Saturday, May 30, 2009

Date #11: Bush League

I was to meet Roger at Gino’s in Sellwood; an Italian place that he said was one of his favorites. It was an unseasonably warm Friday evening and I had ridden my bike down from my Naturopath appointment ahead of schedule in order to cool down and change before the date started. Sadly, I had just been told I was gluten intolerant; not the best news to get right before eating at an Italian restaurant. I went to The Ugly Mug, my friend’s café which is down the street from Gino’s. I was hoping to find her there and hang out for a bit, but alas, the lady working the counter told me she was going for a bike ride, so I just ordered an herbal mint iced tea and sat and waited. I am convinced there is a special place in hell reserved for people who only occasionally keep in touch with their good friends, where I am sure I will be, with bells on. She will also be there, of course, as she is just as bad at keeping in touch as I am, though this does not justify my inability to communicate with my friends.

I walked down to Gino’s shortly before it was time to meet Roger. As I walked into the bar of the restaurant and looked around, I realized I had no recollection of who I was looking for. I am bad at looking at my dates’ pictures after the initial “Does he have crazy eyes?” inspection. What I knew about Roger was that he was 50, had two daughters who were in college, owned his own machine shop, his own plane, went skiing a lot, had traveled all over the world, and lived on Lake Oswego. I was starting to realize through my experiences on Craigslist that I am not very comfortable with people who have money. It could be due to the fact that I worked in Lake Oswego at a chocolate café where I experienced a level of obtuse soullessness which whittled away my faith in humanity bit by bit over a period of 24 excruciatingly long months. This already intolerable situation was made worse by the fact that the company was owned by the daughter of Columbia Sportswear Founder Gert Boyle. A piece of advice: if you ever have an opportunity to work for a company owned or run by the son or daughter of a business tycoon, run as far and as fast as you can, screaming, if possible. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, but in general, these people have no idea what it is to work or be a working person, so you could perceivably find yourself in the uncomfortable situation where you are being regaled with stories of new ponies and brand new four story homes on 20 acre lots while you are working your 13th day straight because you need the overtime in order to earn the money for the medical procedure you have to pay for yourself because you have no insurance. While I am not sure this experience alone created my Pavlovian skin crawling reaction to rich people, I know for a fact it didn’t help.

I was standing in the bar of Gino’s looking around for someone who might recognize me, and in walks Roger. He looked like your typical middle aged man: grey hair artfully combed to the side, glasses, slight pot belly, beige Hawaiian shirt with huge beige Hawaiian flowers on it, and, there, growing out of and around his nostrils, mammoth and unruly NOSE HAIRS. I had to stifle the laughter threatening to spring from my belly initially, but the very next second what had been laughter was replaced by a heavy sorrow as I realized I would have to sit across from him and eat while looking at those things. I was definitely not ordering anything with angel hair pasta.

As it was such a beautiful evening, we were seated at a table outside, and he ordered a beer and the Cioppino, and I ordered wine and the salmon. Initially he had suggested that we split the Cioppino, but because it was served on pasta, and because he had huge protruding nose hairs, I could not bring myself to do it. As we talked to each other we both looked away intermittently; me for obvious reasons, and him, well, I can only assume he was put off by the fact that I had not gotten my eyebrows done. Every time I looked at him the words “nose hairs” kept repeating in my head. It was quite a challenge to listen to what he was saying, and our conversation suffered for it. I was giving mostly one word answers and he was doing his best to keep the conversation going. Then our salads came. What I thought was awkward before became horrifying. He was a spit-talker. He asked for cheese to crumble on to his salad, and after he crumbled it on, he ate it, all the while talking to me about the big economic bust that occurred at the beginning of the millennium. I noticed that flecks of cheese were being spit onto my salad as he spoke, so I tried to discreetly move sideways and out of the path of the copious amounts of partially chewed projectiles flying out of his mouth. The table was too small to stay out of the line of fire, so I just started inhaling my salad. Then came the burping; he never actually burped out loud, but was gesturing as if constantly trying to keep one down. I finished my salad in roughly a minute and a half. He noticed and said through cheesy teeth, “you eat fast; you must be hungry from the bike ride.” I could only smile.

Soon after, our meals came, and mine was beautiful. The Salmon was cooked perfectly; medium rare and still a bit pink inside. His Cioppino looked amazing, and he offered me some, but I could not bring myself to do it. Nose hair. By this point the sun had moved to a place in the sky where it was shining directly into his eyes, so he moved across the table from where he was sitting, to my left side and much closer to me, and each time I looked up, the sun’s rays were glistening off the bits of food on his lips and his ever-present and disgusting nose hair. Dinner went quite quickly; by this point it seemed as though neither of us wanted to be there, and after I cleaned my plate, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. It was hot and dark in the restaurant, but I was happy to be away from the table. I went in to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. It was kind of dark in the bathroom, so I got closer to the mirror and saw what turned out to be a tiny piece of partially chewed food on my cheek. I thought it was cheese, but I couldn’t be sure, though I was sure that it was chock full o’ nast. I turned on the cold water full blast and rinsed my face thoroughly before going back out to the table.

When I returned, the ends of my bangs all wet from the cleansing I had just given myself, I found him talking on his iPhone and holding the dessert menu. It sounded like he was making plans with someone, but as I sat down I realized he was talking to someone about the date. The person on the other end must have asked him how his date was going, because he said in a very apathetic voice, “OK”, then told the person on the other end that he would call back “in a minute”. It was somewhat comforting to know that he liked me as little as I liked him. After he hung up he gestured to the dessert menu and asked if I was interested. I told him no, and as I did, the wind blew the menu out of his hands and into the street next to us. He did not get up to get it, but when the waitress came back, he pointed it out to her so that she could do that for him. Yup, classic Lake Oswego. She returned with the check, and I watched as he gave her just over 10% for a tip. Great, I was out with 10% tip guy. In addition to nose hair guy, spit-talking guy, Lake Oswego guy, I was also out with a man I have waited on hundreds of times in my food service career: the guy who gives you 10% and thinks he’s leaving you a great tip. He might in fact even point it out to you to give you the opportunity to express your gratitude. I hate that guy.

At this point, it was pretty obvious we were both dying to get away from each other. We shook hands in front of the restaurant and parted ways. I think this was my shortest date on record with the exception of “Bob Crazy”. This whole tragic experience kept going through my mind, and it got me to wondering, if you are going on a first date, why the hell aren’t you bringing your “A” game? I mean, the guy is 50, seemingly well off, and he doesn’t have grooming implements which he could use to clean his shit up? REALLY?? And why hasn’t anyone told this guy that he spits when he speaks? This type of behavior, the bad tip, the treatment of the waitress, the spit-talking, and the protruding nose hair, is all bush league. This goes back to the idea based in Human Resources philosophy which basically states that if a person is not bringing their “A” game to the interview, what is going to happen when they get the job? Nothing good, I can assure you, and I for one am very glad I will never have to find out.

This blog is now an ebook on Amazon! Click here to get it.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I had four dates scheduled this weekend. I was trying to motor through a few to get a breather on the other side. One was with Seven on Friday, one was with a new Craigslist dude Saturday Morning, one was with Al for Saturday afternoon, and one was on Sunday morning with another new Craigslist dude. Shortly after the weekend began, I decided to postpone the two new guys and concentrate on the repeat offenders.
On Friday Seven picked me up at roughly 7:45, and we decided to go to the Farm Café before going to the Laurelthirst to see a band. On the way to the Farm, I was attempting to ascertain if Seven had read my blog, and thusly, found out I liked Al. I was a bit worried that he would be hurt by this, though he knew the deal. He admitted that he had, and told me that he thought it was cool and that Al sounded great. I was completely relieved; Seven once again proved to be super cool and completely supportive, and it of course made me like him that much more. As we drove, we passed this little Ethiopian place on 52nd and Division, and Seven mentioned he wanted to try Ethiopian food, which sounded like a great opportunity as I freakin’ love the stuff. So we changed our plans and went to eat at the Ethiopian joint. It was a very nice place, and our waiter was absolutely hysterical, which of course Seven played off of well. Seven is hilarious. There is always at least one point in our evenings together when I am clutching my side laughing or rubbing the smiley-pain out of my cheeks.
We both had the vegetarian combo, which was served to us on a giant platter. It was a great dinner. After, we went to the Laurelthirst, drank beer and danced. It was a great date; Seven even tried to teach me how to hula hoop on a band break. The next morning as he was getting his stuff together, he was talking about what he had to do before a birthday party for one of his daughter’s friends. This included getting something together for a potluck, which pretty much sent me into hysterics. This was a topic Seven and I had discussed on our first or second date. I have an issue with Potlucks. If you are going to have a party, feed your guests. Why ask everyone to bring a dish? This sends a bad signal in my estimation, in addition to the fact that you end up with lots of bread, chips and salsa for dinner. I have heard the argument that potluck parties help to create a sense of community, but I would argue that if you want a community, feeding people at your party is a faster way to make friends than asking that they bring their meals with them. Before I moved to Portland, I had not been to or heard of such things. Maybe it was the crowd I was with at that time, but generally, when you went to a party, sure, you brought a little thoughtful something for the hosts, but in no way were you expected to feed yourself. In addition to the absence of a reasonable dress code, I would say this is another thing the people of Portland excel at; creating events in which you are expected to feed yourself. Ridiculous to my way of thinking.
So, Seven left, and I decided to hang, take a bath and watch Sense and Sensibility until I was ready to go to Al’s. It was a bit weird to be finishing one date and planning to go right to another, but I figured, as long as I mellowed a bit between them, it would all work out. I decided to shoot for a 2:30 arrival time at Al’s. Al lives in the Pearl District in a large-ish condo down the street from PNCA. His condo is empty for the most part, some furniture, a few very beautiful things hung up on the walls, but mostly, it seemed as though he used this place as an in-between; a place he went to in-between going to other places. Two of the beautiful things he had on his walls were line drawings by Van Gogh. Before he told me who had drawn them, he asked me to guess who the artist was. I hate guessing games. Especially when there is no way you could guess the correct answer to the question being asked. Al seemed to love this type of interaction. Of course, one hung in his narrow and darkened hallway and one had a lamp positioned directly in front of it, but he seemed very proud of these items, and told me that Van Gogh was one of his favorite painters. He also had some woven textiles hanging, and a picture he took of a waterfall in a cave in some remote area he had visited once while he was living abroad. Even with these items, the condo was spare. I could never have guessed what kind of person he was by the place he lived in.
Soon after I got there, Al told me that he was becoming possessive of me, and felt strange knowing that I was with Seven the night before. I offered no apology or explanation, but it did not seem as though he needed one. In retrospect, his statement was the beginning of the end. I had told Al earlier that I was not in a place to be serious about anyone, and that I wanted to go through with my twenty dates in twenty weekends, and he told me that he knew what he was getting himself into because I had been honest about everything, but the whole conversation just didn’t sit that well with me.
Later he threw out the hypothetical situation where I would learn to play bridge, be his bridge partner, and we would travel across the country in a van and play bridge at tournaments. That was pretty much the end. Though I know next to nothing about bridge, I can tell you without a doubt that I am not one to sit still in one place playing cards with a bunch of geriatrics for hours on end. In fact, sitting still for me is in itself hard enough; I plan trips across campus at work every half hour just so I don’t have to sit behind my desk for too long. While in every other way this date was amazing, these things he had said basically told me that he had ideas for me which would drastically change the course my life was taking presently, and going his way would mean giving up control of the wheel once again. I had just regained control of the wheel and was white-knuckled at present, trying desperately to stay on my path. No matter how smart or self-aware Al was, I could not bring myself to consider altering my present course. The problem with Al was that I was excessively attracted to him. There was something about the way he spoke, his mannerisms, his smile, that just drove me out of my mind. It also sucked that he was amazing in bed. Bastard.
The next morning, we grabbed some doughnuts and juice, and then Al went to a bridge tournament. I called my friend Annie before I left his place, discussed the present unpleasantness, and she agreed that my decision to break it off was sound and then told me to start volunteering or something. She reminded me of who I was, told me to start making things again, then told me all about the changes she was making to her condo in Oak Park. Good friends are invaluable; they remind you who you are and are honest with you about their perspective on your life, all the while loving you no matter how ridiculous you become.
The next day I called my brother David in Dubuque to ask him for advice on breaking up with Al. I wanted to break up with him on the phone, but wondered if it was better to do it in person. David suggested I send an email or rattle card which he thought was very hilarious, but then told me that it was early enough that I could break up with Al on the phone. Immediately after hanging up with David, I called Al and broke up with him. He was completely cool about it. It was very early in our dating process, but you just never know how some people are going to handle rejection. I am not good at it, but then again, I don’t recall a time I have ever been broken up with. Al said he wondered how this would get written up in my blog, and I admitted I was not sure it was going to make it in. He then suggested I write it and just send it to him, which seemed to me to be a waste. Earlier in the conversation, he had critiqued a bit of my blog, telling me that my summaries were less satisfying for the reader than the actual dates were. While I am sure this is true, it made me think of the relationship between the maker and the viewer, or the writer and the reader, and I realized that while I am very excited to be blogging, the dating experiences and the writing have all been done with only one person in mind: me. After all, no matter how crazy Vincent Van Gogh became, I am sure he would have preferred his drawings end up in a place where they could actually be seen.
I ended up deciding not to count these as dates in my experiment and accepted the fact that I had ten new dates in front of me. As much fun as the first ten have been, I am thinking the next ten will be even better, in one way or another.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fifty Per Cent

Unlike the first five dates I went on, dates Six through Ten were all quite good, some bordering on excellent. The men I went out with, much kinder and more thoughtful, and in the end, helped me understand my place in the world a bit more. Now I am having a different kind of struggle; I am changing. Due to the events of the past few weeks, I have been thoroughly re-examining my values.

After I posted my date with Hugh, he sent me an email which I think was meant to sound light and airy, but ended up being a defense of his actions and motives. It also sounded like I hurt his feelings. After a series of paragraphs defending himself and pointing out my misinterpretations of various events, he wrote:
“You sometimes put out the vibe that you're all business; that biking is a single-minded task from point A to point B. That this experiment is putting your head down and getting from date one to date twenty. It comes off as a little mechanical, even in person, which doesn't help connect with other human beings, but probably does help support the thesis of your experiment. You've already shown that you can slow down and smell the roses (referring here to number Seven, about whom I'm quite excited for you!) so that's a good step. I hope you keep doing that. Life is short, you loner. Sometimes it's worth following someone down a less-familiar winding route, even one that's admittedly slower. :)”
Ouch. Um, yeah, that’s me. That has always been my M.O., I am usually quite impatient and single-minded in most of my endeavors. Should I be slowing down? Should I be going down “less-familiar winding routes”? Would I come off as mechanical if I weren’t so fuckin’ Heavy Metal? It is ironic that the man who initially referred to my project as a “marathon” is now telling me to slow down. Marathons are long enough without slowing down intentionally to smell the freaking roses. I know I would not react in this fashion if this analysis did not hit home in some way, but I don’t recall ever feeling good after having apologized for my actions, much less for who I am. In fact, what the last few weeks have taught me is that all we have in this world is what we carry within us, and compromising this to make others feel better is a huge waste of energy. In the last weeks, I have been told I am selfish, mean, slutty, and of little value by the people I used to be closest to.  Some of this stemmed from my blog, some not, but all were meant to in some way pacify the teller’s own feelings of inadequacy. This is pure bullshit, and I have to say, I am happy I have had the opportunity to experience it all, because it has cemented in me the importance of being true to yourself and trying with all your strength to retain your integrity. As my mother used to tell me when someone was mean to me at school:
“Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke, and joke ‘em if they can’t take a fuck.”
I have in the past days been feeling a drain on me from this experiment. First dates are arduous, and I have been doubling and tripling up on some weekends, due to the fact that many of the gentlemen I have seen have wanted a date sooner than later. I am scheduling more dates over the next few months, but I now have two people I am starting to care about. I wonder how fair this is to the other first dates I am planning to meet, but I also wonder if I will find that not only can I like two people at once, but three and four is also a possibility. Who is this person I am becoming? How many first dates will it take for me to figure it out? Or will these dates just keep bringing up additional questions?
While I have seen ugliness over these last few weeks, I have also seen amazing love, generosity, and depth of character. The interactions I have had with some of these men have restored my faith in people, and while many whom I have loved have turned their backs on me, these strangers have shown a depth of feeling I believed to be long lost from this dark world. It sounds dramatic and somewhat amplified, but a renewal of hope is no small thing, especially when it occurs within the confines of Craigslist personals.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Date # 10: Half Way Home

This date took place on a Sunday; we were to meet in front of one of my favorite Portland breakfast places, the Vita café on Alberta. I told Al, my date, that it was on 30th and Alberta. When I arrived at the Vita, I noticed, to my horror, that the Vita was not there, and in the wonderful building that had housed it, a new BBQ place was set to move in. Panic, heartbreak, woe. As I angrily began wondering what happened to the Portland I used to know, I looked across the street and saw that the Vita had just moved. Relief, joy, exhilaration. I crossed the street, parked and locked my bike, and leaned against the new Vita, which would be re-opening in a matter of days. Down the street, the church was letting people in through its doors, and there were many ushers on the street, greeting people at the entrances. As I stood there, I noticed that one well-dressed, church-going gentleman kept looking over at me. This made me nervous, as I had already had one person approach me with God materials that week, and it was all I could do to be polite about it. I was really hoping Al would show up soon so I would not have to find out what horrible things would come out of my mouth when approached once again by one of God’s army.

Thankfully, Al soon came toward me from across the street. We decided to walk around a bit, and as I was still carrying my bike bag, he offered to put it in his trunk while we walked. Though it made me nervous, I agreed; keeping my bag in his trunk would make it difficult to leave quickly if I had to, but I decided to chance it. I had brought my Tevas to wear on this date, as I was planning to go grocery shopping later and would not have room in my bag for what I was planning on buying if my boots were in my bag. Al had told me in his initial email that he wanted to walk around first before we decided to eat so we could determine whether or not we would want to sit down to a meal with each other.  This seemed like pretty sound thinking to me, made even more so by the beauty of the warm and sunny spring day.
We walked down Alberta towards MLK, and then walked over to Going street and back up. Al was quite an individual. He had traveled all over since he was very young and had worked all over the world as an IT guy for the finance industry. He had worked in Austria, Hong Kong, and New York, and by the time he reached his forties, had enough money to retire on. He was not the type of guy who seemed wealthy enough to retire; he was casually dressed in jeans and a long sleeve button down and had the air of someone who was not all that concerned with appearances. As we walked I had to ask what he did with his time since he didn’t work. I could not imagine being able to do anything you wanted with your days; I would be afraid to just fritter them away doing nothing. Al did not have this problem. He spent his time playing Bridge. Evidently, people all over the world pay other people, smart people, to play Bridge for them in order to accumulate points. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet both do this. I had never in a million years dreamed this even occurred in life. Really, I could not believe how amazing this guy was; in addition to his professional achievements, people paid him to play cards. Additionally, he stopped working after he felt like he had enough. How many people do that? How many people stop working when they have come to the realization that they don’t need anything more, how many can stop and say “enough”? Inconceivable. We also talked about our families; why we each had felt our previous relationships did not work and how our family lives might have fed into this. Al had been abused as a kid by his father. It occurred to me as he told me this that many of the guys I had met on Craigslist had this in common. Al had the ability to express his feelings on a level not many could; he was analytical and even objective about his own experiences. He spoke with an awareness I had not encountered in a very long time. More to the point, I could tell he was smarter than me.
After we had walked around for about an hour or so, Al and I were both hot and hungry, so we decided to find a place to sit and maybe eat. We chose a place on Alberta called Thai Noon, which felt sufficiently cool as we walked in through its large doorway. As we sat, I got a better look at him. I wasn’t able to see it before, but he was pretty handsome. When he spoke to me, he really looked at me, into my eyes, like he was searching for something. I have had the experience before where people look at you in a way which challenges you; without saying a word, a staring contest begins, and it is usually a challenge I am very capable of meeting. I was not sure if he was doing this or if this was how he normally held a conversation; either way, it was obvious he was pretty intense. Al also turned out to be Jewish. Oh, my poor dead mother would have loved to have heard this one; a nice Jewish boy who is retired. Really, the only other thing that would have pleased her more is if he had been a doctor, which is ironic as my cousin, whom she considered a daughter, married a doctor who ended up driving her to a very slow and painful death. It is true; if my mother were in a grave, she would be turning over in it. As it stands, she is in a box in my closet, waiting to be scattered into the Pacific Ocean. I am sure I will get to that at some point.
We sat there eating and talking for roughly three or four hours more. As we were talking about relationships, Al asked me what I was looking for, and I had to admit that I did not know, that I was trying to figure out who I was again, and because of this, I was not sure what this new person I was turning into needed in the way of a relationship. He conceded that he too had not a clue, but posited that he thought that if two people went into a relationship together, making an agreement to work towards growing together, and giving each other what the other needed, that it could work. I was skeptical; neither of us could think of a couple we had known to be a good model. I asked what about attraction, similar life paths, or my usual problem, inconsistent communication styles? He believed that none of this would matter if each person consciously worked toward giving the other person what they needed in the relationship. I was still skeptical, but I could feel myself growing to like him more and more.
My feelings were starting to throw me into a minor state of panic. I was wondering how it was that the day before I could not dream of liking two people at once, and here I was, feeling conflicted about my feelings for both Seven and Al. This is the type of situation that makes me think I am completely fucked, but luckily I am very good at throwing caution to the wind and just going with it, so that is what I did. We decided to walk a bit after our lunch, and tried to find the shade in our walk as we are both sensitive to the sun. While the long afternoon shadows were providing shade, there was not enough, and Al suggested we go to a park. I considered telling Al the truth, that I had a date with Seven later that night, but I decided against it, instead telling him I had to do some things to prepare for an early start at work the next day. He walked me to his car to get my bike bag, and then carried it for me to where my bike was locked up. I sat down on the sidewalk and took off my Tevas to reveal several blisters on the sides and bottoms of my feet which had developed over the course of our walk that morning and afternoon. Stupid Tevas; they always produce blisters the first few times I wear them every summer. We sat on the pavement together and talked about getting together again later in the week. Of course, he was wide open. We made plans for Tuesday evening, and then he leaned in and kissed me. I was a bit surprised and nervous, and as he pulled away from our kiss, I giggled nervously, and could not find the fortitude to look at him directly. Yup. It seemed I was very capable of liking two people at once.
As I jumped on my bike and rode away, I looked back to see him watching me. I didn’t know what it meant, but something inside me was scared, and I had no idea why. I figured I had time to find out, after all, I had started this experiment with the intention of being open to anything that might happen, and it seemed like that fear was telling me “anything” was coming.

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.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Date #8: Seven and Point Five

Date two with Seven. Yes, I decided to abandon my rule about weekdays not counting. I mean, it is more of a guideline than a rule, really, and let’s face it- if you find what you think might be something good, do you toss it away callously? My answer is no, and it is backed up by my personal philosophy that I would rather regret something I have done rather than something I haven’t. Sometimes I just gotta roll reckless.
I was supposed to have a date with another Craigslist guy on this particular day, which turned out to be a weekend day- Friday. But when number Seven called and asked if I was up for going with him and his friend to Hood River to watch some bands, I jumped. Of course, by 5:15 the other guy had not yet contacted me with what time he wanted to go out, so I figured he probably wasn’t going to anyway.

He picked me up at 7:30 with my bike. This is one of the great things about Seven. He accepts the fact that at any point, I might feel the need to leave, perhaps irrationally, and he is more than happy to bring my bike with us in case I need to do that. Seven is very supportive of this particular neurosis, a very good quality to have in a friend, to my way of thinking. He was telling me about his friend, Point Five, (Point Five wanted this name, so please do not accuse me of reducing the men I know to numbers, I am not that much of an asshole), telling me that he knows everyone in the Portland music scene, is super kind, laid back, and that you just want to give him a big hug every time you see him. Again with the hugging. I also assumed from this description that Point Five, like Seven, was a hippie.
What makes Seven a hippie, you might ask? It is an amalgamation of many things, some of which I will name here. He wears a pendant with an asteroid chip in it tied in a leather strap around his neck, he has crystals all over his home, he wears tie-dyed shirts, his hair is quite long, and, finally, instead of saying “good-bye” on the phone, he says simply, “peace”. For a long time I have had issues with hippies due to some interactions I had with some of their ilk while road tripping in California and at a Dead show in Eugene (yes, I know, the irony here is thick). My biggest issue of course is that many of my old friends in Chicago have the highly annoying habit of referring to me as a hippie, which I know is a by-product of having lived in Portland, the land of no dress code, for so long. I have to say, though, I see nothing wrong with Seven. He is kind and generous, smart and funny, and really, I am not one to judge what anyone chooses to put on his back. More than that, he is very nice to me, and really, that is a tough quality to argue with.

So, we go to Point Five’s house, as he is driving to Hood River and we are traveling with him in his car, which is a Range Rover with Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, and Rastafarian decals on its windows. Point Five is a big man with a kind face and an easy smile. Yes, I know that sounds trite, but it’s true, so cram it. He has a big full beard and long hair, and when he greets me, he looks right into my eyes and smiles. Not many people do that when they meet you; due to shyness or angst or arrogance, people will often times barely smile or even look at you when they first meet you. A good strong handshake and a smile go a long way in my book, and Point Five had both. I was just glad he didn’t want to hug me.
So we all start to get in the car and Seven asks if I want to sit in the front with Point Five. He calls me “Sarita”. This kills me. I love it when he speaks Spanish to me. It drives me absolutely crazy. I reply that I am fine, but he doesn’t seem comfortable with it. He says he feels bad because of the fact that I would be out of the loop of the car conversation for much of the ride, but I assure him that I would not say I was fine if I wasn’t. So we start driving, and Seven starts telling Point Five about his mother’s visit which just ended. Evidently, his mother asked him “when he was going to cut his hair short and look like a real man should”. She also wants him to take his daughter to church. Seven’s mom is big in the church, and Seven, having been raised in it, is not. Point Five commiserates, saying his mom has been hounding him to visit for a while, and he has been putting it off for as long as he possibly can. Unfortunately, I can’t really add anything to this conversation because my mom is dead, and volunteering this information usually ends whatever conversation I am having if I mention it. I have tried on several occasions with many different people, and the result is always the same: everyone says they are sorry, looks at me with “sad for you” eyes, and the subject is changed. So I sit and listen as they talk about their plans for the summer, the music festivals they have gone to and are going to go to, and Point Five talks about surveying the land in the Gorge for his job, in one particular case leading all the engineers he works with though the woods, casually mentioning the Poison Oak they are walking next to, and scaring the crap out of them.
Eventually, we get to a gas station so Point Five can fuel up. When he does, he opens the door to the back seat opposite me, pulls out a little plastic contraption, looks up with a little smile on his face and says to me “Have to take my anti-anxiety pills”. Mr. laid-back hippie dude has anxiety problems.
As we continue driving, Seven points out Bonneville Dam to me and laughs, then tells Point Five about the social experiment I am conducting and my date with Grampa Tom. This is when Point Five asks to be called as such, to which I am more than willing to oblige. That’s just good copy.
We arrive at the bar roughly an hour later and before we go in Seven gives me a long hug. While Seven is not a big man, when he hugs me, I feel like we fit; his hugs are warm, comforting, and his big shoulders and muscular arms make me feel safe. As we walk in, I am delighted to see that I will receive a stamp on my hand for the entry fee Seven is paying for me. I look at it, trying to figure out what it is. I can’t tell, but it looks vaguely like a squiggly paisley design, which is a technical art term and too complex to explain here. Seven gets us some beers and we stand in front of the stage, holding hands and watching the bands warm up. Much to my surprise, they are both bluegrass. Actually, I am not surprised at all as I know this is the kind of music Seven likes, which is too bad, because it is a similarity he shares with my wasband. But, live music is live music, and the bands warming up sound very good. Seven is right about Point Five; he seems to know almost everyone at the bar, and demonstrates this by hugging almost every one of them. Evidently Point Five does not have a personal space bubble to contend with. I briefly consider suggesting one to him in order to perhaps alleviate the anxiety problem he faces, but I quickly dismiss it as I just met the guy and with my luck it is probably an aspect of his life which soothes him. I would hate to think that I might be responsible for pushing some poor schmuck over the edge by suggesting a personal space bubble.
The music starts and everyone starts dancing, Seven and Point Five included. Thankfully, Seven has rhythm. It is such a relief to date someone who has rhythm; it means you are able to forgo the awkward conversation where you tell him his lack of rhythm doesn’t matter to you, which is a lie, or worse, where you have to be the one to tell him he has no rhythm whatsoever. Point Five is a bit of a different matter; it is not that he doesn’t have rhythm; it is that he is a twirler. Yes, a twirler. These are the people at concerts (usually Dead shows) who dance well, but not to the rhythm of the music, and while their moves are impressive on a certain level, as was Point Five’s, it is hard to tell if they are dancing to the music or their own inner soundtrack. So, good, there we all are, Seven and Point Five cutting a rug, and me kind of moving back and forth a bit, but not really doing anything approximating what you could call dancing. I was people watching, and I was pretty much transfixed by this stunning young couple dancing together. The guy was dressed in a cream and light brown suit-like outfit and wore a fedora which he used as a prop in his extravagant dance moves. The woman was dressed in a very feminine, demure blouse and skirt and wore a wide headband on her head. She was much less confident than he, but her timidity was quite appealing, and I found myself in love with them; dreaming into them an amazing and exciting life which kept them riding the crest of a wave of superiority. Sometimes it is nice to not know people; you experience much less disappointment that way and they can be exactly who you want them to.
This date was proving my theory that it is best to always keep your options open. I had had a perfectly dreadful week, my “best friend” dumped me, work sucked, and my wasband had once again told me how horrible I was. I had no idea I would end up at a bar in Hood River listening to music with a cool guy even that very morning, but here I was, dancing with a super cute hippie in a bar and drinking beer and laughing about random silly things. Seven was still new to me, and I could dream into him all of the great things I wanted. Even if he turns out to be less than ideal, I am sure that this is one thing I have done that I won’t regret, even if it ends badly.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Speed Bumps

There are times in your life when bad things rain down on you like hellfire. It is during these times where you just have to keep your head down, remember who you are, and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Very recently, the universe decided to test my grit and throw some shit my way that would push anyone to the limits of reason. Of course I am aware that nothing “happens” to anyone; I have had a hand in bringing everything that has befallen me onto my head, and as the truest of my friends have reminded me, this is what happens when you are the man.
I think I have mentioned earlier in my blog that I am an asshole. If I haven’t, I am stating this fact now. Clearly, there are issues I am working out still that keep me from being as kind to people as I could be. So, last week, my wasband called me at work to let me know what a horrible person I was for sending him the link to my blog. (I told you, I am clearly an asshole). He went on and on telling me that I wasn’t the person he used to know, that I would have never done this to someone when he knew me, that basically, I am a shitshow. I am sure you can imagine. I told him I agreed, I was sorry, I made a mistake, and that I was fucked up. I admitted all of this to him, but he would not let up, and at a certain point, I had to hang up on him. Yes, again, I know. I am not kind. Well, it doesn’t really stop there.
While I cannot go into the exact details of this, something at my job exploded in my face, making a workplace that I have loved quite hard to work in. Basically, I caught a co-worker stealing and came forward with the information.  When my boss confronted him, instead of owning up to it, he instead disparaged me by telling her that I was having sex with one of his employees, some of the students at the University where I work, and I, myself, was guilty of stealing.  Typical; accuse a man of theft and he calls you a whore.  Instead of firing him, she kept him on and started investigating his allegations, which unfortunately bought him enough time to steal more stuff and make my life at work incredibly difficult to bear.  Again, in this situation, I did things to bring this about; I knew there would be consequences for my actions, but, I partook in them anyway, believing my actions to be in the name of justice. Somehow I had forgotten that justice is blind (or is that love?). Either way.
Then, I received an email from a friend who basically told me that she could not be my friend anymore because of my blog. Sadly, I had lied to her about my first two dates, (who is honest about people they meet on line anyway?). I told her the dates were set-ups and not what they were: Craigslist arrangements. So, she sent me an email with a WordPerfect letter attached, which I could not open for hours because I only had Microsoft Office on my computer. When I finally did open it, it said that she could not support me in my project; she did not think it was good, and she needed time away from me. Of course, the why of it was never mentioned. She went on to tell me that she did not want to sound condescending or judgmental, which basically meant to me that she was judging me and thought less of me for doing this. All this attached to an email in an outdated word processing format. No call, no consideration of maybe telling me this information in person.
This is a woman who I have referred to as my “BFF” for years. I had, on many occasions forgiven her shortcomings and mistakes. I had gone to people’s houses for her to get things when she was too scared to go herself. I had comforted her when her dogs died, listened to her when she ranted about all of her workplace problems, and put up with her ginormous mood swings which seemed to occur for no reason whatsoever. Why? It is what friends do.
I have to say, since I have started my blog, I have learned about myself. I have changed and recognized in my otherwise incidental actions my frailties and my strength. What does all of this tell me? I believe it tells me one of two things: I am either A: On the right track because the huge changes I am making in my life are allowing me to be more of the person I want to be, or, 2: I am on a path paved with good intentions which will eventually lead me to hell and I will burn for eternity in its fiery depths. Though, for the record, I do not believe in hell.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Date # 7: Lucky Number Seven

Date Seven did not start out well. It was the Monday after a weekend where I had dates on both days, and I was a bit tired. I even had brief moments where I thought I might cancel, but I decided not to, as this date would put me closer to my goal. I was supposed to meet Number Seven at 8:30 at the Laurelthirst Pub to listen to music. I figured if I got home from work in enough time, I could take a nap and still have plenty of time to get down there on my bike. Of course, because I had to return a few phone calls, this got postponed. One of the calls I had to return was to Grampa Tom, my date from Saturday. I was calling him to let him know I would not be going to the Mariners game with him the following Monday. The conversation went well until he told me he wanted to ask me something and I might not like it. This guy and his stupid sentence intros. You would think that after a person has lived a bit of a life, they would shake the need to qualify and introduce, but no. He evidently still felt the need to not only inflict pain with a question, but to set me up to feel anxiety beforehand as well. Foolishly, I told him to go ahead and ask. “Do you ever wear make-up?” Oysh. I had not worn make-up on our date because I had ridden my bike downtown, roughly a 14 mile ride, and then supposed that we were going to go kayaking. Neither activity was conducive to make-up wear. I replied that I did, but did not that day for the reasons I just mentioned. He then went into how he had spoken to a friend of his and wondered to her why I hadn’t worn make-up. I added that the way I look without make-up is the way I look, so if he didn’t like it, it might be an issue. He also mentioned that he was surprised that I was so willing to talk about sex. I replied that it was an important part of a relationship and that not talking about it is the dumbest thing you can do, especially if you want to enjoy the sex you might or might not be having eventually. He agreed. After some small talk, the call ended and I was able to take a cat nap before my ride into town.

When I awoke, I felt somewhat groggy, but I knew that the ride would wake me up. As I was dressing, I noticed that it had started raining. Not great news, given the conversation I had just had with gramps. So, I left the house, hoping that it would let up on my way to the pub. It did not. In fact, at some points, the rain poured down on my bike helmet so hard that I considered waiting under an overpass or a tree until it let up. As I live in Portland, Oregon, I knew that I could wait forever for that to happen, so I kept going. About half way there, my right eye started stinging, badly. I kept wiping it, wondering what the hell was going on, then I remembered I had not washed the make-up off of my face that I had worn to work that day before I left on my date. I had to keep it closed most of the time, so there I was, riding my bike at night in the rain with one eye open. Not my proudest moment. Then, as I came within about a mile of my destination, my other eye started stinging. As there was no way I could ride with both eyes closed, I kept stopping and trying to wipe all of the make-up off of my eyes, which was basically impossible. I started to hope that he wouldn’t show up so I could take the Max home and go to bed. It was a Monday anyway, I figured, it didn’t really count either way.

I eventually made it there, on time too, which was pretty much a miracle, and then realized that I would not even know him if I saw him, as the only picture I had was a side pose of him, which I had looked at roughly two weeks before. I was soaking- my hair, feet, face, everything was absolutely and miserably drenched. Then he walked in. Number Seven was handsome, with dark features and broad shoulders. I wished fleetingly that I could hide, but then I decided better of it and took a step toward him. He looked at me, kind of unsure, and then we both introduced ourselves. “Yeah, I got kinda wet”, I said, dripping from every angle. He actually smiled at me and said he was sorry and felt bad that he hadn’t given me a ride, and then he gave me a hug. Now, I am not a hugger. I do not like hugging people I know well, much less someone I am meeting for the first time. I am well known for my “space bubble” that I must have between myself and anyone around me. But when he hugged me, it just felt like such a relief, I actually enjoyed it, and found myself wishing it wasn’t a Monday.

I went to the bathroom to clean up and he ordered us a couple of beers. I wiped all the make-up and mud off of my face and changed into my warm three-layered after-biking get-up: two long underwear shirts and my OCAC hoodie. I had brought a skirt to change into, but I figured that was a bad idea as all I had to wear on my feet was what I had on: a pair of drenched wool socks, my bike shoes and my shoe covers. At least the top half of me would be warm. I tried to dry my hair off under the hand dryer, but the most I could do was dry my bangs, so I got all my stuff together and left the bathroom to look for Number Seven.

I found him in the room next to where the band was playing, going to shut the door so I wouldn’t be cold. There were two beers sitting on a table, so I sat down, and though I felt very awkward, I started talking. It was an easy conversation, and he was really smiley and laughed a lot. He said he was a critical care nurse, a part-time dad, and in his spare time went to a lot of music festivals, drank beer, and made stuff, like a quilt he had made for his bed out of old shirts. Clearly, he was a hippie, but I did not care at all, mostly because I was so distracted by how great his smile was.

I told Seven about some of my dates, what I was trying to do in my research, and how I handled some of the things people said to me. Of course, I was starving from the long and wet bike ride so I ordered a BLT and a cup of chili. He had already eaten, so I devoured my food while we talked. He seemed really interested in my project and what it was like going on so many dates. He had not dated much in the last few years which he thought was due to his height. Sadly, shorter men have a hard time being with taller women. Oh well, more for me.

After a while we went into the room where the band was playing and the people were dancing. He said hi to some of the people at the bar and then we sat and shared a beer. We had to sit very close together so we could hear each other. It was horrible because I could smell him and he smelled so good; like soap and grass and beer. I couldn’t believe it was a fuckin’ Monday- just my luck. I kept looking at him and had to force thoughts of sex with him out of my head so that I could listen to what he was saying. It was awful. After the band stopped playing he offered to drive me home. I was so happy to hear those words, I almost cried as my pants and socks were still soaking and my jacket and gloves were dripping wet.

We gathered our things and headed out to his car. He had a minivan with some huge hula hoops in it. I told him I wanted to see him hula-hoop, so he stood there in the rain on Glisan Avenue, hula hooping. It was hysterical. After we loaded my bike in the car, he told me, “don’t move, stay right there,” and then he kissed me. It was a great kiss. It was so great that I hated it, and started wondering about the wisdom of not counting dates that occurred during the week. We got in his minivan and kept talking. I was so happy to be going home in a car and so happy that this was such a good date, I was completely unconcerned that it was 11:30 on a school night.

We got to my place and he helped me bring my stuff up to my apartment. I was nervous and really excited. I was weighing the pros and cons of having him stay for a while, and decided that if this was to be our only date, I should really make the most of the time I had. It was the best way to end an amazing date, and as I slipped into sleep much later that evening, I thought it made sense that he had been my Lucky Number Seven.
This blog is an ebook on Amazon! Get it here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Date #6: Natives and Aliens

This was the first date I went on with optimism in mind. Of course, I had just been on a date the day before with Grampa Tom, so how could I not be optimistic? The man I was to meet was roughly 30, a student from China who I had been emailing back and forth with for some time. The plan was to meet downtown near the fountain in Waterfront Park in the late afternoon, walk around a bit, then grab a bite to eat. "Adam" was smart; analytical and interesting to talk to, and while I had a few issues with some of the positions he took in his emails, (like his perspective on the Tao Te Ching), he seemed worthy of my optimism. I left my apartment roughly an hour before I was to meet him. It was a beautiful afternoon and I made great time as most of my journey into town from the void was downhill. I wore my bike shorts with a skirt over it as I knew I would not be able to find a place to change once I got there as the port-o-potties at the Saturday Market were not an option.
I arrived downtown roughly fifteen minutes early and sat down on a bench. Portland is at its best in the spring; all of the trees and bushes are flowering in a beautiful spectrum of pink and white, and the sun lingers in the sky, indicating summer is on the way. It is a relief when the sun occasionally shows itself in the spring; it reminds all Portland transplants why we decided to move here in the first place, much to the dismay of the Natives, who are so full of themselves for being such that they are quite difficult to tolerate.
I was sitting on a bench under a flowering tree, looking across the river at the city, wondering when it was that I forgot how beautiful Portland is. I looked over and saw Adam walking toward me, smiling. He was cute in a puppy-dog kind of way. My initial thought was that I could just put him in my pocket and take him home with me, but I got over that as he walked toward me and turned out to be much larger close-up. We decided to walk towards Burnside, thinking we might find a place to sit and eat outside. As we walked I was telling him about the dates I had before. Because of my initial attraction to him I was having a hard time looking at him, so as we walked I kept my eyes focused ahead of me. Suddenly he stopped and said, "Wait, you rode all the way down here?" I didn’t really understand why he was so shocked. "I thought you put your bike on a car and drove down." This last statement was strange to me, and I wondered if he saw my bike as an accessory like a hat or a purse I just took with me everywhere I went. I reminded him that I do not own a car, and he seemed amazed at the trip I had undertaken to get there. I told him it was like anything else; it is only extraordinary if it is an uncommon occurrence in your life, and as I rode my bike everywhere, it was not in any way exceptional. We walked on, and found a place to sit down and have a beer at Berbati’s Pan. There were many people milling around out front, most in a general state of disarray. Down the street there were tables set up with hot food trays set out on them. It was meal time at the homeless shelter.

It was getting on toward evening and the weather turned a bit chilly, so we decided to sit inside. He ordered me an IPA and himself a Guinness, which endeared him to me immediately. I have a very special place in my heart for Guinness drinkers as several of the oldest and dearest of my friends immediately come to mind when I or someone I am with drinks it. We began a line of random small talk, but our conversation quickly became quite deep. He went into what kind of women he was attracted to; usually older and intelligent, which, he pointed out, was what I was. He told me that he was very attracted to Nancy Pelosi as an example of the type of woman he liked. He said that whenever he saw her speak on TV it really got him going. I wasn’t really sure how to respond to this, so I just kept listening.
When he spoke, he would address me and then complete his thought, such as, "Sara, you are very smart, and obviously have thought about the appropriateness of procreation and all its unintended consequences." It reminded me how much I liked hearing my own name. After he had started more than one of his sentences with "The scripture says…." I knew it was going to get heavy. His perspective was that the U.S. is a Christian country, though few people he knows here agree with him. He said that he and his mother (back in China), laugh all the time about how we Americans don’t understand that the reason love, charity, and forgiveness are valued here is because of Christianity. I am a big fan of being in the all-to-common situation where people from other countries tell me how much they sit around and laugh at Americans, but this time I didn’t really agree with his premise. It kept coming back to Christianity and the Bible for him. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get into this conversation with him about religion and politics, but I figured I had nothing to lose, so I began to explain to him how the founding fathers came here to get away from religious oppression, and that while the word "God" is on our money and in our constitution, it is only there by way of happenstance, and that while it is a sticky issue since our last illustrious president entered office, separation of church and state was an ideal the founding fathers felt quite passionately about. I also suggested that the true difference between China and the U.S. may lie more in the differences in government. This was just the beginning of a very long and edgy conversation with him.
Adam spoke of his mother’s experience being a Christian in China, how it was to grow up there, and that abuse in China is an accepted fact of life. He said his father had been very abusive toward him and his mother, and that his mother had also hit him when he was growing up, and he still had night terrors about this stuff. It is times like these when I am reminded that I have nothing at all to bitch about, that all the pain and torment I feel like I have gone through is much less staggering when held up next to an experience like his. As we talked further about the differences between China and the U.S., he made the point that there is still love in the U.S., and the realities of China create a situation where the women are looking only for a man that will provide, and that there is no luxury of waiting for or even looking for love. Adam felt that it would be awful to try and find a wife in China, because he would never really know if the wife he chose would actually love him or be with him for his money. Imagine being on your death bed, having been married for thirty or fifty years and not being sure whether the person you have spent your life with has ever loved you. Now that I think about it that probably happens here too, maybe just not as often. Adam then told me that the scripture says that men use love to get sex, and women use sex to get love. I smiled at that and asked exactly where in the Bible it said that. He confessed that he did not really know, and that I probably knew the Bible much more thoroughly than he did. I told him that I had only read the Bible for a class in college, and while I liked the stories, I saw no basis to create a set of life-guiding principles to live my life by in it, and then I told him that I do not believe in God. When he asked what I believed in, I said, "people." His response, ironically, was that this was possible because I live in a Christian country. If I lived in China, I would have a far different perspective of people. This argument went on for quite some time, and in the end, it became cyclical and quite pointless. As I didn’t have the perspective of living in China, I could really only use the argument of my experiences here. Adam was clearly married to the Christian perspective and there was little I could do to persuade him away from his point of view.
He then brought up that he had just been laid off and he was having a heart procedure on Wednesday. "Did I mention that?" He asked me casually. Then he told me that he had been accepted to a school in Pittsburgh for nursing, and he was trying to decide whether or not to go, as he had not gotten into OHSU, which had been his first choice. Amazing the things you learn about people when you start to talk about religion and politics. By this point in the date, I had already had two beers, and because I had not yet eaten, I was pretty buzzed. The other issue was that I have a rule that I do not leave a beverage alone on the table with strangers in order to avoid any possibility of being drugged. This created a problem where I had to guzzle the last three quarters of my second beer because I had to go to the bathroom so bad. Of course, the more I drank the better looking he got, so I decided to suggest food. He ordered a Greek salad and I ordered spaghetti. We ate in relative silence, only talking about our food on occasion.

After he paid, we walked back toward his car, and talked about emailing each other further. At one point, he looked down at my bike, and all the various stickers on it, and asked, referring to one that said, “I love the First Amendment”, and asked, “What’s the first amendment?”   I laughed and said, “One of the things that make the U.S. different than China.” 
The problem was that I liked him, but because I had drank so much beer, I couldn’t tell how much. It was times like these when I was very happy that I had a couple of guys on the side so I wouldn’t make any mistakes out of horniness. As we approached the Hawthorne bridge, I told him that I was going to hop on my bike and head home. He gave me a hug good-bye and walked off toward his car. As I got on my bike and started pedaling home, I thought that this had been a good date, but I saw our religious and cultural differences as too much of a hurdle to having any possibility of the relationship going anywhere, in addition to the fact that he was probably moving to Pittsburgh.