Monday, May 18, 2009

Date #9: Four or Five Abreast

This date was one I had been looking forward to; I had been emailing back and forth with this guy for a couple of months and he seemed cool, aka, his world view was similar to mine. Unfortunately, since my dates with Seven, I had started to feel conflicted about the whole dating thing. While I have no problem having sex with multiple people whom I do not like in any significant way, dating several people I do like is a whole different matter. I think I am old fashioned in this way; I simply don’t have it in me to like more than one person at a time. We were to meet at Powell’s downtown and walk around the Pearl District, looking at galleries and other oddities. We were especially looking forward to going to the Mark Woolley Gallery, as, after fifteen years, it was set to close down at the end of the month.

It was a beautiful Saturday; sunny, warm, really perfect. I made my way downtown from my apartment on the edge of Gresham; it was a great ride. Then I reached the Hawthorne Bridge. I love this bridge; not my favorite bridge in Portland, that honor goes to the St. John’s, but it is in my top three, and I always look forward to crossing it on my bike. When I got there, the lights were flashing, indicating the bridge was up, so, while I could have taken an alternative bridge down the road, I decided it was worth it to wait. As I rode up the east side and over the Esplanade, I noticed the bridge was lowering again and would be open to traffic in moments. I was behind a person on a recumbent and a guy riding a bike with another bike attached to it on his left side and a cart with tools hanging out of it attached on his right. As we started to cross the bridge, I noticed a throng of people walking towards us, four or five abreast, from the other side of the bridge, many with matching shirts that either said “Team OHSU” or some crap about heart health; yet another weekend in Portland where some charity is having a walk to raise money. Perfect. Unfortunately, they did not seem to be aware of the fact that the bridge is very clearly divided into a walking lane and a bike lane. This made travel almost impossible, as most of them were not seeing us, and of course, the recumbent rider was in front, and not in the health-walkers field of vision. As we inched forward on our bikes we received glares and sometimes nasty comments from these charity health walkers. Evidently, it was okay to walk for charity and heart health, but not at all okay to commute on one’s bike in the bike lane. The funny thing was that the tools in the guy’s cart in front of me kept hitting people in the ribs and arms, and in one case, a child’s head. Yes, that is right; it was funny, as most of them had faces on them indicating that we were the unclean, right up until they got smacked by the steel bar in the ribs. As we were nearing the other end of the bridge, an older man came up to the guy in front of me and started reading him the riot act about his bike and how he was in the way, etc. When the bike guy told him there were two lanes, one reserved for bikes, the guy looked at him like he had just fabricated some story about his dog and his homework. This was when the bike guy pulled out his cell phone and started motioning to me and the pavement and the guy, basically telling him to get out of his face and keep looking down, as he was sure to see the very clearly marked “bike lane” words and symbol a few feet further down. I love people; we have no awareness of the hypocrisies inherent in our behavior; yes, let’s help these poor people with heart problems, find a cure for heart disease, go Team OHSU, while simultaneously pissing all over the people riding their bikes across the bridge because they are in the way. I guess you can always find an “us” and “them” in any given situation.
After the craziness of the bridge, riding through downtown Portland to Powell’s was a serene journey, floating through streets lined with recently emptied storefronts and contemporary building projects made mostly of glass. As I arrived I noticed that my date, Hugh, was not yet there. I scoped out a place to lock up my bike and started changing into my Doc’s from my biking shoes. I looked up and he was there, wearing a bright green retro helmet and riding a bright green retro bike. What made his bike retro? It had a kick stand. He had also just been riding through the hoards on the Hawthorne Bridge and commented that he was surprised he was still on time. Hugh was lanky with strawberry blonde hair and an air of confidence that bordered on cocky. He seemed to feel no awkwardness at all around me, even when we first met, which was a bit odd to me, as we were a Craigslist fix.

After we locked up our bikes we headed off into the Pearl District. Just ten years previous this small area had been a sketchy part of town, but had recently blossomed into the place where all the young up-and-comers lived the lives they had always dreamed of. We had not planned out our journey, so I just led us around, going to the places I had remembered there being galleries. Unfortunately, not much of what I used to know remained. It was very depressing. Finally, we went to PNCA, where there was a Font show, or rather, a show which consisted of large posters of different kinds of fonts, supposedly describing the styles of various artists. There were also posters on the walls with random common phrases, one in particular which had been so popular in the previous year’s election:
“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both”
This of course is the famous quote by Ben Franklin, which more likely referred to the Bush Administration’s failed agenda and the ability of the masses to continue to embrace it. In general I have a hard time with words in art or words as art. I feel the same way about the use of images laden with symbolic meaning such as apples, hearts, or the flavor or the moment, black birds. This type of art does not demand much from the viewer.
We left the main floor and the main gallery and went upstairs to see the student work hanging on the walls around the perimeter of the mezzanine. They all looked very much like the stuff you would expect to see at an art school; pictures which were not very interesting, but intense with the labor of their maker. Looking at this work exhausted me, as it reminded me of my own time in Art School, so we found a bench and sat down in front of a set of shape contrast studies rendered in pencil.
Hugh was a follower of my blog, and we spoke extensively about it, about number Seven, who I still referred to as such, even to him, and about Hugh’s situation, which I originally thought was complex, but quickly found was more dimensional than I had realized. While I knew that Hugh had a girlfriend with whom he had an open relationship, I was not aware that he also was seeing another woman casually. I thought it was fascinating, as I was struggling with the whole notion of liking two people at once, and here he was, very comfortable with the two people he was dating, and out on a date with a third. He suggested that I was capable of dating multiple people at once; they just had to be the right people. I was skeptical.
We decided to leave PNCA and try to find some other galleries. As we were walking down N.W. 13th, we started to pass by Cargo, and then decided to go in. Cargo is one of those places where you can buy strange items for your home from far off lands for a mere pittance. For the most part, it is run-of-the-mill, until you get to the area where there are statues, paintings, vases, and coasters, all with the likeness of General Mao on them. They were all diplomatically rendered; he looked kind and gentle in every portrait. The best part of this area were the propagandistic pieces, and of these, the most wonderful was a sculpture of a man and a woman in worker attire, carrying tools and riding a rocket ship. I loved this sculpture so much I thought very seriously about taking it home and putting it in a place of honor among my much less communistic collectibles, but alas, as I was on my bike, I really had no place to put it on the ride home, so I had to pass. We looked around a bit more, then went upstairs and found two lounge chairs and sat and talked about music. Years ago, Hugh had started a non-profit he was presently on the board of, and had run for several years. The conversation flowed easily to the types of music that we liked and what we used to like, and by some miracle, he actually liked Heavy Metal. We discussed the fall of Metallica, the eras which we were most familiar with and fond of, Iron Maiden, and of course, my beloved Motorhead. It is so refreshing to meet people with similar interests. At this point, we were both hungry, so we decided to get Sushi. We were both wracking our brains, trying to think of a good Sushi place which did not source its fish from the dreaded Reverend Sun Myung Moon. As we thought, we went into Bullseye gallery, my favorite in Portland. We looked around and then grabbed a walking map of Portland. Soon, Hugh remembered Dragonfish, so we headed off in that direction.
Dragonfish is located in the Paramount Hotel on the corner of Taylor and Park, and faces a giant hole in downtown Portland which has been in the process of being built into a great new building for the last several years. After we sat and ordered, I got my nerve up to ask him more about his girlfriend(s).
It turned out that Hugh’s long term girlfriend, who lives in Bellingham, was into BDSM. At this point in time, I had no idea whatsoever what this acronym stood for. Hugh filled me in that it stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism. Hugh’s girlfriend liked to be dominated, and evidently, it was beyond Hugh’s sexual palate to perform these duties for her. This was very good news to me, as I was beginning to think this was going to be a garden variety date. In fact, I was so pleased with this information that I actually raised my fists up and quietly exclaimed “yes!” because this information hit me as so entertaining. He went on to tell me that she in fact was coming into town the very next weekend, not to visit him, but instead to visit the couple who she met regularly to abuse her. Hugh told me he had met them recently at a gathering and commented that “they were delightful people”. This last bit of information set me giggling at the vision of the four of them standing around speaking about the weather, art and music, shortly before getting out ropes, chains and whips in order to beat his girlfriend. I made the comment that I thought it ironic that this was the way he described them, but he told me, on the contrary, it is much better to have nice people beating you, as opposed to assholes, which would make it much less enjoyable. I had to admit he had a point.
Then I asked him about the other woman he was dating. He had met her the previous Halloween at a party. He saw her on average once a week and they were very casual. It was quite the crowd we had sitting there at our table: Hugh and his two girlfriends and me and Number Seven. While Seven and I are not what you would call exclusive, I found it ironic that my feelings for him were keeping me hesitant in regards to dating others, while Hugh and his two girl friends were quite happy keeping it free and easy. It seemed I had a lot to learn about dating in the new millennium.
After we ate, we walked down to Mark Woolley, looked around, and then popped in next door to Augen gallery. Both shows were very good, and of course I had the privilege of hearing Hugh say that he is much less impressed with paintings he believes he could do himself. While I understand why people might ignorantly think this too-often-heard thought, I often wonder why it is that I have to hear it. The reality is that the making of the art is not the thing; it is the showing of the art. The ability to put something on the wall which has your guts in it takes courage and integrity which most people do not possess, and I would posit that these same people would not even make it through their first brush stroke on an empty canvas. Of course, I did not mention this to Hugh, I was not especially offended by the comment, just surprised.
After we left the gallery, we walked to Powell’s where we looked long and hard for a book on orgasms I had seen on Amazon but could not find, so instead I bought a book on Taoist health, sex and longevity which I had owned years prior but had loaned out and never gotten back. After, we went to the North Park Blocks and sat in front of a small play area and watched the kids and the homeless people converge on the swings and jungle gym in the waning afternoon sun. We started to talk about movies, and he suggested we might go to one, but to one at a second run theatre, which Portland is lousy with, where you can grab a bite and a beer as you watch. At this point I was exhausted, and was becoming increasingly wary of the looming possibility of physical contact with Hugh. I just wasn’t there. So I told him I wanted to hit the road. We walked back and got on our bikes. We rode together back out of town, and coincidently, hit the Hawthorne bridge as it was moving back into position after letting a boat through. I was telling him about the route I usually take; up Division to 164th, and both he and some bike rider dude ahead of us lambasted me for taking a less than safe route. They both suggested Clinton street, as it was much more safe, though admittedly slower.
We rode up Clinton street together, and at one point he had to remind me to slow down as he was not used to the pace I kept on my bike. He also had the very bad habit of trying to ride next to me instead of in front of or behind me. For some reason it is incredibly irritating to me when people ride side by side in this fashion. I think it has to do with my personal space issues, but I can’t be sure. We stopped where he had to turn off to go to his house. He offered to throw my bike in his car and drive me the rest of the 130 block trip to my home, but I declined, saying I was looking forward to the ride. He got off of his bike, put his kickstand down, came over and gave me a hug, told me he thought I was cool and that he would like to hang out with me again.
As I rode away, I realized I was very happy to finally be alone, riding at my own pace with the ability to go whichever route I chose.

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