Research in Motion
I think I am finally ready to admit that I am mildly addicted to ‘hoofing it.’ Whether walking, running, or dancing (i.e. movement I try to convince unfortunately burdened witnesses is dancing), I find release, joy, and peace when I bother to get up off my American ass and move. Rest assured, I am self-effacing enough to refrain from passing this off as profundity or epiphany, but a discovered fact of my self for which I am deeply grateful.
As a boy, my beautiful mother afforded me infinite opportunities to acquaint myself with the glittering metropolis across the river from our North Jersey home with which I was so enamored. Occasionally, family and friends would join us on our jaunts around the Big Apple, and I rather quickly gained a reputation among them for despising the length of a New York City block. I hated walking them. I purported exhaustion, and demanded, with all the bravado of a spoiled suburban only son, accustomed to the New Jersey necessity of driving, that we take a taxi to each of our destinations. I didn’t understand financial efficiency. I only pretend to now.
My move to Boston nearly three years ago marked an inevitable change in this disposition. I learned, and quickly fell in love with, the lifestyle associated with urban residence. I should’ve expected this considering my youthful idolization of Manhattanites, strong and stern-faced as they jostled their way around us tenderfooted tourists. However, this has proven a discovered gift that keeps on giving, and so generously.
One must walk, and often, regardless of the affordability or convenience of public transportation. This rule applies ad infinitum to cash-strapped students and struggling artists the world over.
I lived my freshman year at Boston University housed on-campus in a beautiful brownstone off Beacon street’s Audobon Circle. However, the majority of my waking moments had me busy with classes and rehearsals at the College of Fine Arts, an old, ivy-gilded facility fifteen minutes from my dormitory. Furthermore, many of my friends lived closer to the College of Fine Arts in more traditional, high-rise dorms that housed BU’s most expansive dining hall. This world existed a fifteen minute walk from that of my bed and shower—a short enough distance to rule out commuting on Boston’s unreliable green line trains.
Seeking to proactively embrace an urban—and fitness-conscious—lifestyle, I habituated an early start that had me walk to breakfast with friends at their high-rise dorms followed by a short walk to class. This fitness-consciousness followed me home for the summer, and found me running as exercise. I shed some long-stuck pounds, shocked by my capacity for physical activity, something that seemed so foreign to the little boy staring out window of the taxi he thought he needed to move him where he wanted to go.
I moved off-campus sophomore year—again, a fifteen minute walk from classes. This was the last thing to be considered with such a move.
That year in training, my wise physical acting professor Elaine suggested possibility lied in engaging my lower half: some act from the head up, others—mildly better—from the waist up, and few unlock the potential energy of all that lies below. Naturally, I was riveted and found a new ambition.
Later, I discovered Boston on foot when I lived my first summer away from home.
Now I am past the mid-point of my junior year, and I am living in London studying acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts for the semester. I have been here for a month and a half, and the fortune of this experience is nowhere near lost on me. London is a stunning city that takes my breath away daily, and LAMDA’s training has afforded me continuous challenge and discovery. David Byrne’s famous exclamation in the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” “well, how did I get here?!” rings in my head as frequently as calls from my stalker (if I had a stalker).
I know where I am because I know where I’ve been, and they are massively, thrillingly different. And so, I have finally been stricken with a feverish homesickness that has me missing American expanse: the expanse of family and friends, the expanse of American roads down which all drive on the right, and—hell—even the expanse of American cars that pollute my cities and perturb me as I walk their streets. The ambitious adventurer in me did not desire this affliction, but I miss the comforts of the familiar that lie at home.
So, I have gone home. Here and there, over the past few feverish weeks, I have indulged my Cancerian homebody tendency. and I have gone home to the only true home I have in my ever-so-slightly nomadic life. I have moved! I have walked, I have run, and I have danced.
The fondness for this familiar practice has offered me a palate-cleanser and spiritual energy-boost to deepen my romance with London.
Walking is one of my more highly favored meditative practices. It’s where I go to have a good think on something or process my work. I even enjoy music, a closely held passion, most on foot, when I can shoot my own accompanying artwork like home music videos. I’ve most recently taken to writing on foot, perhaps as dangerous as it sounds. Sometimes a line of poetry strikes with a step and scribe it for later I must. As I did with Boston, I am learning London on foot. As a cartographer map-making in motion, I familiarize myself with the foreign until I find comfort knowing how to walk home from Covent Garden or The Regent’s Park.
I run through Hyde Park like so many active Londoners and let my sweat fall upon my brow to mingle with the steady mist that rains from England’s billowy grey clouds, looking like great plumes of smoke and wisps of vaporized tears.
I move with vigor and full-bodied release, no matter how silly I may look, in movement classes I love and in humid clubs I try to enjoy.
“The legs are the workhorse of the body. Let them work for you. Let them move you,” offers my physical theatre tutor, Yorgos, as we run circles around a small West London studio. “Think down into the Earth. Put pleasure in your pelvis and let the legs move you. Forward, but down. Root yourself.” So invigorated and so released by such a delightful, slightly dirty demand, I last week threw myself wholeheartedly into a blindfold trust exercise. With seven people surrounding the perimeter of the studio space as protection against walls and furniture, six students would explore the space blindfolded, researching any movement that offers physical pleasure or release. I found this to be the juiciest, most thrilling and invigorating experience as I hurled myself around the room. Trust and comfort lied in me and my movement, as it does each and every day.
This is one experience; if I know the body to be forever in motion, muscles tensing and relaxing, blood flowing, electrons firing, I am grateful to allow myself to be at one with all that inside me.
I once told the aforementioned tutor after another physical exercise, “I never considered myself a mover when I was younger.” I said the same two years ago to my brilliant BU movement professor Judith. I may look around in awe at my surroundings and my accomplishments, hearing David Byrne shouting, “well, how did I get here?” every time I visit Hyde Park, and yet, here I am. And I am still moving. And I will keep moving, for quite some time. As far as facts go, I think I am learning to relish this.
It is a relief from the unknown of the big, scary world at large, a world I so wish to share myself with, to know with each foot I lay upon this Earth—in stride, in sprint, or in two-step dance—I stake my claim to a home that is where the heart is, always entirely within me.