Volume 6, No. 1, May 1942
This is the cover of an old magazine I picked up at a flea market or estate sale. Most people who know me also know that I love detective fiction. I have read through all kinds of authors: John Dickson Carr, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Tony Hillerman, and Dorothy Sayers, to name a few. For a while last spring and summer my favorite writer of this genre was Andrew Vachss, and I read everything by him I could get my hands on.
Then, late in the summer, I met Llewellyn, and it didn't take long before he had me hooked on two new authors: Lawrence Block and Carl Hiaasen. Block has two different detective series, each with their own central character. One character, called Matthew Scudder, is very noir and bleak. The other is a far more more light-hearted sort by the name of Bernie Rhodenbarr. Carl Hiaasen does not restrict himself to the same characters, although some do show up in more than one novel. At any rate while both are very different, each one excellent in his own right and well worth a read.
One thing that makes Block an interesting writer is his books are set in New York City. In fact his character Scudder often hangs out in a place called Armstrong's on 57th Street. Llewellyn tells me that Block was known to hang around the same place, telling me it had become a perfectly acceptable fern bar. As I am in New York City often enough, the reality of stopping into such a locale becomes possible. I can't imagine someone without any interest in visiting the environment a writer fictionalized just to see it and compare it with what was written.
It was a couple days before New Year's eve and I was on my holiday break from school and decided to spend it in New York. I used to hang around on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) a lot, particularly on channel #30plus, where people tend to have frequent meetings and parties, which I rarely attend. So it turns out that JoAnn, an irc regular from #30plus, who now lives in California but has family in NYC, is actually on the east coast for a visit. JoAnn suggests a gathering of sorts to me and I agree. The only problem is it's her last evening in NYC and she wants to visit with her mom before heading west again. This means we must all meet early, which is fine by me because Amtrak trips always wear me out.
So, I pull together a list of the names and email addresses of irc associated New Yorkers who might be interested in meeting for a drink or two. Someone tells me to name a location, and after conferring with Llewellyn, we think of Armstrong's. After all it's a nice place and I want to see it, and I assume everyone else might be interested too. We send out directions to Armstrong's for us all to meet in the late afternoon, warning everyone I will be arriving via Amtrak, which we all know is never on time.
Unfortunately if you live in Massachusetts, everyone thinks you either live in Boston or not very far from it. Amtrak stops in Amherst, Massachusetts, the town where I live (located 90 miles west of Boston), twice a day. Once at 11:45 going south to New York and then later in the afternoon for the northbound train, heading to Vermont. True to its usual timing Amtrak is indeed behind schedule, departing from Amherst an hour late. The conductor assured me there would be plenty of opportunity to make some of this time up.
Meanwhile, in NYC, Llewellyn was at Pennsylvania Station on 33rd Street ready to meet me when he called the 800 information number from his cell phone and learned the train was an hour late. So, he dashed off to Armstrong's to relay the information to JoAnn and Agent99 and anyone else who planned to meet us there. But no one was there waiting, so Llewellyn hopped in his car again, driving back to Penn Station to meet me, where he learned the train was in fact an additional hour late, bringing the ETA to 6:30. By the time I disembarked got in the car and arrived at Armstrong's with Llewellyn, it was about 7:00 and everyone had left. But I walked through Armstrong's anyway and looked around asking complete strangers if they had names like "Agent99," "VidMan" and "boeing" and made some inquiries of the waitpersons. All I received in return were strange looks, and the staff seemed relieved when I left.
So this irc meeting never took place, and the next day when I got online Agent99 lambasted me for being a no-show. While I tried to explain to her the train was late she would hear none of it and essentially called me a liar because she had called Amtrak herself and the train had arrived only 15 minutes late. Of course I realized that she must have asked about the Boston train instead of the Vermonter.
This made me wonder why people select the irc nicknames they do. Sure, theses have been written on the topic of chat lines and the nicks people select, and the names I see are often curious. But if you think of the name Agent99, of course it brings to mind the old television series "Get Smart" which was a sitcom about spies. To me spies are really a specialized type of detective, and thinking back, Agent99, played by Barbara Feldon, was actually the smart one of the duo on that TV series. The real Agent99 would have had her geography right and made inquiries about the correct train. The real Agent99 would have definitely not lost her cool. The real Agent99 would not have bitched incessantly about meeting at a colorful locale such as Armstrong's.
I can only say there are much higher expectations that go along with a nick like "Agent99" and this serves as an important learning experience for those of us who actively participate in forums involving the use of nicknames:
Never select a nickname with an association you can't live up to.
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Laurel O'Donnell wisely uses the nick of "Laurel" or "LaurelO" when on irc
not requiring a comparison or insinuating similarities to anyone else
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