Last night we went to the country club, la-di-da.
Every year the University hosts a dinner for the distinguished professors emeriti of the Medical School. Jim and I simply refer to it as the Geezer Dinner. Basically, it's a roomful of ancient men and their wives. The first time we went, when Jim was 65 and the youngest in the crowd, I felt we had passed through to "the other side." Here were all the luminaries of the medical school -- some I'd only heard about by reputation while I was a graduate student -- here they were, alive! Not only alive, but downright spry.
I barely know anyone there but I look upon it as my annual exercise in being charming and striking up conversations with new people. It always looms like a big challenge but actually it's a cinch, especially with a glass of wine. There is probably more collective intelligence and accomplishment in this group than there is in the rest of Rochester combined. All you really have to do is ask, "So what are you doing with yourself these days?"
Like my father, I've learned I can keep up my end of just about any topic. You can go on conversational cruise control just by acting enthralled by their travels, hobbies, whatever. My challenge is to put out a tidbit or two of my own to let them know I am also knowledgeable and possibly fascinating.
Last night I sat next to a retired vascular surgeon. He had the graciousness to ask what I do. It was fun to say I was a filmmaker. He nearly fell off his chair -- but not because he was so awestruck by me and not because he was drinking martinis. Turns out he has a second career as a documentary film producer, which (oddly) arose from his lifelong interest in sailing. We had no trouble with conversation.