Thursday, January 19, 2006

Walking & Talking

I am pushing 60. Two years ago, I walked in the 500 Mini-Marathon. Last year, I got fat again and didn't do the Mini. Once again, I am on the trail. Prior to the Mini 2 years ago, I had lost just over 50 pounds. I walked the walk - the last 3 miles seemed like a death march - but I finished. Then I stopped. I guess I felt that, hey - been there, done that. Over the next year I managed to find more than 30 of the pounds I had lost.

I signed up for this spring's Mini, and I am determined to not stop there. I have begun a regimen of walking either out amongst the elements or inside on a treadmill. My biggest problem seems to be with my knees. They just don't care for the abuse. I walked just over 5 miles this afternoon. It was somewhat of a struggle. With my knees complaining, it seemed that most of today's walk was uphill.

I usually walk the neighborhood. Occasionally, I walk on a quarter mile track at a nearby school. Some people don't care for a track as they claim that it becomes boring. I really don't mind it. The best thing about it is that you know specifically how far you've walked, you don't have to worry about vehicular traffic, irregular surfaces, hills, dogs, and so on.

But walking in a residential neighborhood can be interesting. I tend to wave or say hi to most people I encounter. Most respond. A few ignore me. Don't know what their problem is.

I noticed that while in Germany, very few people returned a nod, or a wave. I think this was especially true when we were in former East German cities - Leipzig, Halle, etc. It occured to me that most of these people are still relatively new to living in a free society. It's only been 15 years or so since the "wall" came down. Younger people seemed to be more responsive than adults - especially older folks. I guess if you have lived most of your life under the thumb of the Stasi, scared shitless about who might be spying on you, your instinct would likely be to not make eye contact, or otherwise communicate with people on the street.

It has been my experience that the farther south one goes in the USA, the more responsive people tend to be. In New York City, where I lived for a couple of years, it was rare to make any contact with anyone on the street. Of course, when you are walking down a sidewalk with quite literally thousands of people, you'd go crazy trying to say "hey" to everyone.

I live in central Indiana. Here, I guess most people will give a return wave unless your downtown, where urban rules apply. A good reason for this is that making contact with someone on a city street is very likely to result in some guy with really bad b.o. approaching you asking for change or, whatever. Most Hoosiers will wave if you're out in the country, say passing a farmer coming up the road driving their harvester, or some such.

I spent 2 glorious years of my life during the mid 60s at Ft. Hood, Texas while serving our country. (Imagine me protecting you?) A number of my friends and I rented houses first in neighboring Killeen and later out in the little town of Belton (home of Mary Harding Baylor College - all girls.) Just about everybody goes out of their way to say "Hey, how ya doin'?"

I guess I shouldn't try to analyze this phenomenon too deeply. Urban life is far removed from the more bucolic environs of the mid-west or the south. Generally, one must be more guarded in the city than when in smaller, more relaxed small towns and rural areas.

I'm not sure what sent me off on this track. This country just seems so polarized. The message seems to be that you are either with us or you're against us. Suspicion of others is epidemic. We have lived in our neighborhood for over 10 years. I only know the names of 2 or 3 people on our street. I have struck up a pleasant relationship with our immediate neighbor, Ernie, and a more tentative one with a fellow two doors down. Otherwise, we really know no one. Neighbors aren't very neighborly. Nor, I guess, are we. Our former next door neighbors were drug dealers. A happy young couple with 2 little kids and a thriving home business. It occured to me that the people pulling up in their drive at midnight were not likely to be buying Tupperware. A woman who lived a few doors down was having an affair with a deputy sheriff who ultimately beat her up. Another fellow down the street is a biker who has many colorful guests. This is not a "bad" neighborhood as those things go. It's a typical, if somewhat older, area of moderate sized, generally well kept, ranch & split level homes. We just don't generally feel comfortable opening up to many of the people around here. I guess that is sad, but what are ya gonna do?


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