Seems I have to continue with the trip on the wayback machine. Might get scalped if I don’t. Actually this thing has gone on longer than I originally anticipated but as long as it’s being enjoyed I guess I can keep it up. It ain’t no Frantic Friday but I seem to have found an audience however small and after all I always did love to hear the sound of my own voice and the keyboard is only an extension of the tongue and one people can turn off a lot easier. Story is probably more interesting than my poker ones but that ain’t saying much. What is really interesting is that as I am in the middle of this tale I’ve gotten a Facebook friend request from Jeff, a great guy I originally came across in Lapub and though he wasn’t around for this gathering we met at a number of other gatherings in Chicago and elsewhere over the years. Glad to know he’s doing well. So for those who are interested, here goes.
We left our intrepid hero heading off in the wee hours to grab a few hours of alcohol induced sleep. 8 am comes awfully frikkin early after a night of partying. Luckily the hotel was close. I grab some zzz’s then I’m up and showered and back to the house. Linda, my greeter, has kind of adopted me for the weekend and I’ve become her chauffer. She’s a good friend of Lavona and is staying at the house so I pick her up for breakfast and we hit a small coffee shop for some fuel for the day. I find out that she is a school teacher, whoo boy if the school board ever finds out about these weekends <>. (BTW, the <> with a G inside is a holdover from the P* days. It’s basically the equivalent of :-> before such things were thought of. Damn hypertext kind of kills my use of it these days) I also find out she’s from Terre Haute, been widowed and divorced and has a couple of kids, one who lives about two miles from where I work. Small world. Of course she’s not the only one talking but no sense repeating my vitals. So we finish up and head for the house where everyone that is heading for the zoo is meeting. We get there and sit around for awhile and eventually about 30 of us divvy in to cars and head in to Chicago. I’m driving again, mainly because I like to drive and because my car takes 5 without squishing so no one is objecting. It’s a beautiful day as we head out, sunny but not ridiculously hot considering it’s July. Traffic is nowhere near what it was like the day before but the construction is still there so ain’t exactly a picnic.
We get to the zoo and split in to groups with plans to meet up for lunch in a couple hours. Seems there was a beer garden type place there, might have been called Beer and Brats but don’t hold me to that, that we decide to hit. Always loved zoos. I grew up about half mile or so from a local park that had a small one, mainly US type animals such as bison and deer but there was a couple of big cats there also. Spent a lot of time in the park and zoo. Also used to hit the Philly Zoo every so often, even had a membership there for a few years when I was married. So I was really looking forward to seeing what this place held. It was a great zoo, very nice exhibits and a bunch of us cracked up when we hit the monkey isle. They had this large pit with a high mountain type structure in the center and a very large pack of monkeys running around the place. What had us laughing our asses off however was that a few of these simians decided to get in to the spirit of the weekend. In addition to a couple screwing their little buns off a few more males were sitting on the side whacking away. Then of course some wiseass chirps in with “do you think we should invite them to Studio whatever the next time we go?” And of course the jokes start coming, pun intended. Lunch was pretty good as far as lunches at these places go. Had me a brat, first time I had encountered them, and a beer. First time I came across beer in a zoo also. Definitely added to the experience. So we do lunch and head on out to finish our visit and my passengers agree to meet at the gate we came in at in a couple hours to give us time to get cleaned up a bit before dinner. Dinner is at the house so nothing really fancy but walking around the zoo in the sun was a bit sweaty even if it wasn’t scorching. Yea, a shower was called for. So we finish the day trip, head back to the house then I go over to the hotel for a shower, a change and to pick up my bottle of Myers rum. I’ve learned in my travels that Pa doesn’t necessarily have the worst liquor laws in the country so I usually carry a bottle with me, just in case. I also later came to realize that hotel rooms were a necessity at these things but a hated expense as you spent so little frikkin time in them. Be that as it may, showered, changed and carrying the necessities I head back over to the party. I also found out the black rum wasn’t so popular as it seemed that I kept coming across leftover bottles of Myers at various places I stopped at in the visits I made over the years.
Forget what we had for dinner that night only that it was good, as Richard was a pretty mean cook. He whips up a lot of it and one goes grabs what one will during the course of the night. People are basically just shuffling in and joining the crowd. I’m informed that if I want to spend some computer time there are some available to use upstairs. Folks just kind of wander up and down all night, some working their shift in the chat room, others just playing around, checking email or giving updates on the goings on in Chicago. I take a wander on up later and find that there is a whole room with about half a dozen computers or so Macs in it to be used. It is then that I find out that most every one is a Mac freak and, as a PC user, I’m the lonely little petunia in the onion patch. It is also then that I’m asked if I have any interest in being a Tend, a room host. It seems that AOL in its formative years would offer folks like Lavona incentives to develop things like chat rooms to attract new users. They offered the hosts a 2 for 1 deal, 2 hours of usage for every 1 they put in working the room. Considering the cost of hourly time one has to consider it, especially if one likes to play online. I tell them I would think about it and let them know. After AOL went to a monthly fee all workers just got a free account which was nice. Anyway I wander back downstairs where a number of folks are running wild, mostly outside, with the Super Soakers and Silly String. Don’t know who wound up cleaning up the mess, if it was, but there must have been some nice neighbors as the battles ranged all over the yards around that house. As time wore on the group settled down to mainly conversation and silly practical jokes played on one another. One character disappeared upstairs only to come back down wearing one of the teddys purchased the day before. Didn’t do a thing for his figure. Anyway, as a newcomer I was usually able to avoid the soakings and the jokes but I did meet a lot of people including a couple who lived not far from me in De. They had just applied for jobs with AOL and informed me they were hiring anyone with computer skills they were expanding so fast and would let me know if they got hired and I was interested. Not long after they did get in and offered to try and help me but it was an offer I turned down for a number of different reasons. Big mistake on my part. So, again in the wee hours I head off to the hotel after making arrangements to join everyone for a farewell brunch before we all head out for home. At least I could get a couple extra hours sleep as plans for food weren’t until about 10-10:30.
So the next morning I’m up, showered, packed up and checked out and heading to an Old Country Buffet for food before I take off. No heading to the house and no passengers on this trip. Linda, my steady passenger all weekend was staying longer so had another ride back to the house and almost everyone else was booking from the buffet as was I. I wasn’t sure I had arrived at the right place as it was set in a shopping center but I then saw John standing outside so figured I hadn’t gotten lost. It was here that the only fiasco of the weekend took place. It seems this wasn’t the best place for a farewell meal. First they had a bit of a problem seating us altogether. Then, by the time that problem was solved they had started changing the buffet over from breakfast to lunch. As it was still fairly early most of us were more in the mood for eggs or waffles rather than ribs. We made the best of it, not letting something like this spoil what was a very good weekend. As we finished eating we said our farewells and headed our separate ways knowing we would be back in touch with each other in cyberspace within a day or so.
While eating I thought I was going to have to make a side trip to the airport as I left. One of the old timers with the handle of Godfather, and believe me he fit the name, looks wise at least, had a flight out that morning and was having problems getting to it. I volunteered my services but at the last minute he was able to hook up with a limo service and I was spared my first trip to one of Chicago’s airports. Made many trips to both of them since. So I said my goodbyes, pointed the Legend east and headed home, my first Live a success, in my book at least. The drive through Chicago was nothing like the trip in, Sunday traffic being at a minimum, something I couldn’t always say on subsequent trips. Somehow I got turned around getting on 80 and found myself heading towards Iowa but rectified the error quickly and was soon headed towards home. Ever notice how the trip home seems to pass by much more slowly than the trip out? Anticipation of something new does seem to help time pass. This feeling was abetted by the fact I was driving in daylight so had to behave myself compared to my late night travels. I actually didn’t get home that day as the family had a house in the Poconos that I decided to stop at and grab a bit of rest. It wasn’t all that far from home but on a homeward trip of that length the last couple hours always seem the longest and a rest seemed advisable since it was available. Was back home early the next morning and online that night, even though it was a Monday, to let them know I arrived safe. Thus ended my first live interaction of people met in cyber space.
I eventually decided to become a host and Linda was appointed my mentor to show me the ins and outs of keeping order in the room and making folks feel welcome. As time went on both AOL and Lapub grew. I attended a number more Lives not to mention other gatherings with friends I met through Lapub. The gatherings grew much bigger over the years as more folks got involved eventually stretching the whole week though the core was still the weekend. Those attending the gatherings just decided to get there earlier and do things together. I eventually started hosting a spring picnic at my place in late April/early May and ran about 5 of them until my marriage caused me to quite. In fact first words asked of me when I announced that I was separated a couple years later were, “when’s the picnic?” I even met my ex through Lapub, not one of my more glorious moments there <>. We were a tight community, not dissimilar to the blogging one though interaction was a bit easier.
Now that this tale is through I would like to dedicate to a very good friend, Tom. While Tom and his wife Jen weren’t part of this first gathering they arrived in Lapub soon after and as they lived in the Chicago area I soon met them at a Live. They’re good people and some of the best friends I’ve ever made, reality or cyber. Tom and I were kindred spirits and even resembled one another. While I was an inch or so taller and a few pounds, ok maybe more than a few, heavier we were both big, bearded men who loved a good time and good drink. In fact Tom’s only fault was that he was a Scotch drinker but that could be forgiven. In fact I still have a bottle of Johnny Red that he left at my house after one of my picnics. I made more trips to Chicago to visit with Tom and Jen and a few others that would gather on our own for a long weekend than I did for other reasons. I say this because I made my last trip to Chicago a few years ago for a very different reason than all those others. I went there for Tom’s memorial service. Tom had one other fault besides Scotch, cigarettes. He passed away from lung cancer at the age of 45. Tom was as good a friend as anyone could have especially considering we lived around 800 miles away from each other. I bring this up both to honor a friend and to ask other friends out there that if you smoke do your damnedest to quit. While we may not be the kind of friends that Tom and I were you are still friends and I am sure there are folks out there in the blogosphere you probably do have that kind of friendship with. If not for yourself do it for them. It’s a bitch to lose a friend so young.
Thanks for the listen.
5 years ago