:::this is the way the world ends:::

Hold the Phone: Conversation among the HM

As I promised in my comment on the last post, I thought I’d put something up in the hope of getting some communication going. So what better subject than communication. Specifically, about the phone.

I have to admit to all of you, though it’s no surprise, I have probably been the worst about keeping in touch with all of you by phone. I’m sorry for it. I’m the same way with my family and with other friends. Some of this is my laziness; some of this is my busy-ness; some of this is probably a reliance on this blog, facebook, and email to make communication more convenient for myself, perhaps even at the cost of “real” conversation. Some of this too is also a disposition against the telephone, which seems to run fairly deep in my family.

So I’m curious about what to do about this. I bet I talk to my little sister once, maybe twice a year on the phone, and then probably see her in person around once a year. I’m a little better with my older sister, but not a lot better. I talk to my parents probably once a month or so on the phone, to catch up, make plans, whatever. We’re really not that involved with each other. Part of that I chalk up to a Scandinavian reserve; part of that I chalk up to long distance (the four groups of us are literally spread out into all four time zones in the lower 48 states). Part of it has to be something else–a feeling of not wanting to interfere or comment too much on anyone else’s choices or ways of living.

I guess it’s somewhat the same with the HM, you all–although I have probably been better in the past of staying in touch with many of you at various and specific times even more so than my family. I always enjoy talking with each of you when it happens, but it’s become rarer and rarer. Yes, we’re all married now, some of us with children or on the way; yes, we’re all busy; blah blah blah. I’m always a little saddened when I hear from Toby, say, that he just talked to Peters, when I haven’t spoken to Peters in quite some times. I’m saddened to know I was last to find out that Peters and Amanda are pregnant, and that was largely because of my unavailability or very slow way of responding to a phone message. I’m also saddened but understanding of the fact that I’ve had a voice message in with Peters for at least a week, maybe ten days now, and haven’t heard back. I have fostered a kind of no-call zone, and I’m sorry for that, if that’s the feeling among the group.

In the way of a question and conversation, I guess I’d like to know how much you all are talking with each other–via phone and in person, especially–but also via email, facebook, whatever. I don’t know, maybe you’re all out there faxing each other daily reports. And I’d be interested in knowing how you have handled distance and communication not only among ourselves but also among your own families and other friends.

Maybe a lame way to try to get some conversation going on the blog, but it’s been on my mind.


  1. Shotts

    Post comments here–and of course, give me a call.

  2. Ned

    I’ll post on this, after Toby does.

  3. Pete

    My apologies, Shottzle. I may try to call you today. I do agree that communication has been a bit of a challenge, perhaps more so over the last couple of years. I don’t think that I am the only one who may experience a voicemails to returned call ratio that is not terribly reciprical. I guess I have kind of assumed the same ratio would be acceptable. Believe it or not, you would have been amongst the first to know if you had answered or returned my calls. C’est La Vie. My thoughts are/ have been that if I leave enough voicemails sooner or later, in your time, you’ll call back. I also don’t wish to burden you so I try to give you a little space, so sometimes, if I have already left a voicemail, I won’t leave a second or third within the same week, plus I figure my name/number would show up on your caller ID. Admittedly, sometimes when I try to reach you and get the familiar chimes of your voicemail, I sort of feel like a schmuck who is probably more of a bother than anything else. I recognize that you are a busy guy professionally and socially- 638 facebook friends is a pretty amazing tally. I bring this up not to point fingers, just to explain my behavior. I do value having quality phone conversations with everyone especially as I am beginning down a path recently trodden by several of you, but also recognize that everyone has their own busy lives and may not have the time. I am wondering if there is a time when catching up is more consistantly convenient. For me, many of the evenings when I am commuting home are the best times to talk. I think we are all good friends here, and no one has any malice so I would like to worry less about the problem and talk more about the possible solutions.

  4. Shotts

    Thanks, Peters, and glad to have your comment here. (It may not be Toby, Ned, but I hope Peters’ comment might spur your own sometime in the next few days.)

    No one should worry, Petes, about a “problem” with communication, and I agree that solutions might be more helpful. And no apology necessary: I have been a far less respondent phone conversationalist than you have been. I appreciate your awareness of busy schedules, active social lives, and so on. But while that awareness is always appreciated and understood, it also feels like that shouldn’t become an obstacle to meaningful conversation and just plan and simple catching up. It won’t happen every night or even every week, but it seems like I could do better than a phone call every two or three months–or longer.

    Peters, it’s good to know that your commute is a good time to talk. I assume that is 5:30 pm or thereabout? And your commute is about half an hour? Can you give us all the details of the best time, since you mention this? I have to admit, for me, that’s one of the worst times to talk, as I have my own commute (mostly by city bus these days, since Graywolf has moved offices to the Minneapolis warehouse district), and then we try to have dinner, before getting Beckett in bed, hopefully, by around 7 pm. So it tends to be better for me to talk closer to 8 pm.

    And I am eager to have conversations, with Petes or anyone, about fatherhood, since you bring that up, Petes. I hope I can be a resource and help to you, as can Ned and Toby. I’m happy for that to take place by phone, absolutely, and want you to know I am very open to that. I’m happy for that to take place via the blog, too, which seems a good forum for some of those questions. I guess I like the one-on-one conversation supplemented by the group forum. I also like the in-person voice, and also the thoughtful, written response. Those forms bring in different elements to the overall conversation, and I for one have benefitted from that in the past. And would like to again.

    638 Facebook friends: I didn’t know I was up to that number. Half of those are poets and writers–some of whom I know, some of whom I know a very little bit, some of whom I have only met, and some of whom I have never met. So it’s not that amazing a tally, but has to do with the sometimes-claustrophobic nature of the arts and writers community in this country. (I just felt I needed to respond to that.)

    So, let’s allow the conversation to continue, in all forms…

  5. Shotts

    And I also want to respond quickly: Peters, your calls and voice mails are never a “burden.” It kind of pains me to think you might think that sometimes. I always appreciate the message, even if I’ve been lousy at getting back to you. That goes for everyone. I haven’t meant to create a feeling of being too busy or being unavailable. I’d like to correct that. Even just typing this now helps somewhat.

    Other thoughts here? Other solutions? Other issues you’ve all had with communication, within the group or otherwise? It’s an interesting and relevant topic, to me at least.

  6. J.E.

    Quite right, Shotts. Peters calls are never a burden. I am so thankful that he takes the trouble to call as he’s hurtling down I-135.

    My phone relationships are pretty much dead and dying on all fronts with the exception of Peters and my brother. Both of them almost always call me first because they are good human beings and I am not.

    My Facebook friends are also a big part of my professional life. It is very helpful for me to keep track of current and former students, staff and faculty.

  7. J.E.

    Oh and I should also say that I am very much looking forward to talking to Peters and Amanda in person this weekend. Perhaps even around a firepit and/or bowl….

  8. Shotts

    J. E., you’re going to Kansas this weekend? Safe travels, and nice that you and Peters will be getting together. I hope you get that firepit roaring. I hope we’ll talk by phone sometime soon, and catch up properly. Great to have your voice here on the blog…

  9. J.E.

    Nope, the other way around. Peters and Amanda are coming to ATX. Woot!

  10. Shotts

    How great. Peters didn’t mention they were going down there. Glad to say Peters and I finally connected by phone last weekend. Have a great visit–enjoy the creek floating by, the firepit ablaze, a Guero’s burrito or enchilada…

  11. J.E.

    Regrettably, I haven’t had a chance to clean the trash out of the creek since the last heavy rain. It’s a little trashy down there. Such is life by and urban creek. But I’m sure that Guero’s and the fire pit will not disappoint.

  12. Shotts

    I imagine Austin is a very nice city to be in during November/December. Though I expect the bats have all flown for the winter by now.

  13. Tobias

    Hey guys, late to the game on this conversation, but I’m doing my best to catch up.

    Communication has definitely gotten more difficult to me, I think a lot of it has to do with available time (which is much less than before I was a father, or husband). There’s just a lot less free time to engage in an hour long conversation, if I have the whim.

    However, I find that the more time I spend with technology, the less inclined I am to use it when I don’t have to. For my job, I spend at least eight hours a day on the computer or cell phone. I have lots of little breaks in there, but by the time I’m ready to call it a day I don’t want anything to do with the computer or a cell phone.

    I’ve also had a tendency with cell phones to “fit the conversation in” while I’m doing other things. This isn’t always bad, or distracting, but oftentimes I have a hard time concentrating on my physical space I occupy while I’m talking in an altogether mental or emotional state. Plus, I feel like I’m short-changing the party on the other end. I tend toward the perfectionistic and find myself not wanting to call someone unless I properly have the time and space set aside to do it. Then we’re back to constraint #1, free time.

    A distinct advantage in talking on the phone for pleasure before cell phones, is that I was tethered to a certain circumference and there was a deliberateness to the ritual.

    This is more a philosophical musing than a resolution to call or correspond more, but it’s kind of the examinatory mood I’ve been in lately.

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