Midwestern Date

—Tuesday, March 20, 2012—

I didn’t have a specific plan for how this date would go, as it merely required the presence of someone from the Midwest, and fortunately, I wasn’t given too much of a chance to over-think it.

This date started off as a different date and while I had made plenty of adjustments to date plans over the year, I don’t think I’d previously made a date substitution quite like this one. I had definitely had an activity date planned and had to switch the activity (Spa Date). I’d had to change out the personnel of a “person date” for sure (Man Date comes to mind). But, I don’t think I had swapped out one type of person for another category of person and kept the same activity, which was inconsequential to crossing the date off of the list, and especially not in such a short time frame.

My original Sister Date had texted me the night before, just before midnight, to tell me that she had to cancel. It was actually because she was a sister that she had to cancel. She was in town to visit her sister Danielle, my friend, and because time was precious and wires had been crossed, sister plans were made in place of date plans. I’d have to resort to a back up sister at a future date.

However, a dinner reservation had already been made, so I wanted to see if I could get a different kind of “person based” date involved. I sent Louise a message on HowAboutWe… around 1:30 a.m. that night, not expecting anything, but she was from the Midwest, so it would knock a date off of the list if she replied in the affirmative. She texted me in the morning and, thanks to a stroke of luck, said she would be free that night.

I was thrilled to have someone available to sub in for this date and Louise seemed cool. I made reservations to The Tony & Johnny Show at UCB East, just in case we wanted some entertainment after dinner.

Unfortunately, the shirt I had worn to work was not going to cut it by the end of the day. It was wrinkled and had a small stain on it. The shirt was unimpressive in every way. I needed a new one, so in-between my office and meeting Louise, I stopped in at Uniqlo and purchased a little checked number. The thing I loved about Uniqlo was that I could pick up any extra small dress shirt and I knew it would fit. All I had to do was select the color or pattern I liked and I could be on my way.

In this case though, I bought the shirt and then changed into it so that I could snap a picture and avoid changing on the street.IMG_1921

I approached Cooper Square and saw nothing but art students being cooler than me. Passing them by, I spotted a spec of orange, which was the color of the dress Louise said she would be wearing. Even after all this time, I have to say that, if a date was not looking for me, it was fairly nerve-racking walking up to someone I’d only seen on the internet. She was reading, so I thought I’d have to interrupt her, which could startle a person. But there was none of that in this case. As I approached her, Louise glanced up from her book and smiled.

Standing from her bench, Louise greeted me with a handshake and a hug. It wasn’t quite as friendly a welcome as the stereotypes of Midwestern women would have led me to expect, but I wasn’t really caught up in that shit anyway. At first take, she seemed nonplussed to have met me, but that was fine. Maybe she was just a little shy. Or she could have been nonplussed. Let’s be honest — I wouldn’t be too plussed to meet me either.

We agreed to take a little walk and enjoy the early Spring weather before we went to dinner, since we had some time before our reservation.

First thing was first though — we discussed our jobs. Luckily, Louise actually grasped what I did for work because her role at the textile design software company where she worked was somewhat similar. We both worked with robust, customizable software and had to train sometimes clueless clients on how to use it. It was not every day that I got to hear about a job I didn’t know existed, so it was cool hearing about what it was that Louise did.

This brought us to talking about how I had lived in Boston prior to New York and then where I was raised, just outside of Beantown. I went over a number of things about my upbringing in the great MA state.

In turn, I learned about Louise’s midwestern upbringing in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was the same town that Prince had made famous in Purple Rain. This was pretty cool news because Prince was basically the number one most baller celebrity. She told me that she once went up to the gate of his house but didn’t have any luck playing a game of basketball with him. Damn. That would have been cool.

I asked her about moving to NYC and if it had been daunting or anything, but she had moved out for a job she had secured, so she wasn’t too nervous about it. I agreed with her that it was much easier moving with full time employment. I would have been reluctant to do it otherwise.

We walked up towards Tompkins Square Park, which Louise told me was a perfect choice because she loved dogs, and it had a dog park. Specifically, she loved other people’s dogs. I could agree with the other people’s dogs part — I wasn’t responsible enough to actually own one myself. As we walked, we talked about our college experiences. Louise had attended University of Wisconsin-Stout (more Midwest action) and said that she had liked it. Stout was a pretty random school by my account, having grown up and attended school in the Northeast, but she was actually not the first person I’d met who’d gone there. While studying abroad in Florence, Italy, I’d met two girls from Stout, so I’d looked it up before. A fairly insignificant coincidence, but it stuck out to me.

As we entered the dog park, we opted for the big dog park over the little dog one (although there was a cute beagle in there). I’m not sure if we were allowed in there without a dog of our own, but oh well. We talked about the viability of having pets and how I would never be able to care for one while living in the city. I could barely keep plants alive with the schedule I had.

This was actually the second time in the past five days that I had watched dogs in a dog park with a lady. Smallz and I had stopped in at one near her apartment the morning after our Club Date. It was a pretty solid activity, dog watching. Lots of little cute distractions running around allowed for plenty of breathing room in the conversation, so if we were ever at a loss of what to say next, we could either comment on the dogs around us, or simply play with a new friend.

We chatted about improv, the confusion of being in our mid-twenties and took note that it was beginning to get cold. And dark. I felt like I had done a good amount of the talking, dominating the conversation, but maybe that was just me thinking that I always talked too much. I mean, other people (not dates, typically) told me I needed to shut up sometimes, so I suppose it was a good thing to be aware of. We were still a little early for our reservation when we began walking over to St. Mark’s Place and to Paprika.

We talked about our living situations and Louise told me how she lived with a friend from Minnesota and another awesome Craigslister who also happened to be from Minnesota. They were in Carroll Gardens, near Gowanus. It was a nice area. Her triple Minnesotan rooming situation reminded me of that scene in Love Actually where Colin buys a ticket to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, thinking that all American girls would be friendly and welcoming to a British chap like himself. Indeed, they were! However, I wasn’t expecting a sex party from Louise and her roommates.

Man, I needed to stop relating things in my life to Love Actually.

Paprika felt oddly slow for a Tuesday night, especially since everyone I had talked to about the place, including Louise, had been there before and only sang its praised. I had been there once myself and thought it was great. In fact, Paprika was the place where I ate dinner on my first ever adult date. That was the date that made me realize dating could be fun. I owed a lot to that date. I owed even more to that woman. Memories aside, the pertinent thing was that I remembered loving the food.

We picked through the menu and decided to get some wine. Louise was initially hesitant about going for the full bottle but it had been my experience that a bottle of wine was a good idea. It typically got both people to a healthy tipsy, which was where one should be on a date. We didn’t want to be drunk exactly, but also, it was good to be a bit more loose than the girl-jeans on a tragically hip 20 year old circa 2006.

We both ordered different gnocchi dishes and we also got some arancini to start. Louise had never had the the Italian rice balls, but they were a favorite of mine. The ones at Paprika did not disappoint. Also, the wine was really great. It was probably one of the better reds I’d had in a while. It was a Southern Italian Nero Something and had a rich fruity flavor not unlike plum. I stole that plum thing from the description on the menu, but it was accurate and about as pretentious as I like to come off.

Both of us opened up a bit more over dinner and we had some really good conversation. Louise was laid back and could definitely take jokes, which was good. I didn’t think I was commandeering the conversation any longer, so that was great too. In general, I found her to be very warm. I honestly can’t remember much of what we talk about, specifically, but I at least remember talking about eclectic music tastes at one point and about how bad music was okay to enjoy as long as you admitted it was bad. We both enjoyed acoustic string bands and Louise actually invited me to see Trampled By Turtles a few weeks later. I didn’t know who they were, but her description of their music made me think I’d like them.

We took our sweet ass time finishing our wine and the meal ended up being about two hours. If we wanted to catch the show, we’d have to move with some haste.

Fortunately, we managed to pay and walk down to UCB East for The Tony & Johnny Show with a few minutes to spare. Louise bought us a couple of beers while I got the tickets and we made it inside and found seats. It could have been the wine talking, but I felt like the Moo Thunder Stout that Louise had bought for me was hitting the spot perfectly.

Sitting down, Louise asked me if I had seen this show before. I had not, but I’d seen the co-stars Anthony Atamanuik and John Gemberling in various things and knew them to be fantastic improvisers. I told her that it was bound to be an incredible show, even thought I didn’t know quite what to expect.

Though I shouldn’t have been, I was surprised when it wasn’t Anthony and John that came out to start the show but rather “The Stupid Brothers” who showed up. Mind you, these characters were played by the two actors, but well, they were retarded versions of Anthony and John who seemed to talk about rape a lot. Despite their apparent retardation, the characters claimed they were not mentally handicapped and merely idiots who had momentary “seizures” of enlightened clarity, allowing them to occasionally say brilliant thigns. The less offensive parts of the show included a few people doing character bits and a couple stand ups including Jamie Lee and Andy Rocco.

The retarded/rapey nature of Tony & Johnny got more palatable throughout the set, which eased my nerves a bit. It was definitely a show which could have easily alienated a date who was not initiated into the world of comedy. It was good that Louise was laughing. It was also good that my hand rested on her leg. It was even more good that we ended up holding hands for the back half of the set. She was affectionate — something I always appreciated.

We walked out of the theater having laughed quite a bit and Louise told me she was going to the F train. That was where I was going too.

As we began our walk there, our hands bumped into each other and clasped. We walked hand in hand most of the way to the train and, standing outside the platform, laughing about the show, we thanked each other for a fun time.

She reminded me of that invitation to see Trampled By Turtles in April and I said that I would check my calendar and get back to her.

We hugged and, because it just felt right, we kissed goodbye.

It was right after this parting embrace that I remembered that I was taking the F train as well. We walked downstairs, through the turnstiles and repeated what we’d done outside before we went to our separate uptown and downtown tracks.

A hug. A kiss. A reminder about the show. Then it was goodnight. I never had a chance to over-think it.