—Sunday, October 9, 2011—
I had a kick ass vest that looked a little like a life preserver that would have been perfect for Boat Date. Unfortunately, it was far too warm out to rock it, so I went with a short sleeve button up and a light jacket. I just wanted to look moderately nautical. Why was that so much to ask? What was up with October anyway? Why was it so warm that weekend?
Morgan and I had discussed going all out with classic, boat-themed attire, but I was assuming that it had been mostly in jest. At least, I hoped it was and that she was not dressed like Rose DeWitt Bukater while I looked, at best, like an employee at Urban Outfitters.
Really though, I should have been grateful for the weather. We were going on a three hour boat cruise around Manhattan and I had prepared for a blustery Fall day at sea. Instead, it was an ideal day for a boat ride. I couldn’t have been happier about that fact.
Important — how on Earth did I forget my sunglasses? The world will never know.
Our boat was leaving from Chelsea Piers and since I’d never been there, I left early and allowed myself plenty of time to arrive. As it turned out, Morgan had taken the same approach.
I stepped out of the train and directly into Morgan’s path. Oh! Hey! Guess we were on the same train. TRAIN BUDDIES.
It was really good to see Morgan. We hadn’t spent any time together in about two and a half months, ever since our improv class had ended. We had taken two levels together back-to-back, so I had grown accustomed to seeing her face every week. I’d thought about asking her out before the project even began, but I tried hard to not mix improv classes with my love-life. Also, I was pretty intimidated.
Morgan had a witty sense of humor and an impeccable fashion sense. The comedy community didn’t pay much attention to fashion, but Morgan always looked chic as shit. She stood out with seemingly little effort. And she was mysterious! Kind of. Not on purpose or anything. I just felt that I’d known her the longest of all my classmates, but also understood her the least. She was always friendly but I didn’t feel like I got to know her as well as I’d wanted to.
I had no confidence at all that she’d agree to go out with me. I felt like she probably had a boyfriend, or that I wouldn’t be up to snuff, or that she just wouldn’t want to be on the internet. When I finally got up the one testicle of courage necessary to ask her out on Gchat during work, I was very surprised by her response.
me: So I tried to do this in person several times but people were always around and I wimped out. Would you like to go on a date with me sometime?
Morgan: Don’t wimp out!
I was waiting for you to ask!
Sure I would love to go on 1 of the dates!
Excuse my exclamation points.
yeah, I kind of figured that I wasn’t hiding anything particularly well.
and don’t worry. I love exclamation points!
and yeah, that’s awesome.
Morgan: Oh, you just jumped right into the emoticons.
Like Kevin Garnett said, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.”
The two of us headed from 8th Avenue toward the water, catching up on the past couple months. I had gone to Asia. That was an important thing I had done recently, and when I told Morgan that I worked from one of my company’s satellite offices for a few days while in Hong Kong, she asked me more about my chosen career. I found myself working for that company right out of college, almost by chance. I saw them at a career fair and applied. I had been there ever since. When they offered me a new job in NYC, I jumped on it. I had wanted to move there, after all, and I was not one who liked to turn down opportunities.
Morgan, on the other hand, had been biding her time since college and waiting for a job that she could be enthusiastic about. Such roles were understandably difficult to come by in the economic climate she graduated into in 2010. She was a bit smarter than me in that regard. With her mother’s house not too far outside the city, she could afford to take some time to figure it all out, although it did sound like she was reaching that point where she wanted independence and to be self-reliant. With my father’s house just outside of Boston, it wouldn’t have been a bad move for me to do the same when I graduated. Instead, I lived at home and worked a compromising job. Double-lose.
We made it past a pack of children on Razor scooters (the deadliest of NY gangs) and found ourselves at the entrance to Chelsea Piers, talking about the Samuel L. Jackson play I’d be seeing that coming Thursday. Morgan had said something about “a cat on my train” and I heard “snake on my plane”. Oh, misheard words, how you make for such spontaneous conversation regarding Broadway plays.
I suggested that we check in with the people running the boat tour but that only took a few minutes and we still had at least a half an hour until departure, so Morgan and I strolled to the end of the pier. There was a carousel along the way that played my favorite song of 2010, “Hey, Soul Sister”. It was one of those songs that we could all really connect to and I just loved that ukulele!
Standing at the end of the pier, I pointed out Hoboken across the water, where I had once lived. I told her about the town and about Jersey City, where my friends from college had lived. She told me about the Colgate clock there on the waterfront.
Tony, one of my best college comrades, had lived in JC for over two years before buying a house in suburban NJ. That guy was way ahead of me. He and Sarah (his girlfriend; another one of my friends) had been dating for years. He had a dog. And a car. He would accomplish all the “adult” stuff before I even got to a single one of them. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Sarah and Tony were engaged soon.* As I told all of this to Morgan, I recognized how hot it was in the sunlight and how difficult it was for her to see without squinting and holding her hand over her eyes.
I realized that we needed to get the hell out of the sun.
We walked back down the pier along a different path whence we came, this time going right by the entrance for the carousel. There were all these little kids there with cool Bieber hair. I wish I had had cool Bieber hair. Plus, one kid had a Spider-Man shirt on. All the hip children were making me look like a loser in front of Morgan!
Without losing my date to a flock of eight year old kids, we made it back to the ticket booth, which was now open. After securing our boarding passes for the Yacht Manhattan, we still had 15 minutes to kill, so we walked around the Chelsea Piers buildings, hidden from the early afternoon sun. You could see inside the buildings there and the largest section, by far, was an enormous gymnastics center. The little tiny gymnasts were so crazy. They were killing it out there! I don’t know about Morgan, but I was impressed.
A couple buildings down, we turned around and got to talking about the indie improv scene in New York. I told her about my team, about all the different venues that hosted shows, how to get shows, etcetera. Basically, a bunch of things that would bore most people to death but, as improvisors, we actually found interesting. However, it was definitely more entertaining than talking about work with work people. That was boring for everyone.
By the time we completed our loop, it was time to queue up and board the yacht. I liked that they called it a yacht — definitely made it sound much fancier than “big wooden boat”. There was a covered cabin as well as an outdoor portion on the bow. We made a game time decision to sit outside. How else would I be able to lean from the front of the boat, shouting, “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD”?
Sitting down as we pulled away from shore, we ended up on the topic of family and parents. I was telling Morgan about my dad beginning to date only a few short months after my mother had passed away, and in this tender moment, I was shushed by the woman next to me! She said she couldn’t hear what the guide was saying. This lady had no idea!
Well, I was a non-confrontational pansy, so I just started whispering to Morgan as we gave each other looks that said, “What a bitch, right???”
We paused from our conversation to listen to our tour guide (and architecture student), Julie, as she introduced herself and the tour we were just beginning. Following the introductions, a waitress came to take our drink orders and we both ordered chardonnay. Why? Because we were on a boat! And boats rocked. Red wine stains? No thanks!
The couple next to us was funny. The woman was taking pictures of herself with her phone and the man was sitting there doing nothing. Why was he not offering to take her picture for her? Maybe he secretly hated her and only agreed to take her on this cruise because it would shut her up for a week or two from complaining about how he never did anything nice for her. It’s times like this when I wish I could have read minds.
It didn’t take long before we realized that Julie was going to be talking throughout the entire tour. I think we both assumed that she would occasionally mention places of interest, but by the time we were passing Jersey City en route to the Statue of Liberty, it was clear that Julie was going to prove to us she was really an architecture student. As such, Morgan and I talked to each other in bursts between the more interesting parts of Julie’s tour. The chardonnay, in case you were wondering, was light and refreshing.
What an absolutely beautiful day is was! Standing on the bow of the boat, we had great views of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn as we rounded the southern tip on the island. There were loads of people outside in Brooklyn Bridge Park, taking advantage of the glorious weather. It was a day fit for a king. A king on his boat.
Of course, the woman who shushed me had a young son who spent the entire ride running back and forth from the bow to the cabin, making noise and being somewhat of a pain in the ass. Thanks lady. Your kid was great. He really made the boat trip memorable for me with his whining and toe stepping.
We worked our way up the East River while Morgan and I discussed our university experiences, which were quite different. When I was looking at schools, I didn’t even consider anything further than a four hour drive from home, and I landed in Southern Connecticut as a result. Morgan on the other hand, went to school in Scotland for her four years. She was probably the only person I knew who went to college abroad for more than a year. It was adventurous and brave and I was impressed with how casually she decided to go down that road. I would have been terrified.
Talking about school led us to a discussion on Jesuits and Catholics and all that fun religion stuff which was perfect for a first date. In the meantime, we passed under the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges on our way up to Roosevelt Island. Morgan recommended a book that her mother had read called The Jesuit and the Skull, which explored some of the tensions between the Jesuit order and the Vatican. For a bunch of Catholic priests, the Jesuits were pretty badass.
Roosevelt Island is an odd place, huh? I was fascinated with it before I moved to New York. I would spend hours reading up on the different neighborhoods of New York and I always found Roosevelt Island to be very interesting, with its secluded nature and history of mental hospitals. Seemed like a weird place to live, which almost made me want to live there. Almost.
As we began the turn westward, toward the Bronx and Harlem, I tried to point out where I lived in Queens but it was pretty futile from our perspective. I think I liked being a tour guide, even though there was already a tour guide present. Must have something to do with a need to talk all the time.
The boat had to wait for a while for the swing bridge separating us from the Hudson River to open. It was just after we got back onto the Hudson that Morgan told me more about living at home with her mother and brother, and that her father lived in Manhattan with his girlfriend. They had very little contact, she and her father. He might not have been a terrible man, but he was not a good dad. Almost better suited to be a friend than anything else. I felt the same way about my father sometimes. I hate to say that, but it’s true.
We were coming down the Hudson, nearing the end of our tour, as Morgan and I got onto the topic of improv again. Along the way, I pointed out the building where I worked at the time, which we could actually see. Good job, Tour Guide Evan. Morgan told me how getting into improv after graduating college had seemed natural. She had always been the one making people laugh. I wondered if I ever would have gotten into improv if I hadn’t done it in college. I don’t think so, to be honest. I think the supportive community that existed at my school was what made it special for me and without that, I probably would have pursued something else entirely.
As the boat began to dock, I realized how much I’d been enjoying the past few hours with Morgan and I wished our ride didn’t have to end. She was great company — funny, insightful and honest. She kept conversation going without making me feel like I needed to do all the heavy lifting, and she remained calm and collected during silences too. She was very much the same person I thought I knew from class, but I now had a more complete picture.
And like that, the tour ended. WE WERE NO LONGER ON A BOAT.
[If anyone is wondering at which point during the date we are on or off a boat, it is here that we are no longer on a boat. For the remainder of the date, Morgan and I will not be stepping foot onto a single boat. If you’ve been listening to “I’m On A Boat” on repeat for the last five minutes, now is the time you can turn it off. Go ahead. Turn it off. Everything will be okay.]
I asked Morgan if she’d like to have dinner with me and I was really happy when she said yes. It was not late, but I didn’t know how early she needed to be on her way in order to get back home at a reasonable hour. I was relieved that I’d get to spend some more time with her.
We walked toward 10th Avenue, where I knew there were a few places to eat. Morgan elaborated a bit about her experience with going to school abroad and how that meant very few of her friends were nearby. Although that could definitely be upsetting, after spending four years with those people, it was also really cool to know that she had friends all over the world. Places to visit!
Morgan noticed a very discreet boutique on 22nd Street called Comme Des Garcons, which launched us into a discussion about fashion. As I said before, Morgan was quite fashionable and she even designed her own jewelry. I’m sure that going to school in Europe heightened her awareness of clothing and style. It was something that I’d been getting a bit more interested in over the previous couple years. Not fashion, in the formal sense, but just dressing better. It had taken me a long time, but I finally felt like I had well fitting clothes that made me look like an adult. My friend Brad, who swore he knew nothing about fashion, was a big inspiration to me in terms of wardrobe decisions. Upon hearing this, Morgan said she had the perfect single friend for Bradley. Maybe we’d set them up?! A date created by a date. How excellent!
We found ourselves at The Highliner, which was where the famous Empire Diner was once located. We were seated outside and once we had menus in front of us, Morgan let me know that she had a gluten allergy. I’ve got to admit, she was the first gluten-free woman I’d ever been out with. Pretty scary. Just kidding! It was no big deal. It just meant that the appetizer we split was a salad, which ended up being a great decision anyway because it was delicious.
After some light hearted talk about writing projects I wanted to work on, we got back into family issues. Between the two of us, there was an endless amount of material there. We both shared details about our older brothers and then I asked her about something I’d been wrestling with for the past few days — since I heard about my dad testing positive for lymphoma.
“Do you even worry about your dad?” I asked her.
“No, do you?” she replied.
Yeah, I guess I did. It was something that showed how the gap between Morgan and her father was much wider than what I dealt with regarding my dad. I was lucky in that sense, because I was worried about my dad. Normally, I didn’t think twice about how he was doing on any given day. That wasn’t because I was heartless, but more because my dad had always been a rough and tumble kind of guy who seemed to be in good health. He was tough. He was my dad.
But the thought of losing both my parents was actually freaking me out a bit. Even worse, was the thought of my dad dealing with something as painful and drawn out as cancer. I didn’t want to see the guy suffer. I didn’t want him to be weakened. I think that’s one of the most difficult things about any disease, is the transformation of a formerly strong person into a weak one, both physically and emotionally.
Morgan was reassuring and supportive though. She was empathetic as I told her my worries. She was a good friend.
We took care of the bill and walked to the subway, trying to get her on the next train out of Grand Central.
Arriving at the station 10 or 15 minutes later, we realized we’d have to run to get her on the train. We didn’t run though. We walked. And we got to the platform at Morgan’s train pulled away. Deciding whether to run or not, when you don’t know the other person vary well, is always awkward. If you haven’t experienced it, you only need to spend a few months in New York City and I guarantee it will happen.
So instead of bidding her farewell, we went back outside and walked to Bryant Park. It was a gorgeous night and absolutely perfect for sitting out under the flood lights illuminating the park’s lawn.
I showed her a picture of when I had long hair, which was from my first trip to Japan, and I told her about my favorite Japanese phrase, “Don’t touch my moustache.” It means “you’re welcome”, roughly. [The Japanese phrase reads, “dou itashimashite”.] We laughed and talked about Uniqlo, which had huge ads up across from the park, advertising its new store in Manhattan. Oh, Japan. Thank you for providing us with something to talk about.
After a little while, Morgan and I left the park and returned to Grand Central. This time, we were there in plenty of time for her train. I gave her a hug and she took off upstate.
* As it turns out, Tony and Sarah were engaged less than two months after this date and they were married in the Fall of 2013. On my list of adult things, I am still trying to figure out if the sheets on my bed need to be washed.