i think i’m scared of flying again. i was scheduled to fly into laguardia this week to meet new facebook friends and reconnect with my son joseph. then, as the dire predictions rolled in about hurricane sandy, i felt that familiar panic about getting on a plane. the three days before imagining crashes,bird strikes, fuel starvation, sabotage–to say nothing of panic attacks, homicidal fellow passengers, delirious flight attendants, ebola virus transmission. .. .
i also watched the trailer for the denzel washington movie “flight” and although denzel is the sexiest man on earth, i wouldn’t recommend watching this. even if you’re the most placid of flyers or high on a mixture of ambien and margaritas, just the preview will make you think twice about anything aeronautical.
when i made a commitment to meet all 325 of my facebook friends during 2011 i was a white knuckle flyer. okay, honestly, i was a three glasses of wine and an ativan before i get on the plane gal. i probably was in more danger from that combination than anything else.
as the year progressed, as i got on a plane just about every week, i stopped being scared. stopped thinking about it too much. drank less. didn’t even bother with the ativan. started to feel wonderful as the plane gently or bumpily lifted me into the air.
still, the hurricane spooked me and it’s been nearly two months since i’ve been on a plane. i have fallen back into the habit of fear. i’ve lost my flight mojo!
the airports of new york closed and i will reschedule. but now i will have to teach myself again to sally forth. at least i have a credit at delta airlines!
i woke up thinking–i cannot leave her behind. miss x was crying when i left her.
“i feel like i made and lost a friend in the past couple hours!”
“no, you haven’t,” i said. ”you made a friend on facebook and you still have a friend.”
she wasn’t convinced when i pulled out of the driveway. she sat on the porch bench, crying. i felt awful. i was tired, i was scared, i was driving so many hours. i had so many more to go.
miss x is the 331st facebook friend i have visited since my 2011 new year’s resolution. at that time, i had 325 facebook friends and i resolved to meet and spend time with each one during the course of the year. i mean, who are all these people in my little solar system of mark zuckerberg’s virtual universe?
but as the year progressed and in this year 2012, i have been meeting newer friends. miss x had seen a bit of news about me, had friendshipped me, and we’d been corresponding. she thought she was inviting me to louisville, kentucky to give me an opportunity to test out my fearlessness against agoraphobia. instead, we faced an interesting problem: she drinks. a lot. much more than i do. when i showed up at her doorstep at one thirty, vodka had been two glasses ahead of me.
we all find ways to quell the pain. whether it’s prescriptions, meth, alcohol, video games, hoarding or the carbo load of a dozen doughnuts in front of the television set, we do it. we have to. times are particularly tough right now. miss x lost her job fourteen months ago and has pretty much given up on getting another for the moment.
are you better off than you were four years ago? asked ronald reagan when debating then president jimmy carter. it’s a question every voter has to ask. in miss x’s case, the answer is decidedly no. she has unemployment benefits, but she would rather have a job. and her drinking–popov vodka mostly–has ramped up. jobs often give us purpose, which gets us out of bed and away from our poisons.
the breckenridge inn of louisville, kentucky had generously booked my room next to the “can’t sleep without the television on, argue at two a.m., have makeup sex at four” couple. i so got to appreciate the room decor.
was it a good idea to go back? to meet miss x again? but i was haunted by the crying galpal. and by something she had said.
“i started drinking because i thought i was too boring when i’d be with people, you know, at parties and such.”
i was thinking “that’s me”
i have often felt like a wallflower who can only manage with a glass of white wine. and then i can talk with people. and then another glass of white wine. and i can sit still through dinner parties. and another white wine. i can be funny or witty or amusing. one more white wine. and i’m smushy in my thinking and scattered in my speech. but i don’t notice by then because i have white wine saying “it’s all good.”
i messaged miss x at six a.m. total long shot. if she was up, i would return to her house. we’d go for a walk. i wanted this facebook friend visit to end well. she had drank and fallen asleep and had awakened early. i was packing up for the next facebook friend adventure.
i checked out, went to her house. and that’s when i really met my friend. the day before, i had met alcohol smothering my friend.
the facebook friend who opened the door, the three hundred and thirty first friend i have recorded about since i made that resolution, is bright and funny and witty and engaged in the world. she looks sort of like lana turner or maybe jennifer coolidge. she has a gift for seeing beauty and translating it into home decorating. she has an empathy with cats and although one of her own is dying, she has a sense of humor.
jennifer coolidge is the actress who played stifler’s mom in american pie. this is sort of what miss x looks like. she would be chill with being identified by name but she wants to protect her husband.
we walked and we shared a morning ritual. it is how i pray these days, having figured out that rosaries and om’s sometimes seem hollow for me. we exchanged lists of ten things we are grateful for. i was grateful for coffee that morning. she was grateful for her husband and mother who are both loving. we were able to exchange gratefuls for each other.
there are many days in which coffee has made my list.
we said goodbye. well, goodbye sounds more final than what it was. we hugged and kissed and i will see her again. and i’ll even take up the offer of the manager of the breckenridge inn for a free upgrade because of the couple next door. really, i should just remember that maybe the couple was celebrating and happy and . . . well, actually, i know they were pretty happy at four a.m. roughly thirty seconds apart from each other.
no secret–i love the white wine. we’re having a break up. i am using a drug that is weaning, subtle, strange. i am not a believer in twelve steps because i think we do all need something to get us through the day.
i strike north for bloomington. i thought i would be aiming for tennessee but my friend in cookeville has distractions. i drive. i meet my facebook friends. i ask for their friendship to be in person. mark zuckerberg introduces but there’s nothing better than right there, right now.
at the beginning of the new year, the ancient babylonians made promises to the Gods that they would return borrowed items and repay their debts. the romans made their new year’s promises to janus, the two faced God for whom january is named. and the medieval knights made a “peacock vow” right after christmas to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry. these days, a lot of people make new years resolutions. fully 40% of americans make resolutions. the most popular ones being losing weight, exercising more, getting a better job, getting control over one’s finances. but 88% of people fail at their resolutions, almost half giving up before the end of january. last year, i resolved to meet all 325 facebook friends that i had at the time. for a variety of reasons, i managed to meet up and have real face time, with 292.
in the third episode of season three of the hit series glee, mike chang's father demands that the principal force mike out of the glee club because mike has received an A- on one of his tests. the A- is referred to as the asian F, in part because of the stereotype that asian parents expect perfect grades from their children. i met 90% of my facebook friends last year so i guess that's an asian F.
this year, my resolution is to meet 12 facebook friends who would like my help getting out from behind the computer screen. i think we sometimes use facebook friendships as a way of avoiding the chaos, confusion and just plan scariness of modern life. and some of us have our worlds get smaller and smaller.
i made three new years resolutions: one, i have to lose ten pounds. i gained that much over the course of last year–damn, those taipei soup dumplings, the weiner schnitzel in dortmund, the smashed peas in bristol, the seven course meal in eastbourne. . . the next is a little more embarrassing.
white wine, we have to talk. . . . i like you too much. so we have to break up. i'll still let myself drink beer but the white stuff's offlimits. if you see me with a glass like this in my hand, call me out on it!
and the big resolution is that i will take what i have learned and visit twelve facebook friends who are stuck. and i will do what i can to help “un-stuck” them. but january’s nearly over. i have to get moving. people who are successful at new years resolutions do two things: they engage in interim goal setting and they announce their intentions and ask for support from their friends. in order to make my facebook new years resolution work, i will have to meet one facebook friend a month. and it can’t just be one meeting or one interaction. it’s going to have to be a little more intense. but i have made the first step:
on january 26th, i will be in pennsylvania meeting with a facebook friend who has been housebound for some time. she would like to be a “better” mother and see her son succeed at things like little league games. i will be meeting her for the first time.
on january 29th, i will fly out to boston where i will meet with a facebook friend who has similar issues. i hope she’ll let me take her to lunch at the “top of the hub” restaurant in boston because one of the focuses of her anxiety is heights and elevators.
if you want to succeed at whatever you’ve chosen as your new year’s resolution, you should announce what you plan to do and you should celebrate your interim successes.
i have phobias which developed yesterday at the hand of f2fb friend #148 jose rios who took me to hike outside of los angeles. we walked–los angelenos use their cars so much i was surprised at his bipedalism–to the top of a ridge at the topanga state park and met six hikers. the hikers were nervous about continuing through a field because of bees. the california park service had very helpfully put up a notice that the alternative route was where the mountain lions lived.
leaving the hikers, we walked through a field of tall grasses with our arms up over our heads–the bees like vuvuzelahs at a south african soccer field. they got in my hair and in my eyes. i regretted angel perfume. i wondered if i could call dr. stern back in chicago and have an epipen airlifted in. new phobia: apiphobia!
we then ended up on a ridge overlooking the palisades canyons. fear of falling off a cliff–or perhaps just straightforward fear of heights–acrophobia.
jose standing on the ridge without falling over which is what i would do!
i thought “what a nice view, what a nice walk, do we have to go back through the bees?” but no, there was more. we continued down into a forest and when he pointed out a lizard resting on a branch, i realized there could be snakes (ophidiophobia). then we followed a rocky stream (potomaphobia, but only because i was worried i was going to fall on the rocks). then we found a cave.
in the cave, there were two notebooks that people had written in. some of the stuff was quite personal. really, annie l., do we need to know how you lost your virginity?
still, i thought “nice cave, time to go home, maybe go to starbucks, didn’t i see one along the way?”
but we were just starting. there was a climb up the face of a mountain and a couple of times i lost my footing. i definitely lost my memory of latin so we’ll go with the english versions: fear of slipping on rocks, fear of falling off a cliff, fear of the manson family who killed sharon tate in this same area, fear of other mass murderers, fear of mosquitoes bearing dengue fever, fear of poison oak and poison ivy, fear of that weird thing that turned out to just be a stick.
the night before, i had been with f2fb friend #147 cathy mccormick–she’s a transplanted winnetkan who now lives in manhattan beach. she is training as a master reiki spiritual healer. she’s applied to the university of santa monica to work on her master’s in spiritual psychology. she is also associated with the ten mary’s, a group of evolved women who come together to network about healing and other arts. cathy wants to work with empowering midlife women, particularly those in abusive marriages such as she endured.
at the end of dinner, cathy walked with me out onto the beach and she put her hands on either side of my head and used her energy to heal and empower me. i felt sort of like we were flying together, but that might have been because i had taken my shoes off and i was sinking in the sand. also, i had had three sierra nevada pale ales with dinner.
but when jose said our little two hour constitutional was a preamble to the hard part, i really wanted to believe that cathy’s healing powers were going to work. i would be bold. i followed jose up into a narrow passage where we crablegged over to another ridge and then . . .
i asked jose for an adventure and he delivered!
coming back, i did slip and almost fell backwards into a gorge. but otherwise, i was feeling great. the bees rose up in a cloud to greet me. we came back up to where the dithering hikers had dithered. that’s when i noticed that the mountain lion signage didn’t specify a choice: the mountain lions were everywhere but hey, that was just part of the scenery!
jose is an artist and filmmaker. he worked on three films with eastman–he and i hadn’t seen each other in nearly six years. he makes some of his artwork with things he finds as he hikes.
i love the ants made out of fallen tree seeds
i don't think he made this venus de milo from things he found in nature
jose was once romantically involved with another facebook friend jen messer who lives in los angeles but is now in chicago. and when i’m in chicago she’s in los angeles. i’m starting to develop a complex. cathy was and may still be romantically involved with f2fb friend #3 mike castagna. although jose and cathy have never met, i believe they worked together to make this incredible adventure! for a while, as a very dirty sweaty tired me headed back for the safety of my redondo beach motel, i thought “i can do anything!”
except deal with the 405 or pacific highway traffic!
when i am afraid this is where i want to go since i know i can't get home--but i leave now for san diego!