For years, I’ve been complaining about the superficial nature of online friendships, my boredom with trading quips about pop culture or the ubiquitous “liking” of each other’s drunken photos on Instagram?

Real friends look at each other. They interrupt each other as they speak. There are moment of silence. There are shared cups of coffee.

But there is a major obstacle to transforming many of favorite virtual friendships into real ones.



In the eighth grade, our class had a substitute English teacher. He was a strange guy, a former hippy and a black belt in karate. Rather than teaching us anything about grammar, he told us about the U.S. military-industrial complex and the importance of “bringing it down.” Most of us had no idea what he was talking about.

One afternoon, at the end of his class, the teacher took me aside.

“I notice you read a lot,” he said.

“Yeah, I like books,” I replied.

“I’m going to give you a book that will BLOW YOU AWAY. It is my favorite book.”


He handed me a hardcover copy of this bizarre fantasy novel that, on first glance, looked rather dumb. It involved imaginary characters in a world called Middle Earth. The book was called “The Hobbit.”

If you are a long-time reader of Citizen of the Month, you now understand why my grammar is stuck in the seventh grade. I never learned grammar in the eighth grade. I spent the year reading “The Lord of the Rings.”

The Hobbit follows Bilbo Baggins as he reluctantly takes a journey from safety into a world of dragons, adventure, war, and treasure.

The book taught me a lesson — everyone must take a journey into the unknown. It is the only way to gain maturity and wisdom. I learned this in the eighth grade, and promptly forgot the advice for decades, preferring to live in safety, like the home-loving Bilbo Baggins.

I fear adventure.  You never know what God has planned for you along the way — a storm, a romance, a shipwreck, or death by eating blowfish a an exotic restaurant. And if you dare raise your fist towards God, angrily shouting, “How could you do this to me?” He will just laugh at you and say, “Sorry, Charlie, but YOU planned your own trip. It was your choice. So get off my back.”

I fear choice.  But I’m trying to change.


Every year, on the New Year, there are celebrations around the world, ringing in the new year, starting with the first time zone, in New Zealand.   New Zealand is the beautiful, mystical country where they filmed The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.

Next month, like Bilbo Baggins, I will be making a journey.  I will be travelling to New Zealand to visit my good online friend, Juli, and share a cup of coffee.

So, this year, the Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert will be broadcast from NEW ZEALAND!

The concert sign-up sheet — later in the week.

Update:  Today, Juli tried to dissuade me from taking my big adventure with this dire warning.

“There are no bagels in New Zealand,” she said.

Ha!  Like that old trick would stop me.   I’m not a sucker.  I have a secret weapon called “Google.”  — Brooklyn Bread and Bagels, Wellington, New Zealand.