Walk This Way (Or Any Way. Just Walk!)

park

Anyone who has ever lived in, or even been in, New York knows how noisy, energetic, and sometimes tiring the city can be. On a day when I was noticing all of these things with a particular touch of hypersensitivity, I decided to take a walk and see if I could find a bit of a respite.

My parents take a lot of walks, but as a child of the gym-generation, I always found them silly and honestly, never enjoyed them much. But for some reason, it felt like the right thing to do that day. I’m fortunate to live in an area with not one, not two, but three major parks right near by, and I decided to tackle the largest of them all, Inwood Hill Park.

After passing through my boisterous neighborhood, I entered the park and started to relax immediately. There was a stretch of a good ten minutes where I didn’t see anyone, except for a few black squirrels furiously collecting nuts for winter. There were no sounds of construction, no yelling, no unnecessary shouting, no horns honking. With a new lightness in my step, I continued walking.

Amazingly, at the moment I felt changed, it was like everything around me had changed as well. The next person I saw was a woman on a run (without earbuds, may I add. A feat I could not accomplish). She and I passed and smiled at one another. Smiled! At a stranger in New York City! A few minutes later, I passed a young man who was walking his dog (off-leash!). I’m pretty awkward, and I wasn’t sure if that beautiful smiling moment from before would be recreated. But as I was staring at his dog trying to decide if I should acknowledge him, I heard a hearty “Hey there!” and I, of course, returned in kind. He and the dog happily trotted past, a short but meaningful (and surprisingly graceful) human connection made.

After witnessing other heart-warming moments such as an older couple on a bench over looking the water, a man playing fetch with one of the happiest pit bulls I have ever seen, and a real life NYC park ranger, Smokey the Bear hat and all, giving a tour of the park to a field trip of kids, it seemed about time to head home. I decided to pick up a sandwich on my way from the neighborhood pharmacy/soda counter, a place that is a real step back in time. Sure, they have all of the modern pharmaceutical products lining their shelves, but in the corner is a small counter with five stools, and two apron-clad employees ready to make any malted milkshake your heart desires.

I ordered my sandwich, and when the woman asked me if I wanted it for here or to go, I decided to sit. Why not? Take an extra moment away, soak in the nostalgia of it all. I was expecting to sit, eat my sandwich and go, but I ended up listening in on the conversation happening at the end of the counter. The other customer, an old woman finishing a milkshake, was in conversation with the man behind the counter whose name I would later learn is Joe. My ears perked up when she asked him, “Do you know how old I’m going to be next week?”

“I never guess a woman’s age,” Joe answered. She and I both laughed. Smart guy.

“I’m going to be 87!” she said proudly. “87 years old and I feel great!”

I couldn’t help myself. I turned towards them and wished her a happy birthday. She beamed, and I was full on into the conversation. We talked about how she doesn’t feel old and loves to get out and explore the city. She told us how she’s lived in the Bronx her whole life, but comes to my neighborhood for the shopping and her doctors. Her memory, sight and vision are all intact, and she easily manages her diabetes.

“Do you want to know how I stay so healthy?” she asked. It’s funny, because coming from a younger person, these leading questions would seem self-aggrandizing and conceited, but from an elderly woman, they are endearing and frankly, exactly what I was wondering anyway.

Joe and I nodded, curious about her secret.

“I take a lot of walks. Nothing keeps my brain sharper and my body healthier than going on walks.”

And just like that, my urge to take a walk was justified and my day fell into place. 87 years and her number one secret is going for walks? Maybe they’re not so silly after all!

Amelita Lijek About Amelita Lijek

Born and raised in a Boston suburb, Amelita is heart-breakingly Boston-accent deficient. This deficiency, among many others, has driven her survival instinct to find the humor in all things, even if they are not cat-related. An avid writer, tweeter, and sleep-enthusiast, Amelita can be found regularly cavorting around New York City improving (IM-prah-ving), sketch writing, and seeking out free samples and Wifi (WHY-fy). She also has carefully cultivated Twitter (@aaaamelita) and SoundCloud (soundcloud.com/aaaamelita) accounts, both of which will most likely be cited either as a) her first ventures into a wildly successful comedy career or b) her first ventures into a wild descent into madness or c) a little bit of both.

Amelita Lijek About Amelita Lijek

Born and raised in a Boston suburb, Amelita is heart-breakingly Boston-accent deficient. This deficiency, among many others, has driven her survival instinct to find the humor in all things, even if they are not cat-related. An avid writer, tweeter, and sleep-enthusiast, Amelita can be found regularly cavorting around New York City improving (IM-prah-ving), sketch writing, and seeking out free samples and Wifi (WHY-fy). She also has carefully cultivated Twitter (@aaaamelita) and SoundCloud (soundcloud.com/aaaamelita) accounts, both of which will most likely be cited either as a) her first ventures into a wildly successful comedy career or b) her first ventures into a wild descent into madness or c) a little bit of both.

Smiles For All