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Love and Lust get all the headlines, but the Internet also encourages camaraderie, as DEBBIE KRUGER found out when she joined a mailing list devoted to the Eagles
I have travelled to meet online friends and lived to tell the tale. But forget Internet love or lust here: I'm talking about real, palpable camaraderie.
We began as a community of people linked by a common interest in this case a rock group and grew into friendships that now make my geographical distance seem so much greater, despite the fact that they are only a modem switch away.
When I hooked up to the Internet just over a year ago I headed straight for music sites. Hitting on the many Eagles Web sites, I was in heaven. The most impressive was L&M's Eagles Fastlane, and with a click of the mouse I was sending an e-mail to L&M in McAllen, Texas.
Lisa and Melissa, it transpired, were the uncrowned queens of Eagles fandom, with not only a comprehensive and most witty Web site, but a snail-mail fanzine, The Wasted Times.
Through their encouragement, I not only found myself a subscriber to the Eagles mailing list (thereafter receiving up to 100 e-mail posts a day on topics ranging from Don Henley's songwriting talents to Timothy B Schmit's long hair), but I joined the elite in the eagles chat room on IRC.
There I instantly attained star status when I shared my tales of meeting the Eagles and attending the group's 1995 Sydney press conference. L&M (known as Ivyrain on IRC) became the nucleus of my growing circle of chat-room friends.
The two women are teachers in a small town on the Texas-Mexico border, and their various Eagles activities fill up what they admit are otherwise mundame lives. I immediately connected to their irreverent style, wacky humour and self-deprecation.
They like to present a united front in the chat room it really doesn't matter whether Ivyrain is Lisa or Melissa, for they speak as one yet over time I detected two distinct personalities and grew extremely fond of each of them.
I shared some "meaning of life" discussions with Linda, a happily married woman still yearning for some great life-changing experience (a meeting with Joe Walsh or Don Felder would suffice).
Sharon in Alexandria, Pennsylvania, known as Eaglette in the chat room, started confiding in me about her online love affair with another Eagles cyberfan, Rob. He lives in Adealide, and we had met for a drink in Sydney last Christmas, so Sharon wanted my input.
Before long Sharon and I were leaving Eagles discussions aside and having long chats about the respective men in our lives. When mine died suddenly in April, she was there for me in a way many of my friends at home were not.
And there were many others with whom I chatted, sharing views on the Eagles, relationships, religion and the weather as the months passed by, Photographs were exchanged, tapes and videos were traded, and soon a network from Australia to the USA to the UK and Europe was firmly in place.
So my latest overseas trip included plans to meet online friends.
In London, Boston and Los Angeles, Eagles cyberfans awaited, and L&M started hunting for a cheap airfare to McAllen, Texas, for me. I phone them when I arrived in San Francisco, and we talked like old friends, which Isuppose we were.
"We will meet up somehow," I promised them.
But first I hop over to London, and there visit Darren and Wendy, who contribute regularly to the Eagles e-mail list and publish a bi-monthly fanzine about the history of the band, called Natural Progressions.
Darren takes his Eagles very seriously. He is a Baptist minister, but looks more like a '70s rocker, clad in black jeans, black shirt and black leather vest. Darren's Eagles fanaticism is academic and reverent, and there is an edge of rivalry between him and L&M, although Darren denies it vehemently.
Darren and Wendy have many other interests in music, sport and, of course, the church, and I marvel at their productivity.
But looking outside the windows of their drab south London house at their drab world outside, I could understand their indoor obsessions.
I fly to Boston to visit Emily, a sensitive and intense woman who has sent me numerous e-mails leading up to my trip, describing in the most minute detail the layout of her apartment, the intricacies of her plumbling system, etc.
There isn't much time for seightseeing, as it happens, We are going to New Hampshire to see Joe Walsh. Annette (Earlybird in IRC) has flown in from the Netherlands. her Web site, The last Resort, is second only to L&M's Fastlane in detail and entertainment value. But her fanaticism has a military-like precision about it.
She is on the east coast to follow Joe Walsh's solo tour for two weeks, and while she is happy enough to meet her online friends, her priority is seeing Joe, meeting Joe, photographing Joe and talking about Joe endlessly.
Linda has flown in from West Virginia as a surprise, and I am thrilled.
Vicki, a sharp-witted woman from Manchester, New Hampshire, joins us the day after the Joe Walsh concert for a pilgrimage to Walden Pond (Don Henley's favourite environmental cause) and then back to Emily's for dinner and gossip on Our Boys. Vicki has contacts in the group. She knows lots of "stuff." She is also obsessed with Glenn Frey, and her great ambition in life is to obtain a good photograph of Frey's butt.
That aside, Vicki is marvellous company.
But Annette's Joe fixation is rubbing off on the others, and I am starting to wonder why it is that five women from different parts of the world are together and cannot talk about something other than the Eagles.
I hook onto Emily's computer and find L&M online. "Please," I beg them, "if I come to see you in McAllen, can we talk about things othe rthan the Eagles sometimes?"
They laugh in response. "Of course!" they promise.
To Los Angeles, and a meeting with Erin, known as Nestling on IRC. She is married with a young child, but doesn't let that hold her back. She went to the Eagles fans' convention in Cleveland in July, and drags her amiable husband around to golf courses where Glenn Frey plays in celebrity tournaments.
L&M have not been able to find me a cheap fair to McAllen. At first I am devastated that of all my online friends they are the ones I am destined not to meet, but I soon realise that it doesn't really matter. Out friendship has grown stronger regardless.
And now I am home again, in Byron Bay, and they are still online, but they feel so far away. I rarely have time to surf Web sites anymore, and the Eagles e-mail list seems inane and tedious compared to the topics discussed in private chats and e-mail.
I have sifted through the masses and found the people with whom I wish to pursue closer connections. Sharon is back in Pennsylvania, licking her wounds after a month in Adelaide with Robm which didn't quite turn out as she had hoped.
Emily e-mails me from Boston, promising more sightseeing next time I visit. And my gang of L&M, Vicki and Erin are sitting there most days waiting for me to join them for the latest chat session.
And if my amour in LA doesn't write or call (he loathes e-mail), then at least my dear friends will be just a click away to tell me what a bastard he is.