I went out to meet some friends for drinks the other night and decided to walk to the bar instead of drive. When I got there and mentioned that I had a nice walk, one person looked at me like I said a stork had delivered me there.

"You walked here all the way from downtown?" she asked, as if she expected I might pass out at any minute from the strain of sauntering across the city. "Why didn't you drive? We could have picked you up if you needed a ride."

I'm always surprised when people suggest that walking is a weird thing to do. I sit at a desk all day because I earn money that way, and I sit on a barstool occasionally because I enjoy good company, but I consider both of those activities far stranger than walking.

Truth be told, walking to the bar is the highlight of the day. I could probably walk all day long, if I really set my mind to it, but it's not as easy as it sounds. Basically, it requires being homeless and broke.

So, I sell the better part of my day in order to walk the way I want to for a brief hour in the evening. Whether I'm deep in the woods or out on the busy city streets, as long as I don't have a purpose, I'm happy.

I enjoy walking in the woods the most, but the longer the walk becomes, the more necessary it is to bring food and water. Carrying enough rations to walk as far as I want to walk would spoil the walking.

That's the burden of balance we all face in our lives. If we didn't have to eat and drink, we could just walk forever. If there were never bad weather, we wouldn't need houses. If we didn't work so much, we wouldn't need to relieve ourselves by getting drunk and making love. We could just walk forever.

Few of us will ever be ready for a truly Thoreauvian walk. "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."

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His e-mail address is paul [at] geekprom.com.


Soft Drink

I'm in the market for a soft drink. It's a nice day, I'm out having fun, and my thirst is the kind that water simply cannot remedy. A nice bottle of soda pop is just what I need.

There are a lot of different soft drinks to choose from, so I will have to first pick what flavor I want. Colas and root beers seem a little heavy for a warm day like this, so I'm going to eliminate those first.

There seems to be a flavor of soft drink called "doctor." It's not a cola or root beer, nor is it a fruit flavor. I'm not really sure what it is, but there are at least three different doctor brands: Dr. Pepper, Dr. Thunder and Dr. Chill. There is another similar-tasting soft drink called Mr. Pibb, which apparently doesn't have its PhD yet.

Most fruit-flavored soft drinks, like grape and orange, are just as heavy as colas and root beers. I think what I want is a clear, refreshing, potentially lemon-lime flavored soda pop. Now all I have to do is sort through the brands: Mountain Dew, Mellow Yellow, 7-Up and Sprite.

If I went to a grocery store, I could buy a bargain brand that doesn't advertise, like Shasta Moon Mist. Because Shasta doesn't have enough of a price mark-up to be sold at convenience stores, however, I will have to buy a heavily marketed brand.

Besides, Shasta doesn't come in bottles, and I don't want my soft drink in a can. I want my soft drink in a long, 16-ounce glass bottle like "Mean" Joe Greene used to drink before tossing me his sweaty jersey in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, nobody makes those bottles anymore.

When I was in Seattle, about ten years ago, I found a soft-drink vending machine that had the usual assortment of brands available, plus one "chance" option. That's right, the machine would randomly pick a soda for the customer.

I wish I had the "chance" option more often in life. I don't like picking things out of simulated police lineups, based on looks and advertising campaigns alone. I want my soft drink to step forward and say, "My name is black cherry spritzer, and I'm just what you've been looking for."

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His e-mail address is paul [at] geekprom.com.


Baby Smooth Skin

Dear Proctor & Gamble,

I recently purchased a 12-bar package of your new Ivory For Baby Smooth Skin. My decision wasn't based on my skin not being baby smooth enough, but rather that this soap seemed to be the cheapest available.

I don't have any brand loyalty when it comes to soap. I don't get all excited about aloe and its ability to let me "rediscover the mildness." I just want to wash the stink off my body as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

Sure, if a "gentle combination of mild soap and pure aloe" will leave my skin baby smooth, that's a bonus, but only if the soap effectively performs the core function that inspired its purchase. Sadly, I can't say that it has in this case.

So far I've used half of the package, and all six bars have prematurely broken into tiny pieces while in use. I know that all bars of soap eventually crack into pieces, but Ivory For Baby Smooth Skin does it way too soon.

See, most bars of soap, when they become thin and wafer-like, break into two pieces. Those two pieces can then be used until they become too small to hold on to, and ultimately slide down the drain.

Ivory For Baby Smooth Skin, however, breaks in half while it's still relatively thick. Then the half pieces each break into four chucks that must be carefully cupped into my hand. When they slip out, they're at first too big to go down the drain, so I can scoop them up and reuse them.

Needless to say, however, I don't like picking up the little soaplings. Not when I can buy other brands that will stay together so much better. Between the inconvenience of scooping up the pieces, and the extra amount of soap going straight down the drain without cleaning me, I'm just not getting a bargain.

I'm also troubled by the claim that Ivory For Baby Smooth Skin will make my skin "naturally clean." Looking over the list of chemicals in the ingredients, I find that hard to believe. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the chemicals, I just don't like the claim. If I wanted to be naturally clean, I'd go dip my crotch in the crick.

Sincerely yours,
Paul Lundgren

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His e-mail address is paul [at] geekprom.com.


Wet Dogs

What are you thinking, wearing those cutesy little boots? There's deep snow out there. You can't go for a winter walk in the woods of Superior, Wisconsin in those things! All the snow will slide down your ankles and melt at your feet!

Are those cotton socks? Oh boy, are you ever in trouble. Did you think we were just going for a quick one-mile loop along a cross-country ski trail? Jeez. You don't know me very well, do you?

Let's walk across the bay and visit that island before they turn it into a golf course. What do you mean the ice isn't safe? There's a guy driving his Chevy Suburban on it. You weigh 96 pounds.

OK, fine. We'll turn around. Your feet must be really cold. We need to get you out of those wet socks. Tell you what, since my feet are perfectly dry, why don't I let you wear my wool socks?

No, I'll be fine. My boots have a nice lining and it's not too cold out. It's going to take us a while to get back to the car, and I think we'll both be more comfortable if you have dry feet. Here's a tree stump we can sit on.

See? Look how wet your socks are! Here, put these on. Hey, look at that little doggie. He's coming straight for us, and he sure looks excited. Holy moly, look at all the mud on his paws. Watch out for your white pants!

I'm sorry. I know it's not funny. Well, I don't know why he won't stop jumping on you. Maybe you should throw a stick or something. Careful now, don't put your bare foot down in the ... never mind.

I know, I know. It's not funny. That little mutt just won't leave you alone will he? I think that guy over there is the owner; maybe he'll ... DON'T THROW YOUR BOOT AT THE DOG! Oh, boy. Now you've done it.

Don't cry. I'm sure the dog will come back with your boot. I'll go see if that guy's the owner. You just sit on the stump for a minute. Everything will be fine. I'm sure the mud will come out of your pants.

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. He dedicates this story to Renee for her 30th birthday and congratulates her on becoming a little more assimilated to the outdoors over the years.


I Have a Girlfriend Now

Listen, I know it's wet T-shirt night, but I'm going to have to say no thanks. I have a girlfriend now, and we've planned a quiet evening together. You should get a girlfriend, too. Maybe we could all hang out some time.

By the way, if you could stop telling people about how you could always hear me masturbating in the top bunk when we lived in the dorms together, I'd really appreciate it. The same goes for those anecdotes you love to share about the times I've been so drunk that I lost control of my bowels.

Yes, I know, I've had girlfriends before, but this one is special. That girl last fall was just a fling. By the way, if you see her, please ask about my grandmother's ring. I'd like that back.

We should also have a talk about your blog. There are a few things in the archives that I think should be deleted. First and foremost would be the infamous "Spaghetti & Meatballs" picture in which I appear naked with a dozen Italian prostitutes. It's not that I didn't think that was a good time, it's just that we need to live in the present, man. I mean, that was, like, so nine months ago.

I also think the "Tell Your Wildest Sex Story" Internet forum you host just isn't as funny as it used to be. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying you should take the whole thing down, I just don't think anybody's interested in the posts that I made. My stuff was kind of boring. Maybe you should cut those parts out.

Oh, and about last Monday, that was just out of my hands. It's a real shame that Valentine's Day happened to fall on a Monday and interrupt our ritual of watching WWE wrestling. I know I told you that I would make it up to you by buying the beer for this week, but it turns out that my girlfriend and I are really into "Everybody Loves Raymond" now, and we've decided to make it a new Monday night ritual. Sorry.

Don't look so down, dude. I mean, think about it. I might pop the question soon, and you know what that means: Stag-effin'-partaaay!

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. This is his 200th column. Send him a JPEG of yourself holding out a congratulatory bouquet of flowers. His e-mail address is paul [at] geekprom.com.



So there I was, walking past a group of sixth-grade boys. One of them asked if I could give him some money for his school's field trip. I knew right away that he wasn't really asking me for money. He was challenging me to tell him that I knew he was lying. He was looking for some attention, and perhaps some entertainment at my expense.

"Sorry, I can't help you," I told him. As I walked away, a rock whizzed past my head.

Turning around, I saw three of the kids running away, while one just stood there, about 30 feet away from me. I glared at him for a moment, thinking about what I should say or do in response.

There was a lot of information I didn't have. Was this the kid who threw the rock or was he pleading innocent by not running away with the guilty party? Did the kid who threw the rock intend to miss me, or hit me? Either way, what should I do in response? Should I chase down and beat up a bunch of kids? Should I yell and scream and put on a show for them? Should I just walk away and let them infer that I'm afraid of them? There seemed to be no intelligent solution.

"What are you looking at me for?" The kid finally shouted. "I didn't do anything."

"Do you hang out with those other guys?" I asked.

"Yeah, they're my cousins," he said. "We're tight."

"You're tight, huh?"

"Yeah, we're pimps."

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"It's something old people don't understand," he told me. "Why don't you just keep walking?"

"You mean like I was doing before one of your pimp friends threw a rock at my head?"

There was little doubt in my mind that the best thing I could do for these kids would be to punch their obnoxious little faces in. There was also little doubt that I would go to prison for doing it. I chose the road of self-preservation, as usual, and walked away.

There are, of course, nonviolent solutions to this type of situation, like calling the police. Doing that, however, would involve a potentially fruitless time investment that I'm not willing to make. So, when that rock hits your head, you can blame me as much as those kids and their delinquent parents.

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His e-mail address is paul [at] geekprom.com.