The Whole World in a Malt Shop: The Art of the Jazz Conversation

Curt brought his “Tatler,” our high school year book to the reunion. In high school we knew each other only tangentially, so making a new friendship out of an old shoe is particularly fun for me. At the Saturday networking event there was a paperwork snafu, and they challenged his credentials as a member of the class. Even though all his information was printed in the address booklet, his name wasn’t on the list. But, he got in, after some palaver. We all had a laugh about that.

At the Saturday event there was a comedian as background sound, a drawing for door prizes (hey! I won a coupon for a 30-minute massage), and dancing (John Copley saved a couple of dances for me).

Afterwards, Curt and I went to the Steak and Shake for what my dear Ghanaian friend Ofosu-Appeah used to call a “jazz conversation.” A conversation with jazz riffs and rhymes and has rhythm…it diverges and converges on theme and variation, and improvizes freely between instruments, while maintaining a central melody. The art of conversation is becoming more rare these days as rushing becomes more the norm. To be with a good conversationalist (especially while sipping an orange shake) is a true treat.

There was no Steak and Shake in the Alton-Godfrey area when I was a teenager. That was only for the big city. There was one on the Riverview round-about and it had curb service. I remember the thrill of a rare taste of food made from outside our home kitchen when my mother took me there a few times on our infrequent outings to St. Louis. We had a malt shop on Henry Street. I don’t remember going there to speak of because I was a country girl. So, talking in a malt shop after an event sounds like an unrealized girlhood experience we might say. But, hey, better than a bar.

Curt said he wanted to “read between the lines of what’s going on in your life.” And that’s what we did for two hours. I felt that I was participating in a Socratic dialogue as we discussed moral and philosophical issues related to my move from Northern California to St. Louis. Layers revealed through an anthropological study with my decision as source material. Curt has learned about connection and intimacy from his life journey. As we parted, he said, “It’s like reading a good novel. I think maybe we’re up to chapter two now.” And next time, perhaps at the holidays, we’ll read into his book more deeply.

Our theme was “autonomy with connection” and I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

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One Comment

  1. I like this idea of a modern Socratic Dialogue in which we are characters discussing moral and philosophical problems. In this case, you went from the particular to the universal, and I think that is the way to anchor our lives within culture.

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