Tuesday, February 24, 2015


The countdown is on. In five weeks, I leave my rural incarnation of solitary confinement and return to Vancouver. And one sudden thought rushes to mind:

Maybe I should have rented.

Yes, I bought a teeny, tiny condo. It’s all I can afford in the Vancouver market. It’s one reason I left the city ten years ago.

I’d given Vancouver an eleven-year run. It hadn’t been the right fit. I have always been a big believer in “no regrets” and in never taking a step backwards. But, in truth, there weren’t many options. I am about five years away from my earliest possible retirement and moving to another province (and another pension system) seemed utterly impractical. I have applied to return to the U.S. where I earned two degrees and lived for sixteen years, but U.S. Immigration has my application sitting in a giant slush pile in some basement of some decaying government building. I’ll likely be retired—maybe even dead—before my number comes up.

It was Vancouver by default. Not exactly a rousing endorsement. I’ll make do. Hopefully, I can even thrive. But my current state of All Quiet on the Dating Front has led me to believe that there remains an ambivalence imbalance. The breathtakingly beautiful city is more indifferent to me than I am to it.

In the dating realm, the conventional thinking is there will be more opportunities in Vancouver. Really, how could there not be? But, as anyone will tell you, size isn’t everything. An emphatic “meh” from a significant metropolis can sting more than nonexistent shoulder shrugs from nonexistent gay men in the boonies. I stand to be rejected for me rather than for my home. That’s a scary prospect.

I am starting to wonder if I am simply not a Vancouver kind of man. I’m not outdoorsy enough. Heck, I don’t even own a pair of hiking boots. I have never gone to a yoga class. (No doubt, I’d be a terrible distraction to the instructor. I am stretching. I swear.) And I can’t even name the current coach of the Canucks. Maybe the Vancouver shunning is justified. If only it could be remedied by stocking up on Lululemon gear and traipsing through mud.

On the dating site OkCupid, I rarely get a sniff from a Vancouver guy, even though I state that I live close to the city. In fact, of the last dozen men to “Like” me, not one is from Vancouver. Instead, I’ve piqued some interest in two small towns in Florida, Brooklyn, Palm Springs, a place I’ve never heard of in the U.K., a tiny dot on the map in Missouri, Singapore, Portland, Seattle, Pasadena, Toronto and Panama City. The last ten guys to send a message were from the Philippines, Singapore, Redhill (UK), Calgary, Washington, D.C., two from London and three from Seattle.

Typically, people run dating searches within their geographical area. My results show that either they really don’t like me in Vancouver or I am more attractive when viewed from far, far away. Maybe both. Not very encouraging. I suppose there is that other possibility that single gay men in Vancouver aren’t terribly serious about finding someone. Maybe solo hikes up the North Shore Mountains are all they need to satisfy the endorphins. Perhaps the whole lot is a passive posse. That’s not helpful either for an awkward, shy guy like me.

Yep, I bought in Vancouver. It’s a grand gesture. Do you hear me, Vancouver? This is called commitment. I’m settling in. And already I feel unsettled.

Just what is the immigration policy for Panama anyway?

Friday, February 20, 2015


Usually when a coffee date leads to a dead end, I rebound quickly. The natural void that is omnipresent pesters more when those reined in hopes—Maybe this time!—fade out. Maybe not. Again. It’s important to keep looking ahead, keep acting like I have a say in all this. Yes, this is my quest. I shall find that knight in shining armor. But, dammit, what’s with all these jokers in the deck?

I go back online. Who’s next? Eenie meenie…mine or Moe? So many Moes.

Every so often, the waters run dry in the Plenty of Fish pool and there are no arrows to shoot on OkCupid. This is one of those times. All the faces are too familiar. Pass, pass, pass. Not a spark, not even an inkling. It’s the dead zone.

Yes, it’s over. I’ve finally exhausted every possibility. It’s the gay apocalypse. There are no more men. No viable single gay men, at least.


Time for incessant rounds of solitaire. I may hone my card shuffling skills. Perhaps I can take on a part-time evening gig at a casino. How else can I fill my time?

I’ve got some jigsaw puzzles in the guest bedroom closet. Who cares if there are missing pieces? I’ve got time to make replacements. And it’s been a while since I’ve had a Sudoku marathon. It’s uncanny how the hours pass while staring at square grids and focusing on nine digits. Really, who needs a man?

Thirty-eight days until I move back to Vancouver. I can start a tally on the wall in my rural cell. Perhaps when I become a free man—an urban gent!—there will be options beyond the click-and-frown online world. I can believe that. For now, I can tell myself that. Reality remains far enough at bay.



Saturday, February 14, 2015


To be clear, it’s not just Valentine’s Day. I’m not a fan of many holidays. Even if some come with a day off. Conceptually, I am appalled that we require a particular day to honor our mothers, our fathers and the one we love (if we happen to be so lucky). I’m not big on birthdays either. I suppose it’s all couched in years of feeling unworthy, but I believe we should celebrate people in our lives each time the moment feels right rather than out of obligation. I should also think we are reflective beings who can stumble across epiphanies (or be reminded through healthy conversation), awakening us in periods when we have overlooked our expressions of love and appreciation. The just-because celebrations are more meaningful than days sponsored by Hallmark and Lindt chocolates.

But to be even clearer, Valentine’s Day is my least favorite of the forced fĂȘtes. I am a color-connected guy so maybe my discomfort dates back to primary school with rooms draped in red paper chains of hearts and Cupids. As a redhead, I was told that the color didn’t suit me in terms of clothing. Never wear red was a mantra instilled in me as strongly as Don’t talk to strangers. (Yes, I had a few nightmares about lap visits with mall Santas, but I’ll quickly repress those once more.) While my classmates arrived at school in red tees, I stuck to brown. It was the go-to color of the early seventies, very practical for absorbing the constant grass and mustard stains of a clumsy boy.

Valentine’s Day went on steroids when I moved to East Texas in tenth grade. Everything is bigger in the Lone Star State. Various school clubs raked in their annual operating budgets by conducting competing Valentine’s Day fund raisers. Heart-o-grams. Roses (red for sweethearts, yellow for BFFs). Balloon bouquets. Chocolates. The problem (at least in my eyes) was that there was no competition. If you’d swapped class rings and letter jackets with your Forever Love, then you had to splurge and bestow upon him/her the works: a heart-o-gram, roses, balloons AND chocolates. Deliveries came all day during breaks between classes…and during classes. It was an agonizing spectacle for have-nots like me. The day belonged to Team Taken. Arms filled with these tokens of love, textbooks remained in lockers, keeping pompoms and batons company. (Yes, that first year in high school, my assigned locker-mate was a majorette.) It was up to the sad sacks like me to share our texts if any teacher had the gall to plan anything other than showing a movie on this day of learning.

In university, one of the clubs I joined appeared to combine therapy with fund raising, deciding to sell dead flowers for Valentine’s. Alas, this was still Texas and we failed to make a single sale. I took home a dozen dead flowers, perhaps as a reminder that sometimes misery does not love company. (This episode also confirmed I’d made the right decision in not becoming a Business major.)

The first time Valentine’s Day had real meaning I was 26 and deeply consumed by first love. This was it! Soulmate! Yes, Forever Love! That night, we sat together on his sofa and exchanged gifts. I’d scribbled a half dozen versions of my message of love on notepads before finally professing my love and adoration in the loveliest offering Carlton Cards had to offer. I have no idea what I got him. Presumably, it was some combination of grocery aisle Valentine’s convenience and a stylish clothing item to compensate for his fashion challenges. I held my first ever wrapped Valentine’s gift in my hands, my name on the card which he simply signed. (Why compete with the terms of endearment from the Hallmark pros?) My eyes watered. All these years of slamming the holiday and suddenly the day and this gift meant everything! I unwrapped a framed picture of just John, smiling away in a red and white dress while wearing a Carmen Miranda fruit platter wig on his head. He giggled with glee and I was relieved my eyes were already wet.

Forever Love ended a month later. What’s most embarrassing is that he was the one who called it off.

For the most part, I have managed to duck and cover on subsequent Valentine’s Days. It’s a mere pit stop between the far worthier Groundhog Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Still, I can never wholly forget the occasion, being as I work in an elementary school. It’s still a time of equality and excitement when children must give a card to everyone in the class and the day’s primary objective is to ingest as much sugar as possible without throwing up. (I didn’t have to use the mop bucket even once yesterday!) I was caught off guard the day before, when a boy held the door open for me and asked, “Are you excited about Valentine’s Day?” I repressed a reflex snort and convincingly answered, “So excited! Candy and chocolates! What could be better?” And just like that, I’d obliterated a year’s worth of healthy eating education. Damn VD!

The day will be over soon enough. I’ve got lots of sorting and discarding to do as I prepare for my upcoming move. Tomorrow will be a new day, a regular day where my single status won’t be any more pronounced than I usually make it. Perhaps I’ll buy my own chocolate bar even though I really don’t care for the confection. Even better, the drugstore will surely have those yummy Red Hot hearts on sale for 25% off.

Be Mine? Ack! Be gone.





Thursday, February 12, 2015


Our ‘90s selves would be appalled by our post-millennial selves.

Or at least mine would.

Seriously? You take pictures of yourself and post then on the Internet? Why the hell would you do that? And what do you mean everyone’s doing it? Don’t f*^k with me. What has gotten into you?

‘90s me is rightly shocked and horrified. I used to be so skilled at ducking out whenever anyone someone started to fiddle with a telephoto lens attachment or set up the tripod. (Back then, there was sufficient warning to make my getaway.) I’d lock myself in the bathroom and say something about an eggplant allergy to the person banging on the door. Yep, that kept them at bay. Click away! By the time I re-emerged, they’d have used up their roll of film and we could go back to casually debating whether Madonna was becoming irrelevant—Who invited the straight guy?—or discussing which “Friends” character was the funniest. (Please. It was always Phoebe.)

Never wanted any photographic evidence of my physical existence. Big nose. Hair always overdue for a cut. Bulging eyes. Stick figure arms. A gut that screamed for a massive diet to lose ten pounds. (It was always ten pounds and it was always an extreme diet.) Excessively wrinkly elbows that should always be concealed by long sleeves. Retro WHAM! t-shirt…What was I thinking?!

‘90s me would never have imagined that I’d post goofy selfies on Facebook. People “Like” this sort of thing? Mercy likings, no doubt. Surely they were forced to dim their screens. There’s no way those elbows improved.

And ‘90s me would have me committed—okay, re-committed—for having the gall to post a shirtless selfie. Not just once. What are you trying to do? Incite politicians to make selfies illegal? When did you become an activist about world issues? Shirtless?! An extreme activist. It’s mind boggling.

Truth is, I’m not so far evolved from ‘90s me. I can still pick apart my physical state. And yet, the selfies are not so horrid. My body seems to have finally bulked up a tad. The gut doesn’t look as large. (I’ve downsized to the eternal quest to lose five pounds. Dieting is a way of being.) Still, that dang phone camera is never far away. Every time I’m in a hotel room, I snap a shirtless selfie.

Why? It’s hard to chalk it up to vanity when I am only mildly less repulsed by my looks. It’s part of an evidentiary expedition. Frankly, I don’t believe all the other shirtless selfies. They don’t look half bad. Everyone can get one good photo, maybe two. Trick mirrors, no doubt. I have to keep testing things. I need to return to sanity and that solid sense of unworthiness. I snap. I’m not appalled. Sometimes I’m almost satisfied…but for the five pounds and those freaky elbows.

Posting shirtless selfies?! Not as an activist statement? Not as an act of terrorism? (Okay, to be accurate, ‘90s me wouldn’t have mentioned terrorism. It wasn’t such a buzzword then. We were too concerned about the fact that Backstreet Boys may have actually nailed a couple good tunes. Boy band credibility threatened to upset the entire social order.)

Sorry, ‘90s me, I can’t really explain it. At least, not in a satisfying way. I post selfies. And, yes, even, shirtless selfies. Surely, there are selfie self-help groups, but I live in too remote an area. (Yeah, ‘90s me would shake his head at that, too. You moved where?!)

I’m selfie-aware enough to sense that I am seeking superficial validation. I’m stuck there. Not because I want to dwell on that. Believe me, I’d love to get past obsessing over physical imperfections. (At 50, I know they are cropping up with greater speed! At my most recent appointment with my skin cancer doctor, I kept pointing out questionable blemishes. “Age spots” was her declaration for each and every one. I should be glad be glad she didn’t say “melanoma” and I was, albeit taken aback nonetheless. Age spots are the new acne.) Like everyone else, I post selfies to fictionalize my life. Look at all the fun I’m having. Look at how great I look. (Never mind that I had to delete another ninety-nine less appealing, more true-to-life shots.) I need people to throw some “Likes” and some “Favorites” my way. Self-esteem has evolved to selfie-steem.

I’d love someone to know me more intimately, to see the humor, the kindness and perhaps the intelligence…when it comes to subjects other than posting selfies. Still, for now, surface “Likes” are all I can garner.

This is chronic adolescence. Low-level validation means far more than it should. But that’s the window. That’s the first impression. Disappointment in that domain means there is no second look.

Note to selfie: I’ll be glad when you’re gone. And as for you, ‘90s me, I’d love for you to stay in the archives as well. (Can’t believe you put a Backstreet Boys earworm in my head.)

Maybe the next time I book on hotels.com, I’ll request a room with no mirrors. That will be the new trend. It’s only a matter of months before more of us enter selfie-recovery.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Now I’m getting dating advice from traffic signals. Everyone—everything!—has an opinion.

I pressed the knob to trigger the pedestrian WALK message and Mr. Button blurted, “Wait! Wait!” 

It was stating the obvious, but this was a traffic signal after all. In real life, we can’t expect to go deep like the electronic freeway billboard that sagely supported Steve Martin in “L.A. Story”. (I’ve tried but the electronic sign closest to me is one-track minded: BUCKLE UP. IT’S THE LAW.)

At least Mr. Button was on point. It’s true. I absolutely should wait. In two months, I’ll back in Vancouver. There will be other single gay men. I may be interested in a few. And there’s always a chance that one might be interested in me.

It could happen. And that’s a thought I’ve never been able to reasonably think in the ten years I’ve been under rural arrest.

But I was still feeling the sting from a latest Seattle coffee date that went bust. Yeah, yeah. It should not have been a surprise. I’ve been going on these meet-and-greets for years, with no lasting luck. Seattle men, Vancouver men. It’s getting to the point where I can’t keep blaming them. I’m starting to think it must be the coffee. Yeah, that’s it. I should switch to tea.

I tried not to get too excited in anticipation of meeting Steve. Sure, his online profile was impressive, as were his messages. The guy could communicate in whole sentences, even paragraphs. Such a rare find! And, on a shallow note, his photos revealed a handsome, fit 52-year-old man—most notably in his shirtless selfie. Woof!

He did not disappoint when I met him in person. If anything, he dazzled more. I’m not a beard guy but the look suited him. And his blue eyes hooked me every time I gazed at him. Simply put, Steve was stunning. Even better, he could carry on a conversation. My profile jokes, “Save your monologues for Letterman” and he took it to heart. It was a very natural back-and-forth. I laughed and smiled without force. He made me feel completely at ease. Without a doubt, I knew this had been a great first meeting.

Early in the conversation, Steve startled me, saying I was “genetically blessed”. As we hugged and went on with our separate plans for a Sunday afternoon, he referred again to my biceps and my chest. I shrugged it off. “I’m a late bloomer. The bulk has only come in recent years.” He ogled away. Flattering, not creepy.

And yet I left and formed an adversarial relationship with a traffic signal. Something went wrong. Really, nothing.

Except for one fundamental, immutable factor. Steve had made it clear that he wanted to pursue a relationship with a local guy. In his messages, he’d mentioned passing on a man who lived but an hour away. Vancouver, with a border wait, well, it was never going to be.

Too far. And I knew this was as far as it would go. Within an hour after coffee, he sent me the crushing confirmation:

It was so nice to meet you. Sincerely, I enjoyed my conversation with you and my time. You are a beautiful man and I mean that both inside and out...nice to come across and yes, if you were in Seattle, I would definitely have gone out with you. ;-)


Location, location, location. Steve is all too rational. Somehow I’d hoped. If I were somehow dazzling, he’d be border blind. Whatever happened to Anything for You? Alas, one coffee cannot dazzle, no matter how buzzed one might get.

No dazzle; just fizzle. This is a hard one to take. I’ve had many a coffee date where I thought I clicked with a guy and then he vanished. And I’ve had many more where the lack of clicking was indisputable. But here we did click. It was not a twisted figment of my imagination. It was real. It was mutual. And it was not enough.

And so, as Mr. Button advises, I must, “Wait! Wait!” Not for Steve. My visa application with U.S. Immigration will not be processed for years. Instead, I have two months to go until I move back to civilization. Maybe there’s a guy in Vancouver.

I wait because I have to. It’s already been eleven years since I’ve been in a relationship of any significance. What’s two more months? I should be accustomed to the loneliness and the complete lack of affection or intimacy. Of course, I’m not.

For now, I’ll head back home to the land of solitude. There are no pedestrian traffic buttons to offer further advice. I shall appreciate that silence at least.

And I shall spend the next day or two ruing what might have been if I lived in Seattle.

If only.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


“Why would you go all the way to Seattle to write?”

Nosy border guard. If I had my choice, it would be Tuscany. Someday, I’ll be an odd reincarnation of Diane Lane in “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Writers do get restless. He’d never understand.

But then writing is not so much the focus this weekend. I could have told him the truth, but I went with my hunch and didn’t.

“Why would you go all the way to Seattle for a coffee date?”

Buzz off, dude! I might have said worse. And then I’d be banned from crossing. I’ve heard about this sort of thing happening. Canadians are supposed to be unwaveringly polite. When we’re not, it’s noteworthy. Drastic action is required. Hence, the ban.

No more writing in Washington. Or dating.

Nosy or not, I had to answer the border guard. He was new on his shift and I’d seen him lurking outside the booth, waiting to his predecessor to clear. I’m pretty sure I saw a gun. And so I explained that I’m writing a novel wherein coffee in a central component, almost a character. Seattle is research.

“Good luck,” he said, waving me on. Okay, maybe not so nosy, just curious. Looking for a way to spice up his shift, a mundane ordeal of ushering hordes of Canadian bargain shoppers through.

I’ll take the Good luck. And I’ll apply it to my writing—and, of course, to the undisclosed long-distance date. I’ll need it.

This is my third Seattle date in as many months. No repeats. To review, the first guy was geeky charming. We hit it off. The date went on for hours as we strolled quirky Fremont. After some back-and-forth messages the following week, he vanished. Maybe he was hit by a bus. Maybe my last “back” will finally get a “forth” when he comes out of his coma. I’ve seen Sandra Bullock in “While You Were Sleeping”. They do come back. And I know I can stay clear of the brother. My geeky guy’s family is in Michigan.

The second guy was the forty-one-year-old coming off a hangover. Graduated from university but never left the frat house. He needed the coffee far more than the conversation.

So, really, it is ludicrous to keep going back to Seattle. I do know that. In truth, I haven’t had a weekend excursion in a month and I’ve been looking for an excuse. If the date is another dead end, then there’s a chance to getting in some quality writing time.

The border guard will want a progress report.