SO THIS GUY AND I WALK INTO A BAR…
The plan was to meet Ted at a bar at 6pm for a drink. Because it was a blind date (well sort of: I’d met him a year earlier), we’d spoken on the phone and described our respective outfits. We approached the restaurant at the same time, immediately recognizing each other. We went to the bar area, which was packed, but it didn’t seem to bother him and I wasn’t in the mood to make a fuss, so we stayed.
I was in my sangria phase, which Ted said he was more than willing to indulge, so we ordered a small pitcher. As the bartender passed us the pitcher, Ted shook his head and declared it too small. When the large pitcher got to our tight little spot in the corner Ted announced, “Wow this is huge, I don’t know how much I can drink.” I assured him it was the exact right size and none would go to waste. We each took a few gulps and recalled how we first met.
A good friend of mine had recently become friends with Ted and his then-girlfriend. Thinking I would like them both, she invited me to an improv show where Ted was performing. It was the standard fifteen dollars that many smaller shows in New York charge. But most shows at least take place in a theatre and give an attempt at being professional. Ted’s “show” was in an empty conference room in an office building and this “show” was in fact just a class with an audience. And the “actors?” For an improv show I’ve never laughed so little in my life. I don’t know how long the first act was, because that night time took an extended vacation: seconds became hours, minutes stretched into years. Boredom, ennui, tedium: throw out any synonym, I experienced it. My friend and I made an excuse and left at intermission. As for Ted, I remember thinking “cute,” but not particularly funny. As I prepared to re-meet Ted I hoped my memory had failed me and Ted, in fact, was an hilarious guy who just happened to be in a bad show.
Back at the bar Ted says:
“I remember now, you guys left at intermission.” This was over a year ago, who the hell remembers that???
“Yes.” I replied, “My brother was in town and I had to go meet him.”
“So what’d you think of it?” he asked.
“Think of what?” Please be referring to Laurence of Arabia, Grease, The Great Depression, anything but your show.
“Of the show.” Shit.
I didn’t want to go for the jugular and tell this guy I’d rather watch C-SPAN than sit through his show again, but I also didn’t want to be disingenuous. I have a hard time looking someone in the eye if I’m not telling the truth. I tried to hide behind the giant pitcher of sangria.
”Well?” He found me.
“There were parts where I laughed pretty hard, but it was so long ago I barely remember.”
He tosses back his glass of sangria. “This is good.”
“I think I can probably only drink one more glass.”
Excellent, more for me.
There may have been some idle chit-chat, maybe not, in any case Ted quickly jumped in to tell me about his recent acceptance in a group that performs Storahtelling. Yes, Storahtelling. “Storahtelling is a radical fusion of storytelling, Torah, traditional ritual theater and contemporary performance art…performances have been presented…at synagogues, conferences, summer camps and theatre.”
Two seats at the bar opened up, so Shecky Green and I sat down. It turns out Ted is an accountant by trade but fancies himself a comedian and actor. Evidently I was not on a date but at a one-man show.
“I’d like to do my Storahtelling audition for you.”
“Yeah, I wrote a song about Moses and the Pharos. It’s good.”
“That’s not really fair.” I say. “You are putting me in a very awkward position, what if I don’t find it funny.”
‘But you will.”
“But what if I don’t?
“Don’t worry about it.”
Clearly I was not getting out of this. I slugged back my glass of sangria and off he went.
Yes, he sang, and I had no choice but to listen. I remember something about a Noah and a blanket and a few parts made me genuinely laugh out loud. He finished, I gave praise for the funny parts and tried to think of a new topic of conversation. I shouldn’t have worried, before a syllable could slide off my tongue he was ready to move on to the next bit.
“You know I also do improv.”
“Yeah, I saw your show, remember?”
“But I also audition for clubs, and I have a great routine, are you ready?”
“Seriously?” I don’t know how much longer I can be nice here.
“Can I finish this drink first?”
I refill my glass. He’s long done drinking by now, and he starts his routine.
“Have you ever noticed on the subway-“
“Whoa, wait a sec, I haven’t finished my cocktail.”
Protest or no protest Ted was doing his audition monologue. Since that evening I have this recurring vision of him on a date on the day of Hurricane Katrina. As the wind whips up, and the levee starts to break his date feels the urgency of the moment and makes a move to leave, but he replies “wait, I still have my subway bit.”
So began the next routine. Thank god for the big pitcher of sangria and my low tolerance for alcohol. I politely tee-heed along the way and finally he was done. “Great.’ I said. The longer his performance ran, the easier the lies came.
“I’ve got one more.”
“Let me ask you question.” I say. “Why is it you feel the need to do your routines for me?”
“One, I’ll take any audience I can get, and plus, you know, I gotta know if you think I’m funny.”
“And you don’t you think that puts me in a difficult position.”
We had some more light conversation, I managed to avoid another routine by getting him to talk about himself. Not surprisingly it was quite an easy task. When he responded to my question of where he went to college, I made a tactless, less than charming dig, at his non-Ivy choice. At that point, I was all about amusing myself, retaliation I suppose. I was more than annoyed at having being used as an audience where I was being graded on my level of laughter. I’m not sure he asked me one question about myself, which was fine, because I was just as happy to keep my lips occupied with the booze.
The pitcher was emptied, I had a buzz, and he, having plans to go to a party uptown had to leave. Then the check came “Wow, this is expensive!” He proclaimed and slapped his credit card on the bar. (N.B. He had also ordered chips and guacamole, in which I did not partake.) Now I’m not one who believes the guy should pay. I honestly don’t. I’ve split many a check. But this time, with this guy it was different. I had to sit through his auditions, he’d ordered the big pitcher and the guacamole: I figured Chuckles owed me for still actually being there. But then there’s my exaggerated sense of fairness. “Do you want money?” I asked. Yes, a vaguely passive aggressive statement. I also thought here’s was a chance for him to redeem himself. Stupid me.
“That’d be great.” He says.
I honestly can’t remember if he gave an amount or not. But I tossed in some cash just the same. Of course this doesn’t amount to one of the great regrets in my life, but I do wish I’d just smiled ordered a quick shot of tequila, and kept my wallet in my bag.
And people ask me why I’m single.
AND THE WORLD IS FLAT
I had a date Wednesday night. Jeff is tall, cute, employed, from Toronto, lives in Brooklyn, and Jewish. Normally I wouldn’t bring up the Jewish part, ’cause really, who cares, but for this date it mattered. These are the highlights of a two hour evening.
As we were sipping our beer, somehow the conversation veered to politics. I swear I don’t know how, but it did. I learned that Jeff voted for Bush in the first election. “But how? He’s a monkey!” I asked. “I know that now. I liked his tough talk, and his economy policy. I’m taxed to death.” “What about this election?” I asked. “I’m not voting, they’re both the same.”
We moved away from politics, and landed in the safety zone of Judaism.
“So, you’re Jewish?” Jeff says to me.
“I like to say Quasi Jewish. I’m culturally Jewish, but in no way religious.”
“How can you be culturally Jewish and not in any way believe in the religion.”
“Well for one I don’t really like the whole, we’re the chosen people, line. It’s a bit ridiculous.”
“We are the chosen people. We’ve suffered more than anyone else. Our culture and our religions are linked.”
And this is where I faulted, engaging in a conversation about who has suffered more. It’s such a ridiculous discussion. We had some back and forth about apartheid, and Africa in general, and then we rolled right into a full-on discussion about religion. And I was still only on my first beer.
It comes down to this, the bible is God’s word.
Moses was given the ten commandments by god.
“How would we know that Moses didn’t get a stone and inscribe it himself?”
“There were 600,000 witnesses.”
“When Bon Jovi played Central Park, it was full. The count was 45,000 people. When Paul Simon played the park, it was also full, the number reported then was 150,000. Numbers don’t always reveal the truth.”
“They just didn’t how to count the park, that’s all”
God really did free the Hebrews from Egypt.
“You really think that’s true, all the plagues and stuff? I mean if God is so smart why did the Hebrews have to mark their doors in blood, after all, God knows everything.”
“It’s not about God not knowing, it’s the Hebrews showing their faith, their devotion to god. How else do you think they got out of Egypt?”
“They got tired and left?”
“And the great flood, you don’t think that’s possible. After all God parted see the Red Sea, why couldn’t he have flooded the earth?”
“Well first off, the two by two animals would have killed each other. That’s just too many species for one boat. And since when were giraffes native to the Middle East?
I am full-on confused at this point and in no way calm. I want to be illuminated. I want to understand his logic. I am fully committed to this discussion, and one could also say I was quite…animated in my discussion.
“Haven’t you noticed the bible runs in different tenses. Different voices. Isn’t it possible that each time a guy wanted a law put down, he adds a new chapter to the bible. Haven’t you noticed how all religions are completely patriarchal and in no way help women?”
“Perhaps there’s a reason for that.”
“Yeah, it’s called we treat women like shit so we can have all the power.”
“Why do you think that is then, that if it was a man made book that women didn’t write it. Don’t you think that says something.”
“Yeah it says the women were too busy being traded for cattle, popping out sons and being used for concubines to do much writing.”
And because religion wasn’t enough we took a few steps into Israel.
“There can’t be peace in Israel it’s the home to three major world religions and each of them think they’re right.”
“Um. Christianity, Judaism, Muslim”
“Muslim is a johnny come lately religion. Nowhere in the Koran does it mention Israel as their homeland.”
“Doesn’t matter. They see it as their home. And let’s face it, it’s 1949 and all the Arabs are frolicking in Israel, and suddenly it’s “Get the fuck out. And we’re not doing anything to help you move!” How can you resolve that?
” Israel was ours in the first place. They took it from us and we reclaimed it.”
Which led to…
“We are the Chosen People, because we don’t do good for reward. We are the basis for all the other religions, they bastardized ours.”
“Um, what about the religions who were around before Judaism. You know. The Greeks. The Native Americans.
“Okay. What about Eastern Religions. Buddha seems pretty nice. They’ve been around longer than Western Religions.”
“We are the chosen ones because we know that when we die we don’t return or get reward and so our purpose on earth is to show others the right way to live.”
“I’m sorry what?”
“Jews are here as moral leaders.”
Which brings us to the finale. I bring up the fact that we are all human, and that we all evolved, and that religion is man-made and cannot be used as a basis for “who is better.” Until we recognize that we are all flesh and bones and born of the same material, we are going to go on killing each other.
“You expect me to believe I came from a monkey?”
“Yeah. DNA. Science.”
“So you believe you were once a tadpole.”
“Of course. Humans have sinus infections because when we were on all fours our sinuses drained, now that we’re upright they don’t.”
“I don’t get sinus infections.”
“The point is, there’s proof.”
“The science section of the Times every Tuesday for one.”
“I don’t believe it.”
Now I’m sort of laughing, so half joking I say…
“So, what, you don’t believe in Evolution?”
“No. I don’t.”
“How is that possible?”
“I don’t believe it. Is that so wrong?”
“Yes, it is! It’s evolution. It’s dinosaur bones. It’s Cro Magnum man. It’s that fish that they just found that grew legs!”
“Is it absolutely necessary that I believe in evolution?”
My first thought was “If you want to get laid it is!” But all I said was:
“Yes. You do. What do you think happened?”
And here Jeff lifts up his arms to indicate the heavens, and then slowly brings them down and indicates the earth. I was speechless. At least we were both finished our beers. And it was clear, this date was only going to end with me pointing and laughing and him praying…
We leave the bar. I get to the corner to turn to walk home but he offers me a ride. Now, the 10 minute walk home isn’t great, it’s not awful, but it’s not comfortable. I told him thanks for the offer, but I was going to walk. No fucking way I was getting in a car with a Creationist. I would take my chances on the street. So we shake hands and go our separate ways.
Not two minutes after we parted, the sky opened up and I was caught in a deluge. I mean, I was soaked to the skin within thirty seconds deluge. I laughed my ass off, thinking of Jeff sitting in his car being smug about how God had just smited me!
As my friend Margaret said, the whole thing was like being at the zoo and interacting with a rare species.
And people to continue to question why I’m single.
ONE SAD TURTLE
When I walked into Chez Oskar for a date with a librarian I was expecting an interesting evening that may or may not go somewhere. I have often been told my expectations are too high.
I take full responsibility for the evening. I met him on Craig’s List, where I swear, from now on I will only shop for sofas and kitchen appliances, not men. In our email exchanges he was smart, funny, literate, all the good stuff. He lives in Bed Stuy and I in Park Slope, so we decided to meet in Fort Greene which is somewhere in between. He asked me to pick the place, which was fine. He said it needed to be “quiet, no tv, and completely un-trendy.” I thought he was being a bit tongue-in-cheek. I was wrong. We agreed to meet at the bar, and whoever got there first was to call the other.
When I arrived, about 3 minutes late, I got to the bar and there was no single man in the 6’2 region with brown hair sitting at the bar. So I called him. “Turn around” He said, into the phone. So I turned around. There he was, already seated at a table. I collected my things and sat down. He had taken the banquette, so I sat with my coat folded over my chair, getting knocked by the wait staff all night.
“Sorry. I thought we said the bar.”
With his head jutting forward 90 degrees from his shoulders, he looked like a seated turtle. The resemblance was enhanced by his green knit sweater with shirt collars poking out. I wondered if he had a neck, for I couldn’t see one, or if he was a medical miracle. I decided to overlook his amphibian-likeness as well as the fact that he didn’t wait until I arrived to take a table and have myself a lovely evening. In order to do so, I also chose to overlook the bags under his eyes so large they could each hold a week’s worth of groceries; the gray skin tone that seems to have never been exposed to anything other than flurescent lighting and recycled air; and the dreaded tuft of hair on top of the head but grown to an unconscionable length in the back. I would over look this. I was going to find out who this guy was.
When the waiter arrived to take our drink order, I was about to say “Cabernet” but after a quick look at The Turtle the words “Beefeater Martini Straight Up” came tumbling from my lips. He ordered a beer.
Some small talk about the weather, the parking, and other scintillating topics passed the time until the drinks arrived. His beer was set down first and while the waiter went to retrieve my martini The Turtle started drinking away. Okay, some kind of “cheers” is not mandatory but it’s customary and polite.
Mainly because he didn’t ask me a single question of substance throughout the entire night, did I learn what a fascinating and meticulous person he was. I had learned via email that he didn’t have a passport. He’s 44 years old.
“You really should renew it. You never know when a travel opportunity is going to arise.”
“I’ve never had one.”
“So you’ve never been out of North America.”
“I’ve travelled all over Canada and the States. I feel by living in New York I experience most cultures. I don’t have a big need to see the world. My idea of a vacation is sleeping and watching movies.”
Trying to be gracious, I made an attempt at being positive:
“I love New York vacations, going to the galleries during the day. Seeing matinees. Doing all the things you never have time to.”
“No, I just generally sleep and watch movies.
That was the end of that conversation.
We ordered our meals and I will always be grateful for the slightly rushed service. I looked around the restaurant which was a really sweet neighborhood bistro, if I lived closer I’d be a regular. I’m not sure it was wholly untrendy, but it certainly wasn’t hipster and there was no t.v.
“Cute joint, huh? I offered.
“It’s not loud.”
“It’s a little loud.”
That was the end of that conversation. From then on we mostly stuck to movies. Which he knew everything about.
“Except for Schindler’s list Spielberg is crap.”
“Won’t see anything with Oprah in it.”
“That was his early stuff.”
“Never saw. I have to be in the right mood for a period piece.”
“Catch Me if you Can?”
“That was okay.”
“I didn’t believe a minute of it. Completely unrealistic.”
“It’s supposed to be!”
In high school The Turtle was in awe of a few really creative bright guys who went on to big careers. One of them made some really important documentaries, but now he’s “churning out Hollywood crap.” The Turtle is very disappointed in him. Just so you know His Girl Friday is zippy. It Happened One Night is slow.
As he talked about his neighbors, and movies that I had never heard of I began to understand to see that The Turtle was authority on everything. It also seemed that nothing made him happy. It was as if life was never living up to his expectations but he liked it that way because his misanthropic being could be smug in the knowledge that he was the Authority.
Our food was delivered and before I could pick up my fork, he was already chewing his first bite. There was a moment where I wondered if it actually mattered whether I was there or not. I prodded him with questions, he answered steadily. I would start conversations, he would end them. He spent a good deal of time telling me the details of a dinner with his sister the weekend before.
“How’s the risotto?” I asked about his dinner.
“Good. Nothing surprising but still good.”
My duck salad was quite delicious, not that he asked. And good thing I didn’t want any bread, because he devoured the whole basket. Several things came to my attention during the long pauses of conversation. The first was the young couple in love sitting at the next table about half an inch away from us. They couldn’t help but listen to our conversation. They would lean in and whisper in each other’s ear. We were their entertainment. I looked longingly at their joy wishing I could be watching this miserable date instead of being a party to it. The second noticeable sight was The Turtle’s methodical ingestion of his risotto.
He would take a forkful and either eat it right away, or let it sit on his fork as he waved it around while telling me the Big Lebowski is a great film, but in the fourth viewing you begin to see the flaws. Once his mouthful was complete, he would pick the napkin up from the table, wipe his mouth, then lay it back down on the table, dirty side up. Then he would take a piece of bread, and wipe the sides of his plate, and re-mound his risotto into a perfect oval. And then start all over again. Finally, after I had finished my martini, salad and a glass of Muscadet, he had one small perfect round mound in the middle of his plate. The poor waiter who asked if The Turtle was finished was met a stern “No!”
Somewhere during this ninety-minute performance art piece I decided I needed to have some fun. After throwing out a few tidbits about where I worked and getting nothing back, I decided to lob the big bombs.
“So what was wild was when I went to Croatia-I think I mentioned my mother had a heart attack – anyway the wildest part was getting off the airplane, stepping outside and looking around and seeing palm trees! I stood there in awe at the palm trees. Never mind the fact that I was in country where I couldn’t speak the language and had to find a hospital and my mother, I was suddenly in a tropical climate.”
“I don’t think Croatia counts as the tropics.”
Finally he finishes his risotto, his plate complete cleaned, and wants to look at the dessert menu. He no longer drinks coffee or regular tea, just herbal, so I prayed for no herbal tea on the menu. Nothing grabbed his fancy on the menu, although I noted the ricotta cheese cake was interesting. HIs mother used to make that, and it brings up bad memories. “there’s probably a dessert place somewhere near here”, he suggested. That’s when I started the engine on my express bus to hell. I had to see if anything would get this guy’s attention.
“I have to figure out what I’m going to do this weekend. A good friend is coming to town to collect the ashes of his deceased sister. He wants to see a play. Theatre was a big part of her life.”
“Do you remember that scene in the Big Lebowski with the ashes on the mountain, and they blow back in John Goodman’s face?”
Check please! Now I don’t expect a guy to pay, but the hypocrite in me does like the offer of payment. This one did neither. The check came, I put down my credit card (I neglected to go to the bank) and he did nothing. Did he expect me to pay? After an eternity he picked it up. Now, I couldn’t read his mind, but I swear to god he was calculating his portion of the bill…he certainly threw in less than half. As soon as I signed that check I stood and put on my coat.
Now, it’s about 10:15 in a pretty good neighborhood, but it’s still 10:15, the subway isn’t that close by (he drove) and we are right next to a park. I say “It was nice to meet you, I think I’m actually going to walk to BAM and see what’s going on.”
“Okay. Good night.”
And he walks away. Now, I wasn’t getting into his car under any circumstances, but um, make the offer!!! It was as if Moliere had written the greatest misanthrope of all time and stuck me and him in a Sartre play.
And people ask me why I’m single.