There is a global pandemic, and we are, largely, sheltered in place. We had a fitness plan at 24-Hour Fitness near us, but that closed half a year ago. That was a hard hit because my son worked there before the pandemic. Travel to places such as Japan from California are on hold.
But we still have walking.
I revisited this site because my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge book is called Blogged Down, and it is largely based on blogging. This is not my longest blog, nor is it my oldest blog, but it is, in many ways, one of my most-loved blogs. It’s one that makes me happy and hopeful and nostalgic and wistful. The last entry was 2014. Prior to that I had neglected this old friend since 2011. So if not the oldest, it is definitely the blog that I have had alive and running longest. I hope not to leave it for six more years until the next entry, but part of the book I am working on is about how things lead to things while other things don’t get done. I am here now, and I love the feel of this place.
2020 has not been a kind year to most of us. My sister died of cancer on February 2nd, the day between my birthday and my brother’s. A few months back my high school best friend died (multiple cancers, not Covid-19). The pandemic is spiking, and keeping in shape in southern California amongst “the young invincibles” wandering around without masks is a challenge.
There is always running. When I water the roses early morning, the familiar runners pound by with fierce determination. When I walk the dog in the evening, the late crew is out running along the bike lane in the street. I have not run since the 1980’s. But I do still walk. Mainly I catch Pokemon.
Our friend Keith worked with Niantic (then a Google Project company) when they designed Ingress, a phone-app game that leveraged key locations (a mural in Venice, a Santa Monica church, Johnnies Pastrami in Culver City) plotted on the Google Maps backbone. It was (and still is) an game of blue Vs. green area domination, and it set up a global base for Pokemon GO (and later The Wizarding World of Harry Potter). For me Ingress was fun, though the options were limited. Harry Potter feels like work to me. Pokemon GO is just right, and I’ve been playing Pokemon since Red, Green, Yellow came out on the original GameBoy. I played the TCG with the kids,, and I’ve seen many of the shows and movies. On my Canvas site, which hosts the discussion boards and some other things in my online classes, my avatar is a member of the Squirtle Squad (not the leader).
The game is simple. You walk around, find Poke Stops (which you spin on your phone’s screen to get poke balls and potions and berries and gifts), and you spot Pokemon which you try to catch by lobbing (or curving) those poke balls at them. There’s more to it, but as in the show you “Gotta Catch ’em All!” There aer a lot of them, and with my maxed-out character my main goal is to fill my pokedex and find the rare and coveted shinies.
Early stories about the game, which launched July 6, 2016, told of players so fixated by their smartphone screens as they searched for Pokemon that they routinely walked into lamp posts or off the curb into oncoming traffic or even off cliffs.
I can see that happening.
The game also spawned a series of funny gifs and memes that showed out-of-shape youngsters turning into strapping, buff youths as they left their TV and computer screens, got up off their collective duff, and embraced walking, and lots of it.
Well, I don’t seem to have turned into the After photo after walking with my phone the past five years, but it may be doing me some good, and it is fun, and it is another thing I share with my daughter, now working on her PhD in Florida.
I am not walking Japan’s eastern coast road. I do still hope to some day. Time is a tricky thing. I did not imagine six years had passed since I last posted here, for example.
Sometimes, though, my Pokemon quest takes me along California’s coast road, especially along the Santa Monica strand between Shutters on the Beach and The Santa Monica Pier. Early mornings the strand is not too terribly crowded. Before sunrise the air is crisp and chilly, and the lights of the Pier’s famous Ferris wheel spin and shift in a pretty LED dance (eco-powered by solar arrays and batteries). The pier itself is a favorite spot for Pokemon GO enthusiasts, who walk the timbers stretching out into the sea where the air smells of salt and ozone (which actually isn’t ozone at all; the ocean actually absorbs much of the world’s ozone; that seaside smell comes from dimethyl sulphide, or DMS, but I prefer to hang onto the myth that it’s health-inducing ozone). Simply, it smells like much of my childhood, the childhood where Pacific Ocean Park stood on this very pier, where surfers and Z-Boys zipped along waves and sidewalks.
It is all still there. Maybe not the running. But there’s the walking, and Tokaido is still there, and life is still here to be lived.
And just maybe even to be written about. And shared. With whomever stops by to visit my blog.