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.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Some of you may still have enough short term memory to recall the little video I did a few years back with Anthony Miller to promote my novel The City Under the Skin, done under the auspices of the Los Angeles Review of Books and Los Angeles magazine.  The director was Jerry Gorin.  It looked like this, and still does:

Basically I walk around bits of LA, point at things and say something about them in a rather self-conscious way, not least about this onramp to the Hollywood freeway which I think is a wonderful zesty piece of engineering if not strictly speaking architecture. 

I seem to think that in the video Mr. Miller and I agree that it looks Ballardian.  The shot in the video looks like this:

And now, blow me down, I discover this album Do Hollywood by a band named Lemon Twigs, and they’re doing pretty much the same shot.  The NME website says of the Lemon Twigs, “Their greatest talent is their ability to pick the pockets of rock’s dinosaurs without making it seem passé or pastiche.” 

Hollywood – so many options, so few genuinely original ideas – although of course that applies to the whole world, not just to Hollywood.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sunday, September 24, 2017



Lake District mountains: 'Drugged' walkers rescued

Scafell Pike from WasdaleImage copyrightCUMBRIA TOURISM
Image captionThe walkers were said to be too "stoned" to get themselves off the mountain

A group of hikers who became unable to walk after taking drugs sparked a major mountain rescue.
Officers from the Cumbria force tweeted: "words fail us" after being called by four men at Hardrigg Gill on Scafell in the Lake District.
The police tweet said: "Persons phoning Cumbria Police because they are stuck on a mountain, after taking cannabis."
Wasdale and Duddon mountain rescue teams were called out just after 18:30 BST on Saturday. 
The group was eventually brought down to safety at 21:45 BST.
Supt Justin Bibby of Cumbria Police said: "Taking alcohol or any other substance that could impair your judgement significantly increases your risk of getting into trouble. It has no place on a mountain."

Friday, September 22, 2017


Walking on Sunset Boulevard this morning:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Seen while walking in the 'hood.

Drive like your kids live where?  In the garbage?  In the tree?  And are the kids living somewhere that you don’t?  

Oddly enough, wisdom seems not always to be found on trees.

Monday, September 18, 2017


There's a very nice line in William Burroughs’, Last Words, The Final Journals of William S Burroughs  - he writes of "A long time ago but not too far to walk.”  
          This sent me digging around for other mentions of walking in the 
journals.  I found this one: “I carry a .38 snubbie on my premises, at my belt at all times.  I leave the door open.  Someone walks in with something in mind, he won’t walk away.”

The stuff of good noir fiction, right?  And how very different Bill’s life might have been if he’d kept his taste for gunplay inside the covers of a book.

And I did I find the above photograph of Burroughs walking with Kurt Cobain - I bet there was some sparkling conversation that day – perhaps some talk of guns.  For what it’s worth, I think the Burroughs/Cobain collaboration The “Priest” They Called Him - Burroughs reads, Cobain makes glorious guitar noise - is about as good as “spoken word with music” ever gets.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


When does a desire line become a walking path?

In order to avoid quoting wikipedia I’m going to quote yourdictionary.com  – they say that a desire line is “A path that pedestrians take informally rather than taking a sidewalk or set route; e.g. a well-worn ribbon of dirt that one sees cutting across a patch of grass, or paths in the snow.”

A perfectly good definition I’d say, and above is a very nice one in Vienna; and yes, if you look really closely you can see Harry Lime’s Ferris wheel in the middle distance.  I do wonder if there was always a gap in that hedge or whether pedestrian desire created it.

And above is another nice one seen on my travels, not as well-worn as many – it’s outside the library in Ely, Nevada, birthplace of Patricia Nixon (Ely – not the library).

The one above is clearly a walking path, actually part of the Essex Way, an 82 mile walking route from Epping to Harwich. Obviously there’s no sidewalk (pavement) and other routes across that patch of land would be possible but none so direct, and if you're walking 82 miles you don't want to do too much meandering.  You might think a desire line is the shortest route, and perhaps also the path of least resistance, though in this case that applies to the walking path.

So imagine how intrigued I was by the path above, seen just outside the boundary of Griffith Park.  It was leading off from a street I know pretty well but I’d never noticed it before. I thought it might be some indirect way into the park and it seemed pretty inviting so I started walking on it.
It was, you’d have to say, a disappointment.  It runs for maybe 30 feet then takes a sharp left and then you see a gate:

It’s the entrance to somebody’s back yard, and the owner understandably wants to keep out wandering riff raff.  If the path had been perfectly straight and I’d been able to see the gate from the street I wouldn’t have even set foot on the path. I wouldn’t have had any desire. 
Some contradictions to be worked out there.