The parade doesn’t end, it disperses into individuals meandering and mumbling into their cell phones. Pedestrians are faintly subversive in Los Angeles. You’d better have a purposeful look on your face as if you can’t find your car. Strolling can get you arrested north of Wilshire in a residential neighborhood. Home-owners might think you are casing the joint. Dog-walkers are also suspect particularly if they have no dog.
It wasn’t like this back in early 19th century England. Famous men went on famous walking tours. A few years after Napoleon walked through continental Europe John Keats left Hamstead Heath and ambled to Ambleside, 270 miles away, in the Lake District where William Wordsworth lived. He dropped off his collection of poetry which W.W. never opened. The pages were still uncut upon the poet laureate’s death 32 years later. Give a guy a title and this is what happens. I wonder if Keats told him he was just passing by.
For certain Russian poets the creative force is in the breath and that rhythm comes from walking. Of course if they were carted off to the Gulag I doubt if walking was the preferred mode. Andrei Voznesensky said that he never wrote his poems but composed them in his head while walking through the woods or down the street. There were hundred meter poems and thousand meter poems.
Many years ago a friend of mine had a hissy-fit when he was ticketed during the 30 seconds it took to run into a market to get change for a parking meter. He drove around the block and decided he would gum up the meter and then claim it was broken. He parked across from the market and ran to do his dirty deed when he was ticketed again by a police car for jay walking. I haven’t seen him since 1956. He must be the guy who walked the crooked mile.
Some people have no sense of direction. It took Moses 40 years to find the Promised Land. It only took Charlton Heston a couple of hours with Cecil B DeMille lording over him. But God distracted Moses with seas, bushes and a stack of commandments.
Dustin Hoffman, as Ratso Rizzo, in Midnight Cowboy knew his way across the streets of Manhattan. His famous words, I’m walkin here, I’m walkin, set the tone for the American century; too many boots on too much foreign territory.
Now we need to take a deep breath and find a new commandment. I’m listening here, I’m listening.