A close encounter of the spasmically perfect kind

A long time ago, in a previous life, I had a friend named Tammy. She was an agency service rep. for one of the companies my brokerage did a lot of business with, and as such I was on the phone with her several times a week, for several years. She had an outgoing bubbly personality, which sometimes irritated me. She, in turn, would call me “Mr. Grumpy”. Over the years, we became friends.

We had many conversations that had nothing to do with insurance. She would tell me about her fiance, and how he sometimes made her unhappy. I told her to dump the chump. I would tell her about my divorce (the first one, that is), and she always had something to say that would cheer me up. We got to know each other pretty well.

But I live in Massachusetts, and she lived in Nebraska, and this was before the Internet shrank the whole world so that nothing is ever farther away than the nearest keyboard. I never met her, and I’ve always regretted that.

In the Brave New World known as the 21st century, I have lots of “cyber-friends”. Communicating with someone as far away as Australia is commonplace. There is a whole international community, connected electronically, who can call me names a lot worse than “Mr. Grumpy”, and sometimes do.

But can you really call someone a friend whom you only know through the Internet? The Internet is amazing, but it’s still only a two dimensional medium, and thus lends itself to two dimensional relationships. For all I know, Maureen might be a man. Evyl might be a 96 pound cross-dresser. The only reason I know Michael isn’t a cross dresser is because I work with him every day, and even then I sometimes have my doubts about him.

You never really know, do you?

And then there’s Spaz. When I first started reading her blog, I was impressed at the cerebral spirituality of her poetry and prose. I found her mysterious. I honestly wasn’t even sure if she was a man or a woman. But I loved the way she wrote. I was most deeply impressed with her poetry, both for its highly original use of the language and its intensity of feeling. I left comments. I got her attention.

Then she started leaving comments on my poetry. We started corresponding. And then a weird thing happened. She said she was grateful for my comments, but was at first diffident about leaving comments on my poetry because she felt “intimidated” by me. The weird part was that I, for my part, was intimidated by her.

Thus started a relationship that is part friendship, part mutual admiration society. She became one of my best friends in the blogosphere. She has given me at times a shoulder to cry on and a kick in the ass, and always seems to know which one I need at any given point. She reads my stuff, even when I am lax about returning the favor.

And she really “gets” my poetry. She sees things in my lines that even I didn’t know were there. There have been times when I have radically altered, or even destroyed altogether, a poem because I knew that it was not worthy of the high standard that she has not only helped set for me, but has convinced me that I can attain. She make me feel that my writing has worth, even when I have my own doubts.

But still, how could I say I really knew her, even after countless blog comments and emails? Did I even know if she was a woman? For all I knew, she could be a 300 pound death row inmate who just happened to, y’know, like poetry.

You never really know, do you?

So it was with no small amount of delight that I received an email from Michael saying that Spaz (her real name is Susanne, but I never call her that) and her husband Bryan would be in Boston on Thursday, and wanted to get together for dinner. It occurred to me that this is how great friendships start.

It also occurred to me that this is how they crash and burn.

Delight, not unmixed with a certain amount of trepidation. Communicating through the Internet is one thing. Real interpersonal contact is another. There would be no hiding behind the computer screen and a carefully contrived online persona for either of us. What if she had an annoying laugh? What if I reminded her of an uncle she really hated growing up? What is she just doesn’t like short, fat, Conservatives?

Furthermore people skills, as Michael will gladly tell you, are not my strong suit. I’m abrasive and confrontational and my usual attitude is that if people don’t like me the way I am, then fuck ’em.

But this was different. This was Spaz. I decided that if she was going to drive all the way from Canada just to have dinner, the very least I could do was try to be somewhat likable. Y’know, just a little bit. It wouldn’t be easy, I realized, but I felt I owed it to her to make the effort.

First step: shave and take a shower. Mustn’t have her thinking I’m a complete slob. We agreed to meet at five at the tobacco store where I work. I had the day off, but Michael was working until five. After I parked my car, I did a quick check in the mirror: no food stuck in the teeth, good. Nose check: no nose hairs sticking out, good. Hat? Check. Phone? Check. Wallet? WALLET???


With the same sickening feeling that someone who had bet their life’s saving on Big Brown must have felt, I realized that I didn’t have my wallet with me. In one horrible instant, I could see the whole crashing and burning thing playing out before my eyes. I could have sworn I had it. In fact, I had intentionally left it in my car just so that this wouldn’t happen. It was then that my eyes fell on the big leather case I keep my pipes in, laying on the front seat. I picked it up, and there was my wallet underneath.

Big exhale. Blood pressure returns to normal. Urge to walk in front of the first bus that comes along subsides.

I walked up to the store. I paused outside. I knew I was forgetting something. What was it? Think, Smith, think! Oh, I remember. Zipper. Up. Good. Very good.

I arrived at the store promptly at five, the General Manager no doubt wondering why I couldn’t be this punctual about my shift. Mike was there, but told me that Susanne and Bryan would be late. My mind raced back to my phone conversation with Susanne that morning, the very first time we had ever actually spoken. She was in the car, and Bryan, from the driver’s seat, told her to ask me if I was a serial killer. I told her I hadn’t killed anyone for a very long time, so they could feel reasonably safe. I wondered. They knew I was kidding, right? Hmmmm.

Going to your place of employment on your day off is always a bad idea. You WILL find something to do, giving your boss an undeserved dividend. There was a minor computer problem which I began delving into, when I heard Mike say, “I’ll get Smitty!”. They were here. As I walked out to the front of the store, I found myself wondering what my first impression would be of this woman with whom I had forged this strange electronic friendship.

The very first thing you notice about Spaz is her eyes. She has large, expressive brown eyes, which bespeak of the compassionate soul within. There could be no doubt that this was the author of the deeply moving and intensely spiritual prose and poetry that appears on her blog.

The next thing I noticed is that she’s taller than me. Somehow, I wasn’t expecting that.

Bryan is a thoroughly likable chap who deserves to be nominated for the Coolest Husband in North America Award. All he had to put up with was being dragged to a foreign country so he could have dinner with two complete strangers who just happen to have a common hobby with his wife. On top of that, the poor guy was a little under the weather. And yet, for all that, he was thoroughly friendly and engaging and actually seemed to be enjoying himself. A good sport, to say the very least. We talked about a number of things, including music. He mentioned that he likes James Taylor, which immediately ingratiated him to Michael. I’ve decided not to hold that against him.

The evening really couldn’t have gone any better. The four of us had dinner at Jacob Wirth’s, one of the oldest restaurants in Boston. Much beer and German food was consumed. I ordered the roast pork shank, and when it arrived it looked like something Fred Flintstone would have eaten. It was delicious, but the temptation to pick it up by the bone and just go all Neanderthal on it was overwhelming.

Somehow the “serial killer” joke got started again, whereupon Michael and I pointed out that if we were serial killers, then we must be the most inept serial killers in the history of the trade, since we had gone out of our way to leave an electronic trail leading right back to us. In fact, we emphasized that we would both be praying that they got back to Canada safely, because if they didn’t we would each have a State Police officer at our door and a whole lot of explaining to do.

I suppose it took some courage on all our parts for the four of us to meet up like this. Sometimes reality impinges on our fantasies. But not this time. I found Spaz to be as warm, caring, and intelligent in person as she is online. Meeting Bryan was an unexpected pleasure. I was expecting, at best, a put upon husband stoically but grudgingly indulging his wife’s whim, but instead met a friendly and engaging man who was as stimulating a conversationalist as his wife.

Best of all, I made two new friends here in the real world, where friends are not always easy to find.


15 Responses to “A close encounter of the spasmically perfect kind”

  1. August 15, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    That’s a great story. I am glad that y’all hit it off. And no I am not a 96 pound crossdresser. I weigh more than that.

    You’re more of size 14, eh? 😈

  2. 2 Sam
    August 15, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    How brave of all involved to go out on the perverbial limb. Much impressed.

    I’m now intrigued and thoughtful of how similar meetings would go with a number of people I call “friends” on the blogosphere. All I can hope for is the altogether great experience you’ve described.

    Thanks for sharing the story.

    Hey, Sam! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it was a great night, better than I could have hoped for. I consider myself quite lucky in this regards.


  3. August 15, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with this post.

    For once. πŸ˜‰

    A wonderful gathering of friends.
    And yeah, Susanne is “spasmically” perfect in every way, a good thing.
    And the brown eyes???? Amen.
    A very lucky man . . .
    Wonderful post, T-Bone
    A wonderful night.

    So when’s the road trip to Toronto?

  4. August 15, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Evyl, a crossdresser?!?
    I think not. :mrgreen:

    Well, you know what they say about Texas. πŸ˜‰

  5. August 16, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Wish I could have been a fly on the wall.

    You would have been okay until you fell into the beer. πŸ˜‰

  6. August 16, 2008 at 9:39 am

    You mean they drove all day from Toronto just to have dinner with you two guys? Amazing!

    Welllll, not JUST to have dinner with us. I mean, we’re not THAT interesting.

    And I’m seething with jealousy, you happy now? πŸ™‚

    I’m always happy when you visit me, Lolly! πŸ™‚

    As usual, it was a wonderful read. It could all be lies, like you said, but it was a good read.

    For once, it’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    Picturing you all nervous and checking your nose and zipper… You did remember to wash between your toes, didn’t ya?

    Okay, now you’re getting personal. πŸ˜‰

    If you EVER come to Texas, (I know you’re dying to meet Evyl) you’d better let me know. You too, ~m.

    Dinner with you and Evyl? Now that would be an evening to remember!

  7. August 16, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    That is wonderful that you all met and had such a great time. I didn’t realize you and Michael worked together. Evyl being a cross dresser is too hard for me to imagine.

    Well, we’re employed together. We actually do as little work as possible. πŸ˜‰ And you’re right, Evyl as a cross dresser is rather difficult to imagine. Michael, on the other hand, looks fabulous in chartreuse.

    I have an internet friend who lives in NY. We’ve been friends for 15 years and still haven’t met in person. My daughter did get to meet her though when she went to NYC on a business trip. My friend took my daughter all over the city sightseeing. Thank goodness she didn’t turn out to be a serial killer. Instead she was really the sweet loving woman that I knew.

    Always a relief to learn that one’s friends aren’t serial killers. πŸ˜‰

  8. August 16, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Awesome encounter. I can just imagine the pressure you felt. I too hope to some day feel the rush, meeting some of my bloggin’ buds. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but the thought is nice. I’m glad to hear things went so well for you all. πŸ™‚

    It was a great night. I hope you get to meet some of your online friends. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. 9 Red
    August 17, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    awesome. i have always enjoyed ms.spaaaaz and her writings.
    meeting the ones you write to/about is fun. it’s so much more personal .
    glad you had a good time.

    Yup, it was fun. So when are YOU coming to Boston, fair Red? πŸ˜‰

  10. August 17, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Ok, seems those amateur actors I hired from my cell on death row actually did a good job. Took me a while to find a female with an accent……. ;-).

    You mean, you mean…..that wasn’t really you? Gawd, I’m so crushed. I guess I should have known; I thought you seemed a little too intelligent. 😈

    I’ll have to send you a section by section reply on this post when I get home, they are so many things I could comment back

    I’ll very much look forward that!

    …… for now I’ll leave you with a ‘thank you’ for this post, seems we’ll have to do this more often to get you to write πŸ˜‰ !

    As I said, you’re a good influence on me.

    PS. Hubby is riding the high horse after your ‘thumbs up’……

    I’m sure my approval was of the utmost importance to him. πŸ˜‰

    PPS. Seems the Sox are having a hard time against the Jays………. πŸ™‚

    Geez, you think? And we gotta play these guys in Toronto next week. I’m not happy.

    PPPS. I will take full credit for getting M. and you to agree πŸ™‚ !

    A monumental achievement. You have every right to feel proud of yourself.

    PPPPS. Looking forward to the Toronto visit.

    Me too! Maybe I’ll turn it into a travelogue: “On the Road with T-Bone and Sweet Meat”. 😈

    Spaz, it was a genuine pleasure to finally meet you and Bryan in person. A great night all around.


  11. August 18, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Wow, you got to meet Spaz. I am so jealous!!!
    She really is a wonderful woman and has been a tremendous sense of encouragement and support to me over the last year or so. And her posts always seem to breathe new life into my days.
    So excited for you guys.

    Hey, Kim! Want to know what I’m excited about? It’s seeing you in the blogosphere again! Welcome back!


  12. 12 Red
    August 18, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    I dont fly . . and It’s an awfully long car ride πŸ˜‰

    Oh well. I guess we’ll just have to rely on our dirty little imaginashuns! 😈

  13. August 19, 2008 at 1:03 am

    This was such a nice post. I am sorry you never got to meet Tammy but you did get to meet Spaz and her hubby – how cool! It’s sort of neat to think that when any one of us travels we may be able to plan a meet up with blog buddies. It gives every trip a little something extra and exciting to look forward to, plus something else to blog about!

    It certainly adds a whole new dimension to my relationship with Spaz. Just beware of serial killers! πŸ˜‰

  14. August 20, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Dinner with you and Evyl? OMG! I don’t know if I could handle that. πŸ™‚

    I think you’d handle us just fine. 😈

  15. August 21, 2008 at 5:19 am

    Blogging is an amazing thing and creates some amazing relationships without doubt…glad you had a good night

    And it’s even better when one of those online relationships crosses into the “real” world. It was indeed a good night.

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