From Walking Man, a Novel By Tim W. Brown

com/Walking-Man-Tim-W-Brown/dp/0978984706 From the same metafictional universe as the films Best in Show and This is Spinal Tap, Walking Man documents the life and times of Brian Walker, publisher of the zine “Walking Man.” Through a fateful encounter between his foot and a yuppie's BMW, Brian becomes the most famous zine publisher in America and a rabid defender of pedestrian rights. Meanwhile, he must juggle the ambitions of his sexy actress girlfriend with his soaring celebrity. Written in the tradition of the scandalous tell-all biography, Walking Man satirizes so-called "alternative" culture while it fondly recollects the 80s and 90s zine scene.

Romantic Walk Chapter from Walking Man, a Novel By Tim W. Brown

Brian would have to wait nearly two months before he could go on a first date with Tracy Minister. “I was performing eight shows a week, and this was on top of working forty hours at the law firm,” she says. “The only night I had off was Monday. I went to bed early on Mondays.” Minister adds that she didn’t have room in her life for a romantic relationship during the run of Seven Sinful Sundays. “The sex, while staged, left me as emotionally exhausted as the real thing.” She shelved whatever emotions she felt for Brian and promised him that they would go out together just as soon as the play’s run ended. Brian swung by Tracy’s desk at precisely five o’clock on Thursday, May 4, 1989. “I was nervous, which surprised me,” says Minister. “Here I’d spent the last two months getting naked in front of three hundred people every night and that didn’t make me nervous. But going out on my first date with Brian did.” By early May, the weather had turned amazingly nice; the chilly, gusty, rainy weather typical of March and April in Chicago – “that stretch of cold, horizontal rain” as Brian called it – had subsided. Tracy wore a light jacket over her characteristic sweater and blue jeans, along with a black beret over hair tied in a ponytail. On her feet, she wore clunky Doc Marten shoes – “years before they were trendy,” she claims – because Brian had instructed her to wear robust walking shoes. Brian carried a gym bag the contents of which he would not divulge to Tracy. They traveled west through downtown on Madison Street, over the Kennedy expressway and across Halsted Street, the official starting point of the West Loop neighborhood and its attendant Skid Row scene. Greeting them was “an old homeless black man hunched over with his wool overcoat hiked up, pants around his knees, taking a shit in full view of a busy corner in broad daylight.” The couple proceeded through a gauntlet of prostitutes lining Madison Street. Brian missed this feature during his earlier reconnaissance missions; the warm weather obviously drew these ladies of the evening out for business. “I couldn’t believe how concentrated they were,” he wrote. “There were about a dozen per block. They aimed their attention at cars whose drivers

browsed this meat market, which differs from the Fulton Market meatpacking district a few blocks north only in the kind of flesh for sale. The beef and pork from Fulton Market are all stamped ‘Grade A,’ which I don’t think would fit many of the hookers hanging out on Madison Street.” “I thought it was a little rude that they were coming on to Brian with me there,” says Minister. “You know, saying ‘She can’t do you like I can,’ and so forth, but I guess it’s in their job description.” Minister goes on to report that one especially bold hooker went so far as to roll down her tube top and expose her breasts to Brian. “I didn’t have anything to worry about. He already knew that mine were better,” she quips, adding that she found the amount of make-up the prostitutes wore unbelievable. “It reminded me of stage make-up laid on thick, maybe to highlight their features at a distance to the men driving by. Either that or it was designed to cover up God knows what.” Again, the couple attempted to ignore the display, chalking it up to the exotic habits of the native population in a foreign land. At Morgan Street Brian and Tracy turned north, walking through a stretch of abandoned warehouses looming on either side of the street. Brian said, “It’s just like passing through a desert canyon,” sharing a brief example of his sense of make-believe at work. Prospecting souls possessing this sense with a more commercial bent would eventually strike gold in this forbidding neighborhood, transforming it during the 1990s into a yuppie fiefdom consisting of residential lofts, trendy restaurants and cutting-edge art galleries. By the time Brian and Tracy reached Fulton Street, her patience began to wane. “I started fussing because he told me he was taking me to the best place to see the downtown skyline, and so far all I saw was a seriously run-down neighborhood filled with gross people.” In addition, Tracy’s fear reflex, previously suppressed, began to surface. “We were probably the only human beings within ten or twenty square blocks. The whole scene started giving me the creeps. Brian could’ve easily raped and murdered me, and nobody would’ve been around to stop it.” However, like the tourist who traverses mountains and fords rivers to glimpse a hidden shrine, Minister would quickly feel that the destination justified the arduous trip. This moment occurred when the couple entered an open area that Brian called “Lover’s Leap.” Every community has its lover’s leap, where teenagers flock to neck and, in the case of more adventurous types, to have sex. After World War II, when automobile culture grabbed hold

of the nation, American teenagers were allowed greater mobility to seek out these romantic hideaways. “When I imagine the typical lover’s leap,” Brian wrote in the article “Lover’s Leap,” “I see the scene in black and white. I see the tops of mountains rising above Los Angeles in a 1950s crime drama, parked jalopies aimed at the cliff, occupants overlooking a galaxy of city lights.” Problem is, as Brian pointed out next, he grew up on prairie land bereft of such romantic topography. In Rockford, parking lots in distant corners of county forest preserves sufficed as lover’s leaps. Here Brian alludes to a common complaint of those living in Middle America: the lack of inspiration drawn from the natural world. He appears to consider a Midwestern upbringing a handicap in the ways of love: “Flat featureless land results in the shy cold brand of lovemaking characteristic of Midwesterners.” Neither willing to accept the poor substitutes for lover’s leaps in more scenic climes nor a mediocre love life, Brian accessed his imagination and generated a list of prerequisites for the most authentic lover’s leap that Chicago could offer. “Excellent view” topped the list, followed by “peace and quiet,” “unpopulated,” “low or no lights” and a “sense of danger – of love gone wrong or jilted lovers leaping to their deaths.” These items eliminated ninety-nine point nine percent of Chicagoland, even popular make-out spots like the causeway leading to the Adler Planetarium and the breakwater protecting Belmont Harbor (both were too populated and welllit, though each featured a spectacular view). The Lover’s Leap off Morgan Street in the West Loop satisfied all of Brian’s prerequisites. “And how,” agrees Minister. “Brian definitely delivered on his promise to show me the best view of the skyline in Chicago.” After a few minutes of gazing at the dazzling view, Brian unzipped the bag he carried and took out a blanket for them to sit on and a pewter candelabrum complete with five long tapers that he lit and fitted into the candelabra’s receptacles. Next, he produced a bottle of wine and two glasses. “He confessed he didn’t know the difference between wine and grape juice, but he asked Bruce [Kipler] to recommend something,” explains Minister. “Surprisingly, Bruce suggested a nice Beaujolais. He’s the kind of guy you’d think would recommend Boones Farm to get a girl drunk as fast as you can so you can take advantage of her.” Nevertheless, despite his ignorance about wine, Minister testifies that Brian was a gentleman to the core. “After he poured the wine, he raised his glass and said, ‘To your great beauty, which outshines the skyline.’ Coming from somebody else that would’ve sounded

hopelessly corny. But from him, you just accepted it because you knew he believed it himself. Those newspaper articles that described him as a stumblebum never stated the truth, which was that he was incredibly gallant.” Still holding a surprise or two, Brian reached into his gym bag and brought out a wheel of Brie cheese, French bread, and clusters of grapes. “And a cutting board and a knife,” Tracy recollects. As the two sipped their wine and munched on fruit and cheese, Brian explained to Tracy his choice of site for their first date. The spot he chose was a remarkably open stretch of weeds and concrete pavement astride train tracks heading west out of downtown. During the day it functioned as a staging area for refrigeration trucks jamming the neighborhood, either dropping off or picking up meat products at unsanitary-looking meat processing plants along Fulton Street. At night, after all the trucks had ceased their frantic meat-related commerce, after all the loading platforms had been hosed down with a chlorine solution, and after the workers in their bloody white aprons had left for home, the area suggested less a thriving center for the food industry and more a ghost town straight out of the Wild West. For someone wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, this was a benefit not a drawback. Brian believed that dusk, which was rapidly falling, was the best time to view the skyline, because lights began to appear in windows while the black silhouettes of buildings remained visible across a purple sky. He said in Walking Man that the view exhibited the “Hyperreal quality of a postcard, as if the mind had air-brushed away any flaws in the picture.” The view likewise acted as a spur to Tracy’s imagination. Spread across the sky before the pair were literally thousands of dots of light. Each dot represented a window leading into an office or a hotel room. “Everybody is so wrapped up in their individual problems that they sometimes forget other people exist,” she says. “It hit me that inside those thousands of windows there were thousands of individual dramas unfolding. I asked Brian if he thought about what went on in all those buildings that made up the skyline.” “The only place where I’m interested in what’s going on is here,” he replied, then he kissed the back of her neck. Tracy reports that Brian didn’t stop with her neck but proceeded to “peel my clothes off like a banana skin and kiss me from head to toe.” Modesty prevents Tracy from divulging what happened next, but in his “Lover’s Leap” article, Brian alludes to lovemaking of a fairly gymnastic sort. Despite a healthy population of

hookers and homeless people nearby, not a soul intruded on their picnic. However, “somebody walking fifty yards away who paid attention to the area’s plant life would have seen a sight suggesting a mad biological experiment was going on: two naked female legs sticking up in the air amid the weeds.” When finished making love, the couple quickly dressed to shield themselves from the chilly evening air. As they shared a cigarette and drank the last of the wine, Tracy says they discussed the subject of fate. “I was seeing stars – not up in the sky, but the post-orgasmic kind – and I told Brian that Fate had brought us together.” Before leaving Lover’s Leap, Tracy thanked Brian for taking her there. “I told Brian about a vacation I went on with my parents to Yellowstone when I was a teenager. Even though the mountains were many miles off, it looked like you could throw a rock and hit them. I felt that way then, like I could pick up a rock and hit the Sears Tower with it. ‘Try it,’ Brian said, so I did. Naturally, it fell way short, but Brian yelled ‘BULLSEYE!’ as if I hit it dead-on.”


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