Ever since I was a young teenager, I’ve wondered why “walking a mile” is supposed to represent walking a long distance. I remember hearing about the slogan Camel used for decades to advertise its cigarettes, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel!” And yet, 5280 feet (1.609 km) is not that far a distance to walk, really. (It probably is a long, long way to run, especially for someone like me, who has never run long distances. I don’t run because I don’t have the stamina. Why don’t I have the stamina? Because I don’t run.)
This subject comes to mind because the Owl flies tonight, which means I’m going to be pounding pavement in a little over an hour. Tonight is the second return of Nite Owl Theater, and tonight Fritz the Nite Owl will be hosting Plan Nine from Outer Space, long considered the worst movie ever made. The Grandview Theater is just over three miles from my house in Weinland Park, a straight westerly walk up W. 5th Ave. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t walk three miles in 27-degree weather to see that thing–I used to have a VHS copy of it, but erased it to record cartoons for Susie when she was a toddler. But Fritz is hosting it, and that’s reason enough. (Susie’s introduction to the legendary Mr. Peerenboom will be on Christmas night, when the show will be–surprise, surprise!–Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.)
At least three of the items on my “bucket list” (a wish list of things I want to do before I “kick the bucket”) involve walking. The three big walks I want to make in my lifetime are these:
- John Wilkes Booth’s escape route. It would start at the back door of Ford’s Theater in Washington and wind its way through Maryland and Virginia before ending in Port Royal, Va., where Booth was captured and was shot by a demented Union soldier, a born-again Christian and self-castrated eunuch named Boston Corbett. It would also include pit stops at the Surratt family tavern in Clinton (then called Surrattsville) and Dr. Mudd’s farmhouse in Bryantown.
- The National Road. This inspiration came to me while I was living in Franklinton (“capital of West Virginia”) from 2002 until 2009. The main drag through Franklinton is W. Broad St. In fact, Broad St. is the major east-west thoroughfare in Columbus. It is part of U.S. 40, which is the old National Road, beginning in Cumberland, Md. and terminating at the Kaskaskia River in Galesburg, Ill. Much of it would be familiar terrain for me, since I went back and forth on W. Broad St. daily when I worked at Medco Health on Phillipi Rd. In Wheeling, my dad’s hometown, the street is called “National Rd.”, and part of its route includes going over the Wheeling Suspension Bridge. (I don’t remember if I’ve ever crossed the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, but my dad said it swayed so much that during a circus parade to Wheeling Island, one of the elephants was so petrified its handlers had to blindfold it and lead it across. Sobering, especially if you’ve ever seen the footage of the 1940 collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State.)
- The Pony Express route. This would be from St. Joseph, Mo. to Sacramento, Calif. (known fondly to my friends in the Bay Area as “Excremento”). Even though emails and text messaging are legion, I still love the feel of writing (or tape-recording) letters and cards and then dropping them in the blue mailboxes (when I can find them). The only reason I never signed up to be a carrier during my stint at the main post office in Cincinnati was because carriers had to have driver’s licenses–I would have been happy to take my mail on the bus and deliver it that way, but that wasn’t permitted. And mail call–although increasingly disappointing–is still my favorite part of the day. (Amazon.com gave me a $1 subscription to Rolling Stone for recently buying a DVD, and my first issue arrived yesterday. Two previous issues were in the mail today.) So, walking the Pony Express route–all 1680 miles of it–would be a good way to combine my love of mail and my love of walking. Ads for Pony Express riders targeted “young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen”, with the added notice “Orphans preferred.” My walking the distance of the Pony Express route (Fort Collins, Provo, Salt Lake City) would be proof that you don’t need to be young, skinny, or wiry. I was when I was a teen (“not over eighteen”), but I am an orphan now, so I meet one of the qualifications.
I keep reminding myself I need to be on my guard tonight. The Ohio State Buckeyes were victorious over the University of Michigan Wolverines today (as they have been annually since 2004), 37-7. The game was here in Columbus, so I am sure that there will be places along W. 5th Ave. where I will be running a gauntlet of drunken yahoos who are celebrating the victory aided by sustenance they’re carrying around in brown paper bags. I am thankful that the old Roxy Theatre on N. High St. (just north of Lane Ave.) is no more. If it still existed, I’m sure that’s where Fritz would be hosting this program tonight, and trying to get through High St. when the streets and sidewalks are clogged by inebriated football fans would truly be a hellish experience. So, I’m glad to be making the trek to Grandview, west of where all the insanity is occurring.