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"Walking is Good for You But …": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1980 (year approximate) to 1995 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. On the dangers of being Black.

Digital ID



man000991. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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OCR transcription





I lost my notebook. It had the beginnings of three essays and one that was completed. Additionally, it was chocked full of ideas that are now lost forever. I don't know if you realize how devastating it is to lose ideas but, take my word for it, there is almost nothing worse. The closest analogy that I can think of to describe my mental state at this moment is found in the lyrics of an old blues song; "Feel so bad, just like a ball game on a rainy day."
Anyway... I have a choice of attempting to recreate one of those essays for the upcoming week's edition or start over from scratch. I think I'll do the latter.
Owing to a health condition, I have been advised by my physician to do a certain amount of Walking each day. Initially I thought I could get it done during the day at the university. That proved impossible because of the many people I know there. Invariably, I was only able to walk short distances before encountering someone who would stop me and strike up a conversation. Each time that would happen, I would have to start all over again. I made many starts but never accomplished my goal.
After several weeks of futile attempts I resigned myself to the realization that getting that therapy done on campus was all but impossible. My only other resort was to do the walking somewhere other than the campus; in the neighborhood, on public streets, the parks or wherever.
I first drove around to get a reading on what di stance--!n blocks--comprised two miles. Once having that established I donned my walking togs and off I went to walk myself back to some semblance of reasonably good health. The first four days were uneventful. I got tired as all get out and had to pause frequently to rest but, all-in-all, it wasn't so bad. If nothing else, it let me know that I was not the young bull I had been a half a lifetime ago. On the
fifth day, midway through the walk, I espied something half a block ahead of
me that, as I drew nearer, gave me a free electro cardiogram. A pretty good
sized pit bull was walking directly toward me and it was in the middle of the
sidewalk. Years ago, I could pick up a pit bull and crush it. However, the
only thing that I've crushed in the last few years have been ice and cigar
butts. The sidewalk was his.
Dang, I thought. There was no one else in sight. I looked around for
some possible weapon. None was to be seen. I can't describe to you the pounding
in my chest. When only a quarter-block separated us I turned and began to
backtrack. I kept looking over my shoulder and still it came. Just as I got
to the corner it turned into one of the yards. I was soaked with perspiration,
out of breath and scared to death. I returned home, got a shower, fixed a
sarparilla and watched some television. On the news, that same day, was a
report of a female mail carrier somewhere in California being attacked by a
pit bull. You might have seen it. The blasted dog must have thought it was
one of the Beatles because it was really holding her hand. I thought; "Well,
that takes care of that. No more walking through that neighborhood for me."
Still, I needed to walk so I decided on doing so in a park. The difference
between walking on turf and pavement is tremendous. There's less jarring and,
generally, those people with dogs have them on leashes or they are at least
not attack/fighting dogs. I had a good two weeks almost of going to the park,
walking and strength!ng not only my cardiovascular systems but my legs as well.
Originally I had not been all that enthused about doing the walking but I
was really, as they say, "getting into it." It was a Thursday and I had no
classes and I arrived at the park at about four o'clock or so. I hadn't even
started to walk when I was approached by several--! think five--young black
men. I was wearing a certain color sweat suit and they seemed to think that
they had a monopoly on that color and no one else could wear it. They might've
been anywhere from fourteen to about eighteen years old and moment by moment they became more aggressive. I was almost as if they were trying to outdo each other in describing how many ways they would do me in if I didn't get out of their sacred colors. My blood pressure was rising faster than the shuttle and I was certain if I hung around there for seventy eight minutes I would explode. I didn't need that. Back in the old days when I had a strong chest and strong shoulders, I wouldn't let anybody talk to me the way they did but those days of Herculeanian glory are gone with the wind. I walked away, to my car, cranked up and drove back to school.
I wanted to be a good patient--fol1ow the doctor's orders and, by so doing, hopefully become healthier. Nothing is ever quite so simple. Rather than walk in residential neighborhoods where there might be other unattended dogs-- seems that people with bac dogs don't keep track of them--I decided to walk in light business areas. Well, on the very first day I discovered that that was a mistake. I heard screeching tires, turned to look around and an out-of- control car was headed right at me. I almost had a heart attack. I got out of the way and the car--a Plymouth I think--crashed into a power pole. I ran over to the car to try to help the driver get out but from three feet away I could smell the booze. I'm not risking my life for any drunkard who just almost ran me down. There was some smoke coming from the car but I figured; "What the heck." I walked away and I didn't even dial 911.
That walking business was really getting me mad. Compounded by the fact that on each outing I was given cause to realize that I could no longer walk into the jaws of danger and snatch out teeth with my bare hands. Anymore, I need a good pair of pliars and I determined to get a big pair.
I decided to give the parks one last try. I found a park that was so far away from anything that I didn't think anyone could possibly go there. How wrong I was. I was at the trunk of my car tying my sneakers when I looked up
and saw some latter day followers of that adolphe fellow walking toward me. There was a twelve guage there in the trunk and when they were ten feet away from me I reached in and got it. You know what it sounds like when you slide one into the chamber of an eight shot capacity pump? "Hi fellas" and that took care of that. They didn't even return my greeting. They continued on. I didn't break out into a sweat and there was not a pounding in my chest. I didn't take my walk because I couldn't very well do that with a twelve guage on my shoulder. I sat there for a while and soaked in the presence of absence.
Later, as I was driving home, I thought that there might be a therapy for me that was better than that prescribed by the doctor. I had come to realize that, one way or another, walking could get me injured or killed but if I didn't walk but kept my piece handy, at least when I die it won't be because some dog or other animal would have killed me. Dying of a heart attack is preferable to being killed because, afterall, it'll be my heart that'll do it
and I can live with that.