Tag Archives: dortmund

taking facebook face to face

last year, i very briefly visited austria.  when i say brief, i mean four hours.  a layover in between success and certain disaster.  in my around the world trip to visit all my facebook friends i had put a lot of effort into meeting claudia klose in dortmund, germany.  i wasn’t quite sure how we knew each other.  we had two mutual friends in common–both of whom had worked with my son eastman during his very brief movie career.  i assumed claudia was a producer, makeup person, lighting director. ..  and that i just couldn’t connect face and name.

claudia and i exchanged a bunch of messages about my trip.  she was very reluctant to see me and said she didn’t like meeting new people.  especially since she said her english was very poor.  i admire people who can say that their english isn’t very good because whatever language they speak i can’t say more than “hello” “goodbye” and “where is the bathroom?”  and i can only do all three in french after two years of high school french.

nonetheless, i won her over and she agreed to meet me.  and with a precision that confirmed my sense that germans are way more organized than the rest of us, it was to be at the dortmund train station hb 7 gate tuesday november 1 at 6:30 p.m.  we agreed we would have coffee and engage in the universal activity of female friendship–shopping.

on the thirty first–the first halloween i had spent outside of the country–i was in italy visiting a facebook friend and i decided to reconfirm.  oh, let’s not call it reconfirming.  let’s call it what it was–re-re-re-re-confirming.  we had just been in touch not a week before.

i tried to send her a message and discovered i was not only defriended but blocked.  and she had defriended our two mutual friends.  i was stunned.  i wanted to change course.  get out of going to dortmund.  but changing flights, hotels, the itinerary was to expensive to change.  if i was going to meet the next friend on my trip, i had to take a train to the rome airport, fly to vienna, fly to dusseldorf and take a train into dortmund so that the next day i could fly into luten, england to meet the next friend on my facebook friendship itinerary.

i had a wonderful time in dortmund.  got laundry done.  drank beer.  saw the christmas tree (man, the germans get it going on about christmas earlier than anybody–maybe they need a stopgap holiday like halloween or thanksgiving!)

maybe it was great to just chill out.  but i thought about how i approached my new year’s resolution to meet all my facebook friends.  there were some who just didn’t want to meet me.  who wanted to keep things online.

i think it’s important for friendship to sometimes be extended beyond the virtual.  and there’s another friend of mine, from austria, who agrees with me.  andrea warmuth wrote to me with this:

I´m impressed by Arlynn´s story, so I want to tell you mine.

I´m no agoraphobic, but Arlynn is an inpiring example for me too!!!!

As she visited all of her FB-friends, I managed to visit 2 of them.
Regina Jauk and Edith Garcia Chacon.
Regina I would call my soulsister and I visited her october 2011 in Sollenau, Lower Austria
and I visited Edith this June in Kassel, Germany!

Both of them are one of sweetest and nicest persons I´ve ever met!
I´m very lucky to say that I was very welcome and always felt like home!
I´m planing to visit more of my FB-friends and hope to know them all in real life!

This is my story and I was glad to share it with you.

we became friends in january of this year when andrea reached out to me after hearing about my facebook adventure. maybe you can’t see every facebook friend this year, but what if you made a commitment to see two or five or ten? i really hope to make it to austria for more than the four hours i was in the airport waiting to go to dortmund because i would like to meet andrea!

andrea has 817 friends to meet and that’s a daunting task.  i have a similarly daunting task of figuring out how to get to new york tomorrow because i am re-connecting with a facebook friend i met earlier this year.  michele persiak is an agoraphobic who lives on staten island outside of new york city.  she wants to broaden her horizons and she will. . . and i’ll be there to witness it!

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!