Sunday, November 09, 2008

happy feet

Here's another thing I like about fall: Walking. In the summer, I ride my bike because it's faster, less sweaty, and fun. In the winter, walking is much less enjoyable because you might freeze your face or, perhaps more frequently, fall on your ass on the ice. But in the fall and spring, I'm free to walk miles and miles if I desire with little to no ill effect. And I do desire it, apparently: yesterday I walked about eight miles, and today I'm walking to boystown to see a movie. In terms of hiking this is pretty unimpressive, but in terms of city walking I feel like a badass.
One of my favorite things about having been here so long is just knowing where things are. When I moved here in 2004, it was an enormous struggle to get my life set up because I just didn't know where to go for anything, even basic essentials like towels. But now, more than four years later, I can tell you my favorite bookstores, falafel restaurants, and thrift stores, tell you the best way to get there by any form of transportation, how many miles you'll be covering, and what else is in the area. That knowledge is incredibly important to me, and a large part of the reason I know these things is because of my walking and biking. On a train, you might have a good idea of where you're going, but unless you spend some time with maps it's easy to not have a good idea of where exactly you are. But when you walk and, to a different extent, bike, you have more time to notice things like street signs and hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants. You form whole new maps in your head, and (at least for me) it makes even familiar places look a little different when I choose to approach them in different ways.
But in truth, I just love walking. I like doing things slowly; it gives me a sense of time that is lacking in so much of life. And one of the great things about Chicago is that, even though it's a really big place, I can walk pretty much anywhere I need to go if I give myself enough time. People think I'm crazy, I think, when I tell them I walked to Roger's Park last week. And I think, seriously? It's only about two miles. Why on earth would I pay the CTA two dollars for a train ride (one that involves at least twenty minutes of walking anyway to get to and from stations, I might add) when I can have a good forty-five minutes of clean, quiet alone time, full of knowledge that I'm lucky to have the time and geographical know-how to allow me to do that? It also puts this giant place in perspective and makes it seem not so overwhelming. It makes me feel at home.

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