Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Dancing Monkey

One of the great things about running is how you really discover where you live. You see things differently at a slower pace than you do driving. You also find a whole bunch of new things.

If you where to drop a 5 mile by 5 mile grid on a map with my house being in the north east corner, only 10% of that box would be the main streets that are the access points of daily life - the market, the bank, the freeway. On balance, 40% is residential neighborhoods you normally don't need to go through. The remaining 40% is a wetlands preserve criss-crossed by single track trails and dirt roads. In places it's filled with relics of an old army base and long abandoned oil wells. There's wildlife too. I see coyotes quite a bit, and any number of bird species well beyond my Ornithological knowledge. There are rattlesnakes as well, though I've never seen one. However, my mom, who has lived her whole life in Massachusetts and has not spent too much time out West, was lucky enough to spot one. Unfortunately, this resulted in a much shorter hike than she had planned.

In the residential areas, there is a house that looks quite a bit like a Frank Lloyd Wright design. In the 5 years I lived here before I started running, I had never seen it. I've discovered a whole bunch of small parks with playgrounds that now give my son Ian some variety. Over in the next tract, some lucky kid has the best backyard half pipe I have ever seen. He's out there a lot, and I like to jog by there and check him out.

I started exercising partially in an attempt (and to the extent possible) to slow down time and keep my body young. The original impetus was a purely physical endeavor. What I never considered was that my spirit would start getting young again too.

Remember when you where a kid? All you needed was a bike and your neighborhood friends. The places you played - "the field", "the ditch", "the woods", the "oak tree", or whatever they where called, always had that non-specific name. Why? Because the world was small and you could not yet conceive the other fields, ditches, woods, and oak trees that lay beyond. You knew every inch of that world.

When you got older, you abandoned that world to see the World. You left home. Maybe you traveled around Europe on a Eurorail pass. I spent a few years touring with my band. And those experiences where incredible. In fact, in another post I'll tell you about a night in Paris with a friend, some cheap wine, two German girls, an old Frenchmen, and a dancing monkey. Actually, I won't because I just made that up. But I think we've all seen a dancing monkey somewhere, and we'll never forget it.

I still enjoy to travel. I travel for business quite a bit. As a family, we regularly jump in the car to go find adventure. I love it when my son starts saying the names of new cities and states. And it's important to get out there and see what's there to be seen.

But to realize that I was living in a place that I really knew nothing about, and then rediscover the means to learn about it - that was great. Of course it's different then when I was a kid. I don't know how to climb on my neighbor's garage roof undetected and I don't know about any loose boards on Mrs. O'Connells fence. Still, the spirit of adventure is alive and well.

When The Beastie Boy's album "Check Your Head" came out, I remember reading an interview with the band. I forget who, but one of the guys said that the fact that they started playing punk rock, and then moved on to hip-hop just to start playing punk rock again, felt very natural. And I always thought it sounded natural, you could tell this is exactly what they wanted to do.

I've rediscovered the simple pleasure of discovery in terms of a smaller world. And though I have yet to see the dancing monkey in the neighborhood, I've seen plenty. And I probably shouldn't be looking for that damn monkey anyway, because I might miss something else.


Jennifer said...

Great post. I must say that one of my favorite runs is on Sunday when I can get off the bike path and run in my Hood. I always see interesting stuff!

Unknown said...

Great post!


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