First Contact

Back before December 2010, there were comment pages attached to Brooke McEldowney’s “9 Chickweed Lane” and “Pibgorn” webcomics. Over the course of several years, a lively and thriving community sprang up on these discussion boards known unofficially as the Couch of Confusion, or the Order of the Couch (mostly because Brooke’s story lines could get quite convoluted before their final resolution.) There were over 100 of us, and between 2008 and the present I have met a dozen or so in person as I traveled around the country on various trips. They were most pleasant encounters. [1]

On May 13 of 2009, I posted at my Livejournal that I was taking a road trip from Utah to New York, then to Portland, Maine, and finally to West Virginia, where some friends of mine had engaged me (begged, pleaded and whined bitterly is more like it) to care for their 180-acre sheep ranch while they took a belated honeymoon to Hawaiʻi. I mentioned that I looked forward to meeting with anyone who happened to be close to my route, as I had done before.

A lovely lady named ToniAnne, whose posts I had long enjoyed – she was witty, clever, well-informed and had good ideas and sound opinions – wrote the following:

(Anonymous)
May. 13th, 2009 06:41 pm (local)
Don’t be a stranger… just be strange!
Hi!
I see that Gap Mills, WV is 132 miles south mostly of where I am in Harrisonburg,VA if you will be driving anywhere near where I am I’d enjoy meeting you in RL.
I used to live up the road a piece from Port up in Auburn. Have you ever had a Needham a Maine candy special. I think you’ve heard of Moxie.
Drop me a line at [email redacted] I am in Florida at the moment but will be returning late on the 15th..from Richmond on 64 then 81.
or call after the 15th- [phone redacted]
I’d cook you a meal but I don’t have the ingredients for haggis.. it would have to be something more mundane.
Have a good and safe trip.
ToniAnne

Well, stop I did, and we had a wonderful visit. There’s a lot more to tell, but long story short: in May we will be celebrating our fourth anniversary. I just happened to cross this first one-on-one communication, and was pleased that it had been archived. Brooke’s forum was the vehicle for our crossing paths, but our first meeting was all her fault… and I’m eternally grateful she piped up.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

———————-

[1] Unfortunately and incomprehensibly, McEldowney’s work attracted an infestation of internet trolls who delighted in spewing, as Twain would say it, “the ignorantest words” and pictures; despite noble efforts by GoComics, Brooke requested that the comment features on his comics be disabled. Unfortunately, the disabling happened before any word of explanation could be offered, and a number of people were grossly offended by Brooke’s “disrespect” for his readers, which of course wasn’t the case at all, but the upshot was that our little community lost much of its cohesiveness, although it continues elsewhere in a much reduced form. To everything there is a time and a season, and while it lasted, this was a wonderful one.