rough, very rough, draft of almost nothing

He walks down the road thinking this foot hits that crack just below the toe but this foot hits that ice just above the heel and then he does it all over again, wondering if the cold against his face will get worse around the next bend because it’s just plain cold outside or if it will be warmer with more and faster stepping.

She walks down the path thinking the coffee in her right hand is doing the trick but her left hand in the pocket is colder but not too cold and really a little warmer than the outside of the hand that holds the hot coffee.

He wonders if his father could lend him just a hundred dollars but then how to pay him back. Maybe out of the next paycheck but that needs to pay rent water electric and the muffler is sounding bad but who needs a muffler if you don’t have the money for gas and what kind of mood will his father be in and what would be the best way to ask.  The right foot is far from meeting the next stick in the middle so he shortens his stride and almost makes a little hop.

She could light a cigarette but one hand will have to be cold then and the dorm is still three blocks away more than it takes to smoke a cigarette and really too far to walk with one hand really that cold considering her neck is also freezing.  She could enter the room quietly and let her roommate sleep but her roommate needs to wake up for her own good.  She has work to do and sleeping is just avoidance.  She would be doing her a favor to make a little noise even though it wouldn’t help the relationship at all because it’s a known and proven fact that she’ll get mad and say something mean even though she loves her roommate.

He sees her coming in his direction and looks up and down at the bumps of snow and back up and then down again.  Up and down and up and down.  The air in his chest cools because she’s the girl from that class who likes to answer questions.

She knows that he wants to be an actor but he’s really a singer and not much of an actor if only he knew it and now the cold wind moves from her neck to her cheeks.  He’s the boy from that class.

When they pass she almost smiles and he almost keeps his head down and then he grunts and says hi and she does smile and says hi.

“It’s cold.”

“No shit.”

“Going to get coffee.”

“Just got some.”

“Want some more?”

Her hands warm now and his steps weaving.  His dad could be okay and her roommate could need more catch-up sleep.

the smaller the space, the longer the walk

At the end of this month, I will complete my second year of walking 10k steps each day.

My record is nearly perfect, although I admit I’ve fallen a few steps short three or four times (and always compensated for it the following day).

I think all of these imperfect days were in 2009.   In 2010, the compulsiveness of the behavior has increased.

Most days, it’s quite easy to do.  Some days are more challenging.

Which brings me to my point — a profound, existential, obvious awareness:  the smaller the space, the longer the walk.

Last night, I had quite a bit of work to do and finished late.  I had two thousand steps to go.  Ordinarily, I would have walked down the street, or around the campus, or around the block — and it would have been a piece of cake.

But it was raining hard, so I walked around the couch many, many times.  Sure, there was TV — but it seemed to be a long ways.  And it seemed to take a long time.

Tonight, I walked in the mall while listening to a book.  There was a smattering of Christmas shopping in progress, which does offer some entertainment.  There are people to greet.  There’s the holiday merchandise to notice.  But it’s still a confined space that’s not all that interesting — and it makes for a fairly long walk.

When I’m outside, the 10 thousand steps fly by in no time at all.

The smaller the space, the longer the walk.

One could argue that 10k steps is 10k steps — no matter where — and that it’s the same amount of walking.  One could argue that it’s only my perception that is different.

But perception is all I’ve got — so I’m sticking to my story:  the smaller the space, the longer the walk.

I’m pretty sure this could be applied to all areas of life, but who’s got time for that?  Who knows, it might even be in the Tao Te Ching (although Lao-tzu certainly would have said it better).

Tonight, while walking, a gentleman remarked to me that it was cold outside.

“It’s getting down to 27 tonight,” he said.  “That’s cold!”

I agreed.  I was wearing a sports coat that was perfectly warm earlier in the day.  But the sun had set and it was no longer sufficient.

“I’m gonna freeze walking to my car,” I said.

cold weather
cold weather

This prompted me to look at the weather forecast on my phone for Fairbanks, Alaska — which is where my dear daughter, Sarah, now lives.

It was 22 below, and predicted to be 34 below later in the evening.

Reality has more to do with how we see things than with the things themselves.

NOT walking the dog

According to a study, reported here:

•dog owners who walk their dogs are more healthy than dog owners who don’t walk their dogs
• dog owners who walk their dogs are more healthy than people who don’t own dogs

Here’s my question: What about dog owners who do walk, but without their dogs.jackie

In the fall, spring, and summer, I walk my dog quite often.

But in this heat, with all that fur, she just can’t handle it.

Sometimes I walk a mile or so and and see that she’s hot and exhausted. So I bring her home and finish my walk without her.

Sometimes I walk very late at night, when things have cooled, and I take her with me.

Sometimes I leave her at home altogether.

But I still walk.

How would dog owners who walk — but without their dogs — compare to dog owners who walk with their dogs.

In other words, do the benefits come strictly from the exercise, or is there something else, in addition, about spending time with a dog that makes people weigh less, have lower cholesterol, and have lower blood pressure.

Is there a study for that?

2009 goals. 2010 goals.

Today is the last day of the year.

My resolution for 2009 was to walk 10,000 steps per day, each day of the year.

I’m happy to report that I did this.

There were a few days that fell short, usually by just a few steps.  But I always made up the difference the next day.

Once, I was tired and accidentally fell asleep and came up 4,000 steps short.  The next day, I walked 14,000 steps.

A couple of times, my odometer pressed too hard against the other stuff in my pocket and reset itself.  This happened late in the day when I had over half the steps complete. Because the goal of 10k steps per day has become such an obsession, I went ahead and walked the extra steps until the device hit 10k.

There was also the day my odometer battery died and I was too far along to start over.  I did some estimating that day and feel confident I was over the required number.

It’s interesting how I developed a real sense for how many steps I had walked.  When I check my pedometer, I’m never surprised.  I can almost always get within a few hundred steps of how far I’ve walked that day.

I developed a sore toe about two or three weeks into the year (last January).  Almost one year later, it’s still a little sore, but improving.  I rarely notice it.

I did have to get a new pair of shoes in July, for my birthday.  Probably will do so again in the next couple of months.

Next year, I plan to keep the same goal.

Problem is, I didn’t take time to stretch and, with all that walking, had a few creaky days wherein I did not feel so young.

I’ve always loved yoga.  Started when I was 19 years old, as a sophomore in college, where I took a class in a wonderful studio in Reynolda Village in Winston-Salem.  But with all the walking this year, I neglected taking the time for yoga.

So this year I’m adding daily yoga in 2010 to the New Years Resolution.  This goal comes with some qualification.  In order to make it count as a daily practice,  I won’t ask myself to do a full routine — 30 to 90 minutes — if things are too busy.   I’ll do ten minutes and call it yoga.  I started this a week ago and it works out well.  Ten minutes is not ideal, but it still makes a huge difference.  When time allows, I’ll practice longer.

As for today, the last day of the year — time for a walk.

Christmas notes '09 (navel gazing, as usual)

A few notes about Christmas here at the Post house.

First of all, I’m Jewish — so Christmas is a cultural event that includes some awesome parties, visits with old friends, a few too many perhaps (a few nights too many), and a stint volunteering at the homeless shelter.

We send cards but I’m not much of a gift exchanger and certainly don’t have a religious connection to the holiday.

We also keep Hanukah in perspective.  I guess I’m sort of a secular humanist/Taoist/Jew.

My wife’s parents always send gifts, though.  And my friend Robert Jones always makes merry with gifts.  When the kids were young we had some fun playing Santa.

This year is very quiet.  Our children are far away.  Sarah is in Alaska, where she lives.  Aaron is with his girlfriend’s family, in Atlanta.  Emma is with her aunt and uncle, on a cruise in Mexico.

Normally, I don’t eat meat, but had some turkey on Thanksgiving and rather enjoyed it.  Thus, my wife, Alicia, is baking a small turkey today, with stuffing — and I’ll eat some of it.

I’ll also take some of this feast to my Mom.  She’s not doing well.  The Alzheimer’s has progressed and she’s also having some physical problems.  She’s fallen down a couple of times in the past two weeks.  I’ll visit her in a few minutes — as soon as I post this blog — and then spend some more time with her tonight, for dinner.

Sometime today, I’ll schedule in some yoga, meditation, and some walking.

Because it’s raining — hard — I may be walking here in the house, around the coffee table.  Normally, in weather like this, I would go to the mall, or even Walmart.  But it’s Christmas and they’re closed.

I’ve also got a couple of movies I want to see over the next couple of days, while things are quiet and peace reigns.

Like most Americans, I’m a big movie watcher, and even a sort of filmmaker.  But it’s been such a full year and months since I’ve seen any movie at all.  I’m going to watch Sean Penn’s ‘Milk,’ and Wayne Dyer’s ‘The Shift,” (a birthday present from daughter Sarah).

The usual traditions:  Last night, a few drinks at Robert’s house.  Tonight, a party and Darryl and Tammie’s house.  Tomorrow night, working at the homeless shelter, followed by a party at Lee’s house.  Sunday night, party at Robert’s house.  For me, these parties special.  I’ve had a busy year and I love the chance to relax and party and visit with friends.

Yesterday, I had a hankering for bar-b-cue.  I got some sauce (they call it “dip”) at Richard’s Bar-B-Cue.  Got some red slaw at McComb’s in Faith, NC.  Substituted white albacore tuna for the pork — and made a modified Salisbury style bar-b-cue sandwich, with sourdough bread.  It was excellent.

I’m working on some exciting New Year’s resolutions.  Last year, I made a resolutions to walk 10k steps per day in 2009.  I’ll probably keep this one and add to it.  My resolutions will be health related.  I’ll make a yoga goal because I was so inconsistent this year.  And I might make a diet goal.  Not to lose weight.  I never keep those.  But to eat a three servings of vegetables a day, take some vitamins, eat more and better salads — something like that.  Just trying to stay alive and healthy another year.

So there’s a bit of navel gazing for this Christmas.

Walking 10,000 steps in Walmart

We’ve had some rain lately.

I don’t mind walking in some kinds of rain, but I’m not wild about the kind Forrest Gump calls “big fat rain.”  It’s just too cold.

So, the past two nights, I finished my daily 10k steps inside Walmart.

One lap around the interior of the store is about 900 steps.  Sometimes I detour through the aisles in order to bump the number to 1000.

Sometimes I listen to books.  Sometimes I look at the merchandise (a little boring after a couple of laps).

But I can’t help but to watch employees haul out the palettes and stock the shelves — and they do this a lot when I’m there, generally fairly late.

Walmart employees work very hard — and I’m wondering if they work a little harder when they see me walking and observing.

It occurred to me, this morning, that there may have been some people working there last night who thought I was in management, from corporate.

It’s not that I’m dressed well.  I’m not.  But I’m constantly walking and watching.

Last night, I saw a manager sort of raise his voice to an employee.  He was barking instructions on which part of the floor to clean first.

I looked at him, and he looked back — and I think he may have slightly checked his tone with that employee. I think he may have thought I was somebody.  I kept walking.

Of course, he may have just thought I was a pest, getting in his way.

I do have an imagination, and I’ve held an added fascination with Walmart ever since I read (or listened to, rather, while walking) Cheap, the High Cost of Discount Culture.  And, the mind can do funny things — and those inside walks do seem much longer and are certainly more boring than walking in nature.  So, it’s more likely that nobody even noticed me at all.

Walmart is perfect for nights like this

From a political, socioeconomic, business point of view, I don’t like WalMart too much.

Even though they’ve got some cheap stuff, I preferred retail the way it used to be, years ago, before malls and shopping centers — back when my family had a downtown department store.

It used to be located here, in front of those green awnings.

N. Main St., Salisbury, NC
N. Main St., Salisbury, NC

Even if it costs a little more, I’d rather buy my stuff somewhere else.

Nevertheless, when it’s late, and it’s raining hard outside, Walmart does provide a dry place to walk.

This is just to say: I just got back from walking 3 miles in Walmart.

I never took Economics

full moon
full moon

This morning I watched some business news on TV. There was a good bit of talk about the recession ending.

I went to a lunch meeting. More talk of the recession ending.

Problem was, nobody was doing much business.

This afternoon, I called on a few retail businesses. A furniture store was calling it quits at the end of the week. A few others were hanging on by a thread.

This evening, on the way home, I listened to Ivy League economists talk about the recession. People are really hurting, they say. People are losing everything — but it’s almost over.

Even when it is over, they said, there are serious problems that have nothing to do with this recession. Health care. A huge shift of wealth to the top. The real problems began in 1980.

One guy called in to the radio and said his father was a librarian who earned enough to own two cars, take vacations, and send several children to college — while his wife stayed home and worked as a full-time mom.

It probably won’t be like that again.

A woman called. She just graduated from college and got a job that pays 30k per year. She lives at home and feels pretty trapped. She owes 40k for her education. Not that much, compared to many.

Here’s what I gather from all of this. It may be almost over. In fact, it may be over. But things won’t get better until consumers resume consuming. And — they won’t start buying stuff if they are afraid they will lose their jobs.

People are still losing jobs, but not as many.

When people feel safe about their jobs, they’ll start buying, and business will improve for everybody.

The stock market is great, but Main Street is all about jobs, fear, and hope.

Still, when it gets better, it won’t be that great.

That said — my wife fixed a really nice dinner and I took a pleasant, late-night walk with my dog.

I listened to some spiritual stuff — rather uplifting — under a very bright, almost full moon. Walked for an hour. Not as hot and humid as it was a couple of days ago. Pretty nice for early August in North Carolina.

full moon tonight
full moon tonight

10,000 steps a day in 2009

my pedometer tonight
my pedometer tonight
pick-up basketball
Walking tonight: pick-up basketball on an empty Catawba College campus. Spring in NC.

Is it a habit?

An obsession?

Whatever – it’s a New Year’s Resolution.  And certainly the only one I remember fulfilling.

Pedometers are not new to me.  I’ve counted my steps for years.  When I worked in schools, I did a lot of walking – going to classrooms to troubleshoot computers and hoofing it around the computer lab itself.  My feet got tired.  I got in a lot of steps.

When I stopped teaching and started my own business, Coffee News, I delivered the papers and got plenty of steps that way. I once got over 17,000 steps delivering Coffee News.  But that was only a couple of days a week.

I eventually hired people to deliver and now spend my time with sales, layout, and ad design.  Sitting.

When business slowed this past fall (as did everybody’s business), we let lapse our lifelong membership to the YMCA.  Wasn’t using it much anyway.

My exercise used to be tennis.  I’ve spent much of my life on the tennis court – playing and teaching.

About ten years ago, for various reasons, that stopped.

There were many injuries:  knee, elbow, shoulder, feet, wrist, neck, back.  I’ve had surgery, shots, wraps, drugs – and plenty of heat and ice.

I played a lot of tournaments, and spent a lot of time playing with my son.  He got better and wanted to have a little more fun.  He wanted harder hitters and competition.  And, like me, he didn’t like competing hard with his father.

My father was my best practice, and about the time my son didn’t want to play with me my father was forced to stop playing. Often, when my dad and I got on a tennis court, the first rally would last so long that he’d say, “Well, you want to call it a day or hit another ball?” It was a valid question. We had hit so much with each other over the years that we rarely missed.  Neither of us had to run.  We didn’t need a bucket of balls or even a can.  We could have easily used one ball.

When his health declined and he stopped playing, I stopped.

Thus, I noticed last year I was getting a little sedentary.  I was getting five or six thousand steps a day, or less.  Sometimes much less.

On New Years Day, I made a resolution to get 10,000 steps a day in 2009.  The economy seemed to be shot.  Why not get in shape?

I admit my feet were a little sore the first couple of weeks.  I’ve only bought one pair of shoes since then – and that was for $12 in the mall, during my walk, on an impulse.  They are completely shot now and I need a new pair soon.  I procrastinate with shoes like I do with haircuts, and with steps.

Some days, I walk to the drug store, or grocery store, or coffee shop, or convenience store, or knock around town calling on businesses.  These steps add up.  A short walk in the evening completes the 10k.

Most days, I walk to my mother’s house.  Sometimes two or three times.  That’s 1200 steps, round trip.

If I sit around all day, the evening walk is fairly long.  Usually, I use the Catawba Nature preserve.  If it’s dark, I walk around the campus.

Sometimes I put the dog in the car, go downtown, and walk there. Once, I walked to the theatre downtown, and back home.

In bad weather, I’ve done my share of walking in the mall, Walmart, and Lowe’s. Boring.

I think I’m in better shape than my dog.  She starts to drag after about twenty minutes, sometimes lagging a hundred yards behind.

But she certainly enjoys every moment — the anticipation, the walk itself, and the aftermath. The highlight of my day is looking at my pedometer and contemplating a walk (I don’t even have to say anything anymore).  She starts to smile, jump, and whine with excitement.

She used to dart after the deer.  She doesn’t try anymore.  She knows she doesn’t have a chance.

On warm days, she takes a swim.  Or two.  Or three.

There have been a few days when I didn’t feel like it – but not many.  It’s basically become a part of my day, like brushing my teeth or making coffee.

Often, I procrastinate.  At 11:30 pm, I pull myself off the couch take a few laps around the Catawba campus.

A few times, I’ve gone uptown for a beer before finishing the steps.  I’ll drink one, walk around the block, and return to the bar.

One cold night, I walked a thousand steps inside Brick Street Tavern. This would have been embarrassing, but it was such a slow night at the bar (Robert Jones, Bobby — the bartender — and maybe a couple other people).

The night Obama spoke to both houses of Congress, I had had a busy day and recorded only six thousand steps.  I wanted to watch the speech and all the talking heads blather afterwards.  That night, I put in four thousand steps walking around my couch, watching the new President.

Sound crazy?  Hey — a goal is a goal.

No, I haven’t lost any weight.

Question is, what about 2010?  Do I increase the goal to 11,000?  I’ll be older, but I certainly don’t want less than 10k.  Maybe I should increase the goal to 12k and then decrease by one thousand when I turn 60 (seven years from now) and then down to 10k when I’m 70.  That should keep me in decent shape for a while.

The great thing about walking is that it’s easy to be consistent.  There aren’t many injuries and you can even do it when you’re a little sick (although I haven’t been sick).  I did have a tooth pulled and took hydrocodone.  I may have walked a little slower that day, but the buzz was rather pleasant.

I find that walking is the most productive part of my day.  Either I’m thinking, which is good.  Or not thinking (better).  I’ve listened to some great books on my iPhone.  I’ve grown to appreciate my neighborhood and taken lots of pictures. I’ve enjoyed my wife, my dog, communed with deer, beavers, herons, geese, turtles, frogs, trees, flowers, grass, water, vines, streets, students, neighbors, parking lots, and sidewalks.

Don’t know where this will go – but at least I know I’ve found my post-tennis sport.  Except it’s not a sport, I don’t think.

April evening

Catawba students playing lacrosse

Originally uploaded by smpost

On my left, lacrosse in the football stadium.

Listening to Leonard Cohen.

Taught Jackie (my dog) to get out of the road and obey the command “on the grass.” She’s four or five years old. Still learns fast. She’ll happily do almost anything for a pat on the head and kind word or two.