Sunday, May 13, 2012

Overheard in America

I’ve been in San Francisco for the last three days or so, exploring the various sights and sounds of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the trams and other postcard sites, and a fine city it is too, far nicer than Las Vegas, the only other US city I’ve visited.

Beyond this, though, I overheard two excellent pieces of conversation that I felt compelled to share (they’ve already appeared on Twitter, as live, and now here in more detail).

Walking out of Chinatown, I passed a chap on crutches, a phone tucked under his chin and wearing a bright green hoodie, the combination of which already made him stand out. As I passed he said, in his response to the other end of the call:

“You talkin’ about Ray Rakey, who played big bass and was my old high school teacher?”

This sentence just sounds so quintessentially American – the name, Ray Rakey, has musical, creativity connotations, like Big Bones Billy, or Sloppy Sue, and then the idea of him playing the big bass, (presumably the double bass?) - "...and Ray Rakey on the big bass!"... - and, more than that, he was this guy’s teacher too. Was he really called Ray Rakey, or was this a sobriquet of wonderful origin in a story of bizarre twists?

The second was not specifically American, but was just hilarious and my favourite overheard for a while: I was sitting in Yerba Buena park enjoying some sun when three dudes wandered past, all in hats and sunglasses, long baggy shorts, colourful t-shirts: a staple look. The one in the centre responded to a comment from a friend, which I didn’t hear, with:

"One review said, 'not that good', but then another review said, 'quite good', so, well, I dunno."

He sounded so forlorn as he reached this conclusion, so confused between the two voices of the ‘experts’ attempting to guide him in his understanding of this - what - film, book, TV show, restaurant? – that it was almost touching. 

What was even better though was the delivery, which started off rapidly, so up until the ‘quite good’ he was chattering away, then as he his the ‘so’ he realised the dilemma he had encountered and was forced to concede that, alas, he didn’t not know what to believe. A situation I am sure we can all identify with.

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