Monday, January 11, 2010


Now, this sounds a whole lot more simple than it actually is. Hmmmm. I'm thinking this might work better if I change the tip . . . .

That's better. I just had a flashback to my assistant principal days, and I remembered there was really never a proper moment to just take a walk. Sometimes, I would walk the perimeter of the building with the intent of clearing my mind, and then I'd inevitably run into the lovely little couple sneaking kisses next to the soda machines or the teacher running out to his car "just real quick" while his kids monitored themselves (poorly). So, walk always turned to work. Fights were actually the best time for a quiet stroll. I always went after the runner (i.e. the emotional boy who ran because he actually wanted to cry). And I'd just catch up and walk with them in silence until they ran out of steam and started to talk. Incidentally, it's one of the best therapies for junior high kids. Walking and talking. Where was I?

So, yes, "changing your scenery" is an easier term to swallow. And doing it is so much more necessary than I realized. I always talk about going for a walk at work, but the other day, I just quit the jabbering and did it. I put on my coat, said, "I'll be back," and headed for the elevators. I was just tired of staring at numbers, tired of the sound of the heater and the phones, and a cup of coffee just wasn't going to do it that day. I'm not going to lie and tell you the minute I stepped outside, the fresh air rejuvenated me. It didn't happen that way. I work in downtown Houston, so the first thing I noticed when I stepped out into the sunlight a la Ponyboy Curtis was the rank smell of pee. Not urine. Urine is in hospitals. Pee is what people do in places they shouldn't. "I peed my pants." Get it? So, yes, cold, pee-smelling air. Definitely a change of scenery.

But I walked on, and I knew where I was headed. There's the Christ Church Cathedral across Fannin from my office, so I headed down Texas meaning to go sit in the courtyard below.
Lovely, isn't it? We have lunch here some Thursdays. A local restaurant, Treebeards, sets up a satellite restaurant there throughout the week, and it's a big hit.

I didn't sit because it was too cold, and I'd only been walking for 47 seconds at that point. So, I moved along. A turn around the next corner brought me to Prairie, and soon I was in sight of this. Zoom in and you'll see the Hubcap Grill - lauded as one of the best burger joints in town. We've been. Being a burger connoisseur, I'll concede they make some pretty damned good burgers, but the drink selection sucks. They don't make ice. What you get is a bottle or can of whatever, and that doesn't work for me. Also, there are maybe three tables - plastic - with plastic chairs. And two of them are outside. The other one is in what I can best describe as a lean-to. Your best bet is to call it in and pick it up. I'm not really eating burgers right now, so I moved along.

I don't have a shot of the next scene because I couldn't have gotten away with snapping photos of strangers talking, so I just walked slowly and listened while an electrician explained to someone who had asked him for directions how to get to I-45. Made me laugh. We are the direction-givingest people on the planet, us Houstonians. Contrary to what you may hear, most people in Houston are pretty friendly. If we meet you on the street, most of us smile. If we meet you on a freeway during rush hour traffic, we smile as we cut you off. A friendly lot. A wot. Wot-wot. (I won't explain that one. You know it or you don't)

The next scene was a downtown resident who had his sweatpants rolled up to his knees and who obviously felt a chill, so he stopped to unroll them and to tuck in the most wrinkled tee-shirt I've ever seen before he walked into Molly's Pub. I smiled at the clerk in the cigar shop as I passed him, glared at no one in particular as I passed the worst Italian restaurant in Houston, located uselessly in my building and back to the elevators I went. Took me 10 minutes tops.

Did it it work? Yes, and I'll tell you why. I didn't go for a walk to ponder my life and ruminate on a colossal problem. I didn't go it because I needed to be alone or because if I didn't, someone in the office was going to die a brutal, bloody death at my hands, I did it just because my eyes were tired of seeing the same thing, and my legs were restless.

There's a bookstore four blocks from my office and a Starbucks across the street from that. Tomorrow's scenery has already improved and it wasn't even trying . . .