Staring into space today. No thoughts, just a calm numbness in which time is wasted. Cannot focus on one thing over another. Presently I am processing 3 stramble videos from the past days. Stramble? you ask? A word I coined combining stroll and ramble, words I don’t particularly like as far as describing my long walks. Stroll sounds pompous and entitled, ramble too directionless, although many of my long walks could be characterized as that.
Sometimes I ask, what am I walking to, or from? What am I walking off? What do the hours, often spent in silence, even mean?
I see other walkers, people like me who seem to amble about at varying levels of determination and/or desultory nonchalance. But those folks seem addled, troubled, disturbed either in their own natural state or under some kind of influence.
One woman I’ve seen countless times, enough to be certain that she recognizes me, too. I see her everywhere in Astoria, from 19th Avenue down to Queens Plaza, from Vernon Boulevard over to Hazen Street.
Yesterday I spotted her a little outside of the Astoria realm, at the three way intersection of Northern Boulevard, Broadway, and 54th Street, an intersection I reckon is the southeast corner of Astoria. In her characteristically determined gait it appeared she was marching onward along 54th Street toward Woodside.
She unquestionably did a double take upon seeing me at what is the farthest-afield spot we’ve crossed paths. We made eye contact. I had the thought, as I often have, that given her earnest and determined appearance I think one day she will just walk right up to me and “Who the hell are you? Why do I see you walking everywhere? Where the hell are you going?” Or maybe she’ll accuse me of following her, which I have in fact tried to do but it’s just not possible to do so undetected by her. I just want to know who she is. That is all.
If she ever confronted me about where the hell I am going my response would be “Back at’cha. Where the hell are you going?”
One time she shot me a smile when we crossed paths 3 or 4 times in a single day. I think she is aware of her profile, aware that people like me take note of her, and think of her as a genuine Astoria character. I just hope she’s OK under all that pedestrian theater.
She will sometimes walk very briskly, almost running, and then she’ll stop cold in her tracks. She’ll turn around, maybe show a bit of a grimace, then turn around again and look purposeful in her movement, like she has places to go. Once in a while I hear her shout something at individuals who seem to be familiar with her. The words she shouts do not sound like English but it’s hard to be sure.
I am certain people around here make similar observations of me. I stop in my tracks, look around, decide which way to go or which way not to go. But I don’t think I look as obviously distressed as she.
I have been a purposeful walker since grade school, when a girl asked me where I was going all the time as I strambled around the campus. She said “You look purposeful, like you have somewhere to go.” I was just looking busy, looking important, like I had too much to do to be talking to her or the other girls who hung out at the school after classes ended. Some things never change.
Yesterday had me back in Flushing, then on to the Bronx, where some payphone hunting turned up nothing but a single yellow mat where a payphone used to stand. The yellow mats may or may not signal that a LinkNYC kiosk will eventually replace the removed phone. The status of LinkNYC seems, from this outsider’s perspective, uncertain. Removals now are not even being replaced with yellow mats, perhaps indicating that no kiosk will be placed.
I discovered the crypt buildings at St. Raymond’s Cemetery. I had never entered those structures.
I also changed how I do the stramble videos, now using a Sony DCN-HX50 that had been only lightly used the last year or so. Quality is better than I expected, though stabilization is not as smooth as the Galaxy S9+ I’d been using before, and my jury is still out as for whether my use of it will be lasting.
At the end of the video my attempt to check in on a particular Flushing payphone enclosure was met with a curious impediment. The payphone was surrounded by prostitutes. They saw how I was taken aback by their presence, and by my interpretation they took my demeanor to mean I was there to see them. They would likely have never thought I was there to check in on an abandoned, non-working payphone.
So I opted not to whip out my camera and make a video of that payphone, this to avoid the women thinking I was there to get video of them. That could be trouble for me. But it made me laugh for being such a classic payphone scene, in which the dregs of society gravitate toward them.
I did shove a Payphone Radio card into the phone’s cradle, though. Maybe one of those beautiful women will find it. And yes, they really are beautiful, to me at least.
But I stay away. I’ve considered exploring that kind of thing, soliciting prostitutes, just as a life experience. But I know how it would turn out. I’d end up feeling empty, and more alone than I was before.