The fear is the basic condition, and there are all kinds of reasons for why we’re so afraid. But the fact of the matter is, is that, is that the job we’re here to do is to learn how to live in a way that we’re not terrified all the time.
David Foster Wallace
I’m not fearless. But I will try and talk to anyone. Even a rock:
See the large boulder above my head? This is your intrepid folk journalist covering breaking news: part of an embankment is crashing down onto the Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu, California.
I interviewed stuck drivers, highway repair people. Later I interviewed the rock.
Heck, I’ll interview anyone.
(with Sigmund Freud)
But a folk journalist mostly prefers talking to real folks. Good folks like you and you and you too out there. (A publisher saw me do it in a restaurant and suggested I write a book about it called, “PLEASED TO MEET ME.” That’s taken from the title of an lp by the band The Replacements.)
My niece noticed how I draw conversation out of her three year-old. She says I should hire myself out as a Kid Whisperer.
You know, borrow children from their parents and bring them back more conversant.
Is there a market for such a skill?
And how does kid whispering work?
When the toddler describes an action he recently took — he went to the playground, had pizza, or a bowel movement, etc — I follow with:
“And then what happened?”
“And then what?”
“What happened next?”
If he describes the picture on the page of the children’s book he’s reading, I’ll say: “Go on!”
When I do this, I’m imitating my grandmother, Adeline Krasnick of blessed memory, a great conversationalist known to all as Nana. Nana always seemed so interested in what we had to tell her. “Go on!” is sort of like saying, “You don’t say,” which Nana also said frequently. (Funny how saying you don’t say actually stimulates conversing.)
And sometimes, my three year-old grandnephew will go on and tell me more.
Here I am about to do some kid whispering with him:
He’s a little busy on the cell phone right now.
Next time maybe. Soon. When he’s four, for sure.