Sunday, March 7th, 2021

O Shopper Columns


On a recent Saturday evening, I was relaxing on our side porch with our dog, enjoying a book and watching the sunset over the Pagan River. A few minutes before eight, I went inside, poured myself a drink, sat down at my computer, and pushed a few keys. Instantly, through the magic of Zoom, I was face to face with a group of my oldest and dearest friends from my college days at Brigham Young University. We spent the next two hours, catching up on events, bantering about the state of the nation, remembering "old times at the Y"- and marveling at how quickly we had reached the age when our college days could quite accurately be classified as "old times."

It wasn't the same as sitting with them on a front porch, but that was impossible given our individual locations. One was in Alaska, two were in Los Angeles, two in Utah, one in downtown Chicago, and another in Connecticut. But thanks to technology, physical distance and time zone differences were erased. We were all together in one virtual location that had been brought into each of our homes. Having enjoyed our first Zoom "reunion" in May, we decided to make them a monthly Saturday evening event.

On this particular night, our conversation turned to how lucky we all felt to have met each other where we did and when we did. It was a time before the technology existed that made our Zoom meeting possible, a time before cell phones and the internet; when a VHS player was the latest cutting-edge device, and we had no options but to sit down face to face for a conversation. By college-age standards, our conversations were often deep.

Attending a church-owned university, most of us struggled with our common religious tradition. We often had night-long discussions on "big issues" of ethics, theology, the meaning and purpose of human existence- things to which many people give little thought until later in life. Since those days, some of us have departed our once common religious tradition, some have a more nuanced understanding of their earlier simplistic beliefs, and others continue as devout believers. But we all shared the experience of questioning, doubting, exploring, flirting with apostasy, and despite the divergent paths we have taken spiritually, that experience sealed our hearts together. Our lives at that time have become the religious tradition that we now share.

All of us also majored in the arts- theatre, film, music, graphics. Like most kids who blithely choose the arts as their major, college was something of a rude awakening. Coming from communities where we were each hailed as "the most talented," we found ourselves with other "most talented" students from around the world. To say we often experienced severe anxiety and self-doubt would be a gross understatement. But we were there for each other- encouraging, critiquing, exploring self-doubts, trying to repair poor self-images, complaining, and making peace with the oh-so-personal rejection inherent in the arts. Our chosen major was its own crucible- as spiritual as any religious struggle, as worldly as any career crisis- but we experienced it and the changes it wrought in each of us together.

Saturday evening conversations- on a front porch or via Zoom- with those who "knew us when" and saw us through times of significant change are blessings to be cherished.

Rob Lauer is an award-winning, nationally-produced and published playwright with over 35 years of experience in the entertainment industry. His national credits include production work for MGA Films, Time/Warner TV, The Learning Channel and The History Channel. Locally, Rob has been producing, directing and hosting three TV series for PCTV (the City of Portsmouth’s official channel) since 2011.