Monthly Archives: November 2011

the high price of friendship is all worth it

elizabeth gilbert got an advance from a publisher to finance a trip to italy, india and finally indonesia. she got a movie deal and found true love. oh, and probably enlightenment too!


americans don’t like to talk about money–how much or how little.  but some people have asked how i have financed this year of facebook friends.  and it’s pretty simple:  i saved a lot and i’ve tried to spend as little.  every parent with a kid getting a degree in film knows there’s going to have to be some “seed capital” as a graduation present.

“you’d want some creative input, wouldn’t you?”  joseph asked me when i offered him the money.

“well, yeah, a little, sure,”  i prevaricated.

i've published thirty three books and written two plays that have been performed in chicago. i can't help wanting to have some creative input. thank goodness i wasn't around when michelangelo was painting that stuff on the ceiling!


“then, no thanks, mom,”  joseph said. “i’m going to do something on my own.  no offense.”

and that’s when i realized i had just about enough to do this year of traveling and meeting every facebook friend.  i’ve also had help from friends and family, both those with facebook accounts and those who think facebook is a waste of time and an encroachment on their privacy.

i've also published under the name vivian leiber. sex scenes are actually harder to write than you'd imagine. i don't ever feel sexy afterwards.

last night, i went out with f2fb friend #254 jean huyler who used to work in a book store and also has worked in marketing.  she said “you have to think of this as a book”  and of course i do because, frankly, i’m not sure i know how to do anything else but write and play scrabble.  the market for scrabble players with no talent is rather limited. so i think i have to consider how to use this year to write a book–because i will most certainly be broke at the end of the year.  a high price, sure, but i’ve really had some remarkable experiences of friendship that could never have happened if i didn’t make that silly new years eve resolution!

jean is very relaxed, sitting with a glass of champagne in one hand. champagne is, after all, the reason God gave us two hands!


i told jean to find me a publisher.  actually, anybody reading this is encouraged to find me a publisher.  and diamonds.  you can look for diamonds for me, that’s okay.  any ideas, feel free to send them to me at or send a carrier pigeon.

jean and i went to the music theatre company founded by f2fb friend #255 jessica redish.  jessica has been in theater forever,but she hasn’t lost the ability to do other things.  founding a theater company means you learn to do a lot of things–fundraising, talent promotion, marketing.  we laughed when remembered that she had directed my younger son in the opera falsettos and his voice was changing.  luckily, james lapin and william finn used very modern music so you could hardly tell when eastman was offkey.  and when he croaked you just thought “wow, how very sondheim in a mahler kind of way!”

jessica would love to have you take a look at the music theatre company in highland park--just go to


upon returning home, but briefly. . .

i got  a very odd post on my wall from a facebook friend i haven’t been able to see this year.  i know nothing about her except that twice she has received free iphones and has been so kind as to pass along the information.  i sure hope i get to meet her, because i have tried every which way of communicating with her and she hasn’t responded.

i have some facebook friends like that.  after i came back from the seventeen day nineteen city, twelve country facebook tour, i sat down with the spread sheet and i was suprised to discover that fully seventeen facebook friends had not responded to any invitation i proffered.  well, one dude said that he had wanted to date me for several years and now i only wanted to see him because of my “stupid project” and “screw you”.  which i think is a no.

but today i got this note from nova.  it is the second post i have ever received from her.  i replied with two comments:

OMG! i got new iphone 4s, I got it for FREE here, takes a second to find out if you qualify too!
  • Robert Mayer likes this.
    • Arlynn Leiber Pressernova, OMG! i’m so happy to hear from you! i have been trying to reach you–messaging you, writing on your wall! i have a new years resolution to meet all the facebook friends i had as of december 31, 2010. and that includes you! so where do you live? when can i see you? what do you like to do?

      a few seconds ago · Like
    • Arlynn Leiber Presser btw, you can read about my adventures with other facebook friends at— i’ve had a really wonderful year and i’m very grateful to the friends that have met me. you know, oddly, the only other communication i’ve received from you was about your free iphone. you got a free iphone right around the time we became friends!

      Just another site
      2 seconds ago · Like ·
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  • oh, well, i’ll find out soon whether i have a friend AND whether i’m getting a new iphone.  what do you think?

this past weekend, as i struggled with jet lag, i also struggled with some other “re-entry” issues.  i don’t have to shower with my panties on so i can wash them.

i lost twelve pairs of panties in twelve different countries. and the only action i was getting was from female t.s.a. agents! there's some injustice there.


i was using one carry on bag so i couldn’t bring perfume–so i dashed into every pharmacy, department store and duty free shop looking for tester bottles of thierry mugler’s angel perfume or, in a pinch, guerlain’s shalimar.  i have spent so much money on this trip that i don’t think i’m giving up that habit.

the food here in winnetka is weird too.  it comes out of my refrigerator.  and nobody seems interested in making my bed or putting chocolates on my pillow.  on the other hand, some of the hotel experiences weren’t so good and i’m grateful that there are no mouse droppings on the bathroom sink.

sleep is the biggest problem.  joseph bounced back right away.  i’ve been having trouble. the first night i was free, i went to st. sebastian players.  my f2fb friends #252 nancy pollock and #253 john oster were helping out with a production of the elephant man.

everybody claps for actors but who gives the love to the gal who runs the house or the dude who puts in the lights?


i was scared i would fall asleep but i didn’t.  the show was really wonderful!  i reminded both nancy and john that we’ll be working again in june as i have an idea for a play about clarence darrow.  it has to have an explosion in it.  i like my theater to make the people in the first row piss their pants.

i am only home for a bit, as i have to start planning a quick trip to new york and a more protracted trip up the northwestern passage.  it’s a sprint, but i will finish!  and i sure hope i get a free iphone!


welcome home world travelers and a facebook friends takes liberties with me

nothing says home sweet home like a bottle of veuve clicquot in the refrigerator, freshly delivered roses, a four foot stack of mail, and a cake on the kitchen counter!

i am home and i survived the trip with my son joseph.  some rough stats:

1.  we traveled–however briefly–to or through korea, taiwan, the philippines, malaysia, india, united arab emirates, italy, austria, germany, england, and ireland–approximately 24,000 miles altogether!

2.  we set out to meet eleven facebook friends and were on a schedule of breathtaking speed.  we failed to meet one facebook friend (mark del rosario) because he had appendicitis.  his wife nona stepped in for him.  we failed to meet rahul guru because his work schedule was unexpectedly changed–he sent his emissary f2fb friend #244 anto prashanth.  we missed alessandro cerea because he got deployed a little earlier than expected but we are going to figure out how to meet before the end of the year.  and i was defriended by claudia from dortmund.  all in all, i count it as we saw nine friends or their designated ambassadors of good will.

jennifer christine harris of des moines, iowa was arrested for burning down the home of nikki rasmussen who had defriended her on facebook. i don't think i will be burning down claudia's house. i had too much of a good time in dortmund!

3.  we didn’t rip each other’s heads off.  my son is twenty three years old.  plenty of my contemporaries complain about the relationships they have with their adult children.  i think they should go on trips together.  i learned to treat him as an equal.  he has a soft spot in his heart for his mom.

so when i returned to chicago, i was (am still) suffering from strange jet lag.  but the new years resolution continues.  i went to see my f2fb friend #250 joe kral.  i had never met him before and yet i agreed to meet him at his home.  i allowed him to kiss me.  on the mouth and hand and ear.  he shoved his nose between my legs at the very point where t.s.a. agents like to linger with their blue gloves and wands.  i also allowed four of his friends those same liberties.  it was quite a party!

joe has his own facebook page and has many dog and human facebook friends.  he is in a relationship with maya sharona joffe.  joe’s older brother bob kral recently died of bone cancer and had his own page as well.  bob was married to maya’s sister sasha.  dogs relationships are just as complicated as those of humans.

joe’s account is run by his human mother f2fb friend #251 pb kral who is a dog whisperer.  she helps people who think their dogs are the problem:  it is usually the people who need to change.  pb says the biggest mistake people make is to treat their dogs like human beings and not like dogs.  she is the alpha for five dogs:  joe, tommy, brea, brad, and billy.

pb, joe and me — with brad in the red coat. . . .
ordinarily i am afraid of dogs and i am also allergic to them.  the dogs were very well behaved because their alpha pb kept them in line.  i got a little itchy towards the end of the dog party but i had the most wonderful time!!!!  i started to think that maybe, just maybe, i could be a pet owner but only if i could have joe. . . .

illegal fish pedicures in brighton

before this year, i worked out every day on a stair mill.  i read magazines to fend off boredom.  i became familiar with the domestic lives of celebrities, the best weight loss regimes, and the newest fashion/beauty trends.  i had heard about fish pedicures.

fish pedicures are the rage.  tiny fish who chew away at blisters, however, they’re illegal in the united states because they are possible disease spreaders.  i had wanted a fish pedicure in korea, taiwan, philippines, malaysia, mumbai, dubai, rome–but there was never enough time.  brighton????  brighton, england???  home of the palace of george IV?

uh, well, yes.  i thought this would help my failing feet.

i finish up seeing facebook friends in england! now to get myself home. . .

there are so many levels of hell, according to dante, but i don’t think he ever anticipated the easyjet tier of hell.  getting out of dortmund, germany after a bruising reality check that facebook friends sometimes will just NOT EVER want to meet and that i could be an idiot (the latter being my own little mantra), we alighted to dortmund international airport where security felt up my twins and played around with my lady bits in a manner that i really we should have had a “relationship talk”.  


the easyjet boarding system is modeled on the highly successful titanic lifeboat boarding system. when we took off i had the odd sensation that i could fly the damn plane better than the pilot. this did not instill confidence in me because i generally do not pilot planes. well, i never pilot planes.

we had a reservation at the “easyhotel” owned by the airline.  imagine the jetsons trapped in orwell’s 1984.  but then it was onto london to catch a train to bristol to meet f2fb friend #248 anna brooke.  
i hadn’t seen anna in fourteen years.  she was the assistant to a colleague of my ex-husband’s.  anna and her husband stephen were newlyweds (well, maybe a couple of anniversaries past that status) and were desperate to have children.  they were going through ivf.  they were eating soy products thought to improve fertility.  they drank nonalcoholic wine which i think suggests an absolute commitment to conception.  and yet, they were disappointed.  we lost touch, time passed, and then i see anna on facebook.  we friend each other.  i notice she posts a lot about catherine and daniel, two youngsters who are unbearably cute.  i realize she’s had kids.  i dont’ how to ask her “what the heck happened?”  but, you know what?, we got to have that conversation in bristol where the family of stephen, anna, catherine, and daniel live. THIS is exactly the sort of situation that calls for YOU to meet all your facebook friends in person.  unfortnately, both my cell phone camera and my video cam gave me trouble, otherwise i’d show you the handsome and delightful quartet!

in bristol, we saw a suspension bride designed by isambard kingdom brunel, a nineteenth century engineer. he died before the bridge was even being developed. would you rather be revered and famous after your death or before?

from bristol, we alighted to brighton/hove on the train.  little did we know that the british railway system is a bit ungainly.  the train “terminated” at worth and all passengers were advised to leave.  most made the decision to take an alternate train back to london.  but if i missed brighton on november 4, i would have to come back on the fifth.  guy fawkes day which is celebrated most particularly in the town of lewes, next to brighton.  tens of thousands of people come to lewes to commemorate the blowing up of parliament by a catholic and the burning at the stake of seventeen protestants during the reign of queen mary 1.  i wore my rosary under my sweater just in case.  the book of revelations talks about how you’ll know the endtimes are near if guy fawkes celebrations are ever held at the same time as halloween.  so i didn’t tell anybody about trick-or-treating, apple-bobbing, or egging your neighbor’s windows.
we took a bus into brighton/hove and met f2fb friend #249 mark jonathan cage and his very lovely girlfriend laura.  they laid out the most remarkable “traditional” english sunday dinner of roast chicken, roasted potatoes and turnips, steamed vegetables, suet pudding,  dressing, a homemade apple and honey cake with  ice cream and custard.  i wondered what they were going to do for a main course.
mark took us all to beachy head which is the suicide “go to” place in england.  it’s amazing how tall the cliff is and how exposed it is. when mark told me that a huge problem is erosion i was like “uh, no thanks” and i wondered about why i was seeing a facebook friend whom i had never met, but with whom i had played online scrabble.  it was pretty damn windy but luckily i was ballasted by my weight.  so that’s why the traditional english dinner is so grand!
then off to heathrow to get ourselves back to america.  seventeen days, eleven countries, 21,600 miles, two pairs of shoes, one carryon bag–and i had one last adventure:  something illegal in the united states but apparently available on every street corner in brighton, england.

dortmund might be a disaster, or just a distraction

on january first, i went through my friends list just to get an idea of all the places and people i had committed to seeing.  i was puzzled by a few friends.  claudia was one of them.  she seldom showed up in the status updates and when she did, she wrote mostly in german–which i can’t understand.  we had two mutual friends — f2fb friend #140 ben gonzalez and #150 branden blinn.  ben and branden both had no idea how they were friends with claudia–i had accepted her friendship request on the basis of those relationships and to find out that they didn’t even know her was quite unsettling.  i messaged her, explaining the project and gently probed as to where she was and what our connection was.  i received no response.  i did this several times.  i was prepared to write her off as i received no replies. 

ben was sure that claudia was just being shy.  he instant messaged her.  explained the project.  and claudia declared that she “was uncomfortable meeting people”  especially ones she doesn’t know.  she was just as baffled as to why i was her friend as i was about why she was my friend.  she wrote to ben that her english was not good enough for her to feel comfortable meeting an american.  i communicated through ben that this was no impediment to friendship. 

over the course of several sessions of instant messaging, ben was persuasive.  she agreed to see me  in her home town of dortmund, germany.  but only on a tuesday because she got off work early on tuesdays.  that could fit quite nicely into the jigsaw puzzle of my trip around the world since i needed to be in dubai on either a friday or saturday to see f2fb friend #246 cecilia gigiolio.  claudia would meet me at the dortmund hbf rail station around seven o’clock on november first.  i reconfirmed with a message just before i bought my international tickets.  claudia responded that she was looking forward to meeting me.  i booked a flight from rome to dusseldorf, with a two hour layover in vienna, and studied the train schedules to find the one hour train ride that would put me into dortmund around seven.

the night before i was to meet claudia, i jumped on facebook to message her a reminder of our meeting.  i discovered she had defriended me.  and blocked me. 

i had a seat on a plane to luten, england from dortmund’s airport.  it was too late and too expensive to do anything else but head out from rome the next morning.

i waited, on the offchance that she would show up.  i even found myself looking at other people on the train platform, thinking someone would tap my shoulder and say “sie mussen arlynn werden”. . .

in the end, i had to take this as a loss.  no claudia.  no facebook meeting.  and no real purpose to being in dortmund.  except, of course, that the borussian soccer team was hosting greece for a match that would serve as an allegory for the problems of the european union. 

still, i sympathize with claudia.  i figure she felt overwhelmed.  didn’t know how to say no.  or nein.  and then maybe panicked at the last minute.  she dealt with the matter in a way that facebook facilitates very nicely:  if you are defriended by someone, you don’t get a sad face amongst your notifications.  you just have to find out on your own.  and because claudia blocked me, i can’t even message her that i’m sorry this didn’t work out.

still, travel requires flexibility.  there was dortmund.  they had a laundromat.  i really needed to visit that because joseph and i have been living out of my carhartt utility bag and a backpack.  and there was the dortmund hansmarket.  i tried my hand at roulette. . .

and i came across dortmund’s pride–the world’s largest christmas tree–being assembled in the city square.  the tree reminded me that there’s only two months left for me to make my goal of meeting all those who were my facebook friends on january 1, 2011.  if i pout, or feel down, because i have failed in one aspect of my resolution, i won’t have the nerve to succeed at what is still possible.  so i splurged and took a cab to dortmund’s airport.  and aimed for england and the last two facebook friends on this overseas adventure.

rome sweet rome

it’s hard to communicate through this journal  the speed of our travels.  on sunday we went from chicago to korea, landing there monday afternoon.  tuesday, we glided into taiwan, then the next day the philippines.  from the philippines to mumbai, where we spent a leisurely day and a half before hopscotching over to dubai.  less than twenty four hours later we were in rome.  but we often had internet connection troubles (damn that holiday inn express in dubai!) and my phone has given out.  my hotmail account is frozen for reasons i can’t fathom and frankly, we’re in such motion that sitting down to write an account of our f2fb adventure has been a bit difficult. 

in rome, i couldn’t help myself. i wanted to see the city of seven hills, the birthplace of romulus, remus, and pizza.  i read the newspaper accounts at breakfast in the hotel siviglia of the european economic crisis.  thinking on this, i went with joseph to the colisseum and the forum. looking out at the ruins, i  had an idea of a jobs project–mr. obama, are you onboard?

then there are the gladiators.  they accost tourists.   they wear full regalia, often with black socks under their sandals.  that surprised me as i don’t remember julius ceasar having an account with brooks brothers.  i asked about what i would see in the colisseum.

then it was time to dress for dinner with f2fb friend # 247 federico cenci and his beloved girlfriend marina.  at the hotel i logged onto facebook to confirm the next day’s meeting with claudia, a facebook friend in dortmund, germany.  oddly enough, on a per leg basis, the dortmund trip was the most expensive and intricate of the magellan round the world facebook trip:  an early morning train to the airport in rome, a two hour flight to vienna, a change over to a one  hour flight to dusseldorf, a two hour train ride into dortmund in order to meet her at seven p.m.

i tried to message her.  impossible.  facebook wouldn’t let me.  i checked her profile.  she had defriended me. she also now has a limited profile so that i can’t message her or write on her wall.   joseph suggested we stay an extra day in rome.  but i refused to accept that somebody would have agreed just three weeks before to see me, knowing i would be paying out benjamins and even telling me time and place–someone couldn’t stand me up that way.  besides, changing the arrangments would cost .  . . . much more. 

we went to dinner with fede.  his girlfriend marina is truly gorgeous.  i noticed that when italian women wear a scarf it is an effortless expression of chic.  when i wear a scarf it looks like i have stolen a table runner.  she also has the greatest hair.  and perfect skin.   everythng to make a dowdy over the hill fifty one year old get a little grumpy.  but she’s so adorable and so kind that i fell in love with her. just not in that “go to vermont” way.

fede had made dough for a pizza fest at their apartment but we decided on a real italian restaurant so we could be surrounded by real italians doing what they do best–drinking red wine, gesturing, eating, enjoying!

“you will find out that you were meant to go to dortmund for a reason,”  marina said.  “it’s just not claudia.”

and i had to remember that as i got up the next morning dashing for the train to the airport. . . . there are days i do not want to continued this project, days when i think this is absolutely ridiculous, days when i want to pull the covers over the head and stay . . . in rome!