Glenn Frey

Glenn Frey died today, of complications from a number of ailments.  He was a founding member of the Eagles who was involved in writing, and singing, some of their finest songs.  He also had a solo career that featured some great songs, like The Heat Is On and Smuggler’s Blues.

img_7517_zps7d4a93e4But, of course, Glenn Frey will always be associated with the Eagles.  Why not?  It was a group that pretty much defined the country rock genre that came to prominence in the early ’70s, and the music the band produced was so great that, when I was in high school, you couldn’t go to a friend’s house without hearing the Eagles.  (My best friend in high school liked to quote Eagles’ lyrics at moments of stress; when he was debating whether to ask a girl out on a date, “take another shot of courage” was one of his favorite lines.)  Peaceful Easy Feeling, Take It Easy, Tequila Sunrise, and Desperado were all classic songs that have stood the test of time.

My favorite Eagles album, though, was On The Border, which had a bit of a harder edge and featured great songs like Already Gone, James Dean, Ol’ 55, On The Border, and Good Day In Hell and then closed with Best of My Love.  In the summer of 1976, when I worked at a resort in Lake George, New York, On The Border was the album of choice, constantly playing in the staff residence.  It was well suited to some beer-soaked crooning at the end of a long work day.  After On The Border, the Eagles music seemed to become a bit more commercialized, and it didn’t quite have the same appeal for me.

It’s strange that Glenn Frey’s death would follow so closely on the heels of David Bowie’s passing.  In their own ways, they epitomized different points on the wide spectrum of rock music during the early ’70s, with Bowie being the greatest practitioner of glam rock and the Eagles staking out their claim to the country rock territory.  Through the diversity of their music, both showed what rock music could be.

 

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Small Talk, Big Talk

The New York Times recently published an interesting article pleading for an end to “small talk.”  Written by a man who is dealing with the end of an important relationship and a plunge back into the dating world, it tells of an experience in Costa Rica that convinced him that we should focus more on “big talk,” and his successful experiments in doing so on first dates and, most recently, in the workplace.

The thrust of the article is that small talk — talking about your commute, or the weather, or the local sports team — is a meaningless time-waster, and everyone knows it.  Why not move directly to the big stuff, and really learn something important about the person you are talking to?  So the writer has taken to asking first date questions like “What’s the most in love you’ve ever felt?” and “What place most inspired you and why?” and, during a business trip, asking a new colleague “Why did you fall in love with your wife?”

Businessteam at a meetingIf this is a new trend in social interaction in America, I’m glad I’m happily married.  I’m also glad I don’t work with this guy.

I happen to think that small talk serves an extremely useful social purpose.  Some people are eager to share intimate details about their lives with the world at large, and no doubt would welcome intrusive personal questions from somebody they just met, but most of us don’t.  If I were on a business trip with a brand new colleague and they asked me a question about how I fell in love with my wife, I would find such a question incredibly presumptuous and off-putting, and I wouldn’t answer it.  Sorry, but it’s going to take a while for me to decide whether a workplace colleague will end up a close personal friend.  And it’s hard for me to believe that at least some women who were asked “What’s the most in love you’ve ever felt?” on a first date wouldn’t groan inwardly, question whether they’ve been hooked up with a creepy potential stalker, and head for the exits as quickly and gracefully as possible.

Small talk allows you to get to know a person before you decide whether to broach weightier topics.  Sure, the substance of the small talk might be meaningless, but the nature of the small talk can tell you a lot about the person across the table.  Does the person have a sense of humor?  Does the person seem thoughtful or thoughtless, smart or dumb, well-mannered or crude?  Is the person so self-absorbed and egotistical that they end up talking entirely about himself?

And that last point is an important one.  People who immediately ask questions about “big talk” topics clearly want to share their own deeply personal experiences; they no doubt ask the pointed questions with the expectation that they will get the same question in return and then launch into their own stories.  There’s a fair amount of conceit in that; the lives of complete strangers just aren’t that compelling.  Small talk prevents me from being awkwardly inundated by the intimate affairs and feelings of people I don’t know.

I come down strongly in favor of small talk.