OF COMMON LANGUAGE

September 13, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumnrule.com

All professions have shop talk, but that rhythm is more likely to play in tune not in the daily grind but after the job, most often in retirement. Such was the conversation the other night at an arts gathering at the Edward Hopper House in Nyack, N.Y.
The birthplace of the famed American realist painter offers “First Friday” shows for member artists in conjunction with other art exhibits in Nyack each month, and I am the wine re-filler, the fellow who opens new stock and makes sure there isn’t a dry glass in the house.
That can involve enough downtime that my feet fall asleep, but also moments when I am drawn into conversation, some of it polite, some political, some “Oh, how are you? Have not seen you for awhile.” And some about the arts or the artist Hopper.
Occasionally there will be shop talk if people I knew in the newspaper profession pop in. I will sometimes meet other scribes or editors, or in the recent moment, photographers. (I was a staff lensman for more than six years and continued that role on and off for 35 more.)
Pulling the cork on a sauvignon blanc, up walked Laurie Peek, a well-entrenched social documentary photog back in the New York City of the 1970s and ’80s. Then came Colette Fournier, a retired newspaper lenswoman.
Before we knew it, and oblivious to the crowd, we were sharing stories about camera mishaps, long sessions in the old “wet” darkrooms with their chemicals and the goose-pimply feeling of seeing a print come to life in a tray of developer.
Though the wine kept getting popped, and no one was neglected, we three, like anyone who share common work habits, became deeply immersed in our common language.
How satisfying it was to realize you can rarely, but still actually, find your comrades and communicate. Reinvigorating the bond was like meeting an old friend so special that while life continues well enough without contact, reacquaintance, however short, is locking into a special frequency.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com

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