Monday, February 11, 2008
In 2005, I decided to move from San Francisco to Portland for a lot of reasons, loneliness being one of them. Portland felt smaller, slower, friendlier. I envisioned myself living in a little house with a yard and getting a dog who would take long walks with me in the gloomy Oregon rain. Surely I could live happily ever after there?
And so in between the online hours devoted to job-hunting and burrito-finding in my new city, it was dog-searching time. The Oregon Humane Society (OHS) was my favorite bookmark. I looked at the photos and profiles of each and every dog on the site—every day, sometimes several times a day. Whenever my new neighbor came by and found me mooning over the dogs, he said, “Oh geez, she’s looking at her doggie porn again.”
“But look at this one!” I pointed at my computer screen. He was an older dog, a chow chow mix with a giant, goofy head that made me laugh. His profile was equally captivating: “Leo has a big personality. He is fun loving and comical, but definitely likes things on his own terms. We expect him to bond closely with his person and be a great friend. He'll also give lots of kisses.”
I was smitten.
But also unemployed. With my savings rapidly depleting, I was afraid to get a dog until I had a job. So my long days spent trolling the Internet (and visiting Leo’s profile) continued. October rolled into November rolled into December and my online visits to Leo began to be filled with dread: would he still be there? Would someone else adopt him before I could?
On January 4, 2006, my phone rang: I was offered a job. And the next moment I was in the car, speeding to the Oregon Humane Society.
When I found Leo, he was sleeping. His back was pressed to the front of the kennel, black fur sticking out between the bars. Unlike the other dogs who rushed to greet me as I walked by, full of showmanship for the prospective adopter, Leo just snored.
I sat down beside him, afraid to touch him in his sleep, and glanced up to see a sign on his kennel: “I survived the Louisiana Flood Waters. I am a dog that has been brought from the South as part of the Hurricane Katrina pet rescue.”
I had heard that OHS was rescuing dogs from New Orleans and bringing them to Portland to find new homes for them. Yet until that moment, I didn’t know that Leo was one of those dogs. Suddenly it felt like so many tiny, interconnecting threads had brought me and this old dog together.
Leo was from New Orleans; I had lived in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina brought Leo to Portland; I moved to Portland on the very day that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I first heard of the Internet’s existence when I lived in New Orleans; it was on the Internet that I found Leo. His name is Leo; my astrological sign is Leo....
...admittedly I got a little crazy with this “interconnectedness” thing. But as I sat there next to this dog and contemplated all the quiet decisions and momentous events that had led to our paths crossing in this place at this time, I felt like we were part of a grand web.
And I knew, with absolute certainty, that I had found my rainy weather walking companion.
Friday, February 8, 2008
I first heard of the Internet in 1995 while living in New Orleans. I was in Saturn Bar, my Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood bar, sipping on a Dixie beer as this guy tried to explain what it was and how it worked. “The ‘Internet,’ huh? Lots of information at your fingertips?” I listened politely but inside I was thinking “Snooze-o-rama. Sounds like a big waste of time.”
When I moved to Portland, Oregon at the end of August 2005, a full 10 years later, the Internet had, to put it mildly, taken over the world. However, my initial impression of it had been partially correct: the Internet is indeed a gloriously easy way to waste time. How did I ever make it through a full workday at one of the boring office jobs I had held over the years without the Internet? I shuddered to think of it.
But the Internet was also a tool I couldn’t live without. Hurricane Katrina was raging in New Orleans when I arrived in Portland. I went online daily to get the latest updates on the disaster and watched in horror as the city I loved was destroyed.
I also used the Internet to jump start my new life. Apartment? Quickly found on Craiglist. Job? Eventually found on Craigslist. Directions around my new hood? Google Maps. Social life? Some assistance provided by MySpace. Tips on a burrito that didn’t suck? Citysearch. Last minute ride to that show I wanted so badly to see? Craigslist again.
I’d spent my 20s roaming around the country (Albany, Buffalo, New Orleans, Minneapolis, San Francisco) doing mostly temp jobs, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved the thrill, then, of moving to a new city, gathering the local newspapers, and piecing together the necessities of life.
But I was the ripe old age of 36 when I arrived in Portland. I was ready for some assistance. And the Internet provided—and continues to provide—just that. I found my dog on the Internet (more on him later). I found a new and far better job on the Internet, working at findingDulcinea.com, writing and editing Web guides for the Internet. I even found my boyfriend (now fiance) on the Internet.
Last night, The Fiance and I were watching All the President's Men (you know, the movie version of the Woodward and Bernstein super duo who uncovered Watergate). One scene showed Woodward (Robert Redford) surrounded by walls of phone books, flipping through each one, trying to locate a suspect. A collective “ugh” settled over the couch as we contemplated the drudgery of such a task. Snooze-o-rama.
Then The Fiance and I said, almost in unison, “Ah, the Internet!”
We love you, Internet! We love you for almost as many reasons as there are Google search results. Ok, perhaps our love isn't that cheap and indiscriminate. Just know that we love you. A lot.