Category Archives: walking

The Avenue

It is Sunday morning, and I’am walking up Columbus Avenue. Couples are coming at me on all sides. They fill the street from building line to pavement edge. Some are clasped together looking raptly into each other’s faces; some are holding hands, their eyes restless, window-shopping; some walk side by side, stony faced, carefully not touching. I have the sudden conviction that half these people will, in a few months, be walking with someone else now walking on the avenue as one half of another couple. Eventually that arrangement will terminate as well, and each man and each woman will once again be staring out the window of a room empty of companionship. This is a population in a permanent state of intermittent attachment. Inevitably, the silent apartment lies in wait. 

Who could ever have dreamed there would be so many of us floating around, those of us between thirty-five and fifty-five who live alone. Thirty years of politics in the street opened a door that became a floodgate, and we have poured through in our monumental numbers, in possession of the most educated discontent in history. Yet, we seem puzzled, most of us, about how we go here, confused and wanting relief from the condition. We roam the crowded streets, in naked expectation of the last-minute reprieve. 

-Vivian Gornick

I was reading Vivian’s work, this particular excerpt she included in another piece, originally part of a different work that she has not yet published, and admits may not. Once the delusional years of youth drain away, is this everyone’s fate? Is this what awaits? At some point in your life you come to the realization of who you are, separate from any sort of role you are supposed to fulfill. You can only fail so many times at fulfilling these roles until you must admit your own inability, and then you have to understand that it is not so much an inability, but an unwillingness, deep seated, that makes it impossible to continue ignorantly participating in your own loss of self.

But what do you do with this new knowledge? So now you know what you want, and who you are. And you don’t want to be foisted into another’s expectations of who you should be. And you have to wonder, which was better? The bliss in ignorance, or this new-found facet of self? In recognizing yourself you can no longer ignore the flaws, the fact that at any given point you can boast more baggage than an international airport on Christmas eve, your own selfish desires that simultaneously include and have nothing to do with another person, and the fact that you don’t want to be lonely, but you want to be left alone. Yeah, just *try* making sense of all that.

Others around you have also come to know themselves. I think it happens to most people eventually. But they haven’t the slightest clue what to do with this either. So you have a multitude of people understanding themselves while trying to live parallel lives with someone else, not necessarily fulfilling roles, but existing together, pleasantly. That is the ideal, not reality. The idea of having to be something to someone else is too ingrained, and these parallel lives begin to converge, too much for comfort.

I don’t mean there should not be compromise, because even the most superficial friendships demand a certain level of it. Yes, compromise is a prerequisite, and healthy in and of itself. But how much of yourself are you supposed to give up? I don’t necessarily think there is an answer to this, and it differs, relying on the idea of picking your battles. There might not be a universal answer, but each person has their own answer. The problem is for two people with complementary answers to actually find each other.

How often does that actually happen?

Walking Around

My children are not trained for the city. On Sunday, after coming back from Portland I took them out for errands, and we stopped by the Grove because these days all they want to do is ride the trolley. Between CVS and the grocery store and everything else the poor little things almost got run over in the CVS parking lot, overrun by hoards of people at the Grove, and got lost at the grocery store.

I realize this is my fault for not having exposed them to this sooner, but I had no idea how different the environment would be for them. As we walked between K-Mart and CVS they seemed oblivious to the parking lot full of cars, traffic jams down every lane, and the fact that unlike in the valley these people aren’t driving five miles an hour, nor is half the lot deserted.

I have always been a walker, and if a destination is within a couple of miles, I would walk, kids with me. In the city everyone else walks too, and stopping in the middle of the street or dallying along will get you trampled. Ducky got knocked over several times.

This is not the first time they have been to this part of town, and we have been making it our weekend routine lately, but they are not picking up the pace fast enough. Nor do they understand my agitation as they get swept away from me by mobs of people, stepping off the sidewalk into the street, and refusing to hold my hand until they feel lost and start calling out for me while I frantically run around after them. It is not so much that they don’t understand the city, but that they don’t understand the danger for small children in the city.

I know they are young, but every day I see other children their age, and younger, apt at navigating the streets, clinging to their mothers, and unperturbed by their atmosphere. My little ones behave as if they are country bumpkins come to the city for the first time. As adorable as it may sound, for a mother this is rather terrifying.

And to think, Los Angeles isn’t even as hectic as most other cities. In New York I would probably manage to lose them in less than twenty four hours.


When I was little we lived in New York for a while. I remember one evening outside the subway station, my mother and I were about to go home when a man stepped in front of her and “asked” for her purse. She defiantly said no, and he slapped her across the face. It was one of those hard back hands that she railed from. He then took her purse and ran away. It all happened very quickly and I don’t remember all the details, but afterwards, without a purse we couldn’t get on the subway. She didn’t say anything. She just started walking and I followed her.

It was November, and cold. Not snowing yet, but still very cold. We walked all the way home. I don’t know how many miles it was, but we got home well after ten. It must have taken us almost three hours to make it there. I was exhausted and my feet hurt. Under normal circumstances I would have complained, or asked to be carried. That night I didn’t dare say a word, just kept walking, half running, to keep up with her.

This was before cell phones, so my dad was at home, waiting for us, worried. He was glad to see us, and asked what happened. My mother told him she lost her purse.

I can only hope that the times men have slapped me across the face I have taken it with as much dignity as my mother did that evening. Thankfully there haven’t been many such occasions, and hopefully there will never be any more. Yes, her actions were driven by pride, but there was also a stoicism that bordered on defiance which at times I feel I have inherited from her. I am a tiny woman, easy to slap around. But I have never been brought down.

And afterward, I just walk away.