Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Next-Seat-Neighbor's Commentary on "A Walk in the Woods"

Hubbles and I went to see A Walk in the Woods (click to watch trailer) last night. We both have a fondness for the Appalachian Trail since we walked the NJ section of it this summer. There is just something about that 2"x 6" white blaze that stirs a longing deep inside me every time I see it. It's unexplainable. It has to be experienced.

We had listened to the audio book last year--the one read by Bill Bryson, the author. I highly recommend it, even if you don't enjoy audio books. 

The movie, while entertaining, was quite different from the book.

First, Bryson and his trail companion, Steve Katz were NOT old men when the hiked the AT. They were in their mid-forties. Second, let's just say that the screen writers used creative license. I guess a simple account of this odd duo's hike would be boring without it. 

But I'm ahead of myself. This is not so much a review of the movie, as it is a story of my neighbor. My next-seat-neighbor, an older man himself. No spiritual lesson today--just a funny story.

He and his wife were about the age of Robert Redford and Nick Nolte--I'd say somewhere in their 70s. I really didn't pay them much mind until the movie started.

You know how right before the movie, there are all these reminders to turn off your cell phone and to please not talk during the movie? Well, I guess Neighbor Man didn't hear that part. Then again, neither did I. I tend to comment all the time during a movie, but at least I do it quietly. He didn't.

As soon as the bit about the production companies came on, he asked his wife if that was the name of the movie. 

"What's the name of the movie we're seeing?"

She looked at her phone and said, "A Walk in the Woods."

As the two men set out at Springer Mountain, GA, the beauty of the trail beckoned to me, and must have done the same to Neighbor Man.

"We could do that," he told his wife.

I wonder how many people will fly to Georgia this April, thinking that they can walk over 2000 miles because they saw a movie.

Photo credit
As the movie progressed, he got more into it. I heard him mention a few more times how they could or should do this. I noticed his wife was quiet. I'm thinking she was either hard of hearing--which is why he spoke so loudly--or she had no desire to spend more than six hours in the woods, much less six months.

He was quiet for awhile, or else I just didn't hear him, and then a sign appeared on the screen:

Welcome to Shenandoah National Park.

Without thinking, I said (quietly, but aloud) "Oh, Virginia."

Five seconds later, Next-seat-neighbor man turned to his wife and said, "They must be in Virginia. I believe that's where that is."

At this point, my friend was becoming more entertaining than the movie. I chuckled every time he made a comment. 

Bryson (Redford) and Katz (Nolte) had decided to get off the trail to sleep in a real bed and take a shower, so they stopped at a motel. The men fell onto their beds, as if they hadn't seen one in months. Perhaps they hadn't.

"We could do this. We could sleep in motels along the way."

Did he think that there would just be a motel at the end of his hike each day?


"That's a nice bedspread."

Ew! It was actually a very ugly bedspread--the standard orange, green and yellow ones that occupy motels all over America.

At one point in the movie, the hikers fell down a part of the trail and got stuck on a ledge. 

Too bad Next-seat-neighbor man wasn't there with them at the time. I'm sure his suggestions of how they could get back up would have greatly encouraged them.

And when night fell and they said, "We're screwed," the words of the sage, Next-seat-neighbor man, "Never give up," certainly would have offered them hope.

At this point in the movie, the two were in their sleeping bags on the ledge and began ruminating on life, especially their own lives. My neighbor was perched on the edge of his seat, like The Thinker.

He went from most likely being dragged out of his recliner to see a movie he didn't want to see to being a part of the team--a thru-hiker wannabe.

"You see," he told his wife, who by now was probably regretting her movie choice, "it's all about purpose."

I swear I saw her roll her eyes. I would have rolled my own, but I was too busy cracking up.

Bryson and Katz had traveled half the trail, and they now talked of quitting and going home. I won't tell you if they do. I don't want to spoil the movie for you. But guess who chimed in?

"Yeah, but you made a commitment!" Next-seat-neighbor man told the screen. 

Oh, easy for you to say, Armchair Hiker who stops at motels to sleep every night and most likely thinks that the food is catered on the trail.

When Bryson finally got home, he was looking through his mail and came across a bunch of postcards sent from various places on the trail from Katz. The camera zoomed in on each message.

My neighbor suddenly had an itchy eye--just on the corner. Oh, the other eye seemed to itch too--in the same spot. Was he crying? 

I don't know why I found this man so entertaining. I usually find people like him--and me--annoying. Perhaps the AT really is calling his name. Perhaps I will see him on the trail next spring, somewhere in Virginia, since we both seem to know where Shenandoah National Park is.

Blessings Along the Path--or Trail,

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  1. Cute post. Ed and I were curious as to the R ratint. But this looked like an interesting film. Hope that "neighbor" of yours makes it the trail sometime.
    Joy !

    1. I never even looked at the rating. Most likely it was because if the "F" word and some sexual references. I do remember that Katz had a filthy mouth in the book is a cute movie if you can overlook those things. Redford and Nolte are a great team. Lots of laughs.

  2. You are hilarious. I want to see this movie! I thought the book was hysterical, and I have my own fondness for the trail from my years in Virginia. I especially enjoyed a hike I took in Shenandoah to celebrate not going to jail after an unfortunate passing-a-schoolbus incident. Anyway. Thanks for the review + story! ;)

    1. Haha! I'd like to hear that story, Elizabeth. I once passed a school bus because I just wasn't paying attention, and realized it as I was passing and mouthed a huge "I'M SOOOORY" to the driver but too late. I wanted to call the board of ed and report myself I felt so bad.