Yesterday afternoon – after a most agreeable lunch with Édouard (who not only came all the way uptown to Planet Yorkville but also treated!) – I went for a walk in the early twilight. It is taking me a while to adjust to the time change. I really ought to have taken my walk this morning, which I spent goofing off (not true; but certainly I could have spared the hour that the walk would have taken). I don’t mind walking in the dark per se, but I don’t like taking my constitutional in the dark. It seems wrong, somehow – badly planned.  Is it because I’m old and at least technically infirm that I prefer to walk in a park that isn’t nearly empty? Or is it the melancholy of winter evenings, which make one think, as at no other time, of families tucked into their warm and bright houses? Walking beneath the suddenly-bare trees, one feels almost neglected, on the verge, perhaps, of homelessness. This is no time to be getting exercise outdoors.

Or so it feels.

On Sunday, I had to reckon with the Marathon for the first time. I’ve watched it out the window (desultorily) for decades, but always stayed at home until it was over. Again, I ought to have taken my walk earlier in the morning, before the barricades and the yellow “Caution” tapes went up along First Avenue – a boulevard that lies between my house and the riverside park in which I like to walk. Fearing that I might be able to cross First going to the park but not coming home, I decided on heading in the other direction, toward Central Park. I would walk the circuit of the Great Lawn.

A good plan in every way save that of avoiding the Marathon. I’d never paid attention to the runners’ route through Central Park, but if I’d thought about it for a moment I’d have foreseen that it follows the East Drive just in from Fifth Avenue. To get to the Great Lawn – to do any sort of walking in Central Park at all – I’d have to cross the East Drive.

The bits of First Avenue and the East Drive that intersected my walking plans may have been only a few blocks apart, but they’re about five miles from each other on the Marathon route, the final stretch of which runs up First Avenue into the Bronx (passing beneath my windows) and then down Fifth Avenue into the Park and onto the East Drive, whence to the finish. This would give me time, I thought, to walk around the Great Lawn. And it did. The problem was that I didn’t believe my own reasoning. I was sure that, when I got back to the East Drive, heading east myself this time, I’d be waved away by the police who already stood guard along the way. (“Marathon: A Fiesta of NYPD Overtime.”) Instead of pursuing intriguing, if fugitive, thoughts on a leisurely stroll in a strong autumn sun, I feverishly planned alternate escapes. Would it be better to cross the Park to the West Side, and there to catch a crosstown bus back to the East Side (the buses take the transverse roads, which pass beneath the Park’s Drives)? Or to scramble down through the brush to the transverse road? I had a hard time seeing the latter option in any but a ridiculous light, but I worried at it nevertheless, as if it were a chipped tooth.

Here’s what I did not do: I did not have a fit. I did not puff myself up like a Leghorn rooster in preparation for delivering a tirade against any and all interruptions of ordinary civic routine, blah blah blah. I did not, even inwardly, “dare” any official persons to block my path. I did not contemplate making a scene.  I thought only of taking as much of a walk as possible and getting on with my day.

The next day, I blew up at an AT&T Mobility representative who, it turned out, was quite within his rights; it was I who had forgotten to do something, I who was in the wrong. So I haven’t turned into a completely new person overnight. But I did feel wretched about the wrongful blow-up afterward, and I had to restrain myself from complicating things further by calling up to apologize – to some other agent who would undoubtedly take me for a crackpot, and rightly so.

Tomorrow, I’ll definitely take my walk in the morning. But I won’t jinx things by telling you why – not yet. Suffice it to say that I plan to spend the later afternoon recording several PodCasts, with superior results. If I don’t, I’ll have a fit.

Taking Stock: 8 November 2007.

3 Responses to “Pedestrian”

  1. Nom de plume says:

    I really admire the level of self-observation, insight, and articulation you lend a daily walk with a marathon lemon twist.

  2. Fossil Darling says:

    Being the morning person I am, here at desk already (and already having had to explain ethics and compliance to a particularly obtuse FA), I think mornings are the best time to exercise. By the afternoon or evening I want a nap, even with a gym upstairs. The desire to collapse in the evening increases as it gets darker and darker.

    I think you will find, as your new regime evolves, that morning outings will fit you best.

  3. LXIV says:

    I must say that I always enjoy the ealry evenings; it makes them seem long enough to get a myriad of chores done or a long book read in a way a short summer evening never seems to allow for.

    I also enjoy the twlight for walks, seeing the lights come up and having the park, boulevard or whatever more to myself and my thoughts than when the same areas are thronged with folk late into the evening during summer hours. Finally, while I love the varied and serried greens of summer, the chiarosuro of leafless trees is very moving.