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Date: 2002-02-21 15:19
Subject: Placemats
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A long time ago, way back in 1993, I got my first modem. It was a 2400 baud external and I hooked it up to my Mac LCII and did what we all did in 1993--I signed up with America Online.

I was Lori**** then and I was quite timid. I wasn't sure about this whole new internet thing. I wasn't sure where to sit, what to wear, what to bring, what kind of wine to have with chicken parm...

Well, I'm still not too sure on that last one. But I digress.

Anyway, I wandered around the aol-version of the internet for not very long before I stumbled into a message board that would change my life. Literally.

Now, you are going to laugh when I tell you what the topic was that we were discussing there, in this place that changed my life: this place was the Melrose Place discussion board. But it didn't change my life because I felt validated in my love of cheesy Aaron Spelling shows. It changed my life because also stumbling, dazed and confused, into the same board were not a few remarkable people.

We talked about Melrose Place for a while (and we talked about that other Spelling show, the one that spawned MP, the one we affectionately called ZIP) and we laughed and we made up silly drinking games and we made fun of the scripts and we lusted after the actors and actresses and we debated minutae of plot and acting ability, or lack thereof. We talked about nose jobs and boob jobs. We even fought sometimes. Although the AOL boards were pretty tame--not much flaming here--some people were rude and we didn't like them much. I got into one such battle with TVHack over my belief that she was mistreating my buddy GMBottom and her belief that I was too harsh on Tori Spelling when I called her "Donna the horse-faced girl". This resulted in Lori**** going away and CJoff being born. That is the coolest and most frightening thing about the Internet...if you get tired of being one thing, you can just be something else....

And so Lori became CJ and on we went. I don't know to this day if everyone ever found out. Some did, sure, but I am also sure that there are some people that wondered, at least for a time until they stopped caring all together, what ever happened to old Lori****.

Our AOL interaction went on for a very long time, something resembling 2 or 3 years. Along the way, bonds were formed among the regulars. But we soon began to lose people. AOL was suddenly uncool and too expensive and there were connection problems...many reasons to go, only the one reason to stay. For many of us, the only reason we stayed with AOL as long as we did was so that we could still be Placemats.

(Placemats was a term coined by one JTBug. We were referred to by this name in at least one out-of-print was very exciting!)

By late 1995, though, attrition had done a number on us. There were more Placemats gone than left. The show was awful and would not-soon-enough be cancelled. By all reasonable thinking, we should have moved on. Except we didn't.

As would be expected, some of us had corresponded offline, in various combinations over the years. But it wasn't particularly organized and it wasn't particularly all-encompassing. But then one day, Lolitacon sent a joke to about 20 of us. And someone replied to all with a comment. And someone else replied. And it snowballed.

And it's 6 years later. And we're still together.

I don't know how many messages we have exchanged over the years, because we didn't start tracking that sort of thing until the middle of 1999. I can tell you that we have exchanged 2246 emails since then. 2246. I think that's extraordinary. Now, we don't write as much as we used to. But when there are births or deaths or new jobs...or just a cool movie to recommend, there we are, still.

I will take a minute to say that I have had the extreme pleasure of being live, in-person friends with two of the folks from the list. They are amazing people and I treasure them. And to think that I wouldn't have met them were it not for Aaron Spelling, AOL and a 2400 baud modem.

So, here's to the Placemats: Alexia110 and PresBall and dbmelnick and Lolitacon and Drewben and Elizaname and GafBoy and Oscarfan and MSJ66 and Lacamille and ActonBell and Kmacp and gregs70 and Rudycat and LHamameh and JesseAaron and RepubNewt and TVHack and KarenLutz and VShea and RobinMo and GMBottom and SNFLDFAN and PSPhotog and especially to the much-missed JTBug for starting it all.