THE LAST FIVE ...
Closing up shop
It may be time for a change
Entry in the air
Music of the moment
Or ... BE RANDOM!
Thursday, July 14, 2005 - 12:34 a.m.
"I am flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi, with America's hottest band, and we are all about to die."
That's how William Miller's Rolling Stone cover story about Stillwater opens, as read by the Ben Fong-Torres character in Almost Famous (as opposed to the real Ben Fong-Torres, who may or may not be a character; I've never met him). We watched the movie again the other night, and I've always loved that part. It's the kind of lede I always liked to write, the kind of imagery I aspired to emulate during my reporting days. I immediately thought of one particular feature I wrote based on a road trip I took with the minor-league baseball team I covered. Instead of opening the story with a dry lede about the players loading themselves onto the bus after a home game and basically writing the story linearly, what ended up a good story would've been great had I gotten more creative with it.
And I wrote it nearly four years ago.
This all came to mind the other night as I thought back to Sunday afternoon when Casey and I walked around Greenwich Village with Lauren and our long-time blog friend yet brand-new real-life friend Jen. We talked a little about our online lives, the ebb and flow of our ideas and urge to post. I haven't been as diligent about posting here as I have elsewhere because I haven't been happy with my efforts. With so many other interests grabbing my time, I haven't made a point to sit down and chronicle my daily life because I've wanted to describe the events of my days in a lyrical, poetic prose rather than a rote recitation not unlike a grade-school essay entitled, "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" and opens with a line like, "What I did on my summer vacation was take a trip with my family up to Maine."
I'm finally feeling, though, like I have a handle on the tasks I've taken on. I have my personal baseball blog out there, a related project at the site that hosts one of New Jersey's newspapers and a fantasy baseball gig similar to Heather's football one. Only in the past few weeks have I not felt pressure to update everything because I've been doing a good job of giving a little love to each one a few times a week. For the first time since about March, my writing feels natural again, rather than forced.
But back to Sunday afternoon. I probably should've realized it at the time -- because it's something I would normally pick up on -- but as the four of us sat there eating brunch at Home on Cornelia Street, I was among three friends whom I'd first come to know through this site. It started in 2000, when Heather started working for what became Television Without Pity and I read some of the other recaps. The man who wrote the recaps for my favorite show at the time, Ed was none other than Uncle Bob, whose bio mentioned this other site on which he wrote. It was a Diaryland diary with the handle of "bradpitt" and he wrote as if it were Brad Pitt posting about the daily happenings around his Hollywood home. (I particularly remember one about firing the gardener.) It was mostly harmless and funny, but Brad Pitt's lawyers got in touch with Uncle Bob and requested that he cease and desist.
I was inspired to start my own diary, calling it a journal at the time because "diary" seemed so -- well, you know. I don't know when, exactly, the term "weblog" was coined, but I didn't know it five years ago. Heather was the first (and one of the very few, to this day) friend in the offline world whom I told about my site, and she quickly joined as well. I stumbled upon Casey's diary and love ensued. Lauren then came on board and moved in with Heather (I'm not sure in what order those two things happened), and it was through her journal that I first got to know Lauren before Casey and I finally flew out there for a visit.
What first led me to Jen's home on the web I don't recall. It was probably the poetic picture of sideways rain that first caught my eye as I was trolling the list of recently updated diaries one night. I always took to the ones written by people in and around New York and other cities I know and love. We've exchanged e-mails and guestbook posts and kept reading all these years, it's surprising we didn't say, Hey, let's grab a drink! (Because we all certainly enjoy a good drink on a hot Sunday afternoon.)
As Lauren, Casey and I walked to the restaurant to meet Jen on Sunday afternoon, Lauren wondered aloud what it would be like. We've all met the so-called "online friends" before, and sometimes the connections are immediate and seamless. Other times, once the initial pleasantries and standard getting-to-know-you queries are exhausted, a lull creeps in and the eyes start to wander around the room. I'd thought about it myself, wondering if the fact that the three of us knew one another already would make it intimidating for Jen, but in the end there was something that told me this was going to be an easy transition. When Jen arrived and joined us at our table -- thereby producing a hard copy of our collective relationship -- it was as if a longtime friend who had just been running a little late finally caught up with us. I wasn't shocked that, after the very brief, simple introductions ("I'm Jen." "I'm Lauren." "I'm Casey." "That makes me Dan."), we simply conversed like we were college classmates at a regular Sunday brunch.
"I think it's because you all represent yourselves so well online," is how Jen explained it later -- sometime after the Magnolia cupcakes in the park with the gay guides to NYC left on the stone table beneath the shade tree, but before the refreshing pints at the Blind Tiger Ale House. I think I actually was too comfortable because, not long after I realized that I couldn't take my eyes off the Mets game on the TV over the bar, Jen turned to me and said, "You're a little quiet." I'd noticed that myself, but it's not that I was uncomfortable or shy. "It's probably because we keep talking about dresses and shoes," Casey said, which wasn't untrue. Looking back, I think my quiet nature shows itself when I know I'm in the right place, when I'm sure I don't have to keep talking just for the sake of saying something. I've never been the dominant conversationalist, so if the people I'm with keep discovering tangents in their discussions, I'm happy to sit back and wait my turn.
Back in college, I made a few friends my freshman year, but even before that second semester ended, I knew only one would last. Bryan had come up to me after a class because we'd met when our respective roommates -- both of whom were originally from the Pittsburgh area and had met at the summer sendoff before arriving on campus -- caught up with one another. It helped that he lived exactly seven floors above me, in the same room (308 and 1008), and that we had at least one class together every day for two semesters. Two years later, when Bryan left to spend the spring of our junior year in London, I realized that my friends at that time fell into two categories: Those I'd made working for the campus newspaper and those I'd made through Bryan. Were it not for those two, I wouldn't have had any acquaintances outside of class -- and probably no hook-ups either.
These days, I can still put my true friends into three close-knit categories. There are those I know from high school, even longer. It's a New Jersey thing -- just ask Charlie Weis.
"When you grow up in Jersey, you grow up with a group of guys, starting out in kindergarten, and you stay friends with them the rest of your life," he told Notre Dame Magazine. "You go to grammar school with them, play Little League baseball with them, go to junior high with them, go to high school with them. To this day, some of my best friends are guys I grew up with."
Then there are my college friends. After that, I have my internet friends -- not those limited to cyber-relationships, but those whom I've since encountered face-to-face in the three-dimensional world. It's certainly the smallest group, but the bonds are just as strong. I mean, I'm marrying one of them.
So while there may be times I can't get myself to sit down and tapety-type-type something into this little white box to post here, I don't think I'll ever give this up. I could never leave this, and I doubt I could ever leave this home. A scrolling blog style format is better for my baseball musings, the sometimes short paragraphs of thoughts I throw up there at times, but for my personal journey I prefer a clean page for each new experience. There's so much out here, and so much of me is represented here. We may change apartments, find a house someday, but a good part of me will always be at home here.
Next page: NASA ... Ford ... same difference
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