—Tuesday, December 27, 2011—
“I wish they all could be California girls.” — Words of wisdom from David Lee Roth
Christmas had come and gone over the previous weekend and I had shuffled down from the Napa Valley back to San Francisco. It had been a great trip thus far — went on a wondering wine tasting date, enjoyed Christmas with my mother’s family and, just one night earlier, got to see my favorite NBA team win a home game.
Still, my West Coast Date was what I’d been looking forward to the most.
I’d made my travel plans long before I’d made my date plans, but I knew that while visiting my family in California for the holidays, I’d have to go on two dates. One of those dates had already fallen into my lap, but for this one, I had to do some searching. In the weeks leading up to my trip, I sent out inquiries to friends of mine in San Francisco, to see if they could find me a date, and I assumed it would be a piece of cake.
Such was not the case. For whatever reason, no one had single gals pals from the West Coast (the date’s one requirement), who they felt comfortable asking.
Eventually, I reached out to my friend Maggie, who I had resisted asking at first because we’d dated, or mostly-kind-of-just-hooked-up briefly, in college. The truth is, I had wanted to ask her out, but last I’d known, she was seeing a guy and I didn’t want to put her on the spot. I also greatly feared rejection. So, I asked Maggie if she had any friends, her being from the area and all. She said she’d think about it and get back to me, but I honestly didn’t expect her to give it much time.
Then I heard from her. And she had me a date! A friend of hers from home, Leslie.
I had once been pretty into Maggie, so if that was any indication of how Leslie might be, I assumed the date would be great. Also, I had long imagined myself ending up with a girl from California. I am fully aware that my California-born mother’s influence had something to do with that, but it was true. And ho-boy, this was the second California girl in four days!
It was an interesting challenge — to plan a date in a city in which I did not live. Sure, I maybe knew that certain parts of town were cool, but I didn’t know any actual places which to eat, bars to drink at or fun things to do. So, I spoke with a few friends in the city and received some recommendations. Given where Leslie lived and where I was staying, I planned out a very classic date night — a movie, drinks and dinner.
Leaving my aunt and uncle’s apartment, I traversed a couple neighborhoods to where Leslie lived. She had given me her cross streets, but not her actual address, probably because I was a total stranger and men didn’t have a good history when it came to not assaulting women.
As we know, every crossroads has four corners, so where did one wait? I surveyed the intersection and decided on a corner. The buildings on the other three corners were houses and condos which seemed fit for families, not a twenty-something year old law student. I notified her of my arrival and she said she would be right down.
Sure enough, I was standing on the correct corner when she appeared.
Leslie greeted me with a kind hug and I was relieved to see that she was adorable and friendly. She was casually composed with stark bangs (2011, y’all) and a warm face. I had seen her profile picture on Facebook but this was so different, and in the best way.
“Nice neighborhood” I told her, as if my New York opinion meant anything. She liked it all right and was interested to know where my aunt and uncle lived. Over by Market and Church, I told her. Her favorite part of town was between Alamo Square, which we were close to, and Market. Basically, where I had just walked through, so I actually knew what she was talking about. That was cool. It had seemed nice five minutes earlier.
Under Leslie’s direction, we walked towards the movie theater. Not far from her place, we passed by a suspended Christmas tree sculpture, hanging outside someone’s house. Leslie said that the guy living there always had really cool pieces, and this one was actually somewhat underwhelming. I was impressed nonetheless. It was much more interesting than anything we saw in Boston or New York. People didn’t just hang art outside of their buildings in the Northeast.
As we walked, we talked about Boston, New York and San Francisco. She had been to Boston before and actually liked it. I say “actually” because a lot of people would shit on Boston, especially in New York. So, it was cool that she was cool with it. I thought Boston was pretty great.
Many people from the Northeast were a bit uptight though. I sometimes preferred folks out there in San Francisco because they truly were more laid back. Leslie came off as casual and easy going, which was very much what I expected from Bay Area ladies. No idea if that was a fair assumption or not.
We talked a bit about what I had been up to in San Francisco and Napa. I sorted out for her who was who in my California family, and I heard a bit about her family as well. Impressively, we covered many of the first date basics by the time we got to Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.
The film we were there to see that night was The Artist, which was a movie I had only heard about because of the cinema’s website. I didn’t really know anything about it besides that the plot revolved around a silent movie star and it looked to be in black and white. Also, it was supposed to be good, apparently. We would see.
Neither Leslie nor I wanted to bother with concessions, so we just headed right in and got some good seats. Actually, the seats were preassigned, which I thought was a kind of douchy things to do, but then I read that all seats were preassigned so I felt better. Leslie had never been there. Or if she had, only once. I silently patted myself on the back for choosing a date spot within walking distance of her apartment which she had maybe never been to.
Movie time! Here’s my play-by-play of The Artist:
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Peppy! Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Oh, it’s all silent! Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. This dog is the cutest! Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. I’d still date Peppy. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Is everyone okay??? Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. OH YAY FOR GEORGE. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. AWWWWWWWWWW.
As it turned out, we both enjoyed the film, although Leslie wasn’t convinced until the end. She loved tap dancing, which I thought was a great reason to approve or disapprove of a movie.
A few blocks south, we settled into a little beer and wine bar, Fat Angel, that I had found online. It was between the theater and Yoshi’s, which was the upscale sushi and jazz club where we had dinner reservations a little over an hour later.
They had draft wine at Fat Angel, which I had never heard of, but the waitress claimed that it would be the future for restaurants since it allowed for the wine to be poured by the glass and stored in large quantities with optimal freshness. She explained how it all worked, insofar as a layman like myself could understand, and I was intrigued enough to try a glass of the draft wine. Leslie was less impressed (gullible), and ordered a glass of a different, traditionally bottled wine.
As we talked about the movie more, I found that she liked it a bit less than I had, but then again, I was very easy to please when it came to movies. I asked her about law school. She asked me about work. She was going to school at Berkeley, which was a cool place to learn about copyright law and trademark stuff because of the tech scene in the area. She also told me about her undergrad experience there, which sounded like a great time. She had lived in cooperative housing and enjoyed a number of things that I never really did while in school.
Something which struck me very early on that night, which I hesitate to admit, was that something in Leslie reminded me very much of my mother. I want to say it was her eyes, or maybe her smile, but I’m really not sure. I don’t want to be all Oedipal, but she put me at ease, and that felt nice.
Having avoided the Snuffaluffagus in the room for some time, Leslie and I discussed OHD a bit and my motivations behind it. I rambled about love and dating. Sometimes, it was nice to be able to contextualize a date as a place where I was allowed to be romantic, especially if the rest of my life was fairly devoid of romance. That seemed to be true lately, which was probably why I valued those dates so much.
That absence of romance also contributed to moments like when I picked up the phone on Christmas Day and called Julie. I knew it was fairly stupid, but I hoped that it would well received and might even be considered “sweet” or something.
The holidays are tough times to be single. Everyone is calling loved ones, giving gifts, and all together feeling the love. It really did make me want someone and the only person I had wanted lately was Julie. However, my most recent trip to Boston, which was largely to see her, had been disheartening. Sure, we hung out a bit, but mostly, it was clear that I wasn’t as high a priority for her as she was for me, and that neither of us was in a place to date the other (which we knew ahead of time). I didn’t blame her, nor was I mad at her. But it sucked.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but my call to Julie on Christmas Day wasn’t all that I’d hoped it would be. She answered the phone in a manner which said, “Hey, what’s up? Why would you be calling me right now?” We spoke for a minute and a half, during which time I said, “Well, yeah. I just wanted to call and wish you a Merry Christmas,” at least three times.
The conversation was forced and awkward, but that was par for the course. It must be uncomfortable to have a guy call you on Christmas; a guy who you know is in love with you, who you don’t love back. Especially when you’re home with friends and family, trying to enjoy your life and leave the drama of other people behind for a day.
I was not overly distraught though. In fact, it made a night like this one with in San Francisco all that much better. Instead of worrying about what some woman in Massachusetts felt or thought about me, I had the sincere pleasure of being on a date with Leslie.
Since I was not a total moron, nor a terrible date, I never mentioned Julie, and continued babbling on about the theme of romance in dating and told Leslie that one reason I enjoyed dates was because the romantic context gave people an excuse to tell each other they were beautiful. Maybe it was not always that overt, but compliments could be commonplace on dates
There are so many people out there who are beautiful who don’t hear it enough. I’m sure there are even beautiful people who hear it all the time, but seldom find it sincere and meaningful. And although “beautiful” is a word we tend to associate with women, I’m including men in this as well.
We were getting close to our reservation time and I asked her what she wanted to do. The food at Fat Angel looked decent and we were enjoying the atmosphere, so I brought up my OpenTable app at about two minutes to the hour and in just 30 seconds or so, our reservation at Yoshi’s was cancelled. We asked our waitress for menus.
While we did stick around for another round of drinks, we decided that we would go elsewhere for dinner. By the second round, I was really into Leslie and it was not just the booze talking. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but there is something about women from the Bay Area, and I felt like she was tapping into that secret something perfectly. She was so smart, cultured, cute and open minded. It was an incredibly good combination of pleasant attributes.
After finishing our drinks and paying, we walked up Fillmore and looked for restaurants along the way, debating what we might want. It was a nice and casual way to pick a place to eat. We finally found an Italian place called Via Veneto and settled on that.
Dinner was good and fun on any level that a meal could be fun. Nothing was going to get wild either, as we both ordered water to accompany our meals. Clearly, we both knew how important it was to stay hydrated while on a date.
There was a marquee across the street advertising The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Room, which was famous for being the worst movie ever made. I told her how I had been to both and how I hadn’t expected The Room to have an audience interaction component similar to Rocky Horror. It had been a very fun movie experience and I told her to look it up when she got home. I was sure the experience in San Francisco was similar.
In addition to cult cinema, we discussed travel and my journeys in Italy, which is a pretentious way of saying study abroad. I told her that when I visited a place, I preferred to take it slow rather than rush around and try to see everything. It was nice to leave some things undone so that I had a reason to go back.
She said she wanted to travel more, hopefully in that upcoming year. She wanted to get to NYC and also somewhere abroad for a larger trip. I told her that I was on board, should she need someone to travel with, and I had meant it. All I usually need is an excuse of any kind to travel and Leslie was more than enough. I’m sure that she thought I was silly for suggesting it, but I could deal with being labeled as silly.
By the time we left Via Veneto, it was still fairly early. I asked if she would like to get a drink or maybe some kind of dessert. She asked if I’d been to Candybar, over on whatever and whatever, and of course I hadn’t, because I didn’t live there or anything.
On our walk there, she mentioned how she would have invited me over for a beer or something (we passed her place on the way), but she knew the apartment was a mess and, since her brother was living with her at the moment, he was probably around. As disappointed as I was to not be having a beer at her place, I was happy to know that she was into me enough to mention it and generally trusted that I wouldn’t murder her.
As we walked down Divisidero, I recognized where we were immediately. I knew that my friends Emma and Tory had lived close to there and we were only a couple blocks from their old place. Crazy. I had even been to a little bar we walked past. Small world.
Upon arrival, we discovered that Candybar was about to close, but the staffer said we could order quickly and wouldn’t be rushed out. It only took us a minute or so to order a chocolate cake creation with raspberry sauce, and they brought it out in no time. Damn, that thing was so right on. Very delicious.
We found ourselves talking more about the project and what we thought was difficult in the world of dating. The two things I harped on the most were 1) Moving beyond the sanctioned topics of conversation and 2) Complimenting others without coming off like someone who’s merely trying to sleep with them.
What followed, expectedly, was a conversation about my mom being dead (an unsanctioned topic). And with Leslie being so wonderful throughout it, I worked up the nerve to compliment her, telling her that she was beautiful.
We had spoken about beauty earlier in the night and about how it seemed like a formal word but really, it was quite appropriate sometimes. This was one of those times. She was a beautiful person, and it felt good to tell her so. Maybe I was just infatuated. Well, I was infatuated, but that wasn’t a bad thing. I liked Leslie a lot, considering the brief hours I had known her, so I thought beautiful was appropriate. And anyway, what’s bad about telling a woman she’s beautiful so long as you sincerely mean it?
Fortunately for my ego, Leslie took the compliment as I had intended it — one of genuine appreciation and admiration.
Since were being kicked out of there, and she probably sensed that neither of us wanted the date to end, Leslie asked if I did, in fact, want to go to her apartment. She sent some texts to her brother to made sure the place wasn’t in total disarray, and then we were off.
I won’t lie — I was excited. At no point during the night did I think I would be invited back to her place, and whatever it held, I felt like it was significant progress. I mean, we had been strangers mere hours earlier and I thought she was really cool and really pretty and if any making out stuff was going to happen, I would have been really into it. I would have been even more into sleeping next her, even without any of that rubbish, rather than returning to by aunt and uncle’s apartment and sleeping on an Aerobed. Do you know what I mean? I just wanted to be next to her.
Back at Leslie’s place, I met her brother and his buddy, who were looking up snot-punk and noise bands on YouTube. They were having a good time laughing and bobbing their heads along to the videos. They both reminded me of the California skater-stoner stereotypes sunken into my brain by the movies of the 1990s. The friend had spent some time in Brooklyn and NYC so we talked about the city for a while. Meanwhile, Leslie found some wine that they’d been drinking and poured me a glass, warning that it might be terrible. It was not good, but I couldn’t have cared less.
The boys were talking about a big party the next night at the friend’s house. The kid had a fire pit in the back yard, which was always cool. The two young dudes eventually took off for some other destination and her brother, without being awkward, made it clear that he wouldn’t be home for the rest of the night.
As far as I could tell, it was just Leslie and I, with no interruptions, for as long as we wanted.
However, in typical Evan fashion, I found myself on a couch with Leslie, unable to make any kind of move on her. We were talking and laughing and drinking but still, something told me that I would be ruining her night, or at least the moment, if I tried to be forward.
Was I being an idiot? Should I have just tried to kiss her? I didn’t want Leslie to have anything bad to report to Maggie and I certainly didn’t want to offend her. I thought she was awesome. I just wanted her to know that and I wanted some kind of affection to be the means of showing her.
Of course, I missed every chance I had. Leslie finally told me that she was getting tired and better be going to bed. I thought to myself that I had made the right move by not starting anything. She hadn’t been planning on having me stay there, after all. Or, wait, had she simply given up on me? Maybe she had put it out there and I didn’t bite? Oh God, these kinds of moments are the fucking worst. Must I second guess myself so consistently?
She said she would walk me out and she did just that. Standing outside of Leslie’s building, I lingered, not wanting to leave and drew out my goodbye in order to delay the inevitable. Finally, I leaned in to hug her goodbye and, to my surprise, Leslie went straight in, on her toes, for a kiss.
It was the kind of perfectly cute kiss that happened at the end of cute movies. Like, really perfect.
My heart fluttered, her cheeks blushed and I thanked her for everything.
All I could think the whole way back to the Aerobed at my aunt and uncle’s apartment was, “What would have happened if I’d made a move earlier on?” and “How can I possibly see this woman again?”
Could I have spent the night there? No one really knows except Leslie. It was something to figure out at another time but, like any journey, I had to leave myself a reason to go back.