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Kyle on The Walk
Culture has embraced isolationism. But is it good — or is it bad?
In 2020, Emily and I developed a habit of indulging in nothingness. Overwhelmed by the looming cataclysm that was a defining characteristic of that time—we decided to try out never leaving the apartment. A forced, total unplugging from society was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Our apartment became a much needed respite from life’s interpersonal relationship craziness. Most days a “hello” from a neighbor or an argument heard over a shared wall was the only organic human contact we’d get. I was fully relaxed for the first time in what felt like years! But even Thoreau needed to venture out to obtain his pumpkin—so on Saturday mornings we’d take The Walk: a two mile jaunt to the farmer’s market for a little breakfast, some exercise, and a permissible bit of human aromatics to spice up the week.
On The Walk, we’d pass churches and houses, long lanes of parked SUVs and corners with discarded IKEA dressers and cardboard boxes of free mugs, stationery, or books.
In the suburbs, we wouldn’t pass many people. These days, the Minimalists are boarded up: too busy jettisoning possessions and scrubbing white their floorboards and tile.
Nearer to the market, nearer downtown, and all at once, the city would come alive with buskers and buyers, haves and have-nots, moochers and merchants, dogs and non-dogs.
We’d pick up baked goods from Starter Bakery: a quiche and a vanilla bean scone.
Then, hungry for food and exhausted of civilization, we’d take the goods to a nearby parking lot to eat in perfect social distance.
We’d drink coffee from a packed thermos (or eat kibble from a packed Ziploc) and talk about election cycles or family drama, comment on the graffiti, pigeons, blue skies, or the magnificent clarity of complete loneliness.
Week after week, we marveled at the tenacity of Oakland’s balmy weather and the tirelessness of having relatively little new to talk about. Life is most true, when it dresses elegantly and speaks plainly.
But the ritual of The Walk couldn’t last more than 50 repeated times, so recently we’ve invited some friends. Our year of rest and relaxation is coming to an end.
It’s OK. We’ll adjust.
To our wonder, our year of deprivation has subsumed and exceeded the need for physical relationships. Life got simpler, the pace more consistent. All non-apartment entities who marched to a different drum no longer bore down on us with their loud, intolerable other-tempo walking. For a year, nobody led us nowhere—which was nothing, which was everything.
Like the spooky alleyway stranger in Disney’s Aladdin tautologized about the Genie’s lamp, “it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts.”
Which was his little way of reminding us that the G had magic in there so we can reasonably assume he crafted himself a pretty good situation in that unassuming lamp. It was the late night Arabian merchant’s way of arguing that the G probably outfitted himself a Peloton and set up a slick ring light for video calls so maybe we shouldn’t be so hasty to overlay present day values onto what could be a pretty good situation for a teapot wizard living in 500 B.C.
As Emily and I anticipate getting our phenomenal cosmic powers re-awakened, I’m intimidated by the task of integrating our 2020 story into whatever comes next. So I’ll leave it at the thing you will understand: The Walk. In the words of Thoreau: “If you are ready to leave father and mother, (…) wife and child and friends, and never see them again, (…) then you are ready for a walk.” Lesson learned, David!
Thanks for reading this edition of Kyle-on-Kyle. Until next time, the Kyle walks on.