E-Friends – 2022

One of the coolest side effects of our society’s relentless technology is Social Media.  It has allowed us to turn our world into one gigantic village — which means we’re all cyber-neighours.  Everybody on this planet is now one tap, swipe or click away from everybody else, and billions of us have taken advantage of this.  Think about it!  We all know someone we’ve never talked to, never touched, never smiled at, or even seen.  These are the strangers who are our friends – our e-friends – and in the 21st century, we all have them.  There is still some debate over whether these e-friends are as good or even the same as IRL (In Real Life) friends, but in a couple of generations, this won’t even be a question … because … and here’s the best bit – e-friends are way better than real ones.  Let me demonstrate.

E-friends never waste your time with long, boring stories.   Regardless of how drawn-out their particular tale of woe might become, you don’t have sit there and listen.  The truth is, most people just scroll down to the end, type ‘awesome,” and move on.

E-friends never drag you off to places you don’t want to go.  When you live on the other side of the world, this never comes up on the panel – thank God.  So you don’t have to sweat the oboe recital, the fishing trip or what’s-her-name’s graduation – just to be polite.  All you have to do is make the right noises when your e-friends post the pictures.

They’re never mean to you.  E-friends are notoriously good-natured, and if they ever do go off the rails, all you have to do is delete them.

When e-friends talk about you behind your back, you’re never going to hear about it.

You don’t have worry about cleaning the house when e-friends come to visit.  In fact, you can talk to them in your pajamas if you so choose – and people frequently do.

You never have to put up with your e-friends’ annoying spouse, or know-it-all sister, or idiot dog who peed on your carpet or any of the other baggage IRL friends always bring along with them.

E-friends don’t force you make hard decisions like “Does this dress make me look fat?”  Normally, those photos are deleted long before they ever get to you.

E-friends never give you the flu.

E-friends don’t make promises they can’t keep.  Ganjit, from Chennai is never going to volunteer to help you move and then disappear the day the boxes are packed.  (I’m looking at you, Sam Newton!)

E-friends always listen.  When you’re talking to them they never get distracted by their phone – cuz you’re the one on the phone.

E-friends don’t borrow your stuff and forget to give it back.  You never have that awkward moment when you discover your e-buddy Betty is serving cake off a plate that she borrowed from you two Christmases ago.

But the best thing about e-friends is:

Age, gender, race, religion, nationality, income, etc., etc., etc. don’t make a damn bit of difference to e-friends.   They are the most egalitarian groups of people on this planet.  So, while most of the world is shouting and swearing and calling each other names, there are tons of little groups of e-friends, kicked back in various small corners of cyberspace, trying to get to know each other.  And that’s totally cool!

Stan Vandale And Me


This is a tale of simultaneous stories.  It’s a tale of a single night, isolated in time and space, that’s merely one fold in an unfolded old map – weathered, creased and torn.  It’s a tale of mystics and spirits as ordinary as a couple of boys full of adolescent adventures.  It’s a tale that’s true.  It’s a tale that’s unbelievable.  It’s a tale of two kids with an indelible bond who grew up, grew apart and remain friends and strangers.  It’s a complicated tale, but this is the simplest way I can tell it.

When I lived in Arizona, one rare long weekend, I drove deep into the desert over relentless miles of further horizons, seeking a place where the city feared to go.  North from Payson, north from Winslow, north into the Navajo nation — as if I were an eager pilgrim gathering miles like holy relics.  But I ended up just being a tourist, cameraed and sandaled, sitting on a wooden bench, watching drumbeat dancers in the dying afternoon…

One time, in the long ago, Stan had a raft, and he and I and his little brother Dan decided (no, we didn’t decide – Stan convinced us) to Huck Finn ourselves down to the Pitt River, or out to the ocean or all the way to Hawaii if we got the chance.  We didn’t; the ship went down with all hands before we got 50 metres, and 1,000 years from now, archeologists are going to find my wallet buried in the mud and wonder how a foolish boy didn’t drown that day…

In the long shadows, the drums stopped and everyone clapped and snapped maybe just one more flash photo, and then it was time to exit through the gift shop, please.  But, I didn’t exit; I couldn’t exit.  One of the wordless dancers (for no reason I’ll ever understand) came and led me away — away from the crowd and the cars and the buzzing noisy neon — into the desert and the creeping night.  And there — with the first stars — I sat on a woven blanket with the women and the kids who spoke to me in guttural syllables and exaggerated gestures.  And I wondered … what?  And then I heard the drums again…

One time, in a teenage hot summer day, when the adults were full of picnic, Stan and I and his little brother and sister found a cliff face and we decided (no, we didn’t decide – Stan convinced us) to climb it — just to see what we could see.  And we climbed into the scared and the sky, crawling on the vertical rock, our minds and muscles shivering with gravity.  And I stopped once to steady Melody’s elbow and once to capture more courage and once just to curse the madness.  Then we popped over the top — a surprise of dirty children, frightening the tourists…

These were the old dances, now — the grandfather dances.  And the darkness chanted with fire — its flames touching the paint on the dancers’ faces, its light in the winking eyes of the snakes they carried, and its tongue flicking and licking sparks into the sky.  And the drums were the night’s heart, beating and breathing with the murmured rhythm of tall moccasins.  And in the night and light, the dancers slowly dusted away, swallowing themselves in the shadows — until only their spirits remained.  And time and earth and sky disappeared, and there was only now.  And for hours or minutes or days, the spirits saw me and we travelled together.  And that’s what happened.
Later, sometime, in the morning I think, the wordless dancer found me again and said, “You remember this thing.  You’re gonna need those guys.”

I don’t see Stan much anymore – weddings and funerals — but I still count him as more than a friend.  As a boy, I learned how the world works, and Stan was part of that experience.  He certainly had a confidence that didn’t rub off, and he was always fun to be around.  A couple of weeks ago, I heard that Stan was sick – really sick — and I thought about that night in Arizona.  It’s odd how that came to mind after all these years, but it made me think: maybe those spirits weren’t for me at all; maybe I was just keeping them for a friend.

So, for what it’s worth, Stan, I know this is a difficult journey, but if you want, you can walk with the spirits I found one star-dark night in Arizona for a while.  I’m absolutely certain they’ll show you the way.

I Have A Friend

friendI have a friend.  The curious thing is I have no idea who she is.  I’ve never seen her, or spoken to her, or heard her voice.  I think I know her name — Babette — but I’m not sure.  You see, we don’t live in the same country.  We don’t even speak the same language.  Although, she must speak English — I don’t have any Dutch (maybe it’s Dutch?  Google Translator thinks it’s Dutch?)  But in actual fact, I have no facts about my friend whatsoever, except I’m pretty sure she lives on Crete.  The truth is, I only know her because she found me typing away in the digital world and said she liked me.  By chance, I clicked back and discovered I liked her too.  She’s curious.  She sees things many people miss.  She has questions.  Sometimes she has answers.  Yes, sometimes she has an attitude also but she feels life — large and small — and recognizes it for what it is.  And she’s smart and interesting.

So, why, out of the thousands of computer connections I make every day, do I know she’s my friend?  That’s even more curious.

After several weeks of reading and electronically liking each other, she left — disappeared — and unlike all the other random Internet comings and goings, I wondered what happened.  I missed her.  I went looking.  I stood on the edge of the vast cyber wilderness and called her name.  The sound was hollow.  She wasn’t there.  And I felt the loss.

A couple of days ago, my friend showed up again and said she still liked me and explained to her virtual world where she’d been in the real one.  I was glad she was back.  I was excited to see her — happy that my friend had returned.

People seek each other out (we always have.)  It satisfies a need in our psyche and our soul.  These days, the threads that connect us might be as thin as the click of a wireless mouse on a midnight screen half a world away.  But that bond is real.

I don’t know anything about my friend — except I know what she feels.

So, Babette, eat your vegetables, drink some wine, get plenty of sleep, hug the people you love and keep them close.  And if sometime, in the cold, dark soul of 4 o’clock in the morning, you think you’re alone in this world — you’re not — because you are my friend.