Friday, September 2, 2016

August Friendship Highlights

Joy and I started this project at the end of July. In August I had quite a number of ‘friendship events’. Here are some of the highlights.

Old Friends

Motivational, Calligraphy, Grunge

I asked Veronica whether our friends Rich and Lynda were around. We used to play tennis with them (they always won, because Lynda is one of those infuriatingly consistent players who never misses a shot, even though she doesn’t hit many winners).  We share many things in common with this couple. In addition to tennis, they are both walkers and gardeners. Rich has recently devoted himself to taking care of shelter dogs. We see eye to eye on politics and we are all devoted to frugal lifestyles. We always enjoy getting together. No small talk with them - we know each other, and always find current things to talk about and dig into together. I do not think that all friends need to be like-minded; indeed, it is expanding and rewarding to share with people with widely different viewpoints, so long as they are open-minded and polite - and don’t take such differences too seriously. As the Horchows say, “it takes all kinds, you form an open, welcoming conception of friendship” (principle #3).  Still, it is especially comforting to spend time with like-minded folks.   

Rich and Lynda moved to Florida last year and put their beautiful Connecticut home up for sale. We haven’t seen them since. But Veronica said she thought they might be in Connecticut and I encouraged her to give them a call. They came over and we had a nice long walk and bar-b-que dinner from our grill. Turns out that when they came back to Connecticut in the Spring to look after their home in preparation for the sale, they discovered that they still loved their home in Connecticut in the Spring and Summer, and so they have taken it off the market. I am so glad we called (Howchow principle #51 - “Keep Up with Old friends”.)

A Friend’s Photo Exhibit

Photographers, Photo, Exhibition

Our friend Maxine had a show of her photographs at The Harborview Market Cafe in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. We have a lot of friends in Black Rock, and most of them were there to see Maxine’s pics and to celebrate with her. Maxine's photos were very interesting - she has a great eye for texture and space. We also met Maxine's daughter, a professor of politics who shares an interest with me in the neoliberal university.

Loretta, another Black Rocker, was also showing her photographs - it was a joint show. I had never met Loretta. Maxine told me she was a musician. Following Horchow principle #1 (“Reach out to Those you Don’t Know”) I introduced myself. Turns out that Loretta had lived in Philadelphia and had played in several chamber ensembles there. So we had a pleasant chat, in which the subject of folk music and folk fiddling arose. Loretta told me that in addition to her violin playing, she also played the fiddle and has even taken lessons in Irish fiddling. I told her about my years as a folkie, and about our recent trip to Ireland. We agreed to get together soon to play some Irish tunes. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet followed Horchow principle #42 (“Don’t Drop the Ball“); I have not yet invited Loretta over to the house for a music play date.  

A Weekend Brunch

Roll, Summit, Croissant, Cheese, Grapes

I told Veronica I wanted us to invite some friends over for a weekend brunch. Always helpful and enthusiastic, Veronica followed through and on Saturday August 13 we welcomed Joe and MaryAnn, Frank and Susie, Suzanne, Vince, and Joy. We had also invited Maxine and Don and Paul and Lynda, but they had previous plans. Frank and Susie have just recently moved into Seaside Village. Joe and MaryAnn have now been here for a couple of years. We met these couples when they lived in Black Rock. I baked an Anadama Bread. Veronica made Russian Borscht and ‘Frose’, a wine cooler made with frozen watermelon and Rose wine that is said to be the hottest new summer drink. We planned to eat outside, but the weather did not cooperate - it was blazing hot. So we all gathered in our air-conditioned kitchen and never left. Some crowded around the kitchen table; others sat at a little side table. Worked out well.

A Fellow Wisconsin Philosopher

In July I was in the Black Rock Dunkin Donut shop on Fairfield Avenue, sitting alone at a table for four. An attractive woman came over and asked whether she could borrow some chairs, as she was planning to meet with some clients at the next table. A few days later the same woman walked into this Dunkin Donuts again. Following Horchow principle #10 (“Make Room for New Friends”) I invited her over to my table. Denise explained that was waiting for a client, so I asked what business she was in. She said she was a realtor. She added that she was also a philosophy professor at a local university. I asked where she had gone to graduate school. Turned out she went to the same grad school I had - University of Wisconsin Madison - and had some of the same teachers. Of course my jaw dropped. By the time I recovered her client had entered, so I asked her for her business card.

I made sure to apply Horchow principle #37 (“Follow Up”) and #42 (“Don’t Drop the Ball”) and sent an email invitation to meet at Dunkin and share some memories and get to know one another better. We had a nice chat. The Horchow’s prescribe #12 (“Listen Before you Speak”) and #13 (Practice Active Listening”). Some people are so open and so intent on listening that it is actually a bit difficult to heed this advice - you can’t start active listening until the other speaks, and the other sometimes doesn’t speak a lot because she practices #12. But eventually we got to the point where we could both speak and listen. Denise had gone to Brown as an undergrad and studied with some of the most interesting living philosophers including Martha Nussbaum before heading off to Wisconsin. She is a Connecticut neighbor and I hope our friendship will develop.

A Theater Piece

Theatre, Sock And Buskin, Tragedy Comedy

Veronica and I frequently go to Barnes and Nobles in Westport Connecticut on hot summer weekend afternoons to enjoy couples time and at times to talk about our lives and plans. Twice in August we were joined at our table by others in the cafe. In the first instance, we were discussing our upcoming trip to South America and a handsome woman at the next table - practicing Horchow principle # 7 (“Eavesdrop Politely”) overheard our conversation and mentioned something about her own travels. So, again following principle #10 (“Make Room for New Friends”) we invited this woman - I’ll call her ‘Shelly’ though that is not her name -  to join us. Shelly must have been a strikingly beautiful younger woman - she had ‘great bones’. Now in her 50’s - I am guessing - she is still striking.

After graduating from Princeton, Shelly went into the theatre, acting, directing and writing for the stage. She tald us about some recent experiences with a one-person play she had written and performed, and another - a musical comedy - which she was currently working on. Unfortunately, Shelly did not practice Howchow principle #13 (“Practice Active Listening”). In fact, Shelly never had an occasion to listen at all, as she did all of the talking. After a while Veronica gave me a subtle hint - a kick under the table - and we excused ourselves. Shelly asked for our contact information - “People are now holding Salon’s” she said, and told us she was planning one. Perhaps a salon is an opportunity to hear Shelly talk about her theatre experiences and perform vignettes from her shows. I told Veronica I was quite certain we would never hear from her again and Veronica gave me that ‘look’ which means something along the lines of ‘No Shit Dick Tracy"

Oriental Medicine

Bodybuilding, Man, Body, Male, Fitness

The following weekend we were back in Barnes and Nobles, discussing our South American voyage, when a distinguished looking Oriental gentleman at the next table also practiced  principle #7 (“Eavesdrop Politely”). Elliot - which I take to be a nom de plume - is an author of books of suspense for young adults. He said he would never go to South America now. “Zika” he said. “It’s not only a disaster for pregnant women. It can attack adults and destroy our brains.” Elliot entertained us with his world travel adventures and tales of authorship. His dream is to buy a large home - perhaps in New Haven to be close to the Yale University Library - and fill every room with books. He also plans to marry a woman next year and move with her to China. He said he would visit his books from time to time.

Elliot asked us what we did. When I said I was a retired professor, he said that he was also a professor - in the past he has been an adjunct professor of business at a flagship state university. He was particularly interested when Veronica told him she was a doctor and did alternative and complementary medicine. He asked whether she knew anything about Oriental medicine. When she said she knew some, he said he needed to know about treatments for male potency because he was marrying a younger women and wanted to be a ‘stud’.
Renewing and Deepening a Friendship Made During Travel

Children, Win, Success, Video Game, Play

A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend I made in Ecuador in 2014. Ruth is a computer game designer and a professor of game design. She is associated with two universities in Barcelona. We met in Quito Ecuador in 2014, when we were both featured speakers at a conference about MOOCs at the National Institute for Advanced Studies. Ruth is originally  from Mexico, but now lives in Catalonia. She travels frequently to South America. We had a great time together in Ecuador - and we shared an aspiration to do more work there. As it turned out, both of us attained ‘Prometeo’ status and then had our projects rejected.

Ruth said that she and her husband Jose - also an education game designer and researcher - would be coming to New York in August and hoped we could get together. We agreed to meet on Sunday, August 28. Veronica and I suggested that we meet at Zabars cafe, and then walk in Central Park. When we looked at our New York Top 10 Guidebook, and checked on the Upper West Side, it turns out that Zabars makes the top 10 list, along with Lincoln Center and the Museum of Natural History and Columbus Circle. I practiced my Spanish by explaining this unusual fact - that Zabars was one of the most important monuments on the West Side - in that language. Ruth, following Horchow principle #41 (“Give Compliments”) complimented my Spanish accent.

Image result for john lennon memorial nyc

Ruth and Jose had searched for the John Lennon memorial in the Park but failed to find it. Our map was a big help. We walked through the Park to 72nd Street, left to look at the Dakota - the first of the grand apartment buildings on Central Park West - and then back to Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon Monument. There we found dozens of people lined up to have their pictures taken with friends, and a young man busking - singing Beatles songs (poorly) and collecting $$ from the tourists.

We had walked almost five miles and were thirsty, so we hit a bar on Broadway, had some beer, and shared travel stories. A lively fellow then practiced principle #7 (“Eavesdrop Politely”) and joined in while we were sharing about our experiences in Portugal. This guy had just returned from Portugal, and like the rest of us, was blown away by the experience. Unfortunately, in this instance we did not practice principle # 10, and did not reach out to exchange contact information with our new friend - who had fit right in and added to a perfect end to a perfect day.  

Ruth will be visiting Brazil in September, giving seminars on game design at three Brazilian universities. She will then be going to Ecuador to do some follow up work in the provincial university of Azuay in Cuenca in October. Unfortunately, we will be leaving Cuenca just before she gets there. 

Letting Go 

I still have a few friends from my days at Temple University. Two of the colleagues who were in my department when I arrived 45 years ago remain Facebook friends. 

This year I noticed that one of these was leaving snarky comments on some of my posts. Following Howchow principle #2 ("Hone your Friendship Antennae") I realized that something was amiss. After talking this over with Veronica, I decided to say nothing, but to stay alert. Last week this colleague made openly hostile remarks on my FB. After an unpleasant private exchange, I was led to reflect on Horchow principle #67 ("Learn to Let Go"). The Horchows explain: People change. The bases for friendship dissolve. Learn to come to terms with friendships that are fading.  


So these are the highlights of my August Friendship Project. Many friends, old and new, added to my life last month. Veronica and I re-connected with old friends and deepened our relationships. We opened ourselves to some new people as potential friends. Some panned out, others didn't. I experienced one old friendship fading and am letting go to make more space for the new.