Sunday, April 28, 2024

Notes on Visiting a Friend You Have Never Met

We have to tell each other beforehand what we look like. For example, she is wearing a purple sweater. And I say, I am the one in pink. Up to this point, all of our interactions have been online. Long emails back and forth. Several manuscripts exchanged. A handful of phone calls. At least we know each other’s voices. How did we first “meet”?

Well, that is a funny story. Once I wrote a blog post about the summer I helped paint the trim on all of the McDonalds in central Connecticut, and she commented that I must have painted the McDonalds in her town because she used to live in central Connecticut. Turns out, we grew up in neighboring towns. 

And another coincidence: she worked at the same mall, the same year I did, at the Burger King I used to go to because I worked at the steakhouse next door, and the dinners there were too pricey. What if she served me a Whopper Jr and small fries?! How small the world is. 

We became pen pals. Is that a term anymore? Ten years of writing back and forth, and now, an in-person visit, a short plane ride away. How do you jump for a weekend into—I was going to say, a “virtual” stranger’s life—except, the truth is we are not virtual strangers, we are virtual friends. Anyway, you just do it.

On the plane I read the newest book by Anne Lamott called Somehow: Thoughts on Love. The night before I’d had the chance to see her in person and I was majorly fangirling. I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s books for years. A longtime friend introduced me to her writing. Another friend is also a fan and we went to the event together. 

Anne Lamott was as funny and as smart and as inspiring as you would expect. She told us she wrote her new book because she wondered a lot about love and how we can hold onto it in an increasingly scary world. The answer is you just have to do it, giving love, as hard as that might be, to others, and possibly more difficult, to ourselves. 

My virtual friend and her husband live outside Philadelphia, and she takes me into the city. I have been there before and have seen the usual touristy sights. The Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’s House, etc. So, we hit some places off the more beaten path. A museum of illusions. A museum of art and wood. 

One of the exhibits is a wooden chair, and in front of it are all of the scraps and shavings of wood leftover after the chair was made. Why do I relate so much to this chair? Anne Lamott quotes kept popping into my head. 

The secret of life is to read a lot of books and don’t keep bad secrets.


Whatever problem you have can probably be solved by taking a ten-minute walk. 

Over the next few days my virtual friend and I become in-real life friends. We talk and talk while we take hours-long walks. We browse a used bookshop. We stroll past buildings covered with colored glass and bits of tile. We visit a nature sanctuary filled with wildflowers. At night we work on a puzzle and talk and talk some more.  

Then suddenly, the weekend is over. I feel like I have been away from home forever and at the same time, I’ve barely had a chance to visit with my friend at all. I leave the Anne Lamott book behind because I know she will love it.



  1. Excellent adventure! Good for both of you and thanks for sharing!