friends in fact

No pain, no gain -- something like that.

On Wednesday, one of the last remaining friends from column 'n' ('netfriend') arrives in Huntsville. If you'd asked me this a couple of years ago, I'd have been unsurprised by these plans, but life does funny things and gets in the way while it's doing so, and as a result, we lost touch for about a year and a half.

It's a brave and scary thing, flying cross-country to couchsurf in a state and timezone you've never been in before, and scarier still if you've never met (in person) whom you're staying with. It's a move that, to the non-geeky folk in our lives, seems insane. But on the geek side of things, it makes an odd and random sort of sense.

After a while, you start wondering what someone's voice sounds like without cell phone compression artifacts. You wonder if they gesture with their hands when they talk, or if they'll enjoy your favorite tea as much as you do. Certain things you just can't find out about from the other side of the country.

Since getting back in touch, Adam and I have had a veritable barrage of emails, IMs, and phone calls. From my end, at least, I think I've done a decent job of catching him up on where my life's been going in the past couple of years. I get the impression I've gotten a decent chunk of his story as well.

Though, today, there was a new and strange moment in our friendship. I walked the aisles of Target, looking for ingredients for Wednesday's dinner, and as I turned past the shrimp end cap, back toward the vegetables, I blurted out as I reached for the mushrooms, "Does it feel a little strange, hearing me discuss picking up food that you're going to be eating on Wednesday?" He's always been over there, left-coast Pacific-time-zone wave-to-Canada over there, and I've always been here, drawly-colloquialism spitting-distance-from-Tennessee what's-a-hush-puppy down here. There was a vast old continent between us, and plenty of late-night stories...

...and in two more nights, he'll be the friend crashing out on the couch.

Why? He pointed me to a comic we both read, and it resonated with me too:

"Take wrong turns. Talk to strangers. Open unmarked doors. And if you see a group of people in a field, go find out what they're doing. Do things without always knowing how they'll turn out..."

"You're curious and smart and bored, and all you see is the choice between working hard and slacking off. There are so many adventures that you miss because you're waiting to think of a plan. To find them, look for tiny interesting choices. And remember that you are always making up the future as you go."
xkcd - "Choices: Part 4"

Hard to imagine, really. There will be things we won't get right. Resolving text and voice to full-fleshed reality always involves a few glitches. Until he reads this, he probably didn't picture that I reach for things on high shelves by balancing on one tiptoe while sticking one leg out behind me. (Now, unfortunately for him, he's stuck with that image.)

We've got a week to find out what kind of friends we are in person. Brave soul, he's letting me throw him into the maelstrom of my life -- Wednesday night say-anything dinner, Friday night Southern potluck with the locals group, Tuesday with the librarians. We'll do day tours of historical sites in three states (yes, I am taking comp time to do this!) and log lots of hours in the Jetta, sightseeing and talking.

There will be cameras.

There will also be that moment at the airport, where all the envisioning snaps to reality, and two people who have already been friends in theory become friends in fact. There's nervousness. There's always nervousness. What if this person isn't what I thought? What if I'm not what this person expected?

It'll be nice to move him out of column 'n.'

It's going to be quite a week.


I mean, I *did* cancel going to go see one of my good friends play in Nashville for his visit. ;) It's gonna be fun.

I forgot the Thursday lunch. That'll be Adam's first encounter with the locals. I told him nerdliness was prized in this crowd. However, since the true genial dorkitude of this crowd cannot be described, only seen, he will have to see it for himself on Thursday.

Plus, Tim's Cajun Kitchen has beer, so that alone makes it worth it.