Ten Walks/Two Talks

Michael Schaub in Bookslut:

518gGHgHFKL__SL500_AA300_ In the eight months that I've lived where I live now, I've probably walked around my neighborhood hundreds of times. I have dogs; my neighbors all know their names, but not mine. I have memorized every front yard, every awning on every business, from the plumbing supply store (“The Water Heater King”) to the deli with the big Oregon Lottery sign in front to the punk-rock strip club I live behind. But I don't really remember these walks, or most of them. I remember walking back from buying cigarettes one night when a drunk old man in the Masonic lodge parking lot yelled, as I recall, “You're not the Scandihoovian!” to me. But every other one kind of blurs together. I haven't even lived here a year, but I have become automatic. I look down when I'm walking, and talking to people, and usually at pretty much all other times. I feel like I wasn't always this way. For the past several weeks I've been trying to reconstruct conversations with someone I used to know. I've been trying to remember the last one, in particular: What are the last words I said to this person who is now gone? What are the last words he said to me? So I look down and I walk down sidewalks I've memorized.

I've read Ten Walks/Two Talks three times now, once before something sudden and awful happened in my life, and twice after. I don't know if I would have even thought about how I walk in my city if I hadn't, or if I would have tried to commit every conversation with a friend I have to memory even while I'm talking, afraid I'll lose it like I've lost most of my first 32 years of conversation. This is a small book: ten brief accounts of walks in New York City by Fitch, and two transcribed conversations between Cotner and Fitch, the first in Central Park, the second in a grocery store.

More here.