Feb 27, 2012

Cracks in the Sidewalk

"You know a lot of people consider skateboarding a dumb thing to do. But to me skateboarding made me reassess everything I did. If it was raining, I was bummed, because I couldn't skate. If I was looking at a street, I'd think that'd be a great ride, I'd be checking the sidewalks to see how many cracks it had. If I saw a curb, or a drainage ditch, I'd stop the car to go back and see if it was something skateable. All I was looking for was lines, all the time." Ian MacKaye, Fugazi
Six weeks ago I broke the third metatarsal bone in my left foot (tripping on a crack in the sidewalk), leaving me in a cast for that whole time. I just took the cast off on Friday, and only today feel semi-confident walking around. As a result,  my whole perspective on the city I live in changed.  Getting around was at best a hassle and at worst almost impossible.  Every interaction required forethought and planning - too much. Walking down the street required me to be much more alert - looking for the cracks, studying the slopes of the curbs, routing around drainage ditches, pulling aside to let people pass me. I studied the weather reports obsessively, down to the hour, trying to divine when rain would result in a wet cast or the inability to get a taxi.  I clustered meetings around each other to avoid having to travel, and had to bake in a ton of extra time to get around.  I couldn't carry my backpack because of the extra weight so I loaded my jacket pockets with whatever I needed, pared down to the essentials (Naproxen and an extra Ace bandage).  Most importantly, I left my headphones behind and for the first time in a long time travelled around without music blasting.

In all, as I struggled to get around, I was barely focused on the destination where I was going.  Instead, all the mattered was the path, the way I got there. I got intensely, obsessively and annoyingly focused on the minutiae of daily planning. When I got someplace I had the sense of satisfaction with just making it there, on time, without more injury.  The journey became way more important than the end result.  

The 1960s activist/improv group the Diggers used to have this thing called the Free Frame of Reference - a giant picture frame people would have to walk through to get to the servings of free food in Golden Gate Park that the group offered.  The idea was that through this exercise people "were literally changing the frame of their reference, they were themselves actors in the show and by changing their minds could thereby change the world."

Today I finally got to put my headphones back on (loud) and turned off the rest of the city as I hobbled into work, and it was great. I've always believed that it doesn't matter where you start in the world, what matters is where you end up.  It's just that I'm thinking now that the cracks in the sidewalk are the more vital frames of reference that guide that journey.

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