The walking map

I have a map. A cheap small, slightly untrustworthy map from a car rental company in the middle of San Francisco that, for the last year or slightly more, I have plotted my walks on. I may have mentioned it before, I cant remember. I may have meant to, but shied away in the knowledge that it displays some of my more obviously compulsive tendencies, but really, its not that bad. Its not every street I walk on a daily basis, catalogued and annotated. THAT would be completely nuts. This? This is just Anna-level crazy. It only has the walks that Ive purposely taken as WALKS – the urban exploring, and stairway-finding and hikes around the city that Ive been doing, on and off, since I got here.

I only started recording them on a map halfway through being here, of course. Before that, when we were having lots of lovely visitors, and taking them exploring around the city, I walked the same routes several times over – the easiest way from here to that particular tourist attraction, the fastest route from that tourist attraction to the hill with the great view over the city, the gentlest way from that hill home again, these sorts of things.

Once I started drawing on my map, I found myself purposefully making sure that each time I wanted to get from this X to that Y, or that A to the same old B, I would turn a different corner, walk a different street to get there, and find yet another on the way back.

It gives a purpose to my route. Not just one of seeing a certain thing, or reaching a certain destination, but making the individual parts of the exploration just as important. Setting foot on each street and saying Im almost certain I have never, ever set foot on this street before makes each individual part of the city a place of constant newness, no longer how long I stay or how familiar the whole becomes.

When I get back, I plot out my route – first usually on this google-maps pedometer thing, which lets me know how far Ive gone, how high the hills, how many calories one might burn doing such a thing, all the statistics, and I save that somewhere, and then I take out my map, and draw the same thing onto it – a real, physical evidence version – on paper – of the thing that just happened in the real, fast-moving world. I like physical things, as little as I want to clutter my life with them.

But little things like this are ok.
This is my map.

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Its changed since I took that. Itll change again in the next week, most likely. I like the way it marks out the places in the city I walk the most, and the ones I still need to cover more purposefully. The patchiness of North Beach, Nob Hill and Russian Hill (top right corner of the city) bothers me. Ive walked all over that part of town but often on the same well-trodden roads, and simply walking it to cover the rest in purple would, trust me, just mean slogging up, down, up and down the same three or four hills over and over and over again.

Its most purple in the area where I used to live, and even more so around the neighbourhood I live now. I love the way you can see the ridiculous loops of where Ive, usually in an extreme of good or bad mood, taken myself off for a dozen-mile pounding of pavement and not come back until my knees were begging me to stop (or generally a couple of miles after they started requesting quite urgently that I think about it).

I know without thinking too hard, which areas will be more covered by the time we decide to leave the city, and which ones will remain basically empty. I like having it as a record – and mostly, I like the patterns it makes.

Trying to think what to do with it the other day – its only a thing, after all, its only worth keeping if its useful (or beautiful) I think when we do leave the city to live somewhere else for a while, Ill trace the pattern of the roads walked – just those, with none of the rest of the business around it – and use the pattern as the basis of a screenprint, or an embroidery, if I could get good enough to do it.

That way, you see, its like a snail trail. Like one of those time lapse photographs of car headlights and taillights blending into long streams of colour and painting a map of city streets just by moving through them.

Or sort of like that, anyway. Just much, much slower.