Funny You Should Ask: Taking a Pedestrian view of Kingman's sidewalks

Sidewalks.

Miles of wonderful, wide sidewalks.

Stretching the breadth of Kingman, lamp post to shining lamp post at the Interstate 40 interchanges that bracket the city.

Along not just one but both sides of Andy Devine Avenue, and Stockton Hill Road through what has fast become the old part of new downtown and on toward the auto dealerships.

Why the sight of continuous sidewalks in Kingman should amaze me, I'm not sure.

Except, perhaps, that sidewalks seem anomalous in this desert valley through which the city has expanded in the shape of a V, its newer commercial areas now far from its original core, and the post office, a traditional community meeting place, somewhere in between.

Vehicles are needed to traverse this town.

But people also can, if need be, traverse it on sidewalks.

Far from bustling, Kingman's sidewalks are nonetheless used, often by kids on scooters and other kids and adults on bicycles.

And occasionally by folks seeking exercise or a comforting breeze.

The sidewalks couldn't have seemed any emptier to me than one quiet Sunday afternoon in May.

I strolled toward the lower end of Beale Street and saw a guy, maybe 40, dressed in brown pants, shirt and jacket – funny, like UPS driver, though more like he had gone through the conveyor system at a package sorting facility.

And he wouldn't have been anywhere near as polite as a delivery driver.

He wasn't muttering about whether the Sunday sermon, or Sunday brunch, had been uplifting.

It was more like how uplifting it should have been tangling with some guy aboard the railway car that brought him to downtown in the first place.

Or, if he were a local, some guy he fought with in some bar the night before.

But because he was heading in the opposite direction, and along the opposite side of the street, I paid no further mind.

I proceeded to Locomotive Park and then headed back east along Andy Devine.

My friend in the meantime had wandered over a block and onto my sidewalk, which I gladly ceded to him.

And as we walked along opposite sides of the boulevard, the only pedestrians it seemed like for miles, my eye stayed intently on something for the first time in almost four months of walking that stretch.

I wondered whether 10 minutes earlier, instead of drinking a latte, I should have been guzzling caffeine-flavored battery acid like the bad guy from a bad Bruce Willis movie.

My friend looked lean and mean, a look accentuated by his bald and possibly shaved head.

And then he looked over his shoulder at me, and I heard something amid his mumbling about "fight." I wished I had looked more threatening, like if I had combed my hair using oven cleaner that morning.

I quickened my pace.

He eventually cut across Andy Devine and drifted behind me and across the tracks and who-knows-where.

Two Sunday afternoons hence, walking the same route, I glimpsed enough of him turning into an alley to cut my walk short by two blocks.

A few days later still, I was downtown talking with two gentleman at a business.

One of them immediately whom I was talking about when I mentioned this particular transient.

He may not have been all that transient: "Oh, yeah, him.

He probably didn't even know you were there."

The second gentleman, who looked abler than I to handle an unexpected scrap with a stranger, was more circumspect.

As in: You've got to keep an eye out.

He spoke about a perfect stranger rummaging his vehicle in broad daylight right there at the business, and how police couldn't give him much except sympathy.

After all (at least before the vagrant entered the truck ), the guy wasn't doing anything wrong.

I took some consolation in that as I continued my walk.

One man's pedestrian gentleman can be another man's bum, especially with people's ever-more reflexive perceptions since Sept.

11.

I've been walking downtown three times a week, almost routinely, though never with a cane or dressed in a starched-white Tom Wolfe walking suit.

Certainly not dapper, nor in tatters, but usually in a clean pair of jeans, T-shirt and baseball cap from which protrudes no-longer-short hair.

(Although add a five o'clock shadow - and I get up at 3 a.m.

- and I, too, can look like Hollywood director Steven Spielberg dressed for a black-tie dinner party.)

I take time to look at things, such as trees along the sidewalk or trees in a yard across the street, or sometimes other people themselves, with a blank or perhaps bemused look or, as some have accused, a scowl.

Residents or people driving up Andy Devine on their way home may well say "There he goes, again" and chalk me up as another itinerant wanderer.

I might not even have taken umbrage at being stopped by one of Kingman's finest, self-flattering as that is amid the realization patrol officers do indeed, and indeed routinely, have much more important things to do.

(It's a wry joke, then, being shadowed by a stranger and wondering where a cop really might be when you needed one.)

We should thank our city fathers for trying to create a sense of community in this far-flung community with sidewalks (and property owners, if special taxing districts were set up to pay for them).

But even if spitting on sidewalks were banned, the most public-spirited city council may well think it a stretch to legislate who can walk on them.