Perfect Places

I alight at Esplanade in a smell of wasting coffee and creosote and walk up Royal Street. The lower Quarter is the best part. The ironwork on the balconies sags like rotten lace. Little French cottages hide behind walls. Through deep sweating carriageways one catches glimpses of courtyards gone to jungle.
— Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
 The French Quarter 

The French Quarter 

 Courtyard of The Court of Two Sisters

Courtyard of The Court of Two Sisters

New Orleans is a city that is rich with culture and mystery, one of the greatest being the fact that I can walk through the French Quarter today and still smell the coffee, see the iron work that mirrors rotting lace, and tuck into a wondrous courtyard at any given moment like described in Walker Percy's work. It is through Percy's descriptions in his deeply existential and philosophical novel, The Moviegoer, that we are able to see direct images of New Orleans, while simultaneously contemplating life itself. Percy has crafted an utterly unique and complex novel that possesses the melancholic and searching nature of individuals that New Orleans attracts. Binx, the protagonist of the novel, embarks on a metaphysical search to find meaning in his life and to escape the crippling everydayness that people inevitably fall into. He asserts

…(places get used up by rotary and repetitive use) and when I awake, I awake in the grip of everydayness. Everydayness is the enemy.
— Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

My way to escape everydayness is to travel. Being in a new place constitutes new experiences because everything is new, and nothing — not the street signs or smells or sounds people make — are the same as anywhere else. Traveling is like meditation for me, it forces me out of the clatter of everyday life and into the here and now, the exactitude of the present. I love to explore new cities that inspire me and make me feel like life is worth living. Binx is on a search to find meaning, but I’m on a search of my own; I look for perfect places. You may think perfect places don’t exist, but they do, and they’re different for everyone. For Binx, it is

Where Happiness Costs so Little
— Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
 Prytania Movie Theatre 

Prytania Movie Theatre 

He feels at ease and fulfilled when he is tucked away comfortably in a movie theatre. But if Binx is a moviegoer, maybe I’m a city-goer. He feels happy in any and every movie, even if its a bad one, and I feel content traveling all over the world; I will travel to any continent, state, or city, and wherever I go, I will love it. Binx will watch anything, and I will go anywhere. He escapes the confines of his reality by staring at a screen for a few hours, and I escape my mine, quite literally, by going somewhere else. But perhaps Binx has a more dramatic existential crisis than my own; while I grow frustrated by repeated days and faces, maybe Binx is frustrated with life and people all together, finding peace only in the perfectly planned and orchestrated Hollywood crafted reality. Binx sees movies on Ferret Street near Tulane, a place warmly refffered to as ‘The Armpit’ by students and moviegoers alike. I couldn’t find ‘The Armpit’ but I was able to see King Creole in a century old theatre. It was a charming 1950s flick that is set in New Orleans, starring Elvis Presley. As I exit the movie theatre I breath in the

Heavy warm air [that] has pushed up from the Gulf
— Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

and can’t help but grow nostalgic to have to leave New Orleans in a few short weeks. After the movie, we stroll through the neighborhoods of the Garden District, a charming upscale suburb tucked away in New Orleans. 

These houses look handsome in the sunlight; they please me with their pretty colors, their perfect lawns and their clean airy garages. But I have noticed that at this hour of dawn they are forlorn. A sadness settles over them like a fog from the lake.
— Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
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I can’t help but pay attention to the sadness that Percy captures, it settles like a storm about to break the clouds, an inescapable June gloom that lingers past the point of comfort. It is unavoidable in this city, and before you know it, a storm will come. 

A warm wind springs up from the south piling up the clouds and bearing with it a far-off rumble, the first thunderstorm of the year. The street looks tremendous. People on the far side seem tiny and archaic, dwarfed by the great sky and the windy clouds like pedestrians in old prints. Am I mistaken or has a fog of uneasiness, a thin glass of malaise, settled on the street? The businessman hurry back to their offices, the shoppers to their cars, the tourists to their hotels.
— Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
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I tuck into a cafe moments before the storm took full effect. Although I have always loved the rain and cloudy days alike, the storms that hit New Orleans are unforgiving and extreme, unlike the few moments of light sprinkling that sets the public into a panic back in California. Binx notes that

There is a danger of slipping clean out of space and time. It is possible to become a ghost and not know whether one is downtown Loews in Denver or suburban Bijou in Jacksonville.
— Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

He is referencing the feeling of losing time and space: a feeling I encountered when visiting Six Flags Amusement Park, damaged and abandoned after Hurricane Katrina. The park exists only in ruins and as a constant reminder that everything is temporary and that devastation lurks just beyond the clouds, willing to strike at any moment. It is a humbling realization and exploring the abandoned park, though illegal and technically considered trespassing, I learned a valuable lesson. 

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Binx criticizes the way that

Other people treasure memorable moments in their lives: the time one climbed the Parthenon at sunrise, the summer night one met a lonely girl in Central Park and achieved with her a sweet and natural relationship, as they say in books.
— Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

and maybe he's right, but the moments people cherish are exclusive to each individual, and while Binx is content seeing movies, I am content when I travel. I for one, cherish the moments of change, moments where I can break through the routine of life and just explore whats out there. There are some places I like more than others, but all the same I am happy just to be somewhere new— happy to be in New Orleans, and happy to be embarking on this adventure, always looking for my Perfect Places.