Sunday, March 06, 2005

For the record

Yesterday, L and I went to the Storycorps booth in Grand Central Station to record a forty minute conversation. James had given me this appointment as a birthday present – basically, you go in with somebody else and they record your conversation with some extremely high-quality equipment. You receive a CD with NPR-quality sound, and another copy is sent to the Library of Congress, where it is catalogued and shelved to begin collecting dust for the next thousand years or so.

Unfortunately my sick competitive spirit contaminated this experience. Our technician, whose name may have been Linda, told us she wasn’t going to say anything – she would just take notes of the questions that were asked, and maybe interject her own question if she found something interesting.

Well, with that, the gauntlet was thrown. The goals of this project – to capture a moment of our lives, to preserve our entangled personal histories for posterity – were trashed, and the focus became: say something Linda finds interesting.

Our conversations were wildly divergent, if a bit stilted. I summarily rejected some of L’s questions (“what’s the most played song on your iPod?”) but didn’t do any better, since I hadn’t come up with preliminary questions at all. Our conversation focused a lot on religion – more than I expected – so I would talk about church or Lent or St. Augustine’s Confessions, and then qualify my statements with a hearty laugh and: “I’m really not a weirdo, religiously speaking,” or, “Enough about redemption, did I tell you what’s on my iPod?”

It was an interesting experience. Linda, of course, never looked up from her clipboard to ask a question. She assured us we did great, though. “Really,” I said. “Great?” “You guys did great,” Linda replied through clenched teeth. L and I both agreed (this is part of the reason I love her) that we need to do it over again. Talk about childhood and noteworthy events, focus on that stuff more than a snapshot of where we happen to be one afternoon. Although, in all fairness, we hit some good topics: what we value, where we want to be in the future, our relationship, our families, our priorities. If nothing else, we mapped out a course that could be followed to some kind of happiness.

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