Life in the Lost and Found

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“How you do one thing is how you do everything,” says the woman I hired to help me change my life.

“I never make my bed,” I admit.

She tilts her head to one side and recommends another self-help book.

I fire her a few weeks later.

She doesn’t understand me.

Once again, I find myself floating through the ethers, like a dandelion seed who holds dear to the illusion that it’s driving the wind instead of the wind driving it. Once again, I’m trying to figure it all out by myself.

It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m sitting at the baggage claim in San Jose airport, waiting for the shuttle. I’ve arrived thirty minutes ago and have thirty minutes yet to wait for the scheduled pick up. The driver calls. He’s early. He asks if I’m ready to go.

I tell him I’ll wait outside. He says he’ll drive by.

I wait.

He doesn’t drive by.

Ten minutes later, he calls again.

“Did you see me,” he asks.

“No.”

“Where are you?”

“Outside. Door A5.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“I’m by the baggage claim,” I say. I describe a sculpture and the parking garage.

“I’ll drive by.”

I wait.

Time passes.

He calls again.

“Did you see me?”

“No.”

“I’ll drive by again.”

This must be what life feels like in the lost and found. You know where you are. And you know someone’s looking for you. But you also know they’re looking in the wrong place.

He calls once more and I carry his voice through the double doors and ask the nice lady at the information booth to talk to him.

“Where are you,” the lady asks. She frowns. “Which airport?” She peers over her bifocals and straight into my eyes. “He’s in San Francisco.”

Forty minutes later, I’m sitting in his van. He apologizes. I tell him I’ve got bigger things to fret about.

“You’re being so cool about this,” he says, knit brow and all.

“You got lucky.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“I’ve been up since four,” I mutter. He hands me a bottle of water and drives the rest of the way in silence.

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Friday morning, I meet an ex-almost-boyfriend in Santa Cruz. We’re going kayaking.

The last time I saw him, we made out at the Daly City Bart Station as our visit was coming to an end. He was seeing someone. I was not.

I sent him a simple email later that night. It read:

I like you. And I think you like me. If it doesn’t work out with your current girlfriend, or the one after her, or the one after her, I hope you’ll consider trying to build something real and lasting with me.

His response:

I was afraid you felt that way. I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression when I made out you at the Bart Station.

I am determined not to make out with him again. Thankfully, we are far away from public transportation, so I will not be putting myself at risk by waiting for a train.

“How are you,” he asks as he pulls me into a hug. He’s six-foot two, muscular. His hand nearly covers my back. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

There’s a word I have formed at the tip of my tongue. I carried it with me from the house to the beach. I chewed it, tasted it, tried it on. With that small word, I’ve committed to details and descriptions of a handsome, creative, and intelligent imaginary boyfriend and our imaginary us.

The word is “yes.”

“Sort of,” I say, and emphasize the timbre of my imaginary relationship with a shrug.

He glances sideways at me with a closed mouth smirk, but he lets it slide.

“Do you still have a girlfriend?”

“No.”

His gravelly voice skips over the surface of the water. Even the sea otters, lounging in their kelp beds, stop grooming to look at him. His smile is wide and he cuts the waves with more grace than muscle. I watch him as the tour guide yammers on about otters and kelp. Over the horizon, the sky and the water are perfectly balanced hues of blue. If I knew no one would come looking for me, I’d row and row and row until l got lost in the ocean. I’d let seagulls and starfish be my guides.

IMG_7718On Saturday afternoon, I’m at the wedding, dressed and ready to marry my friend to her fiancé. I’m early, at the bride’s request, even though she is running late, per usual.

I sit at a picnic table and watch the groomsmen set up chairs, my hand covering the clutch I borrowed from my mother two weddings ago and forgot to return. Inside the clutch is the wedding ceremony, which I wrote out that morning on my mangled yellow legal pad. I’ve examined the text three times this hour, making certain I can read my handwriting. So far, so good.

The groom’s best friend hands me a bottle of water and, sweaty, sits next to me in the shade. It’s nearly time for them to change into their suits. We look out towards the pond, where the turtles live, until he breaks the silence.

“Do you have a boyfriend,” he asks.

I pause for a moment to reflect on this evidently thematic question.

“Sometimes,” I say and leave it at that.

He asks me to go out for a drink later. I comply.

Sunday night, I’m sitting in the hotel lobby in San Francisco with my one of my favorite people and jewelry designers Mark drinking free hotel wine. Mark and I have known each other since my Berkeley days when we set our booths up next to each other at the Telegraph Avenue street fair. I fell in love with him that day and forgot to fall out of love. We were neighbors for a couple of years and when I knocked on his screen door, he would invite me in for lunch.

“You know what I learned on Friday? Sea otters choose a tool when they’re young to help crack open clams and things. They keep it in a pocket of skin under their arm and use the same tool their whole lives.”

“What if they lose it?”

“I meant to ask the tour guide that same question. If it’s their personal totem, they might be heart-broken. Don’t you think?”

We consider this for a moment. The wine tastes like juice.

“I don’t think that’s true.”

“I might have gotten it wrong.”

“But it makes me like sea otters even more.”

IMG_7838Check out Mark’s fun jewelry here: markpoulin.com.

Thanksgiving

My time in L.A. is limping to a close. In about two and a half weeks, I’ll be moving on to San Francisco, and while San Fran is not in a different state, it may as well be. Lumped into those two and a half weeks is the first of our winter holidays. I suspect my dating days in L.A. are winding to a close.

Needless to say, I am thankful for a whole lot, even if I don’t act like it.

I am thankful that I currently reside close to five Really Great Coffee Joints, two of which have been locations for sudden strike early morning dates. I’m thankful that I have a lot of stories to tell and there are people out there who like to listen. I’m thankful that most days my dog is rather sweet and demure, even if rifling through the bathroom trash is her single most favorite occupation.

I am also thankful that the ratio of annoying to somewhat charming individuals in my life is abnormally low and that the sound guy at work is able to offer some sound, if not daring advice.

“You have to pull out all the stops, up the game” he says. “Push the limits.”

We have a backstage moment most nights. He tells me about his brimming love life, I bemoan the sparsity of mine.

“How?”

“Have sex.”

In essence, he’s telling me to break the rules. My rules, that is. Which wouldn’t be too big a deal. I mean, no one would have to know. Except me. And maybe you.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Here’s a snippet of my profile:

“I make my co-workers laugh, though I’m not sure why. I eat a lot of leafy green vegetables. There is nothing I enjoy more than a good sock puppet. I drink a lot of water. I’m doing my best to travel as often as possible.”

Apparently, a large proportion of the men I go out with also dig sock puppets and leafy green vegetables.
Am I shooting myself in the foot? Or are sock puppets my safety net?
I mean, leafy greens can be very sexy, especially when sauteed with a little ginger. Sock puppets, not so much.

Outside

The temperature has dropped to a perfect 68 degrees and I’m laying on my back on the wooden floor in my apartment, staring at my dog who is staring at me. She’s sprawled across my belly, chewing her bone. I know we should take a long, luxurious walk, but we won’t. Inertia has set in and my mind is wandering through time, not space.

Meanwhile, as my job becomes a petri-dish of post-adolescent sexuality, I sit on the sidelines and observe. In my real life, I weave my own clumsy, mangled web of creative truths and short-term relationships with digitally matched mates.

It has me thinking.

I didn’t go to the prom when I was a senior in high school. Instead, I went to a punk rock concert with my friend, Sara (perhaps in the hopes of running into my perennial high school crush). The band sucked and we decided to leave early.

It was perfect New England summer night; a skin-head had parked himself on the trunk of my car and wouldn’t get off. “You’re ugly,” he spat, as I opened my door. I told him to take it up with my parents. I turned the ignition, his face leering at us through the rear window, revved the engine, and cruised about fifty feet before I floored the gas. It seemed to me that the kid floated in the air for a brief second before he realized there was no longer a car between him and the ground.

And thus my high school career began its slow fizzle to its end. There were no prom pictures, no dried out corsages or perfectly planned post-prom interludes – just me sitting on a pillow on a vinyl bench seat, navigating the big, blue Buick of my life.

***

My friend John gracefully volunteered to be my opening night date last week. He’s an invaluable friend, mostly because he’ll join me on any strange adventure I come up with. Plus, he looks good in a suit and I like drinking with him, so all was well.

He told me that opening night to a Broadway-esque show and an after party would’ve been a kicking first date for some lucky fool. My excuse: none of the thousands of seemingly sane eligible bachelors floating around in cyberspace were knocking on my digital door.

“The problem is,” the sound guy at work says, “you’ve been in L.A. too long. It’s supposed to be 50 dates in 50 states, not 50 dates in L.A.”

Perhaps he’s right. My study of daters on Southern California is ready to move North. However, I’m here working for a few more weeks.

John and I skipped out of the opening night party and ended up drinking at a dive bar. it made me think of the missed prom as well as both my ignored high school and college graduations, and any number of opening and closing nights I’ve spun through and run from. I suppose I’m more comfortable on the outside and fringes of organized, celebratory contrivances.

Or maybe I prefer to watch my past through the rearview mirror of a moving car as I steer toward my next big adventure. Pedal to the metal.

Opening Night

Opening night for my show is two days away.

Here’s what I go through every opening night:

First, I get excited. I think about what I’m going to wear. Maybe I buy a pair of shoes.

I eyeball opening night gifts and try to figure out something sweet, cheap, and easy.

I work a lot of hours through tech, though not nearly as many hours as other people work.

And then I spin through the rolodex in my mind of possible dates.

I’m ashamed to say that there is an opening night date hierarchy.

The best of all possible worlds: going with someone I’m sleeping with who looks really good in a suit. This has never happened.

Second best: going with someone I want to sleep with who looks good in a suit. This might’ve happened. Once. I can’t remember.

Third place: going with someone who looks good in a suit who is fun to drink with. This sometimes happens.

Close on third place’s heels: going with someone who looks good in a dress and is fun to drink with. This is usually what happens.

The thing is, as fun as opening night sounds like it should be, by the time it rolls around, I don’t actually ever want to go. And here, in this strange city, my options are limited. I did ask a friend (option 3). He’s busy. I asked a girlfriend. She’s sick. I suppose there are a few others I could ask, but I don’t know if they look good in suits and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to drink with them.

The sound guy suggested I put out an ad on Craigslist. This sounds like a really bad idea. And, quite honestly, a little desperate. But, perhaps in the name of science…

I will consider trying to hook up a first date.

I’ll get back to you on that.

Rocket Science

7:00 a.m.: Wake up. Press snooze. Go back to sleep.

7:30 a.m.: Wake up. Press snooze. Go back to sleep.

7:45 a.m.: Wake up. Press snooze. Swing legs to the floor and stand up. Shuffle to bathroom. Brush teeth.

8:00 a.m.: Slide into date dress. Apply under-arm deodorant. Finger through hair and mash into a style. Slap on some face. Turn off alarm.

8:15 a.m.: Chase sleepy dog through house. Catch sleepy dog. Harness and leash said dog and promise treats if she will go outside.

8:20 a.m.: Walk down hill and hope that mascara makes eyes look fully open instead of half shut. Pick up dog poop. Applaud dog peeing on grass instead of Bathroom carpet.

8:23 a.m.: Shoot pictures of walk down the hill as evidence of early morning date. Hope date doesn’t notice dirty fingernails.

8:25 a.m.: Arrive at Intelligensia Coffee on Sanborn and Sunset. Sit at outside table and wait for 8:30 a.m. date.

8:30 a.m.: Wait for 8:30 a.m. date.

8:35 a.m.: Watch long-haired, receding hairlined man in jeans and white sneakers trip over curb and smile at you. Compute that this is, in fact, the date and that he looks nothing like his picture. Smile. Shake his hand. Say hello.

8:40 a.m.: Stand in line for fancy over-priced coffee. Order cappuccino.

8:42 a.m.: Stand in line to wait for cappuccino as date waits for his cafe mocha. Ask what he does for a living. Nod smartly when he replies that he is a rocket scientist.

8:43 a.m.: Add sugar to coffee

8:44 a.m.: Sit outside with coffee, dog, and date.

8:45 a.m.: Discuss the inherent difficulties of colonizing Mars. Drink coffee.

8:55 a.m.: Touch on the evils of soy-based vegetarian products. Finish coffee.

9:04 a.m.: Share dog stories.


9:10 a.m.: Explain to Rocket Scientist that you are a hairdresser. Wish for a second cup of coffee.

9:15 a.m.: Finish date. Walk date to his car. Say goodbye.

9:17 a.m.: Walk up hill with dog.

9:23 a.m. Enter house. Unleash dog. Go back to sleep.

Dressing Up

It’s Hallowe’en. I’m seeing how long I can lay in bed with my dog before something happens – an urge to stand, a hunger, a plaintive look from her that begs for a patch of grass and some sunshine. So far so good, it’s pushing ten and neither one of us has budged.

I’m reflecting on the past couple of weeks. I haven’t been dating due to the long hours at work, and the few men I’d been digitally juggling have been sucked down the black hole of cyberspace. The second round is cropping up. Their profiles are wordy and earnest; men looking for love, soulmates, partners in crime, and the last piece of the puzzle that they call their lives.

In the meantime, while sensitive new age men haunt my catalog of single and available potential dates, one question pervades: what the hell am I doing?

I’ve spent the past weeks battling for professional survival while watching others do the same – a theatrical life and death struggle to put up a musical about teenage cheerleaders. I haven’t worn the date dress in weeks. I’ve fretted about the health my anthropological dating project. Meanwhile, in New York the Occupy Wall Street protestors brace for a long, cold winter, attempting to change our political system through non-violent means, while men and women, fellow member of the human race who want similar things, job security, freedom, a full, easy, and healthy life for themselves and their children, dress in blue suits and badges and view their allies as enemies. The FDA has a crack down on lemonade stands. Monsanto lobbies to make home gardens illegal.

Life seems upside down.

Hallowe’en is a confusing time for many of us. Caught between identity crisis and sugar coma, its hard to know which direction to walk.

Long story short, I’m not sure I want to go on a date with someone who signs their emails “joy” or “happiness” or wears the mantle “sensitive,” or “caring,” or “sensual” like a badge. Or that I want meet someone who is catalog shopping for his soulmate, or searching for his Mrs. Claus.

Words are cheap and we rely on them so heavily. We cover ourselves with them, dress in them, sleep with them, bathe in them. We walk with them, sit with them, eat with them. We wear them.

We’ve relied on them for far too long.

For all the labels we cut and paste and throw on ourselves and others, only one is accurate: human being. All the others are costumes, easily worn, easily thrown away. So, this Hallwoe’en, as many others in the past, I think I will pretend to be me, all labels intact. And maybe, tonight, at the Hallowe’en parade, I’ll a score a date with someone pretending to be himself.

Or maybe he’ll be dressed up as a ghoul.

Or a slutty nurse.


beginning, middle, and end.

THE BEGINNING:
INT. SMALL MANHATTAN APARTMENT – AFTERNOON
AMY, 40, sort of cute, sits at her computer, perusing a dating site. Her dog SADIE lays across her lap in an awkward position. She sees she has a message. She opens it.
DESIGNER PETE
You are absolutely lovely.
AMY
You are too kind. But thank you! Amy.
DESIGNER PETE
Do you ever enjoy sharing a bottle of wine,
flirting into the evening? Pete.
AMY
Of course! What could be better? Except maybe
olives. Or a really good apple.
CUT TO:
THE MIDDLE:
INT. SMALL MANHATTAN APARTMENT – DAYS LATER
Much of the apartment is strewn with papers, clothes, books, in a mad attempt to pack a year’s worth of life in three duffle bags. Amy sits at her computer, unwashed hair, pajamas, a glass of water dangerously close to her elbow.
Sadie chews a bone.
DESIGNER PETE
I love the company of a smart, strong woman. Where in
LA do you live? Pete.
AMY
You leave yourself wide open for witty retorts. I’m not in L.A. Right now, but will be living in Silverlake come October 7th. You might recognize me. I will be the one walking. And my little dog will be walking, too. A.
DESIGNER PETE
I would love to be a welcoming committee when you get here.
AMY
You leave yourself wide open for a joke about picking me up at the airport… But I think I have a ride. Maybe the 8th? A.
DESIGNER PETE
Could work. Let me know if your ride falls through. Pete.
LATER
DESIGNER PETE (CONT’D)
Are you on Yahoo Messenger, ICHAT or Google chat?
LATER
AMY
Oh! I just saw your notes. I’m afraid I’m not on any sort of chat thingie. I don’t have a great internet connection and am a little crazed. I will hit you up if my ride goes south! I have lots of bags and a little dog, too. And I’m at the point where I’m starting to throw random things into bags – half used five year old bottles of vitamins, a lipstic of a color I can’t stand, yoga dvds I never use… It’s a sort of mania, I’m convinced. So forgive me for missing your messages. I hope all is well in Sunny California! Yours, Amy.
DESIGNER PETE
You are quite beautiful. Pete.
AMY
Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. Or, probably more accurate, maybe sometimes I am, maybe sometimes I’m not. Either way, you are truly too kind. Yours, A.
DESIGNER PETE
Would be fun adoring you.
AMY
You’re not, by any chance, friends with a guy named (fill in the blank with your favorite sexting womanizer) are you? He might run in the same circles as you. Just curious. You remind me of him. Just a little. In the best possble way, of course.
DESIGNER PETE
I do not know him. Most of the work I do is for Disney. I love smart, independent women.
DESIGNER PETE (CONT’D)
When do you get back.
DESIGNER PETE (CONT’D)
I’m hoping we get the chance to meet when you arrive in L.A.
AMY
I am certain we will! I’m back on the seventh and will be bike shopping on the eighth. Like all good New Yorkers, I have a healthy fear of parking in L.A. and will have to embrace car culture with baby steps.
THE END:
INT. SILVERLAKE APARTMENT – MORNING

Amy sits in front of her computer in a large front room apartment, her things strewn in various “organizational” piles. Clothes, books, shoes, paperwork, vitamins each have their place on chairs, tables, in open bags, etc.
Sadie sleeps on a pile of underwear and bras.
DESIGNER PETE
I would have an even healthier fear of getting run over on a bike.
EXT. SILVERLAKE SIDEWALKS – MOMENTS LATER
Amy closes her computer, gets a leash on Sadie, and they takes a walk on a sunny day in Silverlake.

Advice

Pretend this is Chuck.

Chuck is a friend of mine.

This is Leah.

She’s a friend of mine, too.

Patrice.

We just started working together. She’s very cool.

And Butch.

Butch grows persimmons.

I love Los Angeles.

We’ve been spending a lot of time together. And since they all work with hair, they love to give advice. Especially advice on love.

I filled them in on my dating progress.

The subjects:

1. Christian Slater Latex Man – I went out with when I first arrived to Los Angeles. He is very cute and he made me laugh, especially with the photos of women in latex he sent me after our date.

2. Touchy Feely – We went to the dog park together. After my dog got attacked he was kind enough to try to hug me. Many times.

3. Miscommunication – He’s a vegetarian filmmaker with a bad cellphone.

4. Smiles – He “liked” my picture. I “liked” his picture. He made me a “favorite,” I emailed him and told him I liked his smile. He said he liked mine. We have plans to meet for coffee.

Me: Leah, I might go out for a drink with Christian Slater Latex Man on Monday night. I really like him. What should I wear?

Leah: I would go with something simple and casual, but flattering to your body, for example, a good pair of “jeggings,” which really flatter the figure, and a low cut top, not slutty, something that flatters the clavicles. And, if all else fails, latex.

Me: Chuck, would you be able to eat Thai food after witnessing your dog being trampled by five other big dogs while on a date? If so, what would you order?

Chuck: I would say …yes. Though I would order something mild like…tofu in peanut sauce or, if raging, PORK ON FIRE!!! Remember, he’s already seen you cry.

Me: Patrice, if I go out on a date with Smiles, do you think I should skip letting him know that I take the bus? Do you think this could be a major turn-off for my dates?

Patrice: I think you should tell him you have your own personal driver who likes to remain anonymous because, that’s so L.A.

Me: Butch, do you believe in signs and synchronicity? If so, what does it mean that my cellphone doesn’t like my date’s cellphone?

Butch: Yes, I do. The cellphone misconnect is the universe giving you it’s opinion. It’s up to you to decide if you want to communicate via email instead.

Thanks, guys! I feel so much clearer now.

modern technology

I was sitting at the bus stop on Sunset and Lucille, waiting for the bus. There was a Black guy, late forties, waiting with me. He was rapping along to his personal CD player, barely keeping up with the singer on the other end of his duct-taped earphones.

Last person in the world/ you want to fuck with/ Kentucky fried cracker/ mother fuckin’ baller…

I had one an eye on him, glancing sideways, and an eye on my own newish sort-of-smart phone. The touch screen was smeared with fingerprints, and as I swiped my fingers across the “keyboard,” I worried, just a little, that my smart phone is making me stupid.

I had had a third date the night before. It was after my first full day of work, and only a few days after my dog got jumped at the run. I spent the day dodging pictures of women in latex sent to me by my first date, now affectionately named “Christian Slater latex man” and extensive text messages about nothing interesting from my second date, “touchy feely.” I liked them both well enough, but was feeling a little concerned about where our relationships might be headed.

It seems to me that that both dogs and people in L.A. are a little less socialized, a little less subtle, and a little more dangerous. The rapper moved onto even more offensive lyrics. He had a calculating look in his eye, but he was very polite. I dove deeper into the void of my phone.

I wasn’t at all certain that this date would occur. I wanted to cancel. I planned on canceling. I hoped he’d cancel. But, it didn’t happen. I changed the venue. I manipulated the time. I dragged him from his original plan to my part of town with no plan at all. Still, he was game.

He called me from the corner at 9 p.m. that night, but he couldn’t hear me on the other end. “Ah,” I thought, “be careful what you wish for,” for now I had a guy standing on some corner on Sunset Boulevard relying on his rebellious, broken down phone to connect. My smart and smudgy phone couldn’t relate. Though I admit there was a momentary surge of hope, I did my due diligence and left my house, walked down to Sunset, and called one last time. He picked up.

“I can’t hear you, but maybe you can hear me,” he said. And he told me where he was. I couldn’t squelch out after that.

And so we met, and drank a beer. He was nice. And a filmmaker, which is what I do, too -when I’m very lucky. But I wanted to be home with my dog instead of out with a stranger pretending to be nice. Unlike those broken down machines that keep doing what they’re born to do, I failed at my anthropological mission.

Hell, he’s not from around here, anyway.

dog eat dog

He was nice enough, smart enough, interesting enough. He wore his spirituality like an ill-fitted coat, but at least he was trying. Maybe he was a little too pleased with himself and his two cars, though he pointed out with a humble shrug that the convertible was just for fun. I can’t blame him. He’s done really well in this dog eat dog town.

We decided to take our dogs to the dog run. They say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. I say: if you can make it in L.A., you can make it anywhere.

This is true for dogs as well as people.

My little girl got jumped at the dog run by a pack of big bully dogs. They came out of nowhere. She screamed as the dogs pawed and bit her; my date and I dove into the fray and pulled them off.

There was no blood, but my little girl was dirty and wet from slobber. She’s missing a few tufts of hair and has a scratch across her back.

Having your dog jumped at the dog park is a terrible way to start off a date.

I teared up while trying to make sure my girl was okay and fought the irresistible urge to cry. My date went back to play with his dog. When he saw that I was upset, he tried to hug me.

Trying to hug someone you don’t know, but probably want to sleep with who almost lost their dog to a dog attack and has adrenaline still seeping like a slow leak through their veins is a terrible way to comfort said person. Plus which, it felt slightly opportunistic. And maybe a little slimy.

Trying not to cry when you need to is always distracting and when we finally left the park, he filled the silence with chatter. I suppose it’s hard to plan for a first date with a sniveling woman and her traumatized five pound dog. I responded with well-placed grunts.

“Are you hungry?” he asked as we passed his favorite Thai place.

Eating with someone you don’t know who probably wants to sleep with you, while suppressing adrenaline-fueled tears due to pulling your five pound dog out from under of a pile of very big dogs, sounded like a really, really terrible idea.

I asked him to take me home.

People say that dogs are resilient, that they bounce back, and I know this little girl must be, if she’s survived this long with me. I don’t know if she’ll ever get over this event. And for the first time, I’m worried that this dog eat dog town will eat her up.


It makes me so sad.