Posted by: ritagone | October 26, 2016

Conversations at Opposite Ends of a Spectrum



Sometimes there are conversations that you hear or are a participant in that are so polar opposite from one another that you have to step back and write about them. That’s what I’m doing today. You will appreciate what I have to say, I think.

conversation         The first conversation took place in a vehicle on the 101 Freeway going from the Conejo Valley to Hollywood on a Saturday evening a few weeks ago, when my husband Michael and I were traveling with our daughter Dana and son-in-law Ed and another delightful couple, Jim and Mary Kay Altizer. First, let me say that the Rouses and the Altizers are musicians. This is important for what follows. We six were on our way to a fundraiser in Hollywood for a charity that our son Matthew has been involved in since its inception, and that evening he was getting an award, unbeknownst to him, so it was going to be a glorious evening.

In the car, with the usual amount of Saturday evening Los Angeles traffic slowing us down, at one point the conversation turned to a praise song that had been sung in church the previous Sunday morning. “Song” was the last word I understood, as it so happened. A discussion ensued about the meter (I think that’s the rhythm or beat of the song, but don’t quote me) of that particular song, and how the worship leader had gotten it wrong. My son-in-law, who was driving, had one opinion about what the meter should have been, and Mary Kay, who is his colleague at work and very dear friend, had another. I should have taken out my phone and snapped a photo of Ed driving and steering with his left hand and “conducting” an invisible choir or orchestra with his right to make his point about the beats of the song. And to record audio on this conversation as well. Dana and Jim chimed in from the back of the minivan and the front passenger seat.

Michael and I – sitting in the middle seats — sat and listened…and smiled. The discussion veered off into the original intention of the meter of the composer of the song, complete with promises to check scores when everyone got home. It was a discussion in what might as well have been Greek for me, unversed as I am in musical lingo at this depth.

But I loved listening to the expertise and the challenges and excitement of four people who cared about music enough to be so enthusiastic about whether a song was originally 6/4 or 5/4 or whatever the heck that even means!! Now when I think of that conversation, it makes me smile. The other night I was recounting that experience to another musician friend while Ed and Dana were present. Do you know what happened? Immediately the debate about the meter of that song was launched all over again!!! Too funny! A conversation that keeps on going and glowing because the people who are talking and sharing are having such a good time and become instantly invested in the topic.

And the listeners were pretty entertained too.

The second bunch of conversations at the other end of the spectrum I referred to in the title of this piece were heard throughout a documentary entitled “Weiner” recently released about…you guessed it…Anthony Weiner, he of the unfortunate name and even more unfortunate propensity to sext women on his ever-present smartphone. This sad behavior started while he was a U.S. congressman and continued when he was running for office, mainly mayor of New York City in 2013. This documentary was made over a several-year period and captured the intimate repercussions of this scandal not only on Weiner’s political career (resigning as the congressman and losing ignominiously his race for mayor) but on his relationship with people around him, the citizens of New York City and his campaign workers, and, most particularly, his wife Huma, who just happens to be a close associate and brilliant worker of and for Hillary Clinton’s, so she has some standing in the public eye of her own.

What did I notice about this guy? First, he almost never looked anyone he was talking to in the eye, so constantly immersed was he in his device. Secondly, he had the amazing ability to turn every conversation toward himself with a narcissist’s skill and expertise. You had the sense that when he talked about himself and what he had done, getting caught was what really bothered him. No remorse. Just say the right words in a conversation to the people around you or the press because that is what’s expected of you. But don’t bother to change or repent of what you’ve done, and certainly don’t talk in such a way that other people would feel heard and understood. There was never any kind of conversation that was two-way, anything that allowed the person talking to him to feel they knew or understood Mr. Weiner. He appeared to me as someone so sad, so removed from human contact while appearing to be “in the thick of things,” that I think I understood only too well why the sexting appealed to him. Distant, non-physical contact is probably what worked best for him. A sign of our times, in many ways, a poster boy for people who not only can’t talk but can’t touch.

Two sets of conversations, yet so very different.

I thought: if Anthony Weiner walked up to me and wanted to talk, there was nothing, after watching the hour and a half documentary about him, that would entice me to do so. I would want to, mind you, because I know it’s the right and humane thing to do, but I imagine there would be no joy in it at all.

On the other hand, four musicians laughing and speaking about musical terminology that I haven’t an inkling about was so engrossing that I can’t wait to sit and listen to them again soon even if they’re talking about meters of music!



  1. I think I might have wanted to jump out the window, Rita –except these were your kids and friends.

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