It's not really that big ... or grand. I just like making up names for things.

At the top of the staircase, I hang a Louie and cut across the cement-filled courtyard in front of the Tawes building. Then I cross the road and head back toward the library and the McKeldin Mall, only now I'm on the other side of it.

From here, I walk halfway down the mall and then hang another left by the new(ish) education building. Then I cross over Campus drive and hoof it toward my absolute favorite part of campus, the plaza outside Hornbake Library and the curved staircase on the far side of the Plant Sciences building. My wife got her Master's degree from UMD and she had a lab in the Plant Sciences building. I used to love walking around in there at night while she went to check on her water fleas. If you haven't seen the lab with the tank full of cockroaches, I suggest you go check it out.

After the cool, curved staircase, I make a left on to Regents Drive and walk past the farm to toward the Comcast Center. Boy, you can really smell the manure when you go by the farm. The animals, however, are typically quiet.

Just before you hit the Comcast Center complex, Regents Drive makes a sharp turn to the right. This means that, if you want to go straight toward Comcast, you have to navigate the most bizarre intersection ever constructed. I'm not quite sure what's wrong with it ... it's like the angles are off or something. Anyhoo, I can't think of a place more in need of a crosswalk. Fortunately, when you take this walk at night, there isn't a ton of traffic, so crossing the road is easy. I'd hate to try to deal with this between 3 and 5 on a weekday. 

Finally, from here it's a quick walk past the Comcast Center along the walkway between the Center and the "Recreation Artificial Turf Fields" and back to the parking area holding my car. Walk completed. That's it for now. Until next time, keep moving. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Washington, DC: Union Station to Rosslyn and Back (Nice Walk #2)

I have never lived in the city, but I've been walking around DC for many years. Typically, I start up North, head South, and then East, ending at Union Station. For this walk, I decided to shake things up and start at Union Station and then ... walk back to Union Station. What's really weird is that I didn't even take the metro into DC, I drove. Obviously, this walk was shaping up to be a total shit show. To bring it over the top, I brought my buddy Suvo along. Right from the get-go, he started in about wanting coffee. Don't get me wrong, I love coffee too, but we just had to walk a little first. 

The goal for the day's walk was to hoof it for 10 miles. I'm not sure we did it. According to the pedometer app on my pocket computer, we walked less than 9 miles (you can see the stats at the end). However, by another measure (i.e., Google), we walked 11. Which one of these is right? Who knows … and who cares! It's not about the stats, it's about the walking!

So, here's the map of the walk we took. As with the last one, it was difficult to put the exact route on the map because 1) it's hard to make out some of the smaller details and 2) I kind of forget where exactly we walked ... or I didn't pay attention to the street names/signs, especially in the Virginia and Georgetown portions of the walk. I guess I should get one of those apps that records where you’ve walked, but those apps cost money and, let’s be honest about this, there’s no way I'm letting Bill Gates know where I’ve been. (You’ve heard about the tracking device in the vaccine, right? RIGHT?)

As with my first “nice walk” (i.e., “Nice Walk #1”), I've supplemented this map of the route with some smaller maps paired with photos. As you'll see, there aren't many photos for the first third of the walk. That’s on me.  I forgot to take them because I was too busy spouting off about my theory that Dale Bozzio and Lady Gaga are the same person.

I know … I just told you I forgot to take pictures of the first third of the walk. I did, however, take at least one near the beginning. Here's the north side of the Capitol.

So, yeah, about those photos.... I forgot to take any along Independence Ave. (one of my favorite streets in DC), part of the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, or even along the part of the Arlington Memorial Bridge over the water. This one is from the bridge too, but it's further along. That's Rosslyn off in the distance. 

A little further along now. Here's a view of Arlington National Cemetery. 

On the left is the Netherlands Carillon is a clock/bell tower, which I'm sorry to say I had never seen until this walk. According to information about it on the National Park Service website, "The 50 bells of the Netherlands Carillon hang in an open steel tower, a symbol of Dutch regard for American aid during and after World War II. The carillon's peaceful setting, with its floral libraries and sculpted lions, is the perfect place to listen to the music of the bells." The other photo is of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument across the river.  

A little further down the road, or perhaps the sidewalk, one makes his or her way into Rosslyn, a horrible area full of high-rise office buildings and chain stores. I was here on a Sunday during (what I hope is) the tail end of the pandemic and I swear I could hear souls dying in cubicles. Thankfully, Rosslyn isn't that big, so you get through it quickly. If you're wondering what those giant concrete ball things are, they are part of the Dark Star sculpture. (You can learn more about here.) The photo on the right shows one of those awful high-rise buildings.

A little further down the road one comes to Key Bridge and then Georgetown and its main thoroughfare, M Street. As we closed in on M Street, I could see the labyrinth in Georgetown Waterfront Park. I was not aware that was there, either. (I simply need to get out more.)

We were supposed to stop for coffee in Georgetown, but there wasn't a shop on our side of the street, so we didn't. There was one on the other side of the road, but after walking several miles, walking to the other side the road seemed ridiculous. Seen in this photo is the edge of the IMF building.

This here is F Street. The 9:30 Club used to be on F Street. I went there once on New Year's Eve to see this Irish Rock band that was not U2. I don't remember what year it was, but that's okay because I'm trying to forget about it.

Here are our stats.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Walking from Riverdale to Laurel in Maryland (Nice Walk #1)

ACCORDING TO LEGEND, WHEN GEORGE Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, he said (something to the effect of), "Because it's there." That may indeed be true, but I can't help but wonder if Mallory decided to climb Mt. Everest simply because he got the idea to do it. 

Mallory is dead, of course, so I guess I'll never know. Nevertheless, I can tell you that when I get a stupid idea about doing something like that, I have trouble thinking about little else. It becomes something of a quest, and I can't rest until I do it ... or at least attempt it. 

Most recently, the dumb thing I've been thinking about is walking from the Starbucks in Riverdale, Maryland (it's next to the Whole Foods, duh), to my home in Laurel, and after a few weeks of tossing and turning it over it my mind, I finally scratched that itch on the morning of April 10.

To be clear, Riverdale and Laurel aren't that far apart. According to the Waze app on my phone, the two localities are separated by a distance of just eight miles. The problem with that number, of couse, is that a thinking person would never walk the same roads Waze advises one to drive. It's too dangerous. Even the alternate routes Waze would suggest are a one-way ticket to the loss of life and limb because the pedestrian infrastructure throughout the area is severely lacking (assuming it's there at all). In short, Maryland is built for cars the people who drive them.

This explains why it took so long for me to put my plan into action: I had to find a safe, or rather slightly less dangerous, route. Fortunately, I didn't have to start from scratch. Along the first half of the trek, there are (rather narrow) sidewalks, and a even a network of walking/bike trails to take advantage of. The last half, however, is a sidewalk desert. This, I am not too proud to say, made me nervous. Nevertheless, after a little investigating, I picked the roads less traveled -- by car -- and it made all the difference. 

The map at right gives you a glimpse of my overall route. It doesn't show you exactly where I walked because the bike path/walking trail I relied on isn't shown on the map. I also took a few "shortcuts" (i.e., allies or driveways between buildings), and those don't appear on the map either. The smaller maps below that I've paired with the photos I took along the way do a better job of illustrating my actual route.

When it was all said and done, I walked just over 10 miles and took 24,000 steps, at least according to my phone. I am aware that 10 miles isn't exactly a world record and that many people have walked much farther than that. Shit, I've even walked farther than that. I also realize that this blog post is something of an exercise in self indulgence. Nevertheless, I will fully admit to being a little proud of myself for making this happen and for not finding some bullshit excuse to sit on the couch.