Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Though The Little Bastards Laughed—You Can Indeed Read While You Walk

Many years ago, maybe around 1975, a classmate of mine in the Providence, Rhode Island public schools told the class he read books as he walked to school.

The other kids laughed. They did so because they were little bastards. The teacher did not offer much support. She said something dumb about bumping into trees or some junk like that.  

The kid who said this was named Mike Van Leesten. I hope he has done well in life. 

I read while I walk at the Memorial park jogging/walking trail in Houston. I get a lot of reading done that way. It is a good use of time.

I think of Mike Van Leesten when I read and walk. This even though I have not seen him in nearly 30 years. 

Good rule of thumb—If the other kids laugh and the teacher offers little support, you might well be on to something.

April 8, 2008 - Posted by | Books | , , ,


  1. Hello, I followed a link from Grits for Breakfast.

    Your post about reading while walking makes one wonder, in spite of the laughs from large bastards and silly warnings from the state, if it might actually be safe to talk on a cell phone while driving.

    Comment by W. W Woodward | April 8, 2008

  2. I don’t think it is. If I bump into a tree while reading, that is my problem. If I hit you with my car, that’s your problem you did not ask for.

    Thanks for leaving a comment. Please visit the blog again.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 10, 2008

  3. Your post re. Mike Van Leesten comes up on a Google search.

    The post made me wonder a bit about his father, whom I knew many years ago in Providence. Much came up. He is president of The Van Leesten Group, LLC and deputy director of public affairs at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Mashantucket, Conn., and many, many other things.

    He was named, in July 2007, to a 10-member Brown University Commission to Commemorate the History of Slavery in Rohode Island. Another member of the commission is Spencer Crew, former director of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.
    He was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2001.

    A quote from him re. the Southern Christian Leadership Council: “I anticipated in SCLC SCOPE project in Choctaw County, Alabama with six other college students doing community organization and voter registration work. It was a defining point in my life.”

    In February 2005, Rhode Island College retired his basketball jersey number. He is RIC’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,494 boards and is fourth in career scoring with 1,901 points. He graduated in 1965. That clip says he resides in Providence with his wife and has six children, including Michael, then 37.

    A Michael Van Leesten is listed as a donor to Dartmouth College, Class of 1989.

    Dartmouth, I believe, is where you had an uncle prominent in alumni affairs many, many years ago.

    And it may be the site of the Associated Press awards ceremony where your father received a New England AP award for a group of stories he wrote on war veterans – the world wars, Korea and Vietnam. The award was presented by Vice President Mondale.

    Comment by Newton | April 10, 2008

  4. I’m sorry, I just can’t help it. If you walk into the street while reading and I hit you with my car while cell phoning, at that point it would seem we both have a problem.

    Liberal, huh? – Is a liberal one of those folks who believe in protecting everyone’s rights except for those with which they don’t agree?

    Comment by W. W Woodward | April 12, 2008

  5. Dear Neil,
    My dad told me about this blog post. I’m glad to have been remembered so well. Whenever I’ve mentioned you in passing over the years, I’ve always described you as one of the funniest human beings I’d ever met. I hope life has treated you well also. I got an MBA from Columbia U., was an investment banker for many years, CFO for many more, got married, two kids, one dog, two cats, etc. I gave up the glamour and excitement for fulfillment and became a middle school math teacher. Best job ever.

    The last time I saw you was in Patrick Twiss’ backyard. Haven’t seen him in at least 20 years. Be well, old friend. Think of you reading while you’re walking makes me smile. Non caborundum illegitimi.

    Comment by Michael Van Leesten | May 23, 2008

  6. Hello Neil, this is Jill Van Leesten, Mick’s sister. I remember you very well. We would eat lunch at the same table with the rest of our friends… Patrick, being one of them. I have fond memories of my brother reading while walking. He and I would walk to school together, Nathan Bishop Middle School, and we had an unspoken rule between the both of us…I could not talk to him so he could concentrate on his book. To let you in on a little secret, I would guide his walking sometimes, if I moved to the left his feet would move right along with me. If I were to make a slight curve to the right, Michael would make a slight curve to the right. It was the norm, an unspoken expectation, and I have not thought about this until now (smile).
    My Dad called me about your story and I could not wait to touch base. We want to know who wrote about our Dad. Dad would love to contact Newton. Take and Neil, it was a pleasure knowing that you have fond memories of my best friend, my little brother Michael Jon Van Leesten.

    Comment by Jill Van Leesten | May 24, 2008

  7. Mike & Jill–Thanks for these comments and good to hear from you. I’ll reply in an e-mail to the both of you.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | May 25, 2008

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