Urban exploring in Phoenix, Arizona
Whether you call it "Urban Exploring", or "Urban Hiking" or "Just walking around looking at stuff", I've been doing that since I was a kid. It's something that puzzled grownups, and it still does.
The first thing that you have to know about Urban Exploring is that your destination is right where you started. That is, it's a loop. If a grownup asks you where you're going, you really shouldn't give a truthful answer, because saying "Right back here" is a good way to get grownups mad at you. I know! So you have to lie a bit, and invent something. This was always the most difficult part for me, as I'm not very good at lying. But if you care about people, it's important to do.
In my teens, when I discovered John Steinbeck, I learned how to cover up this type of behavior with something that people can be comfortable with. His character "Doc" in the book "Cannery Row" had decided that he wanted to take a walk across the country, just to see it. But apparently it made people distrustful when he said that, so he invented a story that he was doing it to win a bet. And then people were comfortable with him.
So I've had a lot of easy answers for people to put them at ease. I used to carry a sketchbook, and now I have a camera in my pocket (my phone). I can tell people that I'm history adventuring, so I can write in my blog, or lots of other things that aren't really why I'm doing Urban Exploring. But every once in a while I see that there are people like me, and it gives me comfort. If that's you, you understand, and I can be honest with you.
In my twenties I discovered Andrew Wyeth, and became fascinated with how he saw ordinary things. He would walk up onto a hill and just sit there, looking. When he translated what he saw into drawings and paintings he created magic. I tried to draw and paint like him, but I was no good, so I just went back to looking at stuff.
Nowadays, with a wonky right ankle, Urban Exploring is very difficult for me, but I still do it. I invite myself along to ride along with friends to go to their ordinary places, like Costco, and I see it all through the eyes of John Steinbeck, and Andrew Wyeth. If I'm at a restaurant, I look at everything, and try to cover it up by telling people that I'm looking for the bathroom. But you know what I'm doing, I'm exploring.
Thank you for exploring with me!
Image at the top of this post: Walking past a Circle K at Palmcroft and McClintock in 1972, Tempe, Arizona. Whether that person was walking to go somewhere, or just walking, I'll never know.
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Posted by Brad Hall