Here Thar Be Monsters!
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For Auld Lang Syne
It had been ages since we spoke face-to-face, or should I say Skype-to-Skype. Years of email and the occasional phone call.
We go back to age 7. We were altar boys together. His mother was active in my father's campaigns. We went to school together through high school. We spent our weekends together. He was always cutting edge with the latest music and got me into Alice Cooper and Elton John. We have always been brutally honest with each other, in a kind way.
He went on to an illustrious career in law, and I went on to a nefarious career in entertainment. We never lost contact, though we have gone through long dry spells, but friendship has a way of overcoming that.
The conversation ranged over a hundred topics spanning more than an hour. He mentioned how several folks of his acquaintance were thinking of going the ex-pat route. Things were out of control in the home country. We talked art and law and business. We introduced our wives to each other. I mentioned how much he looked like his father, who I admired greatly.
Through it all, I thought about the "old days," when we were idealistic and full of passion for the future, back when we weren't so jaded and cynical.
Then I thought about how we were talking. We were literally on opposite sides of the world speaking in real time with full motion video. I lost my train of thought for a moment as I pondered this modern miracle.
When he and I were kids, this kind of technology was science fiction. We marveled at Dr. Floyd calling his daughter from orbit on her birthday, in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even before that was the comic strip Dick Tracey, with his 2-way wrist radio. Wow, wouldn't that be cool! And Star Trek, with their automatic doors and Bluetooth earpieces and electronic tablets that you could write on with a stylus.
My buddy and I grew in simple(r) times. Phones were big clunky things with rotary dials. TV was just going color and the NBC peacock was an exciting thing. Radio dramas were just dying out. The space age was just being born. Telecommunications satellites were a new thing and trans-Atlantic calls were wildly expensive.
When I went on my global walk-about at 18, I sent postcards (when I could afford it), and a trans-Atlantic call meant a day at the telegraph office, making an appointment, sitting in a booth with a meter, and waiting 3-5 seconds for replies from the other end. And that was Europe - North Africa and the Middle East were out of the question, and Asia was a technological wasteland.
In a single lifetime, speaking of my great aunt Tish, folks went from covered wagons (when her family moved to Texas in 1898, to being afraid of comets (Halley in 1910), to super highways and global telephony.
Yes, here I was, talking to my buddy on the East Coast while sitting at the breakfast table in Jakarta, having a real-time vidchat in living color. And since I was using my tablet (with stylus), I could go out on the patio to smoke and show him some of the fun stuff in Indonesian neighborhoods. I was daybreak here and just after dinner there. Dr. Floyd was only 200 miles up in orbit, we were 10,000 miles apart, as the crow flies.
I thought about he and I riding our bicycles on Saturday afternoons down at Buffalo Bayou. Chevrolet Bellaires were still new cars. A gallon of gas (not that we needed it) was 27 cents. The Gemini space program was still amazing stuff. And there were no home computers or video games or cell phones. We had to make our own fun.
"What happened to us?" my buddy asked, only partly joking about the sagging jowls and fading eye-sight. "Gravity," I said. We traded health-related crises and our various "procedures," a la Billy Crystal's brilliant speech in City Slickers.
We parted with vague threats to "do this more often."
"More often," I thought, "It's a miracle we can do it at all."