Last week, after a canceled appointment, I found myself in downtown Winston-Salem with a great parking spot and some unexpected time on my hands. Sure, I could have holed up in a coffeeshop to knock out some work. Or I could have jumped on the highway to beat traffic back to Greensboro.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead I tucked my notebook under my arm and took a walk up Trade Street, open to all manner of interaction.
It’s the kind of thing I used to do when I lived alone in the French Quarter of New Orleans, after my VCR got stolen.
A walk around the neighborhood. Pop-ins at the bars and shops. Unhurried conversations on the sidewalks. That’s my kind of action.
During my expenditure of shoe leather I got a peek at a new bar on Trade, learned about a possible new public art project slated for a nearby lot, ran into a colleague on the sidewalk, solidified a relationship with a gallery and exchanged some intel about Thursday night’s Vagabond Saints show at the Garage. I also met a woman who had just come from a successful job interview who was weighing the possibility of relocating to Winston-Salem from Baltimore, and was able to upload a trove of information about the cultural and business life of the city to her right there on the street. I think she’s going to take the job.
All of this happened in the space of about a half mile.
For a man like me, whose commodity is information, a walk down a city street is way more informative than reading a newspaper. Anyone can — and should — read a newspaper. Not everyone knows how to work the thoroughfare.
This is what cities are designed for. Close living invites human contact. We’re supposed to bump into each other on the street and exchange ideas and information, like atoms careening off each other to create new elements.
So for city folk, when opportunity presents itself, a walk down the street is always the right thing to do.