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I have a friend who says her grandchildren are always looking into this Facebook thing. Children should get out and about more rather than sticking to computers. Across the capital, Robbie Gillam is taking a break from his job in a City finance department. The year-old is momentarily surprised as I avoid several empty benches to join him and start talking. I travel up from Rye in Sussex where everyone still says hello to each other. Although we had never met, we soon discover a mutual friend and conversation moves from the stilted to the familiar.

Many people avoid sitting with others Mark Kehoe.

How 'Buddy Benches' are making playtime less lonely

Getting back to our roots is what it is all about it. People should try to get closer to their roots. It is a subject field, particularly when combined with his description of particle wave duality, that would have most disappearing for the hills. Chatting further though, reveals a gentle quest for spiritual and scientific understanding that was far from threatening. Park benches became social fixtures in the great boom of pleasure gardens and parks in the 19th century.

Many were fashioned from the teak timbers of decommissioned sailing ships and survived for a century. Their symbolism of both a random meeting point and grounding for contemplation has appealed to generations of movie makers. From Penzance to Penrith and Middlesbrough to Margate, park benches also provide some of the most moving and poignant memorials to loved ones.

Free from the austere constraints of cemetery vocabulary, their inscriptions and plaques have heart-stopping warmth. She loved life, we loved her. They also provide an intriguing social history of the characters who once sat and enjoyed the views, the solitude and even the company of their park bench. Though badly wounded, he stuck to his company, and by his cheerfulness kept the men well in hand under very heavy shell fire.

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Although wounded and considerably shaken by a shell, which burst close to him, he returned to battalion headquarters to report. Please don't stop talking to strange men.

Park Bench Conversations

You seem to meet them when you need each other. I'm not a park bench person, but I used to run into this jovial, white-haired guy when I was a college student. I had three conversations with him, mostly one-sided, and he kept telling me I was a prophet and a leader. I've yet to become famous, religious, or prophetic. The only time I'm a leader — when friends don't know where to go and let me pick restaurants. I talk to people on airplanes, sometimes.

You have to be careful because you can get trapped for a looooong time on those. My park benches are grocery store lines, restaurant tables, and trains, but yeah, I've had a few. I say keep on keeping on — someone has to offer handkerchiefs and someone has to take them. It's a great and good thing.

Thank you, Tom, for your optimism. Shizuka, lead us on to the next great restaurant. And Sarah, I'm going to borrow that "handkerchiefs" line, and only give you credit the first two times I use it. Louise, I'm disturbed by the "I'm not a writer" Writers do more than write novels. Like I said, you could write about rocks and make it interesting. What are you? You are friend. You are counselor. You are thinker. You are sharer. You are soft summer breezes of sanity. You are words of wisdom floating in the fog.

You are inspiration and despression. You are the you behind the face in the mirror. I don't usually get into deep conversations with strangers, but I met a five year old little girl once, when I was fourteen. My mom never trusted him to go alone in these things. There was something about her, I'm not really sure why. Her name was Deborah, and I don't remember how it came around, but I clearly remember her little hand holding mine on the line and her picking the seat by mine on the bus on the way back.

I don't really remember how it came about either, but we started talking about family, and she told me about hers. She told me her little sister had just been born and her mom was always stressed because the baby wouldn't sleep through the night and was always crying. Then, she told me her mom beat her up all the time. I honestly didn't know what to say, at fourteen years old. She asked me and even harder question, "Why does she do this to me? I did try, of course, to comfort her, and said, with my teenage inexperience, that sometimes adults are so angry and stressed that they end up taking their anger off at someone who doesn't deserve.

So, Deborah looked at me, her eyes full of tears, "Then why doesn't she beat up a doll? I never forgot this little girl, it's been nine years, she's fourteen now, the age I was when I met her. I think about her sporadically. And I truly hope she's okay. And, you know, Louise, though I beg to differ, that you ARE a writer, because I don't think being a writer is a state, but an innate characteristic, sometimes, all we can be is alive.

And, sometimes, being alive, is the greatest victory of all, because it takes everything we have to accomplish. That's what I think anyway. Louise, only a real writer could evoke the emotions this blog did. I'm blown away by your powerful images this morning, and by your willingness to open yourself to such intense and amazing conversations and insights. This summer I flew to Denver for a Western adventure. On the plane I met a man who specializes in water use, something I happen to be passionate about.

We had a fascinating conversation. Then while waiting for my daughter in the pedestrian mall area of Boulder a young man sat next to me on a bench in the middle of Pearl Street and struck up a conversation. I think both of us were surprised to find that neither of our knee-jerk initial impressions were anything close to correct.

Human beings are endlessly interesting, if we just take the time to find out their stories. Everyone has one—some of us have many more than one. Your empathy and expression, your insight and recall… not a writer? Au contraire, Louise. Au contraire. And note that your biker used "become" in his query: "Who do I become…?

Judy, I promise you more "Dogs of Australia. Barbie, that conversation with the 5-year old would have shaken me to the core. And her question, "Why not hit a doll? Karen, I love the fact that first impressions are often wrong. And I hate the fact that we rarely get beyond them.


Alex, I can imagine you in airplane conversations. Most men would probably call that a fantasy for them. Definitely keep going for the park bench conversations. I have had these sorts of experiences literally all over the world throughout my life, and never regretted any of them. It's always been amazing to me how people will open up to a stranger the way they might not to a friend. It's a good thing, and like someone else pointed out above, there seems to be a bit of synchronicity going on — the conversations seem to happen when you most need them.

It's interesting who you can meet up with on a plane sometimes too. When I was a little girl living in Kinshasa, my dad took us out to an experimental farm in the bush which was run by a Chinese agricultural group. They were growing some of the first seedless melons and had lots of other projects going as well.

The Chinese families working the farm invited us into their homes and we shared some great meals with them and their children. Years later, I was on a plane seated next to a young Chinese man. We started talking about where we were from, and were surprised to have both lived in the Congo. I told him about the experience of going to the experimental Chinese farm in the bush. He remembered it! He had been one of the children my sisters and I played with on that visit!

It really is a small, small world. The anecdote about the biker brought tears to my eyes. Doesn't matter who were are: when we have to let go of what we love, what defines us, we grieve. Meanwhile: bench conversations! My equivalent is cafe conversations. My favorite cafe guy was the one who, over three-four years, morphed into a transvestite—he might even be going transexual.

He started out with just nylons, heels, skirts — full man on top, and it looked odd, but he obviously didn't care. One day, while in the coffee line, I told him he had better legs than I did. The next time I saw him, he asked me out on a date!

Theory Of The Bench

But I like my men with unshaved legs, unless they're cyclists. Over time, his feminity slowly moved up his body. Tight sweater, push up bra. I hadn't seen him for awhile, but a couple of weeks I about spilled my latte on my keyboard.

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  6. In walked a woman, and I mean a woman. Double take, slighty mannish face, but not bad. It's him! It's Brian! Fully loaded as a woman. He'd learned how to walk in heels early on, it was humorous — like any straight guy dressing up as a woman for a party or what-have-you , coordinate a stylish outfit, do his makeup and hair.

    I was amazed and impressed. And Lisa, oh, to have been part of that transformation, and to have seen it all through your cafe conversations! Dammit, Louise, that was absolutely beautiful. Such soulful stories, such soulful writing. You are more than a writer, you are a philosopher, an observer, a documenter of life. You, my friend, are present. I love these park bench stories. You've touched me in a way that few writers can.

    You know, you don't have to write to be a writer. You just have to be. What you've written today is as good as it gets. Better, actually. You're better than it gets. Keep it up girl. There are park benches everywhere. When I was in my twenties I tried writing a book about an old man sitting on a park bench.

    Now I am an old man who sits on a park bench. For the most part I just watch life as it unfolds in front of me — and that is good. But now and then I am blessed with an instructive visit. Also, bus rides in San Francisco are a great way to experience life beyond my front door. Regarding the biker, and other people about whom we might have pre-conceived ideas: No one is single-dimensional, and when we believe others are, whether we are talking about neighbors, racial segments, or political divisions, we lose the opportunity to learn something real and something true about them.

    And we limit ourselves to believing only broad concepts, rather than the infinitesimally diverse aspects of humanity. Louise, I love these small stories you tell.

    Bench (furniture) - Wikipedia

    I speak to people in elevators not on purpose but I make comments and people respond , in grocery stores, and on the street. And at baseball games… I used to get great stories out of cab drivers. I wished I had written them down at the time, about how they came to the U. I remember feeling especially down one day, worn out, and this guy looked at me, and say, "Gee honey you still got it. Sometimes the message just comes when you need it. Louise, your posts never fail to move me. The nuance, subtext and emotion that you conjure with your wonderfully lean and restrained prose is just amazing to me.

    Ah sweet Louise, you are and always will be a writer. Being published is different, but you're a writer, a wordsmith to your core, now and always. I always remember your conversation with the black man outside the courthouse, tossing out pennies.