Why I Became a Street Walker

Note to Reader: She’s on the war path. Just sayin’…

I walk four miles every day.

Before dawn each morning, I don my black pack then stuff my orange towel into the waistband.

My exercise comes from a habit born of a health crisis. It mimics, on a much smaller scale, this Covid‐19 nightmare that whacked us all three‐plus months ago.

The lessons, however, are the same.

I walked and I’ve kept walking. Then the neighbors joined in. Great! I thought.  A collective pursuit of better health!

Not so great anymore. Now, we’ve got neighbors of neighbors walking our sidewalks and pedaling our streets.

Frustration overwhelms me these days because of this one simple irritant: a common lack of sidewalk manners.

I do not mask up to walk. I would suffocate in such a four‐mile adventure.

I do, however, step off the sidewalk when someone approaches. In one fluid move, I cover my nose and mouth with my towel and never lose my stride.

The two actions matter as much as my breath. Together, the pair of moves protects my fellow walkers. And me.

In these recent weeks, a minority of walkers has matched my move. Sometimes they even beat me to covering up or stepping away.

But the more common reaction involves what I call the barrel away. These strangers scooch steadily toward me, never slowing. As they barrel into their shortened version of social distancing, I hop down to the street. These walkers, oblivious, continue their barrel away down the sidewalk. It appears only their walk matters. Is this their corona daze?

On the worst walks, crowds come. I’ll spot three to five walkers jammed in a horizontal line across the concrete, aimed head‐on at me. And as I step down, they glide by like an incoming tide.

The guiltiest party involves the high school track team but I’ll forgive them. They’re teenagers, self‐involved.

Even so, age shouldn’t matter—aren’t we all in this together?

Elected officials have re‐opened most places. To get to any of those locations, we must walk. Through parking lots, malls, and airports; along beaches and dirt roads, into/out of restaurants and shops; even down to the mailbox. Then there’s those of us who walk to live.

Can’t we all walk and, when it may save a life, step away from each other? It’s only for a few feet and a few seconds. It might keep all of us safe.

Perhaps it’s a futile question and I should give up my rant and pray. Maybe, ultimately, the littlest among us are correct in their offering of sidewalk calm:

Pandemic Road: Week Five

By Jove! I think I’ve got it! Covid Choreography!

Will someone please contact the Houston Ballet? By the time the dancers return to the stage in the fall, some brilliant choreographer will surely come up with a dance about Covid‐19.

I realized this the other day when I was walking around my neighborhood. Walking is something I have been doing a lot of lately. It is my major form of exercise now. I can walk alone or I can walk six feet apart from my nearest and dearest friends. Although, I notice that even while walking, I am not getting away from the global pandemic. Before Covid‐19 I never would have noticed this protective mask sitting on the grass. But now I noticed that it was not an N95 mask. It was used; I did not dare pick it up. I left it on the grass.

But, I noticed something else while walking. Many of my neighbors are also walking. We smile and nod. Good morning wishes are exchanged. During the pleasantries, we dance! One moves to the right and the other to the left. One stays on the sidewalk while the other moves over to walk on the street. “Social distdancing.” It’s our new dance.,

I am reminded of the movie Rocky Horror Picture Show when they perform The Time Warp dance. Again, I may be showing my age, but

.….It’s just a jump to the left

And then a step to the right

With your hands on your hips

You bring your knees in tight.….……

That’s a bit of the song from the movie. With so many out walking by themselves, with children, with baby strollers, and with spouses, the possibilities for dance moves are endless!

Then there are the long lines for groceries. The really nice stores have put up awnings so customers can stand protected from the sun and rain. Wouldn’t this be a great place for a line dance. Only instead of standing shoulder to shoulder on the dance floor, we could stand six feet apart in only two rows. I am envisioning the line dance for Achy Breaky Heart. Or maybe you would prefer a Harlem Shuffle?  Maybe the Macarena? Crowd consensus should set the tone and genre for the dance.

Of course once you get inside the store, you are once again dancing with others. Maybe you want to go after your toilet paper and cleaning supplies while moving Gangnam Style.  Then while standing in line to check out and being careful to maintain the six foot safety distance, enjoy dancing The Twist!

At home, you can free style your dance while you clean your groceries, wipe down the kitchen counters and apply hand sanitizer for the gazillionth time that day. Hannah, my cat, does not care how I dance as long as I stock up on her cat food. We all have our priorities in life.

I do try to keep a daily balance during this time of global pandemic. When not walking, I have been reading a good deal. Since I am a lover of all things Halloween, I celebrated Quarantine‐O‐Ween the other day. Ah, yes. We must all make concessions to these pandemic times.

What have you been doing to entertain yourself during this time of Covid‐19?

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Week Four

Now we have a “stay home” order from our Harris County Judge and City of Houston Mayor. We can still go to the grocery store and drug store. I can still take my cat to the vet (which, believe me, excites her no end). I can still go to a restaurant and get an order to go. I can still exercise outside. Parks are still open; you just can’t sit on a bench or touch the rail on the bridge that goes over the nice pond.

So I have been walking quite a bit around the neighborhood and noticing a few things. The first item was the lone cowboy boot. That seems even odder than finding a lone sneaker in the road. You would think that it would be harder to walk out of a boot than a sneaker. Even if you were carrying your boots and you dropped one.…..don’t you think you would notice? Since there was only one and it wasn’t in my size, I left it alone.

The other thing I noticed is that there are a gazillion lizards in Houston. I am not sure where they all come from, but I understand they are good for gardens and don’t bite humans. They like to sit in the sun, eat insects, and scamper across the sidewalk when they see me coming. You can see that this little guy is doing a great job of blending into the landscape. And he appears to be ready to bolt for the bushes as soon as I turn away. I have seen both green lizards and brown lizards in my walking adventures. Since they have no desire to bite humans, I like them. Also, since everyone is having to “socially distance” themselves whenever they are out in public, it can be easier to talk to a lizard on the sidewalk than it is to talk to your walking companion standing six feet away. No, no. I’m not lonely. I would just rather be seen talking to lizards than to myself. That’s the healthier option don’t you think?

Finally, I saw this post that is holding up a STOP sign. I was amazed that the greenery was growing on both the inside and outside of the post. This I took as a very hopeful sign. Life will grow even if it is a bit of greenery on a post during a pandemic. Spring is here and there is definitely hope for the future.

I’ve heard it said that the pandemic will pass. All things will pass. It may feel like a kidney stone passing, but pass it will.

Until next week.….

Is Lost Ever Found?

Two miles north of home, I spot him: T‐Rex.

Dirty T‐Rex awaits new home: trash bin?

He’s white‐dirty, covered in grass clippings as if tossed, an afterthought, behind Mower Man.

Is little Dino lost, or now Found‐but‐Forgotten?

I snap a quick picture.

My feet return to hustle‐heart speed.

Amid my heels pounding on the sidewalk, my imagination takes off. I envision a little boy scampering from here to the Next Best Thing.

Maybe he imagined treasure awaiting beyond the approaching hill? My feet speed to a near run.

A quarter‐mile down the sidewalk, I crest the rise and jerk to a stop. There lies a brand new, multi‐colored T‐Rex, still skirted in cellophane. A girl?

Which side is up on Red Rex?

Is this Lost‐but‐Found, V.2.0?

Picture time repeats.

This time, I imagine a little girl who simply does.not.like old dead animals.

Why do I envision Red Rex as a girl’s toy but Dirty T‐Rex belongs to a boy?

And so the flood of questions begins.

Familiar queries rise up from ancient muscle memory: who, what, when, where, how and why here? On a quarter mile strip of sidewalk out in Nowheresville?

Ex‐reporter now daily writer conjures a million stories out of 100 answers that follow. Stories emerge from little boys and girls with old toys who become adults with nightmares. Colors pop, fade, burst. Boredom expands to the unmanageable before eventually, all is forgotten and everything dissolves into none of the above.

Minus the questions, all I really know is that here on a narrow sidewalk, Forgotten became Found, squared, and Lost never existed. Maybe.

I learn that discovery is what matters with its offer of hope and meaning. Maybe what’s left behind is a gift that invites us to make stories of every find we make. 

Do I have a journal problem?

On this Monday, such are the weird wonderings of a walking writer who, as soon as she returns home, writes it all down.

Journals await.

What do you do with what you find?

The Zoo Road

I can’t stop walking. I walk around the neighborhood. I walk around the park. I walk when I am running errands in the neighborhood.

Thanks to gastric sleeve surgery and physical therapy for my “arthritic knee”, I have lost weight and can walk for a couple of miles at a time without any pain or discomfort. Please get out of my way and don’t slow me down.

The other day my Dear Friend and I went to the Houston Zoo. They open at 9:00 a.m. and we were there walking around by 9:30. It was cool and the sky was overcast. There was a nice breeze. What’s not to love?

Our first stop was the area that housed the elephants. There were no elephants. I am guessing that elephants are not morning critters. Bummer. I love elephants. DF and I kept walking.

We came upon the cougars. I love big cats. Let’s see the cougars! There were no cougars. Apparently they were up late last night partying with the elephants. I wish I had been invited to that party!

Finally we walked into a building that looked out on the gorilla section. Seems as though the gorillas were not invited to the elephant/cougar party either, because there were several gorillas looking wide awake and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. They didn’t seem to mind that we watched them and took pictures.

It was just DF and I and the gorillas. We could dawdle and slowly observe these magnificent creatures. They ate lettuce and drank from coconuts.

As we continued walking through the zoo we saw more and more animals. There were many flamingos. They had just finished their breakfast and were strolling around their area visiting with some ducks and other birds that came by for a visit.

I had never seen so many pink flamingos together in one place. Why yes, I did see a couple that stood on one leg. Did you know their knees fold backwards?

It was about this point when DF and I noticed that we were no longer strolling along without any other zoo visitors. Mothers were also strolling pushing baby strollers. There were parents with toddlers. Then there was one school group…and then another. Quickly the children were greatly outnumbering the adults.

One of our last stops was the giraffe area and these wonderful animals did not disappoint. There were several giraffes of various ages and sizes along with some ostriches and one zebra. I had never noticed before that both giraffes and ostriches have long necks. Who knew? Well, I guess I knew, but had never had cause to stop and think about this before. I had never seen them standing side by side for the comparison. The zoo is so full of all of these educational experiences. Unfortunately there was only one zebra. I wondered if there was another zebra who had partied with the elephants and cougars and was still asleep.

We weren’t able to visit with the sea lions, because several school groups were getting a private showing of the water creatures. Then the closer we got to the front there were groups and gaggles of students everywhere we looked. All ages and all sizes plus teachers and parental escorts. Adults were seriously outnumbered. Time to go.

After walking around for an hour, we had not seen all the animals we had hoped to see. Not a problem. This just meant that we get to go back for another zoo walk to visit the elephants and lions and tigers and bears! Oh My!

Until next week.….

When Sex & Allergies Collide

When the Yankees take on your pollen count, you know the joke’s on you.

Houston’s pollen count — 2536 spores for oak trees alone — led the nation last week.

That translates into more sneezers and wheezers in the Bayou City than anywhere else in America.

Nowadays on my daily walks, I see sights like this pile of oak tree pollen on every sidewalk and driveway. Emphasis on every sidewalk, every driveway. For four miles.

These piles congregate to pollinate. In other words, it’s plant sex.

Holy moly, are they promiscuous!

The yellow wormy, stringy things are called catkins, also known as the flowering male of the tree. They morph into pollen then ride the wind, hunting receptors known as stigmas and pistils (the flowering female of the tree).

When male pollen grains meet female flower stigmas, voila! Acorns (as in: nuts!) sometime result.

That Mother Nature recreates this act every spring amazes, in and of itself. But that She, concurrently, creates allergic misery for so many of us humans strikes me as the epitome of irony.

Who’s in charge, you say?

Copyright, Sig McKenna Izbrand

My San Antonio friend Sig McKenna Izbrand dubs this year’s agony “Pollengedden.”

One photo from her backyard illustrates why.

Would you want to swim in those inviting waters after seeing that line of pollen?

The line resembles a crossing‐of‐the‐Rubicon of sorts: what’s in the water, what can I not see?

What’s a RoadBroad to do?

Pack eyedrops, an extra wad of tissues plus sore throat drops then hit the sidewalk.

Sagging senior thighs outrank four miles of sniffles.

A RoadBroad’s Meniscus

What’s the saying? Don’t you know? RoadBroads are like sharks. They must keep moving. That’s why we stay on the road. Whether we are traveling around the country or inside the 610 Loop in Houston. We walk a lot and look at everything. We are always on the move.

Except.……

I have been diagnosed with a torn meniscus in my right knee. Don’t know what the heck that is? I didn’t either before this week. All I knew was that I was in pain. I love to walk, but lately that has been a painful experience for me. 

Isn’t this a cute lil’ chubby knee? Adorable. Who would think anything this cute would cause so much pain?

I planned my entire retirement around writing and walking. Tuesdays are outing days for walking around parks, museums, neighborhoods, etc. Now I am temporarily side‐lined. I am still walking, but it can get very painful after short distances.

What causes this condition? When I checked Google, I found out that this is a very common ailment for athletes. Well, of course, that’s what happened. Marathons, tennis, rugby, I do it all. I am such an athlete, that I hurt my knee. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Okay, so you’re not even going to begin to believe that? I thought you were my friend. Won’t you allow me this one little phantasm?

A torn meniscus can also be a result of aging and wearing out parts. I could think that, but I do not see myself as old. I know I am not young, but I am definitely not “old”. Other people my age may be old, but that does not apply to me. Yes, my youthful delusions do help me sleep well at night.

When I went to the doctor, I was sent off to get x‐rays of my knee. Then what was really cute was that the doctor’s assistant showed me the x‐rays. He would point at things as if I could see what he saw. As he spoke, I nodded politely. I understood what he said. Yes, there is a treatment for this. Good.

When I returned home from the medical appointment, I wondered what a writer could do with a torn meniscus. Should I write out a dialogue with my knee? Write poetry? What the heck rhymes with “meniscus”?

Here we go:

Hello Meniscus,

You make me feel like such a nimscus,

You impede my sunny dispositicus.

Let’s try this:

Oh my meniscus,

Why can’t you be more viscous? 

Yet, you are torniscus.

Maybe this?

Ouch, Ouch my torn meniscus,

Maybe I’ll just sit and drink a tea of hibiscus.

Okay, I know what you are thinking. Yes, I’ll stick with prose.

Until next week.….