The Electronic Lover

a podcast opera by Lisa Mezzacappa & Beth Lisick

Episode 4 – Synopsis & Libretto

June 25, 2021
Lisa Mezzacappa

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Episode 4:  Miz Stacks Cuts Loose

Talkin’ Lady (Joan) and Miz Stacks (Susan) cultivate an online flirtation as Go-Go (Margot) tries to protect Miz Stacks’ secret. Margot observes the dynamics unfolding in the chatroom with apprehension, and she and Joan have a tense confrontation about privacy and ethics in the forum.

.

Narrator: You’re listening to episode 4 of The Electronic Lover. This podcast is a serialized story so we recommend listening to the previous three episodes before this one. 

T-Rex has a new lease on life as Talkin’ Lady keeps busy making dreams come true for the women in the forum. The group is bonding more than ever. We join them for a party as they have a little fun with one of their favorite chat topics. 

Susan: If we are doing another round of M.E.M., I have got the mother of them all!

Theresa: What do you mean, M.E.M.?

Joan: Most embarrassing moments, darling

Frankie: Never!

Margot: Gather ‘round, children! Stacks, please begin.

Susan: I work at a pretty small branch of the public library

Theresa: I didn’t know you were a librarian

Joan: Her handle is Miz Stacks!

Frankie: She could flip pancakes at IHOP

Susan:  Typical afternoon

A handful of solitary seniors

A few young children with their mothers

A couple of students from the community college going through microfiche

All quiet and copacetic on the western front

I was at my desk making my way through War and Peace

Joan: Oh lordy!

Frankie: Is that the embarrassing part?

Susan: I was short on sleep, and I could feel myself drifting off…

My lids were so heavy

Just two minutes

I’ll just rest my eyes for two minutes

Margot: Oh no

Susan: The next thing I know

The entire place is exploding with laughter

Loud, raucous, belly laughs

I open my eyes

And I am standing on my desk

STANDING!

Theresa: You did this in your sleep?

Susan: Sometimes I sleepwalk…

And there’s more…

As I am climbing down from my desk

With everyone still laughing

I realize what had woken me up—

Everyone: What? What was it? Keep going!

Susan: A fart. My own fart.

Theresa: Oh no!

Frankie: Hah hah hah! I’m choking! 

Joan: You’re making me pee over here!

Theresa: Oh no!

Margot: I’m literally laughing out loud!

Theresa: How awful

Susan: In my sleep I had climbed up on the desk

And let loose with a very loud fart

In the library

In the place where I work every day

Where everyone knows me

Frankie: I AM DYING

Joan: That is the best laugh I’ve had in a long while

Margot: I really needed that!

Frankie: I don’t think anyone can top that!

Theresa: Stacks, your candor is remarkable

Susan: I am working on it!

Joan: Laughter is healing, Susan. Honesty is precious.

Susan: If only I could be truly honest, truly honest about myself

Joan: What do you mean?

Susan: Too personal! Next embarrassing moment please!

Narrator: Talkin’ Lady private to GoGo

Joan: What do you think she is referring to?

Margot: You know I never gossip!

Joan: We are creating a safe space 

where women can bare all and feel supported 

Margot: Yes it’s true, of course

Joan: But we can’t allow dishonesty. It threatens our ideal!

Margot: It’s not like that

Joan: What is it then? 

She is hiding something—I will ask her!

Margot: Please don’t.

She needs to do it in her own time.

Joan: So there IS something.

Margot, you know something!

Margot: Promise not to say a word.

Stacks confided in me that she is a lesbian.

Joan:  Well that’s wonderful.

You know it’s 1984.

We should encourage her to come out.

Margot: She has her reasons

Her father is a politician

Very conservative, very prominent

Joan: Who is it? Do you know?

Margot: I have said enough, Joan

She needs our trust, Joan

Please don’t breathe a word, Joan

Narrator: And Joan doesn’t breathe a word. But a flurry of private messages starts to make Stacks wonder…

Joan: What do you think of Navratilova winning the Grand Slam?

I just saw Jodie Foster in the Hotel New Hampshire

Should I buy a Subaru?

Do you play softball?

Ever been to the Dinah Shore golf tournament?

Speaking of Joans, who is your favorite? Armatrading or Jett? Besides me, of course…

Narrator: And however ham-handed it may have been, Miz Stacks was intrigued…

Joan: Ever thought of visiting the Isle of Lesbos?

Susan: Am I reading her right?

Narrator: …because no one else had talked about being gay

Joan: Tell me about your hair

Susan: Is this what I think it is?

Joan: Help me picture the shape of your face

Susan: I wonder what gave me away?

Joan: I could read to you 

Susan: How could she have guessed?

Joan: Read to you from Emily Dickinson…

Susan: Is this really happening?

Joan: Emily Dickinson’s Letter to Susan

Susan: I love Emily Dickinson!

Narrator: And Margot was keeping tabs on this from her screen…GoGo private to Talkin’ Lady.

Margot: This is very delicate

Joan: I like it hard and I like it soft

Margot: question mark?

Joan: Just playing. Forgive me.

Margot: I mean, your flirtation with Stacks

Joan: I suppose spying is your prerogative as quote unquote community manager!

Margot: There are no quotes around community manager. 

I trust you, Joan

Joan: Have I betrayed that trust? 

What you told me about Stacks.

It stirred something inside me 

That I need to explore

Is that a crime?

Why am I made to feel like a criminal?

How would you feel if I read all your private messages?

if you thought that I could expose you?

If you knew I had evidence of everything

That everyone had said here?

Margot: That’s not you, Joan, you would never

Joan: Don’t underestimate me

That’s not who you are Joan, you don’t mean it, Joan

Joan: You don’t know what I’m capable of

You don’t…

Joan: What if I told you

That our conversations

All our silly frolics

Have been saved and stored

By me

On a floppy!

On a floppy disk!

All of it!

Narrator: It was difficult, but Margot managed to keep her cool and not lash out at Joan on the board. Could she be telling the truth? Was what she said even possible? And why would she want to save everything? Fearing for the future of the community, Margot logged off for the night and went for a long walk in the woods.

Margot: We are all walking

with ghosts

With shadows

Moonlight illuminates

The nightshade

This belladonna

A beauty with a secret

So private

So poisonous

In a play to connect

We reveal and we confide

We leave ourselves open

To regret and despair

Our thoughts

our words

our lives

become shareable

We trust

But our fates

are unknowable

The moon showers light

On the belladonna flowers

In my path

A small dose

An innocent taste

can do you wrong

The trusting fawn

On the right path

In the wrong company

Not knowing, but hoping

May be our undoing

So carefully

carefully

we go on

Narrator: Meanwhile as Margot ruminates on the direction this is all headed, Susan takes the bull by the horns and makes her move…Miz Stacks private to Talkin’ Lady.

Susan: So I was thinking 

of coming 

to New York 

Joan: Oh yeah?

Susan: And I was thinking

Would it be

Out of the question… dot dot dot

Joan: A coffee? A drink?

Joan and Susan: Dancing all night at the Limelight?

Susan: Just a get-together

Not a date or anything!

Joan: Call it what you must

Susan: I wouldn’t call it a date

Joan: I would love to meet

Susan: I was thinking

Joan: It’s not out of the question

Susan: I was hoping

Joan: Call it what you must

Susan: Dancing all night…it’s not even a date

Joan: When can I meet

The divine Miss Stacks 

in person?

Shall I send you a ticket?


*****

Episode 3 – Synopsis & Libretto

June 25, 2021
Lisa Mezzacappa

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Episode 3:  T-Rex Steps Out

T-Rex (Theresa) confides in Talkin’ Lady (Joan) about her frustrations as a disabled woman, and confesses a desire to someday meet some of her online friends IRL. Talkin’ Lady encourages her to conquer her fears and expand her horizons beyond the computer screen.

Narrator: You’re listening to episode 3 of The Electronic Lover. If you haven’t heard the previous episodes, we recommend catching up first. We’re back in the women-only chatroom where Theresa, T-Rex, has come to find her friends at the end of a tough day

Theresa: What a day.

Frankie: Word to your mother. 

Theresa: What a day.

Frankie: You said it.

Theresa: The kind of day that can only end with Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers. And me in my mukluks.

Frankie: Huh?

Theresa: A soft, woven slipper-boot native to Arctic indigenous people. My mother bought them on a trip to Alaska.

Frankie: Sounds cozy.

Theresa: I am a lonesome dove

Frankie: Oh, to have the time to be lonely!

Theresa: Careful what you wish for. Time is a funny thing…

When I awake, I feel time

The time it takes to get out of bed

Pull myself up with a grab bar

Swing my legs over and get to the edge

Hold my crutches and breathe in deep

A chair in the shower

Zip my zippers with one hand

Apply my makeup laboriously

Drive the car with a lever and switch 

I know that I’m fortunate

To have this beautiful brain

Like Ada Lovelace

At work in her lab

But I’m lonely

Way too lonely

The time passes 

so slowly

Narrator: Talkin’ Lady private to T-Rex

Joan: What is your heart’s desire?

Theresa: To say it aloud feels silly

Joan: I won’t tell a soul 

Theresa: Promise not to laugh?

Joan: Hope to die!

Theresa: This weekend there’s a gathering…

Joan: Go on

Theresa: Of friends I found in a chatroom

Joan: Wait – another chatroom? Are you cheating on us, dear T-Rex? Wink wink. Tell me more.

Theresa:  At home, I live in my screen

My feelings poured straight into the glass

I have learned who I am there

I feel like I am seen there

Joan: You are seen

Theresa: But out in the world

I am weak, I am slow

I am scared

And it’s so hard to move

From one place to another

I would like to go to the city alone

Shake hands with my friends

Put faces to their names

Joan: You can do it!

Theresa: No I can’t!

Joan: I will tell you a secret—

After my accident

Unable to walk 

I wanted to die!

I brought myself back

Promised to bring others with me

Now is your time

Precious woman

Open your door

And I will step in!

I will step up for you!

Theresa: I’m so flattered, I’m so grateful

Joan: What are you waiting for?

Theresa: Maybe next year I’ll be ready…

Joan: Maybe next year you’ll be dead!!

Theresa: What?

Joan: Seize the day before it seizes you, T-Rex!

Theresa: I think I should go now… signing off.

Joan: Question mark, question mark, question mark…???

Narrator: T-Rex is close to tears. She shuts down her computer and grabs leftovers from the fridge. Overcooked spaghetti and half a turkey meatball. But Talkin’ Lady’s words are still with her. She goes back to her office, logs back on and sends her a private message. T-Rex private to Talkin’ Lady.

Theresa: Maybe if you actually knew how I felt, you wouldn’t have made such a callous remark. I would like an apology!

Narrator: She waited one…two…three…no reply. T-Rex private to GoGo.

Theresa: I think Talkin’ Lady is being insensitive, and might need a reminder to be more respectful

Margot: Oh no, T. What happened?

Narrator: Margot reviewed the chat, but didn’t find anything that was even close to violating community standards. But Theresa was hurt and Margot tried her best to soothe her. 

Margot: Theresa, I think she was advising you to live boldly. 

Theresa: She was telling me to kill myself!

Margot: No no no no no no no no no — No! I’m supposed to keep this quiet, but Joan has been struggling to walk for months. After being hit by a drunk driver in the park. 

Theresa: I thought it happened waterskiing?

Margot: She might seem harsh, but her intentions are pure. It has been a difficult journey and she wants to help others. Cut her some slack. 

Narrator: Talkin’ Lady apologized to T-Rex and laid out her plan to help her get out to meet her online friends. The following Monday…

Joan: Howdy everyone! Why doesn’t someone ask T-Rex what she did over the weekend?

Susan: OK, I’ll bite!

Frankie: Well, what did you do?

Theresa: I think I can say without exaggeration, without hyperbole, without gilding the lily, that my entire life has changed for the better! I feel like I’m flying!

Joan: Tell them or I will!

Theresa: Very early in the morning

The dew was still on the grass

I was making my tea

When I saw a van pull into the drive

Susan: Oh Yeah? Go on!

Theresa: In that moment, I realized that Talkin’ Lady had been serious

The night before

I had packed my bag

Just in case

Just in case she kept her promise

Frankie: Uh-huh, then what?

Theresa: We drove into the city

Arrived at the hotel 

Where a transport chair was waiting like a chariot!

Joan: That was she wouldn’t have to navigate the crowds on her crutches

Frankie: Good thinking!

Susan: Yeah, good call!

Theresa: I freshened up, and picked up my registration badge—

Frankie & Susan: Registration badge?

Theresa: I was transported to the Star Trek Convention!

All: Wow! Whoa!

Theresa: I had been hearing about it for years

Frankie: You are such a nerd!

Susan: FRIDAY!

Theresa: It was a dream come true!

I met all of my Trekkie chatroom friends 

We ate burgers and chili, french toast and milkshakes at midnight 

And the hotel sheets were so soft!

All: Oooh! Ahh!

Theresa: And I got autographs from Sulu and Uhura. And…..

All: And???

Theresa: And an *interesting* man asked me out for drinks

Joan: And tell them what happened—

Theresa: I think there were sparks! I think there is romance!

Susan: So happy for you

Frankie: So proud of you

Theresa: I couldn’t have done it without Talkin’ Lady! She made my dreams come true!

Joan: And this is where the fun really starts. 

Frankie: Do you have a plan? For the guy?

Joan: You can all leave it up to me. T-Rex, it’s time to tap into your power!

Theresa: This is too much excitement!

Margot: Ladies! You have to get over to the etc. forum. Topic started by Shadow Brad is “What’s your most unpopular opinion?” Lots of giggles!

Narrator: There’s a mass exodus, and aside from a few film buffs debating the use of the sand worms in Dune, everyone is cutting loose in the etcetera forum. 

Voice: I always thought Diet Coke is way better than regular coke

Voice: I actually like wearing a condom. I have a latex fetish

Frankie: I don’t care what anybody says, Madonna is extremely talented

Susan: I fell asleep during Koyannisqaatsi ….

Voices: So boring!

Voice: Chief Justice Rehnquist is strangely sexy

Joan: This is fun! Adults shouldn’t dress up for Halloween

Margot: Cleanliness is overrated

Voice: Only sad people like astrology

Voices: Spoken like a true Taurus!

Theresa: Lobsters are the roaches of the sea, and only worth consuming as a vehicle for melted butter!

Garrison:  Sometimes I worry if this is getting out of hand!

Narrator: And just as the party was winding down for the night… Talkin’ Lady private to T-Rex.

Joan: So my dear – what do you think you will wear?

Theresa: My goodness, for what?

Joan: For your next date with him

Theresa: I’m so exhausted. 8am meeting with the boss.

Joan: And will you bring up your need for a ramp for the parking lot?

Theresa: Promise!

Joan: Remember, you deserve it.

Theresa: Okay, okay! But I’m not the activist type.

Joan: Of course you are. You’re smart and you’re driven and… 

Theresa: Joan! Can we continue this tomorrow?

Joan: I can tell you’re beautiful…

Theresa: JOAN!

*****

Episode 2 – Synopsis & Libretto

February 26, 2021
Lisa Mezzacappa

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Episode 2:  So Long, Quiet Lady

The members of the women-only chatroom begin to open up to each other about their lives, desires, and fears. Frankie is fed up with being undervalued by her male colleagues at work. We learn more about Joan’s personal journey as she emerges to become the group’s leader, confessor, and confidant. Even outside the women’s forum, everyone is buzzing with the energy Joan has brought to the online community.

Narrator:
It’s 1984 and Margot has hitchhiked across the country to become the online manager of a new internet community. A women’s only chatroom is formed and user Joan, going by the handle Quiet Lady, becomes its leader and de facto moderator. The women’s forum has been growing steadily, and now has 32 approved members.

Frankie: I just got called ‘honey’ again when I asked for a raise.

Joan: I guess it’s better than Sugartits.

Frankie: So funny I forgot to laugh. They shut me down. Even though I’m the only one who can reboot DOS.

Joan: You’ve got to laugh, you’ve got to smile.

Frankie: I’m tired of smiling…but maybe I should change my handle to Sugartits

Joan: Your wish is my command. Hey, GoGo!

Frankie: Haha, Quiet Lady. Maybe you should be… Funny Girl.

Joan: Is that a crack about my nose?

Margot: Hello! Hello!

Frankie: GoGo! We’re talking about handles.

Joan: We’re talking about handles.

Frankie: Jinx!

Joan: Jinx!

BigMac, SodaJerk, TroutMask, DimSum. Sapphire, ClimberJoe, Bagel Broad, Queen B. PolterGuy52, Innervision, Foxhound. BeastMaster36, TheRealSpicoli. TapCat, CaffeineQueen, 3DFrank, TheJuice. RockCity, WunderBarb, TigerEye, StrikerTen, Zoom02134, Pepper9, RomaRoma. StanByMe, Abacab, HighLife, TrickyRick.

Margot: GoGo was my nickname as a kid. We had a CB radio.
MarGO, Mar GO-GO. Breaker, breaker, this is GoGo.

Joan: 10-4, good buddy!

Frankie: I think there’s a bear in the air!

TheGambler, ByGeorge, GypsyG, HotTomato, Wilder16, SpanielBoy, StarBird, OpieAndy.

Joan: And you MizStacks, so mysterious!

Susan: You didn’t know that I am a vampire?

69Vette, CardShark, QuakerP, Durango, Catamaran6, TexasRosie, CedarSpruce, CardShark.

Margot: Why are you Friday, Friday? Favorite day of the week?

Frankie: It’s what they call me at the cafe. I work a double on Fridays. Seven to seven.

Theresa: I go by T-Rex. I don’t really know why, except for the T is for Theresa. My name. I couldn’t think of a better one.

Joan: Friday, you work in a cafe? I thought you worked at a printing press.

Frankie: I do both. Sixty hours a week. My only day off is Saturday.

Margot: Thank God it’s Friday!

Joan: TGI Friday!

Theresa: I like the loaded potato skins there.

Frankie:
Wanting to dream
I’m forever awake
I’m tethered

I stay on the ground
Trek straight through the sludge
No time to wander

Top of my class in high school
Calculus, chemistry, computer club
But we had no money

I got pregnant
Had a baby
My mother was sick
I took care of her

I got a job
And another job
My mom watched the baby
I brought home the bacon

I see the students from the university
At the tables of the cafe
I see them
There in the print shop
Watching them
I wonder

My daughter will have more chances
My mother will have what she needs
Still I try to imagine

Longing to dream
But forever awake
I’m tethered

Margot: Oh, Friday. You’ve built a great life.

Theresa: You work so hard.

Frankie: The men think they know more than me.
When the Commodore crashes, I am the Fix-It Guy!
And still the they explain things to me they don’t even understand.

Theresa: There should be a word for when men explain things to you that you already know!

Frankie: I’m the only woman there,
The only one with no degree.

Narrator: Quiet Lady private to Friday

Joan: I need to talk privately with you.

Frankie: Sweet, My first private message!

Joan: I feel a little shy sometimes.

Frankie: You don’t seem shy.

Joan: I think I understand you, I think I can help you.

Frankie: I just needed to vent, to let off some steam.

Joan: You meant to go to college.

Frankie: Well…

Joan: You long for an education.

Frankie: I suppose…

Joan: You wish the men at work didn’t treat you as an inferior. An object. Lesser than. Stupid. Clueless.

Frankie: I get your drift!

Joan: Uneducated. You need to let go of your hang-ups!

Frankie: I’m not sure this is a “hangup”–

Joan: You can go back to school.

Frankie: I don’t have the time. I don’t have the money.

Joan: It’s not too late to start again.

Frankie: I have too much work. I don’t have the cash.

Joan: It’s never too late…

Joan: What if I paid for it?

Frankie: What? How?

Joan: Keep this to yourself, but I am an heiress.

Frankie: A what?

Joan: I’m loaded. Flush with the Franklins. A real rich bitch. My chambermaids are here to help me dress for afternoon tea. Wink wink—Ta ta for now.… Think about it, Friday dear.

Frankie:
How would it feel?
To let my guard down
Accept the help offered
It would be nothing to her and
everything for me

To hold a degree
To climb the ladder
I can become so much more

If Joan is serious
I could untie my tether
Drop this weight
How would that feel
To change my scene
To float
To dream

Narrator: Back in the chat, Quiet Lady shows an interest in helping others as well.

Joan: Take a good hard look at your priorities!

Voice: I worry too much about other people’s opinions of me.

Joan: What do you think is holding you back?

Susan: Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of….fear?

Joan: How does that make you feel?

Voice: I worry too much.

Voice: I lose my patience too easily.

Joan: Locate your erroneous zones!

Susan: Fear of what else?

Voice: My mother’s voice is always in my head.

Susan: Fear that I’m a fraud!

Joan: Let go of useless emotions like guilt and worry !

Voice: I probably worry too much.

Joan: Break free from your past. Start living!

Voice: I could be more patient.

Frankie: Will I ever be good enough?

Joan: Heal your inner child. Get in touch with the real you.
You need to realize it’s time to self-actualize

Narrator: It seems this forum is really helping her come into her own.

Joan:
The view from my window
Eighteen thousand trees
The star magnolia knows my story
The sycamore weeps leaves for me
My oxygen, my memory

There’s a man behind the wheel
in a blackout
tires squeal, brakes skid
Look out
I am folding in on myself
Ready to disappear

I sat alone while I healed
Alone at my desk
Watched green letters flicker on a black screen

I called myself Quiet Lady
I logged in as Quiet Lady
My handle was Quiet Lady

Watching
Fingers silent, fingers stiff
Damaged inside and out
Hiding
Frightened
How could I let them know me?

But I came out of the woods
I began to breathe
I could be alive here
I could be of help here

I found friends
Women worse off than me
Without hope
Without my optimistic streak
Without my thirst for life

Alone in their rooms, alone at work, alone in their beds
{Feeling like they have no one }
I am growing out of myself

I remember who I am
A young woman
With desires. With drive. With a taste for adventure and thrills.

I was brought to the brink
But I am not destroyed
I can build myself back up
By reaching out, by looking out
My new calling is to heal

I have a new handle
I’m Talkin’ Lady
I’ve got your back
I’m Talkin’ Lady
Talk to me, and I will hear you

Narrator: And when Joan came out of her shell, everyone was paying attention.

Voices: 
I’m looking for
I was just chatting with
I would like to talk to
I sent a message to
I got a message from
Talkin’ Lady

Susan: Has anybody seen Joan?

Joan, Joan

 Voice: You call her Joan?

Theresa: I call her Joan.

Margot: She used to call herself

Quiet Lady

Susan: I heard Talkin’ Lady has a trust fund worth millions.

Theresa: Yup, It’s textile mill money.

Susan: I thought it was shipping?

Frankie: I heard Texas oil.

What do we know
What do we know about
What do we know
What do we know

Narrator: Oh! Looks like we have a rare appearance by founder Garrison Litchfield.
Handle: Buck.  Buck goes private to GoGo.

Garrison: How’s it hanging, kiddo?

Margot: Hanging high and tight, boss!

Garrison: Seventeen new users this morning. Word is getting out.

Margot: I noticed that. One from Helsinki!

Garrison: Margot, how is your women’s forum? I don’t go in there. I never peek!

Margot: It’s going strong, Buck. So energized. Bubbling over.

Garrison: You should be proud.

Margot: But I can’t take all the credit. I have so many places to be. Hats off to Talkin’ Lady. She’s taking the reins.

Garrison: Yes, I’ve noticed that. She…seems…to be the moderator now….?

Margot: With my blessing. Is that a problem? She’s a natural leader. A powerful ally!

Garrison: Okey dokey. Just stay alert. Keep your eyes open.

Frankie: I heard she was top of her class at Princeton.

Susan: I thought it was Yale?

Frankie: Word is, she built her own motherboard!

Voice: She’s a psychologist.

Voice: Psychiatrist!

Garrison: Does she have an M.D.?

Susan: The youngest female Ph.D. in US history!

Voice: She speaks French, Italian and Russian.

Frankie: Also Chinese!

Margot: She spends summers in the Basque country.

Voice: Her cat is named Paprika.

Garrison: She lives in New York City.

Frankie: On the Upper West Side.

Susan: A redhead with eyes of emerald green…

Voice: I believe she’s in a wheelchair.

Margot: Starting to take steps again.

Voice: Do we know if she is single?

Voices: Divorced?

Voices: Vegetarian?

What do we know
What do we know about
What do we know
What do we know about Joan!

Narrator:
Joan Van Horn, PhD. AKA Talkin’ Lady. Queen of the Chatroom. For Now.

*****

Episode 1 – Synopsis & Libretto

July 10, 2020
Lisa Mezzacappa

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Episode 1 (Pilot)

It’s the early 1980s, and people across the US are beginning to connect online for the first time. Internet service providers are setting up bulletin boards and chatrooms (also called forums, or “bands” after CB radio) for their customers, allowing people to discuss hobbies, politics, work, life and love with like-minded people they might never have met otherwise. Margot gets hired to be the Community Manager at a new online community. As women in the chatrooms find themselves talked over and preyed upon by men, Joan comes out of her shell and requests a forum for women only. She and Margot emerge as the leaders of a close-knit group of computer-savvy women, and bond over their newfound sense of purpose and possibility.

*****

NARRATOR:

The Scene: the virtual village square, 1984
The internet community is chatting away.

Voice 1:
In a field, in a tree, in the back seat of my mom’s car (of course), part of the venerable Mile High Club once when I was very young and very stoned. Where else?

Voice 2:
Jeez, Carly, you’re starting to get me riled up over here.

Voice 1:
Oh keep it in your pants, Moonrock. Where else? What about at Disneyland? Anybody ever do it on Space Mountain?

Voice 3:
…been laid up for a few days recovering—bike accident. You shoulda seen the other guy.

Voice 4:
That’s awful. I don’t know why they don’t put a in bike lane. After what happened to Mac, I’ll never ride without a helmet again.

Voice 3:
Lucky my skull is so thick.

Voice 5:
Both the radiator and the heater hoses are easy to change on the Malibu. Or a Torino. But to replace the fuses you’ll have to kneel down outside the driver’s side and sort of contort yourself.

Voice 6:
We both know I’m somewhat of a yogi—it shouldn’t present a problem.

NARRATOR:
Ah, the sound of people chatting on the internet!

Voice 2:
My father would start taking off his belt and hoo boy. Good old-fashioned Calvinist values!

Voice 1:
My Catholic dad did that too, and my mom never intervened. Not even when he beat me till I passed out.

NARRATOR:
But you’ll notice something is different.

Voice 3:
I first read Siddhartha as a twelve year old — I don’t think I quite got it.

NARRATOR:
Hmmm.

Voice 6:
While I agree with almost everything you’ve said here, I will take exception with one point, which is that…

Margot:
In this conference, we’re going to start putting the first response to each thread in the body of the text. And the topic header can include the number of lines so people know how long it is before they start reading. What if we put the name of the topic in all caps?

Voice 3 & 4:
All caps sounds like yelling!

NARRATOR:
This is the early ‘80s. The Net. The Web. Cyberspace.

Voice 2:
So you gonna join Ronnie and Nancy in the White House?

Voice 6:
You calling me a fascist?

Margot and Voice 4:
We don’t want a FLAME WAR.

Voice 6: (to Margot)
Margot, can you ask him to stop flaming me?

Voice 2: (to Margot)
I wasn’t flaming her!

Margot:
Hey guys, can you keep it civil? I don’t want to be herding kittens in the conference all night long!

CHOIR:
logging on
signing off
logging in
signing on
powering off
shutting down

Voice 6:
Anybody here? I had to practically strangle my daughter with the phone cord so I could get on the modem.

NARRATOR:
No wifi, no broadband, no DSL, no smart phones, no laptops.

Voice 4:
Give me your address and I’ll mail you a shot of Charlie. I got doubles made at the Fotomat.

NARRATOR:
No cameras, no jpgs, no attachments, no graphics, no video, no porn, no social media, no text messaging, no e-commerce, no bots, no trolls. No search engines. No cloud.

Voice 6:
Is anyone else awake and on the band right now?

NARRATOR:
That’s roughly: U up?

Voice 4:
Hilarious story, Nance. Hold on, I’m going to pull my lasagna out of the oven — then let’s continue this.

NARRATOR:
And that’s LOL BRB

Voice 5:
I’m going to call it for tonight. Thanks for all, Margot.

Margot:
Goodnight, DoctorFunk.

NARRATOR:
Not a real doctor.

NARRATOR:
Black screen, green type, blinking cursor, dial-up modems. Questions posed and left unanswered. Souls bared and twisting in the wind for hours.
Until someone logged on!

Voices:
Did the Grateful Dead play Deep Ellum Blues last night?
One time I was in an elevator with John Wayne.
My tips for making the perfect Béarnaise.
When should I prune my heirloom climbing roses?
Where do you live?
Are you M or F?
Are you married?

NARRATOR:
Steelhead trout, geodesic tents, the San Diego Padres, Stephen King, Thailand, AIDS, Chrysler Minivans, Specialized mountain bikes, the Apple MacIntosh, dancing raisins, fajitas, Beirut, Basquiat. Divorce. Life. On your computer.

Voices:
What do you look like?
Right now.

What color is your hair? How are you dressed?
What is your nose like? How about your eyes?
Do you wear glasses?
Teeth straight or crooked?
Where are you sitting?

Right now.
What is on the walls?
At home or in an office?
Your workplace, your home, your home workplace?
Are there people or animals around you?
What do you see when you look out the window?

Right now.
How are you feeling?
Where are you on the path?
Where are you from? Where are you going?
Where are you at?
Right now.


CHOIR:
Ones and zeroes and zeroes and ones
Ones and zeroes and zeroes and ones

*****
Margot:
In another life
I had another life

NARRATOR:
Margot Halperin had been living on a commune since 1971

Margot:
Twenty-seven babies, twenty-seven humans,
Twenty-seven alive

NARRATOR:
Don’t worry. They weren’t all hers. She was the commune’s midwife.

Margot:
Sasha, Rainbow, Jacob, Sage, Marley, Christopher,
Chiara, Anthony, Clyde, Cubby, Flower, Jose, Tinsley,
Sondra, Scout, Oliver, Annabelle, Daisy, Jeremy, Dove,
Serena, Fukiko, Aura, Buckley, Simon, Pilar

And little Nicky who died on the school bus that awful winter, and the gentle souls who left us too soon

NARRATOR:
She was the perfect person for that job. Warm, nurturing, calm in an emergency.
But after twelve years living on a rural farm…

Margot:
Growing our own food
Sewing our own clothes
Building our own homes

NARRATOR:
…struggling to make their dream a reality…

Margot:
Turnips and pole beans
Washing diapers by hand
Recycling cans to buy heating oil

NARRATOR:
A friend she grew up with, her old high school boyfriend actually, asked if she’d like to come back to civilization. Work at this company he’d founded.

Margot:
Garrison Litchfield
Picked me up for the prom
On a motorcycle

NARRATOR:
We’ll let her sit there with her reverie for a second…

Margot:
Vroooooom!

NARRATOR:
So the job had to do with computers. It was some sort of computer … thing.

Margot:
I’d never touched one
I’d never seen one

NARRATOR:
Um, a computer, she means. Garrison needed a real people person. Someone who had a track record of  helping members of a fledgling community bond with each other

Margot:
You can connect people all over the world, he said
A free exchange of ideas, he said
Soon everyone will have one in their homes, he said
It will be the great equalizer, he said

NARRATOR:
Margot said her goodbyes and hitchhiked nearly 1700 miles, a journey that took her five days. She slept under a scrub oak in Bitter Springs, Arizona, fended off a rapist in Tucumcari, and read Richard Brautigan poems aloud to the recently divorced woman named Mirvie who drove her from Norman, Oklahoma to Amarillo in a white Cadillac.
And now she’s here with us.

Margot:
Topic 161

Voice 5:
SkiffWizard stole our stories from the Parenting forum, and used them in a magazine article for which he was paid two hundred dollars.

Margot:
Topic 204

Voice 2:
KenDog has been calling Joseph M. “a little Hitler” over in Gardening. Are we going to tolerate that?

Margot:
Topic 96

Voice 2:
The Pet Board has been hijacked by people talking about vaccines again

Margot:
Topic 136

Joan:
Can we please create a forum that’s for women only?

Margot:
Topic 142

Voice 4:
Should some of us get together for a potluck this Sunday?

Margot:
I’m your crowd control
I’m the bouncer and your mother
This is real emotion coming through these wires

We must be careful with feelings
If we want our world to flourish
We don’t want lords and lurkers
No raging egos, unchecked sarcasm, misplaced anger
Rampant misogyny

Let’s talk about the rules
Let’s share a protocol
Everyone takes responsibility for their own words
Welcome to the intellectual massage that never ends

****

Frankie:
You all know I’m the one running this place while Mr. Bossman takes a three hour lunch again

Man:
You may not know the whole story

Theresa and Susan:
After six years, I think she does

Man: 
I’m just saying, as someone who runs his own business

Joan:
You know what, Timbuk4, why don’t you just listen – instead of piping up all the time

Susan:
I went out on a date last night for the first time in years

Man:
I hope he brought you flowers

Susan:
He was actually a she, and no, she didn’t.

Man:
I didn’t know you were batting for the other team.

Susan:
I’m batting for my team.

Joan and Frankie:
Wake up, it’s the ‘80s!

Man:
So touchy

Theresa:
Beam me up, Scottie!

Joan:
Rough day, huh?

Theresa:
I’m supposed to be able to park close to the entrance at work, but they redesigned the lot! I had to park so far away and I walk so slowly with the crutches.

Joan:
That should be illegal!

Theresa: 
I’ll just get there earlier tomorrow.

Joan and Susan:
This is wrong!

Joan:
Give me the number.

Joan and Susan and Frankie:
I’ll call them! I’ll report them!

Man:
Sheesh, Talkin’ Lady. You’re a real ballbuster.

Joan:
Oh, so I’m a ballbuster. And what would you say if I were a man? I’m just looking out for our pal T-Rex. Everyone needs an advocate.

Man:
Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am

Joan:
S-I-G-H

Theresa:
S-I-G-H

Susan:
Double S-I-G-H

Frankie:
Like a fish needs a bicycle

Man:
No harm, no foul.

Men:
Boys will be boys.

Joan:
I think we need a place where we can take our bras off

Man:
Go ahead, I won’t look.

Joan and Frankie:
Imagine.

Theresa:
A channel just for us!

Margot:
I can get that done.

Men:
Make sure to come visit.

Margot, Joan, Theresa, Frankie:
We need
A band
A forum
A channel
A lounge
A break room
A coffee klatch
A menstrual hut

Theresa:
I am taking my bra off

Frankie:
I am taking my face off

Joan:
I am trading my pumps for slippers

Margot:
I am pouring a glass of Cabernet

Frankie:
I am taking my bra off

Theresa:
I am taking my face off

Margot:
I am mixing a gin and tonic

Joan:
I am taking off my pantyhose

Theresa:
I am taking my bra off

Joan:
I am trading my pumps for slippers

Margot:
I am taking my bra off

Frankie:
I am mixing a gin and tonic

Theresa:
I am putting my L’eggs back in their egg

All:
We need a place to breathe
We need a private zone
We need to find our own ….
Cyberspot

A chatroom of one’s own!

Frankie:
How do we ensure
There are no trespassers

Margot:
No spies or prying eyes

Theresa & Joan: 
No assholes

Frankie:
Imagine

Margot:
I know you all
I trust you all

Joan:
She knows us all
She trusts us all

Frankie:
To explore ideas without them

Theresa:
Imagine

Frankie:
To let some steam off

Theresa:
To take my bra off

Joan:
To feel safe for once

Margot:
We can write the code, ladies
We can make it so, Joan

*****

Joan:
Bamboo

Margot:
Family: Poaceae,  Subfamily: Bambusoidae.

Joan:
Standing tall

Margot:
Guadua Agustifolia, the grandest of all

Joan:
So strong
So resilient

Margot:
Bending but never breaking

Joan:
Unadorned, solid, substantial

Margot:
And inside, hollow

Joan and Margot:
Full of possibility

Margot:
A place to fill with our own stuff

Joan:
Our hopes and dreams our aspirations

Joan and Margot:
Carved out as we wish

Margot:
Starved for a place of our own making

Joan:
These tender shoots flourish beside me

Margot and Joan:
My/Our private little grove will thrive!

Joan:
Our grove

Margot:
This room

Joan:
This room

Margot:
Could I have done it alone, Joan?

Joan:
Do you even wish to know, Margot?

Joan and Margot:
Our grove, our room
So strong, this room
So substantial
Bamboo, so resilient
Our room
Our room
Our room

Margot:
We are building something real here!

Choir:
Now let’s lock the door, let’s turn the key

Margot:
This means ladies only.

Choir: 
Indeed, we have found our spot

Joan and Margot: 
Male chauvinist pigs keep out!

Choir: 
Indeed, we have found our spot

Joan: 
I’ll protect you all,
You need only me

Margot: 
And don’t forget I am here,
My job to help out

Choir: 
Indeed, we have found our spot

Joan: 
You are worth your weight in gold, Margot

Margot: 
It was your idea all along, Joan

Others: 
Indeed we have found you both

*****

 

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