Part 3 of 3
There I was. Across from the coupon king himself, and I couldn’t help but notice the flecks of silver shimmering through his buzz-cut and how blind I was for missing that earlier considering my crush on Jon Stewart and the fact that I’d been a few inches from his cowlick for the first half of our date. With about as much discretion as an operatic soprano bursting into song from the middle of a public library, I peered at him from over the top of my laminated menu and assessed the specimen opposite me.
At that point in my life I’d been on so many dinner dates that I’d learned how to “size a guy up” by the way he perused his menu. If he made a quick decision and said, “I’ll have the chicken teriyaki” that would have meant he lacked adventure, and was set in his ways. If he’d struggled with the menu for a few minutes and asked if I was “game to share a few things” then that meant he was an indecisive glutton and my kind of guy!
I mean come on. I’d been obsessing about this guy for days, and I knew very little about him, other than what I’d gathered from his grammatically incorrect emails, our one—overly breathy—phone conversation, and the sleuthing I’d done on his Facebook page. But what good was any of that if it was all out of context? Just one assumption after another, in my mental game of MASH, each one debunked as the evening progressed. But I knew there was something special about Jonathan. He was smart, handsome, and he seemed to have a good heart. The act of checking off so many boxes meant I was emotionally invested in this playing out, or at least until I was no longer emotionally invested in him, or I’d become emotionally invested in someone else.
Regardless of my growing affection towards Jonathan, I was still clueless about his feelings for me. The time we’d spent in the theater was physically painful to say the least, and we had no time to get to know one another aside from the chat we had over beers before the play, which was naturally awkward because it was our first few minutes together. Suffice it to say my insecurities were still firing on all cylinders now that we were actually in a setting where we could talk.
“So what do you like?” I asked.
“I eat everything,” he said.
The perfect answer. He likes it all, which probably meant we were about to share a bunch of sushi rolls—grounds for a solid first date regardless of how it ends in my book.
“But I don’t eat eel” he continued.
Suddenly a lump formed in the back of my throat. Who doesn’t like eel? It’s one of the few cooked items you can get at a sushi restaurant, and they cover it in eel sauce (NOT actually from eel), which is both sweet and salty. It’s like candy and when paired with avocado or shrimp tempura it’s like crack!
“What’s not to like,” I asked, wondering what kind of crazy he was about to unleash.
“I don’t know why,” he said. “It’s something about the texture and the flavor I guess.”
Great! The two things I love about eel are the two things he doesn’t. At that point, I was starting to think of an exit strategy. I couldn’t imagine my life, and all the sushi restaurants I’d plan to go to with my boyfriend, and NOT order caterpillar rolls and eel nigiri. It just didn’t make sense.
So I took a big gulp of my water with lemon and let out a sigh while rolling my eyes.
“But if you like it you should get it,” he said. And suddenly my half empty glass was half full, and I realized that every time we’d go to sushi together, I could order eel and not have to share it—game on!
That’s when the waiter came by and asked if we wanted anything to drink.
I’d just dealt with the eel rollercoaster and Jonathan was scanning through the special cut rolls so we scrambled to find the drinks section of the menu.
“Shall I give you a minute?” the waiter asked.
“No,” Jonathan said, and then he looked at me and asked if I liked sake.
“Sure,” I said, “But do you like hot or cold, filtered or unfiltered?”
“Oh I don’t care you can pick whatever you want,” he said. “I’m easy.”
I ordered the second cheapest bottle of sake on the menu, which never fails, and waited for the waiter to walk away before closing my menu and placing it on the table in front of me. I crossed my arms and smirked at him until he noticed.
“So you’re easy?” I said, teasing him with a devilish smile.
“Ha!” he laughed. “I knew the moment I said that, it sounded like something you shouldn’t say on a first date.”
I took a sip of my water and the silence only caused him to glow bright red like a lobster.
“It’s okay,” I said, “I’m easy too.”
And from that moment on, it seemed as if the ice had been broken. There was chemistry between us and I had an inkling that there was now a physical attraction growing from his side of the table too. [Nothing I could see. Get your head out of the gutter]
Once dinner was over, we walked up to the corner of 18th and Dolores Street where it made sense to part ways. His apartment was to the right, and mine to the left, but neither of us really wanted to say goodbye.
“Have you ever seen the view from the top of Dolores Park?” he asked.
I’d been to the top of Dolores Park many times before, but never at night, and never on a first date with someone I actually liked.
“Let’s go!” I said, and we walked another two blocks to get to the bench at the southwest corner of the park.
At the top of Dolores Park is a single park bench painted green. The grass around it is worn away and it’s surrounded by dirt and the exposed roots of the giant Magnolia tree right behind it. Once we got there, we noticed there were a few people sitting on the bench hanging out. We weren’t sure how long they’d be so we just hovered for a few minutes hoping they’d feel the awkward vibes we were sending and eventually leave. That didn’t work, so we ended up doing what people waiting for a restaurant table in China do and we just took a seat at one end of the bench. And within minutes they moseyed off.
Alone on the bench, at the top of Dolores Park we sat with the San Francisco skyline before us, lit like a giant Lite-Brite for us to reach out and grab. It was a clear night, which is rare for San Francisco, and the space between the two of us was naturally strange. I wanted to scoot closer to him, but thought the gesture would look contrived and obvious. So I looked down at the seat next to me and exclaimed, “shit, I think I sat in something,” and I got up, checked my pea coat for some invisible sticky object, and then sat down closer to him as I wiped myself clean.
“Do you know astrology?” I asked.
“Not really,” he said, “why do you?”
The conversation seemed to progress organically, albeit slowly, and as we fidgeted on the bench we seemed to get closer to one another.
I wasn’t sure who was going to make the first move. I was used to waiting for a clear sign, before I leaned in, but for me, that meant he would have had to say “kiss me” or I would have second guessed anything more subtle than that.
“Can I see your hand?” I asked.
“I’m not going to hurt you, I just want to see your hand,” I said, reaching out with my own towards his.
I looked closely at his open palm, but we were sitting in the dark, so I couldn’t really see much. Which didn’t really matter, because I didn’t know what I was looking for anyways.
“Well now that you have my hand,” he said, “what do you see?”
I laughed and said, “I don’t know, I just like looking at other people’s hands.” And then I leaned in and we kissed.
It was a nice first kiss. Slow and gentle on the lips where we stayed for a moment before applying a little more pressure and a little more emotion before he pulled away a little surprised.
“Wait. Was that your move?” he asked, laughing a little at the disconnect between my failed palm reading and our kiss.
“Maybe” I said, a little embarrassed at how puerile it all was. “Why?”
“Does that actually work?” he asked.
“Seems to have worked on you didn’t it?”
“What’s your move?” I asked.
“Coming to the park was my move.”
The two of us laughed at how obvious it all was. We were about to kiss again, when all of the sudden a giant bus pulled up to the curb just behind where we were sitting. The doors opened and out spilled 40 Japanese teenage tourists taking a rest stop. Before we knew it we were surrounded by them. My guess is it was a party bus, because two girls were throwing up at the base of the tree just a few feet away, while the others all smoked and drank from red Dixie cups. One of them approached and asked if we had a light for a cigarette, but neither of us did, and for the next 30 minutes they laughed in Japanese, flicked their cigarette butts on the floor around us, and took selfies with the cityscape in the background.
Now I’m not into public displays of affection in general, but definitely not on a first date, and I had no idea how Jonathan felt about it either. So we just sat there on the bench, with the momentum of a great first kiss thwarted by the unfortunate presence of drunk tourists who had no idea they were encroaching on a budding romance.
Eventually they left and we went back to making out in what seemed like the privacy even with the occasional MUNI J Church train stopping just yards away so people could got off.
Thanks to the exfoliating nature of our respective 5 o’clock shadows, our lips were chap, and starting to numb so I took a break to check the time.
“Oh shit!” I said.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“So I have to go walk my dog.”
The moment the words came out of my mouth I realized it sounded like some canned excuse for having to leave. Jonathan seemed to think that too as he sat up and straightened his sweater a little saddened.
“So I’ve had a really nice time and I definitely want to see you again,” I said, “but my dog has been home since I met you earlier and I have to let him out.”
Jonathan looked at me with a furrowed brow, as if he was trying to assess the legitimacy of my story.
“So you can either come with me to my place, and we can walk my dog together….and that’s NOT a euphemism by the way, and we can see where the night takes us. Or we can say goodnight and I hope we see each other again soon.”
“Can I think about it?” he asked.
I shrugged my shoulders and leaned in for another kiss, which lasted for about a minute before he pushed himself away and said, “ok, I think I’d like to walk your dog with you.”
So we walked nearly a mile over some giant San Francisco hills to my Noe Valley apartment.
For a year, I’d been renting the in-law unit in the basement of an old victorian owned by a crazy Jewish lesbian. To the side of the front staircase up to the main house was a door to the basement, which I had to cross before getting to the door to my junior apartment.
The dog could hear us from the moment we entered the basement and we could hear how excited he was from the ferocious clangs of the tags hanging from his collar. As we got within reach of the door and I was able to insert my key he started whimpering with anticipation, and once the door was opened, Eddie spilled out, charging like a bronking buck. Jonathan let out a giant sigh of relief, which was hard not to notice since his entire body seemed to relax at the same time.
“Everything alright?” I asked.
“I’m just glad this isn’t some frou frou little rat dog.” Jonathan said.
“Oh and you thought I’d be the type of person who has a Chihuahua or Bijon or something super gay like that?” I said, acting perturbed at the assumption.
I wasn’t really offended, because, after all, I didn’t have a small dog, which wouldn’t be a problem if I did, but I didn’t. So I just ended up teasing him about it while we walked Eddie through Noe Valley, and we shared our thoughts on how each other fit on the spectrum of flamboyancy.
By then, the evening fog had crept in over Twin Peaks, making it almost unbearable outside, so Jonathan came back to my apartment with me and slept over.
Without going into the details, we hooked up. And no, that doesn’t mean we had sex—my parents didn’t raise no floozy—instead we did everything but butt. And I’ll leave it at that.
And the next morning, we woke up and walked Eddie to Bernie’s on 24th Street, my favorite local coffee shop just a few blocks away. Then we took Eddie to the dog park and let him run around, a weekend routine I’d started a few months earlier.
I ended up introducing Jonathan as “my friend” to some of the ladies I knew who brought their dogs to the park as well. Most of them smiled and winked at me, knowing very well that Jonathan was the guy I’d told them all about the week before when our dogs were sniffing each others asses at the park, and I’m sure they couldn’t wait to hear the play by play.
Jonathan threw one last ball for Eddie to fetch and he turned to me with a slight panic and said, “I’m sorry, but I have to go.”
“Is everything alright?” I asked, a little surprised he had to go since it was the weekend and he hadn’t mentioned any plans to me previously.
“Yeah, I just remembered I’m meeting some friends for lunch and I need to get home and do some things before that, so….I’m gonna head out.”
And without a kiss goodbye, or a look as if to say I had a great time he was walking towards the bus stop a few blocks away.
I found out later that Jonathan did have plans, but they weren’t until later. His need to suddenly leave was the result of him snapping out of the trance our whirlwind of a first date had put him in, leaving him feeling like things were moving way too fast. After one night, he was walking my dog to get coffee and I was introducing him to the middle-aged women of Noe Valley just so he could perform of the walk of shame in his clothes from the night before with his hair unkept, etc. I’d probably freak out a little too.
We ended up seeing each other three more times the following week, and every date, we joked about how ‘this would be the last.’ As if things were going too well. As if things were too easy. I guess it was our way of checking-in with one another on whether or not we thought things were paced well or if we needed to adjust.
Now, a few years shy of a decade later, we’re still together, in love, and with Jonathan’s hand in mine, the two of us walk Eddie every night.
Outerlands in San Francisco’s in the Sunset
Keeping with the theme of Jonathan and my first meeting, we enjoyed a recent anniversary dinner at Outerlands restaurant in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood.
This was our second time at Outerlands, the first was right after it opened several years ago where we enjoyed the most amazing meal with friends that was so good it renewed our faith in the cuisine of SF’s Outer Sunset. Prior to Outerlands opening it’s doors, the Outer Sunset was a desolate suburb of the city, known for it’s cookie-cutter streets of cottage row-houses, and overcast coastal fog about 90% of the time, and….not much else. Oh, let’s not forget the ocean is out there too.
Just goes to show what a damn good restaurant can do to change a neighborhood. Outerlands become so popular that they closed their doors and underwent a renovation where they took over some of the space next door, expanded the bar (I don’t think they had one before) and completely redecorated. So naturally we had to revisit and see if things were the same as we remembered. Though they didn’t have the rustic roasted pattypan squash in parsley aioli that I’ve been craving since that first time, the menu has been elevated with sophistication and grace. Here’s what we had.
We started with some signature cocktails. Since I love gin I had the dry gin, aged aquavit, lemon, banana, and orgeat with nutmeg. The hint of banana was so strange and yet so lovely, I nearly ordered a second one before finishing the first.
And Jonathan’s a tequila and mescal whore so he had the bartender create something tequila based and I don’t remember what it was, but it’s the red drink below and he loved it.
After the drinks we had the waiter open up a bottle of 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from Goldeneye. This is a full-bodied pinot for cab lovers who also like pinots. I find that pinots grown up in Anderson Valley tend to have a little more weight then their Russian River cousins and it’s a nice wine that plays to both palates.
We started with the squash soup. This was made with Ethiopian berbere spice, ginger, yogurt, sesame butter and pureed carrot. It reminded me of the mulligatawny soup we’ve had at 1601 Bat & Kitchen in Soma. Delicious and full of spice, but not spicy.
Then we moved on to the grain salad. This was sprouted wheat berries, quinoa, beets, pearl onions, cucumbers, mint, and some very mild fresh cheese on top. It was hearty and yet light and refreshing with an interesting mix of textures in each bite.
Outerlands makes their own pasta so we had to get the fettuccine with crab butter, chard, chili oil, tarragon and puntarelles. This was hard to share, but somehow we managed. The crab infused butter was rich but didn’t over power the dish, and the flavor of the pasta was preserved.
We finished the meal with the duck leg. Both of us love duck so one of us will typically order it when it’s on the menu. This night we were trying not to go overboard since we’d eaten out nearly the entire week prior, so we just shared the single duck leg served over savoy cabbage and marscapone, with citrus, red onion, and coffee.
And for dessert we went with our waiter’s recommendation and got the ginger stout cake with quince and persimmon. The ginger cake had a nice chewy exterior with a soft brownie like inside, and the quince and persimmon scattered around the plate helped cut through some of the hoppy flavor in the cake.
And before we knew it, we were walking to the car, prepared for the long journey back to Alamo Square, which can seem like another city all together when you’ve had the chance to enjoy a vacation in the Outerlands.
Doesn’t matter if they’re happy, sad, or funny; we all have these amazing love stories and we want to hear yours. Share a snippet of your favorite love stories in the comments below, or just link to one you think we should read.