Monday, February 10, 2014

THROUGH THE "LOOKING" GLASS

Okay, that’s it. I need to become a TV character.

I just watched the first episode of HBO’s “Looking” on YouTube and it made me pine for fantasy over reality.


I was so interested in watching. They producers had me with the title: Looking. Hey, me too! The difference, however, is these gay men are Looking and Finding. Okay, more like Looking and Hooking Up, but still, they are passing Go. Something is actually happening.


What a concept.


The show has generated comparisons to “Girls” and “Sex in the City”. Rightly so. As far as I can tell, “Looking” focuses on three main characters, with Jonathan Groff taking on the Carrie Bradshaw role. This is San Francisco, not New York and he’s a videogame developer, not a writer. Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to. He’s supposedly the “straight” guy while his friends are the randier ones. Still, the series opens with Groff’s character getting an awkward hand job in a cruising area of a park. “Ooh! Cold hands!” Yeah, I’d probably blurt the same thing.


Not that I’d ever be in that situation. I am trying not to be judgmental. Just not my thing. Besides, I’d be willing to bet that I could promenade through the cruisiest area of the cruisiest gay park and still reemerge with nothing but a renewed appreciation for nature’s way of allowing fallen trees to decompose. Oh, and I’d bend over (unnoticed, of course) to rescue a few slugs that slithered onto a main pathway. Death by rubber sole averted.


I know it’s San Francisco, not my setting in gay oblivion, but the premiere episode showed that gay dating (or hookup) possibilities are endless. Cue The Weather Girls! Groff sends out a message on an online dating site and—BAM!—he’s set for drinks at a trendy bar later that day. His friend labors on an art installation and, by golly, the hired help happens to be gay and ready to play. The other friend cruises the new waiter at work—apparently every employee in San Fran is gay—and is momentarily rebuffed. Poor soul. It’s the first time he’s ever been turned down.


Ah, fantasy. I can’t even relate to the guy having no sex.


Groff’s bar date doesn’t go well, but no need to despair. As soon as he’s seated on the subway, another guy is at the ready to aggressively cruise him.

Call it “Queer As Folk 2”—or “3” if you want to count the American QAF as a separate entity. (I hated that version due to some awful acting.) To be sure, the show feels more real than recent network misfires like “Sean Saves the World”, “Partners” and “The New Normal”. I would even continue to watch if I could access HBO. But, as someone who has been floundering at gay dating for a huge chunk of my adulthood, it amazes me that “Looking” could look nothing like my own experiences. Then again, a show that strives to represent my take on dating would be called “Napping” or “Looking…and Watching Paint Dry.” Viewer count: 0.


Perhaps we all need a little diversion from reality.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

LOOK WHO'S TALKING


His profile stood out. Here was an artsy guy who wrote, produced and directed short films and posed a range of intriguing discussion topics for a first coffee date. Finally, a man of substance!

Still, I didn’t want to have another butt-glued-to-the-chair first date. I suggested we check out some Vancouver galleries. Why not experience something together and exchange opinions of what we see and feel?  In firming up the starting point, however, he suggested a vegetarian restaurant for brunch. The place is one I’ve been wanting to try so I agreed.

I arrived on time and he’d already staked out a table. From the start, I knew I was not physically attracted to him—in person, he was a wonky funhouse version of his profile photo. Even so, I looked forward to an engaging, edgy chat.

He conveyed a nervous energy, immediately blathering apologetically about a geographical error he’d made online about where I lived. It was not an issue, but he’d apparently obsessed about it, having shared his supposed faux pas with friends. He’d also consulted friends about where to take a vegetarian; as proof—not that I needed any—he pulled out his phone with texts about suggestions he received. Apparently, this meeting was an Event.

As we scanned the menu, he pointed out an item with beets and shared a comment about the vegetable’s effect on human feces. Egad.  Could we not just stick to one of the discussion topics from his profile?

But things got worse.

When he finished talking shit, he went on and on and on and on about how he had conquered the local film industry and how every short film he created had won major awards at every Canadian film festival he entered. He smugly expressed his superiority to the apparently clueless wannabes who coughed up megabucks to film schools.

I sipped my coffee and gazed at other diners, longingly observing the clear back-and-forth in their table talk.  My distracted glances became more obvious, but he remained oblivious. There was too much hot air to release.

I became irked as I waited to see how long it would be until he’d take a breath and perhaps pose a question.  It finally came. “So what do you write?” Unfortunately, I needed a second to finish chewing a mouthful of pancake. Amazingly, he continued on with his monologue.

I’d missed my moment.

In vain, I tried to get the attention of our server. Check, please. PLEASE. When I finally had a chance to talk, I didn’t care anymore. I simply posed a question, and let him ramble on again.  

Check or not, I’d checked out.

It took ninety minutes before I got out of there. I’d had plenty of time to figure out what to say to get out of a gallery walk. “I’m sorry. I’ve got errands to do before I catch an early ferry home.”

He insisted on walking me to my car. The fresh air seemed to do some good. He became more subdued. Perhaps there was some self-reflection:  I blew that. One can only hope. I certainly don’t wish that blabbering mess on any other poor online sucker.

So, yes, another dreadful first date. Another toad that will never become a prince.  Another stinky clam with no pearl.

Some of us have forgotten the inherent mutuality in conversation. I have had too many coffee dates like this. I am convinced this is not my doing. On the ferry into Vancouver, I ran into a friend, a coworker and some acquaintances. We each talked. And we each listened. We built off of one another’s comments. We laughed. We enjoyed the interplay. Yes, it is true: I can be part of a dialogue with an able social companion. Why are so many single, middle-aged gay men so lacking?

This dating world is full of needles and no hay. So many annoying pokes, so many bad reactions. Are the good ones really all gone? Or have the few remaining good men gone into hiding? I keep trying to be hopeful, but I walk away from every experience shaking my head or wanting to scream.

Make it stop.

Please, enough already.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

ANIMAL MAGNETISM

Okay. I’ve got it. Animal magnetism. Just not the kind I want.



I spent the day doing errands and then set out on my jog just before dusk. There was enough daylight for me to maneuver around blackberry vines along the side of the road as I headed into town. On the return run, the skies darkened and I had to zigzag from side to side on the road since there are only a few streetlights on my rural route and I didn’t want to have an unfortunate encounter with a car.


There has been talk of recent cougar sightings in the area, but I didn’t think about that. I have come across coyotes while jogging at night, but we leave one another well enough alone. I never thought that I would be attacked from above.


But that’s exactly what happened. Something battered the back of my head. It felt like a hundred wasps honing in on the same spot. Pressure. Pain. A thwacking sound and a muffled, high-pitched murmur. I screamed and the assault stopped. I covered the back of my head with my arm as a car with its lights on slowly passed. Gawking at the awkward jogger with the odd arm motion, I presumed. But he pulled over and he and his son got out.


“I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. True enough, my jogging form sucks. That’s another reason I’m prone to night jogging—less visibility. (Once while in university, I jogged down a back road at night and my leg fell in an uncovered manhole. I really should stick to the treadmill.)


The Barred Owl has reportedly attacked
other unfortunate humans.
He went on: “Did that owl actually get you?”


“Yes.”


Father and son wisely repressed their first thought: “Cool!” I’ll assume they didn’t ask if I was okay simply because they were as stunned as I was. (Well, stunned, but it would be impossible for them to be as stunned.)


I jogged the rest of the way home with my eyes to the sky, my head trying to do a one-eighty to scope out what might lurk behind me. No more owl. Once was enough. (Just like my dates.)


My head continues to feel buzzy. There’s a bump but no blood. I Googled “human owl attack” and came across several reports of “o-bombings” in Washington state in 2012 and 2013. It’s not particularly uncommon. Still, who has that kind of luck? Owls can mistake tufts of hair for small animals. (So what am I,…Rathead?) They can also be territorial. Looks like I’ll have to find a new jogging route.


For now I’m going to take a couple more Tylenol and stay in for the rest of the night. Concussion by owl. Who—er, “Hoo”—knew?!