Sunday, May 8, 2016

Taking Steps

In the late 80s I saw the movie The Accidental Tourist.  At the time I am sure that I was at least mildly disappointed in it.  I'd read the Anne Tyler novel of the same name a few years earlier. Those who have read my blog know that I am wild about Anne Tyler. The Accidental Tourist is my favorite among her books and I like nearly all of them. I'm sure I was disappointed in the movie because I must have remembered then the details of the book that the movie could only have touched.

Yesterday I was lying down in the mid afternoon ready for a snooze and idly flipping channels.  I was on one of the movie channels when I saw that The Accidental Tourist was just about to begin. So instead of going to nap like an old man in the middle of the afternoon I watched a movie in the middle of the afternoon like an old man.

This time I loved it. Now, almost thirty years later, I had forgotten many of the details of the book so the movie did not have to compete with my memory. I had remembered the story of course and my favorite line from the book which is also in the movie.  That line has stayed lodged securely in my head and will be there for the duration.

I promise that I will not give too much away in what follows. It is just the gist of the story, but if you want to know nothing about a movie before you see it you might want to skip this paragraph and the next. A man, Macon, from Baltimore writes books about how to travel without feeling as if you are leaving home. So, the books explain--for example--where to find a Burger King in Paris, what hotels abroad approximate the lodging experience in the United States, what to pack to ensure you will have all you will need.  These books are called The Accidental Tourist in France, The Accidental Tourist in Canada, etc.

Macon and his wife experienced something horrific a year prior to the beginning of the book/movie. Because of this event and its residue, Sarah--Macon's wife--decides that she must leave.  Macon is distraught and is left to live alone with just a difficult dog for companionship.  At one point Macon needs to board the dog. Sarah's apartment does not allow for pets and Macon has to travel to do research for one of his books. So Macon takes the dog to a kennel and meets the owner and dog trainer, Muriel, who becomes central to the story.

The movie this time around was not at all disappointing.  William Hurt is just perfect as Macon and Geena Davis outstanding as the quirky Muriel.  The movie does an exceptional job of bringing out the beautiful story line and theme of the book.  

It is not, or should not be, our goal in life to be accidental tourists. This is our one shot at the voyage. We don't want to travel through time without enjoying the ride and seeing what is different and getting out of our routine.  When you go to Paris why would you want to eat at Burger King? You'd want to experience it all to maybe enjoy a ride that you had not even known could exist.

I had not recalled the scene with the drug at the end, but it is so apt and just right on the symbolism. Drugs that can dull our senses are those to which we should just say no.  My favorite line from the film--the one that is lodged in my consciousness forever--is uttered by the ex wife Sarah. She tells Macon, actually scolds him, by saying that he could have done something he could have "taken steps."

Yes, indeed. We all could take steps, or have taken steps, to experience what is our world.  Our mothers gave us the opportunity to tour this life. Our challenge is to take steps so that we can enjoy the ride.

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