Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 31st: Discovering The Yellow Brick Road

I have probably written about this before but I can't seem to find the post where I mentioned it. So I'm writing this one. 

Sadly, today is the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana Spencer. A very tragic loss of someone the world continues miss. 

But it was this world wide news event that caused me to change direction and take the first step on a different path. It would turn out to be the "broken road" that led me to the Love Of My Life.  

On August 31,1997, I lived in Easton, PA. I was working weekend mornings at a very small, 5000 watt, radio station in Bethlehem.

That Sunday morning as I was driving to work, I heard on a AM talk radio station out of New York City that Princess Diana had been killed in a car accident in Paris, France. 

Immediately I knew that this was an epic news story. Although on Sundays I didn't do much "on the air" except give the time and weather forecast in between reading the tag lines for pre-taped church and polka music programs. 

I felt that it would be important to keep the few listeners the station had informed about what the rest of the world was buzzing about. 

But I needed more information than what I heard on the radio during my commute. The only resource for breaking news the station had was a computer with a dial-up connection to America Online.   

Although I had had access to this computer during the 7 months I had been at the station; at this point I really had only a peripheral interest in computers or the relatively new AOL services. 

My cousin, who lived in Pittsburgh, had been trying to convince me to buy a computer so we could keep in touch. But a PC's purchase price and monthly fees for services, put getting one just out of my reach. 

Besides I was saving for my first trip to Walt Disney World. I had wanted to go for more than 10 years. All my focus was on getting to that goal. 

I found the password for the station's AOL account and signed on.  The sound and action that came along with accessing AOL caught my attention immediately. If you are old enough to have used dial-up service you know what I'm talking about.  

Once the home screen came up, I looked for news and information about Princess Diana. 

After I got the station on the air (it was only licensed to transmit sunrise to sunset), I gave the weather and a brief report about one of the biggest news event of the year. Then I started running the Sunday morning slate of programs. 

Because they ran 20-30 minute long, I had some free time while they aired. I decided to go back into the station's office and explore a little bit more, just what this "AOL" was all about. 

I decided to start looking for information on Walt Disney World and soon discovered the online communities known as message boards. 

Next I found chatrooms. This was the connection with other AOL users that I had been hearing about. I spent the rest of that morning typing "conversations" with people (mostly women) in chatrooms. I also delved into "Instant Messenger" a bit too. Remember this was at least 5 years before the earliest versions of social media.  

By the time I left the radio station that day, my interests had changed. I was hooked on AOL. It was the most exciting thing this guy had found in a long long time. 

Over the next couple of weeks, I became obsessed with getting online. I had some friends who had PCs and I went to their houses to use them whenever I had the chance. 

Chatrooms were where a guy like me (who had not ever been very confident or successful when it came to talking with women) could be as charming and flirtatious as I wished I was in person. 

By the time my birthday (2nd week of September) came around I had changed direction in regard to my goals. 

The Wonderful World of Disney, which still seemed so far away both financially and geographically, had been replaced at the top of my "list." My savings were now earmarked for the purchase of my first personal computer. 

By the time November came around, I was sitting at a desk in my own apartment eagerly awaiting the high pitched screech of the modem to connect me to my new playground.

AOL's instant messenger became my best friend; connecting me with family, friends, and strangers who soon became friends. For better or worse it was my obsession. 

It was just a couple of weeks later that I "clicked" into a chatroom that had become one of my "regular hangouts."

Someone with the screen name, Oz's Magic "G" was showing up on the list of chatroom participants but not contributing to the banter that zipped vertically up the monitor's screen. Her online profile stated that her "real" name was "Glinda." 

Assumed those names were references to L. Frank Baum's classic tale about Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. A book I knew very well. I searched my wit to come up with something that would get her attention. 

I sent her a private message with, what I thought was a provocative question: "Can you help me find the yellow brick road?"   

That question, sparked my first online conversation with the woman who is now my wife. 

The journey from that first question to our walk down the aisle took 5 years. It is a detailed and amazing story that took place along a twisted uneven road that ultimately led us to our "Forever Love". It's too long to write about here. Maybe one day I'll put it in a book. 

The whole reason for my writing this post today is to point out that August 31, 1997 is the day that a tragic event halfway across the world, took me to a place that eventually changed my life. Each year I make sure that acknowledge this. 

Like a soft autumn breeze moving a fallen leaf, the events of that day blew me in a different direction that turned out to be the beginning of the best years of my life. 

So while the "Candle In The Wind" burned out much to soon, for me it will always be a reminder of how I discovered "The Light of My Life". 

By the way, in another aspect of serendipity, my wife and Diana were born on the exact same day, July 1, 1961. 

Thanks for letting me share this. It's one of my life stories that led me to Kentucky and my greatest blessing, my marriage to Paula. 

That does it for August. See you in September with another edition of the RHFactors blog. 

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