Saturday, January 15, 2011

Boléro Walking

Feature Entry: Boléro Walking

The MoneyWalkers just attended the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra’s January 2011 “Pan-American Life Fiesta Sinfónica: Boléro.” Boléro is the masterpiece of Maurice Ravel. Bravo! Bravo! The MoneyWalker really wanted to add Ravel to his emerging MoneyWalkers’ Hall of Fame, but alas, I can’t find evidence that Ravel was a walker unless you count the walking from his apartment to the bordellos of Paris.

Ravel’s great composition first captivated my attention as the musical background for Blake Edward’s 1979 blockbuster movie starring Bo Derek and Dudley Moore. Who could forget Henry Mancini’s version of Boléro and Bo’s beach scenes with her corn row hair style.

So what is Boléro Walking? It borrows from the Boléro style: “…the insistent repetition of a single melody of slightly irregular phrasing..Its magic is almost childishly simple: repeating the melody, changing the instrumentation, gradually increasing the volume, and adding more instruments.” Boléro walking then is simple walking that varies the pace and rhythm of the walking style. As the walk continues, the walker varies the pace from slow to medium, and then to fast. As the pace increases, the arm and hip action is more pronounced and forceful. In this phase, the walker is nearly running and invites fatigue. Then the walker changes back to a slower pace and repeats the escalation.

If you are a discerning reader, Boléro Walking may sound similar to Fartlek Walking. If so, go to the head of the class. Fartlek is a Swedish term meaning 'speed play'. Says Graham Foster: “Walk for a while at a moderate pace, then at a brisk pace and then at a fast pace. Then drop back to a moderate pace (recovery period) to get your breath back before perhaps injecting either another period of brisk or fast pace.”

So what is the basic difference between Boléro Walking and Fartlek walking other than the awkward Swedish pronunciation? Boléro walking helps you to look like Bo Derek. Was Bo Swedish?


Journal Entries:

January 15, 2011: Weight = 174.6 lbs; Coinage =$2.40, 50 pennies (a six coin penny dump), 3 nickels, 5 dimes, 1 quarter, 1 one dollar bill; glass bottles = 5; ground scores =7.

1/13/2011: Weight = 177.0 lbs; 45 pennies, 3 nickels, 5 dimes, 2 quarters; glass bottles = 9; ground scores 7.

1/10/11: Weight = 177.4 lbs; Coinage = $1.52; glass bottles = 13; ground score = 4.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Discovering Unknown ‘Egdon Heaths’ During the Urban Walk

Photo by John Allen

Feature Blog: Discovering Unknown ‘Egdon Heaths’ During the Urban Walk

A heath is a tract of uncultivated, open land with infertile soil covered with rough grasses, small bushes, and low growing evergreen plants known as heather. The Egdon Heath in Thomas Hardy’s classic The Return of the Native is so central to the plot that some literary critics consider it as a character rather than a plot device.

Heaths are not usually considered aesthetically worthy and Egdon Heath is no exception; but for Hardy, Egdon Heath became an acquired taste: “Men have oftener suffered from the mockery of a place too smiling for their reason than from the oppression of surroundings oversadly tinged. Haggard Egdon appealed to a subtler and scarcer instinct, to a more recently learnt emotion, than that which respond to the sort of beauty called charming and fair.”

One of the pleasures of extensive time periods away from one’s main abode is the increased opportunities for guilt-free walking and reading. At home, somehow our middle class value system is disturbed if we are not actively engaged in productive activity. But away from home as in the case of the MoneyWalkers since December 19, instincts can take a vacation away from such guilt ridden annoying thoughts.

On this morning’s walk, three situations aligned to define the content of this blog. One was a one-mile walk to a local coffee shop for a 30 minute session will Hardy’s classic book. Two, was a detour through an urban icon so large as to require two high rise parking garages and acres of ground-level parking—the end point for one of the D.C. Metro subway routes. And three, was the discovery of an urban heath.

What follows is the confluence. From our townhouse it is 300 yards to the Metro terminal. Always looking for coins, I checked the base of each of about 10 parking pay meters. Right off, a three quarter scatter at the base of one of the meters. On to the newspaper vending machines, about 20 in all; nothing, not even a stray penny. Then thru the walk-way over I-66 and another set of parking opportunities, this one with a row of six pay phone booths. Eureka, one of them yielded 2 quarters in the return. Then on to McDonalds for coffee and Hardy.

The main way was not the shortest way. The MoneyWalker played a hunch and cut through a townhouse complex only to dead-end at a bank that appeared to lead to a creek. A quick inspection revealed a trail that had promise. And there it was an urban heather. A meandering stream dividing scrubby trees and vines paralyzed by winter’s wrath. The trail held true and delivered me to within a few blocks of the McDonalds.

With the full attention necessary to read Hardy available, and with a senior discounted cup of decaf coffee, the next 30 minutes was used reading about Clym Yeobright’s return to Egdon Heath to pursue his dreams of romance and service to mankind.

For me the lesson was not to be afraid to get off of the familiar pathways, the ones that are “charming and fair.” To occasionally seek the heaths of the off-tracks is where I will find rich seasonings for my walks. Nearly ever urban area has hidden heaths, it is just a matter of being open to unpredictable kinetic experiences.

Oh yes, I found another quarter on the way back home.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Festina Lente – "Make Haste Slowly!"

Photo curtesy of Pamela B. Thomas

January 4, 2011
Feature Entry: Festina Lente – "Make Haste Slowly!"

Since December 19, 2010, the MoneyWalker has been in Vienna, VA, a tony suburb of Washington, D.C. Without a set of digital scales to provide daily accountability, I shudder to think what is facing me back in New Orleans, especially given all the rich food that has been available. Moreover, we have consumed three full meals a day for the duration.

We are in Vienna assisting our son and daughter-law with the birth of their new son, Paxton Tong Eason—grandchild number five. All are well and we will be returning to New Orleans soon.

Every day but one, the MoneyWalker did muster the gumption to take long walks, even during the snow storm that blew thru. Many of the walks did result in large coinage finds and interesting if not valuable ground scores. Because this is a very “green” city, few glass bottles were found on the streets and by-ways.

However, today’s five miler yielded only two pennies and a slightly scuffed baseball; but it was perhaps my favorite walk. As frequent readers know too well, motivation provides the most serious threat to my health/weight loss habit of taking daily 90 minute walks. I am just not that reflective in terms of using the walk to calibrate my emotional capital, and I find neighborhood scenery to become stale after just a few repetitious walks.

These musings bring me to today’s featured thought, Festina lente – "make haste slowly." As mentioned above, Vienna, VA is a beautiful small city nestled up against the Potomac River. On today’s walk, rather than zoom, I took a more leisurely pace. The goal was to walk to the Church Street Thrift Store, an old school charitable enterprise totally run by volunteer parishioners from the Vienna Presbyterian Church across the street, beautiful in its classic architecture, with cupola and white paint.

Along the way, I meandered off course and found old Vienna. The neighborhood featured large formal old homes with Victorian fronts, verandas, hidden gardens, and very spacious. These were millionaires' homes of yesterday when a million was worth something. Along one long street more than a dozen of these gems have been totally restored by today’s multi-millionaires.

The thrift store was a winner. I bought five music cassette tapes for .25, great for the long car ride back to New Orleans; a new Harley Davidson motorcycle cap (brand new, still had price tag) for .75; a paperback copy of The return of the Native, Chapter One has a great walking scene; a DVD starting George C. Scott in the movie Jane Eyre (3.00), probably not as good as Patton; also for $1.00 I found a well crafted hand carved mallard for my duck collection.

I then treated myself to a cup of decaf java in the trendy coffee shop across the street. In the management dictated thirty minutes of allotted reading time, I was able to get through several chapters of Hardy’s classic novel. But the 30 minutes was about all of the time I had for disciplined focusing anyway.

The MoneyWalker takes pride in being a “zoomer,” he is rarely passed by other pedestrians. Today, rookies were passing me left and right. But not to worry, exercise science has shown that weather you zoom a mile in 15 minutes, or saunter for 25 minutes, or even jog it in 9 minutes, the caloric count is all the same, about 100 calories a mile.

So if you want a new source of motivation for your walking habit, try Festina lente – "make haste slowly." It is a wonderful world out there. Sometimes it pays to slow down and enjoy it.

And Happy New Year!