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Walking around - John Samuel Tieman

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12 Punto 14 Punto 16 Punto 18 Punto presents the article "Walking around" by John Samuel Tieman.

I went for a walk today. I'm not sure if I found God, but I did find Lena Horne.

I live in St. Louis. To be precise, I live in University City, an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis. When my family moved here about 100 years ago, U. City was a small town in what was then rural St. Louis County. Today, St. Louis and University City blend. You have to know where to look for the city limit.

I'm fully vaccinated. For the first time in well over a year, I took a walk around The Loop, U. City's own little downtown. I love this place. I have so many memories of it. My grandfather was part owner of the Tivoli Theater when it opened in 1921. After falling into great disrepair, in 1995 “The Tiv” was restored to its original beauty. I think of Gramps as I walk past that building.

My wife and I were friends for twelve years before we wed. We'd meet at Blueberry Hill, a tavern just west of the Tivoli. Phoebe and I spent many a night there smoking Marlboros, drinking Budweisers, eating chips, discussing art, solving the problems of the world. Too bad that the world didn't take our advice. I walk on.

Today, I am struck by my absence. Because of Covid, a shop is closed. When I was a boy, there was a five and dime store there. They had an x-ray machine into which I could slip my foot, then see my bones. I'm amazed my toes don't glow in the dark. A diner is also gone, as are a whole block of shops. There was a trolley. Now, there are empty tracks. Friday afternoons in the past, the cafes would overflow with students from nearby Washington University. This Friday afternoon, paper blows down Delmar Boulevard.

I go home. I hear the “Angelus” bells at 6 PM. They come from that little church in which I was practically raised, Christ The King. I close my eyes. I pray. For a moment, just a moment, here they all are my parents, grandparents, my aunt, uncle, Monsignor Ryan, Sister Mary Amabilis. I open my eyes. They're all gone now. I'm at an age where I have memories of my childhood, and I realize that I'm the only one left.

I'm 71. I spend a lot of time thinking about God. I read theology. It scares me that, after all these decades, I've figured out nothing. But occasionally I catch a glimpse of – of what? When I'm driving home from The Loop, for example, I pass a shopping centre. Right there for a just second, just a second, there's my old school, Mercy High School, which was demolished decades ago. In this, and in all the passing shadows, I see the love of so many folks who built this town, who raised their children here, educated them, made a living, went to the movies, bought a buddy a beer, went shopping. For just that second, because I see the love, I think that maybe, just maybe, I see God. Or maybe it's just my fantasy. It doesn't make me feel better. I'm not sure God, or life, is about feeling better. Anna Freud once said, “Who promised you that only for joy were you brought to this earth?” Did I see God? I don't know. I know I saw love.

Perhaps the great adventure is as simple as going for another walk tomorrow in The Loop. Perhaps the great adventure is just seeing what I will see. A wise person once said, “When I see the world and its wonders, what is there to say? I don't think, oh no, I don't think I'll end it all today.” That's not Jesus or Buddha or Confucius. That's Lena Horne in the Broadway musical, “Jamaica”.

2021.06.21 / 10:41
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