August 12th, 2010

Scorpio

The good kind of long walk

Actually, The Long Walk is good -- it's my favorite of Stephen King's "Bachman Books" -- but here's what I mean: last night I walked somewhere north of three miles.

I hadn't planned on walking that long. I knew I wanted to burn off energy (and, if possible, caffeine) and I was able to walk through a nature area near my place. It's Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, a former part of the Willamette that was cut off from the river by a railroad about a century ago; it's been somewhat restored over the decades as we've come to better understand the importance of wetlands. It's a large place. Picturesque, too, though not always for the expected, nature-caused reasons.

On the east border of the refuge is Wilhelm's Portland Memorial Funeral Home, a century-old mausoleum: to the west of it, on the side closest to the river, there's Oaks Park Amusement Park. The park and the mausoleum opened around the same time; the first parts of the funeral home were built in 1901, and Oaks Park has operated since 1906. I love that these two places are within sight of each other. I think my cousin Vesta, who died in 1990 at age 95 and is interred there, and who was a funny person in life, was probably amused by the funeral home having a view of an amusement park.

The mausoleum is a beautiful spot -- here are photos showing off parts of it, including parts of the giant mural along many walls. Some of you know it through words: Chuck Palahniuk used it as a location in a book, I think Survivor. (I'm not searching too thoroughly for an answer, since I want to avoid details of the book. I hope to read it someday.)

I didn't go into Wilhelm's Portland Memorial. I could, though (well, when it's open, you don't see me breaking into stuff, right?): you can only go into the areas where people are interred if you know someone who's interred there. I know Vesta. Vesta was a neat person. And something of her is still there, in ash form.

But I didn't go in. I continued past it, walked up a steep switch-backed path up the bluff the mausoleum is built into, and started working my way home. Felt safer doing that in neighborhoods, past streetlights and houses. I'd realized at one point in Oaks Bottom that it was getting too late for me to feel comfortable walking back through the refuge. I do try to walk carefully. And it was a needed walk. A helpful walk. Plus on the way back, I treated myself to Dairy Queen. So it was also good for my sweet tooth.

This deserves expanding into its own post, but to close this for now: I'm glad I'm in the habit of walking.
NCC-1701 Nebula 2

Probability

Lots of walking means lots of walking through intersections. Means you being nearer to cars, trucks, bikes, Vespas, skateboards, et cetera, all with people and all moving or about to move. So you have to watch.

Years ago I started to wonder how no matter when I was walking through an intersection, a car seemed to want to turn in front of me, going into my path. Always had to watch, because right when I happened to reach an intersection there'd be a car with a driver turning into that intersection.

With most any "always" observation, I had to realize this was a generalization. It wasn't always true, but the times when it did happen stuck in my mind more than the times it didn't. Sort of like how you think you never drive through a particular traffic light, but the times when you did sail out of your memory because they don't conform with your belief that that light always changed to red right before you got there.

I decided to think of it as a probability problem: A vehicle reaches an intersection, and has x number of ways of moving through: straight, right, left. The driver has to choose ONE of them. (If the driver chose two of them, I'd be mightily impressed. And scared. Never mind if the driver were able to go up...or down...) A four-way intersection has three possible directions to go in (33.3% chance of each); a T-intersection has two (50% chance of either); a seven-way intersection (say) has six (16.6%). Sometimes those percentages are in your favor. Sometimes they're not.

I'm telling you this because of an intersection. A Y intersection. A really awkward Y intersection.

Dig if you will the picture: SE Milwaukie Ave. northbound hangs a slight left as it passes the parking lot for Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (where I went walking last night). Hanging to the right is SE Mitchell, which then bends to the east and heads downhill to SE 17th Ave. Buildings hug the top of this Y and the east side of this Y. The building within the top of the Y really hugs the sidewalk; the part of the intersection where Milwaukie is widening into two roads, the second road being Mitchell, is a wide and slanted piece of asphalt. The result is that sight lines at this intersection, from a pedestrian's point of view, SUCK. If you're northbound on Milwaukie and on the east side, either you cross that wide chunk of pavement at its widest point (not recommended, obviously, with traffic speeding by and needing to make that slight leftward turn) or you go up Mitchell almost to where it turns east and downward, then cross to the Y's top part.

My probability idea went through my head then. I thought Then don't let a car need to turn here, 'cause it'll turn right in front of me.

GUESS WHAT HAPPENED? Just when I was about to brave crossing Mitchell to get back onto Milwaukie Ave.'s sidewalk, a car needed to turn from Milwaukie Ave. southbound onto Mitchell. I waited for it to pass, and moved further up Mitchell to a narrower part of that road so I'd be safer in case any other cars needed to make that turn at that time. I moved farther into the darkness between buildings, and my defensive walking instincts were on the alert, but potential assault by a person in the dark is not as potentially physically damaging as even more potential assault by a lot of car, a potential assault that is likely to result in the need for EMTs. Yes, a car came by at that exact moment, and turned through space I'd hoped to walk through, and it's like I willed that car into existence just to keep me on my toes.

It's a strange intersection. Just accept that it is, Chris. And hope you never get killed there by a car going through. You don't need THAT lesson in physics.
Me 1

More likely truth

I figure I'm most likely to die getting hit by a car. Either while stooping to get a coin or rubbernecking to notice somebody. "Hey, she's really cute"WHAM!