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.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


I have, by degrees, and by default, become a cat person.  This surprises me a bit.  When I was a kid I desperately wanted a dog but my parents thought I wasn’t ready for the responsibility, and that I’d never walk it.  They were almost certainly right.

These days, however, I sometimes think it would be OK to have a dog because I could combine exercising it with my psychogeographic drifts, although in the end I think I’m still not ready for the responsibility.  And in any case, I have become a cat person.

The cat, not much of a walker.

A cat joined the household, some years ago now, and she has gradually seduced me – (and yes, there was some inappropriate touching along the way, on her part).  And once in a while I think maybe I could combine my own walking with cat walking,  with the feline striding along beside me on a leash, although I’m told this is only possible if you start when the cat is very young indeed. 

And so the other night I watched Harry and Tonto, a pretty good, if very much of its time (1974), movie about an old geezer (Art Carney who is actually playing a character much older than himself) who goes on a road trip with his cat Tonto, who indeed has a collar and a leash.  They end up on Hollywood Boulevard opposite Pickwick Books and yes, that is Larry Hagman:

Pickwick Books used to look like this on the inside:

Why can’t there be a bookshop like this in Hollywood anymore?  Well, we all know exactly why, but still …

Anyway it so happens I’ve had the above picture of Cary Grant sitting on my desktop for quite a while now. I read the street names, and realized that location is just round the corner from where I go to see my doctor.  In fact when I go to see him I always take a stroll around the neighborhood to calm myself before the appointment.  So last week when I went for another check up I decide to drift along to Swall and Charleville and try to find the corner where old Cary and his cat did their walking.  How hard could it be?

Finding the crossroads was no problem, but it was hard even to tell which corner Cary had been on.  There were some obvious changes - the streets signs and their poles had been replaced, and some had apparently gone completely, the mail box had gone, hedges had grown up everywhere, and I could see no sign of the house. 

I thought the chimney  and those arches in the Cary Grant picture would have been the give away, but I couldn’t see them either.  I was starting to think the house must have been demolished and replaced but then something clicked.

A wall had been built in front of the arches, the chimney was still there but it had been modified and was lost in the trees, but that front door, that window with the bars - not identical - but then 60 years have gone by - but I'm prepared to bet that’s the house old Cary and his (or somebody else’s) cat had walked in front of, possibly only for that one photograph. 

I can’t find any hard evidence that he lived there, or even in the neighborhood, so I guess he was probably there just for a photo op.

And then, much belatedly, it occurred to me that maybe the picture is an ironic take on his appearance in Bringing Up Baby,  but I don’t have any hard evidence for that either.

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