Monthly Archives: October 2011

striking north to pan for gold! and meet santa claus!

rex and ingrid got married just last week and have the glow of newlyweds!

f2fb friend #232 rex camposagrado married ingrid just last week–they met through eHarmony.com! rex’s family is from the philippines and he knows i am going there as part of my facebook project–he’s giving me a “just in case” phone number of a relative to call if i have a problem.  now i just need a “just in case” phone number for taiwan, korea, malaysia, mumbai, dubai, rome, dusseldorf and just about everyplace in england!

but first, i go to alaska.  the southern tip of the state (homer) is just a five hour drive from anchorage airport.  i’ll see christy russ and then turn around the next morning and drive back to anchorage for my flight to nome!  i understand that santa claus will make a special appearance because, hey, nome is a daytrip from the north pole.  i hope he brings me earrings.  or a wicked play mix.

the carhartt utility bag will carry everything--including a little traveler who has been my lucky charm!


the worst thing i ever did to a facebook friend. . .

. . . turns out maybe to be just chill!

winnetka, where i live, is a very small town and everyone knows everyone.  or they think they do.  and everyone knows the “appropriate” way of doing things.  or they think they do.  inappropriate is what you call anything your neighbors do that you don’t like.

i was at a gathering a few months ago and a woman told me that f2fb friend #231 maureen noble’s daughter was going away to boarding school.  the woman said “boarding school” in that sweet and sour voice that suggests maureen’s daughter had “failed” at new trier high school but that the woman was too discreet to actually say so.

new trier high school is  highly competitive school.  all students are in the 99 percentile–grades, friends, sports, music, theater.  if they’re not or if they’re not in any percentil whatsoever, well, something’s amiss.  when joseph was a freshman, i received a “1%” letter from a band director who wanted joseph out of band because joseph’s playing was not at a national competition level.  as a freshman.  first semester.  get him out of my class.   now.  i succumbed and signed off on letting him drop out of band.  i think of it as one of the worst parenting decisions i’ve ever made.

the woman at this party continued. . . “the worst thing you ever did to maureen noble and her family was to cast maureen as the lead in the p.t.a. benefit show.  it distracted maureen, pulled the family apart, it was . . .  inappropriate. . . and the daughter suffered.  now she’s . .. in boarding school.”

the word inappropriate is a good way of shutting down the conversation or expressing disapproval in a vague enough way that it's hard to dispute

i was stunned.  i felt guilty.  four short years ago, i was asked to write and direct a p.t.a. benefit show and i thought it had turned out okay.  i remember thinking that maureen was a great star, an incredible singer, and so enthusiastic as a newcomer to winnetka!  now i was being told “you’re a fuck up” and worse, “you fucked up somebody else’s house”.

so i was a little concerned when i emailed maureen on her birthday to say “hey, i’m doing this facebook project where i’m going to meet all my facebook friends this year!”  and she emailed back that it wasn’t a good time.  i thought, oh, whoops, i really did mess things up.  i didn’t realize it was the very day that maureen returned to winnetka from taking her daughter to boarding school.  no matter how good a mom feels about a decision like that, it isn’t a good day.

but i was so happy when maureen invited me to her house yesterday that when i realized i’d have to drive eight hours back to winnetka in order to make the moment, i was on it!  however, i did a stupid thing:  i drank so much caffeine on the road that i had to take motrin p.m. to get to sleep.  jeez, i was strung out!!!

maureen was preparing for yom kippur, a day of fasting. but she wanted to share with me the beauty of rosh hoshanah the week before wherein one eats apples with honey. i really needed that because i was a little shaky from too much highway, too much caffeine, and too empty of a refrigerator when i got home!

 

when i came to her house, she talked freely about her daughter going to boarding school and her son being at the idyllwild arts academy in southern california.  she showed me some of her children’s artwork.  the noble children are not of the type that can be classified by percentiles–maureen would never say it, but i will:  they are what would be called genius of the renaissance.  that genius can’t be put in a box of nine periods per day, four thousand fellow students, weighted gpa, advanced placement testing.  maureen and her husband have done what is the greatest sacrifice of parenthood:  they have let their children go where they need to go in order to let them be who they need to be.  i’m not sure i could have ever done that for joseph or eastman.  i’m grateful i never had that.  i was put up for adoption when i was three years old.  i don’t know if i feel grateful but the circumstances were different.

maureen has developed a program for young girls to create bowls that evidence their strength. into these bowls, girls put the things that define themselves: courage, grace, patience, empathy.

maureen is thinking about what to do with herself now that herself is not involved in her children’s lives with the degree of exactitude as before.  she has maintained her commitment to art.  she showed me the most beautiful decoupage blocks, embroidered sacks, tags of extraordinary beauty and depth.  she doesn’t very often show these artworks.  and i thought–artists in the past have not existed without a patron.  but does art exist without a market?

i told maureen about my fears with respect to the benefit show.  had it been a bad idea?

the year she did the benefit show her husband asked each of the family members–maureen, their son, their daughter, and himself–to do the thing they most feared.  for maureen, it was apparently bouncing around onstage under my direction.  frankly, that would scare the hell out of me too!  although maureen didn’t share with me what the other three members of her family did as their “courage initiative” she is quite firm that the nobles supported and still support each other.  somehow i think this family is stronger with their children NOT at the high school five blocks away than it is with their children away.

then it was off to a confab with my travel magician–booking hotel rooms around the world. . . this reluctant tourist will be start by flying all the way to seoul, south korea to stay . . . at the best western!!!  a little piece of home goes with me.

 

 


and then i found out my relationship with elmore leonard isn’t quite as intimate as all that

at the beginning of the week, i thought i had stalled at my new year’s resolution to meet all 325 facebook friends i had.  i’ve since made other, newer friends.  and i’ve had all sorts of adventures utterly unrelated to facebook.  but wednesday, i got back on the road–driving out to ohio to visit eastman (f2fb friend #1) and to try for the fifth time to see a facebook friend i have never met in cleveland.  i failed at the latter, but succeeded at the former.  then i struck northwest towards royal oak, where i met f2fb friend #230 john s. schultz.  it was particularly good to see him because i felt like i was recovering my resolution, recovering my self-respect, recovering my confidence.

i have never met john but he was quite hospitable and directed me to his office in central royal oak.

john is a lifelong journalist, working in detroit and in royal oak. the hour detroit magazine is home to hour magazine, michigan bride, and dbusiness which john is managing editor

john is a natural storyteller.  over a meal of thai food, he told me about growing up as a navy brat and his early years at a detroit paper.  in royal oak, he had a “stop the presses” moment when father charles coughlin died.  john advised the presses be stopped but was overruled by a senior editor. the next day, the detroit papers scooped the story!

father coughlin was the rush limbaugh of the thirties, and he had a radio show out of royal oak that was so popular a separate post office to handle fan mail had to be built. he died in 1979 after withdrawing from public life.

john once worked at a paper where the exterior window looked directly into the apartment of jack “dr. death” kevorkian, who was known for helping people commit suicide.  john and jack had a “hey, nice day today” passing acquaintance and then one day john came to work and the place was mobbed with reporters trying to get an interview with jack.  talking about the right to die and religion led us to a deeper conversation about our own families and lives.  i felt like i was talking with an old friend.  he and his wife have three daughters, the first of which died of a brain tumor at the age of three months.  i was really touched that he was able to show me pictures of all three girls–he keeps them in his wallet, one photo of an infant, the other two of twentysomethings with winning smiles.  i cannot imagine the courage to have a child, to try again, after such a painful loss.  i admire john.

he also told me not to sweat the small stuff, such as when eastman started off my f2fb new year’s with smoking cigarettes on the front porch together.  there are worse things. . .  and john should know, as he quit smoking more than half a century ago. . .

john and i know each other through arcadia publishing.  i’ve done arcadia regional histories of northfield and winnetka,illinois as well as kearney, missouri.  john, along with maureen mcdonald, wrote a history of royal oak. . .

the combined populations of kearney, northfield and winnetka is under 20,000. royal oak boasts 60,000 residents. you do the math on our respective sales!

 

i’m very glad i got to meet john in person because i learned about who he is not just the bits and pieces that a facebook news feed gives me.  he wished me luck on this project and i wished him luck as he tries to figure out what he will do as a next project–because he’s such a committed creative thinker there’s always got to be a next one!

after lunch, i discovered i had a parking ticket.  i thought i’d leave it.  forget the laws of royal oak.  but john was such a gentleman, he paid the ticket.  probably so nobody in royal oak will think he’s friends with a scofflaw!  then i drove, eight hours because i hit chicago rush hour traffic, so i could see f2fb friend #231 before the sundown of yom kippur!

i had to give up on seeing elmore leonard in detroit.  i became elmore leonard’s friend when elmore leonard still had a friends page.  we had a mutual friend, mystery writer and f2fb friend #7 libby hellman.  then he got a lot more friends.  and presto! since january 1, facebook turned some friends, me included, into fans.  there’s 17,119 of us.  i think that means elmore leonard is not going to be a f2fb friend!


i stall at 229

so this week has been a week of missed connections and stalled out motors.  a week of seemingly no progress whatsoever.  i have a new years resolution to meet every facebook friend i had as of january 1, 2011 and damn, i haven’t gotten any further along since this past saturday.  stalled at f2fb friend #229.

on monday, i had a hide under the covers day and bailed on a facebook galpal i haven’t seen in a couple of years.  on tuesday, i figured out that my cellphone’s memory card (sim card?  sd card?  what?) was busted and my contact list failed.  i had a definite date to meet up with a facebook friend after my appointment with the indian visa people–but i couldn’t call to figure out where we were supposed to meet.  i don’t even know my own son’s phone numbers without my contact list.  and then today, i traveled to cleveland for the fifth time to meet a facebook friend i have never met and am not even quite sure how i know. . .

but there IS some progress, although it may not be measured in numbers.  i got my phone fixed and made arrangments for international calls when i am traveling.  i got my visa from the indian government.  and i have a reservation at the best western in incheon, south korea–a little bit of america stored on unfamiliar land.  i have all my plane reservations and i got to see my younger son eastman whom i will not be able to see again until i return from my around the world visit all my facebook friends tour.  sometimes our progress on goals is not measured on the numbers but on the foundation.

tomorrow morning i move from ohio to michigan. . . .


parking in the poetry garage, trembling at the visa office

i couldn’t sleep last night and i could hardly breathe this morning from anxiety.  my legs felt a little wobbly. i was going for my indian visa appointment.  the website was quite stern in its directives:   no cell phones.  no bags.  no backpacks.  no strollers.  all documents to be carried in a single ziplock bag.  two passport photos, must be black and white.  one photocopy of designated proof of residency–DO NOT CUT OR FOLD PHOTOCOPY.  persons subject to security check.  must arrive exactly ten minutes before scheduled appointment.  money order preferred but no guarantees that you’re getting that visa.

i parked in the poetry garage. really, there's a poetry garage in chicago at 201 w. madison. i ended up on the eighth floor, one floor below langston hughes and one floor above emily dickenson. however, poet of the people my ass--parking on carl's floor cost me thirty smackers.

 

a lot of the questions on the application related to pakistan.  specifically, was i of pakistani descent?  did i have family members who were pakistani?  had i visited pakistan, ever?  if the answer to any of the above was yes–heaven forbid i scrawled “pakistan” on the “country of origin”–an extra six weeks were to be allowed for review of my application.  i want to see my two facebook friends–anto prashanth and rahul guru, whom i met through taskseveryday.com–in mumbai.  but as i approached the visa office, i knew i carried a deep, dark secret.

i briefly had a "thing" for imran khan. he's the pakistani cricket player turned politician. we didn't actually meet. he has no idea who i am, but you would have to agree he's something.

 

at the visa office, nobody was interested in my ziplock bag.  nobody cared that i had a ten twenty appointment and it was already ten fifteen so therefore i was officially late.  i stood in line behind a man holding a backpack and in front of a woman who had a baby stroller.  there was a wide screen television on which was playing a movie with a lot of dancing punctuated by tearful embraces.  i was turning red with anxiety hives.  i had left my ativan and my inhalator in the car.  with the dead poets.

imran's ex-wife jemima had a fling with hugh grant after her marriage broke up. i would do hugh grant. not only is she beautiful, but she's smart and a respected journalist and heiress to a large fortune. jeez, i'd take any one of those attributes. including the doing hugh grant attribute.

 

at last, it was my turn.  i approached the window.  i handed over my paperwork.  the woman said “we’ve got your credit card on file.  next.”

“does this mean i actually filled out all the paperwork correctly and i’m going to get a visa?”  i asked.  “on the first try???”

“ma’am, i can’t hear you.”

“DOES THIS MEAN I ACTUALLY FILLED OUT ALL THE PAPERWORK CORRECTLY AND . . . ”  i looked around.  oh, boy, major stand in line bureaucracy faux pas.  nobody was watching the wide screen.

it was time for me to shut up and find my way back to the poetry garage.

i can’t say i actually have the visa.  i don’t know yet.  but if i am this scared applying for a visa to one country, it’s going to take a lot of desensitization before i can play the jaded world traveler.

i then paid a visit to jay the amazing verizon dude who reviewed the list of countries where i will meet facebook friends and declared i needed a new phone which he will order for me.  tomorrow i strike east for cleveland and then north to michigan.

i stopped at st. peter's church on madison street because the franciscan friars were doing an eleven forty mass for the solemnity of st. francis of assisi. he's the patron saint of, among others, upholsterers, poets, and florists. he was also one of the original christmas pageant producers!

by next friday, i think i’ll be in alaska.  oddly enough, i don’t need a visa.

 


i reach the 70.4% mark at the beginning of the fourth quarter. . .

“is it time?”  i asked at the beginning of every september as the winnetka police department put out the “drive safely, no, really, we mean it this time because the kids are back in school and nobody around here teaches their kids to look both ways” signs.

“no,”  eastman would say firmly.

“is it time?”  i would ask when winnetka matrons would put winter cabbage and mums in their front porch urns and caribou coffee announced pumpkin lattes and pumpkin mochas and pumpkin tea.

“no,” joseph would say.

“is it time?”  i would ask when i ripped the scribbled over september sheet of the family calendar from the refrigerator.

“all right, fine, whatever,”  the boys would say.

and i would put up the halloween decorations:  skulls hanging from the trees surrounding our house.  tenacious spider webs that would cling until the first hard spring rain.  a giant spider that had to be blown up and plugged in and held down with tent stakes and it would still roll over into the street.  and my costume for the big day?  i should use the plural, because i don’t like to limit myself to just one.

but this year, no halloween for me.  october has become the month of the final sprint towards a number–325.  i made a new years resolution to meet all my facebook friends and i am now, ahem, ready to meet up with the 230th friend tomorrow.  i am 70.4% towards my goal, which puts me at 1.4% short of being on target.  i’m feeling the pressure.  on the other hand, most of my new years resolutions of old–losing weight, giving up drinking, cleaning out every closet in this house–are usually forgotten by february.  so missing halloween will be a small sacrifice–i’ll be in dubai when the big day happens and i can assure you i will not be regaling the good citizens of that country with accounts of goblins and ghosts and obama costumes.

at the beginning of the weekend, i saw f2fb friend #227 tom seymour.  he was a stage manager who saved a play i was working on.  tom often posts lines from movies.  the words seem utterly random until you figure out that it’s a movie line and you think “what movie?”  and the reptilian part of your brain thinks it through and four hours later, you respond with another quote from the same movie.

he generally works as a property manager and october first means the day that people get their keys and move into the apartments he manages.  it took a little persuading to get him to take the evening before the first to see me, but his brother charlie (f2fb friend #20) hosted a dinner party which, oddly enough, was comprised almost exclusively of facebook friends i have already visited with.  it was fun to review the year, to catch up with people, to do this in a relaxed manner that a christmas dinner party would not quite allow.

tom is a smoker and he invited me to join him.  i  realized it’s been a long time since i went out onto the front porch with my son eastman (f2fb friend #1) and smoked a cigarette and made a video and thought “i just have to do this 324 more times and i’ll be a success!”.

the next morning, i met two f2fb friends.  they live together.  both of them are intensely shy.  one of them is dealing with an internet stalker.  i have had some experience with stalking and it’s awful.   i went to a third friend who is related to both of them.  she made a ruling:  i would acknowledge that i have met f2fb friends #228 and 229 and i could use a picture i took outside their home.  then i realized the picture showed the license plate of their car.  because of the stalker, i decided to forego the picture.

three quarters of the way into the year, travel arrangements secure, money tight but i’m holding firm, joseph has agreed to come with me around the world–i have only to battle the ghosts and goblins that every resolve entails:  self-doubt, self-loathing, taking the criticisms of friends and strangers to heart, faltering determination.  always i have turned to my friends for help.  i have no doubts about them.   i believe everything can be done so long as one turns to one’s friends for help.  i am grateful.


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