the fine art of hanging out


momentary narrative © Raffaella Loro

I was reading the work of a particular freelance writer last week and when I couldn't find a copy of one of her articles online I ended up ordering a journalism textbook where it had been published (my other option was to track down an old copy of Elle magazine). It was a random purchase but since I picked it up from the post office yesterday I've found myself rather engrossed in the textbook.

During the past few weeks, while pitching my grand ideas about using new medias to support the efforts of municipal governments I've frequently been bringing up the idea of storytelling. I think people thrive on stories. Nothing quite compares to a well crafted story that weaves together all the details of an event. Some people are particularly adept at gathering and remembering these details, an ability that is described in the textbook as the fine art of hanging out, a phrase attributed to a writer named Guy Talese. I wonder how well I practice the fine art of hanging out.

This morning on my way to work I passed by a former coworker of mine, a Bulgarian bridge engineer who has lived the most amazing life. In the last few months that we worked together he would often stop and sit with me and another coworker and delight us with stories of his childhood as a violin prodigy and early career as an engineer behind the Iron Curtain. His stories were fascinating and I seem to recall so much of what he told me, even though it's been many months since we last spoke. A few weeks ago I shared his story during dinner with some friends. While telling the story I paused to take a drink and was greeted with silence. At first I thought that I was boring everyone, but I quickly realized that I had the table's full attention. I'm sure this was more testament to the amazing life this man has lived, but part of it must be that I was able to retain those details of his story that made it interesting in the first place.

I am going to continue practicing this fine art of hanging out. If I keep at it, maybe I can end up writing something that is even remotely reminiscent of this essay by Guy Talese.