Tuesday, August 21, 2012

THE WHISTLER SOLOIST

Okay, so I had a good time in Whistler last week.  I want to make that clear.  I also want to make clear that I like traveling alone.  Sure, a trip with a boyfriend would be nice, but that’s not an option.  And, it’s not always, in fact, nice. 

I have a few wonderful destinations in mind that I cannot imagine going to without a partner.  A romantic holiday for one is just pathetic.

I’ve never felt I needed a companion to go to Whistler.  But I kept getting surprised looks when people realized I’d shown up solo.  Oh, there are plenty of singles in the village.  They’re all twentysomethings and they travel in packs, talking about how drunk they got last night and how drunk they’re going to get tonight.  I know,..it’s a phase.  Have fun, kiddos.

Single gay man in his mid (er, late) forties?  A true novelty.  Uh, excuse me, sir.  Gay Ski Week was, like, so six months ago.  And the bird watching tour biz went bust.  Seems the old, single gay man contingent never materialized.  Have you tried Palm Springs?     

Now I will admit that I may be a wee bit touchy on this issue.  Let’s do a quick math review.  I have been single for all of my forties.  Yep.  I broke up with my last partner in March, 2004.  Since then, I have had plenty of coffee with gay single men, but there hasn’t been a Love Connection, not even a Strongly Like Connection.  (Point of clarification:  a “connection” means the feeling must be mutual.)  Sigh.  I would like to believe it is perfectly fine to be on my own.  In fact, most of the time, I feel that way.  I don’t blog about it.  “Perfectly fine” makes for a boring read.

“Traveling on your own, sir?” the hotel clerk asked as he confirmed my reservation.  Yes.  I only asked for one room key card.  (It’s a weird prudish quirk of mine.  If I say I need two, I get the idea that they think I am a slut or an unrealistic optimist, expecting to pick up some single wanderer.)  The clerk gave me two cards anyway.  Seems he couldn’t figure out what to do with the spare.  Whatever. 

One of my vacation indulgences is ice cream.  Not frozen yogurt.  Not sorbet.  Not low fat.  Definitely not ice milk.  It was a hot evening so the line at Cows meandered out of the store.  I tuned out the kids running wild, begging for cow magnets, cow shirts and cow stuffies.  I squinted and focused on the flavor board.  Must choose the perfect two-scoop combo.  At last, I reached the counter where I could gaze at all the tubs of frozen wonder.  The moment neared.  When it was my turn to order, the girl behind the counter didn’t know what to do with me.  Motioning to the family ahead of me, she asked, “Are you with them?”  No.  Naturally, she concluded I was with the woman behind me.  I had to spell it out for her:  “No, it’s just me.” 

That’s right.  I am a big boy now.  I can go to the ice cream store all by myself.

The next night I went to the movie theater.  This is another treat for me.  The single-screen theater in the town near me typically shows only action movies and family movies.  Not my fare.  I chose a mature movie with no special effects, “Hope Springs” starring acting marvel Meryl and the equally able Tommy Lee Jones (and featuring a too brief scene with the lovely Elisabeth Shue—Please, get this woman a starring role again).  Three older people lined up ahead of me to pay.  The cashier mistakenly charged them for four people.  “No,” the gentleman explained.  “He’s not with us.”  My face reddened and I confirmed:  “Just one.”  The movie didn’t exactly boost my spirits.  A long-married couple that hasn’t had sex in years.  All too relatable.  ‘Nuf said. 

I was most aware of my Lonesome Traveler designation on the last evening when I showed up for ziplining.  There were two tour guides and nine participants.  Odd number.  Figure it out.  One guide tried to lump me with others as he geared us up.  “No.  It’s just me,” I said.  Maybe I should have a t-shirt made.  Still, he inquired further.  “Someone else chicken out?”  No.  He sort of backpedaled, saying, “I traveled on my own here from England.  But I’ve got a girlfriend now.” 

In truth, I was not the only soloist.  The other guide noted to the photographer.  “We have three going alone.”  She said it like it was a rarity.  Like a sasquatch sighting.  Turns out one woman’s husband had a fear of heights.  And then there was the other veritable single person.  I’d noticed her strolling the village half an hour before the start of our tour.  She stood out.  About my age, she appeared twenty years older, looking totally out of place amongst the grungy mountain bikers with her wide-brimmed sun hat, frumpy blouse with its lace collar, khaki shorts and sensible shoes.

Sun Hat Lady—she kept the hat on under her helmet—made her presence known.  As we waited for the group ahead of us at the first zipline, she asked about the contents of the guide’s first aid kit.  “Is there bug spray in there.  I just got bit.”  She offered an audible “tsk” when the kit didn’t measure up.  What’s more, she tried to instruct the guides:  “It looks like that group is done.  Shouldn’t we get going?”  She continued to correct and direct the guides during the entire adventure.

 Yes, this is the type of person who vacations alone.

 Is this how I come across?!  Suddenly, “Hope Springs” seemed cheery by comparison.

Aware that I am not the most social individual, I decided I had nothing to lose on vacation.  What happens in Whistler... I chatted with everyone in our group during the first half hour.  They guardedly replied.  No one attempted to extend the conversation.  The couples (boyfriend/girlfriend, father/daughter and mother/son) stuck closely to one another, speaking in whispers.  I didn’t take the social shutdown personally.  I don’t think anyone could have broken through with these people.

During our five zipline runs, the couples remained inseparable.  Even though only one person can go at a time, the couples had to follow one another every single time.  God forbid that they should be more than five minutes apart.  I assumed my place as the last person for each run since it didn’t matter to me.  We all went up the mountain.  We were all going down the mountain.  Let the others jockey for whatever sense of order they needed.  I pulled back and enjoyed the silence, peacefully feeling the breeze and gazing up and down at the massive firs.

My trip wound down the next morning with a solo lengths swim in the pool, coffee for one in the village and a scrumptious bakery haul that didn’t need to be shared.  Just me.  And, really, just fine.

3 comments:

Rick Modien said...

Another terrific piece, RG.
I love your sensibility, the way you look at things, your sense of humor, and your facility with words.
Well done.

JustAMike said...

There is certainly no doubt that the world is not designed for singles. Yet, in history, some of our revered explorers traveled solo (I mean, without companions even though they often had helpers). I'm thinking (in our context) of Simon Fraser and David Thompson, two of western Canada's most important and intrepid explorers.

I'm glad you enjoyed your vacation!

Rural Gay said...

Thanks for the feedback, Rick. Your positive comments regarding my writing come at a most welcome time as I received a couple of rejections from agents this week. I know it is part of the process and I am glad I have an ordered list of other agents to contact.

Mike, I hadn't thought of myself as much of an explorer. Getting an ice cream cone won't make me famous, but I shall give myself a pat on the pack for braving the throngs of families, couples and twentysomethings. I am planning another solo adventure for September. Nothing exotic or daring; still, I look forward to spending a little time away!