Birney Imes: Meaningful conversation

January 1, 2011 9:38:00 PM

Birney Imes - [email protected]


If you''re not one to submit to the discipline of a New Year''s resolution, but you would like to make improvements, December''s "Psychology Today" may have your answer: Talk more. Not just any talk, thoughtful conversation. 


In a short article titled "Endangered Arts," Kate Bolick makes an argument for the revival of four customs disappearing from modern life, the first of them being meaningful conversation. Letter writing, a do-it-yourself mentality and the renaissance personality are the other three. 


"Whether you''re falling in love or entering into friendship, open-ended, seemingly unimportant conversations are essential to building intimacy," Bolick writes. "They are also the means by which we learn, via other people, how the world works." 


We spent New Year''s eve evening with friends over a good meal. For at least 2-1/2 hours we sat at a table, the conversation flowing as naturally -- and sometimes as unpredictably -- as a mountain stream. No one was checking his BlackBerry and no TVs were going (OK, there was a soundless football game on a small TV in the kitchen, but no one was watching.) and nobody''s phone rang. 


More than once during the evening I thought to myself, what a fine way to ride out the final moments of a tumultuous year, with spirited food and delicious talk among old friends. 


Humans have more facial muscles than any other species and we''re hardwired to read all 43 of them, the article states. Half the brain is devoted to processing visuals. When we communicate by computer, we sacrifice nuance, and sometimes meaning. We also lose the ability to empathize, according to one study. 


As one who has read his share of harsh e-mails, often written by readers hiding behind anonymity, I can agree. How easy it is for people to write cruel things about those with whom they disagree, things they would never dream of saying to their face. 


Once a week I meet with a group of guys for what is supposed to be a discussion of spiritual matters. All too often we jump track to more secular concerns. Though we hold widely --maybe even "wildly"-- different political and religious views, we voice our opinions freely and without inhibition. And though sometimes blood pressures rise, our friendship supports a tolerance that enables us to educate each other and ourselves. 


When I have something I think is important to communicate, I try to do it in person. People often do the same with me. An important part of what we have to communicate is transmitted through facial expression and body language. By our presence we communicate our commitment to an idea. 


"Face-to-face social interaction is hard," writes an expert quoted in the story. "If we don''t go through a period where we''re force to master the hideous process of learning how to talk with other people, we never will. 


"The most fruitful and natural play of the mind is conversation," wrote essayist Michel de Montaigne in the 16th century, "I find it sweeter than any other action in life." 


It''s an easy resolution for 2011: Turn off the cell phones and have more meaningful conversations, with family, friends and coworkers. 




Jones Motel 


Aubrey Gibson has a bet going at work. Someone at Noweta''s Flowers wondered when the Jones Motel was torn down. Everyone picked a year and now Gibson is trying to find someone who knows when this classic "No-Tell Motel" became rubble. Guests could park their car in their own private garage, close the door and walk up stairs unseen to their room above. The Jones Motel was a landmark north of town on Highway 45 at the turnoff to Kolola Springs and Caledonia. Surely, it''s inspired a country song or two. 


Gibson''s late grandmother, Murtis Gibson, lived nearby. Authoritative sources say the mid-80s, but no one has an exact date. If you know when call Aubrey at Noweta''s or e-mail me. 




Postcard from Mexico 


Bill Roundsville when helping settle an estate found a postcard of a six-story hotel in Mexico my father mailed to Gilmer Hotel manager Leo Spatz in the mid-1940s. 


"Had lunch here today. Almost as good as Gilmer Coffee Shop. Regards, Birney Imes" 




Glenn Miller''s block party 


About 10 years ago someone noticed an open door at the old Marble Works building where Glenn Miller, circuit preacher and boat repairman, has his shop. That someone called the police, who investigated and found nothing missing. 


So appreciative was Glenn that he held a hamburger cookout for the neighborhood. The event has grown and Tuesday night about 200 people, some wearing cashmere, some camo, showed up for Brother Miller''s annual appreciation dinner. 


On the menu were fried catfish, ribs and some of the best chicken I''ve ever eaten. Glenn says the chicken recipe belonged to Billy McIntyre. Catalina dressing, soy and Worcestershire sauces are used in a concoction that is the marinade and basting sauce. 


For desert there were "redneck beignets" (that''s canned biscuits deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar) and deep-fried Twinkies. By the time I was ready for my sweets the beignets were gone. I returned to my place at the table in time to be offered one of the last three Twinkies. I took one meaning to eat only half. It was delicious. Had it been topped with something fancy, say a pear conserve, you would have thought you were wrapping up a meal in a chic Paris restaurant. 


Like Glenn''s shop appreciation dinner, we have so many customs -- and people -- unlike anything you''ll find anywhere else. And folks wonder why the South has so many brilliant writers. Why wouldn''t we; there''s original material in every direction. 


Birney Imes is the publisher of The Commercial Dispatch. E-mail him at [email protected]

Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.