February 26th, 2008


Yesterday the sum total of my accomplishments was: I went for a walk. And now I have some thoughts about sidewalks.

There seems to be some kind of rule that the contractors who put in the sidewalks have to stamp them with their name and the year the work was done. Most of the sidewalks I trod yesterday were poured in the last twenty years, but I did cross more than one patch roughly my own age. I stopped to confirm the date on one square: 1928. We’ve had sidewalks a long time.

As a kid, I was extremely opinionated about sidewalks. I approved of them and wished my suburban neighborhood had them. I reveled in them when I visited my grandparents in Illinois (also in the lack of backyard fences!). I liked that they were smooth and appropriate for roller-skating, much better than the gravelly gutters I had to work with. I also approved of flat driveways. I liked large slabs better than small squares for the smoothness of the rolling ride, not knowing anything about how concrete needs room to expand and contract lest it become cracked, crumbly, weed-infested, and useless for all wheel surfaces. Drainage, smainage.

When I went to college, walking became my primary method of getting from place to place for the first time. (See: suburban childhood, under subheading station wagon.) At this point, I began to wonder what it was that was so great about concrete. How about walking on grass? Much nicer to the feet, green, shock-absorbent, oxygen producing… I apparently had not noticed that grass can’t seem to hold up to regular traffic, develops ruts, mud, brown slippery paths of doom.

Yesterday, I noticed many shades of gray. I noticed textures from silky to ribbed to bumpy.

I like the sidewalks with kids’ handprints best.

Maybe I should have gone for a walk instead of typing this out today?