Monday, November 29, 2010

This is me, practicing.

Hey y’all! Have you had your fill of shopportunities yet? Has Kohl’s aggravated the living bejeebers out you with their continuous stream of advertising? Are you inundated with catalogs hawking everything from fleece blankets to beef? Is the ValPak, which is of course like money in the bank being delivered right to your door!), reaching such a thickness that it might not fit in your mailbox? Is all this consumerism about to drive you bonkers, as it is me?

Well, set right back and take a break from all this crass commericalism, and we’ll spend some time together talking about ‘not much.’ It’s a great topic, the not much, because it can encompass everything from the weather to kids to meal planning to what the next door neighbors are doing. Which, in my case, ain’t much, because we don’t have any next door neighbors, but the ones across the street are pretty interesting right around now. Yep – the ones kitty-corner left have been gone all weekend, but apparently didn’t take their dog with them because the poor beggar’s been in the backyard all day long, and I’ll bet all night too, which is terrible because it’s been freezing around here at night (literally). I sure hope they at least have a dog house for the pup. Why, I might just take a short walk this afternoon with a pair of binoculars to do a little bit of spying, then call the SPCA or something if that dog stays out another night. It’s inhumane to treat a poor animal like that.

The folks across the street, well, there aren’t really folks across the street, because the house renovation that started in February isn’t yet complete. The folks doing the reno have put things in, taken them out, put other things in, painted a couple of different times, and now seem to be just poking around doing not much at all. There’s been a little interest in the house though, in the form of a family driving past it then asking me if it had rented yet. Rented? Hmm, I’d been told the owners/renovators were going to SELL it. I wonder if they’ve changed their minds now that it’s been almost a year since they started work on it? Might be they can earn some money on it by renting and kepping the place in their name in case they ever want ot move to town. They’re not getting any younger, and it might be nice for them to live in a place where he can walk to the store for his smokes and the grocery isn’t but a couple of miles away. Conveniece is important when you get to a certain age, isn’t it?

The young couple two houses down just painted their place a nice shade of green. They’re quiet, with a couple of little kids, so we like them as neighbors. Not much goes on down there, which is a nice change from the few families who lived there before they bought the place. We’ve had some interesting groups live in that house, but none of them stayed long. I prefer non-transient neighbors, it gives a person something to expect and rely on, in a way.

Then there’s the couple down the end of the block. They’re older, friendly in a ‘we’ll say hi but not invite you over for dinner’ way, which I like, and have a few kids who occasionally visit in their big loud trucks. The gentleman of the couple used to work at the Mill before it closed back in ’78, which I think is really interesting; he’s like a relic of history. When you meet someone like that, don’t you just want to pepper them with questions about what it was like, back in the day? I know I do.His commute was a short one, as the Mill is, quite literally, in their front yard. I think they’re happy to have us as neighbors, because they say nice things about our garden and do stop for a bit of a chat sometimes as they’re headed out for their nightly walk.

After them there are no more neighbors down the street, because our street ends. Oh, the Mill is back there, but we don’t think of them as neighbors. We DO see them walking up our street from time to time, even though our street and their parking lot don’t join up it’s not hard to climb the small embankment from their place to our street and from there go to downtown or the convenience store up on the corner or the high school.

Now, the folks on the other side of the cross-street, well, it looks like them getting a shed didn’t stop them from keeping most of their stuff in the yard, but I do have to say it’s at least more organized than it was before, and thank goodness they seem to be getting along better these days. Plus which, that big ol’ garden was nice to look at this summer, so as far as they go things are looking up.

Beyond them we don’t really know too many more people except the woman who has lived in this neighborhood all her life and can probably tell you who used to live in your house back all they way until these house were built. Lots of folks who used to live here were related to one another, so there’s a lot of ‘cousin’ talk when she gets going. After a generation or so I get confused, especially since the narrative includes where those folks are now, who they married, what church they used to go to, who has since died, and on and on. When it comes to talking about not much, the woman is the Queen of it all. It’s clearly a Southern thing, as some other older Southern ladies I know can and do go on and on about mot much in particular and everything in general, until the words flow together in a river of verbiage, and I start not paying attention.

I am not from those venerable examples of How to Talk About Not Much, and so it has been an acquired skill, one that I am proud to say I’m improving on with diligent practice. After 5+ years in the south, I’m starting to understand how it goes. You take a topic and insert as much detail as you can, including minutiae about semi-relevant but seemingly unrelated topics, then just keep on talking. To do this you must first of course develop an almost encyclopedic knowledge about your chosen subject, which naturally means that you have to remember facts and dates and names, then be able to recall all of them with a high degree of accuracy. THEN, you must engage your chosen conversation partner with occasional queries like ‘don’t you think?’ or ‘ain’t that a shame?’ or similar, to ensure they’re paying attention. Once all you’re getting in reply is a grunt, you know it’s time to close with ‘well, I sure have enjoyed talking with you, but I got to go,’ which is the catch-and-release phrase that pays when you’ve just devoted a good hour talking about not much. It’s never too late to appear like you have someplace better to be once you’ve talked someone into a thousand-yard stare.

Now, shall we talk about the weather, or are you ready to just go someplace quiet and pray I leave you alone?

Well, I sure have enjoyed talking with you, but I got to go. Tiff out.

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