—Tuesday, June 5, 2012—
Dancing was something I really enjoyed doing, but the idea of a classroom setting tripped me up. I was nervous to go from being a decent dancer in my demographic to doing things incorrectly in a class. However, I was more nervous about my date not showing up.
Admittedly, I was less than confident in this date as it approached. This was not because I thought it would be terrible, but because I feared that my date, Stacey, would flake at the last minute. Maybe I’d become gun shy since my previous three dates had all cancelled on me, including my original date for this night. They’d all had good reason to cancel, but still, things had been firmly planned and then those plans were broken. This night could have gone the exact same way.
Stacey had already hinted that she might not be on time to the class even though it seemed like she could easily have been if she wanted to be. She had texted me things like, “I may run late but will try not to,” and “sorry, just got home, trying to see if there’s time for the gym.” It was as if she didn’t really care to be there on time, but then again, I didn’t know her so it was hard to say. We’d only made our plans about 24 hours earlier and had only been in contact (Via OkCupid) since the weekend, so anything was possible. I crossed my fingers and hoped she would make it to our date.
Leaving my office at the end of the work day, I walked the four blocks up Broadway to Iguana, a restaurant and bar that I had passed by many times before. When my original Dance Class Date had cancelled that past Sunday (We were to go to Pier 71 and dance by the water) and after my Kayaking Date for Tuesday night cancelled, Tuesday magically became Dance Class Date. I knew of Iguana because of a business card that Jodie, my Sister Date, had given to me while we were out, just in case I needed it. As it turned out, I did need it. The beginner’s salsa lesson was only going to be an hour long, but it was free and sounded like fun.
Iguana was right next to Shetler Studios, which was a performing arts space that I rehearsed at regularly for improv, and I expected to see some fellow improvisers as I waited outside of the restaurant. First, Chano walked by but he didn’t spot me standing there. Then Elana came by. We waved and said hi to each other. There was a moment of pause and then she gave me some words of encouragement regarding the date before continuing on. Finally, I saw my friend Danielle approach and she talked to me, asking what I was doing at Iguana. I pointed to the sign next to me that said, “FREE SALSA CLASS” and she immediately understood. “Ah, cool!” she said, “Enjoy!” Indeed, I intended to.
I waited there a bit longer and at roughly 6:35 or 6:40 p.m., Stacey emerged from around the corner, walked towards me, smiled and waved. Oh good, she’s cute! Granted, she had looked cute in her profile, but it was not always easy to tell how that would translate to real life. She could have been less desirable in person.
We almost shook hands at first, but then hugged instead. “I just went for the hug,” I said awkwardly as we laughed and backed away from each other, looking anywhere but each other’s faces for the next ten seconds. Stacey spoke quickly and nervously at first, wondering if they would still let us in since the start time that I’d read online was advertised as 6:30 p.m.
Though I had no idea, I assured her that it would be fine. We asked the restaurant host where the dancing was and she pointed us upstairs where we found maybe half a dozen people waiting around to salsa.
Apparently, we still had a few minutes before the dancing began and in that time, Stacey asked me some questions. She said that she wanted to pick my mind. It was mostly basic OHD questions like, “Why did you start this project?” and things like that. She also asked if I was an actor. No, I told her, but I did improv, so kind of. For my actual work, I was a financial software consultant only several blocks away in a big corporate tower.
The dancing began with essentially no introduction. It was clear from the start that Kevin, the instructor, was just going through the motions and didn’t really care if anyone got it down right. To be fair, it was the simplest salsa stuff one could learn and he had to do these classes all the time. I felt dumb whenever I couldn’t do something simple though, so I was on edge.
Kevin started us out on our own, to get some basic footwork down, and then we partnered up. However, we rotated partners fairly early on, which kind of sucked from a dating perspective, but it was a part of the program. After going through a few moves with different partners, two of whom didn’t really speak English, it was time for a break. Stacey and I had only danced twice.
At the upstairs bar, we ordered some awful sangria and talked a bit. I had to clarify for Stacey that there was a list of 100 dates for the project, which was something she had not understood. She had thought that dance class date was only one of maybe four date options that I was repeating over and over again, because in planning the date, I had only given her a few options. I had to explain to her that I’d only provided her with those options because they were the only ones I had left to do. “Get out of town!” she said.
With a more full understanding of the project, she asked if I had to go one dates all the time, like even when I was traveling, for instance. I confirmed that was the case and told her that I’d been on dates in Tokyo, LA, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Boston, Providence and my hometown.
We talked about some basic life stuff such as where we were each from and where we had gone to school. I found out that Stacey was from Russia, by way of Cleveland, and that she’d gone to MICA for art school. I told her about my one-time art school girlfriend, whom I dated for five years, and we discussed interdisciplinary majors like SIM where some kids were brilliant and some were really full of shit, but everyone could seemingly get by.
This put us onto the topic of relationships and dating briefly and Stacey asked a few probing questions like what I had learned from OHD and if I had grown in the ways that I had hoped. I didn’t have great answers for these questions though, which was perhaps telling of my development, and I told her that such lessons were complicated and not so straightforward.
Kevin called us back to the dance floor and this time, we were going to do only partner dancing. However, we would once again rotate partners. I was kind of getting the hang of it but I found the spins to be difficult. Oh, well. One very nice woman tried to help me out, which was appreciated, and by the end of our lesson the only feet that I had stepped on were Stacey’s. Better than a stranger’s feet, right?
Once it was all said and done, Stacey and I had barely danced together, which was a shame. She was cute and it would have been a great ice breaker. That aside, I didn’t particularly think that we needed an ice breaker. Stacey was easy to talk to and seemed hard to offend, so I was not worried.
We sat at a table and tried to finish our sangrias but were moved downstairs after a few minutes. At the downstairs bar, Kevin talked to us briefly before taking off and made sure to ask if we were a couple. Without hesitation, we both comfortably said no.
With Kevin departed, we stood at the downstairs bar and talked all about relationships and things we had learned from them. It was a pretty deep conversation for where we were at in our night, but I appreciated that kind of candidness. Stacey told me that she was always in nine month relationships and found it hard to make anything go longer than that. I talked about how I had a tendency to stay in relationships, even if I wanted out after nine months (Or whatever length of time). It was hard for me to leave a relationship if nothing was wrong aside from my own desire to be out of it. I was good at being complacent. Stacey said she couldn’t operate like that though.
I went to use the bathroom and saw that I had text messages from Alana, my Ex-Girlfriend Date, saying that she had found me a Bartender Date, which I still desperately needed. It was exciting to know that she had her feelers out for me, but I had to tell her that it wouldn’t count. I had to get that date myself, by asking out a bartender while she was at work, and Alana had already done the asking.
Once I had returned from the bathroom, Stacey and I walked outside, towards Hell’s Kitchen, but because it was so nice, I suggested heading up towards Central Park. We got onto the subject of improv and acting as we passed by Shetler next door. Stacey had actually attended an acting school shortly after moving to NYC but it was more dramatic work. We talked about truth and having a sense of self in improv, but also, the art form’s ability to let you escape your own life. We discussed what made improv comedic versus dramatic and by the time we’d walked to Columbus Circle, Stacey had asked if I wanted to walk through the park. That sounded ideal.
Entering the southwest corner of the park, we wound up talking about Stacey’s Russian heritage, which was Polish, Jewish, maybe Turkish and Greek. She was sometimes mistaken for Italian though, she told me. I could see the Polish in her. My buddy Austin was good like that — he could pick out Polish people while walking down the street. Stacey said that she similarly had Russian radar.
We came across an incredibly cute golden doodle puppy that was only three months old and Stacey was very excited by this. It was a wonderful run in. Back on the heritage thing, I told her how I was from a long line of American families that had been in the country since its inception practically. We weren’t WASPs though and definitely not blue blood. We’d always been amongst the working class.
“Mulberries!” Stacey exclaimed, seemingly out of nowhere, and pointed to a nearby tree. “This reminds me of when I was little,” she said as we approached the mulberry tree, and I had to agree with her. These trees used to surround the youth baseball fields in my hometown. It was an interesting coincidence though, because I had been reading an article about harvesting mulberries in North Carolina earlier that day. What were the chances? The article detailed how amateur harvesters used a shower curtain to catch the falling fruit as someone shook the tree’s branches.
We ate some low hanging fruit and wondered about the natural gift we’d been given.
“Aw, they’re up so high,” Stacey lamented, noting that most of the ripe berries were much higher up.
“Want me to climb up there and shake them out?” I asked.
“Really?” she questioned.
It would be easy, I told her, but I didn’t think that she’d catch any of the falling fruits. “Yeah, do it,” she said, insisting that she’d be able to catch some of the mulberries as they fell.
So, I took off my jacket and I climbed up the tree. “I always wanted a tree house,” she said from the ground, “…like a really intense one.” “Like in Robinson Caruso?” I asked, holding tight to the trunk of the tree. “Yeah. Just like that,” she confirmed.
I got up high enough to gain some leverage and shook the tree’s branches, knocking dozens of berries loose. As predicted, Stacey didn’t catch any of them. “See!” I shouted, “You haven’t caught any!” I was joking with her really because, in reality, the small berries were hard for anyone to catch as they fell randomly from the tree above. A woman passing by on the road yelled to me, “You’re crazy man!” I climbed back down to the ground and Stacey said that she couldn’t believe I had gone up the tree. Believe it, baby. Once a tree climber, always a tree climber.
Continuing on our way, Stacey told me that she was going to Russia soon to visit a place that she had never been to before. Apparently, her father had transitioned to being a cow farmer since the last time she’d visited. That was cool, I told her, my father had once been a dairy farmer. Her dad had previously been a cello maker and, in fact, she used to play a violin that he had made. You didn’t hear that every day. I thought it sounded really special.
We walked out of the park briefly, around to the southeast corner, and then back through the same entrance and down the same path where I had begun my Central Park Date. I asked Stacey if she had any siblings. Two older brothers, she said, before asking me the same and then inquiring if my brother and I were close. I described our evolving friendship as we came upon a duck who we harassed mildly by following him around. We talked about NYC and its attempts at preservation. I said that I was surprised sometimes that something as grand as Central Park still persisted in the face of NYC’s quest for development.
Though I had initially thought they were cats, we came upon a pair of raccoons hanging out, minding their own business. I mentioned capybaras because Stacey thought that raccoons were large rodents, but I told her she was wrong. I said that they were closer to whatever a red panda was and that capybaras were rodents on par with the size of raccoons. [Thanks, Zoo Date!]
Stacey mentioned that she was feeling hunger pangs, so we decided that we’d get dinner once we were out of the park and we talked about the concept of hunger. We discussed how appetite and hunger were related, and that hunger didn’t arise from a need for food in most people, just a desire for it. It seemed to be largely related to habit. That was my take at least — I almost never felt truly hungry.
As we wound our way back to Columbus Circle, we debated whether or not people needed love. This seemed to be a debate between capacity for love versus a need for it. Perhaps it was all just related to validation and attention? Was love even a constant thing, or did it change over time? Hard to say. Nice to talk about though.
Passing around Columbus Circle, we ended up talking about my dad and how when I was younger, my worst fear was growing up to be like him (Only in certain ways). Now that I was older though, I was fairly sure that it wouldn’t happen and also, that I’d probably been a bit unfair to him when I was that age. She said that our dads sounded very similar.
We had begun walking towards Hell’s Kitchen again and, as we passed by a sushi place, I asked Stacey what she’d like to eat. She suggested sushi, so we stopped right in our tracks and checked out the menu at Sushi Damo. It looked reasonable enough, so we stepped inside and were seated right away.
I used the bathroom and finally replied to Alana’s earlier texts, letting her know that the bartender she’d found wouldn’t count, but that I appreciated her effort.
Back from the facilities, we looked over the menu but the actual discussion regarding sushi was a short one. We both decided to order two rolls each. Also, Stacey ordered a glass of plum wine. I told the waiter that I’d have the same thing, thinking that she had said “white wine” for some reason. I was quite surprised when I took my first sip, proclaiming that it was a terrible white wine that they’d served us. “Not what you expected, huh?” Stacey asked.
Oh, this was on purpose? I realized. Stacey explained that it was plum wine, which was (Intentionally) much sweeter than a traditional white wine. Indeed, I had never had it, nor had I even heard of it before. Weird. Anyway, Stacey loved it so that was why she’d ordered a glass.
Once again, I noticed how easy it was to talk to Stacey as we ate dinner. She seemed very objective and I liked that. She was very cool and comfortable in her own skin. And while she wasn’t super flirty, she was still quite cute. We discussed stand up, comedy in general and then, for quite a long time, storytelling. I told her how I’d been taught by Adam Wade to build a story, I explained how The Moth shows worked and I retold a couple great stories that I’d heard in the last year. Stacey was very intrigued to explore the world of storytelling and she even took notes on what I had told her.
I asked Stacey about her success with OkCupid and if she thought her profile was a good representation of herself. She’d had mostly good experiences with the online dating service, she said, and noted that the Venezuelan ex-boyfriend she had previously told me about was from OkC. Regarding her profile, she thought she was more odd in real life, but otherwise claimed that her profile was pretty spot on.
With our food done and our check on the way, I asked Stacey how she was feeling. She said she was tired, as was I, but I was also hoping to rally. I kind of wanted to hang out more, to be honest. She said that she was usually more lively and apologized for being so low-energy, but I told her she was doing fine. Stacey smiled and said she was happy to hear that. We paid the bill and headed out.
Outside of the restaurant, we said our goodbyes. “This was fun. Thanks for coming out,” I told her. She agreed and told me to stay in touch. I said that I would and I gave her a hug before she jumped in a cab.
Our date didn’t wind up being particularly romantic, but it was pretty damn fun and most importantly, she had shown up.