The Art of Conversation
I grew up hearing that line, always with the first letter of each word capitalized. I am shy, more than half deaf; I don’t know if it was the chicken or the egg that came first. Unless I can see your lips, I can’t read them. If I can, and you don’t have an accent, we are good.
So many conversations that involve more than 2 people, escape me, especially in a crowded area. Since I was a kid, the lyrics of the auld Irish song, Slievenamon (shleeve nah mon) held deeper meaning for me: “Alone all alone by the wave-washed strand, alone in a crowded hall.”
One of my favorite places to go for conversation, a pint and/or great live music is Stone Mad Restaurant & Pub. Owners Pete Leneghan and Eileen Sammon are old school Irish - - deeply involved in the neighborhood around their West 65th Street location, and the Irish community – everywhere. When I was creating an ad for them for the Ohio Irish American News, I suggested the tagline The Art of Conversation, because it fit the warmth and camaraderie that pervades Stone Mad.
The food is good, the company always lively, whether for a gathering, or for Marys Lane, Ohio City Singers, Austin Walkin’ Cane or any of the other musical talent so pervasive in Cleveland. But most of all, I love grabbing the corner seat next to the big chalk menu, and talking with friends who drift in and out, as I sip a Smithwicks (It’s Smiddicks dummy).
The room divider behind me gives my broken back a resting place, but it also provides a different level of protection; it means I miss no conversation from the rear. The bar in front of me means the same, until I need to flag the Barman. So you are front and center for me, you’re my focus, your lips to my mind.
Stone Mad is a neighborhood fixture, melding the Irish and Italian neighborhoods it straddles with music, drink and conversation, indoor bocce court, outdoor patio, and so many signature events, like Christmas’ Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire Party, Boys from the Co. Hell Porch Party, or Sunday’s Annual Oyster Fest. I’ve been to many a political gathering, post funeral meal, post event gathering and other meetings in the back party room at Stone Mad.
I have never been to Stone Mad when I haven’t run into at least one friend, often many. Even when crowded, I love it, I don’t have to pretend to follow conversations I can’t hear, with my head on a swivel. But when it is quiet, it is a perfect place for those great conversations, the ones that fill out a friendship, or begin one.
Surprisingly, Stone Mad’s patio is … all stone. The chairs, tables, walls, floor; all stone. As much as it pains me to say it, fall is fast approaching. Stone fixtures hold the warmth in the hearth. Gather around the fireplace, trade war stories, wild women stories and whiskey, while you warm the fire, the whiskey, and with friends, the heart. Memories are etched in stone; everybody knows your name.