Drifting and striding 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.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Some items about walking from Richard Prince’s website, written under his pseudonym Fulton Ryder.

“A cowboy walks into a bar and says to the bartender, "Who's the asshole who owns this shit hole?"

A guy walks into an apartment and looks at the Warhol, the Basquiat, the Hirst, and the Prince... and says, "that's not interesting".

“There were several times when I would be walking back to my sublet alone, late at night, after last call, four in the morning, and I would run into Carl Andre. He was probably doing the same thing. It was always on West Broadway. No one around. It was amazingly peaceful. The first couple of run-ins I would stop and say. "Hey Carl... it's me, Richard..." He'd just stare at me in his bib-overalls and walk on by. He would look right through me... X-ray vision. The way he would stare was what bothered me the most. His eyes told me, "I'm fucking Carl Andre and I already know the time."

I walked up to Richard Prince at his gallery opening last night and said hello to him, and at that point a gorgeous young woman walked by and gave him a huge smile.  And I said who’s that?  And Richard Prince said, “Oh, she just gave me a handjob in the bathroom.”  Maybe he thought I looked shocked, and maybe I did.  Later he walked up to me and said, “You know, I wasn’t serious.  That girl didn’t really give me a handjob in the bathroom.  I wouldn’t want you to think that.”  True story. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


It being Presidents’ Day a couple of days back, I took a short, unadventurous walk in the neighborhood; that would be East Hollywood  Of course I reckon I know the area pretty well by now, but only a fool thinks he knows everything, and of course every neighborhood changes from moment to moment.  The burned out apartment house in the picture above, was new to me, though it could have been burned out for a good long time.

And I’m pretty sure that’s a new sign on the fence of the local school, although I’d think that a kid who brings a gun to school probably isn’t all that worried about getting expelled.

In any case I wanted to take a closer look at the Monastery of the Angels, the home of a cloistered order of Dominion nuns, well within sight of the Hollywood Freeway.  And no, I don’t know why it’s not called a convent.  Everyone goes on about how wonderful their pumpkin bread is, but I couldn’t see where to buy it, and you know, a non-believer such as myself is reluctant to intrude on a closed order, but I did get near enough to take a picture of this fellow.

I don’t know who that is.  I’m guessing it’s not Jesus, and the wings make me think it must be an angel.  And the sword obviously suggests it’s a martial angel, so I wonder if it’s Gabriel, though isn’t Gabriel the horn blower rather than the sword wielder?  I wonder if it might be St. Dominic but I can’t find any images of him with a sword either.

Right around the corner from the monastery you get can a view of the Hollywood sign, and also, on this day, a view of a large, abandoned flat screen TV.  Oh, America!

Eventually my walk took me down Beachwood Canyon a place I walk pretty often, and there was this car.

I’m a sucker for old cars, the more beat up the better, though this isn’t “my period” and I can’t identify it any more than I could identify the statue with the sword.  Is it a Buick?  Actually I can’t help thinking there was something just a little too artful about this one. The line of blue duct tape down the windscreen was a nice touch, though I don’t know how it would go down with the cops.  But I thought that a copy On the Road placed very conspicuously on the dashboard was trying just a little too hard.

Friday, February 15, 2013


I just found it right there in Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint.  Portnoy, is questioning whether his childhood was really as terrible as he now remembers it:

“What else? Walks, walks with my father in Weequahic Park on Sundays that I still haven’t forgotten.  You know, I can’t go off to the country and find an acorn without thinking of him and those walks.  And that’s not nothing, nearly thirty years later.”

The story of all our lives, if we're lucky.

Friday, February 8, 2013


There’s a great piece in the current New Yorker by Joseph Mitchell titled “Street Life: Becoming Part of the City.”  It’s from a previously unpublished memoir: Mitchell died in 1996.  He’s one of those writers that people have either never heard of, or are absolutely besotted by.  There seems to be no middle ground.  He was a great walker and explorer of the whole of New York, and he writes in this piece: “What I really like to do is walk aimlessly in the city.  I like to walk the streets by day and by night.  It is more than a liking, a simple liking – it is an aberration.”

Mitchell was employed by the New Yorker from 1938 until his death, but in 1965, after the publication of the book Joe Gould’s Secret, he essentially stopped writing, though he continued to go into the office, going out for an hour and a half lunch, during which he presumably did a some walking.  He wouldn’t even let his old work be reprinted until 1992 when he allowed Pantheon to published an anthology in called Up In The Old Hotel.

Here’s another extract, from a piece also titled “Up in the Old Hotel.”
“Every now and then, seeking to rid my thoughts of death and doom, I get up early and go down to Fulton Fish Market. I usually arrive around five-thirty, and take a walk through the two huge open-fronted market sheds, the Old Market and the New Market, whose fronts rest on South Street and whose backs rest on piles in the East River. At that time, a little while before the trading begins, the stands to the sheds are heaped high and spilling over with forty to sixty kinds of finfish and shellfish from the East Coast, the West Coast, the Gulf Coast and half a dozen foreign countries. The smoky riverbank dawn, the racket the fishmongers make, the seaweedy smell, and the sight of this plentifulness always give me a feeling of well-being, and sometimes they elate me. I wander among the stands for an hour or so. Then I go into a cheerful market restaurant named Sloppy Louie’s and eat a big, inexpensive, invigorating breakfast ...”

That’s pretty great.  It’s a benign piece, and yet that opening mention of death and doom hangs obligingly over it all.

I was reminded obliquely of Pico Iyer’s introduction to A Wanderer in the Perfect City, a collection of writing by Lawrence Weschler; I always misremember that title and think it’s a walker in the perfect city.  And then sometimes I think it ought to be the perfect walker in the imperfect city. Anyway ...  Iyer writes, “Curiosity is the engine that drives a traveler out into the world, and the true traveler is the one who see (sic) that the world points in two directions. He is fired by his eagerness, his interest in the world, but what it gives back to him in turn is often a strangeness, a confoundingness that is the other half of what we mean by curiosity.”  That’s pretty great too.

Above is the cover of Weschler’s book, that truly amazing photograph is by Helen Levitt.