Stunt Writing Day 2: Of flowers and flâneurs

It’s noon. I’m just starting my 30-minute writings after a 35-40 minute walk, and some much-needed cool-down in front of a fan.

Tomorrow, I think I may just jump into the pool after my walk!

One of the many flowers seen on my walk today.

Here’s a list of things that I took with me today:

  • Sunglasses (the rain has stopped, and SoCal is back to its usual sunny self!)
  • Aluminum water bottle (heat + exercise = thirst)
  • Trusty Fitbit Zip (to track my steps – I got up to 4,581 today)
  • My “smart”phone (it is seriously one of the dumbest models on the market – if you can even still purchase one like it… I can’t even get it to upload pictures I take to the Internet, and it was a terrible struggle just to get it to email me my own images)
  • Neon yellow notebook + pink pen (for taking notes, of course!)
  • Print copy of my book, San Diego from A to Z, which I intended to proof poolside (I’ll have to remember to do this tomorrow, before I jump in!)

Today I was pondering the line between communication and creepiness, as I met several fellow humans out on my walk.

The first was an elderly woman with a walker loaded down with all kinds of baggage. She said hello as we passed, so I replied with a “Good morning!”

The second woman I passed on my walk smiled, so I returned the favor.

The third woman seemed intent on ignoring me, despite my smile, so I followed suit. At least she didn’t plow right into me, right?

Another flower from my walk. Any nature lovers know what either of these are called?
Another flower from my walk – possibly a bluebonnet. Any nature lovers know what either of these are called?

Out on my walks, I’m not entirely sure what persona I am playing. Having previously been a more dedicated walker at different times in my life, I know there are a few “types” out there. Some of them are:

  • The Dedicated Exerciser – does not want to be disturbed, usually has headphones in, and is strutting to a set rhythm
  • The Ambler – out for a stroll, no headphones, observing the world around them and usually says “hello” or “good morning” as you pass
  • The Smoker – similar to the Ambler, the Smoker is strolling more casually, usually only to have something to do whilst smoking
  • The Cell Phone Talker – like the Smoker, the Cell Phone Talker is walking while talking, and the exercise is not the important part; s/he may simply be pacing back and forth, or actually walking aimlessly – these people can also look like Insane People Talking To Themselves, particularly when using bluetooth headsets (always creepy)
  • The Dog Walker – whether sporting one or many dogs on leashes (and sometimes without!) the Dog Walker can be a retiree, a professional, or just a pet owner out for a stroll with their dog, though these types can be further subdivided into the Dog Walkers On A Mission (usually to get to a park) or the Pooper Scoopers (simply taking the dog out to do its business, then get back to their own)
  • The Weirdo – there are, unfortunately, more weirdos in my current neighborhood that I would like, mostly because I can’t quite figure out whether they are the harmless weirdos or the ones that will set upon you with furious unprovoked anger.

Let’s explore one of these Weirdos in more detail.

The first one I think of, from my current neighborhood, is the Cat Walker. Cats do not, generally, like to go out for walks on a leash as dogs do. Some people may claim to have trained their cats to do so, though if you can truly train a cat to do anything aside from eat at a set time daily, I think you may actually own a dog trapped in a cat’s body. The Cat Walker is the type of weirdo that strikes me as mentally unstable. I’m not sure if he is clinically diagnosed (there is, after all, a mental health facility nearby), but the look in his eye when you pass him suggests he is either about to veer over and talk at you nonstop or possibly throttle you.

When I see him, I typically steer clear. I do not want to talk to the Cat Walker.

My husband says he has seen him with his cat, asking people if they want to pet the cat. Since, as I said before, cats do not typically walk on a leash, the fact that he is carrying his cat around our apartment complex is decidedly odd.

The Cat Walker may be utterly harmless, but I still have no desire to pet his cat or talk to him. I don’t want to give him the impression that I am friendly, because many people (men, specifically) seem inclined to purposely mistake friendliness for flirtiness, and I am quite tired of that stupid argument. Also, petting a stranger’s cat seems suggestive in and of itself. (I’m an erotica writer; let’s not play dumb here, okay?)

Don't pet this pussy! "Nasty cat!" image by Flickr user Hannibal Poenaru
Don’t pet this pussy! “Nasty cat!” image by Flickr user Hannibal Poenaru

But to get back to some of the types I was mentioning earlier, I do wonder which type I fall under. Am I the Exerciser? Not really. I tend to walk at a pretty quick pace when alone, but I’m not speed-walking. I am still too fast to be considered an Ambler, for the most part, although I am seeking some observations.

I think the best category for me is Flâneur.

A Flâneur is a stroller, a lounger, a loafer. But a Flâneur is also someone in search of specific experiences while strolling; the Flâneur is not simply wasting time, but soaking up her surroundings.

As Wikipedia notes, quoting Baudelaire (from ‘The Painter of Modern Life,” originally published in Le Figaro, in 1863):

The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world […] The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family […] Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life.

So here is a (near) haiku I wrote in praise of the Flâneur:


ambling languidly
observing passionately
transcribing memories


What kind of walker are you?