Monday, October 27, 2014

Five Months to 24 Hours...

Today (Oct. 27) is Allyson's first day of Portuguese language training at the Foreign Service Institute. It's also my first day of training for a 24-hour race that will take place on March 27, exactly five months from today. Since Pedestrianism came out I've been asked several times whether I've ever taken part in a long-distance walking match. I haven't. The longest race I've ever run was a 5K. Then I got an email from a reader who's an endurance athlete--he runs 100-mile races--and he really encouraged me to sign up for an endurance race. He gave me the encouragement I needed. If all goes well, five months from today I will be in Idaho, taking part in the Pickled Feet 24-Hour Race.  I don't intend to run, actually; I plan to walk "fair heel and toe" in the style of the old pedestrians. But I plan to take it seriously. I've signed up for a distance training program, and I'm really determined to make a good score. I will keep you posted on my progress...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pedestrianism e-book now on sale for $2.99

Until August 25, Pedestrianism and several other great titles from Chicago Review Press are on sale as e-books for just $2.99. Click here for all the details.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Me, on C-SPAN, talking about Pedestrianism.

Click here for an hour of pure pedestrianism bliss.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Back home in Mongolia...

Politics & Prose, Washington,
April 13, 2014
Well that went fast! The Great Pedestrianism Book Tour is over, and after seven events in seven cities, I am back home in Ulaanbaatar. The last event, last Thursday at the Mid Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library, was taped for C-SPAN (air date to be determined). Many thanks to all my friends and family who helped make the book tour possible...

Failure magazine, a very fun online magazine, recently featured an interview with me that you can read here...

I am giving away five free copies of Pedestrianism through a contest. The contest ends April 24. Click here to enter...

Now it's time to get to work on that Fido book!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

On to Milwaukee...

Doylestown Bookshop,
Saturday, April 5, 2014.
That blue shirt is getting
quite a workout on this book tour.
It's been great to be back in Pennsylvania and see family and friends. The event last Saturday at the Doylestown Bookshop was a rousing success (in no small part because of my family and friends).

Tomorrow I fly to Milwaukee for an event Thursday night at 7 at Boswell Books. (Click here for details.) Please come if you can.
Great to meet Joe Smith,
one of my loyal fans,
at the Doylestown event.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Back in PA...

Oak Park Public Library, April 3, 2014
Things have been hectic, so I've been bad about blogging about the book tour. But last night's event at the Oak Park Public Library was fantastic. Many thanks to Debby at OPPL and Jason at the Book Table in Oak Park for making the event possible. Tomorrow (Saturday) I will be appearing at the Doylestown Bookstore in Doylestown, Pa. at 1 pm. Click here for details. Please come if you can.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Hello, Chicago!

Come see me speak tonight at 7 at the Oak Park Public Library. Click here for all the details.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Tonight at 7 at WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn

(Update: The All Things Considered interview has been rescheduled for Thursday. April 3.)

The book tour is off to a great start! Yesterday my op-ed about pedestrianism was published in the Washington Post. (Click here to read it.) And I recorded an interview for All Things Considered that is scheduled to air on Thursday.

Also tonight, I will be appearing at WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn with Paul Lukas, who runs the fabulous Uni Watch blog. The festivities get underway at 7. Click here for all the details. It should be a lot of fun. I've been a fan of Paul's blog for many years, so it will be nice to finally meet him in person. We'll be talking about Pedestrianism and other fun stuff. If you're in the area, please come. If you're not, but know people in the area, please tell them about it!

On a personal note, the trip from Ulaanbaatar was long (middle seat for the 13-hour flight from Seoul to New York) but uneventful. I'm staying in a house in Brooklyn with a friendly cat named Elvis. That's him in the picture.

Tomorrow I'm off to Chicago and my event at the Oak Park Public Library on Thursday at 7 PM.

Walk on, everybody!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

So beginneth the great Pedestrianism book tour...

Beer is good.
Here I am enjoying a beer in the departure lounge at Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, waiting for my flight to Seoul (then on to New York). It's only been an hour since I left the house, and I already miss Allyson and Baby Z... So begins the great Pedestrianism Book Tour. My first event is in Brooklyn on Tuesday night. Here's the itinerary. Please come see me if you can...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Effeteness of Monarchical Institutions

Dan O’Leary competing 
in the first Astley Belt race, 
March 18–23, 1878.
(Courtesy of Peter Radford)
On this date (March 23) in 1878, the first Astley Belt race ended at the Royal Agricultural Hall in London. The Astley Belt races were a series of six-day races held to determine the “long-distance champion of the world.” 

They were “go as you please” affairs—running was allowed—yet the first race was won by a walker, Dan O’Leary, who was an Irish immigrant from Chicago. 

O’Leary was the only American in the race, and his victory over his British competitors, most of whom were runners, was considered a stunning upset. 

O’Leary won the race with 520 miles, setting a new six-day record. “With this triumph,” crowed the popular American periodical Harper’s Weekly, “the effeteness of monarchical institutions becomes more evident to many minds.”

(Read more about Dan O'Leary and the peculiar history of competitive walking in my new book, Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport.)


Reggie Leach, aka "The Rifle"
As a boy, I would announce Philadelphia Flyers games into a Tandy tape recorder while watching them on TV. A little more than a year ago, I posted this audio to YouTube of me announcing a game wherein the Flyers’ Reggie Leach scored a goal against Blackhawks (then known as Black Hawks) goalie Tony Esposito to tie a game at 1-1.

I can remember the circumstances vividly: I was in my bedroom on the second floor of our old red-brick house in Perkasie, Pa. (the northern Philly suburbs), sitting cross-legged on the linoleum-covered floor, watching the game on a tiny black-and-white TV with rabbit ear antenna. My older brother (Steve) had a “Compact Cassette” tape recorder from Radio Shack, with an external mic attached. I would borrow it and watch the game and, as soon as anything interesting occurred—a goal, a fight—I would immediately hit record and start announcing.  

Somehow this one example that I posted on Youtube survived, though I was never sure of the exact date of the game. After I posted it, however, a Facebook friend named Brain Miles did a little detective work and discovered that the date of the game in question was January 23, 1977—a Sunday night. Reggie Leach scored at 3:27 of the second period in Chicago. I was in the fifth grade. 

It’s been more than 37 years since I recorded my voice announcing this goal on an analogue cassette tape. This recording is more precious to me than a photograph. The sound of this ten-year-old boy, his voice trembling with excitement as Reggie Leach shoots a puck that “overwent" Esposito’s “glove-hand shoulder,” is more valuable to me than any other artifact of my youth. I’m just grateful that my mom and dad (God rest their souls) let me stay up late on a school night to watch the game.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happy Birthday, Sweet Talkin’ Grover Cleveland

Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on this date (March 18) in 1837. If he was alive today, he would be 177. But I bet he wouldn’t smell very good. 

When he was elected to the first of his two (nonconsecutive, of course) terms as president in 1884, Cleveland was a 47-year-old bachelor. During his first year in the White House, however, he began corresponding with a young woman named Frances Folsom, who was the daughter of his late law partner. Frances was 28 years younger than Grover. She’d known him all her life. But, as I explain in The President Is a Sick Manand, no, the title doesn’t have anything to do with his relationship with Frances!as Frances matured, their feelings for each other blossomed into romance.

This remarkable letter from Grover to Frances was written in December 1885, when their relationship was still very much a secret. (They would wed in the White House the following June.) In it, Grover pours out his heart to Frances in a way that belies his reputation for gruffness. Grover was known for his occasional coldheartedness (see, e.g., the Pullman Strike of 1894), but in this letter he comes across as an old softy. 

Happy Birthday, Grover—or, as his friends called him, Steve.

(Special thanks to the Shapell Manuscript Foundation)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy 175th Birthday, Edward Payson Weston

Edward Payson Weston sets off from the plaza in front of 
the College of the City of New York at noon on 
June 2, 1913, on a walk to Minneapolis. 
Courtesy of Library of Congress 
On this day (March 15) in 1839, Edward Payson Weston was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Weston would grow up to be the most famous professional pedestrian in the United States. In 1867, he won a $10,000 wager by walking the 1,200 miles from Portland, Maine, to Chicago in less than thirty days (excluding Sundays; Weston never walked “competitively” on the Sabbath).

in 1870 he began touring the country, performing walking exhibitions in roller-skating rinks. It was certainly more comfortable than walking outside in the elements. It was lucrative too. He charged up to fifty cents for the pleasure of watching him circumambulate for hours on makeshift dirt tracks—and thousands of people gladly paid. 

He usually walked against time, such as attempting to cover one hundred miles in twenty-four hours. To relieve the tedium, Weston often hired a band to entertain the audience, with Weston himself occasionally playing a cornet while he walked. Weston understood intuitively that the event was about entertainment as much as it was about athletics.

At a roller rink in Manhattan in 1870, Weston attempted to walk one hundred miles in less than twenty-two hours to win a $2,500 wager. He succeeded with twenty minutes to spare. A crowd of five thousand squeezed into the rink to cheer him on for the final miles.

For more than fifty years, Weston staged all manner of walking exhibitions. In the autumn of 1922, he walked the 495 miles from Buffalo to New York City in twenty-nine “walking days” (again no Sabbaths), averaging more than seventeen miles a day. Not bad for an eighty-three-year-old.

In 1927, Weston was hit by a car while crossing a street in Manhattan. He was left crippled and would never walk again. On this day in 1929, Weston turned ninety. Confined to a wheelchair, he declared it “the bitterest day of my life.” 

Two months later he died.

(Read more about Edward Payson Weston and the peculiar history of competitive walking in my new book, Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport.)

Sunday, March 02, 2014

The Pedestrianism Book Tour

I am very pleased to announce the dates for the book tour for Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport. Please consider attending one (or more!) of these events:

April 1st, 7 pm: WORD Bookstore, 126 Franklin St., Brooklyn, NY 11222

April 3rd, 7 pm: Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St., Oak Park, IL 60301

April 5th, 1 pm: Doylestown Bookshop, 16 S. Main St., Doylestown, PA 18901

April 10th, 7 pm: Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211

April 13th, 5 pm: Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008

April 14th, 7 pm: Common Good Books, 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105

April 17th, 6:30 pm: Mid-Manhattan Library, 455 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10016.

All times are local. If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On this date in 1861...

Five days ago, I wrote about Edward Payson Weston's attempt to walk from Boston to Washington in ten days to witness Lincoln's inauguration. On this date (Feb. 27) in 1861, Weston reached New York City. The following is from my forthcoming book, Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport:
At 9:45 on the morning of Wednesday, February 27, five days after leaving Boston, Weston walked across the Harlem Bridge and entered Manhattan. His first stop was the offices of Grover & Baker, a sewing machine company that was his main sponsor. There he curled up on a table and took a nap. At five o’clock that evening he rode a ferry across the Hudson to Jersey City, New Jersey—his only respite from bipedal locomotion since setting out.
By now Weston’s walk was attracting considerable attention up and down the East Coast, and when he arrived in Newark the crowd that greeted him was so large and unruly that several policemen had to be called out to maintain order.

Weston captivated the country because the nation empathized with him. America was a walking nation in 1861. The overwhelming majority of people traveled primarily, if not exclusively, by foot. Only the wealthy could afford a carriage—or even a horse; a good one would set you back more than one hundred dollars, at a time when the typical laborer was lucky to earn a dollar a day. More than 80 percent of the population lived in rural areas, where public transportation was practically nonexistent. To put it in contemporary terms, the 1 percent sat when they traveled; the other 99 percent walked. Virtually everyone had, like Weston, trudged many miles over dreadful roads in harsh conditions, whether to attend services at a distant church or to fetch a doctor in the middle of the night. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Me and the Führer

So, just for fun, I Googled myself in Google Images using the "search by image" feature. The results produced a list of "visually similar images," including good ol' Adolph Hitler (top row, third from left). Thanks, Google Images! 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Today in History (Pedestrianism Version)...

One hundred fifty-three years ago today, on February 22, 1861, a door-to-door bookseller named Edward Payson Weston set off from Boston on an attempt to walk to Washington, D.C. in ten days. He hoped to arrive in time to witness Abraham Lincoln's inauguration. He didn't make it, but his valiant attempt captured the nation's heart and helped launch a new sport: pedestrianism. From my forthcoming book, Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport:

Edward Payson Weston
Late on the cold, gray morning of Friday, February 22, 1861, Weston arrived at the yellow-domed State House on Beacon Hill to commence his long walk. He was dressed in blue wool tights and a white blouse covered with a heavy blue coat with brass buttons. On his feet he wore sturdy boots a few sizes larger than his usual size. A large crowd was waiting to see him off. It seemed an auspicious beginning, but things did not get off to a good start. 
Weston had a habit of falling into debt, and when two of his creditors in Boston caught wind of his intended jaunt, they sent constables to the State House to arrest him. One creditor was owed eighty dollars, the other ten dollars. Just minutes before noon, the time he was scheduled to leave, he was hauled off to a police station. Weston was a smooth talker—he was a traveling salesman, after all—and he somehow managed to talk himself out of this embarrassing predicament. He was released after promising to pay his debts as soon as he returned to Boston. 
At twelve minutes before one o’clock, Weston finally started his journey. He was already forty-eight minutes behind schedule.... 
At 5:45 that evening he stopped at an inn in Framingham for supper. Afterward he went to the parlor to rest but found “a number of ladies” were waiting there to see him. One of them asked if she could send a kiss to the president. Weston said he “had no objection to receiving the kiss,” but “could not promise to deliver it to the president.” The lady kissed him anyway, as did the others. Feeling “highly flattered,” he resumed his journey.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Win a signed copy of The President Is a Sick Man!

In honor of Presidents Day (aka Presidents' Day, aka Washington's Birthday), my publisher, Chicago Review Press, is giving away a signed copy of my book The President Is a Sick Man. Click here to enter! Hurry, the contest ends February 21.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Water Diet, Day 8--Food coloring helps

It's been a week since I started drinking nothing but water (to be clear, I am still eating food!). And I feel pretty good. I don't know that I've lost any weight (I only got around to weighing myself for the first time since I began the experiment this morning). But I definitely feel better. Now, I'm not being a fundamentalist about this. I allow myself to drink club soda, or water with a slice of lemon or lime. Also, to ward off the monotony, I've found it helpful to add a couple drops of food coloring to a glass of water. (The psychological benefits of this are really surprising.)

I'm hoping to keep this up until I begin my book tour in early April. (More information about *that* coming up!)

Now that's I'm a water-only drinker, I seem to find articles about the benefits of drinking water everywhere. Here's one on Slate about the 19th century practice of "hydropathy," which led to the persistent (if unproven) belief that a person should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. And here's one by the writer Ben Marcus about the benefits of a six-day "water fast." (That's much further than I'm willing to go right now.)

Another thing I've discovered: If you're drinking a lot of water all the time, it's better to drink it out of a cup or a glass, not a bottle. I don't know why, exactly, but drinking from a bottle all day is a drag.

By the way, Allyson is joining me on this experiment until the beginning of March (at least). Tomorrow she leaves for a three-day trip to Khovd, in western Mongolia. Let's hope she doesn't have any trouble finding bottled water there. (The baby, for the record, is not participating in this experiment!)

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Water Diet: Day 5

The new year got off to a bumpy start, so Allyson and I have hit the rest button, and this week I began a diet of my own devising (though I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with the idea). I call it the water diet, and it’s pretty simple: For the next two months the only thing I will drink is water. No coffee, no booze, no soda, no juice. Just water. (As an aside, it’s generally not recommended to drink the tap water here in UB. Our tap water is distilled, and when I go out I order bottled water.)

This experiment began last Monday (Feb. 3). So far it’s going well. It gets a tad boring, just drinking water all the time, but the lack of calories compensates for the lack of variety. I'm trying to be more conscious of what I eat, too, but I'm not radically altering my diet in any way. The goal is to lose a few pounds and give myself a bit of a cleanse. We'll see how it goes...