Hi, I'm Lee. I'm currently walking from Madrid, Spain to Kiev, Ukraine on foot. Click here to learn why.
Subject: Modern Art.
I've finally given up the habit of working an office job, and am instead spending that time each day in physical training. I'm walking each day, on the treadmill or (weather permitting) outside. My new shoes are nearly broken-in, and I'm only too happy to take the blisters I'm getting now if it means I won't get them in a few weeks while walking in Spain.
Some encouraging news: the kind people at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago are hosting a going-away event for me on Thursday, 23 February from 7pm to 9pm. There'll be video projections and art on the walls and refreshments, too. I'll be speaking at 8pm. The event is open to all, is free to attend, and is located at 2320 West Chicago Avenue in the 60622 zip code.
I hope to see many of you there for the big shove-off.
In other news, last week could hardly have been weirder for Werner Herzog, even by his own standards. First, he happened to be nearby when actor Joaquin Pheonix crashed his car. Herzog helped pull Pheonix from the wreckage. Said Pheonix: "There's something so calming and beautiful about Werner Herzog's voice."
And just a few days later, Herzog was giving an interview to the BBC when some lunatic shot Herzog with an air rifle. With preternatural sangfroid, Herzog carried on the interview after moving to safety. "It was not a significant bullet," he said. "I am not afraid."
Thanks much to the latest and largest-yet wave of Fellow Travelers: Margaret Batkiewicz, Wayne Batkiewicz, Sandy Alford, Fallon Ostrowski, Casimir Ostrowski, Erik Iverson, James Rennick, Jagdeep Dhadli, Gwendolyn Ashley, Craig Roberge, Brett Bernstein, Erin McIntyre, Robert Pietrusko and Irene Vanderlan.
Taken together, all of the donations so far make up an impressive chunk of cash. But just as important to me is the confidence each donor invests in me by giving. It's what has helped me bring this project here, right to the cusp of reality. There have been more than a few setbacks getting here, and no doubt there will be many more on my way to Kiev, but with your help I believe that none of them will be significant bullets.
Subject: Words from Henry.
Today I gave a talk about my project to the seventh-graders at Hickory Creek Middle School, upon an invitation by Fellow Traveler Pam Swierczewski. She thought the Madrid to Kiev walk fit in well with their monthly "Character Counts" theme of "Walk a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes".
They were an attentive bunch of kids, and they asked smart questions, and three of them even had the enthusiasm and cash on hand to donate to the project. Thanks to Conner Kerrigan, Taylor Smith, and Alexa Goldsmith.
I have now begun walking with a full backpack. Since everything I'm going to need for six months has to be carried on my back, every pound counts. I've cut a lot of weight by getting rid of redundant clothing (two shirts for my entire trip, four pairs of socks, etc.) and by buying the lighest stuff available. Two months ago I never would have imagined that you could get a down sleeping bag and a double-skinned tent that weigh under two pounds each. But you can. And I did.
I'm leaving in exactly two weeks. As each each day passes, the words of Henry David Thoreau ring more loudly in my ears. Thoreau is the American writer best known for Walden, his account of two years spent mostly alone in the Massachusetts woods.
Another of his key works is an essay called "Walking." In it, he writes:
"The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait til that other is ready."
Thoreau goes on to say:
"If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man; then you are ready for a walk."
Little ambiguity there. As I prepare to leave my friends and family, I enjoy the moments I do have. Tomorrow, for instance, I'll be walking the trails at Starved Rock with my friend Lyle. Later in the week I'll be visiting my girlfriend Gwendolyn at her college in Iowa. And I even enjoy my mother's half-serious attempts to convince me not to go for reasons of safety.
And apropos, another thank-you is in order to the rest of the people who donated since my last entry: Pat Aubin, Kato Moritz, Robert Harris, Phil Kearns, Cindee Kearns, Adam Kearns, Dawn Fouts, Matt Fouts, John Smietanik, Julie Stedman, Steve Stedman, and Martin Nelson.
Subject: Nota Bene.
A brief note to remind Chicago-area visitors of the event at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art tomorrow night, Thursday the 23rd.. Beverages and elbow-rubbing begins at 7pm, my talk begins 8-ish. Museum is at 2320 West Chicago Avenue. See map here.
For those who miss it or can't come, I'll be giving the full report here afterwards.
Have had some nice write-ups in the local press. Carmen Greco, Jr. wrote this article for the Chicago Tribune, and I've done interviews for upcoming articles in the Daily Southtown, Frankfort Station, and Wicker Park Booster. Also some blurbs about the project in the current issues of New City and The Chicago Reader.
Thanks to my two most recent Fellow Travelers, Holly Hetrick and Michael Ilnycky.
Oh, and if you see me, remind me to do my tax returns before I leave . . . .
Subject: Report from the Institute.
Last night's shindig at the UIMA went better than my most hopeful imaginings. Over a hundred people turned up, and the wine and cheese were good, and the crowd kept me on my toes during the Q&A.;
Most of all, I enjoyed the face-to-face conversations I had with people during the event. They were, without exception, encouraging.
During my talk I shared an anecdote that I'll now tell here:
Back when I first conceived the project last summer, I sat with my friend Julie Batkiewicz in a sandwich shop in Chicago's Loop and told her my plan. She was skeptical. Julie wanted to know why I'd picked Kiev, and what there was to see there.
I told her that I didn't know, and that it wasn't really the point. I told her that the purpose of the journey was the journey itself, the immensity of the trip and the surprises I expected to find along the way.
"It's like Cavafy's poem Ithaka," I said. I was talking about the classically-influenced 1911 poem by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy. She hadn't heard of it, and I couldn't blame her: it's fairly obscure and I only knew of it because a bizarre mystic fellow recited it to me in the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris some years back.
I set out to paraphrase the poem. "When you set out for Ithaka," I began -- and just then the man next to me cut in.
"I couldn't help but notice what you were saying," he said. And then he pulled a single sheet of paper out of his briefcase. It was a copy of Ithaka.
Seems to me a fair estimate to say that that was at least a billion-to-one occurence. And that little story has given me continued confidence. It means, I think, that when you put yourself in the serendipity's hands, you've got no choice but to find what you need along the way.
Herewith, then, is C.P. Cavafy's poem Ithaka.
As you set out for Ithaka
Hope your road is a long one.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
The man who had the poem in the sandwich shop, by the way, was Terry Tierney, and he made it out to the event at the Institute last night. It was his idea to have all attendees sign a copy of it and have it presented to me, as something to carry on my journey.
My thanks to him, and to Julie for helping me organize the event, and to Gwen and Marissa for helping set things up, and to Karin, Anya, Anya, Adya and Nick from the UIMA who gave so generously of their time to make the event a reality.
The event also signaled the largest-ever influx of donations to the Fellow Travelers fund, with more than 30 joiners since my last entry.
My thanks go out to Bill, Andrea and Billy Cronch, Michele Ebenroth, Robert Dantzer, Darren Moore, Irene Antonovych, Andrew Ashley and Soonae Kim, Anna Balla, Bopuc Bodnaruk, Lyuba Chernous, Joy Maguire Dooley and Marie Dooley, Aude Gabory, Ryan Gallaher, Nina Horowitz, Adya Kashuba, Katie Lindskog, Jeanne Lutz, Barbara Margraf, Anya Maziak, Michael McGrath, Joanne and Martin O'Connor, Debra Plante, Kalyna Procyk, Claire Sandahl, John and Eiby Sawczeuko, Nick Sawicki, Christian Schwanenbergen, Theresa Swanson, Terry Tierney, and Marissa Yelnick.
And finally, thanks to Chris Vicich and Matt Walters for two amazing votes of confidence.
Here we are.
I mustn't tarry long in writing this entry. My flight leaves in six hours, and there are still some loose ends to tie up before I go.
In lieu of a thousand words, I give you the above image. Pictured: my first pair of baby shoes, my current map of Spain.
It's been an education just getting here. Hundreds have given so generously of their own money and time to put this project on its legs. My gear is good, publicity is growing, and the weather in Spain looks better every day. Barring an Act of God, only a failure of my own willpower can keep me from Kiev.
Over the weekend I welcomed the largest number of Fellow Travelers yet. My deep gratitude goes out to Colleen Abbot, John Badal, Martin and Anne-Marie and Corey and Francesca and Alexandra Banks, Gary and Dana Booth, John Bryak, Rachel Cassidy, Vicky Crouse, Julia Diaz, Mike and Claudia DiMaggio, Linda Ebenroth, Ellen Garripo, John and Kathy Geso, D.L. Harris II, Dave and Jean and Samantha Harris, Brenna Hernandez, Rick and Cindy and Elizabeth Iwanski, Geri and Brad Jacobson, Jan Klaunfunee, Steffi Kordy, Andrew Kosek, Nancy Kuglin, Mary Maley, Jasmine Maloney, Klaus Mandl, Sean and Brady McCahey, Dan and Mary and Katie and Danny and Eddie McGee, Tom Meehan, Pheobe Mikus, Denny and Celia Murninghan, Sheila Nelson, Faith and Haley Ostrowski, Robert Ostrowski, Julie Papas (and class), Nelson Perez, Frank and Nancy and Anne-Nicole Poremski, Fritz Schipits, M. Bob Schladitz, Rob and Joy Shepardson, John and Debbie Steinborn, Jeffrey Sternberg, Stephanie Sustek, Rick Swansen, and Luke Vanderlaan.
While I am away, I will aim to update this site every three to five days with new photographs and journal entries from my trip. I hope you will follow my journey with interest.
I'll end with an appropriate anecdote, one of my favorites about Werner Herzog. During the filming of Fitzcarraldo, the trouble-plagued production set in the Peruvian jungle, Herzog called a meeting with the film's investors back in Germany. Many of them questioned his ability to finish the film, shooting of which had already dragged on for years.
"Can you finish this film?" they asked him. "Do you have the strength to continue?"
"How can you ask me this?" Herzog replied. "I live my life or I end my life with this film. If I fail, then I am a man without dreams."
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Dec. '05 - Jan. '06.
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writing, photographs and video all rights reserved, etc. etc.
Dec. '05 - Jan. '06.
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writing, photographs and video
all rights reserved, etc. etc.