Sunday, December 29, 2013

2 UP, 2 DOWN

I did not travel two ferries to Victoria just for a couple of coffee dates. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. I need my urban fixes to sustain my sanity and it’s been too long since I’ve explored this lovely little city.

But, yes, I had two potential dates lined up from Plenty of Fish. One guy messaged me a few months ago, but has been in Nigeria for much of the fall. The other guy I messaged the day before heading over. Why not?

I am here for three nights and gave both guys that window of time for meeting. One suggested getting together for a drink on the first night, the other wanted to meet for coffee the following morning. Two dates in a span of thirteen hours. The optimist in me wondered if I’d have to sneak away from any extended evening encounter to scramble over to meet the next guy. Me slutty? It was worth a chuckle.

I walked over to Canoe Bar Friday night and found Mick sitting at the bar. For once, a guy’s online photos undersold him. I felt an instant attraction, a wonderful sign. We chatted for ten minutes at the bar before I asked if we could move to a table. I didn’t like having a date as three bartenders stood nearby with little to do. I detected a trace of annoyance from Mick. Perhaps he had planned on a quick getaway or maybe he just enjoyed ogling the hunky trio. (This was not a gay bar; I assumed the guys were straight.) As we resettled, I asked about his work. What caused him to travel so much internationally? Turns out he works for a prominent public health foundation committed to eradicating certain diseases globally. He spent the next ten minutes talking about his job as if he were delivering a report to the United Nations. Was he trying too hard to impress or was this merely a canned brief? Business talk, only interesting for a change. Indeed, I was utterly fascinated.

So let’s recap where we are at this point. Attractive. Intelligent. Noble career.

He was incredibly fit, too—an avid marathon runner.

Hmm, how fast can I move to Victoria?

We talked about his teen son and that’s when I discovered the divorce hadn’t been finalized yet. There is always a catch. Separate abodes, at least. Better than the last time. I didn’t have the slightest sense that he would go back.

Dates are getting harder for me to gauge. Of course, I know when I am not interested and I can easily detect when it is a case of mutual disinterest. But I’ve gotten bad at figuring out if a guy is into me when I am into him. It all comes down to the goodbye.

We left the club and walked a few blocks together until his route home different from mine. It ended with a cordial hug, something I initiated. I think he would have preferred a wave. Yep, then and there it was clear. Any interest had been one-sided.

Normally, this would be easy to shrug off. The whole thing was impractical given the distance between our homes. And besides, I had another coffee lined up for the morning. So long, Mick. I’ve met a number of fine men who weren’t into me. I’ve learned a thing or two about being resilient.

This time, however, I turned the focus on me. After so many go-nowhere dates, I have to wonder what it is that I am doing wrong. It wasn’t a time to beat myself up over my looks. I’m in great shape and I’ve reached the as-good-as-it-gets level. This time I focused on the conversation. All these dates seem unnatural. They come off as interviews. There needs to be more doing than just talking. But things still seem stilted on a walk-and-talk. Why doesn’t my humor come through? Why do things remain at the schmooze stage? (I am a dreadful schmoozer.) Why don’t things ever evolve into genuine conversation?

No answers, of course. I stopped at 7-Eleven and picked up some comfort food. Let Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream be my backup companion.

I awoke to the fog of a new day. Another coffee, another opportunity. I walked to trendy Cook Street Village to meet Connor for an early morning latté. Arriving early, I reviewed his profile to assist with the schmoozing. Enter Connor. Again, he looked at least as good as his best online photo—tall, trim and flashing a warm smile. We chatted about less cerebral matters than the night before, but connected over where I lived as he has two siblings that have lived in my community in the past. Still, there were gaps in the conversation. I would stare into my empty mug, searching for something to get things back on track. If not a total fail, the schmoozing still needed work. Another street corner hug and I knew that was the first and final goodbye with Connor.

When the travel is greater to meet up on a date, the stakes are higher. A good date is not enough. In both cases, I am certain I came off as nice, but nothing more. How the heck do I conjure up the wow factor?

These dates had promise. Both men slotted in times early on my visit, leaving potential for a full weekend of follow-up activity. I got fizzle instead of sizzle. I don’t feel dejected—at least not after the pick-me-up that came from buying five pairs of shoes. At this point, however, I am mystified. What will it take to find a mutual connection again?

I now have plenty of time to ponder this as I have an open schedule to take in the sights of Victoria. To be safe, I am leaving the credit card in the hotel room.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


When I was in my late teens, I clearly recall single women on TV and in life getting riled up over two comments: (1) “Your biological clock is ticking” aka You’re not getting any younger; and (2) “After 30, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than finding a man.” These jabs were supposed to be helpful.

Stop being so picky.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

It’s time to settle.

The comments did not relate to me. Obviously, I had no timeline for getting pregnant. And back then, I was still in the closet and there was a Whole New World to be explored. I just needed to muster up a sense of pride and an ounce of courage and step out beyond the cozy cluster of wooden hangers. Still, I paid attention to women’s reactions: incensed, flabbergasted, despondent. When they needed support, they got what they perceived as criticism. The speaker always viewed it as constructive criticism,...a reality check.

I felt nothing but empathy. Somehow I knew that the time might come when I’d be labeled the picky one, the one who should settle for a lovable—er, likable—oaf just because, well, he noticed me.

Be grateful.

The problem is I’m not the kind of person who settles. And this is only a “problem” if I take the view that I must be in a relationship (which I don’t). Yes, I am 49 and, yes, the pickings seem slim. Some people imply that I must not really want a relationship. I’d be in one if that is what I truly wanted. This is the genie view of dating. Your wish is granted. Unfortunately, I do not know Barbara Eden personally. (She’s blocked me on Twitter.)

I do want to be in a relationship, but not just any relationship. I’ve been in bad relationships and boring relationships. I have felt worse about myself as a result. Being alone can be the healthier option. On my own, I continue to challenge myself to be a better person, not because of anyone else, but due to my belief that there is much to be learned throughout this life’s journey. I am hard on myself and I have a self-deprecating sense of humor, but I know I have a great deal to offer.

I continue to put myself out there. It aggravates me when someone suggests I am not trying hard enough. After so many lackluster coffee dates, I could have given up long ago, rescued a dozen cats and become pen pals with American prisoners on death row. I could have littered my garden with gnomes, each individually named and greeted daily. I could have begun the mother of all latch-hook projects to create charming butterfly tapestries for every wall in my house. No, I am saving these options for my sixties.

The biggest obstacle for me is opportunity. Single gay men in my age range do not exist where I live. (Well, there is my new neighbor, but we are simply friends. Despite my great affinity for Nora Ephron, it is indeed possible for two gay men to be friends without ever having the slightest inkling for sex or some other-defined relationship. Please do not suggest that we could be more. It reminds me of well-intentioned friends who have tried to set me up with the only other gay guy they know. You’re gay, he’s gay. How could it not be a match?)

I am perfectly willing to look beyond my community. WILL TRAVEL FOR A DATE. This weekend, in fact, I am in Victoria—two ferry rides from home—and I have a couple of coffee dates lined up. You never know, right?

I know that many guys have passed on me because of the distance. I also know that many have passed because they just weren’t interested. That’s the harsher reality. But it makes sense. Clicking with someone else is harder as you get older. I remember an early bar encounter when I thought I found a match just because we both liked the TV show “Murphy Brown”. (Why not? For awhile, we would have lovely Monday nights.) With age, we have set ways of being. We look for something deeper. Just being gaga over the same pop singer does not cut it.

I don’t think anyone has the answer to end my single status. Sometimes we sad-sacks just need to vent. We need someone to listen. It’s the same as when my married friends rag on their spouses. It’s about letting off steam. I am not in their shoes. I am not the one to decide when they should consider a different course of action. But I listen well. I know that helps.

I suppose I could work on my cruising skills. On my way to Victoria, I met up with a friend at a Starbucks in Vancouver. A good looking man entered. I watched how my friend fixed his stare on the guy. It seemed aggressive, but perhaps I could get better at trying to make eye contact. I’ve checked my shoelaces enough. Still, I don’t think a future relationship will begin with a cute (or creepy) tale about when our eyes first met. Neither do I think we’ll meet while fondling melons in the supermarket or while being caught in the rain without an umbrella. I’ll try to stay open to that anything-is-possible mindset—even TV/movie clichés. Nonetheless, I suspect there will be a greater purpose in our first encounter, should it ever occur.

Is there anything else I should be doing or trying? I will continue to write about the hopes, the misses and the failures of the dating process because that is a logical fit for this blog. However, rest assured that my life goes on. I am working on a new manuscript, enjoying a wonderful nonfiction book and going through a newfound willingness to try out recipes from a massive pile of clippings in a stuffed file folder. I am more than just a chronically single man. Thank goodness for that!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Let’s just get the obvious out of the way: spending Christmas alone can be depressing. I’ve had some downer holidays, the worst being the one when the power went out and I spent the “festive” evening alone in the dark before driving into town to sit in an empty Starbucks parking lot so I could at least get an internet connection.

The truth is that Christmas can be depressing or, worse, tense or combative when spent with family. Family gatherings are sometimes particularly troubling for LGBT folks. I recall one year when I called my parents to say my partner and are were flying to Texas to see them and my mother said, “Don’t. Your sister will be here with her family and your brother will be here with his family. The house will be full.” My partner’s response: “Your parents really don’t love you.” Perhaps. I think she wanted to avert conflict between my evangelical brother, his even more evangelical wife and me—leave “Hell” out of the dinner conversation. The next year when I said I was coming, my mother bluntly said, “Don’t bother.” As my brother and sister were spending the holidays with in-laws, there was no point. I haven’t invited myself since.

I have had “orphan” Christmases in which those of us who weren’t going home got together. Some of those gatherings were lovely, some just sad. It’s not really the day to chat up strangers who are on a casual friend’s curling team. I cannot feign an interest in that “sport” and the field of conversation did not become any wider when I discovered he was a butcher. (I am a strict vegetarian.) I’ve declined this curling gathering the past three years.

Some years, Christmas for One has been about surviving the day. Still, I think I’ve found a way to celebrate it. I share the following as tips for enjoying the holiday based on many years of going solo.

Play it loose with the traditions. I’ve gotten away from trying to mimic the traditions of larger Christmas gatherings. It’s not the same and pretending it is just makes things worse. Now I pick and choose what traditions I feel like. There is no one else insisting on putting up a tree or caroling around the cul-de-sac. This year, I put up a string of lights outside. I like peeking at them as I take my dog on the last walk of the night. They looked particularly sparkly after last week’s snowfall. I waffled on getting a tree, ultimately choosing to pass on that this year. I don’t like staring at the emptiness under the tree. Next year I may be okay with it, perhaps adding poinsettias as groundcover.

Plan for a full day. Pretending it was just another day only worked once. Fool me twice? Nope...didn’t happen. Planning is essential. I’ve ad-libbed the day before, but the what-do-I-want-to-do-now moments teeter on being sad little voids. 

Eat whatever you fancy. As a vegetarian, I have no need for a turkey or a faux turkey. For years, I made mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts and roasted veggies. I’m not craving that this time around so why go through the motions? Instead, I am making pizza with a homemade crust that I love, but haven’t made in a decade. I am looking forward to it—and that’s the point: create a meal you like, rather than something that is going to remind you of the shared feasts of Christmases past. For breakfast, I’ll open with a grapefruit and a full pot of strong coffee. Later in the morning, I’ll have a stack of blueberry pancakes with pure maple syrup. During the afternoon, I’ll make shortbread. I enjoy cooking without being rushed by other pressing items on an agenda. This is the perfect day to give the oven a workout.

Enjoy a quiet, relaxing activity. I like to pull out a jigsaw puzzle a few times a year. It is a focused way to pass time. I find it very relaxing in the way that I imagine knitting or car tinkering appeals to others.

I have a large stack of books waiting to be read. As I just finished one, I’ll pick a new one to begin, curling up in a chair and sipping some of that seemingly bottomless coffee supply. I also love magazines and I bought a couple to browse through.

Get outside. After the pancakes, I’ll take the dog for a long walk along the beach. This is my favorite tradition that began even before I had a dog and spent a Christmas on my own in Malibu. I feel a strong connection to nature and to water in particular. Beach walks nourish my soul. Having the dog with me adds lighter moments as his excitement in hopping through the sand always makes me laugh.

Keep up the fitness. Since I don’t partake in turkey, I don’t waste a couple of hours on the sofa in a tryptophan stupor. Fitness is extremely important to me and I don’t take a day off just because the gyms are closed. I always go for a decent jog on Christmas. I have to do this so I don’t fret over the extra food indulgences. I like to run into town along the lower road that shadows the coastline. There is a long pier that I jog out on—it’s the closest I can get to walking on water—and then I continue to the other side of the quaint harbor, all the while enjoying the peekaboo water views and the lack of foot and car traffic.

Over-plan. The day is full but, just in case, I have some videos that I would love to see again. It’s been a long time since I last saw “A Room with a View” and I’ll never tire of marveling over Nora Ephron’s brilliant screenplay for “When Harry Met Sally”. (It was at the peak of my Meg Ryan Can Do No Wrong period. Sigh. I miss dear Meg.)

In the days that follow, keep the focus on others. All in all, I know it will be a good day. After Christmas, I will run into a few acquaintances who will ask, “How was your Christmas?” It’s a perfectly normal question, a refreshing variant to “How are you?” I have learned that most people who have spent all their Christmases surrounded by people are aghast if I reveal that I spent it on my own. I’m past the days of self-pity; I don’t need it replaced by other-pity. I am ready with a true response—“Very nice”—and a quick pitch back—“How was yours?” If they go behind a brief “Good”, I probe to let them get it all out. People like to talk about themselves. It is rare that they realize that they shared a lot while I didn’t. We all have different needs.

And we all celebrate—or don’t celebrate—in different ways.

I am happy with my plans. I hope you are with yours. All the best to you!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I wanna be Taylor Swift.

Not for her nasally voice. I think I’ve got that already. Not for her fame. I wouldn’t be able to handle the paparazzi. (My side profile shots are frightening.) And not for her closetful of trophies. Nothing could ever top my fifth place ribbon I won earned as a seven-year-old in the neighborhood watermelon seed spitting contest. (In truth, there were no ribbons. But it was a moment. With six of us participating, it was the first athletic endeavor wherein I didn’t come last. A victory of sorts. I fashioned my award by tearing a strand from my bed sheet, thinking my mother would never notice. That’s another story...)

I want to fall in love like Taylor does. Swiftly. Did her name create a self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps I’ll change my last name. Forget Swift. I’m no groupie. How about Lovemore? Or Firstglance? No, I think I’ll go with (You Had Me at) Hello. Why not? If kids are getting names like Apple and 7, I am going to be James (You Had Me at) Hello. Nice ring to it, no? And I like the parenthetical homage to The Carpenters’ “(They Long toBe) Close to You”. No one else will make the link, but the name is for me.

Perhaps as James Hello I’ll become socially ept. (Clearly, I’ve mastered inept. Why can’t I be ept? No such thing?! By god, how am I supposed to right things?) Maybe the whole name thing needs more thought.

Back to Taylor Swift. This is a woman who falls in love. A lot. True, guys line up for her. Fame, money, trophies. Maybe I’ll go back to wearing my bed-sheet ribbon.

Joe Jonas.

Taylor Lautner.

John Mayer.

Jake Gyllenhaal. (Ah, Jake. This one was the keeper, Taylor.)

Conor Kennedy.

Harry Stiles.

These are all brief relationships. According to my trusty Wiki research, none has exceeded four months. But Taylor would never call them “flings”. Love. Truly, Madly, Deeply. (Aside: Whatever happened to SavageGarden?)

For me, it’s not about the fact the relationships end. My focus is on getting something to start. For the past decade, I’ve been this sad sack, stranded on a quasi-island, failing miserably at survival. Lots of rubbing stones together to try to make a spark, a fire. Nothing. No matches. No light.

Taylor believes in love. Taylor finds love. She is known for bashing her exes in song, but her lyrics are also laced with hope and romance. Listen to “Love Story” again. “Today Was a Fairytale”. Sense the longing in “Teardrops on My Guitar” or “You Belong with Me”. All summer her duet with Ed Sheeran, “Everything Has Changed”, squiggled through my brain like an earworm. It amused me as a tale of falling fast.

All I knew this morning when I woke
Is I know something now, know something now I didn't before.
And all I've seen since eighteen hours ago
Is green eyes and freckles in your smile
In the back of my mind making me feel right.

'Cause all I know is we said, "Hello."                            [As in (You Had Me at)!]
And your eyes look like coming home
All I know is a simple name
Everything has changed.
All I know is you held the door
You'll be mine and I'll be yours
All I know since yesterday is everything has changed.

The jaded part of me dismisses it all as the thinking of a young mind. So naïve. So open. I was that once. An ex (and his mother; both cynical) once described me as a deer in the headlights: innocent, hopeful, and wholly unaware of the harshness ahead. Now I am guarded. I’ve been cheated on, abused and, of late, completely passed over. Yes, Taylor, there is a country song in me if I can ever feel comfortable leaving off word beginnings endings and tossin’ ‘round apostrophes.

But I’d like to get back to being hopeful or, at the very least, suspending disbelief.

Hope is a start. Opportunity is another hurdle. Someone hold the door. Green eyes and freckles or not, show me that smile.

I can’t keep rubbing rocks together. I have no interest in being on “Survivor”. I need a spark, a flame, some warmth. Bring it on. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Do you hear what I hear? I’ve been “fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la”-ing in my head all morning. It has taken me by surprise.

As a middle-aged single guy who regularly faces holidays alone, these are dicey times. Cherished alone time can suddenly meld into solitary confinement as folks around me pack up to visit family and run up their credit cards with gift purchases. Chocolates conveniently displayed by the checkout counter! Clearance rack carves! A second-hand copy of Snooki’s autobiography! (Under the tree filler. Just don’t get too hung up on it’s the thought that counts.)

I tell myself everything is fine. Christmas can be just another day. Or it can be “differently special”—I can make homemade pizza, walk the dog along the beach and through the forest trails, finally watch my DVD copy of “Annie Hall” all the way through, complete a jigsaw puzzle, deep clean the oven. Maybe just different without the special.

So far, everything is fine. I’m even feeling festive. I don’t change the radio station when a Chipmunks Christmas song comes on. I put up a string of lights along the front of the house for the first time in years. I even stood in line to get my dog’s picture taken with Santa. (The helper elf seemed startled when I said I wanted in the photo. You can see for yourself that it meant more to me than my poor pooch. I swear I did not give him a sedative, nor did I load up on rum balls beforehand. Stop the Twitter rumors now.)

I’ve been debating about getting a tree. Probably won’t. I’ve been indoctrinated by Smokey the Bear and firefighters on the news about fire hazards and I’ll be away on my own little adventure for part of the holidays. I’d like to return to a house rather than a pile of soot. Still, even thinking about putting up an askew spruce is a positive step. It shows that Ebenezer and the ghosts of non-Christmas past have been kept at bay.

I’d buy a poinsettia, but it breaks my heart to see it suffer a slow death in the months that follow, leaves dropping rapidly to create a Charlie Brown plant which I finally turf mid-April. Maybe a wreath is the way to go.

Last night I curled up on the sofa with my dog and delighted in every moment of my favorite show in the whole wide world, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”! (Make the Yule-tide gay, indeed!) And I purposely chose the most festively decorated café in town as my writing site this morning. Each time I struggle with a phrase, my eyes look up and are enchanted by the white lights that adorn the pine garlands along the perimeter. Tonight I’m baking shortbread and double chocolate ginger cookies to share with colleagues tomorrow.

Under the right circumstances, I could completely embrace the season. I’m not there yet, but at least I’m not shunning it. I think I’ll head to the pet store and load up on doggy treats to stuff in the stocking I so badly wanted during our office party gift exchange. Everyone else battled for booze. I was totally set on the Santa stocking.

 As the cookies bake this evening, I’ll write a handful of Christmas cards, sparing people the form letter enclosure with news about Aunt Hazel’s shingles and my bird-watching plans for ’14. (Sorry, a holiday Tweet or a Facebook post is not the same.)

Of course, all this tentative merriment could evaporate as the 25th nears. For now, I’ll keep tapping my toes as José Feliciano sings “Feliz Navidad” and pick up a carton of soy eggnog before hunting down a suitable wreath.

Deck the halls and all that stuff. Fa la la la la la la la la!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I have a love-hate relationship with ferries. Most of us in this ferry-dependent area do. I don’t live on an island, but there are no roads to link us with the rest of civilization. Mountains and water make a roadway expensive and impractical. In the eight years I have lived here, I have heard many people speak of an old, meandering logging road that could be developed. It’s never more than talk—a rural legend, perhaps. Oh, how I would love to drive. Toll it. Anything to live by my own schedule.

The ferry ride itself is lovely—views of snow-capped mountains, peeks at Vancouver Island and glimpses of human and natural activities on and around closer islands. When the sun is shining, like this particular Sunday, it is paradise. Sometimes those of us who rely on the ferries as part of our highway system forget this. The tourists on board remind us of the initial appeal. Children run about, gazing out the windows (if they’re not lured into the pinball machine room or shoveling ketchup-covered yam fries into their mouths.) Adults peer out the windows or brave the wind and chill on deck to snap photos on whatever gadget they’ve got. Couples unwind from the stresses of racing to the terminal and share a hug that serves as an apology for snippy comments that came after a missed exit. The embrace puts them back in the now. Look at that view. How lucky we are to share it together.

Long-term singletons like myself are acutely aware of such “together” moments. It is all around us every day. Most take it for granted. It doesn’t register, much like the ocean views for ferry regulars.

Because I live in a semi-rural environment, the ferry presents the largest cluster of people I see in my regular life. I have always been a people watcher—it helps my writing, but I have always been fascinated by the variances of human interaction. To be clear, however, sailing time is not cruising time. It stands to reason that, if there are no single gay men living in my coastal community, there aren’t going to be any coming or going on the ferry. I have never tried it, but I am rather certain Grindr doesn’t work in my area. I envision the spinning pinwheel appearing on my iPhone. Searching...Searching...Searching...

On this occasion, I boarded the ferry, not for brunch in Vancouver or an increasingly rare coffee date. I didn’t even have a shopping spree planned. (VISA has loudly reminded me that it would be best if I spread out such adventures. Party pooper!) Alas, my trek to town was a quest for a flea bomb. I can’t elaborate without scratching. I love my pooch, but...Figure it out.

The ferry crowd is more varied on weekends. Not so many commuters annoying the rest of us with business calls at high volume. Lots of tweens in soccer uniforms, running laps on ship, nearly taking down senior citizens carrying cups of tea. Teenagers wander in small groups, laughing and talking loudly, thinking and knowing that the whole world revolves around their latest drama. (How could it not?)

I dutifully lined up at the snack bar, desperately needing my morning sustenance—a Starbucks dark blend to tide me over until I refuel in West Van. Even without the caffeine injection, I realized that the man two people ahead of me in the queue had the clean look of an out-of-towner. He had closely cropped hair kept perfectly in place with a dab of sculpting putty. (What did we ever do before putty/gel/molding paste? Perhaps frizzy hair is the real reason George Washington et al. wore wigs.) More telling, he lacked that trademark beer belly of the local thirty-five and up crowd. His baby blue long sleeved jogging shirt flattered broad shoulders and a trim midsection. (Another sign he wasn’t a local: baby blue is not butch enough for the mill workers.) He took a seat on a stool between the snack bar and gift shop. So did I. It was not an intentionally act of stalking. This is where I always sit to write on my laptop. Call it fortuitous, kismet, fate...and, okay, mild stalking.

Five minutes of failed attempts to make eye contact abruptly ended with the arrival of a wife and child who had picked up a chocolate bar and a colorful new silk scarf at the gift shop. The man barely noticed the fashion purchase. Definitely not gay, as further confirmed by the child who, moments later, tugged on the man’s arm, yelling, “Daddy” along with a plea to do something—anything other than parking on a stool on a vessel with so much to explore.

It’s not just Grindr that is out of whack here. My gaydar has suffered considerably from my relocation. I blame it on optimism, mixed with stubbornness. I refuse to believe the well established fact that gays aren’t really into regions well known for hiking, kayaking and camping. The “Interests” section of their Plenty of Fish profiles profess a love for such things. Could they be untruthful?!

Enough distraction. I put my head down and began to write, intent on plowing through the next chapter of my current manuscript. After rereading what I’d written the day before, I stumbled in the same place where I’d left off. Sometimes inspiration comes from time away; sometimes it is just wasted hours on Twitter. Damn you, social media.

I looked away from the laptop and noticed a dashing thin man with thick glass frames, a gray turtleneck, charcoal wool jacket and a red scarf that made the whole outfit pop. Architect, I surmised. Maybe a professor of English lit. Clearly, not a local. We don’t have universities or striking works of architecture in my environs.

This time I checked the ring finger right away. Nothing! I looked for signs of other-ness amongst his belongings. All he had was a black satchel, too thin for porting a diaper stock or soccer cleats. Sitting two tables away, my view was obstructed by a patient grandmother trying to teach an antsy four-year-old boy how to play Fish. Their version evolved into a mash-up with Fifty-Two Card Pickup.

Mr. Satchel looked my way. First contact! Or maybe not. Did our eyes meet? For a second it seemed so, but then he cast his eyes downward at a wayward four of clubs. He bent down, picked up the card and tried to hand it to the boy. No go. The kid continued to wave both arms about, telling Grandma something about Star Wars Lego. Eventually Grandma took the card, profusely thanking Mr. Satchel as if he’d found a lost diamond earring. She began to engage the man in conversation. The nerve. Back off, cougar!

Suddenly, the boy became my flirting ally. “You’re not listening to me!” he whined. Grandma had to abandon her hookup hopes and nod away at the boy’s ramble. The next fifteen minutes were filled with near misses. Mr. Satchel looked here, there and everywhere, but never quite rested his gaze on me. If only I had the boy’s chutzpah. You’re not looking at me!

And just as the announcement came on about nearing the terminal, my guy seemed to spot me. In terms of staring, two seconds is significant. I my mind, if not on my face. Why is there so much risk in acknowledging a stranger? Before the recorded message ended, he’d strapped his bag over his shoulder, risen and headed for the stairs. Definitely not a ferry regular. The rest of us know there are eight more minutes before retreating to the chill of our cars.

Grams and the boy abandoned their Fishing expedition and headed for the stairs as well. Head down, I pounded out a paragraph, deleted it, tried and deleted again. The whole trip was an exercise in frustration.

When I finally headed to my car, I glanced at the black BMW parked behind me. A real fish out of water. This is the land of pickup trucks. Alberta license plate confirmed my suspicion. I glimpsed the driver. Yep, Mr. Satchel! I played my own game of Fish, searching for nothing in the trunk of my car. Look at me, look at me! I straightened a blanket and toted an open bag of stale pretzels back to the driver’s seat. He did not look up, too busy texting on his phone. Again, damn you, social media!

Once off the ferry, I took the first exit to refuel on caffeine. He continued on the highway, a long day’s drive away from Calgary. So long, indifferent, possibly gay man. On the return ferry ride, I stayed in my car. Enough excitement for one day. At least I had a thin idea for a blog entry, yet another distraction from my regular writing. But then I reached for my phone and started Googling.

It’s been years since I visited Calgary...

Ah, maybe there’s a bigger fish story to come.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


I fear we’re forgetting.

In the 1980s and 90s, AIDS ravaged gay communities, created doorknob hysteria and gave the public a medical excuse to shun homosexuality. It was the time period in which I came out—a time of fear and hatred. More significantly, it was a time when thousands of gay men died far too early, when a cliché like “only the good die young” became maddening. Nothing could soothe or help make sense of the tremendous loss.

I want the men—and women and children—who died from AIDS-related conditions to be remembered, their stores to endure. That is why the AIDS Quilt meant so much—loved ones reflected on the highlights of a life lived and honored that individual with a tapestry sewn together while working through their own grief. I remember sitting alone in an L.A. movie theater, watching the Oscar-winning documentary “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt” and being so distraught I couldn’t leave after it ended. Beautiful people gone. The haunting Bobby McFerrin soundtrack plays in my head as I recall the pervasive sadness (and the lighter moments) that make the film so vivid to me even now.

But the film’s threads were only snippets of a few of the people who died. So many small and big moments could not be shared in an 81-minute film. Years after a person dies, a loved one will continue to lament about moments that cannot be experienced together and he or she will feel intense guilt when realizing a whole day may have passed without thinking about the deceased person. Recalling the face, the mannerisms, the moments becomes harder. Photos provide an infusion.

And yet, just as veterans speak of concerns about the public forgetting the fallen in time of war, the same goes for those of us who lived, loved and lost during the peek of the AIDS crisis. Much good arose from dark times. Anger led to activism and, while some fortified their closets, many stepped out, embraced the (at the time) more in-your-face term “queer” and demanded acceptance and understanding, the stepping stones to today’s unrelenting push for equality.

Still, on the eve of World AIDS Day, I urge younger gays to Google something other than porn, to tweet something not about Miley and to learn more about a generation that watched vibrant individuals waste away in short, yet agonizing months. Find a copy of And the Band Played on by Randy Shilts or David Levithan’s new two boys kissing, read blog posts about World AIDS Day, watch “Common Threads”. Talk to those of us who are older. Ask us to share memories of sweet souls who died despite all the hope and courage they could muster.

By all means, celebrate your life. But, please, take some time to celebrate past lives of people who should still be with us. They still are, of course, if we can talk, share and remember.

Monday, November 25, 2013


It’s come to this. I can’t wait to go back to sleep. Not because of fatigue. Not because I’m feeling ill. And, definitely not because this blog is suddenly sponsored by Sealy mattresses. I dreamed in snippets again last night—vivid, usually joyous moments.

This has been happening frequently in recent weeks. Yesterday morning, as my alarm sounded, my dearly departed dog was at my side, tail wagging, body contorting with excitement to embark on an anticipated first walk of the day. Real or not, it was a precious moment, a chance to see the little guy again.

Last night’s montage featured my remaining schnauzer running freely through busy streets where alert drivers cleared a path in traffic for him to roam. There was also a troubling scene with my ex trying to be romantic. In the dream, it sort of worked, but I didn’t have time to puzzle over this because I came to my senses and re-enacted that irksome endless running sequence from “Forrest Gump”. (All this running—my dog, then me; seems I am still trying to escape my rural environment.)

True to my inner shallowness, my mega-marathon did not lead me to a chance encounter with political leaders of the past nor did it inspire onlookers. (I’m just glad no one laughed; my gait has always been awkward). Instead, I wound up in a monstrous high fashion mall. Mysteriously, I did not browse or buy a thing. (Proof that dreams are often utterly implausible.) The running continued as I frantically tried to exit the shopping haven.

I wound up in a crowded gay jazz club. A soulful woman with a big voice belted out an up-tempo number and I stopped running. I was right where I needed to be. It perplexed me that the gay bar was an annex to a mall, particularly since I had the sense I had jogged into an urban center in Red State territory. (Perhaps I was back in Texas. It has been on my mind as another Thanksgiving approaches when my family will get together without me. It’s tradition. I cannot get the time off work.) The audience included a sizable smattering of heteros, all welcoming and taking in the musical genius of the singer’s vocal stylings, supported by a skilled band and a trio of sound masters flicking buttons and turning knobs to make every note pop.

With the mass of people jammed in the joint, I couldn’t make out the singer. I craned my head back and forth, expecting to see a gorgeous black woman in a body-hugging, amply sequined purple dress from The Supremes era. But then came the big reveal. While not as dramatic as something out of “The Crying Game”, the woman was indeed a plain man with a five-o’clock shadow, dressed in a sensible button-down shirt and a drab pleated denim skirt. The image disappointed in so many ways, but I went with the crowd, totally accepting him and cheering maniacally as the band segued into a sultry slow number.

And then my dream fast forwarded five or ten minutes. I was seated with the singer and the band and a few select gay fans at a long table at the back of the bar. One of the production engineers told me about their next gigs and their upcoming album. As music is so important in my life, I savored this up close and personal moment.

Even as a restrained groupie, I failed to fully understand something else developing by my side. A very cute gay man sat to my left. Naturally, I assumed he was taking in the conversation in a similar manner, feeling privileged to be invited to the inner circle of a group on the cusp of superstardom.

But then in the final moments it dawned on me that he was a friend of the band. He wasn’t hanging on every word they said. He was taking in my every move. Smitten. With me! How’s that for a twist?!

And just as in every romantic comedy I’ve overdosed on, I turned to him and caught a quick glimpse before life got in the way. A sighting, a chance encounter, a stronger connection unrealized...or, as in the movies, frustratingly delayed. The moment was not halted by a closing elevator door, a swarming crowd, or the end of a train ride in France.

My dearly remaining dog had tap danced across the wood floor of the bedroom, anxious to get me up for his own morning walk. The real thing, an off-leash amble with no traffic to navigate. It is always a magical moment as I laugh at his gleeful goose honks and he bounces from bush to bush, christening everything anew. But I trudged along and eyed the colorful sunrise over the snow-sprinkled mountains, feeling stunned. Today’s greeting yanked me away from my dream guy.

As I reflect, I’ve changed my mind. Forget sleep. The reality is I can never return to good dreams. (Why do nightmares recur while the glorious moments are so fleeting?) I have a vague recollection that the man of my dream was shorter than average with dark hair and dark eyes, but a single image remains clear from the moment just before my dog brought me back to reality. I can see the sleeve of a red plaid shirt rolled up, exposing a pale forearm, dotted with a few freckles and a sparse matting of dark hair. (Red plaid? Really? Must go with it.) The arm is an effortless reach away. The image brings me hope. Maybe there is a real man out there and our fateful encounter is near. It doesn’t hurt to believe. At the very least, it’s a call to go shopping. Something good is bound to come from that.

I have (part of) a man in mind and I am left with a clue to his identity—my very own fairy tale. For the prince, it was Cinderella’s glass slipper. For me, it’s a guy’s right forearm.

Some guys are all about the pecs. Others go for biceps, butts or the front packaging. I always thought I was a face and hair guy but apparently that’s all wrong. No wonder I’m still single. All this time, I should have been casting my gaze on the underappreciated forearm.

Surely this changes everything.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


If I applied, they’d admit me to a nunnery. Except for the fact that I’m male. (We know the Catholic Church is slow to change with the times.) And I’m not really into a vow of poverty. Been there, done that. And, well, I guess I’d stumble with the devoutness. But my point is—and, really, I should have just led with this—I’ve got the chastity thing down.

Let’s just say I’m involuntarily celibate.

I hate to do the math. Last time I had sex, Bill Clinton was in the White House. “Friends” was still on air, running original episodes. Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears had just released debut albums. “American Beauty” was starting to generate Oscar buzz, people were talking about a kid who saw dead people and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” was 34.

A long, long time ago.

Yep, 1999.

I have yet to have millennial sex. Not everybody made it through Y2K unscathed.

Way back then, I was in a relationship. In love. The sex just stopped. I stuck around another five years. He said he was depressed. He said he was stressed from work. I didn’t press. I moved into the guest room because he said I snored. People say sex isn’t the most important part of a relationship and I agree. But it shouldn’t completely disappear—not with a couple of thirtysomethings.

There was plenty of dysfunction in the relationship. Love petered out. I hung on far too long. Even though gay marriage didn’t yet exist in Canada, I was committed to “for better or for worse.” I assumed “worse” was just a phase.

After the breakup, I was stuck in the same house with the ex for another year. The house couldn’t go on the market until we made it through reno hell. Once out, I wanted nothing to do with men. I cherished my freedom. When I was ready, a relationship—and sex—would come. Like riding a bike, right?


Oh, god. Let’s hope.

But I’ve been ready for years. Loveless. Sexless. Heck, I haven’t even kissed a guy in the past year and a half. The closest I get to foreplay is a hand wave. These are bleak times.

Back in West Hollywood last summer, a good friend of mine told his husband about our wild times from twenty years ago. Only they were his wild times, not mine. He kept saying, “James had standards.” Translation: I didn’t partake in one-night stands and that whole sowing-of-the-wild-oats shenanigans. I wanted love and nothing less.

So, yes, I’ve lived a highly principled life. I’ve stuck to my goals. I’ve done everything possible to be the Good Guy and to keep all signs of schmuckness to a minimum. And I’m not really sure why anymore.

As much as I still long for love, I need sexual intimacy, even if it is fleeting. I need the validation and the connection.  At 49, I am in great health and I am fitter than 95% of the men my age (or even ten years younger).  What if I have to wait another fourteen years? I’d like another sexual experience while my body still looks good, where physical attraction, maybe even lust, is part of the act.

Standards have left me disconnected. I’ve always cherished my time alone, but it’s now laced with loneliness. This Good Guy is finishing lost.

There are outlets—bathhouses, trails in some park, online hookup sites. You can Google anything these days. It would be such a relief to cast this celibacy aside and reset the clock on a new sexless streak. For various reasons, I still can’t go there. But maybe that time will come. It seems more likely than any other option. Something has to change...and it needs to be before the next Clinton becomes president.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


If you’ve checked out my blog on a semi-regular basis, you know that I’ve spent the last eight years in a gay black hole. I do hear about rare gay couple sightings along the sixty or so kilometers of coastline in my region, but maybe that’s just a rural legend. Cougar reports are more frequent. There are two gay couples I know exist in the closest town. They own competing coffee shops. (New dating plan: open my own café and hope it lures a future co-owner/husband. I do love a good latté.)

Single gay sightings do not occur. It seems I’m the one and only. The last dodo bird. A creature too thick in the head to know that there is no chance for survival in the current habitat.

Yes, I tried to relocate. Over the course of three years, the house would not sell. I put in on the market, took it off, put it on, took it off. In early June, I was about to re-list, when two homes on my street suddenly donned FOR SALE signs. Too much competition. I bowed out. Within a month, I accepted a new job only a two-minute drive from home. I was here to stay. Love it if you can’t leave it.

To my surprise, both houses on my street sold over the summer. It meant an end to the suspected drug activity across the street and goodbye to a family a few houses down. On October 1, moving vans zipped in and out of my cul-de-sac. However, I never glimpsed the new neighbors.

Two weeks ago, I was in the midst on my Sunday afternoon grocery shopping in town, strolling the Health Food/Toilet Paper aisle, lost in thought. (Are these products grouped together by coincidence? If I buy the Cashmere toilet paper while it’s on sale, can I make my own bargain sweater?)

And then someone yelled down the aisle. “Jim. Jim Gregory.”

Huh? Sure that’s me. But I’ve gone by James ever since I moved here. It’s the first place where people haven’t cut it to Jim or Jimmy as soon as we got on friendly terms. (Maybe it’s just a reminder that I’m not that friendly with anyone in my area.)

I turned and Anson Turnbull walked right up. Hadn’t seen him in ten years. Back when I lived in Vancouver, we played in a gay tennis league, often carpooling to the courts. Nice guy if you can get past his perpetual awkwardness. He works as a technical writer and speaks the same way. Everything is very precise, each comment screened and revised in the millisecond between thought and speech.

“Anson? What are you doing here?”

“I just moved here.”


“Cedar Creek.”

“I live in Cedar Creek! Where?”

“On Newton Road.”

“I live on Newton Road!”

Yep. Hello, neighbor. The single gay male contingent suddenly doubled.

And before you get any ideas, dear reader, there will be no mating efforts between these two dodo birds. Still, it’s nice to have some company. We went for coffee—at one of the gay-owned coffeehouses, of course—and got caught up. Like all my former tennis friends, he’s been sidelined by physical limitations that pop up during middle age (Achilles tendon, in his case), but Anson is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Now I wonder who’s in the drug house...

Sunday, November 3, 2013


If I were to completely fit the stereotype, I would be blonder. And prettier.

I can hear the campy quip in my head: “It’s a good thing she’s good looking...”

I have three degrees but it is true—I could not find my way out of a wet paper bag. Anything that requires practical skills brings great challenge.

I will never be a handyman.

My toolbox once had screwdrivers, wrenches and assorted tools I always called “thingy” and “the other thingy”. (I should borrow from Dr. Seuss—Thing 1, Thing 2, Thing 427.) I don’t know where the tools went. All those years of neglect—perhaps they walked out. (What? Tools can’t walk?! Well, how would I know?) The only thingies in the box now are used stir sticks from painting, duct tape and packaging tape. Yeah, I lost the masking tape, too. I have some electric tools on the shelf downstairs, too. They worked wonders in helping me get the screws in straight for the first time in my life, but I lost the chargers.  I keep the gadgets in case the chargers turn up along with my missing purple sock. I’d check behind the dryer, but it’s really icky back there.

Somehow I get by as a homeowner. I put projects aside until my father’s visit (once every four years). I politely ask the electrician or the drywall guy if they know anything about putting together a bed frame or tightening a tap handle. (It costs extra, of course. Again, not pretty enough.) I wait until my friend Heidi visits. (Fixed my windshield wipers with a twist tie. Amazing!)

Sometimes, however, I am on my own and I have no choice but to stop being helpless.

I just bought a new chair for my home office. Had to. When my dog was a pup, he spent one glorious afternoon tearing the seat of the existing chair and pulling out bits of foam to adorn the floor. (The carpeting was rather drab.) I couldn’t figure out how to sew everything back in so I bought a blue throw blanket and covered the chair. It worked well until my dog decided a month ago that he didn’t like the blanket. (Too Linus? Tangent:  I’ve never met anyone in real life named Linus. Have you?) My pooch hasn’t been tearing out the foamy bits, but the pieces drift each time he kicks off the blankie and resettles in the chair.

I rented a van to cart the chair home and then wrestled the oversized box out of the vehicle and set it in the carport. It took me a day to figure out how to lug the thing up inside and up the stairs. This thinking process involves lots of staring, arms akimbo, followed by checking Twitter for the latest thoughts about Dr. Who and Toronto’s oaf of a mayor.

Hoover perched in the old chair in 2011.
Once I maneuvered the thing in the front door, I let it rest in the hallway. Time for another well deserved break. Hauling the beast up the stairs was a bigger ordeal. I would have taken a break halfway up, but that would have meant watching the chair tumble back down, taking a chunk out of the wall. That kind of repair would be an even greater conundrum.

Ripping off the packaging went very well. Didn’t even whimper as I yanked packing tape from my arm hair. (This is growth.) But then I faced total disappointment seeing the chair in the office. Hmm,...this seems very low to the ground. I swear the chair I saw in the store had legs instead of a simple baseboard thingy.

That’s when it dawned on me. They loaded up the wrong chair! Same color, wrong style. This was the sushi table version.

And that’s when a new thought dawned on me. The legs must be with the packaging! I scoured the carport and the living room, rummaging through cardboard, foamy sheets, hordes of plastic and wads of bubble wrap. No legs. The doofuses forgot to include the legs! I’d have to have a very curt conversation with the manager and insist they pay for shipping the missing pieces.

I don’t like curt conversations either so I took another break to put all the packaging in neatly folded recycling piles. And, yes, I played with the bubble wrap. (Go here if you suddenly need your bubble wrap fix.)

Before calling, I conducted one final search. In the process, I tipped the chair over and noticed the zippered bottom. Tricky bastards! They’d hidden the legs in a “secret” compartment. I unwrapped them—more packaging,...more bubbles to pop!—and stared at the screws with the conveniently included Allen key.

Time for another break. If there had been a “Some assembly required” sign on the floor model, I would have never bought the thing. I would have lived with the foam bits intermingling with dust bunnies all over the house. Truth is, I am still haunted by my junior high school days when woodworking was the required course for boys (while the girls took home economics). My British teacher, Mr. Bentley, took great pleasure in regularly calling me an “incompetent ninny” and I did everything to live up to the name.

I kept stepping into my home office, staring at the detached legs and the package of screw and washers and then retreating. I tried to be productive during the procrastination, scrubbing the kitchen counters, starting the laundry, catching up on paper shredding.

Finally, I sat on the floor, picked up a leg, grabbed a screw and set to work. After attaching the first leg, I had the urge to take a break. Mini celebration. But, no! I forced myself to trudge on. Once finished the third leg, I hit a roadblock with the final limb. The screws didn’t seem to align with the holes.

Hoover looking innocent and settled
in the new chair.
(Ooh, and just look at those chair legs!)
My inner ninny said, Leave it for tomorrow. Why not? I’d accomplished so much in so few hours.

And then inner ninny succumbed to Inner Ninja. Screw it! And so I did. One chair, four legs. Fully assembled! (And to think I didn’t even need those washer thingies!) Sure enough, I had the very chair I’d seen at the store. It was quite the ordeal but I can look at my purchase with pride.

Here’s hoping my dear dog’s destructive days are over.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Me on the ferry
Nobody died. My leg isn’t filled with shrapnel from a pipe bomb. It’s not even raining.

That puts things in perspective.

My losing streak continues. Status quo. Ho hum. Still, it doesn’t feel so good.

I am cursed with bad luck when it comes to dating. I keep thinking it has to turn around, but that damned bad luck bucket is bottomless. I kick it and it keeps rolling right back.

I barely slept last night. I’d like to think it was from too much pasta but, yeah, I was looking forward to today’s date. This one felt different. I was truly interested, fully invested. I wanted it to work. My alarm went off at 6:45, I got up, fed the dog and then headed out while it was still dark to fit in a jog. I hate any form of morning exercise, but with the date set for the middle of the day, an early run was the only option.

Back home, I decided to forego the electric shave for a smoother, bloodier process. I spritzed on my new Hermès cologne—can’t wear it in the workplace; everything is scent sensitive. I tried on a half dozen shirts multiple times and went through equally indecisive rounds for pants, socks and shoes.  Sometimes that dang ferry is a blessing. It’s the only thing that got me out the door.

The sailing was beautiful: sunshine, a hot cup of Starbucks, a little table to do some writing. Then, the text came.

Ahh crap James. I have to take a rain check today. Some of my staff called in sick and I have to go in to work. So sorry. Really wanted to see you.

Clive runs his own business. Work happens. I get it.

Of course, it would have been nice to know before I spent fifty bucks on the ferry. And now I’d have at least two hours to kill before catching the next ferry.

We texted back and forth. There was a possibility he could leave at some point in the afternoon. Fine. It was a rare occasion to linger in Vancouver. I could call some friends, shop, find a café to write. There are many ways to make lemonade.

But first I got a cinnamon bun. I deserved some comfort food.

I couldn’t reach anyone so I passed the day shopping. Yes, I contributed $1,300 to the Vancouver economy. It wasn’t all clothes. Bought a chair, too. I can’t attribute the spree to Clive. I’ve been finding great joy in shopping of late. With all I’m saving on commuting costs, the money has to go somewhere. Paying down the mortgage is the responsible thing to do, but it doesn’t have the wow factor of a new purple jogging jacket and green jeans. (How is it I’ve waited this long for a pair?!)

My credit card still had plenty of room, but I’d reached my limit. No word from Clive. I headed back to the ferry terminal.

No date for today. My dog deserves a little weekend time. And frankly, I’m not feeling so excited anymore.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


You’d think after all these years being single and striking out, I’d be completely disheartened. I should be grumpier than Donald Trump. I should have taken to cooking with butter...gobs of it. Should be alternating between a gray and a black sweats ensemble. I should have five cats, two closets full of jigsaw puzzles and an online alter ego account to challenge myself to marathon Scrabble sessions.

Sometimes I come close. I do like a good jigsaw puzzle. I even have one with cats.

But despite the string of bad and boring first (and last) dates, that schoolgirl rush of anticipation still surfaces on occasion. I have hope. Not always, of course. Rejections and dead ends do take their toll, even on someone as foolishly naive as I am at the core. I can wallow with the best (worst) of them. Let’s just put that all aside again.

I have a date tomorrow. I didn’t want to blog about it. Maybe that jinxes things. Maybe I’m trivializing these encounters, whittling them down to one-sided online entries in an effort to fortify Team Woe Is Me. But writing is my outlet. And I’m so jittery right now I have to let my thoughts out. (My Scrabble partner is currently offline.)

Hope springs eternal. Thank god the expression has some truth! I eyed Clive’s profile a couple of weeks ago. He included many photos, each one revealing a truly handsome man. Parts of his message attracted me as well. Some of it also came off as Too Much Information, but then I can be too reserved. I was interested.

Later that evening, he sent a message. Three words. (Not everyone shares my propensity to ramble.) “Hey there, handsome.” Was he interested?

I truly hate the online messaging. It is rare that I ever get any sense of the person behind the pics. Oh, but let me repeat, Clive has some damn good pics. So ruggedly handsome. Such piercing blue eyes. And what a lovely name. Please, let him be a good man. Let there finally be mutual interest.

Yes, I don’t have much more to go on. Each time I receive a message as we work out the details on where to meet tomorrow, I feel a flutter of excitement. I curse the fact I still have to wait twenty-four whole hours.

All the eagerness could be zapped away within a split second of face-to-face contact tomorrow. That’s familiar territory. For now, however, I shall relish my inner schoolgirl and cling to the possibility that something good awaits.

It’s a wondrous feeling!