Why Pedestrian?


See I really am a tree-hugger!

After traveling to over 200 cities, or 24% of the world according to Trip Advisor, I’ve come to the realization that I LOVE cities. I love their energy, diversity and to be honest, dining options. I’m going to make a big confession, right here.

Nature, wilderness, the boonies, the great outdoors…bores me.

Gasp! I know that’s a blasphemy coming from Oregon, Montana or Colorado where almost everyone has their Phd in extolling the outdoors but I get it, I’m the one who’s not like the other. In fact I’ve come to understand that by choosing to live in the Pac NW and having lived, without much choice in the matter, in Colorado and Montana, I’ve never really been with my people.

My tribe knows the best Starbucks bathrooms in a two mile radius, the newest food cart serving Ethiopian, and are more excited by a new play on Broadway or concert at Barclays Arena than hiking, camping or driving through a national park. This doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate nature. I appreciate, respect and value the great outdoors very much, thank you. I just believe that nature doesn’t need me to add to the millions of people treading on trails and whacking through the habitat of wildlife I’d like to see preserved and not run over by my SUV plodding through the woods. That said, I do enjoy being outside, to feel the  glow of neon on my face, and the steam from the subway in my hair.

And so I see a pedestrian as an urban hiker. I like the sound of the word, how it hits the tongue like my feet hit the pavement. I envision a pedestrian wandering in the maze of ancient streets, dodging amongst the stalls at markets and crossing overpasses as I tell my stories. There may be wildlife, but it’s the most unpredictable sort—humans. Or maybe we are predictable, just like every story has an inciting incident, climax or conclusion, so do we.

2 thoughts on “Why Pedestrian?

  1. Karl Rohr says:

    Some thoughts on “Nature, wilderness, the boonies, the great outdoors . . . bores me.” It seems to me that you draw some lines and categories here. I argue that it is possible to be a passionate lover and student of nature while feeling the same for the cultural experiences you find in the cities. For example, Elaine, Robert, and I spent the weekend in Charleston (it’s close to us and we can’t afford trips to Broadway), and attended a play at one of America’s oldest theaters. We walked those streets and became absorbed in its history and stories. We spent the next day in Francis Beidler Forest, a preserved wetlands area with 1,000 year-old cypress trees. Those trees also have stories to tell. We live near Congaree National Park, which is the largest tract of preserved bottomland forest in North America. You find human stories in these areas, because concerned, dedicated, intelligent, hard-working and strong people saw the value of protecting them and stood up to timber companies and politicians. As for my autistic son, nature has been his most patient and nurturing teacher. We turned the outdoors into his living library when he was two years old. He also loves books, theaters, sketching, and yes, restaurants. My wife and son have never been to a Starbuck’s, and I think I’ve only been three times. We don’t hate Starbuck’s, we’re just usually too busy during the day. I teach history and Elaine is the state archivist, protecting those human stories in all those papers, letters, and documents. I used papers, documents, and letters – and hiking – to earn my Ph.D. through a dissertation written on what you say above – “extolling the outdoors.” We have enough lines and boundaries drawn in our society. We need to open up and embrace the dignity and preservation of life, and respect the natural world as far more than something to drive your SUV through. I wish I could travel more and see 24 percent of the world as you have done, but right now, I see and respect the beauty directly in front of me. I am sure you can understand.


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