—Saturday, March 10, 2012—
I had been in Los Angeles less than 24 hours, I’d already been on one date and I was gearing up to go on my second. Though my first date had been with a college friend of many years, this second one was with a total stranger.
It may also be worth noting that I woke up in Billie’s apartment, my previous night’s date. However, she was also my host while I was in LA, so it wasn’t that cray cray. I texted Sam in the late morning to see what her day had in store. We had talked about spending the day together, so she could show me around LA, and then catching a drive-in movie later that night. Billie had gone off to work, so I could do whatever, whenever.
By the time we had exchanged a few messages, Sam and I decided to meet in an hour, around 1:30 p.m. I would pick her up in my car, which was a true rarity in my dating life. Fortunately, she didn’t live very far away. I was in West LA and she was right off of the Miracle Mile. This meant nothing to me without looking at Google Maps.
The drive over was nice — I generally enjoyed driving around LA on my trip, since it was something I did so rarely in NYC, and even the traffic couldn’t bother me with my windows rolled down in March. I texted Sam while waiting at a stop light in front of the La Brea Tar Pits to say that I was in her neighborhood. She said she would head outside and told me to look for her dressed in purple.
Slowly making my way down her street, I saw Sam by the side of the road and pulled over across the street from her. I got out of the car to greet her. She gave me a hug and we greeted each other before getting back into my hot ride. It was a great meeting considering Sam was someone I only knew from Twitter. She had tweeted at me only about a week and a half prior.
Sam had seen, via my Twitter, that I would be in LA this weekend and she asked me out in a hilarious fashion.
“@OneHundredDates Wanna 69? That is, be a tourist for a day in LA with me?”
Tourist For A Day Date was originally number 69 on the list, hence her joke, but it made me laugh with how bold and straightforward it seemed at the time. I had a second date for LA fall into my lap and it was clearly with someone who could make me laugh. This project was awesome.
Though she had suggested Tourist For A Day Date, I came to find that LA had a Saturday night drive-in movie theater, which was very difficult to find near NYC, so I suggested that we do that instead. Plus, she could always show me around LA in addition.
Once in my car, Sam asked what I had in mind for sightseeing and I told her that I nothing in mind, which was true. As soon as she told me she was available so early in the day, I stopped thinking about ideas of things to do because I figured we had time to make up our minds along the way. She first suggested checking out Santa Monica, which I had seen the day before, and then suggested Venice. Perfect — I hadn’t been there yet and wanted to see it.
Sam directed me through the side streets to Venice Boulevard, which would take us all the way to Venice, as its name suggested. She told me that she had found out about OHD from a friend in Boston who was friends with my Work Function Date. I thought that was cool. “So, people read this thing?” I asked her. She thought so, and that made me feel warm and fuzzy for a hot second. I wouldn’t have guessed that was the case from what I saw on my Google Analytics dashboard.
I asked her about a lot of the basics and she told me about working as a recruiter at USC and the fun folks she worked with there. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was the second USC employee I’d dated, one in NYC and one in LA. Crazy. Sam was from nearby Calabasas but had done her undergrad at Vanderbilt before returning to LA for graduate school and work. I had to ask where Vanderbilt was, because I didn’t know, and she reminded me that it was in Nashville. She said that though she’d grown up in greater LA and had the city her home, she missed Tennessee.
Immediately, my mind jumped to Cara, my Write & Record A Song Date, who was from Brentwood, TN. She had texted me just two days earlier, saying that she was disgusted by something she had read on the site, but I wasn’t clear on what she was referring to. It had been on my mind a lot since then. I really tried not to offend any of my dates, but something had clearly bothered her.
Sam asked about my job, so I told her what I did and what my path had been since graduating from Fairfield, which I also told her about to some extent. I’m not sure if any of that was actually entertaining.
We hit on some meatier stuff as we discussed the project and its goals for a while. She asked what I was trying to get out of it and how I managed to balance everything in my life. What was good about it, she wanted to know.
My goals were sometimes hard to define, or they sounded generic perhaps. I also said that they evolved as I went along. A lot of it was simply built on faith. It was about having the impulse to do something (like starting OHD, asking someone out or going on a crazy date) and just doing it because I trusted that something amazing would happen. That seemed like the case so far, at least. There was a lot of beauty in it. I also said something about how we were all just humans with similar hopes and frustrations and that those things united us. It wasn’t particularly difficult to have a good date if you kept that in mind.
Entering Venice, we circled around a small area before we managed to find a parking spot. I saw it across the way, banged a U-turn and nestled into a tight parallel spot with a little help from Sam. Already, I could see that we made a pretty good team and that the parking gods had my back for the second day in a row.
Walking down to the beach, Sam pointed out the the large letters strung cross the road which spelled out “VENICE”. It was in the opening sequence of the show Californication, she told me, so maybe I recognized it. I’d never seen the show but I thought it was about David Duchovny playing a sex addict. Sam confirmed that it was and followed up by telling me that she didn’t think sex addiction was a real. I was no expert on the subject, but I maintained that it probably was real because of all of the brain chemical stuff that happened during sex. DOPAMINE, MOTHERFUCKERS.
We made our way down to the boardwalk and I told her that it reminded me of Coney Island in that it was grimy but charming. As far as the beach and the weather, Venice Beach was, of course, far better but they seemed similar in some way.
There were a few guys slinging hip-hop albums and I laughed when one of them asked a kid he was talking to for money. To describe what went down, I was explaining to Sam that these guys would often hand their album to some naive young white kid and once they expressed interest, they would tell them that it was $5 or whatever. It was a great sales technique, but undoubtedly kind of shiesty. When one of the guys overheard me telling this to Sam, he started to get after me for being racist and talking about something I didn’t know nothing about.
You know what though? Fuck that guy. I hadn’t said anything racist and I told him so. All I’d done was call him out on his scheme and, if anything, I’d poked fun at ignorant white people. He made some idle threats but I pushed right back. He was clearly full of shit. I was usually very cautious in situations such as this and this was the most unapologetic I had ever been with a man on the street, and it made me feel just a little bit tough.
As we walked further, we talked a lot about differences between NYC and LA. Driving everywhere versus public transit was a bit of a balanced debate but the weather seem clearly in LA’s favor. Don’t get me wrong, I liked having seasons, but I would have no problem with nice weather all the time. We talked about the different kinds of crazy people. Also, did they seriously still rollerblade in LA? Apparently, because people were whizzing by us on fruit boots. I found that pretty lame, but I probably just needed to loosen up. One thing I still think is dumb though was how many goddamn Segways there were out there. So many damn Segways.
Sam was an only child to parents who had both been previously married, so they had her a little later in life. She was Jewish and had gone to Jewish schools up until high school. Apparently, she was from a Jewish section of Calabasas. She swam and played water polo in her teenage years, but that hadn’t made her super popular, since such athletes had a reputation for being lesbians at her school. They were made fun of for it.
Despite her apparent lack of popularity, Sam was friends with the best athlete in her grade as well as the Valedictorian of her school. Said Valedictorian went to Columbia, which was how Sam knew NYC, and she had become a doctor, or was in medical school. She was literally scrubbing in on heart surgery that day. Her high school situation didn’t sound crazy different from my group of friends in high school in that we were sort of between outcast and popular. We were popular outcasts.
Before we turned around on the path and walked back south towards some restaurants, Sam made me go in the water. She said it would be wrong for me to come all the way to LA and not stand in the Pacific. I told her that I used to hate beaches because of the salt water and all the sand, and how I hardly ever wore sandals. I swore, feet loved socks — they were like being in a cozy foot bed. She thought I was weird and I generally agreed with her.
At her insistence, I removed my shoes and socks and walked down the beach. Wading out just a little way, I found that the water was freezing. Compared to most that I had been to, the beach seemed massive. After a minute or two of standing in the water, we returned to the sand and collected our footwear.
Because I was still rather anal retentive about sand getting everywhere, I had to sit down for a minute so that I could clean my feet off and return them to their stifling socks and shoes once again.
We walked back south and, holy hell, there were so many Segways.
I had noticed on the beach that Sam had a tattoo on her foot, something in script, and I thought it was weird that I hadn’t noticed it earlier, since she was wearing sandals. I looked again and could see that the strap of her sandal perfectly covered the tattoo. I asked her about it and she told me that it said “Staples”, which was her nickname from the summer camp where she used to work. Obviously, I wanted to know how she got said nickname and she told me that her boyfriend at the time was nicknamed Lakers (or something similar) and that since the Lakers played in the Staples Center, she got the name. It was a pretty hilarious and crude origin story for a nickname and it made me laugh. She also told me that all the children only knew the councilors by their nicknames and never their real names. I thought that was interesting, considering the origin of her nickname. She said that when she was asked by the kids to explain her name, she would lie and say something about stapling her hand by accident one time. Clever girl.
We walked down past Muscle Beach and I asked “This is the Muscle Beach, right?” Sam thought so. I wondered how one gained access to Muscle Beach. Was it a regular gym membership? Was it merely the outdoor part of another gym? It wasn’t very big and seemed like a rip off, so far as gyms were concerned. I wondered if I would be allowed to show up there and work out. Like if I paid the money, could I go, or were there size requirements? It would have been funny to see some skinny dude like me up there just learning how to lift. Later, I discovered that the original Muscle Beach was in Santa Monica, but the Venice outpost was part of the same network.
Sam said that she didn’t tell her parents about the tattoo for a while, but eventually told her mom, though they both agreed not to tell her dad. I thought that was funny. I never told my family a ton of private stuff, but when I did, both my parents would know about it. I never thought about restricting information to only one of them. I told her that my dad had never been keen on the idea of me having tattoos, but when I had told him about the one I was going to get, he really didn’t care much, presumably because it was for a good reason. She didn’t ask about my tattoo, but I assumed that was because she had already read about it on OHD. Judging by a number of things she had mentioned in conversation, I had gathered that she’d read a decent amount of the site.
We checked out one loud restaurant, which I was not thrilled about, then another, which looked similarly busy and cray cray, and finally settled on an Italian place with outdoor seating called C&O Trattoria.
Sitting down outside, a server brought us a plate of garlic knots immediately. They were hot and delicious, fresh out of the knot oven. They were probably the best knots I had ever had and I thought immediately of Ariana, a fellow knot knut. I wondered what she was up to. I wondered if would ever be together. I wondered if she was happy with her boyfriend. The thought of her drifted away as quickly as it had arrived.
The waitress had the specials down to an art. There were numerous options and she flew through them like a machine gun with the trigger taped down. I ordered an Anchor Steam to drink, we split bruschetta for an appetizer and I had parpadalle with chicken sausage and porcini mushrooms for an entree. It was all pretty good actually, despite how tacky the place looked.
We discussed the distinctions, if any, between hipsters and bros. The ones that were annoying were far more similar than they were distinct, we both agreed.
It was around this time, while eating and talking with Sam that I decided she was awesome. We hadn’t even gotten to the drive-in movie portion yet, and we had already had a full date, without any signs of petering out. She had a beauty about her that could not be denied. And Lord, I knew I always had a thing for women from California, but really — between her smile and her easy going demeanor — I could have gotten used to it.
Sam and I split the bill and I followed the green paint footsteps on the ground outside and back into the other side of the restaurant to the bathroom. It was a fun little trick they used to direct people to the facilities. On our way out, back to the boardwalk, Sam commented on the fact that I’d held onto the receipt from the meal and I told her how the project was costing me an arm and a leg, so sometimes I needed help keeping track of expenses.
We drove downtown, towards where the movie was playing, but stopped at the Ralphs by her place first for wine because it was BYOB. We talked about Aziz Ansari and some other comedians. I regaled her with my tale of Aziz and OHD from the one time he talked to me about it for three minutes at a show of his. She was also fairly impressed with my LA driving skills considering I seldom drove a car those days. It was hard to forget, I told her. She also took note of the rental car, a super sexy Chevy Impala. She’d had enough terrible rentals while traveling on USC recruiting trips, such that she appreciated a decent rental. This was great news, because the only reason I hadn’t selected a shitty compact car, was the delusional hope that my date for today would appreciate a not-so-shitty car.
By the time we got to the parking garage where the drive-in was taking place, we were not late, but we weren’t super early either. We had to wait to pull into the garage and we talked improv while we inched closer. As we entered the garage, I was trying to explain a Harold to her, which was how you knew we’d dived in too far.
We got one of the spots in the back row, but it was still pretty cool. The top level of the parking garage in Downtown LA had been cleared and reserved for moviegoers’ vehicles by the fine folks behind Devil’s Night Drive In. I went out in search of cups, since we had none, and I obtained a couple from some very kind yuppy neighbors who had a serious spread behind their SUV. I also purchased some Junior Mints from the concession stand where one lady was rocking roller skates. It was like a real drive in! We also both went to the bathroom before the movie began. I grabbed Sam paper towels from the mens room because the womens room was out of them and I was a gentleman.
Back in the car, we talked and waited for the feature film to start: Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Sam had only seen it once before and it had been projected onto the side of a cathedral. The drive in tonight was to be projected onto a large inflatable screen. Weird, right? The only two times she’d seen Willy Wonka had both been outside thanks to large projections. It was okay that she hadn’t seen it more than once, I reassured her. I hadn’t seen a lot of good movies. She knew already that I hadn’t seen Bridesmaids, which had come up earlier because I was talking about doing comedy but not consuming very much of it.
Sam poured the wine we had selected, Layer Cake Shiraz, and we chatted more or less throughout the whole movie, which was a perk of being in our own enclosed movie theater (car). We talked about dating and some of the effects it had had on me. She said it was weird to know so much about me coming into the date. I mean, I could have Googled her (and I had), but she knew so much more about me than I did about her. For instance, she said, she knew a lot of stuff about my mom. That was why she hadn’t asked me before about the tattoo. I tried to tell her that my writings didn’t necessarily paint the whole picture, alluding to some things about my dad but then I talked a lot about my brother and I. I talked about how we were’t ever close friends. She said that it seemed odd, as an only child, because she viewed a sibling as a friend who could never leave you, almost like they were meant to be your best friend.
I had never really had to think about why Colin and I were never close friends, but as I talked it out with her, I guessed that the disconnect stemmed from when I was very little, showing any kind of weakness to my brother meant that I would made fun of or beaten up. My brother wasn’t mean, he was just a little kid himself at the time. But when I learned so young that showing weakness had negative consequences, it likely prevented me from confiding in him as I got older. Vulnerability and weakness were closely linked. Plus, he was the big brother, so he wouldn’t confide in me, or else it would throw off the whole power dynamic. On top of all of that, we simply grew to be more socially differentiated in our teens and probably didn’t think we could related to each other much.
Anyone ever notice how much of a creep Willy Wonka is? Still, it was a great movie.
After telling her that I was not fanatical about Tim Burton, Sam asked what I was fanatical about. Nothing really specific, I posited. Pretty much just improv and music, in general. Maybe Saves The Day, or My Morning Jacket? Perhaps The Avett Brothers? I was trying to think of bands I liked all the way through, first album to latest.
Certainly, I was fanatical about improv, but the teams changed all the time. In a sappy way, I told her I was fanatical about people and just like, interacting socially. I turned the question back to her and she admitted that reality TV was a pretty big deal, which was good for her to get out of the way, and also Pixar movies. I told her I’d never seen UP and she was severely disappointed with me. She said I needed to see it and that she owned it. It nearly sounded like an invitation.
After the film ended, we split the last of the wine between our cups and sat there in the car, talking for a while. We were probably the last non-staff car out of the lot. “Where to next?” we debated. Sam suggested a favorite spot of hers, Little Bar, or we could watch UP at her place, I offered. “Both?” Sam asked. I liked the sound of that.
A little over eight hours into the date and Sam was basically calling for another whole date’s worth of activities. This was my kind of date!
We circled around downtown to get back heading west, which I actually figured out before her, so I claimed that I was good with directions. My prowess was shattered a bit later when I guessed which way West LA was and she informed me I would have driven in the wrong direction. Oh well. I tried.
She told me to look for a spot because the bar was coming up on our right. I cut across traffic to grab an open one that I saw. It turned out that I had snagged the absolute closest spot to the bar. Sam was impressed. She‘d never had that kind of luck and she drove there often. I was really bringing the East Coast parking luck this weekend.
Entering Little Bar, we went straight for the bar and I could tell it had a better beer selection than place I’d been to the night before, Bar*Food. I quickly made note of a few pieces of Massachusetts memorabilia hanging on the walls. There were Green Monster seats, a Dorchester city sign and a Patriots banner, among other items. Sam knew the owner, so she asked him about the items and he said that he was from Connecticut and had gone to Northeastern for school, which was in Boston. It all made perfect sense.
We talked for a minute about sports, about how I loved the Warriors and that she should jump on the Clippers bandwagon. Sam really didn’t care about sports though. Despite this, she managed to win her office’s March Madness tournament last year, picking UCONN to win it. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Sam and I joked around about a lot of stuff. I don’t exactly remember what, but we were laughing a lot. I think I talked about improv and having to kiss men, which was generally fine, expect there’d been one gay dude who I swear was trying to smooch me once (i.e. the actor, not the character) and so I kissed someone else just to piss him off. We also talked about taking compliments and how it could be hard sometimes, maybe because we were not conditioned to it. As I was saying all this, Sam was smiling a lot and she looked beautiful in the glow of the bar’s lights.
We only stayed for one round and I went to pay while Sam used the bathroom. Waiting at the bar, the dude in front of me was dressed almost identically like me. Same blue gingham shirts, both wearing khakis and both in similar high top leather shoes (mocs vs suede desert boots). It was so funny. Sam returned from the bathroom and I pointed this out to her. We notified my twin and all had a good laugh. She asked him where his glasses were.
I finally paid and used the can before taking off. It was around midnight and I felt conflicted about being out late while staying at Billie’s place, so I texted her to say that it was going to be a late one and that she shouldn’t wait up. She texted right back and said that she was going to bed and that it wasn’t a problem. This was great. I didn’t have to worry about getting home and I could just see how the rest of the night would play out.
Getting back into my Impala, we drove over to Sam’s place for a private screening of UP, the movie that I had so offensively never seen.
Upon entering her apartment, I was introduced to her cats, Mack and Button. They were nice and dare I say, friendly. She was not a “cat lady” and had clarified this fact early in the day, though she did have cats. I’m not sure what the distinction is. She lived in a studio and it was really awesome. I loved the set up that she had.
She asked if I needed anything to drink but we pretty much got right to the movie. In relative silence, we watched UP and though I’d spent all day with Sam, she’d invited me back to her place and we were watching a movie together, I made zero moves on her. I had zero balls. I had zero expectations too.
People were right about UP though. It was a good movie. And it was sad. It fulfilled my expectations fairly perfectly.
Sam asked what I was doing about getting back to Billie’s that night and I explained how I’d left it with her, saying that she didn’t need to wait up for me. At this point, Sam told me that I could stay over, if I wanted. I didn’t want to impose, but she insisted that I wouldn’t be.
Without any other bedroom attire to don, Sam gave me her favorite pair of sweatpants and we got into bed. I’d had a enough sleepovers where someone borrows a pair of sweats, a t-shirt or a pair of boxers for the night, but in so many of those cases, it felt kind of silly. I mean, most of the time, the clothing items would either be removed, or they were being borrowed right after the two people had been naked. So like, why not just sleep in your underwear? Is it really that different? Anyway, not a big deal and not really relevant to this sleepover, but something I have found to be curious.
Getting into bed with Sam, I actually felt somewhat awkward and quite shy. She was definitely not the forward type, so it was hard to read her, but I knew that, in general, if a woman invites you into her bed, she at least wants to kiss you. She’s at least willing to kiss you. So like, I had to make the first move, right?
We talked for a bit, as her cats climbed around us, and I waited until Mac was no longer sitting on my chest to break the tension.
I asked Sam if I could kiss her, adding the caveat that I knew I was being an idiot. “Are you asking permission to kiss me??” she questioned. Yes, yes I was. I knew it was dumb, but I wanted to make sure. “I wouldn’t spend all day with you, invite you back to my place to watch a movie and invite you to stay over if I didn’t want to,” she said to me. I knew that! Damn, but still. Maybe she was just being nice about letting me stay over. Plus, I knew that she had really wanted me to see UP, so I didn’t want to make out with her during that and miss any scenes.
We kissed for a couple minutes and then I moved back to my side of the bed for slumber.
She clarified that I was not an idiot, just a goober.
I caught myself snoring a couple times as I drifted off to sleep and I rolled to my side in hopes that it would curb my annoying habit.
—Sunday, March 11, 2012—
Groggily, I woke up in the morning to Sam’s cats running around on top of us. They were very rambunctious, as she warned me, but I appreciated the natural alarm clock. We lay around in bed for at least an hour, just talking and reflecting. It was a nice calm start (minus the cats) to a wonderful vacation Sunday.
Sam walked me to my car slightly after noon and we hugged goodbye. I thanked her. She thanked me. We’d really knocked this one out of the park.
***Read Sam’s far more concise account of our date here.