Category Archives: Commentary

Are All Friends Alike?

ENB Dallas 2009

My father always said that if, at the end of our lives we could honestly say that we had one friend, we would die rich.  That the word friend was not one to be used lightly. When I came home from school, and said my new friend this or my new friend that, he’d correct me, telling me that until our relationship had grown into something significant, we were simply acquaintances.  Like the bumper sticker reads, “A friends will help you move, a real friend will help you move a body”, we were never to take friendship for granted.

In this age of short tenure employment, neighborhood turnover, and Social Media, does friendship really mean the same thing today as it did in my father’s day? Let’s face it, the days of the gold watch and living next door to the same family for 30 years are the exception in 2010. Families are geographically dispersed, dependent more and more upon the Internet to communicate. Friendships from our youth are being rekindled through Social Media. Some of these so-called friendships fit more closely into the category my father referred to as acquaintance, and would have been better served remaining in the past. But, that’s another story.  Facebook has become the new calling card; Skype brings you right into people’s living rooms – and bedrooms; and Twitter has made everyone a cross between Tom Brokaw and Dr. Phil, with a little Joan Rivers thrown in.

At one point, I would have written that Social Media friends are the same as real life ones. The people who have come into my life as a result of social media are fascinating, enriching, and from a wide range of socio-economic levels and geographic regions. I have laughed, learned and commiserated with men and women whose faces I have no way of knowing are really accurately portrayed in their avatars. We’ve debated health care, marriage equality, global warming, you name it. I’ve learned of their illnesses, and felt real emotional distress as I worried waiting for test results. Waited for that tweet with news. Social media has made the world very small.

On more than one occasion people have disappeared. As suddenly as they appeared in my life, they were gone.  Once, the Twitter account was suspended without explanation, and since I really had no solid way of knowing if the person I was friends with was who she said she was, there was no way to track her down. When someone’s avatar is a an ethereal image or a cartoon, or even a face, how do we REALLY know it is them?  In the case of another friend, the updates just stopped. Nothing.  After months of nightly discussions on the most challenging of topics, sharing our love of Pearl Jam, music trivia, all I heard was crickets.

Today, I went to contact a friend, and noticed that she had unfriended me. That I was no longer her ‘friend’ on Facebook. This saddened me a bit because I never wish to be on the outs with anyone. However, at this stage of life I’m not really concerned about popularity either. The big difference here is if we were really friends, by my father’s definition, I would have picked up the phone and called her. In fact, if we were real life friends, she would have called me if there were a problem. That’s what friends do.

Because I travel full time, I’ve had the opportunity to meet dozens of people in real life (IRL) who I had first encountered through social media. There is no question that the ante is raised once we meet, shake hands, hug each other, share a meal, really laugh out loud (LOL) together. The same way I met my husband through Social Media, in this case, Match.com, the guy he was in his profile was great, but the warm, loving man he was (is) in person was so much more.

Yes, social media is a great door opener for meeting people, learning, sharing, rallying causes. But, just as Internet sex doesn’t replace lovemaking, and Zhuzhu’s don’t replace man’s best friend, Internet friends won’t be the ones you call when your car breaks down, they’ll be the ones you tweet about it.  And, the picture? This was taken in November 2009 in Dallas, TX when a group of us who had met on Twitter got together for the premier of Men Who Stare at Goats. I had met Mark Hundley @MarkHundley, Jamie Inman @ibeatcancrtwice, Jessica Moore @inspiremedaisy, Scott Whitelaw @lifecruise,  and Karen Brown @Toadjumps on Twitter, and the friendship Stewart and I have with these people after meeting in person is much richer than before. There’s just no getting around what happens when two dimensions become three.

One Year Later – There’s Still Hope

Today, there will appear in print places to read accounts of how President Barack Obama has done in his first 365 days in office. How his accomplishments – or lack thereof have measured up to the people’s expectations. Health care still is not a reality for countless Americans.  With the election of Scott Brown as the new Republican Senator from Massachusetts, there are 41 votes against it. Afghanistan has escalated, with more of our men and women fighting – and greater numbers dying. The strategy to get us out of there is not clear to the average American, and we can only hope it is clear to our leaders. As I said, there are countless places to read what President Obama has accomplished, and what he still has left to do.  But, none of this addresses why I am writing this post today.

I cannot help but think about where I was last year at this time. On 20 January 2009, Stewart and I were at the Staybridge Suites in Addison, TX. Addison is a northern suburb of Dallas. Back when I was growing up, Addison was not much more than a field. Now, it is a bustling town filled with life, and the headquarters of companies as diverse as Mary Kay Cosmetics, Dresser and Pizza Hut. Its airport is one of the busiest in the nation. If you can’t find what you’re looking for to eat along its Restaurant Row, then you mustn’t be very hungry.

This is what I wrote last year about the inauguration:

Today is a momentous day for all Americans, and for the world. For the 44th time, after a contemptuous election season, the transfer of power from one administration to the other, occurred without incident. Granted, Cheney went screaming and kicking, and had to be confined to a wheelchair, but he still went. That is what makes this country stand out as a beacon for so many other nations of the world whose elections are not transparent, and whose rightfully elected officials are blocked from assuming their rightful offices. It’s you, Mugabe, I’m talking to! It is a wonderful thing to witness. Even when we don’t agree with the election results, our candidate doesn’t win, we have an expectation, as Americans, that January 21st we will wake up to a peaceful nation with a new leader.

What I failed to include was the company with whom I shared this momentous event. Sadly, I failed to get their names, or take their pictures. However, our shared experience is indelibly imprinted in my memory forever. Sitting with me and Stewart that Tuesday morning last January were a housekeeper, a maintenance man, the woman who set out the breakfast each morning, a front desk clerk, and the hotel manager. At first reluctantly, then with palpable excitement they joined us around the table in the lobby clustered under the flat screen to watch the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the swearing in of Obama. My eyes shifted back and forth between the screen and them, observing the smiles on their faces, and hope in their eyes.

The maintenance man was originally from the West Indies. He was from a very poor country, and had come to the US looking for opportunities to improve his life, and that of his family. “Seeing a black man become president”, he told me, “shows me I made the right decision leaving my people and coming here.”

The woman I saw each morning, who smiled so kindly as I as I asked for tea, while everyone around me had coffee, spoke for herself and the housekeeper, who spoke no English. For them, it was very much the same thing. Having Obama as president meant the door was now wide open to people of colour. This led to a discussion among all of us about the next census and how the white males in this country were about to have their eyes open to the reality of who exactly is the average American these days. A few words were spoken, tongue in cheek, about how Wasilla, AK represents the Average American.

The additional perspective these women brought up was immigration. The way they saw it was the US was building a wall to separate them from their families. Their hope was that Obama would see that the America was better than that. That there was a way to help our neighbors to the south without creating a Berlin on our border. These were not their words, but this was certainly their sentiment.

Then there was the desk clerk and hotel manager. Both what would now be considered moving towards a minority of the population. The manager was a blonde woman, native of Texas, and the clerk, a man of the Heinz 57 variety so common in this country.  They stood back initially from our little menagerie, but as the obvious excitement at our table grew, they moved closer, and even interjected some comments about how they hoped Obama could actually deliver on some of the promises he made. Also, the manager admitted to not being a big fan of McCain. Not exactly an endorsement of Obama, but a step. Baby steps. The desk clerk added that he hoped no one tried to take Obama out because he couldn’t stand Biden.

There were countless places I could have gone last January to watch the swearing in of our 44th President. With my lifestyle, I could have gone to Washington, DC. When Bill Clinton was sworn in, I was right up there in front. Great memories. But for this particular president, in this time in history, I will be forever grateful that I got to watch it with the six people that I did. The maintenance man, the housekeeper, the woman who serves breakfast, the front desk clerk, the hotel manager, and last but not least, my husband, Stewart.

Best of Luck, President Obama!

Today is a momentous day for all Americans, and for the world. For the 44th time, after a contemptuous election season, the transfer of power from one administration to the other, occurred without incident. Granted, Cheney went screaming and kicking, and had to be confined to a wheelchair, but he still went. That is what makes this country stand out as a beacon for so many other nations of the world whose elections are not transparent, and whose rightfully elected officials are blocked from assuming their rightful offices. It’s you, Mugabe, I’m talking to! It is a wonderful thing to witness. Even when we don’t agree with the election results, our candidate doesn’t win, we have an expectation, as Americans, that January 21st we will wake up to a peaceful nation with a new leader. Right on! Now to the latest in our odyssey….

We are still in Dallas, TX. It has been so wonderful to see so many dear friends. My roots run deeper here than I realized. Only after having moved away from Big D, and returning for a visit, do I realize how much of me has always been here – even when I am not. Everyone who has met Stewart immediately opened their arms and hearts to him, making him an honorary Texan. He even got himself a pair of boots and a hat. Every night before bed, I have to assure him he can put them back on in the morning. As we say here, “Bless his heart.”

On New Year’s Day, we were fortunate enough to be the guests of the Honorable John Creuzot as he was sworn in to office for his sixth term. In 1992, I was John’s first campaign manager, and can tell you if ever a man deserved to sit on the bench it is him. Congratulations, John. Of course, the fanciest clothes we have with us are dress flip flops, so off to the stores we went. Shopping at Northpark on New Years Eve was just like old times. Just the sizes were different, and my sister, Nancy wasn’t there to help me pick. With the help of my iPhone camera, she was still able to advise me on my ensemble. As I walked back to the car after the event, I used the power of positive thinking to place one foot in front of the other. I made it to the vehicle without having to remove my high-heel shoes. As the feeling returned to my feet, I could not help but feel at one with those who are tortured with a hammer. Now I remember why I don’t wear heels anymore. Stewart and I took turns watching out for passersby as we changed into our Levi’s and flats (of course, for Stewart it was boots) in the back seat of the car for lunch and a movie with Michael Allison and his partner, Andrew. Overall, a great way to start 2009.

The time has gone by far too quickly. We spent time with so many great friends. Bruce Horton (pictured), jewelry maker extraordinaire; Nancy McClellan, chiropractor and acupuncturist; Mark Perez, attorney at law; John Hitt, Professor of Government, Northlake College; just too many to name. Stewart picked up his 20 year chip, and was a relative newcomer in a room full of people who have been sober since we were in our early teens! We had lunch with my former professor and friend, Emile Sahliyeh, Dean of the International Studies department UNT in Denton. We discussed strategies for peace in the Middle East, and texting while driving. Apparently, Emile thinks texting while driving is unsafe. I explained to him that it is only unsafe for men. Women, on the other hand, are expert at multi-tasking.

Beth and Doug Brown invited us to spend a few days with them in Edom, TX. Beth and I met 20 years ago when we started a women’s group in Dallas. At the time, Beth was making leather goods. She has since moved on to become a very talented potter working with her husband to create remarkable pieces for their shop, Pottersbrown. As soon as we have a home that is bigger than 86 square feet, we will become collectors. They operate on the honor system. If you stop by the shop, and no one is there, just take what you like and leave the money on the counter. Squeaky may be there to greet you. Edom is a small town full of artisans and crotchety old men. If you find yourself in East Texas, it is definitely worth stopping.

For those of you who have been in our landlocked home, you have seen our beautiful artwork. The artist who created several of our pieces is Arie Van Selm. Arie is a Dutch painter and sculptor who is in galleries all over the world. I know him as my friend. He and his wife, Yutta, are having us over Wednesday night. Arie paints at his home, so it is always exciting to see what he is working on. I am looking forward to them meeting Stewart. Don’t be surprised if we end up expanding our collection. His Marilyn (smile) series through the 90’s, has been followed by a series entitled Tango-Birds. Very cool.

Ok, now to the highlight of all our blog entries, Jeffrey and Emma. Oh, for the life of Riley. The two hairiest members of our household are having a blast. Between trips to dog parks and runs through parking structures, they are getting the most out of their time in Dallas. We saw Marley & Me last Saturday, and rushed home to play with them. We took them to a neighborhood dog park where Jeffrey proceeded to herd all the dogs into a group in the center. One of the dogs, a black lab, decided that Jeffrey was pretty cute, and wanted to mate. The look on Jeffrey’s face was priceless!

Nancy McClellan’s loyal dog of 18 years, Honey, passed away Sunday morning, so Jeffrey and Emma decided that their reason for being was to shower Nancy (yes, shower with saliva) with love and affection. It is
difficult to stay sad in the company of these two canines. Of course, Nancy gave them doggie ice cream, and many, many treats. They are so easily bought.

We are off to Palm Springs, CA on Thursday for Stewart’s mom, Ginger’s 75th birthday. Nancy has generously offered to keep Jeffrey and Emma for us while we are gone. I can only imagine how spoiled they will be when we get back. I’ll keep you posted.