Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Raiders of the Lost Art

Watching the Super Bowl post game show I thought it funny that Marino, Sharpe and Boomer were all screaming over the music blaring from the Dolphin Stadium speakers. They could hardly hear themselves and the music was nearly drowning out what they were saying.

Out at the bars Saturday night, my voice wore down from yelling at my friends. Sunday morning I sounded like Demi Moore with emphysema.

The Celtics game I went to last year was louder than the average AC/DC concert.

Every place we go, it's getting increasingly difficult to carry on a simple conversation. The bars all crank music up to deafening levels, which I still don't understand. Most of them don't have places to dance and the people are there to meet and greet others. So why make them scream at each other? You can play music, just turn it down. I like talking to my friends and want to hear what they have to say. For the most part, anyway. Besides, how are the guys supposed to use terrible lines on women way out of their league if they can't hear?

I used to go to the old Celtic games and there was no music at all. Granted it was the Garden and the speaker system was built in 1922, but it was nice to chat with other game lovers and get their take on what was going on. I remember watching Bird play for 3 quarters and saying to my buddy "Man, he doesn't seem like he's playing that well". This guy in front of me was scoring on his own card and turned around to say "Actually, he's got 29 points already". This kicked off an entire discussion with everyone around us about how an average Bird was still better than other players at their best. An older guy started telling us about watching Bill Russell play and how he was the most menacing player he ever saw. "Just seemed to hate everyone on the other team" Everyone in that section was involved.

Today? They shoot TShirts at you from cannons and blast lame music, while 15 kids dance badly at half court. The only game I can go to and enjoy is the Red Sox. They still play music, but they make an effort to keep thing low key so you can talk. I had a great conversation with a guy from San Diego last season where he explained his admiration for Mark Loretta and how the Padres are constantly making puzzling moves. I love taking my son and explaining why players did certain things or why Manny didn't leave the batters box when he popped out or why the guy that just made the error is getting paid $15 million a year for the next 7 years or why Daddy shouldn't be talking to other women.

So the question remains, is the art of conversation being forced into extinction? Or has it already died and the loud music and sensory overload being used to disguise that fact? Maybe the powers that be are blasting sound at us because they think we don't want to talk to a lot of the weirdos surrounding us.

Let's face it, there are a lot of strange people out there. I, and many others, use MP3 players on the subway for a reason. I don't want Subway Bob telling me how he found Christ or listen to Bitter Sally tell her boyfriend he doesn't pay enough attention to her. I've received more than my share of strange looks while striking up conversations in bars. And those are from my friends!

It's not like people don't like to talk, either. Ever hear a 16 year old girl on her cell phone? Exactly. It just seems like nobody has anything relevant to say. What is the last intelligent conversation you remember having? A talk that made you think about things and actually reconsider your view points?

And, maybe that's the problem, too. We live in an increasingly confrontational society where it's us against them. You're either with us or against us. You're either holy and saintly (and most likely hypocritical) conservative or a hell bound, bleeding heart liberal. Maybe civilized conversation isn't possible anymore. I know I've been treated like an idiot on more than one occasion for offering my opinion on a subject. That I'm an idiot had nothing to do with it, my opinion just differed from the group I was with.

Nobody seems capable of thinking about what someone else is saying and actually considering it for what it is and not who it's coming from. Everyone is so hell bent on their own opinions, they can't accept anyone else's unless it agrees with theirs. Look at abortion. When's the last time anyone had a civilized debate on that topic? Is it even possible? If opinions are like fuel to a fire, are people now fearful of sharing them? Are we just sticking to safe topics like the weather and sports so we don't get into an emotional argument? Can we not like another person just because they differ on what the Catholic Church should have done about sexual abuse?

I guess the issue boils down to what I blame all other societal ills on: Religion. Let's just get rid of all organized religion and maybe we can start talking to each other again. And if not, at least I won't have to deal with Subway Bob and his new found faith. There's no downside!!

Today's distraction: Below is a link to some great conversation starters. I especially like this one: "What's the longest walk you've taken?" It's seemingly trivial, but answers could go anywhere. For example, mine would be this: Walking home from Boston on 9/11. Subways were packed, streets were clogged and I just kept walking from station to station hoping to get on a train. I wound up walking across the bridge that connects the North End with Charlestown with about 5,000 stunned and silent people. It was the closest thing to the end of the world I ever want to experience. Never got on a train and wound up walking all the way home.

Do me a favor and ask someone that question this week and let me know where it leads.

In fact, I'm asking you, dear reader. What's the longest walk you've ever taken? Leave your answer in the comment section if you have time.


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