Southern Exposure

Ruminations of a Native Son


Greater Washington. DC., United States
February 06
Compulsive writer (mostly memoirs and sociopolitical rants), musicologist, hermeticst, fiscal conservative, radical centrist, agrarian socialist; Charter member, Factualist Party; born and raised in DC, healthcare professional, retired businessman, civic and political activist on two coasts, civil rights movement veteran. An empiricist's worst nightmare, I believe in everything but I don't believe everything, including many things I believe in. Turned down by US Army in 1966 for medical reasons, thrown out of Col. Hasan's Black Man's Army in 1967 for being "too militant." Scion of a family only Tennessee Williams could have dreamed up. There's more. There's always more.


MAY 5, 2012 11:40PM

Return to Forever

Rate: 9 Flag

There is an interesting pattern I have noticed in the way sea changes occur in my life, and they didn't begin to happen until Al Gore or the NSA or Teilhard de Chardin or God or somebody invented the internet. Prior to that, things just kind of happened, with no real, observable cause and effect. 

John Fahey taught me about cause and effect, and in his one complete book he mentioned how at age five he didn't have any grasp of that concept, that, in his words, "I was an idiot." At age five.

I was an idiot till age 50. John, I got you beat.

In 1994 I went on line while recuperating from a near-catastrophic (for me, anyway, since I am the center of my own universe), coronary event. That was the cause. The internet was the effect. I was sitting around the house and my daughter handed me a Prodigy floppy disk, and it started.

They had a medical support bulletin board on Prodigy back then (when one had to choose a service and learn to live with it while all the cool kids were having fun over on AOL, or so they thought). When I realized there were actual other people out there doing the same thing more or less, I began to have conversations with them. This eventually led to me ressurecting my borderline writing career, and it also led to me meeting people back when everyone always  warned everyone else to watch out for ax murderers when meeting people in person they'd first met on line.

Eventually all this led to me getting involved in a long-distance relationship which in turn eventually led to me moving across country to be with the girlfriend. It didn't last, but by then the ball was really rolling, and Teilhard's "Globe, clothed with a brain" was helping me think and do. 

It was handy when I was on the way to the door, when I'd been asked to leave the seven year long relationship I'd found on the opposite coast. I'd also discovered, again, Salon, which has been mentioned to me by a long-lost high school friend who'd turned up on that other coast as well. I became a chronic commenter on Salon, and when the powers that be decided to create this thing called Open Salon, none other than Joan Walsh persuaded me to join in at the outset. I couldn't understand why, since I had no faith in my writing abilities and believed I had been one of the worst-behaved commenters probably in the history of the site.

I was persuaded somehow, and the causes and effects continued.

My first ever attempt at OS writing, talking about the weather for chrissake, got me my first EP. To this day I am confounded by that, but I continued to experiment, to find my voice, not knowing then that Joan had effectively changed my life, set it off on a new arc, shortly after I'd arrived back here in the mysterious east.

All this is by way of prologue to the story I am trying to find a way to tell about last week. As I write this, a week exactly has passed since I made the most recent real-time connection with someone I had originally met on line, and in that short time (and, in reality, in the year leading up to it), I've had my life changed again, for the god-only-knows how manyeth time now. Each change has been positive, often wonderful.

Since I slipped into OS, trying to not be noticed (yes, I get how stupid that sounds), I have gained a family and more. I have become the writer I feared I could not possibly be, or at least came to accept that I can write, and it is because of people who encouraged me and even embraced me (occasionally quite literally) that I have found myself on the threshold of being completely in love with life, more than I ever would have believed possible, even though my life has, on balance, been awfully damn good. Even that time when they took out my heart and played catch with it, back when this all began.

This past week I returned, after more than five years, to the place I'd lived for a while in Southern California, to see what it would be like withhout her being involved. 


It was incredible.

I met more friends I'd never met, found friends I hadn't seen in ages, discovered La Jolla and a Chinese abstract artist whose work threw me into a prolonged trance; I walked into a bagel place I used to frequent but hadn't visited for more than five years, only to have the counter guy call me by name the moment I walked through the door; I was reminded just how insane Laguna Beach is on a sunny weekend day;  I listened to a rare April rainstorm quietly in the dark, alone; and on the last day (or was it the first?) I hiked the Hollywood hills, wandered Santa Monica (where I was congratulated on having such a lovely wife, which elicited some awkward laughter and a "We just MET!"), and generally felt that sense of riding the vast wave that is the Eternal Now. 

I want to thank those dear OS friends who shared their precious time with me, and those Facebook friends who also shared their time, those I know because I was on Facebook because of OS, because of the internet, because my right coronary artery once upon a time came apart. I cannot thank you enough for having helped make my survival of that and the figurative broken heart two of the most positive things that have ever happened to me.  

About the time I signed onto Open Salon beta, I'd decided to open a Facebook account. I figured maybe I could network with other aspiring writers as well as political activists, and maybe even keep track of my family. All those things happened, and a huge chunk of my large group of friends there are people I've come to know through OS. By whoring out...I mean posts here, especially the political ones, on Facebook, I attracted some politically like-minded people. Not just ones from OS, but just random ones 

One of them, I realized at some point, shared much more with me than just political leanings. We think alike, we love the same music, we have many of the same passions, and, well, we just kinda like each other a lot.

On the last day of my trip to SoCal, during which I felt the last of the past finally fall away and the light come all the way back on, during the trip during which I met a couple more of the most wonderful friends-I'd-never-met in person, connected with another old high school friend I hadn't seen since I left for California a decade ago, and wandered alone along streets and paths I used to wander hand in hand with a woman I thought I loved more than was humanly possible but who didn't love me quite as much, I finally, at the end of that particular trip, came face to face with that person I'd crashed into on Facebook, where I'd never been were it not for OS, which I'd never  ventured into were it not for Joan, and found myself looking into the eyes of the future. 

The future is beautiful, and I will meet it out on the blue horizon and will never again shrink from its approach because of the past - or for any other reason. 

I need to go back to LA soon. I left some books out there. 

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So glad to know the rest of your trip was as good as the beginning of it. :-)
Thanks Denise. It was every bit as good. :)
A great Sunday morning read.
V. Corso: Thanks! I can't help but observe you get up really early - or else you're like me and just haven't turned in yet. :)
I'm glad I got to be one of those lucky FB friends who met you - and delighted that there was someone waiting in LA for more than sharing a cup of coffee! Squeee!
AJ, I'm on the other side of the world. 6 hours ahead of EST.
I enjoyed reading this very much. You experience, in many ways, mirror my own, though I didn't get online until '99. The Internet has allowed me to meet a number of people who are now close friends in real life and it also is responsible for my meeting the love of my life and we have been together for twelve years now.
Rated with a smile.
Isn't life just quirky. So glad that it's turning out well for you. I don't think I've ever been to your page before, but I'll be back.
candace: I'm glad as well, and honored, too. That other business wasn't so bad either. ;)

V. Corso: Well that explains a lot!

David McClain: I suspect you and I are not alone in this regard. More and more the 'net is becoming an extension of "regular" life, but adding that 3rd dimension is what makes it utterly real and opens up possibilities such as your wonderful outcome. That makes me very happy, knowing it worked that way for you. Congratulations!

l'Heure Bleu: That smile means a lot. Thanks.

phyllis is what: Life is strange, it's, well, it's a lot of things, but mostly it's good. Thanks for your comment and I do hope you'll come back again!
I'm jealous as I can be. To date I've actually met two OSer's tho, I feel I know dozens, including you, if I may be so presumptuous. Having already presumed, I dare say you have lost one title to me: worst-behaved commenter in the history of the site.

I think you missed my post Cyberbully Pulpit,but once again I have been called a cyberbully, for daring to confront folly with truth, or at least the truth as I see it. Beyond that I have attracted a regular collection of trolls, a handful of wingnuts who have apparently learned nothing from the horror of Voodoo Economics, and are intent on doubling down on their grievous errors.

Oh, and one more jealous thought; I was not privileged to be invited to be a Betaesser, nor was I invited by Joan herownself (tho my invitation by Lonnie Lazar still warms the cockles and invites a few cackles). However, I have been here quite awhile -- much longer than I expected -- thanks to good people like you.
Tom Cordle: Please do presume, as I feel I've known you all my life. And I won't enumerate how many OSers I've met so far, as I don't want to turn you green. Dunno how it happened, either, just the way my life seems to operate. As for Worst-behaved Commenter, I'll gladly yield to you, though I'd bet we could make one helluva tag team.

Thanks for mentioning the Cyberbully Pulpit post, as I was on my way to read it when something happened and I got distracted. I'll find it now and read it. It seems strange I haven't managed to attract many of the wingnuts and weirdness, maybe because some of the stuff I write is so arcane it would be impossible to argue or even comprehend. If that's the case, I'm pleased, though it was not always the case.

I can't remember now how that whole "You need to do this" thing happened with Joan, but hell, Lonnie conveys some major bragging rights. And I am deeply gratified that you've stayed on here, and if people like me have helped keep you here, then I am (we are?) doubly gratified. Thanks, Tom. Keep on keepin' on.
As another lucky OSer who's met you, I can say that you are all that. And so glad someone else seems to be as well.
Lea, you are way too kind - and you are all that too. And yes, someone else is as well. Wherever that leads, the direction can only be forward. Thanks.
Glad you are here, enjoyed your pictures of Calif. What a lovely state, all memories and experiences morph together to equal who and what we are, such a journey and it is exciting! Great write.
cindy Prochnow: Thank you for reading, and yes! Thanks for getting it. Only the journey is real, it is exciting, our collective experience is precisely who we are. Thanks for the wonderful comment.
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