It was last year.
May 19th to be precise.
I got up, decided to go for a walk and see how far I could get. It was one in the afternoon, and already a mile in, my feet began to hurt. So I stopped by the local Target, deviating from my course by a mile, and bought new insoles. With that done, I walked, and walked and walked until my feet ached and in their own way, told me it was time to find a bus and get back home. By evening, I found myself on the edge of Sherman Oaks and Studio City – a good fourteen miles away from my apartment. I was always proud of that little accomplishment.
For years, I’ve admired people who could just get up and go – whether on a vacation, leave their job, their career and just be. I remember hearing how Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown from Back to the Future) would travel the country on his bicycle, and how Bob Zemeckis always had a hard time reaching him for post production shoots because they never knew which state he was in. That freedom. Must be nice It was one of the reasons why I chose to make this a yearly thing.
So yesterday, I packed the same backpack with pretty much the same items as I had the year before, got new insoles (which I had to exchange at Target – the same Target, for not doing the job), a few granola bars, two bottles of water, powerade, and a pen. I showered humming to myself Huey Lewis’ Back in Time (don’t ask why, the weirdest songs pop into my head when I’m in the shower), shaved, put on my sweats, grabbed my earphones and iPod, and I was off and walking East at 9 am. Last year, when I did this walk, it started out as a “Let’s see how far I can get” and turned into an exploratory day trip. I saw things that I would have never seen driving. In L.A., we live in our cars. When you’re on foot, the world slows down. You can see all the restaurants, the people, the little shops that you never knew were there before.
Last year, I bopped and danced to 70’s music with a homeless man and fist-bumped him on the way out. This year, I got to meet a bulldog named Charlie; so dancing was out of the question and I’m not so sure he would have liked Earth, Wind and Fire either. It was different this time around.
Last year, it was about the journey. This year was about the destination. Originally I wanted to see if I could make it all the way to Burbank – Warner Brothers Studios actually. So I pushed myself. I checked the map to see how long it would take, checked the distance, reserved my iPhone, all that Macguyvery stuff. By five in the evening, I managed to reach the outer edge where Studio City met North Hollywood. I’d only eaten two granola bars, so it was time to get something a little less rectangular at which point my feet looked up at me and said in a very southern Baptist minister’s tone, “Todaaaayuh… is the Sabbath. It is TIME … to rest.”
Lost ya, huh… guess you had to be there.
So there I sat, at Art’s Deli and had THE most expensive egg salad sandwich I’d ever had.
That’s what I get for making light of the Sabbath.
Now I was tired, frustrated and bloated.
I walked on, and little by little, I was getting tired of the journey. And little by little I realized my destination had little value than seeing a water tower that the supposed Warner Brothers and Warner sister lived in. It was only becoming another future post on Facebook to say, ‘look what I did,’ and that’s not what I wanted it to be at all. Not another ego driven post, not another status to revenue validation.
So I thought, why go if the destination is only about an insecurity?
But I kept walking, why? Because I knew that deep down, I wanted to accomplish something. I felt I hadn’t accomplished anything to be proud of in quite a while. Sure I’ve done some things, made posters, drew up a bunch of characters for a school fair… but I don’t want to be known for being just the guy who can draw. I wanted to be known for something more – and not by people outside of me. But by me. I wanted something I could say to myself, “Look at what you did.” So I kept walking.
By 7 that evening, I reached the Universal Studios Parking lot, and it was then when my friend Lupe called. She asked where I was, and when I told her, her reply was, “Shut. The hell. Up.” She went on about how proud she was and how proud I should be, and as I sat in front of the Universal Studios gate, the place where I wanted to be when I was fourteen years old and had my own cartoon to sell them after seeing Back to the Future (Story arc here, hinty-hint hint), I looked up.
As the sun glinted off of the NBC-Comcast building, I remembered what I wanted to do as a kid. How passionate I was about my artwork – and where I was now at that moment, where I was sitting, where I’d walked. It wasn’t just good enough. It was perfect. Then I remembered, Lupe was still on the phone. I finally awoke from my little harpy-rippled flashback and said to her, “I am proud.”
So I headed back home, accomplished. I took the bus, got off ready for my transfer … only to discover that the 244 stops at 8pm. It was 8:35. Perfection… diminished. I looked at my feet to say, “Can you walk another four miles?” and my feet, loyal as they were to me, looked up at me and with the same inflections and tone as Sophia did in The Color Purple, said to me, in no uncertain terms, “Hellllllllll. No.”
*Never saw that movie? Lost ya again? (sigh) It appears I have a very exclusive demographic.
So I tried to be all Twenty-first Century Millenial, and tried Uber, the online taxi service. The site was down. Awesome.
I had three percent battery life on my cell phone, no way of getting home which was only four miles, and all I had staring me in the face was the Starbucks across the street.
The West Coast version of Shangri-La. They might as well have a sign above the door saying, “Come all ye that are decaffeinated.”
I went inside and thank goodness I remembered to bring my phone charger. As I sat there, talking to my friend Fordrena about my predicament, all the while still trying to get a hold of Uber, I noticed the man in front of me once in a while glancing over his shoulder toward my direction. The moment I hung up, he stands up, turns toward me and says, “Scuse me, brother. Do you need a ride?”
Now my mom always told me not to get into cars with strangers.
But I was now 36 and could now bench press as opposed to ten and couldn’t bench press a glass of water. I watched enough Dukes of Hazzard and KnightRider to know how to open a car door and do a tuck-in-roll when things got hairy.
So I took the offer.
He introduced himself as Rod, and Rod told me how he was in the army and how they trained them to do 20 mile hikes. Judging by my then dead-on impersonation of Fred Sanford’s walk from the kitchen to the chair, he could see I had no training whatsoever. Rod then informed me that he was brought up in Texas, and his mom told him always help others because you never know when you might be in the same spot as they are. I told him, similarly, my mom told me to always acknowledge others.
By the end of the car ride, we talked about everything from Disney and Marvel to kids and bookstores. Lo and behold, he’s worked for publishing companies and was looking to get some new books out to the public. Of course I told him about KnightWatchers.
Now as I sit here, legs stiff and feet sore, on a Sunday morning with the sun beaming through the window, thinking of my walk yesterday, I can say to myself, I’m glad I did that. Look at what you did… …and all because of bikes, books, eighteen miles, and flying DeLoreans.