William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

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A Tale of Two Parties + Lynne Truss

This weekend marked the passage of two of the most interesting parties I’ve ever been to.

Our friend Colin Br. had been trying to get people together for 4/20 for quite a while, and I had the date marked on my calendar for some time myself. Friday turned out beautiful, and I walked down to Mill Cove, caught the 82, then phoned Colin again at Sunnyside.

“Yeah, just walk up the railway tracks towards CPA, we’ll meet you halfway.”

So I do this. I also had the opportunity to shoot some graffiti from underneath the Bedford By-Pass. I call again, they say they’re on the power line trail. So I get up there, start walking on the trail, join Colin and Quinn, and we continue towards Halifax. In fact, we eventually came over a rise where you’re basically looking down upon Halifax, and the cars gleaming in the bright sun as they crossed the harbour bridges, superimposed upon the towers of the waterfront, made for a futuristic sight not soon to be forgotten.

And then we’re deciding how we’ll get back to Colin’s house. “OK, we’ll go back to Rocky Lake Drive, and…”

Woah, woah, woah! What have we been walking for 25 minutes in the opposite direction for? Climbing rocky bluffs and jumping over puddles, no less?

So, we decided to cross the highway. There’s a reason why people shouldn’t cross 4-lane freeways with jersey barriers. I know someone who was hit and lost a leg on a Halifax urban freeway. Traffic was light, and we made it across “safely” – about as safe as an intrinsically dangerous and stupid activity can be, but somewhat “safe” nonetheless. But it was either this, or walk for an extra 50-60 minutes, or explore the possibility of crawling through a culvert. (Eww. And what if you get stuck? It’s a wide, wide, highway.)

So we’re all at Colin’s, and Mr. Br. asks me when I got back from Ukraine. He made the point that Ukraine is, to some extent, getting its culture back from Ukrainian Diaspora (especially Ukrainian Canadians). That's funny, because while, yes, their culture is authentically “Ukrainian” (preserved through the normal process of colonial conservatism, both social and linguistic – see how I say “towards Halifax,” for instance?), but yet it is 1) only the culture(s) of small portions of Ukraine (regions were greatly varied then, especially in dialect) and 2) retained in this expatriate copy of the culture is whatever made them want to / have to split from the main culture in the first place. So what is really Ukraine is well, well, buried, and as hard to unearth as it was for that owner of that Ternopil restaurant who went all across Ukraine in search of agricultural implements, tools, and other artifacts from pre-Soviet times.

I realize that it’s not as simple as all this, and most Ukrainians (and many Scots, for that matter) were compelled to leave for a variety of reasons. Still, the point I’m getting at is that the mother culture tends to continue to evolve while the dispersed cultural offshoots retain relic features from the culture that become extinct in the mother – so these new sociolinguistic communities can be little cultural time capsules. But there’s a gotcha - it’s still retaining whatever it was that caused (or resulted from) the split in the first place!

From Colin’s, we head to the grocery store, where we pick up some BBQ fixings. Then we’re off to Chris By.’s place, on Shore Drive.

Little wrinkle: Neither Chris nor his roommates knew that there was going to be a party there, so we found out later.

However, it turned out as good as it could have. The unwitting hosts were generous and willing to share mustard, ketchup, and even some beer. We had a pretty good time, playing Mario Kart 64 (on a real N64!), making new friends, and thinking ahead. Afterwards, Joe C. and I found a shortcut back to Mill Cove, and from there we split. An excellent evening!

I didn’t make or intend to seek out plans for Saturday, as I was told by good authority that I would be spending this day organizing my upstairs. =) Fair enough. So I spend the day on that, but when I open up the lid of my computer at 11:00 to see if my e-mail is working yet (it is as of this morning, thank goodness)…

[23:06] Alisha: COME TO OUR PARTY WILL
[23:06] Alisha: I need to meet you, and Joe, who is here, knows you

LOLlerskates! I initially balk, of course – I’m in Bedford, and the last bus was going by Sunnyside at 11:25! However, the invitation was too unique to refuse. I convinced Mom to drive me down to Mill Cove, and we caught the bus just in time, and I was on my way! At the same time, I was also thinking Halifax was just a little bit too small for comfort. You see, I had met Alisha on a site that I will only refer to as YESpinkcherubwithabowandarrow. To find that she knew people I knew was far out.

At the party itself, I made a ton of new friends – I couldn’t believe how easy it was to just sit down and start talking to people! I met some pretty cool people there, and of course I got to meet Alisha, who’s pretty darn cool herself (I love her hair!). I also got to really converse with Joe, and I haven’t had that opportunity in a long, long time. I’m also pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve seen him on consecutive days since we shot The Artifact. (Note: The Artifact is unbelievably bad, and should only be watched with extreme trepidation (and, ideally, intoxication.)

(I was going to write a long, long paragraph here, but I hope the people of the party will forgive me for applying a label in the spirit of economization: Partying with Anarchist Hippies = Cool.)

Around 4, we figured on going to The Ardmore Tea Room, as they open early for the benefit of cab drivers and shift workers. Alisha had… breaded mushrooms (GAG!), but they looked tasty – I had a feta-and-ham omelette, and it was delicious. It simultaneously violated Islamic, Jewish, and Seventh-day Adventist dietary laws, which gave me an odd feeling, but it was delicious nonetheless. I also had a strawberry milkshake, just because it was said that they have the best milkshakes. And they do! However, that will be the last time I order a milkshake at breakfast, especially in the vicinity of 5am where your body temperature is at its lowest already. (Brrr!)

The charming Ardmore placemats also proclaim, “After an electrical fire in 1979, the Ardmore became a seven-day-a-week operation, no longer closing on Sundays.” It makes you picture this horrific blaze, with the owner standing outside, saying, “When we rebuild, this will be a seven-day-a-week operation, no longer closing on Sundays!” You must go eat there.

Back at the house, the hosts settled in for the rest of the morning while Joe and I kept watch in the kitchen, waiting for the first 80 to Bedford that would be going just after 7:00am. I happened to be perusing a book from the bookshelves of Alisha’s book collective: Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door by Lynne Truss. Probably due to the generation gap, I disagreed with Lynne on many particulars, but I forgave it instantly in light of its being so analytical yet funny. I haven’t had so much pure fun reading a book since Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need.

One thing in Truss that I particularly keyed in on is her exploration of the concept of “social autism.” She is especially critical of the idea of “socializing” online, as she rightly points out that it’s an activity that doesn’t involve our persons. We’re basically sitting somewhere surrounded by (in my case) school books and CD organizers, and selectively sharing intimacies with others, many of whom we have no idea of the person of. (That is to say, “we’ve never met,” but the definition of “met” these days is so watered-down that a more particular description is needed to convey an older, more profound idea of “we’ve never met.”)

It was funny to read this, as I was only reading it because I had indulged in this sharing of intimacies (I don’t necessarily mean secrets – even saying “I love photography” is a kind of intimacy), and yet it was critical of the idea of intimacies before persons. Many writers of the generation before us are saying the same thing. In fact, it’s actually a deafening roar, and it’s not just coming from the writers. I think we could use the experience of taking a moment to listen to their words before we go back to making fun of them. (Just kidding, old folks!)

Truss’ major idea is that internet socializing isn’t really socializing, and it imparts no useful skills for real-life socializing. (Of course, Truss would not say “real-life socializing,” because that would be admitting that socializing happens anywhere else.) I agree with her to a great extent. The only exception I would make is that I’ve garnered a lot of my social skills from reading material found online, although it must be admitted that at the moment of learning I was not engaged in socializing. I could have learned the same information if the Internet had stopped at e-mail and AltaVista search.

Here’s why internet ‘socializing’ is completely backwards: In real-life, you come to know persons first. You get a bead on a person, upon which all later information is superimposed. Intimacies come later, and usually only between people who are friends or who are doomed to become friends. The Internet works exactly the opposite: you come to intimacies first. Oh, and a photograph is not a true representation of a person - a picture alone might communicate maybe 25% of physical person (and attractiveness), but a person cannot be communicated in a photograph - only that small slice of physical nature, itself but a slice of person.

And then you meet the person. Now you see the person, in person (pardon my artlessness) and only then do you really start to learn about them. In many cases, the impressions are favourable, and a real friendship can kick in from there. But – and I’m not referring at all to tonight; I’m actually thinking of an experience I had in Cape Breton a long time ago – sometimes the person you’re confronted with behaves in a completely different way than what you expected. (And maybe you are different from what they expected!) And if you’re meeting in a quasi-romantic context? Oh, the humanity! What was once a promising meeting of the minds (“We have so much in common!”) spirals into total disaster, ‘simply’ because of the inability of the geospatial, living person to live up to outrageous or outrageously specific expectations. Admit it, though - we know the kinds of people we want to be around. In real-life, we tend to sort them out from the chaff with ease, and we don’t get into these kinds of situations.

So really, socializing on the Internet is a contradiction in terms. We're not learning how to interact, because our persons aren't involved. We're acting in a disembodied way. This has some benefits to be sure - it's feasible for a disembodied netizen to interact with many disparate friends almost at once (although we need to note that this gaggle of friends is in no way a "group" of friends, excepting that they are grouped together on our subject's computer), where this would be impossible for a bodied citizen. And let’s not forget that the Internet is also a boon for the acquisition and distribution of knowledge, and - here's the kicker - knowledge that includes how to socialize in the flesh. In fact, were it not for online and printed social learning material, I would be hopelessly lost. But we should probably take a time out and figure out just what it is we’re doing here.

And, for that matter, why do we blog? Joe stopped blogging because he didn’t want to write himself into a corner. That’s a valid concern, because any writer with a sense of grandeur will always make internal references back to what they wrote when experiencing y, in addition to what they actually experienced. Tonight, I’ve come up with another concern: Here I am broadcasting intimacies to people I don’t know in person. It’s backwards. But it’s also the reality of publishing, isn’t it? The only difference here is that the communication is two-way many-to-many, not the one-way, one-to-many of paper publishing. When Paul Lutus wrote Confessions of a Long-Distance Sailor, it wasn’t initially on the web and yet it shared some very real intimacies about his life and his experiences on his journey. So here is where the analogy is flawed: the web isn’t the only method of communicating intimacies without knowing persons. However, the web makes this a heck of a lot easier.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ll stop blogging, as the benefits so far seem to outweigh the concerns (as they did with the telephone, cars, airplanes, etc..). However, if you do notice a prolonged period of silence from me, know that I’m simply keeping my thoughts internal, as thoughts were traditionally supposed to be kept. Be seeing you!
Tags: bedford, blogging, dave barry, friends, gatherings, intimacies, lynne truss, parties, persons, philosophy, socializing, the internet

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