I was thinking about writing a little pean to the changing of the guard at Morning Edition on NPR. I'll miss Bob Edwards, and hearing his interview with Charles Osgood three times over (I happened to be sleeping badly, and was awake at 3:50, 5:50, and 7:50 last Friday morning) was at first a little bittersweet, and then began to grate on me. I probably should have just turned the thing off.
And now, less than a week later, I see another fixture of my life changing.
I came upon a child of god He was walking along the road And I asked him, where are you going And this he told me
I'm a child of the 80s, I can tell you where I was when Challenger exploded - much like our parents' generation who have the death of John F. Kennedy as a shared experience. This means that I'm too young to be able to speak with any authority about Woodstock, but that hasn't stopped me before.
The television show "Friends" is my Woodstock.
I'm going on down to yasgur's farm I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band I'm going to camp out on the land I'm going to try an' get my soul free
I watched the first episode of this show because I enjoyed Lisa Kudrow's character on Mad About You. I had been following a MAY newsgroup (remember newsgroups?) for a while, and some unruly kids in the back of the room insisted on talking about this "Friends" show that NBC was airing. Pretty soon, Andy Williams (not the singer) posted that you could sign up for a mailing list to talk about Friends without polluting the Mad About You discussions. I signed up, and I posted the first message to the list. The details of it aren't important now, they can't have been any more interesting than "is this thing on?", but it was innocuous, it was a distraction from a job I wasn't really all that interested in anyway.
Very, very quickly, the discussion on this list bifurcated. There were the folks that would post on Friday mornings to comment on Rachel's dress ("where would you wear that thing", someone asked. I contributed "to rule the Death Star?"). And then there were the folks who would take the conversation to the next step("that topic brought up on the show reminds me of a story from when I was subletting a huge loft from my grandmother in New York"). And thus - to steal from somebody else's newsgroup - the mailing list turned into a structure that was best described as a community first, and a TV show discussion forum second.
And this is where I draw the Woodstock parallel. If you ask someone who was at Woodstock about the music, they'll probably give you an odd look. It may be a stare off into the middle distance, trying to recollect who was even playing - dim memories made dimmer by recreational chemical engineering. But there's a more relevant reaction that furthers my metaphor, which is that they'll wonder why on earth you want to talk about the music. Sure, it was a concert, and people went there to hear music, but if it was just music, nobody would be talking about it today. It was a landmark in their social lives, and the music is now an unimportant detail. Sure, there was some good music, and you can rent the movie at blockbuster to get a vague notion of what was going on, but what happened out in the audience was far more important than what happened up on stage.
We are stardust We are golden And we've got to get ourselves Back to the garden
So, now it's years later. The time in my life where I was meeting people from the community "in person" for the first time is long behind me. The "LisaGANZA" tumbler only shows up now and then as I'm digging through rarely-used kitchen gear. The souvenirs from the show and from the community are by and large packed away, gathering dust, perhaps being eaten by moths. More often than I want to admit, I see a name that tugs at my memory, but I've lost touch and I've lost track. And yet, many of the friends I've made through this community I still correspond with. I intend to dine with several of them tomorrow night. Now and then, when I send somebody an instant message, I use the odd structures imposed by the MUSH.
NBC's being over-the-top and breathless about the cultural event that is the end of this show, and sure, that's their job. I'll watch the show, if for no other reason than because it's what I do on Thursday nights. If I don't watch it then, it'll just fill up my TiVo hard drive. And I'll be sad to see it go, but more because of what happened on this side of the screen than whatever happened between Ross and Rachel.
Perhaps you are or were part of the Zone, Nook, MUSH, BMW, the Ganzas, Bashes, or any of the other social structures that sprung up as a result of this show. Or perhaps you're reading my journal because I made a sarcastic comment in one of your friend's journals and kept reading me for whatever reason. The friendship, affection, and love that I have for you people has nothing to do with the fact that LiveJournal or the Zone, or the MUSH are electronic media. The relationships are real in spite of the random happenstance that caused our paths to cross along the way. So, when I mark the passing of the TV Show Friends, it's not because Ross and Rachel and Monica and Phoebe and Chandler and Joey were important to me, but it's because Adam and Andy and Angela and Annie and Cassie and Cath and Chrissie and Christine and Eric and Erica and Ginger and Heather and Jack and Jen and Jennie and Jon and Keely and Lisa and Liz and Lydia and Michelle and Patrick and Perry and Phil and Raven and Renee and Rob and Rog and Rox and Shae and Shannon and Stacy and Tracey and Wes and more people than I can fit here ARE important to me.
I'm surprised that I'm feeling so weepy - I'm not saying goodbye to the people that are important to me. Tomorrow, my friends will still be my friends. Thank you all for taking part in the chapter of my life that'll be measured by the duration of a TV Sitcom.