Monday, June 30, 2014

SHOCKINGLY…GOOD

This pic fits the blog entry but it also allows for a book plug.
Track down a copy of Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.
It's such a unique and satisfying read. Her blog of the same
name is also wonderful but has not been updated in a long time.
I could have blown it in the final text. As I neared Tim’s place for our second date, I typed, “See you shorty.” Luckily I caught the error and added an essential ‘l’ to amend things to “See you shortly.” Perhaps soon is a safer word.

And, yes, I did get lucky. Oh, not like that, you gutter thinker. I was simply fortunate to have a lovely seven-hour date. Still, got your mind in the gutter? I’ll tell you it ended with some kissing and me getting literally weak in the knees. That’s always the sign that I’m into something good. (Just so you know, there will be no more kissing and telling from me in the future should more dates occur. I’ve never been that kind of guy.)

Heck, there were good signs prior to the shorty-averted text. On the ferry ride over, I texted to see which of my suggestions from earlier in the week seemed appealing: farmers’ market with his dog joining us or a stroll on Granville Island. His response: “How about both?” Plus a smiley face.

Forget the TV show; this is the ultimate glee.

Texts, however, do not compare to face-to-face. There is no opportunity to edit before sending, no chance to pause for thirty seconds to come up with a witty reply. How could I keep this man interested through something so elusive as a second date?

As the date progressed from farmers’ market to long seawall walk to Granville Island to False Creek mini-ferry to lunch, I kept bracing for goodbye. That’s the old lack of confidence bubbling up. Surely, he’s done. Lost interest. Come to his senses. I would go from Happy to Bashful as I anticipated The End. And yet on we’d go. Still the doubt lingered. Maybe he’s feeling guilty that I keep missing the next ferry sailing. Canadians can be incredibly polite.

During our late lunch, things deepened. The conversation went from interesting information sharing to a discussion of values, past mistakes and disappointments along with new hopes. It was an intimate conversation that I sensed even the wait staff picked up on. Something was truly clicking. We were vulnerable and the attraction intensified. Something good could become something great.

There is a catch. Always seems to be. As we finally stood at my car, we talked of the next date. Tim said, “You’re off to Seattle next weekend, right?” Ah, yes. But that was only partially correct. I’d mentioned that I am taking the train there, but hadn’t mentioned that was only the first leg of my trip. From Seattle, I fly to L.A. and then to Ottawa. I am gone for the next six weeks. I’ve been itching to get away for months. When I’d booked my flights, there was nothing for me here. I wanted to spend every moment of my summer vacation somewhere else. It never dawned on me that Tim would become a possibility.

And so another factor of time gets added to the mix. I know the If it’s meant to be line and, really, six weeks is a mere blip in the long run (should there be a long run). Nonetheless, it is unfortunate. No one wants that kind of gap between early dates.

It is what it is.

For now, I have a second date to savor. That’s a glorious thing.   

Thursday, June 26, 2014

TIME PASSAGES

Time is time, right? Then how come that last hour of work can crawl while, after fifteen hours at Disneyland, you feel like you just got there? I hear people talk about their forties whizzing by while a line at the airport is where someone can suddenly acquire a full head of grey hair, arthritis in the left hand and an urge to start wearing black knee socks with sandals.

Father Time plays tricks on us. Why not? He’s got plenty of—well, you know.

In my last blog post, I shared how it took eighteen years to finally go on a first date with Tim. That was nothing. A mere blip compared to the week of waiting for Date Number 2. Actually, it’s a week and a day. That explains comparisons to an eternity. So much more rational.

It’s like that old Heinz ketchup commercial—for those of you who go back in time as far as the mid-‘70s. Cue the Carly Simon song, Anticipation. Ah, it’s keeping me wa-a-aiting. And I am hoping for so much more than a dab of sugared tomato sauce.

Even a decade ago, the specifics about a next date would be firmed up through a phone conversation that followed a bit of phone tag which had the added benefit of allowing you to play back the recording to hear his voice and to feel something aflutter inside again. I remember having to towel off after nervous phone calls during which I fretted over every word. Now communication comes through text messages. Convenient, yes, and hygienically more pleasing, but perhaps too controlled. We can type, delete, type, delete, delete until any vulnerability and awkwardness are neatly expunged from the record.

Indeed, Tim and I exchanged a few texts Sunday night and Monday morning until a tentative plan was in place for Saturday. Not much spontaneity in the words. Still, I will admit to rereading Tim’s opening words—Hey, handsome. He really wrote that. I just went back and checked again. (Just for the sake of keeping this post authentic, I assure you.)

There is no further contact, at least until Friday afternoon or Saturday morning when one of us sends out a confirmation text. Just in case. So much can happen in the span of a week.

My inner voice implores me to think of other things.

Pretend that the World Cup matters. Yea to any team wearing green!

Watch another episode of an obnoxious celebrity chef berating fledgling restaurant owners and wonder why I cannot swear off the #$%*@ show once and for all.

Go outside and tame the blackberry bushes (but don’t get all scratched up before the big date).

Sudoku. Another chapter in a YA book I cannot relate to. Laundry. A valiant effort to rid the shower of any trace of mildew.

Anything to pass the time. Let another hour tick away. I am that much closer to Saturday. It is important not to spend much thought playing out the possibilities regarding the date. That is not constructive. There are some really wonderful What ifs, but given my track record, there are many more less hopeful ponderings. How will I blow this? What better-than-me guy did he meet on Wednesday? When will it dawn on him that I have a perma-pasty skin tone?

Ah, yes. If scrubbing the bathtub doesn’t temper the excitement, self-doubt will. It is there. Always is during the early stages. I’d say I’m not being too brutal with myself this time around. There is more confidence, a sense that I deserve a great guy and a real hope that Tim just might be that guy. But who knows?

Saturday still seems so far away.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

TORTOISE DATING

             Even the photo downloads slowly!
Among foodies, slow is trendy. Slow cooking, slow eating. Let that soggy Cheerio dissolve on your tongue. Okay, foodies probably don’t consume boxed cereal. What do I know?

And, really, let’s go broader with that question. What. Do. I. Know?

Not much. At least with regard to food and that oversized mysterious element…dating.

Case in point: Tim.

I was smitten with him, I messaged him and on Friday we had our first date.

All good.

But let’s backtrack. Way, way back. My first smitten moment occurred eighteen years ago. Yes, same Tim. Yes, eighteen years.

I am the ultimate tortoise. S……L…….0…….W……..

No chance of whiplash.

Eighteen years ago, Tim and I played in the gay volleyball league, showing up on Friday nights for novice play. I noticed him and he, well,…maybe he noticed my errant bumps sending the ball flying onto his team’s court, interrupting play. That was before I became skilled at yelling, “Yours” during every point. My best volleyball maneuvers involved athletic minimalism.

Unfortunately, I carried that minimalist ethic over to my hopeless crushes. Over the years, I saw Tim at many volleyball events. He didn’t last long at the novice level. Most guys improve their skills and move up. As is constantly evident, I am not like most guys. Novice was my niche. But there were tournaments. He’d be there, a stunningly handsome distraction. I always felt that if a marketing executive from Crest or Colgate ever strolled into Vancouver, Tim would be scooped up to be their television spokesman. He has a million-dollar smile and then some.

So how does a tortoise actually land a date that is eighteen years in the making? Well, Tim’s profile has been on Plenty of Fish for a while. A rather long while. It proves how ridiculously obtuse Vancouver gay men are. Or maybe I am not the only tortoise.

I leave shortly for an extended vacation and I plan to delete or deactivate my online dating profiles. Still, I continued to see Tim’s profile pop up. I have had dozens and dozens of Fish Dates, but there seemed to be one piece of unfinished business.

Yeah, why not?

I messaged him. I went for broke. I mentioned the volleyball days and that dazzling smile. What’s the worst that could happen? A delete, a block, a restraining order. I don’t get over to Vancouver that much anyway.

He messaged back.

Let me repeat that: He messaged back!

It took weeks to finally meet for coffee and that almost never happened. Twice I sent messages that went unreturned. I waited a week, agonizing over the silence, and then dared to message again. He claims he texted but perhaps his words got lost in space. Sometimes I miss the days of plug-in phones and answering machines.

With any other guy, I would not have sent another message. But pride can be overvalued. And lonely.

It seems fitting that we finally officially met on yet another Friday night. He greeted me with that mesmerizing smile and a big hug at the café counter. Normally, I would be a jittery mess, but I immediately relaxed.

In the first five minutes, I’d revealed my inner geek with a reference about “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” when he mentioned Minneapolis. And he stayed. Within ten minutes, we were recommending various books. (How refreshing!) We chatted about our common experiences working in elementary schools and the fact that we recently worked in the same school district. We had plenty in common. More importantly, we engaged in real conversation, a true back-and-forth.

This is going well, I thought. But I have thought that before only to be messaged later about the lack of a spark. I tried to stay in the moment and block out any notion of a disappointing Day After brush-off message.


He suggested we go for a walk along the Stanley Park seawall. As I returned the coffee mugs, he scooped up my jacket and stowed it in his satchel. After half a block, he offered me his extra pair of sunglasses. Smooth,…and classy.

That’s when it became official:  he swept me off my feet.

Still, I kept grounded. The conversation continued to flow easily. We laughed frequently, nothing forced. Several times, he put his arm around my shoulder and somehow I did not literally melt.

As he walked me back to the car, Tim provided the closure. “I’ve enjoyed this.”

“Me too.”

“You’re very attractive, we have lots in common and I’d really like to see you again.” To be clear, those were Tim’s words. Tim’s!

We parted with a big, prolonged hug and, as soon as I drove away, I was overcome with the shakes. A good date. A great date! It really happened.

And to think it only took eighteen years.

Monday, June 16, 2014

KEEP REACHING FOR THE RADIO

Most every Casey Kasem tribute prominently features the American Top 40 host’s signature statement: Keep reaching for the stars. It’s a happy, generic sentiment. NASA must wish it had coined as effective a statement to engage the American public.

Maybe I am not such a lofty guy. For me, a truer expression to associate with Casey Kasem is “keeping reaching for the radio.”

I first discovered Kasem’s distinct voice in the fall of 1978 when I was a thirteen-year-old who had moved from an urban center in Ontario, Canada to a not-big-enough city in East Texas. I was entering tenth grade and overwhelmed by an amped up social reality: weekly high school dances, football games in large stadiums, daily updates on who was “going together”. I was too young, too confused and too gawky. I stumbled on “American Top 40” on an AM radio station out of Shreveport, Louisiana. For four hours each week, I had a date—at least, the kind I could handle. Things made sense, except for the inexplicable rise of a few tunes like Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and, well, anything by Charlie Daniels. Casey faithfully chronicled the ups and downs, introduced new acts and filled me in on musical milestones. He even got a wee bit folksy, reading out weepy/sappy Long Distance Dedications. Through each broadcast, Casey always came off as earnest.

I needed comfort during my awkward youth and Casey’s distinct voice provided that. He did not demystify any of the perplexities of adolescence, but at least he offered a regular reprieve. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend countdowns. Casey spoke with a calm authority. Without any histrionics, he made Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand each scoring her fourth Number One with a duet seem to be a landmark achievement. Heck, he even made it matter when a minor hit by Franke and the Knockouts moved up one notch to 38.

When other DJs took over AT 40, I stopped listening. They were imposters. And when Casey voiced other countdowns, it wasn’t the same. Casey Kasem and Billboard were the perfect combination. To this day, I still follow the Billboard charts, checking online every Thursday to track the latest musical movements.

While many people are tuning off the radio, opting for Sirius broadcasts, programmed iPods and YouTube videos, I still find that a DJ—they go by “radio personality” now, don’t they?—matters. Sometimes. I typically despise having the airwaves filled with blabber. I don’t need the rundown on the latest misstep of Justin Bieber or a Kardashian. And I don’t want to hear a five-minute back-and-forth about an RP’s (sorry, “DJ” still sounds better) shocking experience last night whereby two people failed to wash their hands after using a public bathroom. Too much talk before I’ve had enough caffeine. I usually change the station. Music, please. It is rare to come across an authoritative, interesting voice on radio. But it has happened a handful of times. And it started with Casey Kasem.

Friday, June 13, 2014

MOTION SICKNESS

I have tried online dating for ages. I have no success stories. Oh, but don’t call me a quitter. (Yet.)

In truth, I am in no mood to date. I have more pressing issues than worrying about whether some guy notices the dark rings under my eyes and exchanging meaningless replies to “How was ur day?” Sometimes I’d just rather sit back and follow the drivel about JLo’s dating troubles and triumphs. And there is “The Bachelorette”, too. I can find solace in knowing that hunky young men with ripped abs also get tearful while wondering if they will ever find love. Vicarious rejection is safe non-sex.

Still, every so often some poor sap sends me a new message online. Yes, with my mindset, I should retire the profile. But Prince Charming is still out there, isn’t he? I must keep hope alive. Even if it is on a resuscitator, taking up space in ICU.

Usually, it is easy to give the message a pass. Thanks but no thanks. Best wishes.

But sometimes a guy with a cute photo and a profile that lists a few interests beyond Going to the Gym and Napping sends out a quick hello. He even refrains from any mention of hunting. Suddenly, a quick goodbye seems questionable. I message back. Things progress rapidly. In a week, by golly, we are meeting for coffee.

That’s the way it is supposed to go. I go through the motions. I play along.

Even when, deep down, I am sick of it.

It is not fair to the other guy. But I liken it to exercise. There are many times I’d love to skip the bicep curls, the monotonous minutes on the treadmill and lap after lap in the local pool where unknown objects float into view. But exercise is supposed to be good for you. One of these days, I just might see the difference. And if I stop, will I ever start again?

If I step away from dating, I just might get a cat. Then another. Then a few dozen.

And I don’t even like cats.

So, really, I have no choice but to keep going, to keep trying, even through the darkest, driest moments months millennia.

This is why I went for coffee today with Dharmesh. Decent photos—smiling even! Maybe an interest or two to chat about. He said he’d traveled the world. (Hey! I just went to Boise!) And he claimed he worked for fun; finances were not an issue. (Too soon to stop playing the lottery, but I passed by two vending machines this week without checking for quarters.)

In person, he was more handsome than his photos. Hairier, too. To be honest, it was a little distracting. But he was clearly happy to see me. It is nice to show up and not feel immediate disappointment from a coffee mate. Still, I never felt invested in the conversation. Dharmesh is a realtor and he worked too aggressively in selling himself. He kept referring to his “global” perspective and his astonishing success. After the first five minutes, he neglected to ask anything of my interests and experiences. I didn’t push it. I sat, sipped my coffee and nodded a lot.

Yep. Going through the motions. But I couldn’t help thinking I’d rather be doing the breaststroke in a pool with submerged hairballs and Band-Aids.

God, that sounds awful. I should delete that statement, but it is spot-on.

Stet.

At least I didn’t lead him on. I was a dead fish. Just not as smelly.

And then, hours later, a new message appeared in my inbox. That was great fun. Let’s have dinner at my place sometime if you like?

Good thing he added the question mark. Poor Dharmesh.

Thanks but no thanks. Best wishes. The motion sickness only feels worse.