Un-Conventional Walking

Along with many other people here in Columbus, I am “waiting in joyful hope” for the coming of the vernal equinox.  The temperature has consistently been above freezing the last day or so, which leads me to believe that the days of below-zero temperatures and pelting snow may well be behind us, even before the official start of spring on the 20th.

My lunchtime two-mile walks have continued as the mercury plummeted this winter.  Instead of walking north to W. 1st Ave. and then walking around Goodale Park, I’ve walked two circuits around the Columbus Convention Center.  This is an ideal indoor walk.

I can walk from the William Green Building through One Nationwide Plaza to the Convention Center via the Hyatt Regency Hotel, courtesy of walkways that extend above the streets.  I don’t wear a coat or jacket when I do my walks, because I get too hot if I do.  However, these walkways are exposed to the weather, so the phrase brisk walk and the word breezeway take on entirely new meanings.

Spring’s imminent return meant that I have resumed the Goodale Park walks.  Mounds of grimy snow are everywhere, and the sidewalks are wet, and more mud is visible than grass.  I have high tolerance for cold weather, but I am much more wary of slipping and falling than I was during my misspent youth, especially after breaking my wrist last year.  If I still thought I was invulnerable, or believed that I was a Weeble (“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”), I would have kept on with the outdoor walking regardless of the temperature.

During the season of walking indoors, I have been fascinated by the variety of gatherings, conventions, and trade shows that use the Convention Center.  Last weekend was the Arnold Sports Festival, hosted by the ex-governor of California, the Gropenator Adulterator himself.  The Convention Center was off limits from Monday last week until the start of the Festival itself on Thursday, so I had to content myself with wandering the hallways of the Hyatt Regency itself, mostly long dead-end corridors of conference rooms and meeting halls.  (Usually, the only time I am in the Hyatt is for PulpFest, which is in August.)

About 10 days before the Arnold Sports Festival, I was walking in the Convention Center and noticed that there was a level of anxiety so high it almost thrummed in the air.  The electric marquee above the entrance to the Convention Center announced that it was the Ohio State Bar Examination, and I saw people sitting on the floor and on every available cushion with notebooks, highlighters, and thick reference volumes.  Every liberal arts major considers a legal career, even if for only 30 seconds, so I had sympathy for the people who would soon be in the huge exam room, with Scantron sheets in front of them and number-two pencils gripped in their hands.  An armed Columbus Police officer stood just a few steps from the entrance, next to the sign that said cell phones and other electronic devices were forbidden.

I mentioned to a friend that I had contemplated law school on and off throughout high school.  He said, “I can’t imagine you habitually lying for money.”  I took that as a compliment, but I was/am starry-eyed enough (or maybe naïve enough) to think initially of Abraham Lincoln and Clarence Darrow when I heard the word lawyer.

The first afternoon of the Ohio State Bar Exam, I was emailing an attorney friend of mine who works at the Health Department.  I told him about the bar exam, and asked him, in jest, if it was an experience he would like to relive.  “As for the bar exam, once was enough,” he said.

The exam was quite a juxtaposition with the Arnold Sports Festival or, at the end of January, Ohayocon 2015.  (I was quite amused by the variety of costumes and ambiguous genders I passed.  Two of Susie’s friends were there, and for all I know I may have walked past them without knowing it.)  I do remember hearing several people talking animatedly about sacrificing virgins at this Ohayocon (which meant, I imagined, that the next day the Convention Center would be completely abandoned).

The walks to Goodale Park these last few days have been invigorating, once I overlook the melting ice and the mud everywhere.  I usually only go into Goodale Park itself during Pride and ComFest, but I love walking around its perimeter.  I walk north until I reach W. 1st Ave.  One impressive piece of architecture on this walk is at the corner of W. 1st Ave. and Park St., a columned stone building that used to be the Second Church of Christ, Scientist.  I posted on Columbus Underground asking what the building is now, and learned it now houses a debt collection agency, and formerly an architectural firm.

The pond in Goodale Park, taken during ComFest 2014.

The pond in Goodale Park, taken during ComFest 2014.

Growing older, I have come to respect the snow, and to try to give it as wide a berth as I can.  This doesn’t mean that I turn into a recluse during the winter, but I now walk much more slowly than I used to, especially when I suspect that the ground beneath me is slick.  When the alarm goes off in the morning, the first thing I do is reach for the remote control and turn on the TV in my bedroom so I can see The Weather Channel, and I look at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen to see the local temperature.

Snow no longer means sled-riding and forts and snowball fights (although I shied away from them as a teenager, because one kid I knew loved to make snowball fights more exciting by putting cherry bombs and M-80s in the snowballs).  Sled-riding on a flexible flyer was as daring as I ever got, while some of my friends used metal saucers, car hoods, Fiberglas-coated plastic sheets, and even an old gate rescued from the neighbor’s trash.

I watched The Weather Channel’s ongoing coverage of the snowstorm that hammered Boston, a storm that far surpassed anything I experienced in the 18 months I lived there (or across the Charles River in Cambridge).  I watched a press conference conducted by Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston, and I was dumbfounded by what some alleged adults were doing in Boston.  It was hard to believe that the mayor had to come on national TV and tell people to stop jumping out second-story windows into snowbanks.  (This is like the mayor having to call a press conference telling people not to eat yellow snow.)

The Mayor of Boston telling people “This isn’t Loon Mountain”

After dark, I was quite content to walk around outside wearing a down-filled shirt.  I felt no need to wear my heavy jacket, and I did my lunchtime walk wearing a hoodie.  So all the signs are there: spring is returning, which means outdoor walks will be the rule, and not the exception.