Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why don't you come with me little boys and girls on a virtual dog sled ride?

The Lovely Becky and I went to a reading by Jim Crace, the acclaimed English novelist and all around righteous dude. We went to hear him read from his new novel, The Pesthouse, a novel set in a post-apocalyptic America (funny how there seems to be a resurgence of that type of novel since the 2000 election...). For those of you that haven't read him--and that includes me, although I'm going to rectify that shortly--Crace is the author of such books as Being Dead, which starts with two people being murdered and their bodies being left to rot on the beach.

"I'm not a dark writer," Crace told us with a straight face. In fact, he labels himself a "sentimental athiest."

Along with the book, Crace talked about his friendship with Frank Conroy, author of Stop Time (a phenomonal memoir if you haven't read it) and former director of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Crace has been writing for 20 years, but Conroy had not read his work until a few years ago, when he read Quarantine, a retelling of Christ's 40 days in the desert. Conroy liked that book so much, he contacted Crace, and the two began a long-distance friendship: Conroy in Iowa, Crace in England. They found a common love of jazz as well as writing and sounded like two people who really enjoyed each other's company even if that company wasn't in person.

Sadly, in the years that they knew each other, they spent a mere hour in each other's presence. Conroy came down with cancer and was quite ill when Crace finally had a chance to visit him. Yet you would not have guessed that they had spent only 60 minutes together from the enthusiasm and energy in Crace's descriptions of their friendship.

The day after the reading, I saw that Blue Girl posted about the blurring of the line between her real-life friends and her virtual friends: other bloggers and people who comment on her blog.

Blogging is such a ingrained part of my life now that when I'm with real life friends I'll talk about my blog friends. Like they're real people I know. When I do this, my real life friends all look at me with the exact same expression that says, "Now you've done it. You've totally lost your last marble."
I thought about this in light of what Jim Crace said about Frank Conroy. Obviously, you can never replace personal interaction. But I see no reason why you can't make friends--good friends, people who you love to hear from every day--on the phone, in a letter, or on a blog. Reading the comments and blogs of my virtual friends and real friends who post virtually makes my day. I especially enjoy making them laugh. Who cares if I can actually hear it?

This subject has weighed quite a bit on my mind lately because, as TLB mentioned a few weeks ago, we're leaving The IC for The UP of Michigan. The same place where even the Snow Meiser goes, "I'm freezing my icicles off here!" TLB got a great job offer, my great company said I could work from home, and those two things made it hard for us to not Say Yah to da UP, Eh?. We're already in the processes of selling our house and we'll probably be packing up and heading out in July. Just like that, our great Iowa adventure is coming to a close.

It's hard because we still have real friends here, people who have made a bigger impact on our lives than we could ever express. We're going to miss them something fierce, especially because our great little Big Ten town made it so easy to get together or run into each other randomly, bumping into them on the street and maybe deciding to have lunch or a drink or remind them of an upcoming reading. Despite natural disasters and infertility battles and the ups and downs of the writing life, there is no question these last six years have been the most fun that we've had since we've been married, including the incredible time we had in New York City. It's all because of the people we've met here. Which is what makes leaving so hard.

But if Frank Conroy and Jim Crace could have a meaningful friendship of several years despite meeting each other once for one hour, certainly I can maintain these meaninful friendships virtually. After all, I have a blog, a built-in mechanism for keeping those friendships going until we can see each other again. In fact, real friends who have moved away tell me they read the blog. Some comment, some don't, and some I can spot in Site Meter, but no matter what, I know they're there, and I hope they're laughing. And I hope that continues with the real folks we have to leave behind.

The beauty of my virtual friends is that moving doesn't really change anything. Michigan, Manitoba, Madagascar...a computer and an Internet connection are all I need to post Top Tens and laugh at comments and read their blogs. As long as we all keep commenting and posting, we get to keep interacting.

So while I'm really sorry to go, I'm happy that I have a way to stay in touch, to keep the noun "friend" even if I have to change the adjective in front of it for some folks.


Jennifer said...

Very nice post.

FYI- Heat Miser is here today.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

I cannot believe you are moving to Michigan. I mean, that's great but Iowa seemed to suit you both in your own way.

It's also great your company is going to let you work from home. So many companies today are considering this.

Good luck with the move!

P.S. UC and AG talk about blogging friends. It's always weird when AG says in front of UC's parents "Chuckles this or BG that." UC's mom's face is always like, "What did she say?"

Motel Manager said...

While we are clearly still mad that you are leaving, I have no doubt that we will keep in great touch!

Brando said...

Oh, yes, MM, you know you cannot get rid of us that easily! In fact, I'm probably going to make at least two official trips back to the office each year, if not more, so we hope to see you and the remaining gang regularly, as long as you keep the IC flames lit.

AG, I know exactly what you mean about the blogging friends.

TLB taught up there for a year after she finshed at the Workshop, so we know what we're getting into. Her colleagues are great and the town, while small, is pretty nice.

Jennifer, it's cool enough where we're going that almost none of the houses or buildings have AC. They don't really need it. Hopefully I won't turn into Jack Nicolson from The Shining by February.

almostinfamous said...

i actually have a beer cozy that says 'say yah to da UP eh?'

but good luck getting a cellphone signal.

fish said...

Wait! Are you telling me there is a difference between Iowa and Michigan?!?!

blue girl said...

What a great, sweet post. I really love the idea of two people connecting on a deep level, who've never met, but really care about each other. There's something really romantic about that idea to me.

M.A. Peel left a comment at my place on that post saying something like, "Real life friends who aren't involved in blogs are missing out."

I totally agree with that. They look at me like I'm weird, but I look and them and think they *are* missing out. They don't understand how you can make such awesome connections with people that you would never meet in real life for whatever reason.

It only totally enhances your life. Or at least that's how I feel about everyone I've connected with online.

(I'm going to be totally gabby here...)

When you went to the Kennedy Center, did you see the letters between Hemingway and Dietrich? I thought that was such a cool, cool story when it hit the news a couple of months back.

What's the difference between blogging and having a pen pal? Nothing. You just get more pen pals if you blog.

It's funny, Brando. When I heard that you were moving, I thought, "I'm going to have to place them in a different location in my mind." You guys are in this one "spot" and now I'll move you, mentally. Same with Steve and Connie Kuusisto -- who are moving from Ohio to Iowa soon!

You guys are the first ones I've known to move. And I keep thinking about how you'll be moving in my mind.

Everyone has their "spot" in my mind. Except for AG. Since she writes about traveling so much, I have her all over the place. Up the East Coast, on some beach in Florida, down in TX. She's like the Energizer Bunny to me.


Great post.

blue girl said...

Ha! I've just given AG a theme song.

ZZ Top's, I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide.

With my new york brim and my gold tooth displayed,
Nobody give me trouble cause they know I got it made.
Im bad, Im nationwide.
Well Im bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, Im nationwide.


Churlita said...

Okay, but are there casinos up that far North?

Chuckles said...

Some people may laugh at me and my blogging, some people may fire me for blogging, some people may love me for my blogging, but I won't stop.

Ten bucks says you have memorized "Tirdy (Thirty) Point Buck" by the end of the first winter.

BOSSY said...

Bossy could barely concentrate on this post because she was too busy feeling guilty for trying to throw The Lovely Becky to the wolves but Blue Girl wasn't having any of it. Visit BG for all the details.

billy pilgrim said...

Da UP is much like Iowa, Chuckles, but with more trees and crazy gun loners.

But at least you're closer to Canada, so you'll be that much closer to Rush.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

It's true, AG does travel. This weekend she is in Philadelphia area and the Delaware beaches. Next weekend, Ann Arbor. The following weekend, Boston and the following, Houston and then NYC and cottage country and Ontario.

AG is a traveling Energizer bunny!

Brando said...

I will be very close to Rush, much more than before.

I just got back (well, back to my in-laws in Illinois) from Marquette. We went house hunting and found some great places. It's really sinking in now. I had a bit of a moment of "what are we doing?", but I really like the town, and the scenery is amazing.

aif, we bought a bumper sticker with that slogan on it today! We're going to be Yoopers!

Bossy, nice try. I'm going to do my meme tomorrow when I get back home.