Ten years ago I started my own religion on the Amazon Discussion Forums. Here is the opening post on the Humoristians thread:
On Aug 20, 2007 2:18:41 PM PDT
Alph Wingoov Karen says:
I’ve decided to create a new religion. People belonging to this religion will call themselves “Humoristians.” Here are the 5 tenets:
1) You must be able to laugh at yourself.
2) You must be able to recognize how ludicrous your beliefs might appear to others.
3) You must want nothing but good for everyone, everywhere in the universe. (Editor’s note: Don’t let this one scare you. None of us is quite there, yet.)
4) You must have a natural aversion to meetings, committees, and scheduled events (as we will be having none of those).
5) You must enjoy the humor of Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, Tom Lehrer, and Jerry Seinfeld (if you’re a Jerry Lewis kind of guy, you might want to think about starting your own religion – although we wish you nothing but good).
Not long after my initial post a poster who went by the handle “Golden Oldie EK” joined our fledgling church with this comment:
Hello, nice people. I would like very much to join your church. But I do have a question. Is it okay in your religion to also love the comedy of W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Bugs Bunny, Tweetie Bird, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and The Flintstones? Will you please accept my application for membership? (Actually, when I was a little kid, I always thought they should have made Walt Disney god. I mean, after all, here was a man who made the whole world fall in love with a drunken, lying frontiersman from Tennessee, and a little, black rat that wore white gloves and shoes. Church would have been so much fun: The Virgin Snow White and the Seven Apostles; “Our Father who art in Orlando, hallowed be thy name…”)
And if I am accepted for membership, do I have to be immersed in anything?
And so began my friendship with Randy, aka Golden Oldie EK. For several years Randy and my other fellow Humoristians did improv with each other on the Humoristian thread – playing off each other – sharing our beliefs, thoughts, opinions, and lives with each other. In some ways my friends in Humoristianity knew me better than a lot of my friends in my off-line life, even though we’d never actually met each other in the person. And eventually, as the Amazon forums began closing, we all met up again with each other on Facebook, and together authored a book, The Humoristian Chronicles, about our experiences meeting each other on the forums.
Like me, Randy was a writer, and he shared his writing projects with me – looking for my editorial input – and I shared my writing projects with him. He was a wonderful support for me as a writer, and his encouragement meant a lot to me.
And this morning I learned, through a message from someone I’d never met, that Randy had died.
I needed a walk.
I went to nearby LaConner to pay my internet bill, and, after paying my bill, was drawn towards the Swinomish Channel on the west side of town. “I’m going to take you on an adventure with me, Randy,” I told my dear Humoristian friend. He’d always talked about visiting me out here. I decided today I’d bring him along with me – in my thoughts, if not in the person.
I walked along the boardwalk there, past all the touristy restaurants and gift shops. When I got to the end of the boardwalk I kept walking. I skirted an old warehouse, turned right on a side street, walked to the end of the street, and kept walking. I found myself at Pioneer Park. Stopped to check out the fish slide. And kept walking. I found a long driveway with a sign in front of it saying it was open to the public from 8:30 to 4:30, and turned onto the dirt road.
When I’d gone maybe 100 yards I passed a man coming from the other direction. “Am I walking down a private driveway?” I asked him. He told me yes, and no. It was a private driveway, but the general public had access to it. He told me that if I went further I’d come to a boatyard, and soon after that a trail that split – if I went left I’d find myself in the marshes where the hunters were shooting at birds – but if I went right I’d go on a trail that would take me to the top of a bluff and down to a beach. He suggested I go right. 🙂 I thanked him and…. yeah… kept walking.
A little further on I caught up with another walker. Like me, she had a camera with her, and I noticed her stopping along the road every now and then to take pictures. Not far beyond her there was a “boat graveyard” – weathered old boats piled up along the side of the road with blackberry vines growing over them. I began snapping pictures with my camera, and she joined me. We began talking then about photography, and the boats, and I asked her if she knew about the trail that would take me to the bluff. She did, and offered to take me there.
I’m glad I ran into her because I’m pretty sure I never would have found the trail without her – or I might have found myself on the bird marshes with bird shot flying around me – which would have made for an interesting experience, to be sure, but not the kind I needed today. We introduced ourselves to each other on the way – her name, she said, was Annabelle. She is from Paris, and works as a dance instructor and translator. As we talked we found we had friends in common – which is always fun – as well as a shared political perspective – which is, also, fun.
Annabelle led me to the bluff – which offered an amazing view of the Skagit Bay – and then down to the beach. After we snapped some pictures, Annabelle led me back up the trail and back into “downtown” LaConner – the two of us chatting like old friends the entire way.
Eventually we came to her house, where we hugged as old friends do, and I continued on my journey back to my car parked in front of the place where I’d paid my bill earlier. “How was that for an adventure?” I asked my friend, Randy. “We met a new friend today and found a new beach,” I told him.
As I drove home, with Randy still in my thoughts, I tinkered with the idea of just spending the rest of the day processing Randy’s death – trying to come to terms with it. But then I realized there was more good I could do for someone else today – I could take my Dad for a drive in the sunshine – and while I could still do some good for someone else, I might as well do it. So I put off processing Randy’s death for a little longer, and went to pick-up Daddy for a drive.
It wasn’t until maybe 3:00 or 4:00 that I finally found myself back home.
But the day – all of it, from start to finish – was just too much to process. I still can’t wrap my head around it – from the deep sense of loss that started my day, to the excitement of meeting a new friend later on. Today was just too big.
Dear friend – I brought you with me on an adventure today. We saw trumpeter swans and boat reflections, we made a new friend, and you talked with me about your latest story, and I talked with you about what I’m working on, and memories of you flashed into my head – your first appearance in the land of Humoristianity, the messages of support you sent me, your comic (and sometimes really profound) interjections on my FB posts, the night we all celebrated Obama’s win together, and the night we all realized that 2017 might not bring us the leader we’d hoped. I cherish all of the writing you sent me – I cherish your book of poems – I cherish everything you shared with me. I feel a deep loss right now. The world is not going to be the same without you in it. My FB posts are not going to be the same without your comments attached to them. I love you, brother.