I walk up these one hundred and twenty-eight steps nearly every day when I’m in Manhattan. They are the climax of my daily walk, which takes me past Bennett Park, the highest natural point on the island of Manhattan, down to the bustling Dominican enclave that surrounds 181st Street, over to a side street called Overlook Terrace, and up the long, long staircase that leads to Hudson Heights, my new neighborhood. I usually spend a half-hour on this hilly circuit, a pretty fair chunk of walking for a middle-aged man who, left to his own devices, would probably get next to no exercise at all.
Why do I do it? Because Mrs. T and my doctor want me to, and because I share their feeling that the world is a better place with me in it. Would that physical exercise came more naturally to me, but it never has, partly because I’m clumsy (a typical by-product of lifelong left-handedness) and partly because I was always the sort of kid who preferred reading or practicing piano to playing in the street. As a result, I weigh too much and have hypertension, for which I take an assortment of pills twice a day and strive to eat more austerely. Nearly dying five years ago fired my resolve to take care of myself, and getting married sealed the deal…or so I thought. But the summer and fall of 2009 were so hectic, what with the premiere of The Letter and the publication of Pops, that I fell off the wagon of self-maintenance, and by last fall I was out of shape and feeling the consequences.
The good news is that moving to Hudson Heights, perhaps not surprisingly, has inspired me to straighten up and fly right again. No, I don’t like it, and somehow I doubt I ever will. But I do like exploring my new neighborhood very much, and I also like the thought of living longer. I have books and operas and plays to write, and I also have a wife who, for reasons of her own, enjoys my company and would prefer not to be deprived of it unexpectedly.
So now I’m eating smarter, getting smaller, and trudging up that 128-step staircase once a day, and maybe one day I’ll learn to like it. Probably not, though.
UPDATE: I got a clean bill of health from the doctor this morning. Then I trudged back up the hill again….