Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Monday, October 22, 2012


We’re inclined to think that walking is a pretty simple and straightforward business, and yet as I wander through the world I find a staggering number of signs telling me how to walk, where to walk, and far more often, where not to walk.

Some of these signs are obviously intended to be useful, and actually are.  Most of us are grateful to know that there may be rattlesnakes in the area or that we’re in danger from other pedestrians and forklift trucks (a double threat if ever I heard of one).

But some seem a little superfluous, such as this one at edge of the Ubehebe
Crater in Death Valley. 

I mean, if you’re too dumb to realize that walking around the edge of a 600 foot deep volcanic crater might be a little risky, you’re probably too dumb to take any notice of the sign.

Some seem more general and philosophical – such as this one:

although if you ask me pedestrianism, and indeed life, is always about crossing the line, one way or another.

Some are more simply inscrutable.  Like this one:

 OK, so climbing on groynes may be forbidden, but the guy on the sign isn’t climbing, he’s just walking.  So does that mean that walking on groynes is OK, but climbing isn’t?  We may never know.

Some seem to contain simple philosophical truths, this one for instance, telling us that a parking lot is not a pedestrian walkway, which I’m happy to accept and agree with, but I think what they’re really saying is “keep out.”

One of my favourite, though ultimately very melancholy, signs comes from the Desert Tortoise Preserve outside of California City, a sign that is genuinely surprising and informative: 

Who knew that desert tortoises urinated if you get too close?  Who knew that urination could lead to death? That’s quite an evolutionary disadvantage I’d think, but I do like the bold use of italics and exclamation mark on DIE!

But now, just last week, I found a new favourite at the Hot Creek geothermal area up by Mammoth Lakes. 

Scalding water, unstable ground: has walking ever seemed more exciting?

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