Amblin' Alameda: Walking and talking

Amblin' Alameda: Walking and talking

Morton Chalfy

On Sunday mornings when both of us are in town, my friend Larry, his three legged dog Maggie and I go for a walk. We walk at Maggie's pace - which, oddly enough, is not affected by her loss of a leg but by the number of spots visited and marked by other dogs.

The pace falls into a clear rhythm: 10 or 12 steps, stop and sniff, squeeze out a few drops of urine to mark her presence and then on for another dozen steps. Twice along the way Maggie blithely drops several mounds of poop, which Larry obligingly picks up poop in a plastic bag and carries it to the next drop off spot.

This sort of pace is not the recommended marching pace one does to build stamina and strength; it does not significantly raise the heartbeat count and does not induce the breaking of a sweat. But it is perfect for a conversation that ranges hither and yon.

Walking and talking (or amblin' and ramblin', as in 'ramblin' on') has been one of my favorite activities since my teen years. Once upon a time, a friend and I would regularly walk from West 88th Street in Manhattan down Broadway and Fifth Avenue to Greenwich Village and its coffee shops, because that's where the girls were. Along the way we would cover a hundred subjects in our adolescent way and solve the problems of the world and our lives. The fact that we came to different solutions was inconsequential to the pleasures involved. Walking and the freedom it expressed - and talking, which between friends is the expression of freedom - were in themselves pleasurable activities and very satisfying.

Sixty odd years later (some would say very odd years indeed), the pleasures remain the same. The walking is now strolling and the talking is much more informed, though not necessarily better and wiser but definitely from another perspective entirely, are both still viscerally satisfying. Of course, walking Broadway in the late '50s exposed us to an incredible zoological display of humanity; walking along Shore Line and the bird sanctuary offers less diversity of individuals, but the walks are no less interesting. There are the encounters with other dog walkers and the moments when we learn whether the encounters are to be civil or bark-filled; encounters with runners, bicyclists and the interesting looking older Asian couple who are definitely walking for health and always, and always very politely, greet us with "Good morning, good morning."

The pleasure of walking is physical to be sure, but the pleasure of walking with a friend is spiritual. We trade accounts of the past weeks, we comment on events in our lives, on current events and humanity's inexhaustible ability to stun us with its brutality and stupidity. We despair,but being with a friend the basic mood is still uplifting and greatly tempers the despair. Humanity sucks, but not all of it and not all the time, and there are more good people doing helpful things for one another than there are those of the other persuasion trying to tear down the house.

Ultimately we complete our tour and Maggie's tongue is hanging out. An hour and a half of strolling and sniffing and pooping and peeing has left her ready for her bed and a well-earned snooze. Me too, I think.


Submitted by Mary Pulkrabek (not verified) on Wed, May 27, 2015

From northern MN - what a lovely column. Enjoyed your description (and Larry is a sibling).......