My Friend, Paul Moor
The picture at the right is the most recent one that I have of my friend, Paul. It was taken in May of 2001, somewhere in Germany where he lives now.
Paul lived in Germany from the early 1950's until the 1980s. In 1981 he decided to move back to the U. S., and in 1982 he moved to San Francisco. However, in 1995 he decided to return to Germany to live out his days because he had come to love the people and the rich cultural climate that exists in that country and in Berlin in particular.
How Paul and I Met
In the early 1990s, I began participating in an online bulletin board writer's group called ILink Writers and soon began to think of the participants in that group as friends that I had never laid eyes on. This precursor to the widespread use of the Internet was an online group that functioned by someone's calling his local bulletin board system and downloading a "packet" of messages, reading them and responding to whatever struck his interest, and then calling that same BBS back and uploading his replies. During each night BBSs all over the world would upload the messages they had received locally from folks like me to regional bulletin board systems known as "hubs," and then download the messages that had arrived at the hub since their last visit. This daily gathering and distribution of messages was sort of an electronic pony express. By this process, within a day or two messages written by someone else in another part of the world would magically appear at my local BBS where I would download them, reply and thus begin the cycle all over again. The network was known as ILink, and it consisted of about 300 different interest groups, of which ILink Writers was the one I found of most interest.
ILink Writers was a rather special group, a diverse collection of erudite individuals many of whom wrote beautifully clear and entertaining prose. The group was moderated by a psychologist from Lubbock, TX, named Sam Braudt. Under Sam's watchful eye and tactful control, the group developed a personality that included vigorous discussion and dispute on almost any subject under the sun but dispute that was civil and respectful. If someone got out of line, Sam would intervene and restore order so that disagreements didn't develop into flame wars or "hair pulls" as he called them, but participants were given great latitude to argue their point of view and disagree with the point of view expressed by others. In fact, some of those conversations became quite intense and stretched out over long periods, even months on end. Within these conversations and extended discussions the people who participated wrote very, very well. They didn't just dash off responses. They wrote them, edited them, refined them, rethought them and polished them, so that when they finally did post them, they were a joy to read. It was sort of a poor man's online Algonquin Round Table
. In this environment, one person stuck out -- Paul Moor.
One of Paul's favorite comments was "you could look it up" which he would usually say after he had just enlightened someone about something they obviously didn't know but could have known with a little research. My first interaction with Paul occurred when he replied to a message I had posted to someone else in which I had said, "As Paul Moor would say, you could look it up."
After that first interaction, Paul and I began to exchange messages occasionally on the ILink Writers message board. These occasional interactions went on for months, before I decided one Christmas eve, as a Christmas present to myself, to pick up the telephone and call Paul at his home in San Francisco, just to wish him a Merry Christmas and to hear his voice for the first time. We spoke for ten or twenty minutes. Since that first conversation, probably on Christmas Eve 1992, Paul and I have become quite close, though we have met only once. Our email correspondence has developed to the point that each year, when I archive my email messages from the year, the messages in the folder where I save our exchanges is far and away larger than any other group of messages in my email program.
I was fortunate enough to be able to accept his invitation to fly out to San Francisco in 1995 to join him at a performance of Madame Butterfly at the Berkeley Opera House. It was my first opera, and I had the good fortune to be able to attend it with Paul. We visited together for about a week on that occasion, so we finally were able to meet face to face.
The development of our friendship illustrates that the Internet has provided a new way to develop friendships, a way that results in people becoming friends without ever seeing each other. Of course, if you happen to be fortunate and are willing to rearrange your schedule sufficiently, it doesn't have to end at that.