By Kenneth Justice
~ “I was homeless for twenty years…but I’m slowly getting my life back on track” the man with two toy poodles said
~ WOW! This weekend was the beginning of the U.S. portion of my Drinking in the Culture Tour in which I’m meeting with bloggers and fellow readers all across the Western World…..and the only word that comes to mind is….wow!
To say I was nervous would be an understatement and in many ways I felt like a kid who was on a blind date all weekend; not knowing what to expect, what to talk about, or where this adventure would lead me.
For the past year I’ve kept asking myself the question; what kind of connections do social networks and the blogging world really allow us to make?
—) So many people have had bad experiences with social networks
—) sites like Facebook have been used by people to spread malicious gossip and slander
—) even though so many new people join Facebook every day….a lot of people are quitting it because of bad experiences
….And so this weekend was the first step in allowing me to find the answers; to truly learn about the connections I’ve made via my blogging over the past year.
The first blogger I met stopped by Café Intermezzo Saturday morning and when she came in…..it honestly felt like she was someone I’d known for a long time…as though she was one of my relatives who were a part of my family; Dewey Decimals Butler is the screen name for the blog she writes at and I couldn’t believe how ‘normal’ and ‘easy’ our conversation felt (I forget to ask her for permission as to whether she wanted me to mention her real name or not)
This young woman is someone I had never met in person before…..yet I felt like I knew her…it felt like we’d been talking for a long time already; because of course we have been talking via the blogging world throughout the past year.
I don’t know if everyone down here in Atlanta has the whole ‘southern hospitality charm’ or that sexy southern accent that she had; but DeweyDecimal was an absolute delight to meet and talk with; Married with a couple children, she is a high school literature teacher and at only 31 years old she has experienced so many different facets of life, both good and some very bad (but the bad is for her to write about one day publicly, not me) that it’s no wonder as to why she enjoys writing… because she has something to say.
Perhaps that is what separates bloggers from the average person who merely makes little post onto Facebook about what kind of cake they ate earlier in the day; perhaps blogging attracts the kind of writers who have really lived life. Men and women who’ve experienced tragedy, ecstasy, or a little of both; and now they want to truly talk about it.
As the weekend progressed and I met other fellow bloggers like Molly who writes at mollytopia.com, I ended up hanging out at five different café’s and coffee shops and was blown away at how many people were interested in sitting around to talk about life.
—-) I met a guy who was homeless for nearly 20 years (his story will come up in later articles)
—-) I met the owner of Café Intermezzo who’s journey as a café owner is massive enough to fill an entire book as it includes his life living in Europe, and spans through cities like Vienna, Berlin, Tucson, Chicago, Minneapolis, and now Atlanta
—) I met Molly who chronicles her fascinating life as a single mother and also of her childhood in the circus
—) I met Hardcore Christians, moderate Christians, and atheists as well.
This was merely the first weekend trip on my 25 city tour of the United States and already I have enough material for hundreds of pages……and what stands out to me the most is that people want to connect. It’s undeniable, why would people come to visit me; a coffee house bum from the Midwest…except that there is an unquenchable desire that burns in our hearts to connect with our fellow creatures.
We are social creatures,
—-) We love sharing stories
—-) We love interacting and connecting with people from different walks of life
—-) We enjoy the dynamics of a discussion
What made this weekend so fascinating to me…so powerful in many different ways; is that it reinforced my belief that as much as the Internet is an awesome tool….it can never replace the true nature of face-to-face conversations. Being able to hang out with DeweyDecimal for nearly four hours (yes she hung out with us at Café Intermezzo all morning!) reminded me of how much I enjoy seeing people’s faces;
—-) The Internet can’t imitate our facial expressions
—-) The Internet can’t replicate our accents
—-) The Internet can’t duplicate the feel of sitting right next to that person at a coffee shop
Until I met DeweyDecimal in person, it had never dawned on me that she had the cool Atlanta accent that all the women down here have. I guess that reading her blog the times I have made me think of her more as speaking like a character out of a Jane Austen book, as though she had a stuffy Victorian British accent (because she writes about a LOT of literature and she loves Jane Austen!)
So meeting her in person filled in many details that the Internet simply can’t produce for us…..
—) I enjoyed seeing the way she scrunched up her cheeks up when she would say something that she knew was funny
—) I loved how the couple times she dropped a cuss word she said it under her breath as so many polite young women do
—-) I enjoyed seeing the seriousness and righteous anger that screamed through her eyes when she talked about some very personal things from her past
While I’m ever grateful for the fact that it was through the Internet that I’ve met so many of you……I’m also very reticent of the fact that it can never replace connecting with each other in person.
And so while I begin to work on my putting together articles from my trip to Atlanta this weekend, I’m also counting the days till I arrive to Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, St. Louis…and all of the many other cities that are coming up on my year long journey.
I really hope to meet as many of you as I can and that we can share some good stories over a cup of coffee,