Thursday, May 28, 2009

Walking Ridgebacks late at night

One person questioned the late hours I chose to walk the girls. But there is an old saying, that may have originated in India, that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon-day sun. Something like that is true of San Jacinto as well. I wouldn’t take the girls out in San Jacinto’s noon-day sun. Indeed it sometimes takes until about 22:00 for the temperature to drop below 70 degrees. So the chief reason I walk the girls so late is that it takes until then before the night has cooled off enough to make a walk enjoyable.

A second reason would be that there are fewer cars on the road. Thus, when we cross one of the unlighted roads to get onto an unpaved farm road, there are fewer cars to have to watch out for.

A third reason is that it seems to be quieter and darker and more enjoyable. We can see the stars more clearly.

But I do recognize the implied criticism: most people would not walk their dogs as late as I walk mine. I’m reminded of my old free-diving days. In some diving spots, I would pass hundreds of people lying on the beach or playing in the knee-deep surf, but once out past them, where the fish were, where I would be diving, I was alone. People do seem to like to cluster together and shy away from rough and difficult seas. No doubt that is part of the reason I have been criticized for taking my girls down to the river during months when the weather is cooler. Most people would stay on the beach, or in this case on their neighborhood streets or in fenced “dog parks.” I suppose I would do that if I were to become handicapped, but short of that I prefer more interesting walks. With just a little training, a little practice, a little physical conditioning, one can get out to the more interesting places where the fish are.

As far as I know, there are no laws prohibiting me from walking my dogs as late as I like, but we do as Americans and Europeans have laws controlling our coming and going, and it wasn’t always like that. David Fromkin on pages 154-5 of The Way of the World, quoted the historian A. J. P. Taylor to say, “’until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit.’

“The French academic Andre Siegfried, it was reported, recalled that before the war, ‘he had once gone around the world with only one piece of identification: his calling card!’ The economist John Maynard Keynes remembered how easy it had been, on an impulse, to send a servant to the bank for gold, and then go ‘abroad to foreign quarters, without knowledge of their religion, language, or customs,’ and how the ordinary Englishman ‘would consider himself greatly aggrieved and much surprised at the least interference. But most of all, he regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent. . . . The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries . . . were little more than the amusements of his daily newspaper, and appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalization of which was nearly complete in practice.’”

Neither Fromkin nor Taylor answer the question of whether anyone walked his dog late at night in those peaceful days prior to 1914. But setting that aside, what has gone on between then and now to create such a different world, for it wasn’t just Britain where what Taylor described was true, but Europe, the U.S. and much of the rest of the world. The world had become Europeanized and the predominate view was that universal peace had been achieved. But beginning with 1914 we had two world wars, a number of revolutions and other wars, the decolonization of the European empires and the world seemed far less safe than it did back before 1914.

Walk your dog late at night? There might be muggers out there or gangs or terrorists or berserk veterans suffering from post-traumatic shock. Best to risk the noon-day sun than subject yourself to threats like those. Maybe so. Maybe so. Maybe so.

No comments: