Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I got Walker Percy confused with Walker Evans. I recorded a documentary on PBS thinking I'd learn more about "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," which is a touchstone for me. What I got instead was what I needed.

"It has to do with a view of man, a theory of man. Man as more than an organism, as more than a consumer. Man the wayfarer. Man the pilgrim. Man in transit, on a journey." -Walker Percy

If I am like Walker Percy, it is in that Wayfarers are maybe my favorite sunglasses of all time. Wait, different "wayfarer?" Okay. If I'm like Walker Percy, it is in that I am stuck posing the big, meaty existential questions. I am not comfortable, not content to not ask them. I love the word "wayfarer" (and the glasses, in large part for the name). Pilgrim is a word far richer than the Mayflower. Life as pilgrimage, as a journey for answers. A spiritual, a soul quest.

When they started talking about Percy's first, and maybe most influential novel, "The Moviegoer," it made me think of my grandmother. And of her mother, who watched movies at The Avalon Theatre in Easton. I knew her mother, my great-grandmother, as Muddy. Muddy figured out which seat in the Avalon was the very center seat, and sat in it for every movie. If someone was in her seat, she moved them. My grandmother, who our family calls Shuey, also watched movies in that theatre. So did my father, who I call Dad, and so did I, who I call me. I watched "Star Wars" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in the Avalon, and met my wife there (at a concert, not a movie).

But "moviegoer" made me think of my grandmother, Shuey, and of her mother, and movies. And I want to read it. Shuey and I talked about books and movies. I went over to her house on Sunday. She wasn't doing well. Wanted company. She had the Ravens game on, which we watched. They were playing the Colts, whose games, when the Colts were in Baltimore, she and my grandfather didn't miss many of. I asked her if she ever thought she'd be pulling for Baltimore to beat the Colts. She said, "Yep. As soon as they left town."

That's a statement that encapsulates Shuey well. She lets you know what she thinks and doesn't add any words or soften a sentiment that she means to be hard.

The Ravens won the game. We talked a bit more.

The phone rang this morning, at 1:45 a.m., or so. Shuey died around midnight. Her journey moved on. I'll have a lot more to say about that. I've been awake since and haven't had a chance to put those thoughts in order. For now it's man the wayfarer, The Moviegoer and thinking about Shuey.

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