My brain thinks radically different thoughts when walking versus when I’m running. When I’m running, pretty much all my thoughts are about running. About my feet, my legs, my lungs, my pace, my distance. Where I’ve ran, where I’m running to, what I’m gonna eat when I’m done. That’s about 90% of it.
But when I’m walking, almost every thought is set free to wonder about every random thing that crosses my consciousness. Things I’m worried about. Things I’m planning on. Things I’d like do, see, work on. Stories I want to write. Conversations with imaginary friends.
It’s actually a little overwhelming. I’d rather just have quiet up in there.
According to The Science of Dogs, dogs have 20 times more smell receptors than people. But they have worse eye sight, and actually just moderately better hearing. So really, the dog understands her world through how it smells.
Makes *sense* (see what I did there?) when I’m out with Goose. She can smell the mean dogs at least half a house away. But she doesn’t really seem to recognize the visual cues, e.g. what the mean dogs’s houses look like.
Today, we walk by the house of the crankiest of cranky dogs. A husky and a chihuahua (or something like a chihuahua) that just go off on us every time we pass by their gate. Every time, that is, except for today. Today, for some reason, the chihuahua is locked up in a pen. So only the husky is at the gate. And the husky is actually pretty cool when its by itself.
Goose is not buying it though. She’s keeping her distance, only sneaking up for a couple seconds at a time to get a quick sniff.
There’s this Husky and Chihuahua that live up the street. They love to bark at me and Goose when we walk by their fence. Except the couple times that the Chihuahua wasn’t there, then the Husky was actually kinda friendly. He even howled at us once when we walked by on the other side of the street.
For the past week or so, I’ve decided I could do without the harassment. So I changed our route to avoid their house. No big deal.
On our new route today, I see a lady in her luxury car make a determined U-turn to come up the street towards us. She pulls up and rolls down her window.
Husker Du, Where Are You?
“Have you seen a Husky?” she says.
“No, sorry I haven’t,” I respond, and then, “You guys live up the street, on the corner?”
“Yes,” she says, getting a little frantic.
“Yeah, I know your dogs,” I say, “I’ll keep an eye out. If I see them, I’ll bring them up to you.”
“Thank you,” she says, “They’re both lost. I’ve lost my babies.”
She drives off. I walk around a little extra looking for her dogs. I don’t find them. But I really hope she does. Her dogs are kinda annoying. But they should be home with their family. Being annoying isn’t a good enough reason for someone to be homeless.
Me, Helen and the Goose are out for a short morning walk. We see, up ahead of us, something in the middle of the street.
“Road kill,” says Helen.
“I don’t think so,” I say.
Goose has no comment.
As we get closer, it looks like it’s probably something like a big plastic bag. Several cars run it over. This street is fairly busy.
Then I realize it’s an American flag. Some unexpected jolt of patriotism comes over me and I rush into the street to grab Old Glory before it gets run over again.
As soon as I pick it up, I can tell it’s not just some crappy plastic car flag. It’s heavy and cloth and stitched. It says, “Los Angeles City Election Division” on the hoist. It seems like it belongs to the election people, although the nearest polling place is a couple miles away and the next election isn’t until November 4th.
I fold it up carefully. I’ll hold on to it for a couple weeks. We usually mail in our votes, but it’d be kinda cool to bring the flag over to the polling place and give it to them. Maybe they’ve been missing it.
There’s a house that almost always has people sitting outside on the stoop, usually a man and a woman. They talk pretty loud. Sometimes they seem angry.
Today I realize what they’re talking about. They guy is reading from the Bible and preaching about the resurrection of Christ.
I wonder if I should stop and join in the conversation. From decades of on-again/off-again faith, I’ve come to know a thing or two about the Bible. Sometimes it’s fun to see what other people believe, and see if they’re interested in what I believe.
But I make a quick judgement call and assume that this dude is probably (like 80% likely) a fundamentalist. Which would probably mean he’s not at all interested in anything anyone else says if it differs from his beliefs, and that, even if he was interested, he’d have zero inclination to be open to the possibility of adjusting his beliefs.
I could be wrong, of course. He might be really open-minded. And maybe I’m the close-minded and bigoted one because I wouldn’t even give him a chance.
Such is the world of prejudice.
I make eye-contact as we walk by and wave at him. He stares at me for a second and then waves back.
There’s this middle-aged guy. Maybe my age. Or a little bit older. He’s at the park every day with an old man in a wheelchair.
The old man is pretty much comatose and probably lives in the old folks home across the street. The middle-aged guy is dressed like he’s going to the office: button-up shirt, tucked in to his slacks, loafers on his feet. But he’s not in the office. He’s at the park pushing the old guy’s wheelchair, hanging out at the tennis courts.
They sometimes stop at the end of the courts and park so that the old guy is facing the players, watching them play. The middle-aged guy then takes the old guys arms and moves them around, exercising them, I guess. It’s kinda amazing. It looks as if he is moving the old guy’s arms to mimic the movements of the tennis players. So he raises the old guy’s left arm up, then, as he drops it, he raises the old guy’s right arm up, then down. As if to serve.
I’m probably making this part up. It’s probably just my imagination. It must be. But it’d be a cool story if it were true.
Goose has been less and less anxious during our walks. But she still freaks out when other dogs bark at her.
We’ve decided to take a new approach to these other dogs. Instead of avoiding them, we walk right up to them and hang out for a while.
Some of them are really cool and will make friends once you give them a chance. Others seem cool, but then will go off on you once you make one false move. Then others are just gonna be bitches no matter what you do.
There’s a scene in The Road where the boy doesn’t want to hear the man tell a story.
The boy says, “Those stories are not true.”
The man responds, “They don’t have to be true. They’re stories.”
“Yes,” says the boy, “But in the stories we’re always helping people and we don’t help people.”
I think those are some of the saddest lines in the book. There are so many times where the man and the boy could help, but they almost never do. It bothers the kid, because he’s “carrying the fire” and the fire presumably insists on compassion. But the man’s point is clear, helping people will get you killed, fast, by the people you’re helping or by the people who want to kill the people you’re helping. It’s a hard call.
I sometimes have this fantasy that me and Goose will walk the streets of our neighborhood helping people with all the troubles they might be caught in, big and small. But we don’t do much of that. Once, a guy needed directions and I gave him reasonably good directions. But that’s about it.
We could pick up trash. We could help stray dogs find their way home. We could tell the homeless guy staring at the Jesus that he’s not alone. Definitely could do those things.
Still can’t get The Road outta my head. Been thinking about how me and Goose’s walks are like the man and the boy’s long trek on the road. How these walks are all this drawn out repetition of habit and habituation. And how nothing much ever happens.
And then I think it’s a lot like distance running. How running a marathon is just this long haul, taxing the endurance of your mind and body. And how, after a very short while, the scenery is inconsequential. There is no event other than the movement on the road until it ends.
I can’t help but think that The Road has some instruction for us, some moral to the story that will help us live a better life. Maybe it’s to never put your gun down. Maybe it’s to always keep one eye on the rearview mirror. Maybe it’s to stay out of the rain. Maybe it’s to never, ever show up to a bar-be-cue uninvited.
And I realize it’s unlikely that Cormac McCarthy would write a book in order to preach a moral. But, if he did and if there was, maybe the moral would be that, even in the bleakest of times there is actual goodness around you, you just need to stop being an asshole long enough for it come out.
I just read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. That is some bleak-ass-shit. I feel awful. I remember when I saw the movie, I felt awful for like three weeks afterwards. I thought, since I already saw the movie, I wouldn’t feel so bad after reading the book. Well, I feel like crap. Maybe not as crappy as I would have if I hadn’t seen the movie, but still, like crap.
So, I’m walking the Goose and I keep thinking we’re like the man and the boy in the story, walking through the desolation of the post-apocolyptic world, avoiding people and trying to scavenge things from the world, things like sparkly chrome and glass charm bracelets or quarters crazy-glued to the sidewalk, or maybe something to eat, like a squirrel or leftover pizza.
Then I start thinking about what The Road is actually about (spoiler alert?). It’s really a wonderful epic poem, a lot like the Odyssey. Right down the the lotus eaters part.
But, probably more profoundly, it’s a psychoanalytic story. It’s the story of a person who has experienced severe trauma. Trauma so bad that the person’s personality had to split in two in order to protect itself: one a helpless child and the other a powerful and protective adult. The adult keeps constant watch, protecting the child from all dangers. But, unfortunately, keeping away all hope and compassion and joy. It is, in these cases, only when the overprotective “adult” sub-personality finally lets go that the formerly helpless “child” sub-personality can finally experience freedom and happiness…
I know, WTF are you talking about?
Read the book, you’ll get it.