I am generally lazy when it comes to fitness. But as of late, my age has started to catch up with me and the metabolism I’ve relied on to not turn me into a lady Jabba has finally slowed. It is also important to note that I HATE running. My body rejects it, it always has. I cramp up after approximately 5 minutes and end up in the fetal position while superior beings run past me. And I feel like everyone around me runs marathons, runs at the gym at absurdly early hours, or runs (much to my amazement) for fun. But I definitely prefer a brisk walking pace, like a cute little old man who used to run marathons, but now he’s 73 and has arthritis in his knees.
I’ve now decided that I will “work out” by making more of a concerted effort to walk home from work. I work only a mile away from my apartment so it takes me about 25-30 min to get home. I will also say I feel like walkers get to take in more of their surroundings than runners. This has its pros and cons.
And now, I’d love to take you on my walk with me.
I work in a busy part of Portland, very close to the what is touted as “the world’s largest independent bookstore”, Powell’s, that attracts every tourist in the area. This can be annoying on my walk home because there are ALWAYS petitioners on every corner that want to help you save the dolphins or the sea monkeys or the Blue Man group or WHATEVER. When I was taking the streetcar home, I had the great excuse of “oh sorry, gotta catch the streetcar!” Because I do hate flat out ignoring these people. They mean well and as I had to do similarly awkward street advertising in college, I want them at least to feel acknowledged. But my rent is too damn high, and as such, I am VERY selective about what charities I give money to. So it’s cool if you wanna chat but I’m not going to give my money to you. Honestly, my favorite petitioner interaction was when I was walking in the same direction as a co-worker and as his excuse he goes, “sorry…I’m going home”. My advice to those attempting to avoid petitioners would be to KEEP MOVING, shoot them a sad look and point in the direction you’re heading which I feel says, I appreciate what you’re doing and I would chat, but I can’t cause I have…things…to do.
Once I get past the petitioners with as little awkward interaction as possible, I have to cross the bridge of bees. There is this bridge that takes you over a highway and unfortunately, you can only cross it one side. This side has a grated fence on the right that has been overtaken with ivy. And guess what, bees apparently love themselves some ivy. The only time I bust into a full out run during my walk home is to get past this fence teeming with bees. I have never been stung, but for all I know, I’m allergic and I’ve seen ‘My Girl’ and I am not willing to take any risks. The little bastards have yet to catch me.
During my walks, my greatest hope is that I will walk past a puppy. Northwest Portland has strong puppy game. I often call the cute, touristy, twinkle lit NW 23rd Ave the mecca of dogs in sweaters. There are a lot of chilly dogs on that street apparently. On my walks I always break for dogs. If I see one, I’ll politely ask the owner if I can say hi, the dog and I will deep into each other’s eyes and witness the depths of each other’s souls, and then I’m like, “Ok thanks bye!” And we part ways, our lives forever changed.
I also pass an interesting mix of homes. The area I live in has a ton of classic Victorian houses. Some will make you stop in your tracks with their bold mix of deep purples and golds and emerald greens. Some are dilapidated, their white paint chipping off. I imagine these houses are probably haunted by a lady ghost named Helen or Elizabeth or some other basic bitch turn of the century name. I have a lot of feelings looking at these houses. Sometimes I wonder about their original owners, how they got to Portland, if they were around during the sinking of the Titanic or the First World War. What did they do for fun? Hula hoop? I feel like hula hooping would have been the 1913 child’s version of FIFA. Other times, I stare at the houses with resentment. What kind of lucky bastard owns a house in Northwest Portland? Either they’re young tech millionaires or folks that got lucky and scooped it up when Portland was less of a hipster haven and more of a grimy, less-cool-than-Seattle punk pit where you could get human trafficked through a trap door at a bar in Chinatown (this is real and actually happened).
I start to think about how long it would take me to save for a house (probably 15+ years) and get depressed. BUT THEN I remember that renting is pretty chill to. I don’t have to take care of a lawn or pay for maintenance people or worry about when to sell and when not to sell or what the housing market is up to. I feel more free to do anything and go anywhere I want.
Towards the end of my journey I start to feel like I’m actually working out. I can feel the beads of sweat on my back and I’m breathing a little quicker. I give myself a mini Rocky pep talk. “YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU’RE THE GREATEST. YOU’RE THE BEST PEDESTRIAN IN THIS WHOLE DAMN TOWN”. I start to do a casual “walk while secret dancing” where I swing my hips a little more and strut a little harder to the Latin music blaring from my headphones.
And finally, I get to my tiny, shoebox studio in my white brick building built over a century ago, blast the air conditioner and breathe in the relief that I’m home.