I have to stick to a time limit so I flip through the options I have in mind to make the time count. Sometimes when I’m in a city that I don’t know, I do the advance work, but today I'm pure Streetrunning. I stop briefly to witness the former Samaritaine department store getting a face lift by the people at LVMH and wander into the old soul of the city. I don't always know what I am looking for, but I never stop until I make something happen.
Most people don’t know what they want to get out of an experience. I mean, we all have answers, but those that are too specific are the ones that we memorize and the average responses, they're the ones that confirm we are going through the motions. The couple that has chosen this walk want to experience the city that they have been to many times already. They like sitting in cafes and seeing museums. They also like spending downtime in their hotel.
Streetrunning is one way people discover what it is that they don’t know that they want. I am without a doubt that they won’t want what they originally commissioned.
The challenge is to make the familiar strange by discovering new paths. If you’re going to get lost in Paris without pushing yourself into lesser known areas or finding the big stuff that will blow your mind (along with thousands of others), you can connect to the past and present by taking the most animated path imaginable. We're going from the Seine to the Opera. It's only a matter of time and effort before I get above the city more often and under certain rooftops that are off limits. Streetruns often lead to mastery of districts and the transitions from one to another. Mastery is the antithesis of Streetrunning, but when you lead people you are on the clock. A total miss is highly possible anywhere and anytime. It won’t be the end of the world, but it will change the rhythm. Masters are able to improvise because they have more to choose from; they can take more risks without fearing ending up with nothing.
If you must lean into the afternoons with slightly sore legs, I find it better to earn them. When going on with your physical needs becomes a drag you’ll find that other sensations are heightened. On my metro here a beggar passed with her baby. I have seen this same lady since the time her child was born. In warmer months she walked barefoot from one end of the line to the other with her infant clinging to her breast, neck bent and flopping. I have no way to calculate her intelligence. She appears to operate alone asking for food for her baby. She walks desperate and looks you in the eye, spittle formed at the corner of her parched mouth, one eye a little crossed. Like some of the young Roma women she owns a wild beauty that is thoroughly undermined by her lack of socialization. Now, in the fall, her child is old enough to keep her head up and her mother sticks to the same routine—only the little girl joins her, at what must be less than one year of age, already moving her hand the way a beggar does, palm up, fingers together to the thumb.
I say to myself, please let this little girl be more than that.