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

TIME TO SETTLE?

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

CHRISTMAS FOR ONE

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

SWIFTLY SPEAKING

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. 
Swiftly.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

CAUTIOUSLY FESTIVE

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

FERRY FISHING

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 smiled...in 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.