Five years ago, you probably couldn’t have convinced me that there was a huge benefit to belonging to some community. As P.W. Herman once said, I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. As my time in Harrisonburg taught me, I can entertain myself perfectly well in my own home, what with the books, Internet, card games, drinking, etc.
We moved here four years ago and, thanks to especially my neighbors Julie (hollah!) and Steve, we became part of this friendly, close-knit neighborhood. It doesn’t require much effort, really. A couple weeks ago, Brandon and I sat on the porch with some beers while Caleb showed the other kids his new jaw harp. One thing led to another, and at eleven o’clock, there were five of us in the living room, shouting along with the karaoke machine. Oh, the suh-uh-uh-mer nights. Good times.
I think what I dreaded about the idea of community was the small talk. (Do you that Kids in the Hall sketch in which the punchline is “I’m just not good at small talk, you prick”? I just spent twenty minutes on You Tube, and it’s not there. Damn.) Anyway, part of my quest in PPIEW was to get better at making casual friends, which sometimes involved small talk. It was draining.
This morning, I opened the paper and there was my neighbor Ed on the front page. He’s working on a book about dog fighting, and they had a Q&A with him. I like Ed immensely anyway, but I had no idea this was his latest project. Just read this quote:
Q. What is one thing that might surprise people about the history of dogfighting?
A. One surprising thing that I found out was that sometimes fighting dogs were matched up against monkeys in fights.There was one very famous fighting monkey named Jaccco Macacco, who fought in London in the 1820s. He figured out a way to defeat the dogs. What he would do is jump on top of the dog’s back, where the dog couldn’t bite it very easily. Then he would reach around with his teeth and bite the dog’s jugular vein and kill it. He became famous. He found his way into a novel called “Life in London.” He eventually died in a fight against a dog. Actually the dog died too. The fight was so bad they both died after the match. So that was surprising. A monkey became one of the most famous dog fighters in history.
It got me thinking: There are probably awesome stories like the one about Jacco Macacco in everyone. Maybe instead of working on making small talk, I should have worked on learning the right questions to ask in order to unlock the black boxes that are strangers.