Author: Cornish, Rick


Good morning from Whiskey Creek, where it’s been hot enough to seriously warrant a review and possible redefinition of the term ‘serve at room temperature’; where, by a little before four in the afternoon yesterday, the usual time for the household’s twenty minute ritual of fetch-the-ball, the four dogs had actually sought and received court injunction awarded on the basis of extremely unhealthy playing conditions; and where every thirty or forty minutes my wife, Lynn, sends me outside just to make sure that the swamp cooler pads are wet—you know, she warns each time, the thing won’t work if the pads aren’t wet. Thankfully promises that temps will drop dramatically today…down to the high nineties. Be still my heart.

Last minute subbing again today, so I’ll write about something that’s been on my mind quite a bit lately--friends and friendship. I know a woman, a bluegrass friend, (I use the term friend loosely here), who recently told me that, although she knows a lot of people, (and she really does—there’s a seventy-five percent chance that YOU know her), she has relatively few true friends, which, to me, had ground-shaking resonance since I too have an army of acquaintances, more than you could shake a stick at, (in case you’re wondering, a Dutch immigrant expression using the Dutch word schok = "to shake or hit"), but a handful of actual friends, actual friends being defined as people I’m comfortable talking to about nothing for more than five minutes, five minutes being, for me personally, the absolutely unbendable cut-off, nothing meaning really anything at all that has no real consequence or life-or-death import to those engaged in the conversation, for example the trading of stories about weaseling out of speeding tickets or the sharing of solutions for the Bermuda grass problem, (which problem, by the by, is without solution, notwithstanding the years-long argument Lynn and I have had over the question and her utter rejection of the scientifically proved fact that the roots of BG can grow as deep as eight feet), and, finally, comfortable defined, again, for me personally, as the state of calmness required to resist the temptation to turn away and run from the person with whom I’m chatting, all of which is to say that the making of sustained small-talk for any period of time in excess of three hundred seconds, which, when you think about it, is long enough to cover an entire universe of nothing, is for me anathema, not because of any judgments placed on what is surely one of the most time-honored pastimes ever invented by person kind, (e.g., talking about nothing is just a big waste of time, or, I’m above all that superficial kind of drivel, or even, I wouldn’t want to be friends with people who would choose to make small-talk with someone like me), but rather because of a withering, paralyzing fear that at some point before the end of the small-talk session I’ll run out of anything to say and, in the perfect storm of small-talk gone horribly wrong, so will the other small-talker, which, and, sadly, a few of you will relate to in a very dark and personal way, has been the subject of a recurring nightmare I’ve had since early childhood, the most memorable and terrifying of which had as its setting a very fancy, dark-suit dinner and awards ceremony being held in my honor for writing what was being heralded as the ‘greatest American novel ever written, (the plot having something to do with a bizarre re-telling of the George Washington-cherry tree fable), and during which I was engaged in a conversation with Kurt Vonnegut who, after telling me that he was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, to third-generation German-American parents, Kurt Vonnegut, Sr. and Edith Lieber and that both his father and his grandfather Bernard Vonnegut attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology and were architects in the Indianapolis firm of Vonnegut and Bohn, suddenly and with what can only be described a somber, foreboding dead-pan, said, ‘Okay, kid, that’s it for me…don’t have a single thing left to say…about anything, so you’re on’, and I, realizing we were well under the five-minute cut and run time frame, opened my mouth but nothing came out, which, given that, obviously, I couldn’t count Mr. Vonnegut as among my small handful of actual friends, meant I simply burst into flames, end of dream.

But I will say this…the handful of friends I do have are awfully good ones.

Posted:  7/24/2012

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