Tag Archives: walking

At least I come by it honestly.

5 Feb

Image Source: funnycoolstuff.com » 2008 » November

On the weekends, a van drives around to the parks in DC and serves warm meals to homeless people. Yesterday when I was out for a walk, I passed a group of people ladling out soup just as the line finished. I didn’t stop to ask for confirmation, but I’m pretty sure that the woman with the ladle was starting to dish me up a bowl until she gave me a full once-over.

And I’m pretty sure the only reason she decided I wasn’t homeless was because my fleece had a NorthFace logo.

It was a smack-my-head moment, when I realized I had just been assessed as homeless. In my defense: It was FREEZING out so I was wearing two pairs of pants and two hoodies. And I had a ski hat pulled down to my eyebrows. And I was wearing an old, stained backpack that smelled like wet sneakers. (Don’t ask.) And I hadn’t  showered after yoga, so I probably didn’t smell exactly like a rose.

But really? My eyes were focused, I wasn’t talking to myself, and I was moving at a pretty quick clip. C’mon!

This case of mistaken identity forced me to realize four things:

  1. I can totally relate to celebrities who get unflattering photos snapped when they run to 7-Eleven for a soda.
  2. I now feel better about the time I kept trying to hand my left-overs to people who were not actually homeless.
  3. Alan is a saint for never saying, “You’re going to leave the house in that?”
  4. I’m now the second member of my family to be mistaken for homeless.

Yes – you heard correctly. I’m not even the first person in my family to have this happen.

My dad and I share the compulsion of walking (and tracking) a set number of miles. He targets 100 miles per month. I shoot for 25 miles per week. Since (as I mentioned), we’re somewhat compulsive about it, we often find that we’re walking in less than ideal weather. In DC, that’s still pretty mild, but in Michigan – where my parents live – it can be sub-zero and hailing and he’ll still head out to hit his mileage.

Another thing you need to know for this story to make sense: my dad is an ardent environmentalist. As a result, instead of outfitting himself with a snowmobile suit to make walking more comfortable  when the weather turns, he simply layers on old clothes to give himself many layers.  Also, he often picks up trash as he walks. And he has a full beard, which I suppose could be interpreted as not having access to a razor.

Image Source: Zazzle.comMy parents live in a small town, and since my dad taught there for many decades, almost everyone in town knows him. I won’t say he’s a celebrity, but he’s definitely a character. (Pause for a moment and think about it: which would you rather be? My vote goes to character.) People usually just honk and wave when they see him scrambling down a ditch to grab an errant soda can – nothing to see here folks.

In recent years, however, the town’s population has grown, so not everyone is a former student who immediately recognizes him. So it was that on a particularly cold day, his route took him down the alley behind the town’s main grocery store. As he passed the dumpsters, an employee dragging out a sack of garbage spotted him and called out, “Well now! Today’s your lucky day!”

My dad, thinking she was just being friendly, hollered back, “Really? And why’s that?”

Her answer? “This bag has a whole slew of pastries in it that are practically untouched!”

Yes. She. Did.

I have no idea how he responded, because I was laughing too hard by this point in the story. But if I had to wager a guess, I’m thinking my parents enjoyed a windfall of donuts that week. Waste not, want not, after all!

Perhaps you had to be there.

7 Jan

The other night my friend Betsy and I met up for dinner at a mussels bar in Cleveland Park. There’s another location, closer to our homes, but we’d deliberately chosen this one so we could get some exercise walking the 5 miles roundtrip.

As we walked home, just south of the National Zoo, we had to wait for a light to change at a crosswalk. We were standing there, chatting, when – all of a sudden – a loud robot voice said, “You may now cross the street. You may now cross the street.” Or something to that effect.

It was unexpected and creepy – and loud enough that it made us both jump. “What the hell is that?” I asked, as we both looked around, slowly realizing that we weren’t actually being assaulted by a bossy robot.

“I almost dropped my purse,” Betsy commented.

And that got us to speculating how funny it would’ve been if we’d both thrown our purses on the ground and run away screaming, as if we’d been mugged. I pictured her explaining it to her husband.

“What happened, where’s your purse?” I imagined him asking.

“I don’t want to alarm you,” she’d respond, “but I was mugged tonight. By a crossing signal.”

I’m just here for the books.

11 Oct

Happy Columbus Day, old man.

I walk to the MLK Jr. branch of the DC public library on Saturday to pick up a book I had on hold. It was a gorgeous day, so I was glad to invent a purpose for a four mile walk.

The city was kind of odd — despite the great weather, it was desserted in areas that are normally nuts on the weekend, and over-run with people in areas normally desserted. I suppose I could’ve solved that mystery earlier by picking up a copy of the Washington Post, and realizing a) It was Columbus Day weekend, so many locals were traveling, and b) It was Columbus Day weekend, so Taste of DC was luring people downtown on the weekend.

In any case, I was caught off guard when I approached the library, and saw a virtual party in motion. Lining the street in front of it was a MetroBus with representatives handing out literature about the bus schedule, and a Whitman Walker van providing free HIV testing.

On my way into the library, I passed Mayor  Vincent Gray, glad-handing with a few fans while his bodyguard looked on. (At least, I assume that was his bodyguard. Or his especially thuggish looking cousin. You never know in DC.)

This dog belongs in a library.

Inside the library, the trip continued. A live gospel/jazz band was playing (on Volume 12!) while 50+ people (mostly senior citizens wearing shirts made of Old Glory) looked on, clapping and bobbing. I threaded by way through the crowd to retrieve my book from the Holds shelf.

I got distracted in the Popular Collections room, browsing CDs while tapping my toes to the band’s version of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” but apparently not as distracted as the woman who had walked her two DOGS into the library and somehow lost the leash of the massive Golden Retriever. I looked up just in time to see it sprint out of Popular Collections, into the main foyer and across the stage where the Jazz Band was performing.

I can’t really get on the owner for being slow to the draw, because when I went to check out my book, I asked the clerk what the occasion was. “Is this a Columbus Day festival?” I asked.

He looked at me with some degree of incredulity before scanning the crowd, which — as I followed his eyes, I realized — was made up primarily of people sporting wheelchairs, canes or walkers.

“This is in celebration of Americans with Disabilities,” he told me.

And suddenly, it all made sense — the extra-loud music, the free medical tests, the dogs in a library, the flag-themed clothing.

As someone wearing a tank top and sporting a yoga mat strapped to me, I felt especially foolish for having trotted through the crowd. Next time? I’m going to take advantage of that free vision test.

Somehow almost entering a 16k and the economy are related.

15 Aug

City 2 Surf 16k "Fun Run." Fun, my ass.

It was raining when I hopped a cab at the Sydney airport. I asked the driver if it was supposed to last the full day. “Don’t know!” he replied cheerfully. “Just started, but it looks like it doesn’t plan to give up, does it?”

Fortunately, in the 45 minutes it took me to reach the city, check into my hotel, and grab a cup of coffee, the rain subsided. The sky remained  grey and threatening, but I didn’t need an umbrella. So at 7am, I set out to get my bearings.

New York may have the reputation as the city that never sleeps, but I quickly came to believe that Sydney is the city that doesn’t sleep in, because the streets were overrun by people at 7am on a Sunday. They were all dressed in running gear and moving in one  direction, so I slipped into the crowd, determined to see where the action was.

Some people were in costume, so I found myself walking in a group of human bananas, with diaper-wearing grown-ups ahead of us and a lone man painted completely gold to our rear.

Of course I started interviewing people, and I learned that I just happened to arrive during the annual City-2-Surf event — a fun run/walk from downtown Sydney to Bondi Beach. It’s one of the largest events of its type globally each year, with 85,000 participants.

This was when I realized that Aussies really are tougher, because not only do they willfully hunt crocodiles with their bare hands, but their “fun run” includes many hills and is 16 kilometers. I’m pretty sure that in the US, anything more than a 5k ceases to be described as “fun.”

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A different kind of panic.

20 Jun

To be sure, there are many situations that would cause a rural person to panic: a run on Velveeta at the grocery store, rationing of Budweiser, code inspectors, a NASCAR drivers’ strike…

Oh wait, I said rural, not redneck. Nevermind. (And quick – let’s give my Facebook friends their contributing editor credit for coming up with those examples before you lynch me!)

Redneck or Rural, whatever the case, these people are safe from the type of panic that over-took me tonight… A panic that only occurs in a city… A panic that can only come from not being able to find your car.

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