As I walked to move my truck this morning -- chula still asleep -- I was thinking of Metagrrl's description of her project to walk all the streets of San Francisco. She has a map pinned up and keeps track of where she's been. Immediately I began imagining what this would be like and how I would feel about it and what I'd do with it. (In between imagining combat skiing, and the figure-skating derby with chicks in spangled leotards toe-or heel-stabbing people in the chest kung-fu style with fierce grace... how did THAT get started? But wouldn't it make a great video game or assassination scene in a movie?) Um. Back to the idea of walking every street in a city. Best done with obsessive documentation on the spot? Or building a giant database of each street segment, with impressions and space for its inhabitants and habitual noticers to add information? Correlated with a map? This Grand Thing sprang into being in my imagination... A bit later we were walking outside to leave and I asked what she would document if she did, or what... something. And she said that the most interesting thing to write about was not the doing of it but the ways people reacted. I wasn't sure if she meant the people on the streets she walked or the people she told about the project. But then (being very self-centered) it occured to me that I had had a strong reaction to her mentioning the project. First, it made me instantly like her in a nerd-way, with nerd-respect. It was impressive. But why? And what does it mean? I wonder if everyone instantly recognizes the doing of this Thing to have value, and what is that value? Why is it so recognizable? Maybe it has to do with authenticity. It values a certain experential authenticity. The idea of thoroughness and accomplishment, the way it is a do-able task. That the city (big as it is) is knowable on some level by one person. We like knowing that it's possible. It makes the city seem human. (Do cities automatically not seem human? What am I saying?) Walking a street once you don't have the same depth of experience as a person who lives there or walks it every day for a year... but you end up knowing the city on some interesting level... Many times I've taken almost all the buses in a city on first moving there, since I move, I'm jobless, it's valuable to me to get to know the city, and without a car... Then I'd end up getting temp jobs and hey presto, my experential map was useful.
A moment of sad disconnect as MG got bitter about "the moms power-walking with those triangular strollers..." as if we shared automatic hostility. Well. It's not like I have a triangular stroller but if you go fast in the city, they are v. cool and don't jolt your kids and you can go up and down curbs with minimum hassle. Oh, the all too common mother-hating of the SF hipster, why, why, why? We're an easy target. What, we only respect single moms living in poverty? middle classitude makes one evil? What? It's not like I haven't made sarcastic remarks about yuppie moms coiffed and suited and annoying and suv-driving... but... I guess it always makes me feel like an imposter and a little defensive. And the desperation (when you ahve a tiny infant) to get OUT and do anything! But the limited array of things possible to do with the baby! The sick desperation for time to pass and the baby to be entertained or sleep at the same time... When I pass a mom with a jogging stroller we have a moment of eyes meeting in mutual recognition (if I have a kid with me) or one-way recognition and attempt to convey a certain... respect for their struggle?
But back to exploration. In Irv1ne and RWC there wasn't much public transport and I had my truck anyway. So I drove around quite randomly with the same project.
I wonder what other people's reactions are to the idea of being systematic about walking around a place?