On Foot

There is a divide between drivers and people who rely on public transit to get around. The subway, the bus or the streetcar is the great equalizer. People are forced to share space, listen to the conversations and complaints of others, come into contact with individuals who they might have not sought out. It’s the melting pot of life.

But to really get to know a place, you have to be on foot. When walking, the powers of observation and sensation seem enhanced.

I tend to walk west, no idea why it seems more natural for me to do so. I love one street in particular, in midtown. It starts out very sophisticated, but in an understated, old money way. Mid century modern. It’s where Glenn Gould lived, in a 1930’s building that was close to his favorite hangout.

Then I walk further west, and the street becomes more lively. A bit gritty, but with a hipster flavor. Restaurants and coffee places that are ready to be checked out, discovered. Rich man, poor man. Like the subway, except this is less of being thrown together by circumstance. More like choosing to be there, among people who were there first and whose presence is still a part of the street feel.

Sometimes after a long day, I’m walking out of the subway and I catch a riff by a subway musician. “Guantanamera” gives me a burst of energy and makes me think of Los Lobos playing Larry’s Hideway. “American Pie” played on the accordion. Bach at Queen’s Park. Little moments of sublime.

I caught part of “La Dolce Vita” on TV the other night. Some parts seemed dated (it was made in 1960), but Mastroianni’s acting holds up. No one can play befuddled, vain or bored better than him. Bored especially. In “La Notte” as well. It’s an unhappy boredom. He wants to find something, to be passionate about someone, but the feeling eludes him.

How different that is from “The Mysteries of Lisbon”. There is too much passion. I loved the intricate plot, panoramic scope of historical detail and the theatrical devices that Ruiz used to present the story. The wily nature of the numerous storytellers illustrated the power of secrets and lies to keep lovers apart.

Back to walking. I walked by an old cemetery, all the gravestones so close to each other, like people on the crowded subway train. And then another old cemetery, not too far, that looks like a huge garden or park, with graves and gravestones at a respectful distance from each other. A room of one’s own.

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