15,000,000 B.C.: Big Bang. First sidewalk merely a gleam in God’s eye.
12,000,000 B.C.: Milky Way galaxy coalesces, containing high quantities of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, the fundamental building blocks of life, as well as dust, rubble, and water, the main ingredients of concrete.
6,000 B.C.: Serpent’s first attempt to corrupt Eve with “Footpath of Savings” fails when the designer dress rack is caught in a stampede. Years later, Cain would snag a fedora for his brother’s funeral in the Footpath Bargain Bin.
819 B.C.: In Babylon, a sect of hedonistic Baal-worshipers begin to leave offerings to the demigod S-D-W-LK on public walkways.
312 B.C.: The first of the great Roman paths, the Ambula Appia, links Rome to Tarentum, with “more than 150 miles of one-of-a-kind items.”
A.D. 13: While helping his father on a subcontracted job, young Jesus of Nazareth heals a crumbling sidewalk.
A.D. 325: The First Council of Nicea convenes to codify the beliefs of the Christian Church. Found in the Greek (but not Latin) version of the text is an addendum about great places to find discounted hair shirts in Persia.
1533: Henry VIII liquidates Katherine of Aragon’s belongings in a Moat Sale, which, despite offering only merchandise dampened to the point of mildew, yields a suspiciously high profit. Over the next several decades, there were to be four more moat sales culminating in the infamous “Midnight Madness Moat Sale” of 1542.
1626: Dutchman Peter Minuit brings the sidewalk sale to the new world and New York in a deal involving glass beads and smallpox-infested blankets going for the “low, low price” of one island.
1876: Samuel Clemens takes his nom de plume from the traditional cry of the St. Louis garment gypsies offering end-of-season two-for-one deals.
1921: In Paris, newly cosmopolitan American expats are charmed by pain-au-chocolate, Josephine Baker, and sidewalks that glitter with radiant Chanel knock-offs.
December 5, 1930: Hitler annexes all pavement.
October 8, 1944: An all-night U.S.O. show featuring Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters entertains a squadron of servicemen outside a Rome hotel which had formerly served as headquarters for Nazi officials. When perplexed Italian vendors return during the middle of the show to set up their stalls, Hope quips his immortal line, “I didn’t realize this sidewalk was still occupied.”
July 11, 1949: Jack Kerouac buys an intriguing herb at a street corner.
April 8, 1957: Balthazar, a small town on the plains of Illinois founded by Earl Daniel Walker, is home to a utopian community which believes that all evil stems from “the roofs above our heads or the grass beneath our feet.” In order to purify themselves, the townspeople live, work, and play entirely on sidewalks. Brother Walker is profiled by Time magazine, although his prediction that similar living projects would soon flourish across America was proven wrong with the first December snow.
July 28, 1978: Betty Green, the first female president of Workers Federation of Sidewalk Cleaners, scores a public relations coup by calling for a meeting with the Council of National Mall Chains, which eventually brings an end to the historically adversarial relationship between the two bodies.
August 14, 1995: Increasingly under attack from Africanized honeybees, Southern States legislate a 200% tariff (the so-called “Sting Tax”) on all outdoor commerce. Californians protest with people-mover sales at airports. LAX becomes the focal point of the “Jerry Riots,” in which nuns and deaf sticker-sellers clash with mourning Deadheads about the overwhelming scent of patchouli in Terminal 4.
October 31, 1996: New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani begins an urban renewal campaign so vigorous that it effectively halves the street vendor population. Sidewalks are considered war zones; Times Square goes dark for three days. Lawsuits are mounted by the A.C.L.U. and Loehmanns.
A.D. 1,000,000,000,000: After years of over-expansion and shoddy management, the universe reaches market saturation and promptly disintegrates, leaving an infinitely large and chilly 99-cent store. End-time theories pile up outside, marked down by as much as fifty per cent. “Everything must go.” And very soon everything does.