Sunday, May 08, 2005

The walking man walks

Yesterday I did The Great Saunter, although this is a misleading name. If the truth in advertising people had been on the case, it whould have been called "The Manhattan Death March." We walked the whole 32 miles around the New York City shoreline, dear reader, we completed that thing. But we paid a price.

In the morning, when we got there at 7, there were only a few dozen people milling around. The crowd skewed way old and did not seem particularly athletic. When we finally began it was pretty anticlimactic - there was no gunfire, no blood-curdling Saunterers' Yell, just the sound of a couple hundred people sighing and muttering, "Well, I guess we should start."

Cut to ten hours later, as we limped - in literal and figurative ways - back to the starting point. At that moment the bottoms of my feet were on fire, my left ankle was refusing to bend, and I was developing what would become the worst instance of chafing I can recall. I developed a bizarre walk wherein my infamously Latin hips would swivel outward, and I would actually move farther laterally than I would forward advance. This became a sort of bowlegged crabwalk, which I used to maneuver my way into Rite Aid to buy the staples of every Saunterer's medicine cabinet: vaseline and baby powder. I came home and applied the baby powder (not an easy job for a single person) to such a degree that if I closed my legs too quickly and with too much force, enough powder dropped to make you think that a very large and significant cocaine bust had just occurred on the floor of my bathroom.

But there were some good things of the walk, too: I saw some beautiful parks, especially the upper reaches of Riverside Park and Fort Trion, near Inwood. There are actual hills and stubby paths and forested areas on this island of ours. I was very thankful to actually be on a hike in New York City. It was a good time to rest and eat trail mix and enjoy some time with my friends and in my own head, and I was ultimately very proud of walking the whole damn thing. Although I did find it very funny that we just walked in a circle with a net gain of exactly 0. Who walks for 32 miles and ends up where they started with nothing to show for it, because the t-shirts for sale were very ugly and bland? Me.

It was easier to pretend to not think about the distance we actually walked. By the last third of the trip, I was desperate to end it all and just sit down. At 125th St on the east side, I was waiting til 110th, when we would be near the Park. Once we were below 100th St, I figured we were in the home stretch - what's another 130 blocks or so when you've already walked three quarters of the island? To find myself thinking this way was kind of stunning. Honestly, to finish it I drew on my boy scouting experience, my dad, my mom, the peer pressure of my fellow walkers and my own foolish pride and stubbornness - not to mention the 5 60-year old ladies who smoked us in the final stretch, their elbows pumping with military efficiency while I swiveled my way downtown, arms akimbo, like a marionette on crank.

Anyways, I'm thankful I did it. I am still exhausted. I am sore as hell today but the chafing is improving. I am sleeping very well at night and I'm proud too, and I feel as though I am earning a place in this city, in this island. I am a Shorewalker. I am a Saunterer, and yesterday, for a few hours, I was Great.

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