Cheers was the place where
everyone knew your name, a home away from home, where you could commiserate
with friends who shared a drink and a little time away from life’s cares.
Utterly unrealistic. Cheers, after
all, was a sports bar. Sports bars are loud, dominated by televisions,
sometimes multiple TVs tuned to multiple sports events. Talk is about sports;
talk is loud; participants talk over each other just to be heard or to make a
point. Their exchanges are determined by what they just saw or heard on the TV.

Not even close.

louder the din, the shallower the talk.

work with a lot of thirty-somethings. During breaks the males will coalesce and
begin to sputter on a limited topic: sports, particularly fantasy games.
Arguments will ensue over the relative worth of a player or coach.

share my desk with a work friend who, like me, is closer to retirement age.
We’ve come to regard the frequent outbreaks of guy talk as “Middle School lunch.” This is because they differ
not a whit from the conversations I remember that preoccupied boys of middle
school age.

so the sports bar is everywhere.

upon a time, you could have an actual conversation in a bar, or a coffee shop.
People went to such places just to converse, and some venues were designed
around the conversation. Anyone old enough to remember conversation pits?

places still exist, but I fear they are all in Eastern Europe. Some years back
my youngest took on an internship in Prague while she was in college. She told
me about a night she and her fellow students went out on the town and were
barred from entering numerous drinking establishments at the door. Why? Because
young Americans were regarded as loud, rude, and dullards. They interfered with
intelligent conversation.

me want to hop the next plane to the former Eastern Bloc.

been starving for a long, relaxing meandering conversation, the kind I used to
have with a late friend of mine, eclectic and fractured by an infinite number
of tangents. Oh, we might talk sports, but we’d also sound out religion,
history, literature, the price of eggs, who was and wasn’t gay. It would go on
and on and it gave a deep pleasure to one’s soul.

conversation has become a lost pastime, if not a lost art. Conversation – the
unhurried unraveling of thoughts and ideas, observations and gossip – just
doesn’t seem to fit in the social media age. Today a clever tweet passes as
something profound.

conversation allows two or more people to develop and illuminate ideas. It’s
akin to storytelling, but not quite. A storyteller, after all, speaks or writes
to a rapt audience who receive the tale, but don’t alter it. So while
storytelling might be part of conversation, all participants steer and adjust
the story, and through that process the initiator of the story might well reach
an ending he did not intend.

toyed with writing a story as a conversation. And while some books I’ve read
could be described as conversational, the only one I ever read whose style was
in the form of a long, meandering conversation with tangents shooting off in
multiple directions is “Son of the Morning Star” by Evan S. Connell.

its face an account of the life and last battle of star-crossed Western Icon
George Armstrong Custer, it is so much more. An entire review of late 18th
century America and the clash of cultures, but told in small morsels of
humanity, with accounts centering on minor as well as major players. By the
time I’d finished the book I felt like I’d spent a few hours in a corner booth
with a gifted conversationalist.

miss it. Conversation, that is. Quiet, unhurried talk.

miss talking with people generally; I miss talking to people without a gadget
in their hand.

guess I’m getting crabby.