Friday, September 23, 2016

Friendly Sextortion

Today'a post is about the highlight of my friend project for the week. It offers a cautionary tale.

A few weeks ago I received a 'poke' on Facebook. I don't get many of these, and, following Horchow rule #1 - "reach out to those you don't know"  - and rule #8 - "Be vulnerable", I responded. The young lady poking me turned out to have quite a number of mutual friends, including some of my closest professional colleagues. She represented herself as a child advocate, working with a non-government organization helping homeless kids. Given my work, I take an interest in such organizations, and was certainly open to learning more about her.

I first messaged her to ask how she knew them, and she sent back a convincing answer.

 I checked with one colleague, who said he didn't know her personally. He added "she's ok". So I accepted her friend request.  And when she suggested we chat on skype I agreed.    

The next day she messaged me on FB, saying that she was free to skype. I said ok. She said she'd call, and a few minutes later she did.

Following Horchow Rule # 24 - "Minimize Small Talk," she wasted no time. Asking me if I were alone, she asked whether I wanted to have a little 'fun.' I asked 'what kind of fun do you have in mind?' She said, in effect, that she would masturbate and  could watch her and masturbate until I climaxed. Her language was too colorful to include in a blog intended for mixed company.

I said: 'you have the wrong fellow. I am sorry, but you are wasting your time.'

The screen went dead.

Following Horchow Rule # 36 - Use Tech to Reconnect," she called back on skype a few minutes later. Foolishly, I answered. She was now stark naked, caressing her breasts and pleading for attention. "Please, she said. No strings attached." I said 'no thanks' and the screen again went dead.

At that point I finally blocked her. I felt invaded and very upset - and also hyper-stimulated. It took several hours to leave her behind.

When I discussed the incident with my wife Veronica and son Sjoma,  Sjoma said he had recently read an article about young women in the sex industry. He found the number and variety of attractive young women working at different levels in this industry startling. Many are tied to criminal enterprises.

A bit of googling around led me to a host of accounts of skype sexploitation.

Here is one  account:

"In the last hour or so I met a girl on chatroulette who after 2 minutes wanted to skype, so we swapped skype ID's and began skyping.

Basically she/he wanted to "have some fun" obviously being the idiot I am, I happily agreed and after about 4 or 5 minutes of me exposing mysellf, he/she disconnected and 5 minutes later called back and played a video of myself. After the video was played of myself the hacker then demanded I pay £300 into a paypal account. I told the hacker I had no money to pay him with so he then told me that he will share the video to a list of my friends and family. 5 or 6 of these names of my friends and family had their Facebook links next to their names.

After being threatened several times I deleted the hacker from my Skype list and blocked him from my account.

Since then I have been very scared and very worried, I can't even begin to imagine how horrible this will be if the video gets leaked. (he also sent me a link to the video to prove its authenticity).

I have also changed my privacy settings on Facebook.

I am so scared this video will get sent to the list of friends and family.

Can anyone help me with this!!?!?"


Lesson learned: I need to practice Horchow rule # 18 "Practice Exit Strategies."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Friends with Chickens

When I moved to suburbia in 2008, I thought it would be cute to raise some chickens. But I didn’t know that I was allowed to raise chickens, and the thought of hosting chickens in a pen in my dining room was impractical. (I did seriously consider one pet chicken in a corner of my house.) Then I started fostering children and forgot about the chickens.

However, some years later, I was hosting a foster child who loved birds. When some local farmers brought chickens to the community garden, the lively birds with their colorful feathers enchanted me and this teenager. The chicken farmers invited us to visit their home to see some newly hatched chicks. Always eager for fun activities, I said, “Yes.” But, I told Graham, “We’re not taking any chicks home with us.”

The chicks, of course, were even more delightful than the adult chickens. The owners invited us to buy some. They informed me that residents of my town could raise up to six laying hens. Then, they proceeded to overcome every single objection I came up with. I didn’t have a coop? “No problem,” they said. They chickens could live in large boxes in my house for months! I didn’t know anything about raising chickens? No problem. I could feed them leftovers and brown rice. We didn’t know if the chicks were male or female? No problem. We could bring back the males and exchange them for females once we knew their gender.

We ended up taking six chicks home with us. In the morning, Graham and I woke up eagerly to play with the chicks. We were always holding one or two. So many things I learned about chickens: chickens love each other. They become friends, stay friends and hang out together. If one chick escaped from the box, he would make a mournful chirping sound in an effort to find his friends. The chicks also became friends with us. Sometimes we would let all the chicks out of the box and let them run around the kitchen. The chicks would inevitably find their way onto our laps and the crooks of our arms and fall asleep. I learned the difference between a happy, contented peep and an alarmed tweet. Chickens experience the same emotions we do: fear, surprise, curiosity, contentment, love.

Graham went back to live with his biological family, but the chickens remain with me. My flock has grown over the years. One chick hatched in the coop when I let a hen sit on some eggs. But because she didn’t have siblings, and wasn’t safe in the coop, I took Penelope into the house. Knowing about the sociability of chickens, (in fact, it’s illegal in Connecticut to sell fewer than six chickens) I didn’t let her become lonely. I took her to the library and Home Depot in my pocket. Any time I drove on a short errand, I took her with me. When the time came (the time being the time she discovered the delicious taste of my house plants) to put this chicken in the coop with the other chickens, she resisted. She liked people, not chickens. Two times, the other chickens pulled out her tail feathers despite all my measures to introduce Penelope to the other chickens gradually. Both times, I took her back in the house to recover. The third time that I put her in the coop, she finally assimilated.
Today, I still take Penelope on trips to Home Depot or the library, although she doesn’t fit in my pocket any more. She sits on my lap in the car and looks out the window regally, surprising other drivers.

When I take her out of the coop, Penelope looks at me, snuggles up to me, follows me, talks to me and definitely loves me. She’s a friend for life.

Raising chickens opened a whole new aspect of life to me. I had always related primarily to people.  The animal kingdom, except for the birds outside my window and the occasional deer in my backyard, remained remote. Bringing chickens into my life added an unexpected dimension of friendship and delight. I’ve learned that not just chickens, but all animals respond to love and can become friends with people.

Graham and I stay in touch. When we talk, we always talk about the chickens.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Regular Crowd at Dunkin' Donuts

Every donut shop has its own rhythms. The drive through window always does brisk business. Most folks who get out of the car just drop in to pick up their fix of donuts and coffee and leave. Throughout the day, there are times when every seat is empty. 

But every donut shop also has cast of regulars. They come in at specific times, are very different in each shop, and make for unique social climates and experiences. Anyone who spends much time in any particular shop, whether or not he or she joins one of the tables of regulars, gets brought into the action and to some extent makes new friends.

So yesterday I dropped into one of my favorite Dunkin Donut shops, at the Fairfield Connecticut Circle. This shop lies between my home in Southwest Bridgeport and the Fairfield Public Library, where I frequently work on my projects. I'm in there often. My family and friends often refer to this shop - or another Dunkin Donut shop in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport - as my 'office'. Friends who can't reach me by phone (I often forget to bring it with me) will drop in to find me. 

The wait people all know me. Some see me coming and have my regular order ready even before I finish parking my car. One even buys me gifts when she goes off on vacation. Others treat me as a total stranger, and take my order - the same one almost every time - without any sign of recognition.

In this shop on the circle, the regulars are a pretty diverse bunch. This is not always the case. The shop I frequent on 23rd street in South Philadelphia is packed exclusively with white retired working class guys who may be in the shop all day for months on end. The shop in Black Rock attracts solitaries - a few folks who come in, sit alone, cover themselves in a dark emotional fog, wait for it to clear, and leave without a word. 

The Fairfield Circle shop, like the surrounding area, is much more upbeat. A bunch of working guys - handymen, carpenters, plumbers - circulate throughout the day. They all know each other and sit together - though from their entry and exit patterns these meetings do not appear pre-arranged. They are often joined by another guy, Jose, who worked before retirement for the city of Bridgeport as an architectural draftsman. Jose has great posture, a calm clear voice. He occasionally blasts forth in laughter, but then  regains his composure. In my imagination, Jose could have been the boss of this crew - he has the education, knowledge, and bearing. But he doesn't act the part. He just hangs out with them to be amused. He often appears at the shop twice or even three times during the day.


So yesterday I came into the shop and started  speaking with Jose in Spanish. His Spanish is very beautiful, elegant even. The jaws of those at the workmen's table dropped and their eyes popped out! 

- "Jose, where did you learn Spanish?" 

- "In Puerto Rico."         

-"Huh, when did you go to Puerto Rico?" 

"I was born there!" 

"No, I don't believe it. You. "

So we exchanged a few sentences in Spanish, talked in English for a few minutes about learning Spanish, and I then took a seat.

 Now I have my regular seat in this shop, over at the window in back. But yesterday there was another guy in my seat. This sometimes happens. And Jose ribbed me about it, too.  So I sat at the next empty table. I often use this strategem - parking myself next to my regular seat so I can pounce on it the moment anyone in it leaves.


The guy in my seat was named Mike. I've seen him in the shop before. He's an older guy, could be 80. Always sits alone in my seat. He has a pile of notecards and a legal pad, and he's writing furiously away. Maybe this is the writer's seat - it's the most out of the way.  

Me: "Hi, Mike, what're you writing?"

Mike: "A magazine article."

- "Are you a writer"

- "Kinda. That's what I do to pass the time. Been retired a long time Not much money in it, but i appreciate the money cause it shows someone values what I do." 

- "What do you write about?"

- "Lots of things. Sports, machinery, cars, whatever." 

-"What did you do before you retired?" 

- "Airplane design. I worked on heliocoptors over at Sikorski. Last one I worked on 1987. Gee, that's almost 30 years, ain't it.?" 

I thought: this is one interesting guy. I'd love to talk to him more about writing, one of my favorite topics of conversation. 

-"Hey, Mike, do you do Facebook?"

- "Nah, don't wanna bother. I don't really want to waste a lot of time with other people."

- "Well ok, do you have an email address?"

- "Nope, don't even have a computer. What do I need that for? My son, he's a professor. He knows where he can find me. I don't even want to have him calling me all day long. I come out here so I don';t have to bother with any of that stuff." 

- "Well, nice talking to you Mike. Good luck on that article and have a nice day."


So as I was taking leave of Mike, two of the regulars, Nancy and Geraldine enter. Nancy is probably my favorite regular. She reminds me a bit of St Francis as portrayed by Katzanzakis at the end of his St. Francis book - a person  simply caught up in the ecstasy of life, bold, uninhibited, wise, and at times positively embarrassing. She is as likely to burst into song, or dance around the shop, or gather us all for prayer, as make some profound point. She sports super-blond hair, is always dressed in stylish, attractive, and very flashy cloths, with shoes and hats and eye-glasses to match. NO matter what the topic, from personal life to books to news events or personal finances, Nancy has something intelligent to add. Of course, she may just follow this with a dance, or a group prayer. 

Her friend Geraldine is quiet and contemplative. She rarely has anything to say; Nancy takes the lead. Until a year or two ago, the two friends used to show up at the circle with Geraldine's dad. Like Geraldine, her dad had worked on Wall Street until retirement. He always had a very pleasant smile and an attentive eye, but like his daughter, he said little. One day I noticed that he was even quieter than usual. He seemed to be in decline. Then he passed away, and Geraldine grieved - whether at home alone or at Dunkin Donuts with Nancy ( the two friends are quite inseparable, though they live apart). It was lonely for a time at DD without Geraldine's dad. We could all feel his absence.

Today rthe topic was John Steinbeck. Nancy had read all of his books. She said her favorite was Travels with Charley. She also liked The Pearl. Geraldine preferred the Grapes of Wrath. I asked them whether they had read The Red Pony. The hadn't so I briefly outlined the plots of the four stories. geraldine wondered whether they fit together, and we discussed how they did. 

So I thought: I could spend more time with these two. I really enjoy them, and always have a good time chatting with them at DD. 

-"Hey Nancy and Geraldine, do you do Facebook?"

-" Nah, why would we do that?"

- Geraldine: " You can't believe anything on Facebook. People say they went to Hawaii. They put up those lovely pictures. How can you tell they even went? Why would I want to waste my time?" 

- Nancy: "I don't even have a computer. OR a cell phone. I don't want one. When my son wants to find me, he can call my home. But I don't want him calling after me all the time. That's why I'm always out." 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Friendship and Politics

A Difficult Political Season

Image result for friendship and politics

This election cycle has been challenging for most of us, and is has been especially challenging for friendship. I cannot remember a year when our society was more polarized, or when emotions ran so high.

In this climate it has been difficult to be both politically transparent and maintain friendships without strain. We seek friendship for many reasons (more on this below) but the common threat is that we seek to give and receive something we value - whether good feelings, companionship, opportunity, or mutual respect.

Politics, however, can occasion dis-value. I supported Senator Sanders because I wanted to endorse his campaign against income inequality. Some longstanding friends condemned me harshly - as a male chauvinist, as a sucker supporting Trump because 'a vote for Sanders is a vote for Trump.' One friend asked me who I was supporting and when I said I was supporting Sanders, she said "THAT IS SO WRONG."  Such proclamations do not add value or enhance friendships.

How to Handle Political Difference in Friendship

Image result for friendship and politics

I agree with Jefferson. Our political, religious and philosophical differences need not interfere with our friendships - though they frequently do. In the old days -before Facebook - few people knew about our political views unless we choose to reveal them - for example, by placing political signs on our lawns.  And even then, while our neighbors could not avoid them our far flung friends didn't see them. We could maintain a low political profile at work and in those social circles marked by political diversity. Today this is somewhat more difficult. Many of us choose to express our political preferences on Facebook, and this opens us to scrutiny and possible attack from all of our FB friends - which may be almost everyone we know from all walks of life.

While there is room for disagreement here, I think that this greater political openness is on the whole a good thing. If we share only with the like-minded, and in closed fora, how can we avoid stereotyping and polarization? Henry David Thoreau said that we all owe our neighbors a full dose of ourselves. If we cannot indicate our own views and our differences, how can we enter into those conversations that help us refine our views and explore and resolve these differences  - the essence of democratic life?

That said, our differences can also readily give rise to impolite and unkind statements that disturb friendships.


 What guidelines may prevent these unhappy results?

We can learn something from Aristotle's division of friendships into those of amusement, utility and character. (I'll have more to say about these different kinds of friendships in a later post.)

Amusement. People with whom we have many differences can still be great friends. We can have great fun with them. There is no need to condemn folks just because they support Trump - or Clinton - or Cruz or Sanders.  If we meet up with people at the sports bar and form a bond based on a love for the local football team, we should simply expect wide differences in our political viewpoints and ways of expressing them.

Don't take such differences personally. Enjoy these social contacts for what they offer, and don't demand more. We know so little about most friends of amusement. We don't have a clue about what has shaped their views. We often lack the contexts to deepen our understandings. And that's just fine. Do we really want to sit down with fellow rowdy sports fans and explore political, religious or philosophical viewpoints? Not often! If these folks express themselves in an ugly manner  - if they harshly denigrate e.g., racial, religious or sexual minorities - we can simply step away. Otherwise, we can just enjoy whatever differences get expressed. We do not have to appoint ourselves as moralists of the sports bar. Why pour warm beer on a good time?

A lot of our friendships on FB are casual. We enjoy many of our interactions simply because they are amusing. Some surprise us by blossoming into something more. But casual facebook conversations can surprise us by turning into flame wars. Friends of friends of friends - or even just friends - can turn into trolls, monitoring our posts and making hostile comments. These add no value. Life is short.

My policy is to refrain from making disagreeable comments on other people's posts, and warn that I don't tolerate hostile personal comments on my page. A single hostile reply to or after such a warning and the exchange is deleted and the offending person blocked. I make exception for those I have known previously; I merely add them to my restricted list so that they won't see my subsequent posts.

Workplace, Digitization, Robot, Binary

Utility. We all have to interact with people in our organizations and professional networks. We need others to lift us up, to connect us to opportunities, to cooperate in shared activities. As we age, we also need people to lift up and assist and influence in positive ways.

Just because - in comparison with our fiends of amusement - we share a lot with such people, we are almost sure to discover small, even petty differences. It can be easier to accept vast differences with outsiders than minute ones with insiders. (It may be easier for progressives to empathize with working class attraction to Trump than support for Hillary Clinton - even if they plan to vote for Clinton). University departments are notorious for nasty divisions over differences outsiders can barely grasp.

Again, the best policy is to use useful friendships for what they offer, and not demand more. Stick to broad areas of agreement and sidestep minute but polarizing differences. Find positive things to admire. Remember that the basis of the relationship is mutual aid. We all need this. Don't jeopardize it over the small stuff.

Character.  Because politics is about achieving the common good, it is inevitably about values. Our values - our beliefs about what is good and what conduces to the good - are the bedrock of our characters. Nonetheless, character cannot be identified with political choices. Our political choices are greatly over-determined. We do not think our way to them; they reflect our underlying feelings, shaped by a lifetime of experience including those from early childhood. As Isaiah Berlin argued, there is a plurality of values - no one political camp or ideology has a hammerlock on the good. There are also villains in every camp. Don't mistake political agreement for integrity.

For friendships are based on character - on mutual respect based on integrity - we should be able to have respectful and even mutually enlightening conversations across differences. We are never positioned to teach our friends how to think and act. Indeed, significant differences can test and deepen friendships of character. We can discover that our friends place a higher value on openness, respect, politeness, curiosity, affection and the desire to grow and assist others in their growth than on being right and making others wrong.

Political differences can test our friendship. When our friends act out of character - for example, showing disrespect by 'teaching' us how to act and think - they introduce tensions into our friendship. It is unwise to respond in kind. Far better to step back, express in general terms (and in private) that as adults we should respect and not instruct, and then wait. There will be time enough for a thoughtful and mutually respectful conversation - though it may be after the election season is over. Time will heal and deepen true friendships of character.
Voice Your Random Thoughts for More Magic and Sparkle in Your Life

Sometimes a random thought pops into my head as I’m interacting with someone. I used to be quite silent and keep all these thoughts to myself. However, when I began to teach high school, I remember thinking things that I barely dared to say out loud because they weren’t “standard” things for high school teachers to say. But voicing these thoughts produced such great results that I became braver and spoke more of them. I remember once saying to a student in my grade 13 Biology class, rather randomly, that I was having a rough day and maybe we should all skip class. The students very heartily agreed. We all drove off for coffee and talked about many things not related to Biology. Thus began a special bond with that class, so much so that the students invited me to chaperone their class trip, a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

Today I voiced another random thought. A new neighbor had knocked on my door. When I came over a little later with a requested item, I complimented my neighbors on the spaciousness of their home. Then I noticed that they didn’t have a dining room table and chairs and remarked about that. The husband said that it was on their list and they were working towards it. Now, I happened to know that a client of mine was taking all the furniture out of her mother’s house over the next few days. I asked this man if they would want her table and chairs and described the furniture. He said “yes.” I asked my client if she still wanted a home for the table and chairs and she said “yes.” I think that this two-minute interaction will fill a need for both parties. All this because of speaking out a seemingly stray thought. I find this kind of interaction surprisingly satisfying. If I had spoken “politely” and not mentioned the lack of furniture, none of this would have happened.

Many people do not dare speak random thoughts that could be the start of a great conversation, or could move them or others towards a desire or just make life better for them.

Why do many people fear speaking these “random” thoughts out loud?

For one, we learn socially acceptable conversations. It’s safe to say, “How are you? How’s the weather in Texas?” But those lines are a little predictable and usually doesn’t produce interesting results. It might feel a little risky to bring up a topic or speak a sentence that you don’t hear other people saying.

Growing up, we learn about taboo topics and words. But don’t worry, if you speak your mind when you’re in a happy, social mood, you will likely not offend anybody.

How can you speak more freely?
1.          - When you think something nice about someone, say it.
2.          - Practice when you’re alone. You might be surprised that your thoughts aren’t so unusual or     
3.          - Be willing to share more of your thoughts with the people around you.
4.          - Practice on everybody!
5.          - Instead of saying, “How are you?” ask any random question that pops into your head.

Friday, September 2, 2016

August Friendship Highlights

Joy and I started this project at the end of July. In August I had quite a number of ‘friendship events’. Here are some of the highlights.

Old Friends

Motivational, Calligraphy, Grunge

I asked Veronica whether our friends Rich and Lynda were around. We used to play tennis with them (they always won, because Lynda is one of those infuriatingly consistent players who never misses a shot, even though she doesn’t hit many winners).  We share many things in common with this couple. In addition to tennis, they are both walkers and gardeners. Rich has recently devoted himself to taking care of shelter dogs. We see eye to eye on politics and we are all devoted to frugal lifestyles. We always enjoy getting together. No small talk with them - we know each other, and always find current things to talk about and dig into together. I do not think that all friends need to be like-minded; indeed, it is expanding and rewarding to share with people with widely different viewpoints, so long as they are open-minded and polite - and don’t take such differences too seriously. As the Horchows say, “it takes all kinds, you form an open, welcoming conception of friendship” (principle #3).  Still, it is especially comforting to spend time with like-minded folks.   

Rich and Lynda moved to Florida last year and put their beautiful Connecticut home up for sale. We haven’t seen them since. But Veronica said she thought they might be in Connecticut and I encouraged her to give them a call. They came over and we had a nice long walk and bar-b-que dinner from our grill. Turns out that when they came back to Connecticut in the Spring to look after their home in preparation for the sale, they discovered that they still loved their home in Connecticut in the Spring and Summer, and so they have taken it off the market. I am so glad we called (Howchow principle #51 - “Keep Up with Old friends”.)

A Friend’s Photo Exhibit

Photographers, Photo, Exhibition

Our friend Maxine had a show of her photographs at The Harborview Market Cafe in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. We have a lot of friends in Black Rock, and most of them were there to see Maxine’s pics and to celebrate with her. Maxine's photos were very interesting - she has a great eye for texture and space. We also met Maxine's daughter, a professor of politics who shares an interest with me in the neoliberal university.

Loretta, another Black Rocker, was also showing her photographs - it was a joint show. I had never met Loretta. Maxine told me she was a musician. Following Horchow principle #1 (“Reach out to Those you Don’t Know”) I introduced myself. Turns out that Loretta had lived in Philadelphia and had played in several chamber ensembles there. So we had a pleasant chat, in which the subject of folk music and folk fiddling arose. Loretta told me that in addition to her violin playing, she also played the fiddle and has even taken lessons in Irish fiddling. I told her about my years as a folkie, and about our recent trip to Ireland. We agreed to get together soon to play some Irish tunes. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet followed Horchow principle #42 (“Don’t Drop the Ball“); I have not yet invited Loretta over to the house for a music play date.  

A Weekend Brunch

Roll, Summit, Croissant, Cheese, Grapes

I told Veronica I wanted us to invite some friends over for a weekend brunch. Always helpful and enthusiastic, Veronica followed through and on Saturday August 13 we welcomed Joe and MaryAnn, Frank and Susie, Suzanne, Vince, and Joy. We had also invited Maxine and Don and Paul and Lynda, but they had previous plans. Frank and Susie have just recently moved into Seaside Village. Joe and MaryAnn have now been here for a couple of years. We met these couples when they lived in Black Rock. I baked an Anadama Bread. Veronica made Russian Borscht and ‘Frose’, a wine cooler made with frozen watermelon and Rose wine that is said to be the hottest new summer drink. We planned to eat outside, but the weather did not cooperate - it was blazing hot. So we all gathered in our air-conditioned kitchen and never left. Some crowded around the kitchen table; others sat at a little side table. Worked out well.

A Fellow Wisconsin Philosopher

In July I was in the Black Rock Dunkin Donut shop on Fairfield Avenue, sitting alone at a table for four. An attractive woman came over and asked whether she could borrow some chairs, as she was planning to meet with some clients at the next table. A few days later the same woman walked into this Dunkin Donuts again. Following Horchow principle #10 (“Make Room for New Friends”) I invited her over to my table. Denise explained that was waiting for a client, so I asked what business she was in. She said she was a realtor. She added that she was also a philosophy professor at a local university. I asked where she had gone to graduate school. Turned out she went to the same grad school I had - University of Wisconsin Madison - and had some of the same teachers. Of course my jaw dropped. By the time I recovered her client had entered, so I asked her for her business card.

I made sure to apply Horchow principle #37 (“Follow Up”) and #42 (“Don’t Drop the Ball”) and sent an email invitation to meet at Dunkin and share some memories and get to know one another better. We had a nice chat. The Horchow’s prescribe #12 (“Listen Before you Speak”) and #13 (Practice Active Listening”). Some people are so open and so intent on listening that it is actually a bit difficult to heed this advice - you can’t start active listening until the other speaks, and the other sometimes doesn’t speak a lot because she practices #12. But eventually we got to the point where we could both speak and listen. Denise had gone to Brown as an undergrad and studied with some of the most interesting living philosophers including Martha Nussbaum before heading off to Wisconsin. She is a Connecticut neighbor and I hope our friendship will develop.

A Theater Piece

Theatre, Sock And Buskin, Tragedy Comedy

Veronica and I frequently go to Barnes and Nobles in Westport Connecticut on hot summer weekend afternoons to enjoy couples time and at times to talk about our lives and plans. Twice in August we were joined at our table by others in the cafe. In the first instance, we were discussing our upcoming trip to South America and a handsome woman at the next table - practicing Horchow principle # 7 (“Eavesdrop Politely”) overheard our conversation and mentioned something about her own travels. So, again following principle #10 (“Make Room for New Friends”) we invited this woman - I’ll call her ‘Shelly’ though that is not her name -  to join us. Shelly must have been a strikingly beautiful younger woman - she had ‘great bones’. Now in her 50’s - I am guessing - she is still striking.

After graduating from Princeton, Shelly went into the theatre, acting, directing and writing for the stage. She tald us about some recent experiences with a one-person play she had written and performed, and another - a musical comedy - which she was currently working on. Unfortunately, Shelly did not practice Howchow principle #13 (“Practice Active Listening”). In fact, Shelly never had an occasion to listen at all, as she did all of the talking. After a while Veronica gave me a subtle hint - a kick under the table - and we excused ourselves. Shelly asked for our contact information - “People are now holding Salon’s” she said, and told us she was planning one. Perhaps a salon is an opportunity to hear Shelly talk about her theatre experiences and perform vignettes from her shows. I told Veronica I was quite certain we would never hear from her again and Veronica gave me that ‘look’ which means something along the lines of ‘No Shit Dick Tracy"

Oriental Medicine

Bodybuilding, Man, Body, Male, Fitness

The following weekend we were back in Barnes and Nobles, discussing our South American voyage, when a distinguished looking Oriental gentleman at the next table also practiced  principle #7 (“Eavesdrop Politely”). Elliot - which I take to be a nom de plume - is an author of books of suspense for young adults. He said he would never go to South America now. “Zika” he said. “It’s not only a disaster for pregnant women. It can attack adults and destroy our brains.” Elliot entertained us with his world travel adventures and tales of authorship. His dream is to buy a large home - perhaps in New Haven to be close to the Yale University Library - and fill every room with books. He also plans to marry a woman next year and move with her to China. He said he would visit his books from time to time.

Elliot asked us what we did. When I said I was a retired professor, he said that he was also a professor - in the past he has been an adjunct professor of business at a flagship state university. He was particularly interested when Veronica told him she was a doctor and did alternative and complementary medicine. He asked whether she knew anything about Oriental medicine. When she said she knew some, he said he needed to know about treatments for male potency because he was marrying a younger women and wanted to be a ‘stud’.
Renewing and Deepening a Friendship Made During Travel

Children, Win, Success, Video Game, Play

A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend I made in Ecuador in 2014. Ruth is a computer game designer and a professor of game design. She is associated with two universities in Barcelona. We met in Quito Ecuador in 2014, when we were both featured speakers at a conference about MOOCs at the National Institute for Advanced Studies. Ruth is originally  from Mexico, but now lives in Catalonia. She travels frequently to South America. We had a great time together in Ecuador - and we shared an aspiration to do more work there. As it turned out, both of us attained ‘Prometeo’ status and then had our projects rejected.

Ruth said that she and her husband Jose - also an education game designer and researcher - would be coming to New York in August and hoped we could get together. We agreed to meet on Sunday, August 28. Veronica and I suggested that we meet at Zabars cafe, and then walk in Central Park. When we looked at our New York Top 10 Guidebook, and checked on the Upper West Side, it turns out that Zabars makes the top 10 list, along with Lincoln Center and the Museum of Natural History and Columbus Circle. I practiced my Spanish by explaining this unusual fact - that Zabars was one of the most important monuments on the West Side - in that language. Ruth, following Horchow principle #41 (“Give Compliments”) complimented my Spanish accent.

Image result for john lennon memorial nyc

Ruth and Jose had searched for the John Lennon memorial in the Park but failed to find it. Our map was a big help. We walked through the Park to 72nd Street, left to look at the Dakota - the first of the grand apartment buildings on Central Park West - and then back to Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon Monument. There we found dozens of people lined up to have their pictures taken with friends, and a young man busking - singing Beatles songs (poorly) and collecting $$ from the tourists.

We had walked almost five miles and were thirsty, so we hit a bar on Broadway, had some beer, and shared travel stories. A lively fellow then practiced principle #7 (“Eavesdrop Politely”) and joined in while we were sharing about our experiences in Portugal. This guy had just returned from Portugal, and like the rest of us, was blown away by the experience. Unfortunately, in this instance we did not practice principle # 10, and did not reach out to exchange contact information with our new friend - who had fit right in and added to a perfect end to a perfect day.  

Ruth will be visiting Brazil in September, giving seminars on game design at three Brazilian universities. She will then be going to Ecuador to do some follow up work in the provincial university of Azuay in Cuenca in October. Unfortunately, we will be leaving Cuenca just before she gets there. 

Letting Go 

I still have a few friends from my days at Temple University. Two of the colleagues who were in my department when I arrived 45 years ago remain Facebook friends. 

This year I noticed that one of these was leaving snarky comments on some of my posts. Following Howchow principle #2 ("Hone your Friendship Antennae") I realized that something was amiss. After talking this over with Veronica, I decided to say nothing, but to stay alert. Last week this colleague made openly hostile remarks on my FB. After an unpleasant private exchange, I was led to reflect on Horchow principle #67 ("Learn to Let Go"). The Horchows explain: People change. The bases for friendship dissolve. Learn to come to terms with friendships that are fading.  


So these are the highlights of my August Friendship Project. Many friends, old and new, added to my life last month. Veronica and I re-connected with old friends and deepened our relationships. We opened ourselves to some new people as potential friends. Some panned out, others didn't. I experienced one old friendship fading and am letting go to make more space for the new.