Part 2 of 3
The following Saturday I woke up and immediately went to the gym for a last ditch effort to tone and thin out my body before the big first date—especially one with so much potential.
Suffice it to say, Jonathan was a catch on paper. Since I hadn’t seen a physical copy of his W-2—yet—and all my sleuthing had been conducted via the web, I guess I should say he was a catch on screen instead?
Since our initial phone chat, I’d spent a fair amount of time stalking him online. Scrutinizing each photo on ever page in hope of extrapolating some deeper insight into him as a person. And anything I found could instruct the kind of conversations I brought to our first date, my level of interest in him, or even the outfit I picked out to wear.
From Sienna to Hong Kong to Australia and back, he had tons of travel photos. I assumed this meant he’d be up for the occasional adventure, and I found that intriguing and somehow romantic. Then a heavy dose of pessimism mixed with a splash of pragmatism brought me to the conclusion that he must have some way of making a living in order to afford traveling in the first place. This practically eliminated the possibility of him being a deadbeat, and the possibility he came from a decent background was alive—not 100% confirmed—but a definite possibility. Which was only reinforced when I noticed he was a Wash U St. Louis alumnus. I thought about emailing Liz, a high school friend who also went to Wash U, to see if she knew him, but I talked myself off that ledge thinking it was a little obsessive for someone I hadn’t even met yet. So I texted her.
He smiled a lot in his photos. Which is pretty obvious considering you usually smile when someone takes a picture of you, but I’m talking about the candid action shots where he’s laughing in a group and the camera catches his profile—the less rehearsed ones. This made him seem charming and up for a good laugh. Which gave me pause for a second because I wondered if he was the class clown who was always the center of attention? Which would have been too much of a conflict for me since we’d be fighting for the spotlight in group settings….but he couldn’t have been as funny as me so I moved on from that negative train of thought.
It was clear he had friends, another good sign that speaks volumes of what people think about a person. And that was a welcome contrast to the balding high school therapist I’d dated just a few months prior who only seemed to look like the grumpy cat in every photo I’d seen of him. I don’t know if it was working with kids from messed up homes all the time, his inability to eat anything that wasn’t beige in color, or all the chlorine he swallowed from swimming twice a week at the public pool; but he was a mess and always frowned.
SHORT TANGENT: It was so sad. The balding high school therapist was trying to learn Spanish and he’d taken a few weeks off work to travel to Spain for some real world practice, which he totally needed because his accent was horriblé. When he got back he asked to see me and I gave him the whole since-you’ve-been-gone-I’ve-had-a-chance-to-think-about-us-and-it’s-just-not-working conversation. I wanted to be honest, because he seemed like a nice guy, but he was just too fragile for me and I couldn’t get over the fact that he wore salmon colored pants on our second date. Anyways, the really sad part came two days after I’d let him down gently, when I got a postcard he’d sent me from his trip about how amazing I was and how happy he was to have met me and blah blah blah…..I totally almost cried! But I digress.
I noticed Jonathan’s weight seemed to fluctuate from one picture to the next. Some were dated and others weren’t, so I wasn’t sure which version I’d be getting considering he covered the spectrum in his timeline. Awkwardly I found comfort in that. Since I’d only been released from the body image prison that is Los Angeles a year earlier, my body image issues were still front and center for me. Knowing he wasn’t a vain West-Hollywood-gay who always has the perfect figure assured me he’d be understanding if I gained any weight. And more importantly, it meant he was less vain than me!
Our plan was to meet at the Intersection for the Arts in the Mission District at 5:30pm. I thought that was a little early for a Saturday evening play, but I didn’t question it. I was just excited he liked the theater at all, which in my mind meant he was cultured and valued the arts.
I spent most of the afternoon choosing my ensemble. A navy blue gingham collared shirt (my signature print) was an obvious choice I paired with a dark blue boot cut Adriano Goldschmied jeans that made my ass look like it belonged to a 20 year old pilates instructor. I dressed the entire thing down with a pair of navy and white Adidas Rod Laver tennis shoes. My hair was gelled, and my face freshly shaven. At that time in my life I was wearing Chemistry Cologne for Men by Clinique, which I probably doused myself in knowing some of it would wear off by the time I’d walked the 1.5 miles up and down the Noe Valley hills to the theater where we were meeting.
As I approached the theater I noticed him looking up at the calendar of events posted next to the entrance. His profile was cute. A short salt and pepper buzz cut, in a cerulean blue wool v-neck sweater with a white collar popping out the top. His khakis didn’t have pleats (thank god) and his shoes were more comfort than cool. By the time I reached his side I’d sized him up as somewhere between preppy nerd and granola intellectual. Oh and his stomach was totally endearing and only a little pudgy. He was a small gay bear, and totally my type.
After a brief introduction, he seemed most interested in us getting our tickets. Apparently it was the last weekend of the play’s run, and the performances were all sold out. So we put our names down on the lottery list and hoped for two cancelations.
“Come back five minutes before curtain call and we’ll see if we have a ticket for you guys.” The woman running the folding table they called a box office said.
So we walked around the corner and got drinks at Elixir on the corner of 16th and Guerrero.
I’d been to Elixir before and considered it a dive bar of sorts. Jonathan sat down on a stool and immediately ordered a pint of some beer I’d never heard of. Thanks to my years at The Abbey in the heart of WEHO, I was used to ordering T&Ts with two limes, amaretto sours with extra cherries, frozen watermelon martinis, and/or Stoli sodas with a splash of white cranberry juice—beer was a phenomenon I knew very little of. The thought of me ordering one of my go-to cocktails, felt a little silly, and I didn’t want him to think I was some flamboyant queerling who couldn’t hang with the butch beer drinking bears; so I ordered a hefeweizen with an orange slice.
The two of us talked for a little bit and the entire time I got the vibe that he just wasn’t into me. I seemed to be asking all the questions (which I do well) and he seemed to be answering them, but there was very little reciprocation. Either my shirt was too tight, or I’d applied too many layers of ChapStick and it looked like I was wearing lip gloss (which I wasn’t); either way, the amount of gesticulating with his hands made me think he was just killing time until the play.
We ended up leaving the bar and heading back to the theater where our tickets were waiting.
“We didn’t have any cancelations,” the lady said, “but we’ve opened up the seating so you guys can still watch the play.”
By “opened up the seating” she meant we were allowed to sit on the steps between the seats. The place is small. Imagine a black box theater with ten rows of uncomfortable folding chairs, with a single row of steps running up the middle.
I spent the first half of the play sitting on one step, with my feet on the step below, staring at Jonathan’s single cowlick. It was uncomfortable to say the least and when I turned left or right I found myself staring at the droopy bosoms of two middle-aged women wearing paisley print velvet tops.
“Well at least we got in,” Jonathan said with what sounded like authentic optimism.
I immediately started to rethink my list of priorities and figured an interest in theater arts should be demoted.
The play was called “Angry Black White Boy” and I couldn’t have been less interested. Not because the play was bad, though I’m not sure I’d call it good, but I was so uncomfortable on the dirty hard floor and my ass was starting to hurt. All I could think about was how much longer we’d have to endure this?
When the lights came up at intermission, Jonathan jumped up from his step, turned to tell me he was going to the bathroom, and bolted. Strike number two! Not offering to help me up from my step made me feel like he was even less interested in me than he was at the bar.
I had to get the blood circulating again, so I stepped outside for a breath of fresh air where Jonathan met me after his tinkle. Two young women, one with a camera and the other with a microphone, approached and asked if they could interview us about the play.
We both said “sure” and she asked us if the subject matter made us uncomfortable?
I proceeded to answer the question the way I usually do, and that’s to give a ton of details and multiple viewpoints. And nearly five minutes later, I turned to Jonathan and asked if he had anything he wanted to add?
“I think you covered it,” he said with a smirk and raised brow.
The documentarians rushed off to get at least one more question answered before the second half of the play started.
I wasn’t sure if Jonathan was irritated with me for talking to much, or if he thought it was indeed funny. It could have gone either way, but before I had a chance to get to the bottom of it, the light flickered and it was time to go back inside.
Upon entering the theater, we found two seats next to one another, which is a sign of how well-received the play was. And for the next 45 minutes I bit my lip and focused more on analyzing the motives behind Jonathan’s leg touching mine than the play itself.
Then the lights came on—finally! And as we both walked out of the theater slowly we used our thoughts on the play to navigate the awkward conversation about what was next on the evening’s agenda if anything.
“So, what did you think?” I asked.
“I think I’m hungry,” Jonathan said.
“Well we’ve got to eat,” I said, “you want to go grab dinner?”
“Yeah, that sounds great,” Jonathan said, “we can probably find something fast around here.”
Another sign he wasn’t that into me. If he’d wanted the evening to last, he’d have offered a sit down meal at a place that braises meats to order. But “quick” and “convenient” screamed get me out of here!
Once we decided we were going to dinner, Jonathan reached into his Dockers back pocket and pulled out what looked like a deck of playing cards.
“I know this is pretty lame for a first date,” he said, “but I got these as a gift and I think they’re about to expire.”
It was one of those deck of cards that people used to by next to the cash register at stationary stores and tchotchkes gift shops. Each card represented a different San Francisco restaurant or activity like renting bikes or taking a ferry ride, and there were coupons on the back. They used to make them for every city, and I’d seen them before, but still, on a first date?
“Are those coupons?” I asked. “On a first date?”
“I swear I’m not cheap,” he said, sounding a little embarrassed and defensive, “but some of these are buy one entrée get a second one free.”
What he didn’t realize his how much I appreciated the sentiment and would have pegged him as crazy if I’d ever found out that he had a bunch of coupons that he didn’t use because he was scared of what his date would think.
“Give me half,” I said, and I held out my hand. “It will be faster if we go through them together.”
Zushi Puzzle – Amazing Sushi in San Francisco
The sushi place we ate at after the play (Tokyo A-Go-Go on 16th Street in the Mission) is no longer in business—I take no responsibility for that—so instead, I’m sharing photos from one of our new favorite San Francisco sushi restaurants—Zushi Puzzle. It happens to be in the Marina, but we don’t hold that against it.
The restaurant isn’t much of a looker from the outside, or in for that matter, but the quality of the fish is superb for the price. It’s NOT cheap, so if you have a coupon from a deck of cards, I’d bring it, but the value for sushi lovers is high.
They do take reservations (typically the same day) and if you don’t get there early, you might be waiting for a few hours or you might not get in that night.
I’ve never been a lover of uni (sea urchin) but Zushi Puzzle gets their hands on the freshest uni I’ve had, and it’s served in the shell of the sea urchin, tasting sweet and buttery.
Tempura Deep Fried Shrimp and Vegetables
Chirashi Assorted Sashimi over Sushi Rice with Soup
California roll with real crab
Best hand roll: spicy tuna and soft shell crab wrapped in kelp paper
Live uni (sea urchin)
Nigiri escolar (butter fish) and saba mackerel
Spicy scallop cut roll
Spicy scallop hand roll
Salmon avocado hand roll
Spicy tuna hand roll
Spider Roll Soft Shell Crab, Cucumber, Lettuce, Avocado & Tobiko
Unagi Lover Barbeque Eel Inside & Outside
Nabiyaki Udon Seafood, Chicken, and Vegetable
Rainbow Roll Kani, Avocado top w/Fish in the middle. On the right is the Supa Dylan special roll: spicy scallop in soy paper topped with albacore and wasabi cream sauces. And on the left is the Supa Mike special roll: Spicy tuna and avocado roll lightly fried; topped with masago and spicy sauces
See how the story ends with the 3rd and final chapter Love Stories & Everything But Butt.