Sunday, May 14, 2006

Walking in the Rain

On my walk today I found myself following a guy I've seen a lot. There's sort of a community of walkers in Twinsburg. Besides the usual dog walkers, there's the Nazi girl, a very thin girl who walks ferociously, a fierce, unhappy expression on her face. She wears a sports bra and sweat pants in the summer. Walking does not appear to be a zen experience for her. There are the Wandering Sikhs, two retired gentlemen who are prodigious walkers. Bob and I have seen them in our neighborhood when we were, say, leaving for dinner, and an hour and a half later seen them still walking, four or five miles away. I admire the Wandering Sikhs a great deal. And there's the litter guy.

The litter guy walks all year round in all sorts of weather. He wears a caution orange vest and often walks on the side of the road. He carries a plastic bag and a litter picker-upper thing with an American flag on it. Sometimes he is accompanied by a black and white border collie. Sometimes he has a handlettered sign that says 'Please Do Not Litter!' He is also a prodigious walker. I've passed him before and once asked him where his dog was. 'Too hot for the dog,' he said. Today when I went for my walk it was the third day of Seattle rain. I haven't been to Seattle but this is what I imagine Seattle rain to be like. Steady. Like it could rain for another century or so. Everything is green and just a little cool. There were a couple of runners--because this kind of weather is about perfect for running--but only one other walker, the litter guy. I followed him for awhile on the trail, then cut off to do my five sets of stairs. (There's an observation deck overlooking Tinker's Creek and if I am feeling like I should, sometimes I go up and down the stairs--about the equivalent of going to the third story of a house--five times. If I am feeling especially athletic, I do it again on my return leg.) When I got back on the path after doing my stairs, I soon met the litter guy doing his return leg. He had an ingenious harness that allowed him to wear a golf umbrella attached to his vest and resting on his shoulder to that the whole umbrella rides perfectly to protect him. When he saw me, he spread his hands. 'Can you believe this?' he said. I thought he meant the rain. 'Hands free!' he said.

I admired his umbrella rig. I was wearing my new rain jacket and although I like my rain jacket a lot, it was a bit hot and the umbrella rig was splendiferous in a way a rain jacket is not. I thanked him for picking up litter.

He told me he started walking in early 2001, when he was still living in Massachusetts and that he walked seven miles a day. Since 2001 he has walked 8000 miles, he said. He used to have sponsors--the local Domino's Pizza and Dunkin' Donuts, among others, and people would sometimes stop and give him twenty dollars and say, 'Go buy yourself a beer!' He was written up in the local paper. But other people thought he was a nuisance and the cops stopped him six times. People tried to run him off the road.

When he came here to Ohio, he kept a lower profile, but he still picks up litter. Today he had found a five dollar bill. If I'd had my camera, I'd have taken a picture of him, but I keep forgetting my camera.

+ + + + +

In other news, Bob in in Mumbai (Bombay) India on business. He reported on his first night there:
Got to Mumbai around 11pm local time. Got through immigration and customs with no problems. Walked out into the heat and humidity and found my driver. Then I had a terrifying ride through Mumbai at night to the hotel.
OMFG! No rules, no enforcement, half the cars had no headlights. I lost track of how many times we came within centimeters of trucks, taxis, motorbikes, pedestrians, and dogs. Saw one cow. People everywhere! Milling about on piles of dirt. They walk in the street because there are people living on the sidewalk. I saw buildings that had no front walls with people living in them. Like there had been an earthquake. Saw blankets thrown over wires (might have been power lines) to make tents with people living in them. I just wanted to get to the hotel without seeing somebody run over or crushed to death. Seriously, I lost track of the close calls.
So I'm safe, a little wired, but drained. I'll write tomorrow.

Since Bob has spent some time in Hong Kong, Shen Zhen, and Juarez, places not known for their timid driving, I can only assume India is quite the experience. He has also sighted Bollywood star Dilip Kumar in a restaurant. (I assume that his dining companions pointed Kumar out, since while Bob has some Punjab music, he cannot really be described a Bollywood fan and probably would not have recognized him on his own.)


Blogger Responsible Artist said...

Have Bob smuggle back lots of saffron. Maybe he doesn't even need to smuggle it, though it makes it seem dangerous in a way that saffron isn't.

May 14, 2006 10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like a perfect time to read fellow Clevelander Thrity Umrigar's The Space Between Us. Spectacular book set in Bombay.

May 15, 2006 1:19 AM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

I've been thinking about Thrity's book ever since Bob found out he had to go to Bombay. I'd already read it. I think Bob is in a very different Bombay from Thrity's characters, though--he's insulated by money and distance from the culture.

May 15, 2006 9:12 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Jeezus, I already wanted to go to Mubai. Now I want to go even more. (I know, such a description should provoke an opposite reaction, but it just makes me want to hop on the next plane!)

May 16, 2006 2:45 AM  
Blogger Samantha Ling said...

At my old house, we had a group of wandering Sikh's. Sometimes the women would go along with their kids. They seem to walk after dinnertime, which I heard was good for digestion.

May 17, 2006 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I figured out what the deal was with the buildings with no fronts on them. There is a major program to improve the infrastructure and widen the roads. Everywhere, all at once. So when they need to widen the road through a slum they just take out as much as they need to and leave the rest. They also don't use orange plastic barrels. They use large rocks or chunks of concrete, sometimes painted white for added visibilty, often not. Sure gets your attention.

May 17, 2006 11:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Maureen -- and Bob -- thanks for bringing back some vivid and sometimes terrifying (but in a good way! heh) memories of my time working in Kashmir. Interestingly, while my full-time job was that of hotel manager for a lovely hotel on an island in the middle of Lake Dal (in the foothills of the Himalayas,) as a sideline I was a saffron runner, making runs from Srinagar to Delhi every month or so. ENORMOUS suitcases packed almost to overflowing. And yes, it really was saffron! I had the pleasure of meeting the acknowledged saffron king of Kashmir -- lovely man. Even more lovely palatial home.

But the cars in Delhi....the near death experiences so numerous you lose count, until your perspective changes and you notice less.

And the Sikhs are avid walkers there also! After dinner in Jammu it's like the evening passegiata in Florence! -- everyone's outside, moving and talking, seeing and being seen.

God I love India.

Sorry to go on -- thanks for taking me back there, Maureen. :)

May 18, 2006 12:04 AM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

You'd think if Litter Guy started in Mass and had walked 8000 miles he'd have made it further than Ohio by now.

Sorry, couldn't help myself.


May 18, 2006 2:18 AM  

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