For the first time in a long time I spent most of my waking hours on Saturday in conversation. I had begun to suspect that it, like yodeling and poetry, was a dead art. Preaching and complaining are not conversation. Neither is an exchange of one-liners from last night’s television show. Conversation is a give and take of memories, thoughts and stories among two or more people. It is never one-sided or strident. It has a discernible rhythm. At its best it causes time to evaporate.
In the morning I spent two hours over coffee with Jan Viscomi, who taught A.P. English in my senior year of high school. Jan is in her mid-seventies, and as sharp as I remember her forty-six years ago. We talked about books, old friends and the ongoing decline of Western Civilization. Starting in the afternoon I spent seven and a half hours with Gary and Laura Dumm, artists in Cleveland who have been my friends for forty-one years. One day earlier, I saw their mural, “Our Love Letter to Cleveland,” at the West Side Market, for the first time. The talk was effortless and never stopped. Gary and Laura are among the smartest, funniest, most generous people I know. Boswell reports the great man saying: “The happiest conversation is that of which nothing is distinctly remembered but a general effect of pleasing impression.”