Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Chalk and Cheese

I had a most pleasant experience over the holiday. Some old friends of ours had a small party at their house. Nothing special, just hors d'oeuvres and conversation.

Our friends are half and half; he English and she American. They are friends with several couples in the same boat, one English and the other American. I can only assume my wife and I feel so at ease in this crowd because of our similar differences. I’m a Southerner and my wife is a Yankee. Of course, in this crowd, we’re both “Yanks.” Which is part of the charm in this group. We have enough differences to make the conversation interesting, yet we’re all similar enough to provide an easy comfort. And of course, the common language that separates us provides for comedic relief.

“Sir” John (it’s an inside joke) was making some point or other and in his wonderful accent said, “Well, they’re as different as chalk and cheese aren’t they ?” Only, in struggling to decipher John’s accent, I heard “Chuckie Cheese.” As you can imagine, this didn’t quite fit into the logic of the conversation and I was left to wonder (for a second or two) why John would be comparing anything to Chuckie Cheese. Trying to recover, I said, “I’m sorry John, what kind of cheese was that ?” You can imagine the smile this brought to his face. And so the night goes.

Despite the language barrier, we all manage to have wide-ranging conversations -- from the silly to the sublime. What I found most interesting (and what inspired me to write this post) was that we are able to talk politics. I mean talk -- as in a real discussion. No yelling, no sound bites, no ill will. It was refreshing.

No one was ridiculed. No one was belittled. Not even me, when my new friend Ian pointed out (gently) that I was probably the last person on the planet that hadn’t read Paul Krugman of the New York Times.

Just in case I’m actually the next to last person that hasn’t read Mr. Krugman, here’s some interesting reading.

Friendly, intelligent and interesting conversation. Conversation where you actually learn something. As opposed to the mean-spirited one-upmanship you see in most political “conversation” these days. It was as different as chalk and cheese.

Don Brown
December 27, 2006

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