Saturday, May 29, 2010

Walking the Dog With Nick and Ruth

So the other night at our weekly get-together, my friends Nick and Ruth and I discussed something that earlier in the day had greatly upset Nick so much he’d declared himself a convert to my alleged misanthropy. The two of them had been walking Agnes and Boo down by the river, as they do daily. It’s Nick’s custom on such occasions, as it used to be mine when I’d join Claire and her rescued greyhound, to nod almost imperceptibly or to grunt, “How you doing?” at fellow dogwalkers or others they encountered, leaving Ruth to do the heavy lifting charm- and sociability-wise. They passed a guy whom they often see walking his Rhodesian ridgebacks, and Nick grunted a soft greeting. A moment later, they heard the guy furiously bellowing, “Dude!” and turned to try to ascertain the provenance of his fury. It turned out he'd been outraged by Nick’s not being very solicitous. He rebuked Nick for making what he described as a sorely inadequate two percent effort. Nick recounted being on the verge of hitting the guy for pointing bellicosely at Ruth while saying, “It isn’t you I’m pissed off at, but him.”

We each had another slice of an unusually delicious Brothers’ grandmother’s pizza — so named, apparently, because it’s inventor’s grandmother used very little cheese, and a great deal of tomatoes and garlic — and considered what Nick should do the next time they encounter the guy, as they almost surely will. I, in that zany way I have, wondered if it might be fun to discombobulate him by whooping, “Dude!” at the sight of him, and offering a hand for him to high-five. Or the two of them could even jump in the air and bump chests or bellies, in the manner of modern football players. Ruth’s idea was that Nick claim the moral high ground by telling the guy, before the guy has a chance to say anything, how sorry he was to have seemed unfriendly.

That seemed a sure winner to me. If the guy rebuffed him, he would be showing himself to be a vengeful asshole. On the other hand, if the guy were gracious and accepted responsibility for the unpleasantness of the earlier exchange, the two of them might well go on to become fast friends. On one level I would dislike that, as I much prefer my friends to no friends other than me, but the nobler part of me (it’s in there somewhere!) would revel in Nick acquiring another potential source of succor and encouragement.

In other news, I watched an ancient video of Eddie Van Halen playing a solo — a real solo, without any accompaniment — yesterday, and thought about the traditional gap between what critics and audiences like. It's my perception that audiences enjoy remarkable displays of virtuosity — in much the same way that sports fans enjoy great catches or long punt returns for touchdowns — while critics generally view such displays as freak shows. I know that I, watching the Van Halen solo, thought it expressed only his delight in his own dexterity. I wish I could play like that, but like to imagine I wouldn’t if I could.

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