At the start of April plantar fasciitis in my right foot and after surgery swelling of the macula, and a blocked vessel that carries fluids to lubricate the eye thwarted my retirement plans and caused me to adopt blogging. After laser surgery and two months of dropping liquid gold eye drops into my left eye, the swelling and the blurring retreated. The foot specialist that I went to had DPM listed after his name; my fervent hope was that it stood for Doctor of Pain Management. He did produce pain when he pushed the syringe into the heel of my foot and emptied a syringe of cortisone into my inflamed plantar fascia. I did learn after a couple of visits that DPM stood for doctor of podiatric medicine. He prescribed a dorsal night splint and a series of stretching exercises. I wore the splint to bed. After enduring about six months of misery in every step the pain mysteriously disappeared.
I think Westroads Mall is typical of the majority of suburban malls. It is anchored at each end by department stores, has a central atrium, is two stories of mostly national brand retailers, and has had a couple of department stores built on as side attachments
Three weeks ago I returned to my old mall walking ground. I was somewhat excited: I now had some new walking socks and walking shows, instead of slip-on crocs and ankle socks, recommended by my doctor of podiatric medicine, and an MP3 player with earbuds. I was also slightly nervous; I wondered if my old walking mates would still be there and if I could keep up with the walking pacesetters I admired. They weren’t really mates; I had never talked to any of them or know any of their names. It was just a slight head nod or an indiscernible move of the index finger as we passed that bonded us as a band of mall walkers.
I start my walking journey around 9:00am; twice around the lower level and twice around the upper level; it is close to .64 miles once around the interior perimeter. Some of my mates are still walking: And I can see their inner smile welcoming me back when we pass.
When mall walking you first notice the window displays but after a few weeks they become some sort of colourful mosaic panelling; it must be your motion that creates the peripheral moving lava lamp pattern. The patterns are hypnotic and mesmerizing. One morning when walking, my mind went back to Form 5AB at Williamstown Technical School and I was reminded of when a few of us would go down to the beach after school. We wouldn’t do a lot of swimming but would romp around doing adolescent teenage boy stuff. The speedos would get wet because habitually someone would be ganged up on and launched into the saltwater and shoulder fights, or a water modified round of British Bulldog would erupt.
I don’t remember John Colville or Robert Ballard kicking the sand at Williamstown Beach. I remember; John Savory, Kevin Thompson and Gunter Jergens. I wasn’t fat in my adolescence and I wasn’t thin. I thought I was just stocky around the waist: but maybe I shouldn’t have compared myself to John, Kevin or Gunter. Andrew Lambrianew had left Williamstown Tech in the third form, to start a diesel mechanics apprenticeship, so I didn’t have him as my reassuring friend. Instead of cavorting on the sand, I started swimming. About fifty yards or more offshore from the beach was a diving board platform on piles and about fifty yards across from that the leftover walkway and piles of a structure we called the racer.
The water was usually cold because it was October or November; the start of spring. Some days there was a cold wind blowing off the water; enough of a wind to cause two-foot waves and churn up the sand, enough of a wind to cause the water currents to carry the jellyfish and seaweed into the beach from the bay, enough of a wind to discourage the form 5AB lads from haunting the beach.
Every day I swam alone between the diver and the racer; counting off the laps until fifty. I had developed this slightly modified Australian crawl stroke and I only turned my head to one side every second stroke for a new breath.
video: Australia’s audiovisual heritage online. http://aso.gov.au
It was also an opportunity to open my eyes to orientate myself and to realign my bearings. I didn’t have swimming goggles and because I was in saltwater most of the fifty laps were done with eyes closed and head down in the water. I never did see the jellyfish or clumps of seaweed. At times the jellyfish were in swarms or smacks of large morphing, transforming, gelatinous blobs that I hit with my head or arms; resulting in painful jellyfish stings to the arms and legs. Most of the time I swam peacefully, without earbuds and with my eyes closed. I think the rhythmic breathing caused me to hallucinate and fantasize that I was the next Murray Rose. Murray Rose was an Australian swimmer who at seventeen won three gold medals at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and the gold in the 400 freestyle again at the 1960 Rome Games. He also won a silver and bronze medal.
Every Wednesday afternoon at Williamstown Technical School was sports afternoon; usually football in the winter and cricket in summer: There was also bat tennis, handball, tennis, and maybe lacrosse. The school was divided into four houses, Gellibrand, Nelson, Hobson, and Kororoit to manufacturing teams to play against each other. There were several teams for each house cobbled together from different combinations of forms. Once a year the houses would play off against each other. I was in Kororoit house. It was the start of summer and just before the end of the school year. The houses were competing against each other in the annual swimming carnival at Footscray Baths. Overcome with my Murray Rose fantasy I singled out swimming; one hundred yards breaststroke in chlorinated water; twice the length of the pool. I was still blundering in the pool as the swimmers for the next event were taking their place at the end of the pool.
I stopped swimming between the diver and racer but I did try to conquer swimming in chlorinated water. I would take the train into the city usually on weekends and count off breaststroke laps in the indoor poll of the Melbourne City Baths, but that didn’t last. And I didn’t swim in front of people again until I got a summer job as a lifeguard in the early seventies in London at an outdoor swimming pool.
I stopped thinking about my swimming exploits when the colourful mosaic panelling at Westroads retreated; caused by the window display at the glamorous and cool H&M store changing to what the fashionable and chic would be wearing in fall. I mused about mall walking.
I wear Hawaiian shirts, tartan shorts, and usually lime green walking socks for my mall-walking; the lion’s share of walkers combine velcro fastening athletic shoes, or Hush Puppy Mall Walkers, with variations of relaxed, full fit elastic waist, chino pants. No one wears dedicated walking apparel or attire. Some mall walkers have walkers, rollators or canes: And some carry oxygen tanks or small portable oxygen concentrators. I walk alone, just as I swam alone between the diver and racer, but others walk in pairs or in groups of three or more. I think the only thing common amongst mall walkers are Toyota Camry’s.
I think there should be mall walking competitions. It wouldn’t be about the fastest mall walkers but would have different categories such as; apparel and attire, poise and grace, individual style, coordinated group walking, and apparatus integration. Points would be awarded for; foot and leg action, posture, control of your rollator or concentrator, flexibility, and uniqueness of the walking routine.
I think it would be agreeable to have a gift, novelty, and souvenir booths at the competitions selling souvenir Tee shirts, shaker balls, fridge magnets, and coasters. Maybe mall walking could become an Olympic event. There is a precedent for unique Olympic activities; the biathlon, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming. But the avant-garde does take time to evolve and mature into a spectator obsessed sport.
I wonder how many laps of Westroads is equivalent to swimming fifty times between the diver and racer.