Saturday, August 27, 2005

Cognac and Conversation

Sometimes you recognize a lifelong friend in a sentence or two.

It was at a small publisher’s meeting.

He was a Brit with his top button buttoned. I was an American with a lot of personality. We were on the Durango Silverton Railroad. We were side-by-side facing out in an open air car, just down from the guy with the hooded peregrine falcon. He stood at the rail smoking one of those skinny European cigars. I sat up on the back of the seats.

The air held a chill, but I’d been cold before. The forest seemed at peace with things, and my soul agreed. The up-close Colorado mountains were a respite from the pages of print still burned on my mind’s eye. The trees were calling to the kid in me.

“Doesn’t this look like a great place to play hide-and-seek?” I asked, and so the conversation started.

He was well-traveled and in love with trains. I was alive and had been on a few in the days when American trains still had names.

I asked him what he liked best about Americans. He said it was our sense of irony. He said his country wasn’t known for theirs. We talked on and off . . . about Americans . . . about Brits . . . about publishing. Our eyes never really left the view. A separate, but intimate conversation. Just our style, now I know.

Later that night was a party. By then friendship was inevitable. There was no rush, no urgency, just the conversation and silence of longtime companions. A mucky-muck, who joined the conversation for a time, commented that he had never seen two people drink more cognac and stay more sober. Life is possibilities when two brains are engaged in mindful things.

When the party collapsed, my buttoned-up friend and I adjourned to the rustic lobby. A pair of large, lovely leather chairs about six feet across from each other allowed him to sit as a Brit and me to hang my legs over the arm.

“I have a decision to make,” he said.

“It's not my business what it’s about, but there’s a want-to answer and a should-do answer. Right?” I blurted too quickly. I mentally kicked myself, wondering where the writer-introvert goes when I need her?

“Exactly,” he said. “So what would you do?” His answer recharged my confidence. I started to breathe again. He didn’t stand a chance. I was off.

“I need more information. If you did the want-to, would anyone die?”

“No.” he smiled.

“Would your wife, your daughters, your friends, anyone be hurt in any way?”


“Everyone would eat?”


“End of story. Where’s the decision?”

He smiled again.

The conversation wrapped up about 30 minutes later, and gent that he was, he escorted me to the golf cart that delivered us to our rooms. As the cart wound down the path, we saw a star shoot across the Colorado night sky. . . .

I went into my room that night 16 years ago this week. He never said what his decision was about. I never asked.

He’s still a buttoned-up Brit. I ’m still an American with personality. We’ve had plenty of cognac and conversation since then.

We never did play hide-and-seek.
—me strauss Letting me be


Anonymous said...

Hope that was the desired effect - one of those grins - cos thats what it got :-D

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

That's a perfect response.
You made me smile too. :D

Anonymous said...

I'm just beside myself with the quality and style of your writing, Liz. Stunning.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Thanks you so much for you kind words. Of course you know that makes me want to write more. I have some things I'm working on right now. But I'm thinking of starting a writer's workshop sometime in the fall. Maybe you'll come.


Anonymous said...

I can't even remember where I found the link to your blog, but I'm so glad I did. That was beautiful.

Anonymous said...

You know, Liz, a major reason for my blog's existence is to set down America as seen through my staid old British eyes. And here you are, letting us know how a Brit gent looks through American eyes. As Churchill said, "Two peoples, separated by a common language." Wonderful stuff!

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Thank you. *she smiles* I visited your blog yesterday and enjoyed what I read there.


"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Thank you for your words. I wondered what your thoughts might be about my dear friend representing your country. I find him an excellent example of every thing I find dear about your home.
You're looking that way too.:)

Anonymous said...

Great story. I need to come over here more often!

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Thanks Laurie,
I like to see you over here.
I enjoy your site as well. See you there soon.