Because of circumstances beyond my control, I had to move from Mobile to this house in Pensacola in March, 1998–I simply had nowhere else to go. This was my paternal grandparents’ house. Though my grandfather had died in 1974, my grandmother was still living. But due to severe loss of blood in a heart operation, her mind was like that of a lost child. And when I moved here, this house had been vacant for a year–Grandma was in a nursing home.
I didn’t mind moving to this house, I just wished it were in Mobile. I was attending graduate school at the University of South Alabama–and between the stress of moving and my dad’s constant badgering of me to move to an apartment (he was letting me stay here begrudgingly and temporarily–he wanted to sell the house), I couldn’t finish a paper for the one required class (Theory of Literary Criticism)–thus failed the class, and failed-out of graduate school.
I ended-up staying here for good–my dad soon found he could get a tax break if he let me stay here. And I spent as much time as I could with Grandma, visiting her at the nursing home, and taking her places. She died in 1999. I still miss her–not the way she was, having Alzheimer’s-like symptoms–but the way she was before that. And I miss my grandpa even more.
In 1998, I found a Toastmasters chapter here (Toastmasters International is a public-speaking organization). I joined it, and made some acquaintances and a friend named Pat. Like many members of Monday Nite Toastmasters, Pat was somewhat conservative. And he told me about the Fox News Network. Fox News was refreshing–the only right-leaning television network amidst a sea of left-leaning television networks.
During that time, there was a lot of discussion and debate on Fox News about cellphones–especially, as I recall, on Bill O’Reilly’s show. I can’t remember whether the installation of cell towers was discussed, but I definitely remember that cellphone usage while driving was discussed and debated a great deal–specifically whether cellphone usage while driving should be legal at all.
But I paid little attention to this–I had never seen anyone using a cellphone while driving in Mobile–and I didn’t ever see anyone using a cellphone while driving in Pensacola. This epidemic of willful distracted driving had simply not spread here yet.
My first unpleasant experience with mobile devices occurred off the road–when my sister Elaine, brother-in-law Jeff, and nephews Jeffrey and Jonathan went to visit my parents in Mobile. I drove over there, to my parents’ house. Seemed like half the time I wanted to talk to these four family guests, they were using mobile gadgets–mostly texting. It made no sense to me–why would anyone go to the trouble to type-out a message when he or she could simply talk? And it hurt my feelings–instead of visiting with my parents and with me, they were texting people miles away. At one point, Elaine used a mobile device, Jeff used a mobile device, Jeffrey used a mobile device, and Jonathan used a mobile device–all at the same time. This hurt my parents as much as me. I asked my mom what their problem was–why they seemed to prefer the company of their little gadgets to us. I felt like just telling them all how rude it was. But my mom insisted I keep quiet about it–she didn’t want them to stop visiting altogether. One of the gadgets used was called a Blackberry–I had to ask what it was.
If this were an isolated case–just one family addicted to mobile devices . . . but it wasn’t. This was already happening all over America.
Back in 2000, I worked briefly at the public library in downtown Pensacola. This is where I first came in contact with digital video discs (DVDs). This was Digital-Age Technology. DVDs were quickly replacing videocassettes at the library–patrons were checking them out daily.
Then in 2004, I dated a woman who had a DVD player. She would often rent DVDs, and I would watch movies with her and her daughter. It really was amazing how much clearer the picture came in on DVD.
And several years later, my parents gave me a DVD player for Christmas. I cannot recall my first DVD, but I began amassing quite a collection, from that point.
In 2007, my word processor stopped functioning. And I resumed using my late-brother Mike’s electronic typewriter (I joined a writers’ group in Pace, and resumed my fiction and poetry writing).
During this time, my parents considered giving me a second-hand computer, so I could have Internet access (I mention having a computer before then, in a short, nonfiction piece I wrote in 2007, but I cannot recall that).
My parents had already given me a MailStation email machine. This was Digital-Age technology. I could send and receive emails with this, though I could not print them out.
I was ambivalent about my having Internet access, but so was my mom. She worried that I might get into Internet pornography. It always amuses me, looking back at this. As I would soon find out–Internet porn was not free-of-charge. And it was not practical. I had been getting soft-core porn magazines for decades. Most of these were British. I preferred the British women because they had better figures–the American porn models were underweight, often grossly so (the only exception being those in Leg Show, which is (sadly) no longer published). So why would I bother with Internet porn, when I could get my jollies from good-old-fashioned girlie magazines?
No–my mom had nothing to worry about, in the area of Internet porn. I would end up getting into those damned political forums provided by AOL instead–where I would spend hours arguing with obnoxious bastards who were as opinionated as I!
My parents gave me the second-hand computer. Now I had Internet access, via a dial-up connection. This was Digital-Age technology.
My involvement with those AOL forums ended when I finally realized that, no matter what I argued, and no matter how well I argued it–I could not change anyone’s mind.
I began reading my niece-in-law Jessica’s blog instead–then other blogs. This was a lot more constructive.
Blogs were the most misunderstood medium on the Internet–as they still are. I remember my mom saying how she didn’t understand why anyone would want to share personal information on the Internet–and my failure to understand it, as well. And it wasn’t until I began reading blogs, and commenting on blogs, that I realized they were not just public diaries. They were also venues through which people could share ideas, and get almost immediate feedback. They were even places where bloggers could get to know other bloggers–thereby forming the blogosphere, a community of online writers.
I had been keeping a personal, written journal since 1992, on spiral notebooks. But this wasn’t to be read until after my death. With a blog, I could share ideas that could be read before my death–and read by almost anyone in the world. How could I resist such an opportunity?
I asked Jessica how I could set up a blog–she didn’t just give me advice, she set up my blog for me. And for this, I am grateful to her–to this day.
And if you look in my archives, you can see that I began expressing ideas on my blog right away–with my second post, in fact (MY CREED, November 20, 2008).