What Is Walking, Anyway


Walking is an easy and popular way to get around, in case you need to be somewhere you aren’t. It’s also an easy and popular way to get in a bit more exercise. This is good if you’ve figured out that you need more exercise. This you might have figured out by noticing something like how you have the muscle tone of a deflated bagpipe. The experienced music major will explain how this tone is actually a note in the key of G-flat. This doesn’t seem to get you anywhere. But it’s good for the soul to interact with the arts majors more.

Walking is very much like running, except it’s not done so very fast. It’s also very much like crawling, except it’s not done so very low. It’s rather something like swimming, although without the persistent dampness, unless you’re walking in the rain. If you are walking in the rain then it’s a slight bit more like swimming, only without the persistent feeling like you should have a better pair of swim goggles on. The ones you have kind of pinch the hair around your ears. It turns out this is just the way swim goggles work best. If they didn’t pinch your hair they would turn to minor acts of vandalism and we don’t need that. Walking is also very much like walking on stilts, except that it’s not done on stilts. (NOTE: This does not apply to walking on stilts, which is very like walking on stilts except that you do walk on stilts.) And finally walking is very much like roller skating, only without the roller skates. Walking is furthermore very much like running — oh, wait, no, I said “finally” before, so that part of the explanation is done as far back as the start of this paragraph.

Walking is very much like — no, no, I’m on a different track here, I can go on. Walking is very much like walking to somewhere, only without the somewhere. For this sort of walking you’ll want some kind of loop that returns to wherever you start, as the alternative requires a never-ending series of new homes or workplaces. And that is a great hassle since it’s so much trouble to keep setting up new job interviews. And you’ll often find yourself at the mercy of new local Internet providers. Plus, it gets harder to return library books reliably.

There are great advantages to walking out-of-doors. Walking indoors is fine, certainly. But too much of it will confuse household pets and make anyone you live with ask what exactly it is you’ve forgotten or lost. You can answer “the way to the fridge” about twice before that joke’s been exhausted, and “my walking pants” maybe four times before that’s no good as a punch line. If you keep that up you’ll be trying to think of ever-more-fanciful things to have lost or places to be going. This is good exercise too. But it eventually putters out with something like “the tea set for the upper veranda” and there’s nothing to help the creative flow anymore. This will come after about two weeks’ work. After that you turn to grunting at whoever’s asking and give an unwanted reputation of being all cranky. Oh, you could walk on a treadmill, but this requires getting a treadmill, and then dealing with all your friends telling you jokes about how you don’t use the treadmill.

If you walk outside you don’t have to deal with people asking what you’re looking for. But in trade you might encounter people walking the other way. You can handle this by smiling pleasantly and nodding, until it turns out they’re walking the same circuit you are only the other direction so you keep seeing them. The smile-and-nod starts to see like a pretty weak response about three times in. You’ll have to pretend you didn’t see them, such as because you sneezed or suddenly had to jump into the shrubs a little.

Motivating yourself to walk regularly for exercise can be hard. One useful trick is to use the walk as a chance to listen to something you like. This way, you get to associate something you enjoy with a chore that leaves you feeling tired and maybe sweaty. This seemed like a good idea before it was laid out like that, but, you know, what doesn’t?

The Shape Of Things (I’m A Thing)


I don’t want to brag, which is an opening that puts me at a disadvantage when I honestly don’t want to brag, because everyone knows what it means. Normally you only start a sentence “I don’t want to brag” because you feel like ending it with “but I am the youngest person to have won both a Nobel and a Pulitzer Prize in tweeting, and I only turned down the MacArthur Grant because I knew an adorably needy kid who’d be better able to use the money. Also, last month I put a video up on YouTube that’s attracted over two dozen comments that are relevant and that make you kind of glad there’s such a thing as human beings.” That’s so much bragging it’s not even a single sentence anymore.

The thing is that I’ve got a body that’s in pretty good shape, considering. I don’t mean that I’m in great shape: on my best-shape-day of my entire life I’m going to be measurably worse off than soccer star Pelé will on the worst day of his life, for example, but soccer star Pelé is a pretty high standard of fitness. Even his name outranks the fitness of my name. I imagine you could probably set a pretty substantial dead weight across that capital P and that l without compressing either letter. Yeah, that ‘N’ in my name looks like it should be load-bearing, but I bet if you tried you’d find all its structural integrity has been eaten away by my having kept too many old videotapes of Cartoon Network stored underneath it for like a decade after I even had a VCR anymore.

Still, my body is in pretty good shape considering that by rights it ought to be much worse off. The most serious complaint I can make about it is that I look awkward when I’m standing still or moving. I don’t blame you for thinking I’m just exaggerating my general social awkwardness, but please consider that the funniest thing I can ever do, based on how my love irresistibly laughs, is be the subject of a series of rapidly taken photographs of me standing still or doing a thing. We have a photo collage of me drinking an extra-medium size malted milk that we keep in a special box in the laundry room, as reserve against the most depressing days, like when the plumbing can only be repaired by tearing out the fireplace and gathering two dozen woodland creatures to be publicly mocked, or downbeat stuff like that.

But, for example, I’m not fat anymore, which is doing pretty well because I used to figure, say, I like poppyseed bagels, so for breakfast, I should have two poppyseed bagels so that I’m warmed up for the second, and I should finish it off with an onion bagel, and then maybe also eat a wedge of cheese the size of a guinea pig. I had good reasons for this: I wouldn’t be so cruel as to eat a guinea pig that was made of guinea pig. By rights, I should have reached the diameter of a minor planet, but I never did, and I’ve lost most of the weight by now thanks to what is technically abuse of the coat- and baggage-checking rooms at the renovated music hall downtown. (Don’t tell them. The lost-and-found notices they put up about it are great reading.)

And then there’s aches and pains. Again, I can’t boast about reaching an extreme age, but I am old enough it would be normal to suffer some pains after strenuous effort or after sitting still or lying down or standing up, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be spared that. I don’t have any serious pains, now that I made the executive decision to tell my doctor that the pain in my chest isn’t actually a pain but more a kind of friendly reminder about not twisting so very much.

To what do I attribute my remarkably good physical shape? Is it anything that I can share with people who hope to come away like I do without much to complain about? I have no idea, but if you’d like to suggest anything that might’ve been a cause I’ll accept nominations in care of this department.