Saturday, July 25, 2009

Date #19: Vegan Manner

I used to have a BFF who would lament on occasion about the typical “Portland Guy”; a man who is laid back to the point of ambivalence, a man who is so chill he is barely involved in any conversation he deigns to participate in, a man who waits for life to happen to him. Having said this, I must go on record and say I am not completely sure the gentleman who I went out with on this beautiful Saturday afternoon was truly typical, as he seemed almost paralyzed by the prospect of being written up in my blog. Several times during our roughly six hour date, he would begin to say something, stop, claim that it was not interesting enough to talk about, and stop talking. Completely. In fact, there were long periods of time during our date where neither one of us said anything at all. Initially, I attempted to fill the dead air with questions or statements, but after a while, I settled back into a contemplative calm and enjoyed the comfort of silent complacency.

I was to meet Butch at Pix patisserie on Division Street at 5:45, but arrived early, went inside and ordered a blackberry soda. I sat outside and waited for him, sipping my perfectly delicious beverage and watching people go in and out of the shop with pink boxes full of Pix’ heavenly creations. Butch arrived just ahead of schedule. As he came around the corner he looked at me, but I was not quite sure it was him as the picture he had sent me looked nothing like this guy except for his red hair. Of course the picture was blurry and he wasn’t wearing glasses in it as he was now, but either way, he was much more attractive in real life. He had a quiet, shy disposition, and I made a mental promise to try and not embarrass him during our date; a habit I have never really been too good at controlling.
As we walked down the street toward the taco cart on 50th and Division, we talked about my blog. He had read it. He seemed very nervous about it and even told me he considered not going out with me after he had accepted so he wouldn’t have to “deal with all that”. Not really the best way to start a date, but I had very recently experienced worse, and it was a very nice day, sunny, breezy, the kind of day that helps you remember why you live in Portland, and it made me feel charitable, so I let it slide. So we get to the Taco Cart and I order water and the Garbage Burrito; tons of meats, cheese, veggies, rice, salsas, and anything else they could think to throw in. Butch orders the Vegan Burrito and we sit down and wait. Butch is a very nice person. This comes through immediately in the conversation we are having. Butch is also a very quiet person. After we get our burritos, I ask him if he is a vegan. I kind of already know the answer, I mean, he ordered a vegan burrito, and really, why would you do that to yourself if you didn’t absolutely have to? He replies that he is, and this is where he really gives me an idea of the effect my blog is having on him. He tells me that he doesn’t feel like he can tell me why yet. He tells me he thinks he will be able to tell me in an hour.
When I was very young, you know, like 21, I loved short stories, particularly those written by Willa Cather. She had described a man in one of her stories simply: grey suit, grey manner. In this spirit, I would describe Butch thusly: Vegan burrito, Vegan manner. While I have nothing against Vegans in any way, I have made a few observations regarding their behavior over the years. As it is with any other religion, they attempt to live by a strict set of rules which seem to be created only to torture. No cheese? No ice cream? NO BACON?!?! Come on. That is just not humane. Additionally, their stance on consumption is in itself indicative of a perspective which is judgmental of the rest of us, though I sensed none of this in Butch. Finally, though I have not met every Vegan in the world, I have to say most of them tend to come off as a bit timid. It as if the absence of any true animal products within them has taken the edge away from their personality and left them a bit vanilla. Though I only spent an evening with Butch, and his behavior could have and probably was the result of being frightened out of his wits at what I would write about him, he displayed this type of placid Vegan personality.
I had offered to get a drink for Butch when we ordered our food. He did not accept. Unfortunately, after we started eating, he realized he was thirsty but the line was long, so I offered to share mine. At one point, he made to get in line to get himself a drink, but moved too slowly and only made it halfway out of his chair before a line formed again. We ended up sharing my water. After we finished, he suggested we leave and walk around. We walked down Division for a bit, and then he suggested we walk one block in so as to avoid the noise of the busy street. So we are walking down a side street, not really knowing where we are going or what we are doing, and we start to talk about music. I tell him my favorite Heavy Metal band of all time has to be Motorhead. He responds that he doesn’t think that Motorhead is indeed Heavy Metal. This kind of throws me for a loop, as I had always considered Motorhead to be a Metal band, ever since I started listening to them when I was very young, you know, like, 16. After several moments contemplating his comment, and fighting the inclination to jump into some kind of defensive frenzy, he admitted that he had not really listened to Motorhead so he wasn’t sure he was right. Where I come from people usually make damn sure they know what they are talking about before they speak on the topic of Motorhead, but as Butch was from Florida, I let it slide. Crisis averted, we continued to talk and eventually decided to get something to drink at People’s Food Co-op, as Butch was still thirsty from dinner.
We are in the midst of choosing a couple of drinks, discussing the advantages of living so close to a co-op (Butch lives in the area), and a woman who Butch knows happens to be there. She walks over and she and Butch nervously smile at each other and exchange “hi” and “how are yas?” looking at each other with happy anticipation. She is a slender, cute Asian woman and she does not turn her eyes in my direction once, though I am standing right next to Butch. As for our hero, he keeps looking nervously at her and then at me. I stand there not knowing whether to introduce myself or walk away. We stand there for roughly five minutes, the two of them exchanging pleasantries of different forms while looking at each other’s feet, and me, not talking, feeling stupidly awkward and trying to concentrate on the woman in the co-op with a devil’s horns headband in her hair, until she has finished her business at the counter and walks out. I decide not to mention the encounter to Butch because he still seems quite frightened about telling me anything about himself for fear that it will appear in my blog. We get outside and sit on the concrete bench in silence and begin to drink our beverages. Butch has purchased a can of Coconut milk while I have opted for the Ginger Lemon juice. A few seconds pass and Butch remarks, “That was really awkward.” I had to agree, but I said no more. Then he asked if I was okay, which was a bit surprising. I told him I was fine, that I just didn’t know if I should have walked away, if that would have been rude, or if he even liked that woman. Then he told me the story, which was a huge compliment, though the story itself was pretty typical; guy meets girl, guy and girl are intimate, something weird happens, he sends her a text, she doesn’t respond as expected, confusion and hurt feelings ensue. Unfortunately the text had been sent a day or two before, so that explained the awkwardness. I had a sneaking suspicion that my presence had helped him though. The wonderful phenomenon that occurs when a woman who has hastily rejected a man sees him with another woman is pure magic; she recalls all of the wonderful qualities that he possesses and forgets about how annoying he is. I am very sure this happened on this evening, and am even surer that when he got home that night he had a message from her waiting for him.
After about a half hour, our butts were hurting from sitting on the concrete bench, so we decided to amble. We didn’t know where we were going, but we knew our asses were sore, so we walked. Looking back, it seems as though this is how I spent most of the evening, walking back and forth on Clinton Street in southeast Portland, trying to decide with an ambivalent-at-best individual what to do next. He was pleasant enough, we had a pretty interesting conversation all in all; I just felt like he never quite got comfortable. We finally decide to go back to Pix, as we were both in need of some real beverages. Pix is very crowded and loud, so we decide to sit at the bar as Butch loved the vivid red tile it was covered with. I ordered a tea and he ordered a raspberry gelato-bubbly drinky thing (no dairy for Vegan Manner). Our waiter, Michael Rockstar, put a sparkler in Butch’s drink and asked what the occasion was. Butch replied, “Nothing,” but I shouted, “First date!” Oops. Forgot the “don’t embarrass the shy boy” promise I had made to myself hours earlier. After Butch had finished and headed off to the bathroom a bit later, Michael Rockstar approached me with a conspiratorial grin, and said, “So, do you like him?!?!?” He was so enthusiastic, and his teeth were so straight, I kinda got caught up in it. I told him that Butch was one of those people who was just really nice, and Michael Rockstar looked at me sideways and asked, “yeah, but is that what you want?” Well put, Michael Rockstar, well put indeed.
After that Michael Rockstar and I got to talking and my blog came up, and that is how I found out that he is Michael Rockstar, local singing comedic talent. We were both pretty hyped up about finding each other, and then Butch came out of the bathroom and told Michael Rockstar someone had smeared their shit all over it.
Outside, we considered what to do next. Neither one of us had any ideas. We were both still feeling like it was too early for the date to end, so after about twenty minutes of standing around wondering what to do, Butch suggested we go to a little bistro on division he had been to a couple of times called bar avignon. We grabbed our bikes and headed down. As we pedaled, he looked over at me and said I looked different. I asked if it was that I was taller, but he said it had more to do with the bike helmet and the lack of glasses. I was kind of hoping it was the height thing, but then again, I wake up practically every morning hoping I have grown an inch, so I didn’t really expect this to be the difference. When we arrived at the bar a few moments later, we found that there was no bike parking to be had, so I locked my bike up to a pole, and Butch locked his up to a series of gas meters on the side of the building.
As we walked in the woman behind the bar greeted us and informed us that a bike corral was coming soon. The restaurant was run by two very urban looking middle aged individuals who were gracious and friendly and seemed to know a lot about great food and great drinks. The woman tended bar while the gentleman oversaw all else. This was one of those places with an open kitchen, and unfortunately, we sat at the bar. I say unfortunately only because I had already eaten dinner and had passed on dessert at Pix, but everything coming out of that kitchen and right under my nose made me want to eat it all. Every plate was lovely and fragrant and full of the promise of heaven. It was too much to bear, sitting there watching the chef create all the dishes before my covetous eyes, so I caved and ordered the heirloom tomato appetizer. Butch said he did not want anything, but I pretty much forced him to eat some of mine after it arrived. I just didn’t think he should miss out on such a simple and delicious (and Vegan) treat.
We left around midnight and got on our bikes to head out. I was wearing a couple of tank tops and a skirt-short riding combo and Butch had brought along a jacket, which he had put on. As we reached the corner, we stopped to talk some more but it was kinda chilly and I was not looking forward to the long ride home. I asked Butch if he would want to hang out some time, but unfortunately, was not specific enough about what capacity in which we would hang. Of course, this question resulted in Butch informing me that he had read somewhere, (probably my blog), that you are not supposed to ask someone out for another date at the end of one, because you are putting them on the spot, and then told me about another girl he had gone out with where she had asked him and he felt awkward because he wanted to say “no”, and on and on. It was a bit funny, because I really didn’t think we were very compatible, I just wanted to hang out with him as friends, (he is a VEGAN, after all), but I also felt cold and tired, so after he explained to me that I put him on the spot, I said I had to go and rode off, yelling to him over my shoulder that I had a great time. He yelled back that he too had a good time, so I figured I could apologize later for my abrupt behavior. I just felt like I had spent all night waiting around for decisions to be made, and I was too drained to do that anymore.
The ride home was of course, eventful, as I do live in the void and must navigate through some shady parts of town in order to get there. It was a bit cold, so I tried to keep my pace up pretty high in order to keep warm, but as I rode down SE Division Street between 122nd and 164th, three things happened:
1) A Jeep Wagoneer with several teenagers in it drove by me as one young man yelled out the window as they passed, “I love vagina!”
2) A woman in an older model Chevy Cavalier hollered at me to “riiiiiiiide faster!!” so she could make a left turn out of the Fred Meyer parking lot and onto Division
3) An older, unwashed gentleman pushing a shopping cart approached me at a stop light and asked in a whisper if I had any empty cans to give him
As I stared at the gap between the old man’s teeth, it became clear to me that it was time to move out of the void. No matter how docile my date ever was, the ride to or from should not be more thrilling than the date itself. I also came to the realization that my blog was in fact getting in the way of my dating, what with staying out with Elvis too long in order to have something to write about, and now this whole mess with Butch being too afraid to speak for most of the date. This last revelation was not of much importance however, as I would soon be finished blogging and had decided to take a bit of a hiatus from dating in order to recover from this social experiment I had undertaken.

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