Friday, May 11, 2018

I love my 'hood

A friend, a woman I went to college with, offered me her Brooklyn brownstone as a place to interview my subject for the new book I'm working on. Our first interview was in a Greek diner, and while we did okay, we're going to have to wade very deep into her stories to accomplish a manuscript of 75K words, so we will need a bit more privacy. For various reasons her home is not an option. I thought of inviting her to my home for our interviews, but people I know who do this work insist I shouldn't do that. It blurs an essential line, they say.

In any case, my subject lives in Brooklyn, and it would be a hassle for her to have to travel all the way to Harlem each time we meet. I need to maintain a low barrier for entry, making things as easy as possible for her, so she doesn't get spooked by the intimacy and invasiveness of this process. My last subject, whose book will be out in August, had no trust issues at all. She dived into the deep end, holding back nothing, believing I would know how to frame her stories. She also knew she would get to read the manuscript before anyone else, and that she could make any edits she needed to feel comfortable. After all, it's her book. In the end, she was fearless. I think it has to do with the fact that the very worst day of her life had already happened, her son was killed, and if she could survive that, she could survive it all. Her agent noted that she was his only client who signed off every call with, "Bye! Love you!" And if you said it first (because we totally loved her by the end), she would chime in, "Love you more!"

Anyway, the woman who offered me her brownstone in Brooklyn as a place to conduct interviews works down the street from me at our alma mater, Barnard College. Two days ago I gratefully went to her office to pick up her keys. It was so strange to be on the campus with so much changed, and so much still the same. The sleek glass towers are all new. The baroque brick and stone buildings, colonized by ivy, are exactly the same as I remember. And yet, when I pictured myself in that place, even though I still live in the neighborhood, it felt like another life.

I went out to dinner last night with one of my former colleagues, who is also a dear friend. She and I were both deputy editors at the magazine, and we both got laid off a few months apart in 2013. We agreed that even though our editor in chief didn't do right by us, being laid off turned out to be a gift for each of us in different ways. I don't feel the sting of it anymore. I can now understand with more than my intellect that it wasn't personal: cutting the deputy editor role was a cost saving measure in a season of austerity. I do hope my new equanimity is not because the woman who laid me off was herself laid off last month. I want to think I am bigger than the secret sense of validation I felt at the news. But maybe I'm not, even though I know what she's going through right now and don't wish that on anyone. Anyway, it was good to see my friend, who lives in Washington DC but was in town to do some reporting for a story she's working on.

I've been doing a bit more walking lately, striding resolutely through the pain. What's different is that I found shoes that actually make walking easier for me. They sort of pitch me back onto my heels, changing my whole posture, and they are well cushioned, so that the motion of putting down each foot doesn't jar my already jarred joint structure. The shoes are sandals, so I couldn't wait till it got warm enough for me to start wearing them again. They're ridiculously expensive, yet I'm considering ordering a couple more pairs, just to have them on standby. As for my walks, they're a modest notion compared to our marathon walker Mary Moon, but I'm strolling around the neighborhood, logging steps, distance, time, elevation, and even my average heart rate on my Apple Watch, because the other day my husband showed me its very cool workout mode, which I find to be a rather motivating feature. And on my walks I take pictures. Like Steve Reed. See? My blog pals inspire me!







17 comments:

  1. Your amazing pictures make me miss New York even more! It IS true that photography can be a health regimen, given all the walking it requires, although Mary is putting me to shame these days. Here's hoping the additional photo opportunities help and motivate you!

    Finding a good space for an interview is so essential. Bravo to your friend for offering her brownstone! I hope your subject will go deeper on her stories and delve into what you need for the book.

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  2. I would love to walk and talk with you in your 'hood. Walking with a friend is one of my favorite things in life. Beginning in high school, I began to take long walks with friends. Before that I walked alone or with our family's small dog. I'd been exploring the world around me on foot since I was a child. Although I don't think of either of my parents as walkers, my father commuted to work in San Francisco on a train from 1957 to 1974 but would walk at least a mile in the early morning from the train station to where he worked in downtown San Francisco and then walk back to the train station in the evening.

    As teenagers, we would start from our homes and end up miles away, outside the city limits of the suburbs on the San Francisco Peninsula. Walking is the way I am most comfortable socializing, although I have walked alone more often than I have walked with other people.

    There is a wonderful book by Rebecca Solnit called Wanderlust: A History of Walking. I learned about it some years ago from a blog friend who lives in England and has a walking practice. Rebecca Solnit's book explores the history of walking, from spiritual pilgrimages to the acts of civil disobedience during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She lives in San Francisco and much of her walking is city walking. She, like me, began walking as a child because it felt safer than being at home.

    Thank you once again for sharing your photos and your life. Of this series of photos, my favorite is the one with the three benches and vitality of spring growth.

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  3. Your neighborhood is just beautiful. I must confess to location envy.

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  4. Is it odd that I only like to walk alone? I don't want to talk to anyone when I'm walking. For me, it is not a time to socialize at all but simply to be. To be walking. And I want to walk fast enough so that talking may not actually be easy to do. And most of all, I don't want to have to adjust my pace either up or down for anyone else. Now this is not "taking a walk" which is different and which I like to do sometimes with others. A stroll, an amble, a time to talk. Two different things.
    Your photos are so gorgeous. They are RICH! Rich in color, rich in texture. I feel as if you are able to capture what your heart sees. As much as I try, I am not good at that.
    And your portraits- because if that's not a portrait of your former colleague, I don't know what a portrait is. What a spectacular presence she has!
    Don't you love how we all, in this community, inspire and inform and teach each other? I do. I really do.

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  5. I'd never given thought to the need for a suitable place in which to hold extended interviews, but now it seems obvious. I'm glad you've found such a place for this person and you.

    Lovely photos and I'm so glad you've found a way to make walking more comfortable. And congratulations on your impressive weight loss, which you mentioned in a previous post - well done!

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  6. Please give us the name of the sandal! I have plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, and would LOVE a good shoe!

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    1. Catarina, the shoes are made by Finn Comfort. Nordstrom carries them. Finn Comfort makes several styles, and I ordered three and returned them before I found the one that was perfect for me. But I kept going because I figured out pretty quickly that its ergonomic sole was working for me. The one I finally settled on is called the "Finnamic Samara Walking Sandal." Good luck!

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    2. Thanks! Going to their website now....

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  7. So many beautiful spots in the city! Mary is right about the richness of your pictures.
    Xoxo
    Barbara

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  8. Ms. Moon has been inspiring me to walk as well:)

    You take beautiful photos.

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  9. Your photos of beauty are exceptional! I would love your hood! My goal is to walk soon, with vigor, keep up with y'all... healing still but have been given permission to only wear the neck jail when out in public, just to establish my "space". Good job, Ms. Walker!!!

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  10. I love everything about you, I hope to meet you one day and get books of yours autographed. I want to see your beautiful face, skin like butter and silvery hair (my vote). I want to hear your voice which I imagine you might speak with a little accent. You are so smart and so worldly and classy. I admire you greatly. Congratulations on all your success and having a brilliantly beautiful and good family. And teaching me stuff I might not have ever known. I think I am responding to several of your posts at once here. Thanks for the shoe reco, I always have plantar fasciitis and so my walking great distances fast. I’m going to check them out. I’m curious if you tried the athletic shoe types. And your writing and your photos. What can’t you do well??? Joanne

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  11. I love those photos. I have never been to New York, and probably never will.....nice to see the hidden corners. My favourite is the tree branches and ferns beneath. It looks cool....(in a temperature sense !!). I do lots of walking with the dog, twice a day.....most days I exceed 10,000 steps!

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  12. Your hood is awesome! I love NY in the spring. I love the spring anywhere actually. Is it because we're spring babies I wonder? What a great gift that is, a brownstone in Brooklyn to work from! XXOO

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  13. I love seeing these photos! You make me miss New York. I'm really looking forward to hearing more about the new book. Your passion for writing and editing is so inspiring. Keep on walkin'!

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  14. Fabulous photos! I would love your 'hood, too. Good for you on the walking and the new shoes.

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  15. This made me smile! I wish I lived nearby to go on your walks with you. And I'm still hoping that CBD could help you with your joint pain.

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