Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #133 The Walk of Life

(The author has turned walking into more than just a form of exercise to beat stress but as a means to enjoy life and do some soul searching.)

The city is a pressure cooker of tension wires, never-ending emotional issues, and developing claustrophobes. Like someone who has been bouncing from one faith to another in search of something to assuage his inner turmoil, I’ve played various sports to sweat out the stress. They’ve been great help of course and there’s nothing quite like a soothing massage to cap it all off.

Yet for as long as I’ve been dreaming about being the next athletic marvel, the one soothing form of exercise I’ve engaged in is walking.

I was a young man when I first read Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. For all the analogies about the paths and decisions we make, I thought that in some romantic and sentimental way, he made walking sound cool.

And so I walked (and ran too since I played a lot of sports). I walked with my classmates all the way from the Ateneo High School which is located at the far end of the 150-hectare campus in Loyola Heights all the way to Katipunan. Under an angry sun it might seem crazy but then when you’re growing into your teens and feeling more emboldened by the day, it’s not so bad if only for a glimpse of those collegialas who were a sight for sore eyes.

I walked (maybe marched would be an appropriate term too) from Cubao all the way to Luneta Park to demand that a dictatorship step down.

And later on into my adult life, for three times a week, I’d walk around Princeton University after coming home from work. Down Nassau Street all the way to back roads to Lake Carnegie where I’d sometimes catch the school’s rowing team ready to call it a day. The twilight at the tree-lined roads made me feel like I was a part of an Ansel Adams photograph. The long walk would hurt my calves and feet and I’d soak them in warm water afterwards but I felt it soothe my soul in many ways.

When I used to work in ad agencies, I remembered how’d they give us a blank piece of bond paper to look at after staring in front of our PCs all day long. The clear and clean paper uncluttered our tumbled thoughts. I must admit it worked but then as soon as I got out of work there was that stretch of horrendous Metro Manila traffic I had to face!

I remember how Frank Miller described how the fictional Daredevil made use of the concrete jungle of Manhattan as his own playground: “She hums with power and tickles my legs with a thousand flirting fingers, laughs at me, blows a gust of smoke in my face, tricks me with slippery stone…”

Were I a practitioner of Parkour then maybe I would have bounded about the city like some true-to-life adaptation of Stan Lee’s imagination. From time to time, I’d make the long walk from where I worked in East 86 and Lexington all the way to 42nd Street where I’d lose myself in neon glitter before I boarded the 99S bus at the Port Authority back to Jersey City where I stayed for quite awhile too.

My mom thought I was crazy to walk 44 city blocks. At first I was a little winded but in truth, the passing parade of ritzy Fifth Avenue was enough distraction as I wondered what went behind those apartment buildings I’ve always dreamed of living in. I heard Robin Leach in the back of my head talk about “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” and chuckle to myself. Along the way there was the Metropolitan Museum and the Central Park Zoo, then by the time I hit the Plaza, it was Frank Miller again: “She hums with power and tickles my legs…

For a couple of months, I briskly walked the area delivering pizza in the surrounding areas between Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue. Didn’t want to be late and miss out on that tip!

I think I walked so much that it wasn’t stress I was worried about but varicose veins going Spider-Man on me.

Back in Manila, I found myself drawn to three places in the metro: Bonifacio Global City before it was landscaped into hedonistic pursuits, the Marikina Sports Center where the oval gave me a tangible starting and finish line, and back in my old school in Loyola Heights where I do most of my walking.

On week mornings, I make time to walk my Dalmatian before I prep for work and on weekends I choose the quiet solitude to walk around my campus in the late afternoons. There are few cars so I don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide emissions and there are only others like me who wish to reclaim a vastly different school from Gen Y that has never had it so good.

And I walk down a lane lined with acacia, ipil, and fire trees lit with the last rays of the fading light, I think… of a song, of days when along with my classmates we thought we were kings, of home and hearth, of a freshly brewed cup of coffee, of things to do and maybe it’s time for certain dreams to come true, of a communion with nature, of a joke that I laugh out loud to and hope that no one hears me lest they think I’m going crazy, of another song that fills me with a certain vibrancy, of loved ones, of a prayer for my long suffering football club that hasn’t tasted a championship in almost two decades, of work deadlines that I dismiss after a thought before they bring the weight of the world on my shoulders, of walking until the bend before I tell myself I’m done but when I get there I go on still, of another song that shakes me to my very being, of whether the world will be a better place now that Obama will lead the way, of a nice back rub…

What's on my player when I walk:
Plus Minus - You've Got It All (you better gorram download this and you'll thank me one fine day)
Tears For Fears - Goodnight Song
The Blue Nile - Tinseltown In the Rain
Bob Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone
Bruce Hornsby and the Range - The Valley Road
Death Cab for Cutie - Lowell, Ma.
Five for Fighting - Disneyland
Tom Petty - Freefallin'
'Til Tuesday - Love In A Vacuum
Smashing Pumpkins - Try, Try, Try
Rivermaya - Sunday Driving
Prefab Sprout - Jordan: the Comeback
Dream Theater - Another Day -- dude, Spyro Gyra's Jay Beckenstein on tenor sax!
Pete Yorn -- his album Music for the Morning After

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