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Cranky Cuss

Cranky Cuss
Ossining, New York, United States
February 28
I am the author of "Send In the Clown Car: The Road to the White House 2012," currently available on Amazon and CreateSpace. I'm currently semi-retired after 23 years in a corporate environment. My motto: The conventional wisdom has too much convention, not enough wisdom. Corollary: Even Einstein was wrong sometimes, and you're not Einstein.


APRIL 16, 2012 9:48AM

I'm Walking, Yes Indeed

Rate: 35 Flag


(Title with all respect to Fats Domino.)


When I was thirty years younger and, let’s say for the sake of argument, thirty pounds lighter, my feet were my second favorite part of my body.  I loved to walk. Whenever possible while traveling, I chose the solitude of travel by foot.  It seemed like the most relaxed way to get acquainted with a locale – its people, its architecture, its atmosphere.  I put imitation leather to pavement everywhere from Amsterdam to Albuquerque. One day in San Francisco, I walked from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Castro and back, with side trips included and loved every minute. The next morning, my feet were swollen as big as my fat head, and while I elevated my feet and curled up in the hotel bed with a book, I learned a lesson about pacing oneself. 


Unfortunately, I married a woman with bad feet who always has a bad reaction like that to extended time on her feet. Our travel plans take her limitation into account. As a result, I do much less walking today. 


I still enjoy the theory of walking, and my eyes will always wander to a book about walking tours.  When I hear about someone walking from one end of the United States to the other, I go into a reverie, or as much of one as I can with my right hand clutching a longneck and my left jammed into a bag of Doritos.


My favorite book is Bill Bryson’s laugh-out-loud hilarious A Walk in the Woods, about his own misbegotten middle-aged attempt to walk the entire 2,174-miles of the Appalachian Trail:  


Nearly everyone I talked to had some gruesome story involving a guileless acquaintance who had gone off hiking the trail with high hopes and new boots and come stumbling back two days later with a bobcat attached to his head or dripping blood from an armless sleeve and whispering in a hoarse voice, “Bear!” before sinking into a troubled unconsciousness. 


I’m proud to say I’ve walked part of the Appalachian Trail. And by “part of,” I mean “one mile.”  Or two miles, technically, since it was round-trip.


The Trail crosses a highway about 45 minutes north of my home. One day several summers back, I drove my air-conditioned car to the barely marked entrance, walked for about 30-45 minutes and then, 1,500 miles before reaching Georgia, turned around and returned to my air-conditioned car. I was what Bryson dubbed a “Reebok hiker.” 


Bears were not a threat, though the steep hill on the left of the Trail made me realize that if I were attacked by a bear, it would be months before they’d find my body.  Instead, my problem was that my perspiration was to the local bugs what the Good Humor truck bell was to little children. 


Once I was on the Trail, however, I was amazed at how quickly I forgot that I was only steps from a four-lane highway. I only encountered one other person.  The only sounds were the occasional bird flying overhead, and the occasional breeze rustling the leaves. (Oh, and the skeeters.)  The tall trees towering over my head had been there for centuries, and would probably be there for centuries after I’m gone. The dirt, grass and rocks under my feet had been trod upon by Native Americans before Columbus traded chicken pox and typhus for wampum.  It made me appreciate my own insignificance in the natural world.  I began to understand why rural people tend to be more God-fearing.


Lately, I’ve begun walking more out of necessity.  With my daughter using my car to work the 7:00 a.m. shift at her café and my wife no longer able to telecommute, I’ve spent many days without transportation except my own hooves. Walking to the bank, pharmacy, supermarket and coffeehouse has reawakened my love of walking.


This past Friday, it was a perfect day in New York – sunny, cloudless sky, temperature around 60 – and I decided to knock an item off my bucket list by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge played an important role in evacuating Manhattan during the 9/11 attacks and many used it to get home during the blackouts. Its suspension is iconic, and being a lifetime resident of the New York area, I knew that the Bridge provided picture-perfect views of the Manhattan skyline.  I don’t know why I’ve never done it before    wait, I do know why, it’s because I never had a reason to go to Brooklyn.


I decided to make a day of it.  I rarely go into New York City anymore, and when I do, it’s a culture shock – incessant noise, mobs of people; it’s like bringing up all of your bookmarked websites at once, as well as many you avoid.


In the morning, I walked to the train station, about a 20-minute hike, and sat on the platform’s one bench, reading my Kindle. (By coincidence, I was reading a book of essays on the New York Yankees, not realizing that I was going to be sharing the train with dozens of fans headed to the Stadium for the home opener.) I felt a cool breeze off the Hudson River, and waited peacefully for the Manhattan-bound train that would arrive in thirty minutes. 


Or, it was peaceful until I heard his voice, shouting business instructions and comments into his cell phone as he approached.  Sure enough, the yutz plopped his ass down right next to me, continuing to jabber as I tried in vain to ignore him and continue reading.  Finally, I got up and walked down to the other end of the platform; better to stand and read in peace than to sit and endure any more blather about “parameter restraints.”


I took the 2 train to Clark Street, the first station in Brooklyn and the closest to the Bridge pedestrian pathway.  However, I wasn’t headed for the pathway; first, I wanted to explore the area called DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass).  I walked to the park between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.


                bridge 1


I wanted to grab a slice of pizza at Grimaldi’s, but the line looked to be half a block. Instead I made my foodie daughter envious by stopping at Jacques Torres Chocolate, where I prepared for my hike by downing a cup of hot chocolate and a chocolate chip cookie as large as a Frisbee.


                   bridge 2


Finally, I ascended the stairway to the bridge’s pedestrian pathway. It turned out that, purely as exercise, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is nothing to speak of.  Even allowing for picture-taking stops, it took less than thirty minutes for me to haul my lard ass from one borough to the other, meaning almost anyone ambulatory should have no trouble.



                 bridge 3  

The view, however, is wonderful and the atmosphere collegial.  The cars rumble by below you, while you share the path with joggers and cyclists.  Half the walkers looked intent on getting from Point A to Point B, while the rest were, like me, just looking to enjoy themselves. As I descended the ramp to the Manhattan side, right near City Hall, I wondered how many New York City mayors had ever taken that stroll.  (According to Wikipedia, Koch and Bloomberg did, during transit strikes.)


Returning home, I remembered that I have always wanted to walk part of the Croton Aqueduct, which passes near my home.  Come to think of it, I’ve never toured Harlem. Nor have I eaten a pastrami on rye at Katz’s Deli or visited Louis Armstrong’s old home in Queens or patronized Coney Island.  Looks like I’ll be busy this summer.



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I'm glad you enjoyed the view from my bridge (I bought it for $237 - all the cash I had at the time - from a fine fellow at the corner of, I think he said, "Pelham and Toidy Toid." I have the deed around here...somewhere...).
You neglected to mention what your favorite body part was.
I loved this! Like you were, and are still, I'm a big lover of walking. ...Though I'm not a huge fan of doing it in a natural setting, with the exception of beaches, or a very memorable slow stroll through Muir Woods. Also like you, though I'd spent a good chunk of my life in the NY area, I'd never crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. Funny how when you live so close to something, you take it for granted. My time to do it finally came two years ago, while on a cross-country roadtrip with the boyfriend, his brother, and one of their cousins. I thought it was a great walk. Unfortunately, I didn't know about those cookies - those cookies! - on the Brooklyn end!!! I am supremely jealous! :-)

Thanks for taking us on this walk with you, and I'm going to see about reading that Bill Bryson book, too. I hope you get to accomplish these other new plans you have - and that you write about them!
Cranky, what a great way to spend part of the day while the weather is still so pleasant! We're fortunate to have so many interesting places around the metro area that are a joy and not a chore to walk on/through/in, etc.
I want to walk on the bridge too! My friends father walked ten miles in the city every day of his life. Urban hiking. I love it.
I wish I could trek. Thanks for this! r.
Tell the truth now. You made up that DUMBO stuff, didn't ya.
As a die-hard walker, I appreciated this post so much. I've walked over that bridge too. Once you start walking, you see how much you miss in a car. ~r
Oh, Cranky, what have you done? Now I don't just miss the idea of New York. I actually miss New York.

I think you'll really like Coney Island. I spent a summer there once when I was the art teacher at a Catholic Youth Organization camp. Have fun there!
From my last trip to New York

I sat at the edge of the escalator while Manuel asked me what my intentions were.
"Don't you see? I am going to go down there and shop."
"Please, A, why are you doing this to yourself?"
"I don't kinow, Manny - I just like the tshirts at H&M. I think it's the right choice."
"But A - the last time you got a tshirt and it didn't really fit well."
"I don't know, manny. I just think this is something I have to do."
He looked at me in silence as I took that fateful step.
I love to walk, and whenever I travel somewhere to play a music gig, I get up early and walk for miles around wherever I am. There is no better way to see a new town than on foot, not to mention how good it is for your health. I pity the fools speeding by in their Escalades.
Part deux

manny: everyone's telling you that tshirt looks great A! Why are you beating yourself up?"

I put my head in my hands, unable to listen. "You don't understand. You can never understand. If it was just a tshirt...that would be different. But this was my whole life."

"But A, you are so beautiful and tempting and all men love you. Including me, although you only use me for your fake dialogue."

"Manny. Manny manny manny manny manny. You can never understand that tshirt or my pain. But I forgive you even though you want to fuck me."
Boy you brought back memories. We lived in Brooklyn Heights when we were first married and walked across the bridge often. In those days, DUMBO was the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We lived in an apartment on the promenade in the Heights with a view of the bridge from our bedroom window. Rent controlled at $129 a month! It's the most beautiful bridge in the world in my view. Give David McCullough's book of the same name a try. Like your post, a worthy read. R
We share a favorite author with Bryson and a favorite New York destination with walking the Brooklyn Bridge. I recommend both to people all the time. Loved the post. Happy trails.
Being an old Cowboy, walking is not something I go out of my way to do. There's an old joke that says you can tell a real cowboy when you see him mount his horse to cross the street....that's me.

Though the thought of walking in New York City is just scary for this country boy, I wish you luck in your own walking tour.
Love the pics, Cranky. I'm looking forward to walking along with you this summer. I love walking tours, but sometimes my bum foot refuses to cooperate. Did you get your fix of chocolate??????

I experienced a tiny bit of the appalachian trail in PA where it opened to a mountaintop vista of the valley below. Once I spent four hours walking around Boston in major heat. I stopped in a Haymarket Square restuarant where they refused to give me a glass of water. I also enjoy walking and would probably shrivel up and die if I couldn't do it anymore.
1. Great post (as always)
2. I envy you Jaques Torres and Brooklyn, both of which I dream about.
3. I also love A Walk in the Woods, and I can see you writing a Bryson-esque do it already.....
Walking is one of my favorite things to do. Thanks for taking us along./r
Terrific post! I like the Macombs Dam Bridge from Manhattan to the Bronx. I figured out I could walk it when I saw all the Yankees fans walking to the Stadium from cheaper parking spots!
That cookie looks yummy! I always thought the Brooklyn Bridgebwas a real work of art.
As a dedicated follower of walking (I apologize to the Kinks), I applaud your steps forward. Great story. Great photos. Walk on, sir. Walk on.
Cranky - Wistful, Stalwart, Steadfast! You've taken great strides in empying your Bucket List. I have yet to get past my 1st one - Fix the hole in my Bucket! R
NY terrifies me. I guess that driving the X Bronx throughway with my daughter on her way to her beat up station wagon was the beginning of my terror. The gas gauge was dropping and I was sorry we did not pack a baseball bat in case we had to get out and walk. My fault entirely. Had to get to the Sloan Kettering when she was sick...and that was another of those days I want to forget, but cannot. While I have heard that NYC is a great place to visit...#1 on my bucket list is a month in Kinsale Ireland. Fell in love with the place. Now I've just got to convince my husband. And that is not going to be easy. Have fun with your summer adventures. Let me know if you ever go hiking in NH. BTW....we love Bryson's books. Have a few.
Walking for pleasure one of the joys of life.

I loved Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" too!
How cool is that! What a great bucket list item! Thanks for sharing.
It does sound like a fun summer!!! Just like the summer before I left Kansas City where I visited parks, historic barbeque places, the River Quay, museums, delis, and belly dancers in a Greek restaurant. Would mind joining you if I ever came to New York City.
A bunch of things I love are in this post: Walking, NYC, the Appalachian Trail (in my younger days I'd walked pieces of it on day hikes in several states), the Brooklyn Bridge. I've never walked the bridge, though I have one thing you'd probably appreciate: A framed cover of the Atlantic Monthly issue from the day the bridge opened, I think in 1883.

I was once in NYC in October on a business trip and one of the companies I worked for took us for a boat ride around lower Manhattan at night, when the WTC was still up. I'm sorry my wife wasn't with me because it's the most romantic sight I've ever seen, complete with lit up buildings and suspension bridge after suspension bridge. I'll go back with her some year.

I spent a few days walking around Manhattan in February of 2004 pushing my son's wheelchair. We had a blast. My next post will be a story from that trip. I didn't expect Manhattan to be the most hospitable place to shlep around a kid in a wheelchair, but I was wrong - it was THE most hospitable place. Shockingly so.
Very cool, Cranky! I'm a big fan of walking as well, never walked the Brooklyn Bridge, but I did walk across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and like you, I've walked a couple of miles of the Appalachian Trail, a friend and I traveled to Maine to meet up with another friend who, in fact, had just finished walking the entire trail. It took him a little over 5 years (including various stops and starts)
This sounds like an Open Call, where are the most interesting places you've walked?
Cranky Cuss,

I am glad I finally made it to your blog.
Walking and bike riding are my most enjoyed outdoor activities.
A few years back when I had had an infectious bone in my heel,I was really concerned about my future walking with a cane.
So I truly understand what you are talking about.
I have wanted to come to your blog earlier,the reason for this in a PM.
Your style of writing is fsacinating,capturing,full of life and zest.
I need to know the title of your first published book.

Rated,rated,rated...for you walking in the footsteps of Earnest Hemingway.