Monday, March 06, 2006

Walking Guy

Many years ago, in Florence, KY, there was a young man of some legend around my circle of friends that everyone called “Walking Guy.” He was (as I remember, anyhow) tall and thin, always wore headphones and had this incredibly long, bouncing stride that might have fit right into the Ministry of Silly Walks. The evidence is overwhelming that the boy was all but functionally retarded.

We’d see him whenever we were out that way, walking down US 42, away from Mall Road towards Industrial, ostensibly listening to music as he made his way somewhere. A Walking Guy sighting was an ordinary occurrence, but it never went without mention. “Walking Guy,” someone would always say with a brief point. We’d all smile, watch for a moment, and go on with whatever business we had. No big deal.

I never gave it much thought until a couple Saturdays ago, when the Mardi Gras parade was going down on Mainstrasse, a half-block from the house. I’d taken pizza and sweet potato fries out of the oven for Jill and her sister and brother-in-law when it started. They were down around sixth street to watch the parade, and I thought it a good idea to head down; I’d never seen the Gras before.

I went to the corner and stood, my hands in my pockets, behind a group of kids bent on catching beads and candy. Pleasant. Nothing less.

A guy walked up to me and we exchanged greetings, just as people in Covington tend to do (whether they live around the Strasse or not)—no big deal. We watched the parade for a moment, and then the guy looked at me.

“I see you all the time,” he said.

I didn’t know what he was talking about and said nothing.

“I see you walking every morning and afternoon.” He smiled at me. For a moment, I was creeped out, but it went away as soon as I rationalized that he wasn’t a stalker or trying to get in my pants.

“Yep,” I said. “That’s me.”

We were silent for the rest of the parade, which was boring save for a couple of fire-eaters that walked between a couple floats.

I walked home without incident or excitement.

Weeks later, the thought came to me that I’d become a variation on Walking Guy. I am Walking Guy, to that fella that came up to me. Maybe I’m Walking Guy to a bunch of people along 7th street, 6th street, Madison, 5th, and Scott. Maybe the same people drive past me every day, point and say “Hey, it’s Walking Guy.” Perhaps they think I might be functionally retarded because of the way that I walk.

Is there an unknown brotherhood that I’m part of? A group of people that lots of people see walking around all of the time?

Do you have a Walking Guy?

UPDATE: March 10, 2006: It has come to my attention that there is another group of folks who know of Walking Guy, only they've given him a different name: Florence Gump. Wow.


jessica said...

In Atlanta we had "head injury man," or a man dubbed so by a writer for one of our alt. papers. I haven't seen H.I.M. lately, actually. He walked with great effort and diligence along the sidewalk parallel to a very busy boulevard (called Boulevard. I love my city) heading (pun intended) toward what used to be Georgia Baptist Hospital. Now a corporatey named hospital. Tenent or Avnet or Fishnet or something. Rubber limbed man, middle aged, working hard to put one foot ahead of the other. He wore a beige plastic head-inury helmet, and walked as if he had recently graduated from a cane or crutches. He worked hard, that man, and people heading north on Boulevard to the freeway interchange saw him every morning, early. He was going to rehab, we were each of us going to work. You go, head injury man! You go!

Kari said...

I totally remember Walking Guy. I would always see him on that stretch of road in front of Perkin's.