The Trading Miles for Pages Edition of the Pub Quiz Newsletter with Dr. Andy
What would you sacrifice for what you really want?
The writer's duty is to keep on writing. - William Styron
When my disabled son Jukie and I started our daily greenbelt walking habit in the spring of 2020, I would often don a cloth mask about 20 yards before we encountered people walking towards us, and then remove it again as soon as we passed them. Jukie didn’t understand this new practice, so he gestured at my face to communicate that he wanted me to remove my silly mask.
While he never embraced either mask wearing or Zoom school, I made sure that Jukie would at least get some physical education during quarantine. He and I walked every day in 2020, when I averaged 4.6 miles a day, and in 2021, when I averaged seven miles a day. Jukie lost some of the weight that he had gained as a side effect of his medications, and we both explored the streets of Davis. As if to indicate that he was having fun, about four times a walk he would catch up with me and give me a side hug, atypically looking me right in the eyes.
With Jukie’s help, I aspired to walk 2,746 miles in 2022, or the distance between Davis, California and my birth city of Washington, D.C. That would require me averaging 7.523 miles a day. I’m proud to say that I trounced that goal by walking a full eight miles every day in 2022, a total of 2920 miles. You can imagine that I was eyeing that round number goal of 3000, but a variety of factors killed my averages in the last two months of the year – I would have to settle for eight miles a day.
Still, that’s more than I had walked in any other year of my life, even when I was committed to distance running in high school or during my first year in Berkeley. And although I’ve run greater daily distances – there was that one day in 1989 that I got lost while visiting Orinda from Berkeley on foot, so I just ended up running all day – 2022 taught me that consistency matters most whenever you are trying to complete a big task. As John Quincy Adams said, “Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.”
Along with my meditation habit, I found that the regular physical exertion, my time on the tree-lined greenbelts of Davis, and the fresh air supported my mental health and overall well-being. I felt a sense of accomplishment every time I hit my monthly target, even if I had to add a number of late-night audiobook bonus walks on those evenings when I was falling behind my audacious eight-mile goal.
In 2022, I did write a 100-poem book of poetry, much of it dictated to Google Docs while I was out on my walks, but I also glanced often at my list of unfinished book projects, regretful that I hadn’t devoted more time to writing non-fiction as well as poetry. I knew that if I truly wanted to make finishing and publishing these books a priority, I would have to make some sacrifices.
So, while my low-impact exercise regimen has supported my physical health, this writer also needs to write. Teaching the book The War of Art to my Writing in Fine Arts students at UC Davis, I came across this reminder from Steven Pressfield, one that seemed to be written for me: "The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying."
I shall pump the brakes on my walking obsession in 2023 – I’m aiming for five miles a day, rather than eight – and instead dedicate more time to finishing book projects. I agree with Maya Angelou: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Instead of agonizing over unfinished manuscripts, I shall complete and release them. Perhaps I will see if any of those uncaged birds will sing.
I’m already enjoying the new opportunities that have resulted from my change in schedule. Typically on Sundays I would catch up with my weekly mileage quota by strolling to morning meditation in Chestnut Park, taking Jukie on a long walk, and then later walking with him to an outdoor dinner at a favorite Davis restaurant. As I seek to embrace new experiences, on this most recent Sunday I met with more than 20 new friends to play bocce ball, a yearly tradition for this friend group. Because I spent so much of my boyhood throwing things – Frisbees, , rocks, shuriken – I did pretty well at bocce, or so I was told. My team came in second – 30 points to the winning team’s 32 points – and I was even voted “Rookie of the Year.” I’m now the proud owner of a new gift card to YoloBerry, the best frozen yogurt shop in town.
As I walked to my car – yes, I actually drove to this event – I realized with a laugh that I was the only rookie this year. I look forward to many such realizations in 2023, including realized ambitions. I hope the same will be true for you.
Thanks to everyone who subscribes to the weekly pub quiz, as I hope you will do via Patreon. You keep me going on this particular writing project. Here are three questions from last week’s quiz.
Internet Culture. Starting with the letter H, what toy company owns Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Dungeons and Dragons?
Cars. Starting with the letter S, what full-size SUV introduced in the year 2000 has the longest lifespan of any SUV at 296,509 miles?
Sports. The first African American coach in NBA history, who was appointed as player-coach for the Boston Celtics in 1966?
In my most recent podcast, I interviewed the Sacramento poets Brad Buchanan (who has an incredible medical story to tell) and Frank Dixon Graham. I also chat about ChatGPT with a reporter from the California Aggie. Please listen and subscribe to Dr. Andy’s Poetry and Technology Hour wherever you get your podcasts, or find the show at
https://poetrytechnology.buzzsprout.com/. On the first and third Thursdays of each month, I host the Poetry Night Reading Series at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st Street in Davis. Find out more at www.poetryindavis.com (where you can sign up for the mailing list).