This evening, there has been a No Wi-Fi Pre-Party Hour here at the Green Tortoise, before many (if not most) of the guests here tumble out for a pub crawl. So, I’m doing teetotaler things, like writing in my blog and letting my dinner from Tony’s Cable Car Restaurant settle. Probably having such a heavy meal on the eve of Bay to Breakers wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve ever done–I’m just hoping it won’t come back and haunt me while I’m hitting the bricks tomorrow.
There are memes all over Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr about how you should stay in touch with people, let them know you love them, etc., because you can’t take for granted that you’ll get another chance to do it. It’s very trite, and its endless repetition has made me dread seeing it in my newsfeed, but I have learned during this journey that, like many a cliché, there is more than a grain of truth to it.
I spent the afternoon with my friend Gerry Nicosia, author of the definitive Kerouac biography Memory Babe, in Berkeley this afternoon. Before coming out West, I suggested to him that we try to meet up with Richard Castile, who lived in a retirement home in Mill Valley. (I had known Dick since 1979, mostly as a pen pal. He was an advisor to Bay Area youth in Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), the Unitarian Universalist youth organization that was the focus of my adolescence and early adulthood. We met at General Assembly 1980, which was in Albuquerque, N.M. Gerry gave a poetry reading at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco, where Dick was a member, and they learned that they had me in common.
Dick and I lost touch when he moved to Stockton to live with his son’s family, and I lost the address. Gerry had offhandedly mentioned that Dick had moved back to Mill Valley, so I suggested that the three of us try and get together.
Gerry’s voice mail this morning brought news that I did not want to hear–Dick died three months ago, aged 84. I doubly kicked myself because I learned last year, when I was in the Bay Area for Bay to Breakers, that Dick had moved back to Mill Valley. Gerry suggested we visit him, but I didn’t feel right about just showing up uninvited.
Dick taught high school history in the San Francisco schools, but he had a year-long hospitalization after being marooned in Donner Summit during a blizzard. This meant he had to retire from teaching, after many extensive surgeries and therapies. He always seemed frail to me, but his energy was boundless. Besides being an advisor to LRYers, he was very active in the Unitarian church in San Francisco, and served on the Board of Directors for the World Affairs Council of Northern California. He mentored generations of students, and, despite never marrying, adopted a teenage son.
The last time I saw him was when Steph and I visited San Francisco for our honeymoon. We had a long meal at a restaurant at Giardelli Square, and Steph was fascinated by him and his many travels.
זכר צדיק לברכה
Gerry and I had a good lunch in Berkeley, and we tried to find parking places and navigate the chaos around the U.C. Berkeley campus–on graduation day! That meant we had to cut our time at Moe’s Books on Telegraph Ave. much too abbreviated. He marveled at how much walking I have been doing, both in San Francisco and in Ohio–I’ve filled him in by letter about my extensive walking in Columbus and my walks to Athens. He said it looks like it has been getting me in shape.
I’ve asked myself if this devotion to walking–for longer distances, trying for shorter durations–has meant that I have become what I never wanted to be: an athlete.
I have written in prior entries about my lack of athletic prowess, and how I have never had any interest in any sports at any level. For a long time, it was impossible for me to grasp that my peers were doing athletic activities voluntarily. (I remember one Saturday morning when I was about 11, and a friend and I were hanging around the playground of Washington School, the elementary school I intermittently attended, and I saw guys, some of whom I knew, walking into the gym. There was some kind of basketball clinic that morning. They were going to something like a phys. ed. class without having to?)
One of the few things my parents did right was not to force me into trying out for athletics. I saw a lot of my friends who did tee-ball and Little League, but I never considered participating. As I grow older, I often wonder how many children were forced, and how many did it without really wanting to so they could please their parents.
When I go to my Friday night yoga session in Worthington, I have a 20-minute walk from the bus stop to where the class takes place. My walk takes me past a park where I have seen boys as young as 10 or 11 playing and practicing lacrosse. I usually associate that with fraternity guys, the Ivy League, and excessive drinking and violent partying, so I found it unusual that kids that young would be playing it.
At one job I had, a woman who worked there proudly wore a pin all summer. The pin was large, and it featured a color picture of her son, who was probably about nine, in a baseball uniform. Two things jumped out at me at once: One was that the bat almost looked bigger than he was, since he was a small and rather scrawny kid. The other was the expression on his face. He was not smiling, and he looked like he really didn’t want to be there.
Walking will probably be the extent of my athletic prowess, and many people have complimented and marveled at my speed and my stamina. And I have begun seeking out events such as the Half Marathon just so I can pay money to walk a distance I have walked many times for free–and without as many people. (Bay to Breakers’ allure is all the craziness and an excuse to go to San Francisco, as much as the walk itself. After 5½ years of living in Cincinnati, hills aren’t a novelty to me, and Hayes Hill is an incline that I think will be easier this year, since yoga has improved my lung capacity.)
So, if I’m paying to walk, and have started to accumulate bibs, T-shirts, and medals, maybe I have ventured into that unknown territory I have never sought to explore.