17 October 2015

I Cyberlove You, Man

I just ditched two drafts that were going nowhere in favor of this. Well, they were going somewhere, all right. Like down the Tangent Trail deep into Digression Forest. Another day.

You guys know I teach English online. Finding a topic that's interesting, not too controversial, and that actually sparks authentic conversation can be tricky. The content writers don't always get it right. The Spa, for example. Fail. Every time. And for some reason, I always end up with a class full of guys for that topic. Deer in the headlights, poor bastards. Look, that one's trying to chew his leg out of the trap. Dude, it's either this or Jewels and Gems. Save the leg. Tea Time is another one. Really? Sure, in Japan or chatting up those posh Brits, but our market is Latin America. Coffee. Trying to get my students worked up about tea is like convincing a cat to fetch. Meh. So I just turn Tea Time into Tea, Coffee, Mate, Cocoa, or Whatever-the-Hell-Else-You-Like-to-Drink Time. Open it up for some enthusiasm.

Technology topics always go over well, particularly discussions on how technology has changed communication and relationships. Students love the tech topics almost as much as Dating or Happy Hour. And those are some entertaining classes, trust. Well, in the advanced classes, anyway. In my absolute beginner classes, I spend most of the time resolving tech issues, configuring mics, waving my pointer around, and repeating things sloooowly in my Happy Voice. It's a process.

One question that always sparks spirited debate is whether or not its possible to have real friendships online without meeting in the flesh, as it were. I tend toward the cynical; the Pollyanna outlook just isn't my thing. Life has made me a realist. Time was, I'd have said anyone wanting to be your "online friend" (wink, wink) either wants to get in your pants or in your wallet. Or both. 

Back during the Seattle years, though, before Facebook turned everyone into meme-loving, like-clicking, mindless drones, I unwittingly fell into a cybercommunity. Yes, bloggers. Oh, please, people, get off  your judgy high horses. I repeat: Seattle. What the hell else did I have to do? This was back when I was Drizzle's bitch, huddled under a Snuggie, wearing flannel Seahawks pajamas in front of my fireplace, drowning my sorrows in cheap wine. It was dark by 4:00pm, for Pete's sake.

So spare me the snickering.

Anway, despite my initial skepticism and (fine!) snickering, it was good. We became friends. Many of us have met in person. One year, when some asshole hit my car at the same time that my dog needed surgery and This Old Motherfucking House popped up with yet another issue, as it was wont to do, I found a check in the mail (for a substantial amount) accompanied by a witty, this-is-your-life story they'd written to make me laugh. None of them would cop to amounts or even who exactly had ponied up. No way to send it back. Well played.

I was a single mom, people. That shit meant a lot. I even cried. Hell, I'm getting a little misty now.

I was cold a lot in Seattle.
Another time, one of the guys knitted me a gorgeous scarf, using some fancy stitch (they are called stitches in knitting, right?) that actually took some effort. This same guy sent me his old iPod when he upgraded. I still have that iPod. It's sitting right here, up above my two feet of of kitchen counter. I still think of Tony when I listen to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, whom I hadn't even known about before.

Another guy made time to take me to dinner during a layover in Seattle. He used to encourage me in the advocacy work I was doing. We were supposed to be working together, fighting The Man by now, but Costa Rica. Another time, I drove up north and had the most fun ever with the effervescence that is Auld Hat. (For the last time, no, there are no hidden pictures from that day, you bunch of freaks.) There were other meetups, literally from coast to coast, that we all read about. We felt as though we really knew each other.

And we did.

There's a kind of intimacy that happens. I know about these people's childhoods. Their successes and failures. Fears. The hell-yeahs and the melancholy moments. The things friends know about. Meeting and mailing things wasn't really necessary. It was just extra.

They made me laugh (lordy, but these are some funnyass people), lent a sympathetic ear when shit hit the fan, read the boring, lame-ass crap I wrote that I didn't migrate over here (you're welcome), shared their own stories, supported me, and made me feel like I was a badass who could take on the world. I needed that during the Seattle years.

Wait, which one of us is the Skin Horse?
They became my friends. Real friends. Like Velveteen-rabbit real. Yeah, that's sappy as hell. Just go with it. Boxed wine and nostalgia will do that shit.

Just this week, we cyberhooked up one night. Settle down, not that kind of hook up. Facebook group, not webcam. Freaks. One of us actually is badass and has a radio show, so we linked in, and he gave us shout outs on air and played tunes for us. We laughed and drank and shot the shit, and it was genuinely fun. A party with folks spread from Canada nearly down to the equator. If that's weird or geeky, fuck it.

Guess I'm weird and geeky.

Listen, the Interwebs is chock full o' bullshit. There are eleventy-jillion blogs out there -- most of which suck ass or only appeal to maybe 13 people on the planet -- along with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Ashley Madison, and all the other mind-sucking, entertaining places. A veritable sea of bullshit. So if you end up connected in any kind of real way with people, it means you've connected based on your ideas, your values. Your minds. Your humor. Not just because you work with this guy or live next to that guy or your wife is the sister of that other guy.

Granted, you may end up connected based on a web of lies and fakery, but that's life on or off the Interwebs. People hide all kinds of shit. Be careful out there. Google is your friend.

I've lived most of my adult life moving from one country or city to another, leaving friends and making new ones. The Internet changes that somewhat. You're still leaving, but not really. Here in CR, I found another cybercommunity where people think like me, get me. When you're living in another culture, that's huge. Especially when a lot of the people from your own culture are either stoned surfers twenty years younger than you or folks twenty years older with a stick up their ass who want Costa Rica to be Little 'Murka where we speak English and eat Big Macs. Gawd. Finding like-minded people is good. I've met a few people from the cybercrew and count them as friends. Tomorrow, I'll meet two more. (I was supposed to meet someone today, too, but plans in CR have a way of falling through at the last minute. Pura vida. Maybe next week.)

I miss the hell out of my face-to-face friends. Days when I talk with them, I'm happy as the proverbial pig in shit, and it's like no time has passed. But it's weird: sometimes you hear more from your cyberfriends than from your family or face-to-face friends. I think it's because with cyberfriends, that's the ONLY way you've ever communicated. Online. It's the norm. For your fam and "regular" friends, it's a switch. An adjustment. You're "gone" for them. Skype, Whatsapp, Messenger, and the rest get a lukewarm reception. Maybe not for the younger generation or habitual travelers. My daughters are good at keeping in touch, but 90% of our communication is online chat. That's great for me, but it doesn't work for everyone. So it can be hard to connect. A lot of folks overseas say if they're not the ones doing the calling, no one calls the other direction. I don't know why that is, but it's kind of a thing in emigrant circles. You're the caller, not the callee. Maybe it's left over from the Ma Bell days? I need to be better at it, regardless. Because I seriously miss my family and "regular" friends. I don't think they know how much. Probably because my slack ass doesn't call enough.

Aaand, I digressed.

Back to cyberfriends, before I go from misty to pathetically tracing the tracks of my tears. Back in the Seattle years, you bastards helped me keep at least a tenuous hold on sanity. And nearly a decade after falling in with you guys, we're still here. Okay, we got sucked into Facebook's cheap and easy e-thrills, but hey, shit happens. the pendulum is swinging back.

So a toast to friends -- doesn't matter if it's via WiFi or from the next barstool: I love you, man. No, I mean it, a toast. Pass me that beer. No ice.


  1. I audibly snorted after the words "you're welcome," and now I probably should apologize for that. Not sure what came over me, I just couldn't help myself.

    The Knock is new and I'm curious how it will play out and for how long. I do know that when I put together a blog again and tried to assemble everyone after lo these many years it was more because I missed the social aspects. The laughing, er, sometimes snorting out loud. Random comments that made my day and made me want to write more to get more of those comments. You people are like crack. And I mean that in the best possible way.

    My glass right now is herbal tea because it's bedtime and there's an alarm involved tomorrow. [clink!]

    1. xoxo yes. All of that.

    2. Yeah, those of you who plowed through that crap are the ones who know just how grateful folks should be that everything didn't migrate.

      Herbal tea on a Saturday? Are you sick? I mean, nothing wrong with that. Unless you're trying to teach a class on it. Zzzzz ...

  2. If there is one thing of which I'm sure it's that virtual friends are just as real as real friends. And every single one that I've ever met and turned into a real real friend was just as I thought he or she would be only better.

  3. Guess I'm weird and geeky, too. (why is no one jumping to defend that? Really? pfft. Bunch'a weirdo geeks around here) And yes yes yes to this wonderful post; the memories and those in the making - I have all the socializing I can handle with online friendships. Face to face legit bonding is... nice. I'm into that like, 5 times a year. Beyond that I get skittish.

    1. Yeah, since I've been working at home and since most of my real friends (cyber and F2F) are not in this country, and also because I don't have a car, I'm a little worried about the hermit thing I see gradually happening with myself. I mean, I'm an extrovert, for sure, but I also have this really introverted side where I need that alone time. But I'm getting a little too comfortable with it, I think ...

    2. "I also have this really introverted side where I need that alone time. But I'm getting a little too comfortable with it, I think ..." You are me. Or, I am you. Does this mean we're also the same size and can start sharing clothes now? I'd like to borrow the purple sweater.

    3. Yes. Sweaters, scarves, skirts, whatever. No wonder you make me LLOL so freaking often.

  4. OK... this was THE BEST. Please, Tiffany, don't cut back blogging too much, please, none of you. My long term memory is my best memory...you, Tiff, under that fucking house taking pics of yet another thing broken. jp Bitter to the end...and I remember his architecture blog too...finally made Omaha a cool place. Lorraine's 50th b/day and her road trip with Angela. Tiffany....Pics of your visit to Angela's both of you wearing hats....just lots of memories from way back then. I go back to the beginning of my blog and read thru comments all the time. You all have to realize....I am a lot older than all of you....well, except for Jackie Sue......obviously I come from a different generation.....sometimes I feel like an outsider with all of you on blogger and at The Knock.....but, I am in a different place....old people sometimes get depressed and think of "the end" and when they are far away from their kids and family....well, you all have filled a lot of holes in my heart......like my kittys in a way but virtually. I love you all, you are all important to me and I hope long after I am gone you will vacuum at least once a week and laugh at the kitty cartoons I posted. OK, I'm crying...on a Sunday.... God is gonna be pissed now.

    1. Remember I said the next one was for you? We loves us some Rosemary. (((((hug))))) Here's a tissue. I think the kitty is eyeing your waffles ...

  5. I still have friends who express some dismay that I consider my blogger buddies as friends: but you've never met them, is the the normal cry. And that is true but I've communicated with them - and that's what it's about: communication. And what communications they have been. I've seen my blog friends in and out of relationships, moving house, raising kids, losing loved ones, getting pets, losing beloved pets, celebrating birthdays, graduations et al. And the breadth of personalities, situations and life styles is incredible. How do I explain someone like YDG and West, Texas to anyone who hasn't experienced her? Or my friend David in London to someone who hasn't read of his travels and passions? Or how about Auld and her quirky ways? Or Cowbell and her life with three growing talented children and her immersion in a world so different from what she once knew. I could go on and on. Know these people? Of course I do and damn it my life is a hell of a lot richer for it.

    And it's a pleasure that after the shorthand of FB - which I still enjoy - many of us are getting back to telling our stories in a more detailed way.

  6. Well, I was somewhere on the fringes of this group back then. It's nice to see everyone again and get to know the faces behind the nom de plumes. Since I tend to hide inside and binge watch Netflix instead of actually socializing, I meet a lot more people virtually than in person.

    1. *munch munch munch* not just popcorn, but popcorn with M&Ms.

  7. I read this this morning. It took what feels like forEVERto get back here and actually say something, and after all these hours, I've got what I had when I first read it: this is the stuff of bliss. I'm so genuinely ... happy. You scored BIG with the cyber-folks!!

    1. I'll just be over here stalking your page, waiting for more fairy tales. No pressure. Don't mind me.

  8. I, too, consider my blogger friends to be real friends. I know way more about them than the people I interact with on a regular basis. I've also shared more, particularly with regards to dealing with my Mom with Alzheimer's. Now I've migrated my dealings to Facebook. I have less to say and, let's face it, outside of work I'm pretty lazy. I fondly remember taking part in Operation Cowbell where you mustered a group of us to send food/treats/supplies to your military friend serving overseas. That was real. That made a difference. That was community! :)

    1. Oh, Gavin, I remember that! You guys were so great. That was a good thing.

  9. Whether you wanna believe in it or not, earthling, only 2 eternities exist after death, Up or down. And how we sinfull mortals have lived determines where we'll be placed (besides Purgatory which all git out).

    Jesus doesn't choose.
    Neither does Satan.
    Neither does humanity.
    Only YOU decide where.
    And dats da fak, Jak
    -Bill Murray,

    Let this be your catalyst to Seventh-Heaven:

    'The more you shall honor Me,
    the more I shall bless you'
    -the Infant Jesus of Prague
    (<- Czech Republic, next to Russia)

    Love him or leave him or indifferent...
    better lissen to the Don:

    If you deny o'er-the-Hillary's evil,
    which most whorizontal demokrakkrs do,
    you cannot deny Hellfire
    which YOU send YOURSELF to.

    Yes, earthling, I was an NDE:
    the sights were beyond extreme.
    Choose Jesus.
    You'll be most happy you did.
    God bless your indelible soul.


I've got a fever ...