During the pandemic, the art of conversation never died for me, it just struggled sometimes. But now thoughtful discussions and enthusiastic discourse are back for the summer and I couldn’t be happier.
After a season of a twice-a-week salon discourses with Ron, my pool man, I was anxious to return to a more active calendar of cerebral engagements like I had last summer.
Those ‘coffee and chat’ sessions had started out simply enough last spring. After returning early from Palm Springs, Sharon and I realized the summer would be unlike any other. COVID-19 had caused an almost total shutdown of normal activities and called for life-altering adjustments. Serious adaptions were called for.
So our new routines evolved into discovering the peace and serenity of a woodland waltz. Social gatherings were limited to our porch and patio or down by the riverside. Better World Books became our conduit for books to read. Netflix and the Amazon tablet provided moves and entertainment.
But the most satisfying adjustment was reacquainting myself with old friends and opening up communications with newer friends. I called them my ‘coffee and chat’ sessions. Sharon had another name for them; ‘My Playdates.’
Gathering spots ranged from a quiet lake to the Mississippi River. The Monument at the end of Summit Avenue in Saint Paul proved another popular spot.
On my first official C & C back in session, one of my friends and I rediscovered the solitude of a grassy knoll looking over still waters in the crisp early morning air. It was the perfect peaceful setting for great coffee and thoughtful, insightful, challenging conversations.
For other friends, the outdoor settings varied from parks, patios, porches, shelters, and other drafty spots with plenty of air circulation and room for our camp chairs spread apart. It was a pleasant alternative to the traditional nosey, crowded coffee shops of the past.
While Sharon whimsically called them my playdates, I preferred to see them as catch-up sessions, strengthening the bonds of friendship. I think on a certain level, each of us were seeking those ‘lost treasures of the past’ and explorations of the future. Conversations covered a wide variety of subject matter from politics to retirement to relationships to trivia.
This summer was not a duplicate of last summer. Not surprisingly, there was a loss of some friends through ghosting. I don’t know if they were casualties of the pandemic, grew tired of our early morning gatherings or had just ‘moved on.’ Their reluctance to respond to my many e-mails left me a bit perplexed and disappointed. But even though my posse of cerebral adventurers had shrunk a bit, the ones who were left more than made up for the conversational drought.
One of the icons of the 60’s said it best in a couple of his songs. ‘Don’t Think Twice, That’s Alright,’ ‘Boots of Spanish Leather,’ and ‘My Back Pages’ all speak of moving on and refocusing one’s life as the world changes around us.
This summer back in Minnesota, things have certainly changed. The local theater scene is only now slowly coming back to life and there is a huge backlog of plays to consider. My latest novel ‘Playground for the Devil’ feels very promising but hasn’t yet hit enough exposure to garner real attention. Last season’s portfolio of new plays has been examined more closely and most need additional surgery.
But that’s OK, it’s alright. Even without boots of Spanish leather, I can still amble through this summer, proud of my back pages and eager for the future ahead….with pen in hand.
I can’t wait to replicate what I’ve rediscovered here with another group of conversation crusaders out west. True wealth comes with good health and friendships, making me a very wealthy guy.