Sunday, August 9, 2009

One-Hundred Per Cent

The initiation of this project was my response to my parents dying, my marriage ending, and my fear that I was closing down emotionally. I had situated myself geographically (the void) where I could easily prepare for a sort of social death in a humorless apartment with my two awful cats, close enough to work to not have to travel too far in ice or snow, and far enough away to get some exercise. My neighborhood, if you can call it that, is filled with young families with far too many children, young, under-educated people trying to strike out on their own, and very old people who seem happy enough to patiently observe death approaching. My proximity to the shooting range behind my apartment and its steady stream of gunfire is an unvarying reminder that I have settled for a life which is a preparation for death. Fortunately, inhabiting the intermittent quiet of complacency was not as easy as I had imagined; I could not watch death approach as the older people could, and it seemed that to my surprise, I would choose life, via the Craigslist dating boards.
Many of my friends warned me that this would not be safe or even effective, but I was in a place where I felt I had little left to lose. Two of the three people in the whole world who had to love and support me had just died, and I had left the other with the break up of my marriage. The men I chose to date forced me to dig deep and remember who I was, and more importantly, who I might want to be. The dates gave me a reason to travel outside of the void, to travel outside of my comfort zone, and to remember me.
While many of the people I dated were not my type, it didn’t matter, in fact, I actually learned the most from those who were in some way jarring or surprising. There is a certain rush that comes with having one’s world view questioned by an almost complete stranger: Initially, you write off the question with judgment, obviously the person who questioned you is an idiot. But, after several days pass, and you are no longer forced to look the fool in the eye, you reconsider, and you begin to realize how tenuous your belief system is. On several occasions, my dates would lament the fact that it was so hard to find “someone like me”. While I certainly shared their sentiment, I started to question the logic. If I grew more when I was with people who were different from me, if I was able to question my world view because I was exposed to an individual who saw things differently, how was this of lesser value than being with someone who only served to fortify a belief system which could do with some healthy questioning time and again? Why, if I am to believe that I am a stable person, can I not endure the proximity of someone who is different from me? Is this my real fear, that I am wrong?
People travel the world to find themselves, to interact with individuals from different cultures, to eat food that is foreign to them, and to live in a way that takes them out of their comfort zones. I wonder though, if that isn’t a “safe” way to meet people. If, by traveling thousands of miles to interact with people who are different, you aren’t subliminally sending yourself the message that they have less to do with you than the guy across the street who plays his awful music too loud on the weekends. Is it the geographic proximity of strange that keeps us from being open to them? Is the real fear that I will find out that I have more in common with the couples with too many kids and the old people waiting to die than I want to admit? What would happen, if instead of judging people I have the inclination to write off, I gave them and myself an opportunity to know each other?

I thought I wanted to be in a place where I would stop questioning my actions and motives, but what I realize is, much like getting used to the death of a loved one, I must get used to the questions that contradict my world view. It is the opposite of the social death I had planned for myself when I moved to the void, and a path that might show me that instead of having people in my life who have to love me, it might feel just as good to have people in my life that want to love me.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Date #20: Not a Moment Too Soon

The final date of my experiment was to be a momentous one. I was to take my date, Clark, to Live Wire!; a local vaudevillian radio show which occurs monthly at the Aladdin Theatre and airs on OPB. The people who run the show offered us a dinner beforehand at a little place across the street called Tastebud Farm and the opportunity to read our first date Haikus during the second part of the show. I was a bit tentative because one of my previous dates had set this opportunity up for me, and I was feeling a bit guilty because I had not behaved in a sane manner in my dealings with him. Additionally, I was filled with feelings of excitement and remorse about this, my final date. I was very happy to be close to being finished and also a little sad that it was ending. My experiment had been like a close friend over the past several months, and the work it provided me would be missed. I was already trying to come up with something else to write about, but had to this point come up empty.
It was a very warm and beautiful Friday, and Clark and I had decided to meet a bit before dinner in order to alleviate some of the nervousness we were both feeling. Of course, I arrived even earlier to freshen up, but found that I had left my wallet at work. I knew that the show was paying for everything, but I felt like I should have money and ID with me just in case something came up. I called a friend of mine at work, asked if she would bring me my wallet, and she happily agreed. While I waited in front of the restaurant for her to bring it by, a bunch of police showed up with dogs. Walking up and down the street in their dark uniforms, they all looked very uncomfortable and serious in the heat, and I wondered briefly if I should be worried, but instead just made a mental note to hit the deck if I heard gun shots or explosions.
My date showed up before my friend did with my wallet, so we had a very pleasant introductory conversation before we actually went in to the restaurant. About ten minutes later, my friend showed up with my wallet, and smiling, wished me luck as she drove off in her purple Camaro. I think almost anyone would agree that a person who would go out of her way to bring you your wallet on a Friday afternoon is a very good friend to have.
Once Clark and I sat down and ordered, we had a chance to talk and relax a bit, but I found myself distracted by his earnest demeanor. He was so attentive and so focused on me, it made me a bit nervous, which of course made me call into question my whole idea of what I think a good date should be. Ironically, it created a situation where I was a bit more distracted than usual with the inner dialogue I was having with myself about how fucked up I am about whether a guy is paying too much attention to me, meanwhile not paying enough attention to the guy who was conversing with me in earnest. Even after 20 dates, I had still not perfected, (or even close to perfected), my dating skills.
Clark was wearing a purple undershirt which showed just a little bit above the collar of the green button down shirt he was wearing, and I think he might have had a purple handkerchief in the pocket of his shirt, but I can’t be sure. He looked a little bit like the actor Jeremy Northam, but without the annoying English mannerism that makes you wonder just how many statements a person can conceivably turn into questions. Clark also had curly Brown hair, a very nice smile, and a very fit body; all in all, a pretty good looking guy.
Early in to the conversation he told me that he made maps for a living, so I asked him if anyone ever sang the map maker song to him. He of course said no, so I then began singing the map maker song to the tune of the Matchmaker song from Fiddler on the Roof. He laughed and then corrected me, telling me what the actual words were. It is always such a shame when someone mistakes my humor for ignorance.
Clark was also big into bike riding, and asked a bunch of questions about my bike. It was difficult for me to answer however because my wasband was the one who got me into the whole bike thing and had built my bike for me, so I know very little about my or any other bike. Bike guys are always really disappointed when I tell them I would rather do something besides ride my bike for a date, but I figure, I ride my bike to and from work every day, I rode my bike to get to the date, why would I then get right back on it while on the date? The novelty has long gone out of it and you might just as well be asking me if I would like to do something like take a car ride for fun.  Oh, yeah, that was date number five.
The food at Tastebud Farm was very good; we had a wood fired pizza with Mascarpone cheese and Peaches on it, and to top it off, a very nice bottle of white wine. The wait staff was also great, our server was interested in my experiment and when I told her that I was looking for something else to write about, she suggested I write about riding different Portland City bus lines from one end to the other each week. I considered it briefly, there are some crazies on the busses, but I decided against it, anticipating the exhaustion that would come from a single bus ride across town.

Soon enough it was time to go to Live Wire, so we made our way across the street and into the Aladdin. As we walked in, I noticed several people dressed as Pirates, which I thought was strange until I remembered that Captain Bogg and Salty, the Pirate band, was playing during the show that night. I don’t get Pirate culture, and thusly do not appreciate it. This is mostly because I used to live near Cathedral Park and for one or two days every summer, the place was overrun with Pirate families doing Pirate things in a very Pirate-y manner. Why? I don’t really know. It seems like the whole Pirate thing is a one liner, but then again, I have never stopped to ask because I don’t care.
As Clark and I made our way into the seating area of the theatre, we looked around to find someone who could tell us what we were supposed to do. This was when someone mentioned the name “Firiel”, a name which rhymes with cereal, and because of its unique nature, indicated to me that I knew yet another person on the Live Wire production crew in a strange and slightly uncomfortable way. Firiel was the ex-girlfriend of an old fuck buddy I had when I was in art school, who also happened to be my roommate. They met while he and I were active, and our “relationship” ended when they started dating. There had been no hard feelings, I liked Firiel very much. I just began to wonder if I might need to move to a new town because of all of the strange ways I was running into people from my past.
After we were told what to do, we sat down and talked a bit until the show started. Of course, the show kept us from talking for the next three hours, so realistically, not the best idea for a first date, but the show was great and I could tell that Clark was having a good time. We were both a bit nervous about our Haikus, but it was pretty easy to forget about them. The host, Courtney Hameister, was hysterical and the musicians (even the pirate band) were awesome. Additionally, the author on the show, Jessica Anthony, read a bit of her work which prompted me to buy her book, The Convalescent, the next time I had the money to do so.
By the time we got up on stage, I was pretty tired. We waited in the wings for roughly 15 minutes while Courtenay interviewed Angus Maclane, animator for Wall-E and Up. He was very funny, which was great, because it helped distract me from the fact that I was about to go on stage and read a mediocre Haiku to what seemed to be an educated audience. I had written three Haikus and taken a line from each one to make the one I would read. All in all, not the best Haiku, but I was exhausted:
Socially awkward
You are not a complete tool
I date way too much

Clark wrote something about being on Live Wire being a time to applaud. Before I read my Haiku, Courtenay introduced me and asked me a few questions about my experiment. I read my Haiku, then, a very strange thing happened. A huge painting fell on the head of the guy I had dated earlier in the experiment. He had been sitting on a stool to my left on the side of the stage, and it just fell on him, immediately after I finished reading. It was bizarre timing, made even more bizarre by the fact that he had been my 13th date. Was there no end to the torture I was going to subject this poor man to?

After the date, Clark and I attempted to go to a bar down the street to decompress, but there was a bunch of drunken middle aged people there singing Karaoke, and it was difficult at best to not be effected by their stupor. At this point in the night, I was starting to feel sick, exhausted, and like I had just puked all of my emotional life force away. Clark could tell I wasn’t feeling well and told me that he found me attractive, but in a tone that sounded a bit like a consolation, and he immediately said it didn’t sound the way he had wanted it to, which made the whole situation even more awkward. I told him that I would like to go out with him again because I didn’t really feel like this had been a very good date on my part, what with the exhaustion and being so distracted for most of it, not to mention publicly broadcasting that he “wasn’t a complete tool” to the audience and whoever else during the show.
In a certain way, this was a perfectly anti-climactic date for what had been an arduous journey. Almost everything surrounding the date, from my wallet issue to the strange acquaintances I had on the show, to the weird scene at the trashy bar at the end of the night, overshadowed the event itself. Of course, I have deep, lingering questions. I still don’t know what I am looking for, I don’t know if I am even ready for a relationship, and I am wondering if I shouldn’t be considering a move soon in order to tap into an entirely different dating pool. But, like any good social science experiment, the research has unearthed new data which has furthered my understanding of how I interact with people and the benefits these interactions can bring. I am happy knowing I was able to make infinitesimally small steps towards knowing myself and other people a little bit better.

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.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Date #18: Why Didn't I Leave the Building?

I was to meet Elvis at the Tin Shed on Alberta on a blazing 94 degree Friday afternoon. I left work early enough so I could get to the Community Cycling Center before I was to meet him at 4. I arrived at the bike shop drenched in sweat and was happy to enjoy its air-conditioned splendor. I immediately found what I was looking for and proceeded to the counter where I stood and waited for roughly 15 minutes while everyone who worked there pretty much ignored me. I wish I could say this is a strange experience in Portland, but, alas, it is not.  Getting someone to help you while shopping or eating is a miracle, and frankly, the basis of my theory behind the success of Nordstrom’s.  As it was so hot, the lack of service did not really bother me, and I was contented to be cool and inside, so I stood there as inconspicuously as I could and hoped I would go without notice for a few delightfully arctic moments longer. Eventually a young woman came out from the back room and rang up my purchase. I headed out to my bike and realized I was only a few short steps away from the Tin Shed, so I walked my bike down and locked it up out front, next to a tiny tricycle which was attached to the bike rack with a U-lock.
The Tin Shed is notorious for being busy all the time, so I was relieved to find no line out front. I found a spot in the shade and had the dimple-cute waitress bring me a Bloody Mary. I sat there and waited and watched people and listened to the Prince CD being blasted over the sound system. I had planned on changing back into my work clothes from my bike clothes, but I figured it was useless at this point; I was a mess. After a while, the waitress asked if I would be ordering dinner soon. It was 4:15 and Elvis was nowhere to be found. I told her that if I was still alone at 4:30, I would be ready to order food. I had begun to believe he was not going to show, but, five minutes later, Elvis swaggered in. He apparently did not realize he was late, because he made no mention of it, let alone apologize for it.
He sat down across the table from me, barely looked at me, and ordered a gin and tonic. He was very soft spoken, and between this and Prince blaring over the speaker system, I had to ask him to repeat himself every few sentences. He was a handsome and extremely fit 29 year old who grew up in rural Colorado and was having a hard time finding as he said, “People like me” to hang out with. Evidently Portland was just a little too liberal for Elvis. Then he asked me if I was a liberal. In my experience this is never the beginning of a good conversation, so I just said “I guess so” and changed the subject. It was very painful at first trying to pull conversation out of Elvis. He was not good at making eye contact and he mumbled quite a bit. I did get out of him that he was in school for Optometrist Technology, which he had recently discovered did not suit him at all. He seemed unhappy; he did not smile much nor was he very animated. He also had an annoying habit of staring at my arms. But, the Bloody Mary was delicious and the food I ordered was fantastic; a plate of veggies, lentils and rice called Baby Beluga. I decided to remain cautiously optimistic. The Tin Shed is one of those places which allows its patrons to bring their dogs in with them, so the whole time Elvis and I were eating, there were dogs on either side of us staring at us or our food as we ate, or trying to get in to the bus tub full of dishes, and surprise of all surprises, were not listening to their owners directions to “stop bothering the poor people”. I love dogs. I miss mine terribly, but this is fuckin’ ridiculous. Yes, I realize it is my choice to sit in a dog-friendly atmosphere to dine, but why is it that the owners of these creatures cannot teach them to not drool in other people’s laps? Just as it is with children, it is with dogs; if they are annoying it is the fault of the people raising them. At least with children they understand you when you tell them to go away.
After dinner I was at a bit of a loss; nothing very interesting had come up and I was not sure how much more I could take of this. Then, to my surprise, he actually looked at my face and asked if I wanted to do something else. I figured I had better, or this was going to be a very short and very boring blog entry. He suggested we walk up Alberta and find a cool place to sit and drink away from the animals. I grabbed my saddle bags and we walked down the street. As Elvis swaggered beside me, it was obvious that he was very aware of how he looked, and carried himself like he knew that people were looking. It was a bit ridiculous, so I asked him if anything was wrong. When he asked why I replied that he was carrying himself very stiffly, as if he were in pain. He responded that he wasn’t, and I got to laugh hysterically to myself at what a self-absorbed prick he was revealing himself to be.

Just a block down we stumbled on to Every Day Wine, a great little wine bar neither one of us had ever even heard of. We went in and sat, and started drinking. Heavily. Of course, no wine bar would be complete without a Chutes and Ladders game, so as Elvis and I sat and drank roughly three bottles of wine between us, we played. Elvis loosened up quite a bit with more alcohol in him, but unfortunately, it did not make him any less of an asshole. In fact at one point in one of the many games we played, he reached over, grabbed my hand and forcibly cracked all of my knuckles. When a guy’s first touch is some painful maneuver like knuckle cracking, rope-burning, or hair pulling, it is a red flag of monumental proportions, unless you are into the whole BDSM thing.
Into about our third or fourth game of Chutes and Ladders, my arms were feeling quite conspicuous so I asked him why the hell he kept staring at them. His incredulous response was that my arms were very buff and he could not stop looking at them. I argued a bit about this point, but then he took a photo of me with his phone and showed it to me. I didn’t know if I was more pissed off that he was right or more pissed off that I knew it was beside the point, but then he followed it up with the unbelievable, “how come you haven’t noticed my long eyelashes yet? Everybody I have ever gone out with has.” This flag is deep crimson; the back handed insult followed by the request for a ridiculous compliment. It is a classic, and is usually used by women. Run far, run fast, and if it helps, scream as you go.
After he had beaten me at several games of Chutes and Ladders, he decided to pick up the stupid-ass Trivial Pursuit cards and start asking me questions. By some strange twist of fate, I got almost every single one of them right. This was when he told me that he suspected I had been playing dumb all night as I was proving to be a genius at Trivial Pursuit. This friends, is the definition of an asshole. This is a man who cannot show up for a date on time, can barely look you in the eye but has no problem staring at some random part of your body all night, walks down the street with the presence of an arrogant one-hit-wonder rock star has-been, takes his first opportunity to touch you with a series of painful squeezes to your fingers, asks why you have not complimented him, and then, when you prove to be walking around with a brain in your head, finds a way to insult you for it. If I had had my boots on I would have kicked him in the shins.
It all went down hill from there. I know, unbelievable, but true. Suffice it to say that one of his closing comments was to inquire “what I would be writing about him in my blog that no one would be reading”.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Date #17: So Close I Can Taste It

This date was to have happened a few weeks prior, but due to scheduling difficulties, he pulled out in a somewhat last minute fashion. Usually this is a tactic which indicates the date will never happen, but in Ike’s case, it was not. So we planned to meet at a café on SE Division Street called Café Pallino. He had sent me a link to his Facebook page to look at pics of him. Pretty run of the mill as FB pages go, though one thing did stand out; he appeared to be a Christian. He had a link to an “Amazing Grace” video on his page and some quote about being “moved to the core of His love and mercy.” It freakin’ kills me when religious people capitalize personal pronouns. As I am not at all religious, nor do I believe in god, I thought this might be a fun date, not in a torture-the-poor-helpless-spider kinda way, but fun in the way that perhaps a discussion on religion could bring about some kind of public scene. I am a fan of public scenes, especially when I am involved in them.
An unseasonably warm day in Portland led me to an unwise wardrobe decision; I wore a v-neck white t-shirt for my bike ride into town. This may sound harmless, but sadly, as I am a woman, and I must lean forward in order to ride my bike, wearing a v-neck exposes more of me than I would prefer exposed. Unfortunately, this epiphany came a bit too late in the journey to turn back, so I endured an entire bike ride wearing my v-neck, and watched as men passing in the other direction leered and pointed me out to their friends. The good news is that I didn’t see anyone I knew.

I arrived at Café Pallino just ahead of schedule and to my happy surprise found they had gelato. Of course, lately it seems that there is either a chocolate or gelato shop popping up on every corner of our fair city, but after the ride I had just endured, I needed comfort and that comfort came in the form of a delightful and tiny dish of peanut butter chocolate gelato. As I ordered this and a bottle of water from the seemingly pissed off but attractive young girl behind the counter, I looked around and recognized that this place was attempting the Italian café thing. Italian ceramic platters were hung on the wall behind the counter, and the furniture was very minimalist in nature; muted tones and simple lines. The large windows and hard surfaces guaranteed that the café would be loud, but the crowd was decidedly quiet, a number of students with their noses in books and a couple of individuals with their noses in laptops.
I chose a table on the far side of the café, sat down and waited for Ike to show up. It was nice because I had not brought anything with me, like a book or a laptop, to keep me from feeling like I was waiting for someone….alone. It is always at this point on all of my dates where I am waiting and thinking, “it is way cooler to not have anything, but it would have been great if I had brought that book, but really why do I need to look preoccupied? Who am I trying to impress?” It goes on and on like that until the guy shows up. Of course, I still had lingering remorseful thoughts regarding Seven, so I had those to keep me company as well. A piece of advice: Do not write publicly about break-ups unless you want to talk about them incessantly with people you barely know. I wish I could count on my hands how many times I had to have the “break up with Seven” talk with the many people I know who read my blog, but I would need at least two more sets of hands to accomplish this task.

I was very glad to take a break from the voices in my head when Ike showed up. He was dressed all in denim and was carrying a motorcycle helmet and a duffle bag. He was mouth-wateringly sexy for a Christian guy; tall, dark, very well built, and as he turned to go and get a cup of coffee from the pissed off girl at the counter, I noticed he had quite an arse on him as well. Oh Christian men, why must they drive me insane with passionate frenzy? Of course, I decided to stay the course and try to bait him into talking about The Lord. I figured that would probably more interesting than having sex with him anyway.
Ike was typical of Harley Davidson Motorcyclists in one remarkable way; he sounded as if his voice box had been dragged over rocks for a week and then left out in the hot sun to ferment for several days afterward. Deep, raspy and loud, Ike’s voice reverberated off of every surface in that café and turned its former quiet atmosphere into one of strained anxiety, all the café’s inhabitants left waiting for the next bellowing comment or question from his lips. Unfortunately, I thought it would be a good idea to speak more quietly, thinking that maybe he would get the hint and tone it down. This strategy unfortunately had the opposite effect and for some reason caused Ike to speak more and more loudly as the date went on. Additionally, Ike also liked interrupting. I did not have much of an opportunity to bait him into a religious conversation because I could barely get a word in.
Happily, this was a very short date. We had just enough time for me to learn that he lived in a trailer in Hood River and had been married to a Barbie Doll for several years before she cheated on him. I had to wonder if she too was a Christian, as this is one of those endeavors which once undertaken, are supposed to send its participants to Hell. This is one of the many great things about being an atheist; I don’t have to go through the motions of giving a damn about participating in supposed aberrant behavior which is innately human. I am pretty sure this is what the movie Free to Be You and Me is all about.
As I rode my bike over to Reggie’s later that afternoon, I happily noted that this dating experiment was almost over. While this particular date was not a revelation, (yes, I said it), the experience of putting myself into forced social situations has given me a stronger sense of self, which is not to say that I am more confident, just maybe more confident in my special brand of insanity. In any case, I could almost taste what was sure to be sweet victory at the end of this long and winding dating road; fruity deliciousness with a bit of a bite to it. At least that was how it tasted the last time I was victorious.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Seventy Five Per Cent: Intention and Forward Progress

As I am nearing the end of my dating experiment, an idea keeps being tossed in my general direction and begs to be explored; how intentional are the choices we make when we are choosing someone to date or partner with? This may sound quite like an obvious question, but looking back over my life, I have come to the realization that I mostly chose people who just happened to be attracted to me. As one of my dates recently described it, he ended up dating girls who “fell into his lap” in bars. Very rarely did I stop and think, “Is this person good for me?” No, I basically would find myself so overwhelmed that someone actually liked me or that someone told me I was special, that all reason and deliberation was thrown out the window.

Surveying the last 16 dates I have been out on, I can say, without any doubt in my mind, that this is not the most intelligent way to pick a romantic interest. If I were operating the way I have always operated, I would be dating people I don’t even like, just because they happen to be handy and are willing participants. I also have to wonder why this is such a revelation and if people reading this think I am a complete numbskull for not having realized this sooner. I mean, I am freaking 40 years old for the love of Isis. I am not stupid. Why has it never occurred to me to think about what is best for me?

The reality of this epiphany, of course, is that the dating pool has just gotten much smaller. In fact, I would say it has been diminished by at least two thirds. So then you have the other item up for examination: Do people in general, viewing the depressingly small dating landscape, end up dating out of desperation? Is it wise to be with someone just to avoid being alone? My experience tells me it is much lonelier to feel alone when you are with someone than when you are not. At least when you are alone there is no deliberation over what is for dinner, or what movie to see, or what to do this weekend. There is no argument over who will do the dishes, walk the dog or take the garbage out.

Then comes the next and in my mind, most inevitable of questions, after we have been through so much and sacrificed and worked at relationships that have ended badly, how then do we open ourselves up again to new and exciting experiences, when our tendency is to narrow our possible choices? Assuming that our dating interests over the course of our lives are pyramidal in shape, what happens when we all find ourselves at that teeny tiny point? Do we fall off? Or do we live our lives going from one one-night-stand to another? When I speak with people about this aspect of dating, the same argument is always presented: “I don’t want to grow old and die alone.” Well, both my parents had a myriad of partners over their lifetimes, and all it ever made them, from my perspective, was miserable, the only people there for them when they died were their children, (which makes that no child decision of mine a bit more pertinent), and when you die, you are alone. Additionally, fear-based decisions are often the most fool hardy, the present unpleasantness in Iraq being a shining example of this fact.

There was a point after my parents died and my marriage ended that I was worried I would always end up picking the same kind of people to be in relationships with; those who needed to be the center of my universe and needed me to give up my hopes and dreams in order for me to live my life with theirs. Now, I am worried that I will never want to be in a relationship again because my definitions have changed significantly; that I will not find someone to be with because either he or I are being so choosey that one of us will pass the other up. Is this situation now better or worse than the one I was in before? At this point the question is mute, because there is no going back, but is it what you would call progress?

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Date #16 Inevitably Unintentional Part Two

I had decided before this date began that it was much more like a continuation of my first date with Fred than the beginning of a second. Yes, very thinly rationalized in order to ameliorate my feelings of guilt and angst, but I figured, I was close enough to finished with my experiment to justify it, so, why not?
Fred picked me up at roughly six thirty at my apartment complex. As I got into his car he commented that he liked my “summery outfit”, which seemed a strange compliment, but I thanked him and let it go. The concert started at eight, so we had just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat and make it to Reed on time. Fred drove a great little red MG which he had purchased when he was 16 or 17, and had been working on ever since. The top was down, it was a beautiful evening, and we were going to a symphony where I was planning to stomp on Fred’s guts. Ah, life.
As we neared the Sellwood area, I suggested a little place called Stickers Asian Cafe, a place I had gone to with my wasband on our way to a performance of the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus at Reed several months before. Fred parked the car just west of the restaurant and we went in. Stickers is one of those places which is an amalgamation of many different types of restaurant; Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, all fairly good, all reasonably priced. I ordered some lamb kabob dish and Fred ordered the Pad Thai. I was sitting so that Fred would have had to make quite an effort to touch me; my feet were tucked up under my butt and my back was pressed firmly against the booth and hopefully out of the reach of Freddy fingers. The dinner went rather smoothly until I noted that Fred was leaning forward in his seat. I tried to ignore it until after a short but awkward silence; I finally had to ask, “What?” Fred replied that he was just struck by my beauty or some other such nonsense, which caused me to roll my eyes and push even further back against the booth. He seemed dejected and muttered, “Wow, great response.” I could only reply that he had caught me off guard and did not sound very convincing. He offered that he had meant it, though he admitted to sounding a bit sarcastic when he said it. What a delightful pair we made.
We ended up arriving in plenty of time for the concert and found the snack/wine/beer/dessert stand strategically placed outside of the concert hall. He offered to buy me a glass of wine or a bite of dessert and I replied in the negative, citing fullness and lack of comfort as my reasons. I was becoming more and more annoyed as the touching had recommenced after we had arrived at Reed. We went in and found our seats, which were located quite near to the stage. He began touching me again, and at this point I felt it was my responsibility to tell him about my personal space bubble and how irritating I found his touch. He told me that he would respect my wishes and stop touching me, but when a large man found his seat next to mine moments later, Fred grabbed the arm of my chair and pulled it closer to his, telling me that he was concerned with the other man touching me.
During intermission, I texted Reggie; I was planning on riding my bike over to his place after the concert. Intermission occurred quite late, but I was hell bent on getting over there that night.  Our meetings were happening regularly and had become more and more of a physical necessity as time had passed. After I finished texting I went outside to find Fred sipping on a plastic cup of red wine. “Are you sure you don’t want any wine?” Fred was beginning to strike me as more and more of a nudge as the night went on. He seemed to not want to take no for an answer on the wine issue, which only made me more stubborn on the matter. After the concert was over, he asked me several times how he was going to kiss me if I would not allow him to touch me. It seemed like the perfect opportunity, so I told him that I wasn’t at all attracted to him. His response to this was of course to try and convince me that I could be in the future, and to not give up on him. After a certain amount of arguing on the matter, I simply gave up. I had tried honesty, I had tried to tell him how I felt about him, but he would not accept it, so I decided right there and then to never call him again. During the rest of the ride home he tried to get me to agree to go and get ice cream with him. Every reason I gave, exhaustion, it being a work night, even dairy intolerance did not seem to convince him of my answer. Thankfully our argument ended in my parking lot, without an ice cream shop in sight.
As I got out of the car he commented that he was sorry he had not told me how beautiful I looked, and what a nice outfit I had on. I saw these last comments as his final attempts to convince me not to give up on him, which, of course did not work. As I walked up the stairs to my apartment, I realized that I was far too tired to ride my bike to Reginald’s. It was roughly 10:30 and I was exhausted from the constant arguing and turf defense I had partaken in for most of the evening. At least I was done with Fred, and though he did not yet fully recognize this, I was convinced that after the third or fourth unreturned phone call, he would get the message. It seemed in this case that my silence would speak more loudly than my words were able to, and though it was a grueling way to spend an evening, I felt certain I would not make this mistake again. Then again, this was the exact thought that had gone through my head roughly one week ago, so at this point, there really was no telling what I was incapable of.