Since I've been back to the Dallas area these 3 years, after some 10 years away in Los Angeles, I have the problem that I am never sure which are the places to which I have been, and which are the places I just remember as "Dallas places". Today my wife and I drove the twenty five miles in from Allen to Dallas, in search of the Stoneleigh P. The Stoneleigh P. originally was the Stoneleigh Pharmacy, but now it is a burger place and bar on Maple Street, a nice traditional-looking area of Dallas. I'll freely confess in the utter privacy of this journal that though I believe I have been there before, I accidentally detoured my wife and I into the Stoneleigh Hotel across the street, the local "hip enough that famous people stay here" hotel, in the mistaken belief that the "Stoneleigh P" was the hotel bar. Once I figured out I was one street crossing off, we made our way across the street to the Stoneleigh P. The Stoneleigh P makes one great burger, let me hasten to report.
The trip decidedly was worth the travel, for we were there to meet two LJ friends for the first time, microbie and paularubia. This marked a new permutation for me in the "LJ friends" experience, because I have had real life friends who joined LJ; I have had nanowrimo friends who are now LJ friends; and I have had at least 2 internet friends from other internet contexts who became LJ friends via codes from me (a virtual to virtual interconnection, you might virtually say); but I had never met in person any of my LJ friends whom I did not know outside of LJ. But microbie was in Fort Worth visiting a friend, and she suggested that she, paularubia and I meet. As paularubia works in Dallas on Sundays, the Stoneleigh P was the perfect place to meet.
I had wondered if I would be overcome with bashfulness, as I tend not to see myself as all that impressive a specimen in person, either in appearance or charisma. But I decided that anyone who reads my journal knows that I am middle-aged, boring, and look like an overweight bespectacled attorney, so I had nothing to fear. I mean, when you look like a middle-aged attorney, things can only improve for you as time goes on, right? Besides, as anyone who reads this journal also knows, I am not often short of words when the situation demands words.
My wife and I both found the lunch delightful. microbie and her friend R., as well as paularubia, were all such nice people. I find both these LJ users' journals to be written by nice, bright and articulate people, but it is somehow a nice confirmation that LJ is not an extended episode of "Who Posted Roger Rabbit" to learn that they are articulate, bright and nice people in person. I think that rather than just say "gosh, they are cool", though, I'd bet LJ friends who are friends in common with them would like to get more of a feel for how they seemed in person. Unfortunately, my narrative gifts run more to drafting satiric eBay ads than character sketches, but I'll try anyway.
microbie and paularubia both seemed to me to be different facets of the Texan crystal. Both were raised in Texas, but they chose very different paths. paularubia stayed in Texas (with some lengthy sojourns elsewhere, so maybe I should say she "returned to Texas"), choosing to follow the family trade. She's a real "cool-old-Dallas" Dallasite, the kind of person who lives and works in the part of town which stresses charm and character over the affluence and conformity that mark the "new" Dallas (by contrast, my part of Collin County, perhaps the antithesis of cool, features houses so identical they might be school uniforms, and more franchises than a get-rich-quick seminar). paularubia knows Dallas, and respects it, and has lived in the part of it worth keeping for much of her life.
By contrast, microbie left Texas, and went elsewhere to college, grad school and ultimate employment. She works in an environment that is light years away from the place she grew up, from paularubia's Dallas, or from my own "nouveau tract-o" area. But as I've noticed in the journal of my other LJ friends sun_set_bravely and espvivisection, even one who more than willingly departs from Texas for other climes and cultures retains an essential "Texas-ness" which never leaves. I cannot put my finger on it, but I know it when I see it. I may be projecting my metaphor here, but my impression is that microbie still lives surprisingly fluent Texan, even after she no longer lives in Texas at all. I was struck that microbie has developed a taste for Texas' wonderful roots music, after she departed the state. paularubia, of course, knows Texana music from its its furthest lefty to the fringes of its Frizzell and back again.
The issue of "Texasness" intrigues me, because you see, I am only a Texan in the most literal senses. I was born in San Antonio, and live in the Dallas area now. But my individual identifications are with Arkansas. Some Texans profess not to see Arkansas as much more than a sort of Luxembourg to Texas' Belgium, but Arkansas folks self-identify a great deal of their 'cultural identity', curiously, based on the fact that they are not (hell no!) from Texas. It's a long story.
I play both sides of the fence, sadly, and am Texan when I want to be and Arkansan when I want to be. I even admit I have been Californian once in a while, though I cannot effectively say "dude" or "fella" and I still say "y'all", even in downtown Los Angeles. I was pleased, and yet disappointed, to hear that the folks at lunch think I do not have much accent anymore. When I am in Los Angeles, they always point mine out to me as deeply southern.
I am so glad that I got to meet two LJ friends in person, and delighted in particular with both microbie and paularubia. I am fortunate to have a chance to make new friends.
I wonder if everyone has the same feeling about LJ connectivity that I have. No matter how many "shower meme", ask me a riddle, and "what circle of hell" answers I get from people, I always wonder more and more about who they are. Perhaps in this the journal itself, freed of memes and questions, is the best guide.
But today I was intrigued that while the time we five spent together told me much about congenial people in a congenial setting,
I still will enjoy reading these two journals to learn things about the people involved I do not know now. People are such kaleidoscopes, not "Texans" or "microbiologists" or "swing music fans" or "old Dallas" or, as I am, "just weird", but so many things all at once, and LJ helps cut through all those pheronomic and posturing problems that can make making friends in other real life settings so problematic.
I do not say, though, that I left all shyness behind. When we had bought the books and prints we purchased (I forgot to ask Paula where the poetry lurked), we made our way out the door. After all, we had said our goodbyes to Paula during the tour she gave us, and I knew she was busy. I hated to trouble her again when she had customers. I shyly did not want to bother her again when she was working. But I was pleased that she nonetheless looked up from what she was doing and shouted "goodbye, Bob!" as we headed off. That was nice!
My wife and I discussed on the drive home what nice people we had met, and how we would have lunch with them anytime. Perhaps that's all my LJ friends could ever learn from me about microbie or paularubia--they're the sort of people one would have lunch with anytime. In my book (and did I mention I am not really the 'do lunch' type?), that's a rare and wonderful type of person to be. I hope we get to see them again sometime.