Do you enjoy intelligent talks with friends? Does embracing the art of conversation appeal to you?
If so, consider starting a Salon discussion group.
That's what my wife, Laurel, and I did back in the early 1990s. Since, a group of about a dozen people has met each month in someone's home for three hours of so of pleasant conversing.
Here's a photo of us in December 2017. Our Salon membership has changed some in the past four years. But everybody in the photo is still part of our group, even though Jim (front row on left) has moved to Ashland.
Last night my wife and I attended a Salon meeting in the back yard of Russ and Delana Beaton, rocking red in the photo above. This was our first BBQ Salon.
Russ handled the turkey burgers. I cooked the veggie burgers, being careful to use the non-meaty spatula. Jim even came, having journeyed from Ashland to Portland and stopping by Salem on his way back.
There's lots of ways to organize a Salon group. The Utne Reader is how Laurel and I got the idea to start one in Salem. The 1991 article now is online.
We've been meeting monthly for so long, I can't remember how we started off.
Doesn't matter. What matters is how we've ended up. I share our approach not because it's the best way to do a Salon. Everyone has to decide that for themselves. This just works well for our group.
Someone has to do the scheduling. Currently that's me.
I keep a list of which home we meet at each month. Pre-Covid, I tried to rotate meeting places in a fairly regular fashion. We're about to start meeting indoors again, but have been using Zoom and outdoor meetings since March 2020.
Most people bring a snack or wine/beer to share. Food and drink isn't a big part of the meeting, the conversation is. But it's nice to have some sustenance in the early evening or late afternoon, our meeting time.
Causal conversation occupies us at first. Then after 15-20 minutes or so we assemble as a group. Mostly we just let the conversation flow freely. No preassigned topics. No rules. Just people talking about whatever, shifting from subject to subject spontaneously.
Sometimes the host starts us off with a particular subject. Other times someone just begins speaking about something that interests them. Like I said, no rules.
We all lean liberal. Politics usually comes up.
So do a bunch of other topics, including what's going on with our personal lives. There's a natural ebb and flow to our conversation, undoubtedly aided by how long most of us have been doing this Salon thing together.
Sometimes I'll throw out an idea that I find amazingly interesting, because I'm me, and it will hit a conversational wall. After a bit of silence, someone else will start talking about a subject that elicits more interest.
It's like talking natural selection. Some ideas are embraced by the group and thrive for a while; others die a quick death.
Often we disagree.
That makes for a more interesting conversation. We never attack each other personally, just the idea someone is expressing. Given the polarization of our country, I think it's wise to have a Salon group where the members mostly are of the same general political persuasion.
I'm not saying that avid conservatives and avid liberals couldn't have a good conversation. I simply doubt that the resulting arguments would make for a good regular Salon experience. Ditto for avowed atheists mixing with fervent evangelicals.
We're a liberal non-religious group. Works for us. Another group might be able to pull off a more diverse membership.
Currently there's 13 regular members, with Jim attending occasionally. Usually a few people can't make the monthly meeting.
Nine to twelve people is a good number for a discussion group. Any more, and the conversing becomes rather difficult, with the less talkative people finding it difficult to get a word in.