Home » People & Culture » Friends


The worst of winter hits us all this time of year.  The darkness of the Soltice takes a month or so to sink in, and we have arrived in our discontent of Winter right on schedule.  This is a time for friends and family huddling up with whatever warmth we have.  I’m very pleased to have seen how many friends I have out on the internet, just in time for the chill outside.

The Weblog Awards have ended, and I was beaten badly in the category of Best Culture Blog.  What made it all worth the effort was the support I received from many people I wasn’t counting on through the whole effort.  Barataria was added to a number of blogrolls and I had twitter replies of encouragement nearly constantly.  That’s the kind of warmth the cool glow of a CRT doesn’t usually deliver.  Thank you, everyone!

But this isn’t the same as the friends I had as a child.  Back then, connections were made on our bikes peddled through the thick air of Miami in an everlasting summer memory  that only grows warmer with time.  It wasn’t until 1985, when I first gained ARPAnet access, that the idea of a “virtual friend” would appear in my life.  I had to move on to Pittsburgh to do it, leaving my childhood friends behind in the memories.

Inter-Net map, June 1985

Inter-Net map, June 1985

A graveyard shift as an operator of Carnegie-Mellon’s computer system eventually gave way to boredom, which gave way to using BITnet chat to send one-line messages to strangers around the world.  Gradually, we got to know each other.  If nothing else, we were part of a small band who had access to this amazing new technology and could use it for … well, something trivially stupid.  But it was fun.

Over the last 24 years, online access has moved from elite to geeky to remarkably ordinary.  My virtual friends clearly outnumber the ones I’ve met in person, although I’m always eager to have a beer or a coffee with any of you if you’re in Saint Paul. Mobility defines the Middle Class in the USofA, which invariably means that friends are left behind while the stories that add up to a life are carried on.  We all have the cultures of so many places jumbled up inside of us, recalled as memories of times spent well with friends we once knew well.

Recently, the ordinariness of the internet has allowed everything to catch up.  The beep that signals mail rings; someone I have not seen in 25 years has contacted me on facebook with a few stories of their life I did not know.  They were married, had kids, became a professor.  They weren’t left behind but scattered across the nation in meandering paths much like mine.  The old stories all come back, this time as virtual friends that I don’t have to leave behind.  It’s as if they are only a quick bike ride away once again.

This great warmth in the middle of winter is not quite the same as friends who come over for dinner or meet us at Tom Reid’s bar.  But it is a wonderful thing to have when the air becomes thick with cold and the walls of the house are all the horizon I can handle.  Thank you, everyone, for your friendship and the stories we’re making together.  That’s what life is made of.

7 thoughts on “Friends

  1. Awwwwww… Wabbitoid, we tried to get you that Bloggie. We really did!

    Next time. Right? 😉

    BTW, poor Nathan got s-l-a-m-m-e-d in his category by that ultra-slick site! I don’t think he minds, though. He’s a realistic sort and seems contented with the following in his own neighborhood.

    Stay warm!

  2. It sounds like readership of your blog is way up thanks to the Weblog awards. So, if nothing else, you’re ideas are getting into an even wider realm. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and your gusto for taking on topics that some people wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Keep writing!

  3. Chalk up another friend hookup to Facebook. I have been reading your blog for some months now and was waiting for the right time to say “hi”. I bet you haven’t heard from many “lost friends” that go back as far as elementary school. I would love to take you up on the “beer in St. Paul offer” if I make it up to the frozen north. Drop a note to say hi if you get a chance.

    An “old friend” from pack 241!!!

  4. Pingback: Specialists « Barataria - the work of Erik Hare

  5. Pingback: A Sense of Place « Barataria – the work of Erik Hare

  6. Pingback: Online Life as an Onion | Barataria – The work of Erik Hare

Like this Post? Hate it? Tell us!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s