Real, live conversation

FaceToFaceIt happened twice in May: lengthy face-to-face talking with friends of mine who don’t live that far away, but with whom I never get a chance to talk with anymore.

The first was with my friend Norm, best man at my marriage to Carol. For over twenty years, we played racquetball together at the YMCA, sometimes with a group of other guys, sometimes just ourselves.

We talked about families. I remember his son as a baby, and now he is spouting facial hair. Both of his kids are in college. And that group of guys went for a time went to Siena College after the Y closed, but it was much less convenient for some of us, and we drifted away.

I’ve long noticed that, even though one may not be best of friends, I learn about how other people think when I’ve played racquetball, volleyball, backgammon, or hearts, or being in a book group, with them. One sees how they think.

It has long been difficult for me to have male friends or even good male acquaintances, and that group met that need I didn’t even know I was seeking.

I had hoped that a couple groups in church might have been that collective I guess I had subconsciously been seeking but it didn’t work out. A men’s Bible study just fell apart a couple years back from guys being busy. More recently, a book group I left for reasons that are too complicated to go into here; I might go back in the fall, maybe.

Oh, the other person I spoke with was my friend Lynne, who I’ve known since December 1980. She was coming home from a meeting about the shortsightedness of building a casino in, or near, Albany. We talked for quite a long time – two of the same bus number passed by – about social justice issues, environmental concerns, and the like. She lives less than three miles from my house, but I “see” her only on Facebook.

I’m not quite sure how to infuse my life with more real, human interactions – as opposed to the facile, day-to-day stuff – but surely I am needing it badly.

Almost as good: in early June, a lengthy telephone conversation with Alan David Doane.

And because I can: Face the Face by Pete Townsend.

4 thoughts on “Real, live conversation”

  1. I enjoyed our conversation earlier this month as well, Roger — you really helped me prioritize the project I discussed with you. Whatever comes of it, it will be thanks in large part to your insight and advice. Much appreciated!

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  2. Tips from my observations of successful, long face-to-face interactions:

    – Long talks only happen when there is “space” for such interactions to occur. You cannot be busy with something distracting. One great conversation happened while I was on vacation with a friend. We just laid in a hammock together for an hour and a half and talked about “stuff”: family, old friends, kids, what it’s like to be “grown up.”

    – Low energy activities that don’t require a great deal of “active” concentration are great for stimulating real conversation. Some of the best conversations I ever had were during my Sunday chess games with a friend. We didn’t play with a timer, so sometimes there was 20 minutes or more between moves. That can be contrasted with conversations during video games (not satisfying at all and not in depth!)

    – While relationships can be built in public spaces like book groups, deep conversations do not happen there. An example is a friend I made from church Bible studies and book groups. She and I only had a real conversation when we met privately at her house. Even if the topic isn’t intimate or private it’s difficult to get at a deeper level without privacy.

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  3. I broke a tooth during my first long conversation with Roger (bit down just wrong on a peanut in some Pad Thai), and still look back at that as a great conversation, not only with Roger but also Rocco Nigro. Growing up shopping at FantaCo, you guys were like rock stars to me. And still are!

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  4. I would encourage you to try and get back into one of the groups at your church. That seems to be an area of importance for you and may be the best place to nurture those human interactions. But you’ll always have us…….:-)

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