I know what you’re thinking… Christ, she’s written another LONG blog post. But, this ones been several weeks in the making since I was trying to explain the Craigslist Experiment to friend who didn’t seem to know of the results of said experiment. And then, going back through the old blog, I realized I never really get around to writing about it. It was supposed to be sort of journalistic! Well, I’ve been in a writing mood lately, so here it goes…
Back around the late Spring in 2007, the Experiment began to materialize. It was initially borne of the need to find new male friends in the area after contingencies for a date to my friend’s wedding had failed. It seemed so dreadfully unfashionable to both be single and arrive dateless to a wedding . What was a girl to do? In the end, though, that’s exactly how my girlfriends and I wound up going and it was probably the best wedding I’d been to so far. However, in this naively desperate search for a wedding date, I started to realize how few male friends I had around these parts. The bulk of graduate school friends, coupled with my former roommates who also make up the gang, and the addition of the Scientist Connection (probably not mentioned here before) were (and still are) largely female.
But, how do you introduce yourself to locals your own age and, hopefully, establish lasting friendships with at least some of them when you no longer have access to the institutional conveniences of your school and job? Or even through friends of friends? Well, there lies the eternal question. Especially, considering context. DC is a ridiculously transient place. After a while, you just learn not to get attached because if you’re not leaving, someone else is. With more than eight colleges and universities (that I can think of off-hand) planted within a short distance from one another, plus a bunch of places luring young newcomers with promises of mostly non-paying job development opportunities, and add to that all the other things that keep them here a few years after graduation, you’ll find plenty of fresh faces passing in and out of town, filling the residencies and jobs of those who left.
As such, meeting new people has become a loosely organized form of recreational, and some philanthropic, activities designed to put all these people in touch. Things like softball and street hockey teams (and now even skeeball!) that host games downtown in the summer. There’s volunteer groups, and One Brick, somewhat by default (because they don’t specifically tailor themselves towards just single volunteers), falls into that category. And there’s other things with similar purpose. Outside of that — and there is where the old fashioned matchmaker could come in handy… to arrange some kind of blind friendship dates!), how in the hell do you make new friends around here?
Part of the inspiration (or maybe revelation) stems from McD who, at the time, included among her Work Day Distractional (I think we all do this enough to give it an official title) the habit of reading the soap opera-esque Missed Connections posts on Craigslist. You know, where desperate people desperately search for the one person with a fleeting connection that might actually go for them? Eventually, McD, ventured further into the interesting (and sometimes disappointing) social activity stirring around Craigslist. After all, it is a popular website around, and in her post, masqueraded as a pseudo-ego Bridget Jones (which people would only have gotten if they were familiar with the fictional British character). That in itself, this daring reach into the world of unregulated socializing with total strangers, was quite enticing, and I wondered, could you form lasting friendships with new people this way?
I wasn’t new to having met people via the Internet, though. From an email to J Rushton’s band, Withdrawal, inquiring as to the likelihood that they’d be doing any East Coast touring, we kept in touch and it eventually led to a weekend trip (and disastrous commute for which US Airways officially apologize and refunded the cost of) to hang out with them over a holiday weekend in Long Beach. The other was kind of the reverse, initiated by Kretz who had started emailing via MySpace when he read my comments to the selection of photos posted by whoever ran the MySpace profile for Cobra Kai’s blond misfit, Johnny. They’re friendships that continue to this day. So I set out to see where an interaction with the Craigslist locals would lead.
I crafted an ad with wit, humor and intellect and posted it a few times to the Strictly Platonic section of Craigslist, a category that should really be split into the more specific sub-categories of: 1) The Benefits of Our Friendship Will in No Way Be Physical Unless I Am Pushing You Out of the Way of a Speeding Car, and 2) I’m Posting Here Because I’m Too Embarrassed to Post in the Dating Section of the Personals. Although I was single at the time, I began with intentions of Friends-Only.
Probably, the most crucial lesson you learn when posting to Craigslist Personals section (which includes the Strictly Platonic section, along with the Dating, Casual Encounters, Missed Connections and Rants and Raving), is in the value of communication skills (finally, that phrase meant something!); the type of people who will respond will no doubt be determined by the quality of your post. I went for witty, funny, and intellectual to avoid the frustrating droll of one-line responses that say absolutely nothing about the person who sent them. Eventually, I started adding a disclaimer that, because I liked writing, as obvious from the length and substance of the post, I’d like at least a little something to go on if responding with not a whole lot to say. And when I still got two or three one-liner replies, my reply was pure mockery. For those who could detect the sarcasm, it was at least enough to keep it going while others, who I probably wouldn’t have been friends-compatible with anyways, fell necessarily by the wayside.
Although I met quite a few interesting people (nay, characters?) mixed in with two or three assholes, in retrospect, when it comes to Craigslist (at least in DC), I’d say that the question, “Can you form lasting friendships with new people this way” can almost always be answered ‘No.’ Surprising, I suppose considering these transient conditions and the desperate, but sometimes un-facilitated need for social interaction that comes with it. And, I’d like to think I had a pretty decent sample size to base that conclusion on. I say almost always the answer is “No” because it was during this summer that I first met two guys who eventually came to be pretty important in my life (and still are, I note, in case either of you actually read this blog!). For everyone else that I had occasion to meet through this process, however, it could basically be boiled down to elemental anthropology.
It’s been around three years now, so I don’t remember everyone I met, and not everyone I met I kept in touch with long enough to document. But these are just a few of the highlights of the others I met and carried on conversation with for a while.
Jason # 1. Jason was a pilot in the Navy when I met him. He had an opportunity to transition into the Army, pending laser surgery to correct his vision so he wouldn’t need to wear contacts, but I don’t know whatever became of it. His reply to my Craigslist post had two indications that he might be an interesting guy: he used the word “ennui”, and later, said he flew planes for a living, which, in itself embodies the desirable symbolism of escape. He could fly in and out of the state almost any of the day of week. Our first time meeting in person was at a coffee shop in Alexandria on a muggy Sunday afternoon. He was 25 (about my age then), wore a Ramones t-shirt, kept his hair loss hidden under a collection of shabby baseball caps, and had an inked, muscular build. I called him Jason #1 because he was the first Jason I would meet that summer, though eventually most of the Craigslist Experiment crowd earned nicknames so I could keep up with everyone I met. Jason was fairly new to DC and, despite the long commute to the base in a car with disagreeable mileage and slight disrepair, he seemed like he would have been understandably bored if he moved much further from city limits and out towards the mini-mall and strip-joint mania that tended to make up the surrounding base life. And luckily, he was a complete stranger in town, having shared a roommate with a waitress that he got along with and joined on rambunctious weekend nights out when she hung out with her friends. Thrill-seeking Jason’s (he bought a Ninja bike!) punk roots were obvious when he said he hailed from Portland (the OR one), was one brother in a big family that he was very close with, and once bought a beater van for $40 that he then proceeded to demolish-by-driving with a little help from his friends. He was a refreshing break from the typical blur of career-minded young professionals and baby-faced college kids you find around here. We hung out quite a few times after that, usually for dinner at the pub, and in the interim, he favored lengthy phone chit chat (FYI – I hate talking on the phone) because his irregular schedule put most weeknight and sometimes, weekend night, adventure out of the question when the next day’s flight plans commenced before sunrise. Eventually, it was a hard schedule to keep up with and so many declined invitations eventually lead to dead air. It happens.
Jason # 2. The other Jason lived way the hell out in Winchester (Virginia, y’all!) in a house he bought from his grandmother that he was still cleaning out and kind of making his own. Being around 31 or so, he was in that transition between the last salvages of carefree bachelorhood and responsible adult. On the one hand, he was kind of nerdy, which seemed to be an obviously compatible hook among these folks (Jason # 2’s accompanying photo to his reply was him dressed as 1955 Coast Guard Marty McFly at a Halloween party the year before), he still skateboarded, was teaching himself Norwegian and Japanese (I don’t remember if that was for any reason other than pure nerdly pursuit), and he busied himself with a few creative side projects: designing logos for his dad’s military veterans group, making a horror film, and writing a comic book which he did photographs models in preparation for character sketches. On the other hand, he held a full-time job as a graphic artist in a sign shop, paid the bills, and eventually, invited his girlfriend to live with him. We only hung out once (it was my first time ever in a TGI Fridays and before that, we watched Knocked Up at some mall in bumblefuck Virginia which was still too far away for either of us), but we were primarily a correspondence course in friendship. In our battle of wits (or rather, trying to outdo each other’s humor), our email exchanges were usually rife with cult movie references, YouTube finds, and random, Photohsopped humor. No wait… he used to write long and rambling, but hilarious emails. On a weekend haircut, he wrote: “I went for a haircut. Let me explain something about my hair. It’s made of some sort of steel-wool-type fiber that fell to earth in the late 70s and has yet to be chemically identified. So, you can imagine, the upkeep is harrowing. Or hair-owing. See what I did there? Oh the cleverness of me.” His subject heading to big brotherly (from another motherly) advice: “Alright Stop… Collaborate, and Listen!” And, he proposed that before the zombie movies run their course, they attempt Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter is Undead. Come to think of it, I can’t remember why in the hell we fell out of touch.
Vinh. Vinh was the first of the Craiglist crew I met in person. He was about two years older than me and, I forget how it went exactly, but he was either born in Thailand and educated in France or born to Thai parents who lived in France and he was schooled there until he moved to the states, and I’m pretty sure it was more schooling that brought him here. He was sort of an awkward looking guy, thin and tall, and well-dressed. He sort of had a thick accent and at times, I struggled to hear what he was saying, which was even harder to do when you’re already straining to hear the person sitting in front of you in a bar. On the night we hung out, we strayed around U street and the beloved, but now-defunct Cue Bar. He ordered a cocktail, and I think drank he too much too soon, or got nervous before we really broke the public ice, because started telling me that he smoked weed… a lot. I never found the “perpetual stoner” crowd all that enjoyable to be around. Eventually, we wound up at a rooftop party somewhere nearby where his friends were going. I don’t remember the circumstances, but it was the rooftop of a posh bar (at least as posh as that section of DC can be which means… a really really old building converted into a bar with a sort of generic sense of modern interior design and high drink prices). I was wearing jeans and worn converse, and I felt a little out of place, but no one seemed to care. We made our way upstairs after Vinh nervously said hello to a few friends. It was starting to remind me of an international students party I’d been to once. The DJ spun some drum n’ bass for a fairly motionless crowd of better dressed young professionals who stood around with cocktails in their hands. I held back by the balcony with Vinh looking out at the bustling, glimmering District below. As we parted ways for the evening, Vinh gave me a hug, which I wasn’t really prepared for and wasn’t sure what to make of it (remember, I was new to the intentions of the Strictly Platonic crowd), though it could have easily been written off as Vinh having drank too much. Without discussion on it, he emailed the next day to explain that the hugging goodbye was European tradition, in case I felt awkward about it. I had some Greek friends in grad school who would do that too, and eventually I got used to their customs for goodbyes. I kept in touch with Vinh for a while, but he soon found a girlfriend, and, because it was new for them, I guess he felt funny having too many girlie friends on the side. Especially having met the way we did.
British Richard. I had only hung out with British Richard on two occasions, once by myself, the next time with a couple of other friends (as typically the scenario typically went, where I was constantly gauging possible integration into my larger group of friends). He was socially fluid, and of course, my friends were delighted that here stood an actual Brit before them, accent and all. There wasn’t much to say about him, given that his personality was almost as bland as his fashion sense, although the lasting details of our conversations were that he was convinced that Americans were really heavy drinkers compared to the British (and worse, drove intoxicated without much concern) and that Mars Volta, was hands down, the best band on Earth.
Jesse. Jesse was like the cool kid on the block, the one with all the cool toys. The kid who’s house we wanted to hang out at after school. At the time, he and his friends worked as game designers for Bethesda Softworks which had been undergoing a boom because of the release of the latest version of Oblivion on XBox Live (Kretz was counted among its addicted players). Jesse showed up to Dremo’s on the first day I met him with an arm in a cast from a rather nasty take down during a ball game for which he was only a stand-in. He looked like your typical black-clad hipster with shabby hair, the scruffy beginnings of a beard, and tattoos. He hailed from Philadelphia and frequently returned there on motorcycle trips to vist his sister and his young niece that he didn’t mind spoiling with essential high art like They Might Be Giants albums. He was nice as hell and a great time to hang out with, which the Other AC and I did several times, including one Saturday power run that included a stop at Jesse’s house party, which was sandwiched between a Civil War reenactment in the boonies with the ex-roomies and El Salvadorian karaoke. He lived in Falls Church, not that far from me, and shared a house with two other guys who, I think, were also programmers. The house had an awesome deck and a huge backyard where we joined the gang for a few rounds of boccie ball that day. They had practice space in the finished basement for their bands, a small drafting studio set up in one of the bedrooms, and all of the gaming consoles current for the time under the TV (we watched as they tested some seizure-inducing Korean game with a picture of Wario on the front cover), and then Jesse was showing some pristine digital photos on his TV of the Virgin Fest show he’d recently attended in Chicago (that was all mostly new for us at the time). It was a bachelor’s paradise. Jesse’s girlfriend made beer pie (it looked like mint chocolate chip whipped pie in a graham cracker shell, but it didn’t taste like anything), and we tried to integrate ourselves with the party attendees. The guys that Jesse worked with looked like what you might envision of the modern, socially stable gaming fanatic – sort of chubby, balding, and mildly cool. A few of those guys were married, and to somewhat pretty, easy-going wives who, the Other AC always said, settled. I forget why we fell out of touch, but by the fall, Jesse had sent an email saying hello again. He’d gotten a job in Baltimore with another gaming company, but, despite the unruly commute, he must have still been living in Bachelor’s Paradise, because he invited us out to see his new band play a show at Jammin’ Java out in Virginia. The band was something like a piano rock group, where this beefy guy with a gladiator haircut took center stage on the piano, only he couldn’t sing and the songs, which I suspected he wrote, weren’t very good. There was a weird air of contention among the band, particularly between the lead singer and the drummer. Jesse played bass, but I don’t think he lasted long with those guys.
Rugby Andrew. My interaction with Rugby Andy lasted about a total of four hours, which is about the the length of a rugby match or two because that’s where we were. And by hanging out, I mean, standing on the sidelines as a match spectator out in a park along the Potomac. It was Andy’s first game, and he had been hoping to win a spot on the team that would enable some actual playing. Never having actually seen a rugby match, I went out to the game. The girls were up first, and their huge shoulders and loud war cry-like assaults made them almost as intimidating as the guys, who were exceptionally hairy, sweaty, and by the games end, short a few pieces of their uniform. Andy got his wish, and came off the field a little less filthy than the other guys. He explained a few rules about the game to me in between breaks, but nothing I retained. I had no idea what was going on, but like most sports spectators, it was violent enough to keep watching.
Rockstar Guy. Rockstar Guy needed an entourage, and probably would have one had he not been some kind of dubious concert promoter living somewhere in Virginia. While it took weeks to finally arrange some kind of actual crossing of paths, since rockstars don’t live according to pre-ordained plans, he arrived in a shabby gray Suzuki minutes before The Other AC and I were about to enter the cool darkness of the Drafthouse to catch the Grindhouse double feature. Everything about Rockstar and his two friends, a short Hispanic kid and his spacey, long-haired other friend, exuded “wanna be’s on a budget,” and the shabby Suzuki was the substitute for the shag carpeted Ford van, and ideally one with flames on the side. It had sheets hung as make shift curtains along the back windows and worn upholstered seats. Rockstar guy and his friends either had no interest in the movie, or didn’t want to pay (either way I was relieved), and figured they instead would join us only for the walk to the neighboring Mexican restaurant for Rockstar burritos before hopping in the car to scout a party somewhere, as though there was plenty of action in any kind of radius around DC on a Sunday afternoon. We would oddly enough run into them at Dr. Dremo’s later that night. The short Hispanic friend seemed insulted that I wasn’t showing the slightest interest in either him or Rockstar guy (this would have made me the Groupie I guess), making cheap attempts at flattery in the interim, and so, the Other AC and I picked up our beer glasses to instead play pool with the spacey other friend who, although he was a good pool player and un-self-consciously bragged such, his conversation about kittens was disturbing enough to cut our losses and cut out early. The Other AC said that he ran into the short Hispanic friend on the street a few days later, who treated him as a long lost good friend. That was, to no surprise, the last I had seen of either Rockstar guy, his short friend, and their spacey other friend. Ugh.
Jon From Florida. Jon was another fresh DC arrival, but one that hated the city and, by a couple months in, was ready to return back home to Florida, where he wouldn’t be outnumbered by young, idealistic liberals. They only seemed to stir up his ideological approach to politics, which would otherwise go unnoticed in most parts of Florida because he’s a hardcore Republican and loved to talk politics. A recent recipient of a Master’s from Florida State, he was ready for big things in the world of international relations, but instead, wound up working a thankless job at a non-profit like the rest of us grad school grads with big ideas, and his only consolation was a casual dress code and the “Hispanic hottie” intern he’d occasionally notice passing his desk, which probably only added to his disillusionment with the District. And who could blame him? It’s hard to get a serious grasp on the realities of the working world when you’re a recent graduate still high on the optimism that comes from being inside the insulated world of academia for so long. Despite being polar opposites when it came to politics, we did manage to keep the conversation going several months (and he even joined us for a highly disorganized trivia night at the pub), sharing the common ground of being Florida natives, and um… talking about video games. Video games? Yeah. For a short while, Kretz and the Other AC had kept me abreast of the world of modern gaming, so for me, it mostly they were a source of social networking (XBox Live had still been a fairly new concept), and an appreciation for storytelling and improved graphics. Though, it was purely discussion. I didn’t play them, but Jon From Florida did. To the point of making plans to lock himself in his apartment for a weekend to plow through Bio Shock on XBox Live in the weekend of its release. Hm…
John, the Original. John was one of the first of the Craigslist fellows that I hung out with. Like most young guys in art school, he the black t-shirt n’ brown pants n’ horn rimmed glasses look, although he occasionally showed up to the bar after work in a white shirt and black tie. When I met him, I was expecting someone who looked like Samm Levine (Neal on Freaks & Geeks), given the one photo I’d seen of him on his MySpace page, although I was totally off. He was a graduate of the Maryland School of Art, and I guess it was rather appropriate that we wound up rending a copy of the satirical Art School Confidential after introductions were made over a pitcher of James Brown Ale at Dremo’s. Halfway through the movie he kept making sure he had my permission to light up in my apartment (actually, my landlord had two rules… pay the rent on time and don’t smoke in the apartment), which made me suspect his paranoia might stem from someone leaping up and revealing themselves to be a NARC (sort of Scooby Doo style). During the week, he worked a rather stressful job, it seemed, as a film editor for a non-profit downtown, and in the interim, spent a lot of time promoting his own documentary film at film festivals around the country. He kept plenty busy, but he was able to make it out for a few of the larger gatherings with the ex-roomies-and-friends crowd and went over well (Kim von Kim’s friend timidly inquired as to his dating status, having developed a crush on him), as he was basically easy-going with damn near everyone he encountered. Eventually, we just fell out of touch, although it was about a year later that he wrote a brief hello and mentioned that he’d had Lost viewing parties at his apartment. I sort of considered this “going straight” (ha ha), but replied to say that my boyfriend was in love with the show, and we should drop by for one of those parties. We didn’t.
Hockey Teeth Chris. Hockey Teeth Chris was a thin, somewhat nerdy IT employee with a mouthful of bad teeth. He played hockey most of his young life, which explained the distracting oral defect. What we really had in common was music, and he was willing to sample just about anything he could get his hands on, even bringing his portable hard drive by one evening to download whatever music I had on my laptop. Trying music without questions? Golden! Despite the clean cut appearance, he was quite fond of German industrial synth bands, which generally tend to have this dark, brooding persona. A complete contrast, of course. Naturally, he seemed like a potential third for mine and The Other AC’s habit of frequenting local shows. I was successful at least in recruiting him for a Robbers on High Street performance at IOTA one night with Novice Real Estate Tycoon Matt (who’s not really significant enough to include in the list, otherwise). His disappearance was rather abrupt, and it may have had to do with the French girl he was smitten with.
Nervous Guy #1. I measure the awkwardness of all awkward pauses by Nervous Guy #1. A very soft-spoken guy who was about a year younger than I, Nervous Guy #1 was an aspiring cartoonist inspired by Robert Crumb (who The Other AC would humorously call Harry Crumb like the John Candy movie just to ruffle a few feathers), and one of the last people in the United States over 16 still loyal to ska. At the time, he was in between ditching traditional college, a rather indifferent view of unemployment, and the next step (which was, he hoped, entrance to an art school in New Jersey). Our first outing was at a movie theater in Fairfax where we would see Pan’s Labyrinth. I waited outside and assumed that, 20 minutes in, he wasn’t showing up. But he did, winded and apologetic because he’d mistakenly gone to a similarly named theater nearby. I laughed it off and said it wasn’t a big deal. But, when I couldn’t get the kid to utter more than a syllable, I quietly said to myself, in 2 hours, this weird movie will be over and then I can go home and not have to talk to this guy anymore. He emailed the next day to ask for another shot, and I relented. We hung out several times after that (The Other AC had a competition going), though eventually, I was sure to only pick occasions where we’d have other people along so if conversation got stale (or non-existent), I’d still have other stimulus to resort to. He, too, was another nerdish type. He was a big fan of anime and tried to enlighten me on some of it (I hate anime) and horror films (I like some of those), and was another one who fancied obscure music. He joined us when we went to the Bandazian show out at Jammin’ Java (with Mike, another guy who liked kittens) and in exchange I went with him to State Theater to see a 70 year old reggae singer named Lee Scratch Perry, and although I wasn’t much a fan, I did enjoy the opening dub band (it’s very carnal!). Soon, Nervous Guy worked up the courage to ask me out… several times… in lengthy emails I didn’t have time to respond, and then he asked why I was ignoring him. I explained that I was already seeing someone else, although I couldn’t possibly fathom the reality his proposed romantic scenario anyways. Then he turned into Asshole Guy and sent nasty emails. Go! Go! Gadget, MySpace Profiler Blocker! He emailed one more time the following year to say that he’d been in a serious car accident and more or less blamed his recent bad luck on me. Speechless, I didn’t respond.
Nervous Guy#2. If Nervous Guy #2 was a cartoon character, he would be the spitting image (and probably personality-wise, too) of Milton from Bill Amend’s Fox Trot comics. We had coordinated dinner plans at a Moroccan restaurant in Clarendon one rainy evening after work. The food was bland, which was somewhat fortunate for him, as he had a laundry list of things he was allergic to. He was another transplant in town, this time from New York, having recently graduated from Yeshiva (not Cardozo, but the other one) and now being some kind of hopeful for a job opening in the field of economics. “Don’t go [to Yeshiva] if you don’t like Jews,” he said to me without a hint of humor in his voice. I tried hard to keep from letting my laugh escape as it was such a stupid thing to say, and instead I just smirked. I offered to drive him over to the Whole Foods so he didn’t have to slug through the heavy rain after dinner, since he wanted to do a small shopping before heading home. We drove through about three blocks of pouring rain and all the way, he held on the to dashboard making this weirdly nervous nerd groan. Disaster…
Relationship Guy #1. Relationship Guy #1 was in a spot that most single guys might at some point find themselves – with that nagging sense that they need to find a girl, get married, and start a family. But, Relationship Guy #1’s clock was already ticking at 26 years old, which was only a year older than I was at the time. I couldn’t figure out what his hurry was. He held a decent job in an engineering firm somewhere around Reston and played on a hockey team in town. And although he was balding, not very good looking, and lived at home, but it still wasn’t the kind of crashing wreck that leads to that kind of life-crisis response so young. Admirable as someone may be with such clearly defined goals (and he wasn’t the first I ran into with these particular aspirations), they were goals that no less felt dreadfully inorganic. Acting with unnecessary emergency, he’d follow his nose for the first girl who would want the same – marriage and kids – without much consideration for the time needed to you know, get to know one another. Meanwhile, I made a mental note to stop agreeing to meet people in Reston. This was where Nervous Guy #1 lived, too, and it was an expense in time (there’s no escaping gridlock, y’all!) and toll money getting out there, and there wasn’t shit to do except hang out at the Town Centre (read: strip mall of brand name stores, chain restaurants, and a giant movie theater). We sat out on the outdoor patio of a casual dining place one evening after work and I ate my first Bison Burger. “What kind of music do you like?” He asked. I forget what I vaguely attempted to describe (most of my favorite bands I was sure he hadn’t heard of), and he admitted that he liked the Greatful Dead and Phish. I already knew this was going to go nowhere.
Relationship Guy #2. Strictly Platonic sometimes turns into this (usually untested) assumption that Strictly Platonic can also mean Maybe Looking. I forget why Relationship Guy and I hit it off well when we first started talking. I think he had a blog, and I must have commented on something there. He was about 28, shorter than me, a little chubby, briefly unemployed (he eventually found a decent sales job with a tech company), and a divorced father with a 3 year old son that he shared custody of as well as premature paranoia that his son wasn’t going to share his love of music. He also loved to cook, which was the impetus for moving to the next level (email contact to face-to-face contact). He came over the next night, and we made a trip to the supermarket to pick up whatever was needed to make Gyros and some other Greek delicacies, which he made in my kitchen. Someone who wasn’t my parents was going to my dinner?! How very! (As you can see, meeting a guy who cooked was obviously a novelty in my book). Unfortunately, his level of nerdiness (or more specifically, his blatant man-child behavior) was more than I could really tolerate. With the looming release of the god damned Transformers movie (a thorn in my side that summer), he brought with him the original cartoon movie that we’d watch after dinner. He was proudly knowledgeable of all the details, many of which I drowned out as I patiently awaited the swift end of the film (and with it, the evening). I don’t know what Greek food does to you, but eventually he got in a cuddling mood, and started to move in for a kiss. Now normally, I love making out (I even listed it in the Top 10 Means of Happiness/Moments of Zen post!), but this had to be just about the most uncomfortable way to approach it, considering I had met him all of about a total of one day ago. That, and I was sober. I moved my head quickly to dodge the incoming lips and when the movie was over and he left, I had already decided not to keep in touch. (To his credit, Relationship Guy #2 did have an interesting hobby as a “creative backpacker” (I can’t think of any other way to phrase it)… he took random, self-guided trips on roads lesser traveled to find hidden history like long-abandoned subway tunnels and dilapidated stadiums).
NASA Brian. Brian and I stayed in touch quite a while, until about a year ago when he was transferred back to Florida on temporary assignment for his job at NASA. He was an engineer who was settling into his early 30s, and came to DC by way of my hometown, Orlando, although he was originally a Jersey transplant. Because we shared hometown roots (he had family that lived there), we were somewhat familiar with the same neighborhood, although, since he was a few years older than me, he was already more well versed in the downtown drinking spots, almost none of which, since my landsscape had been sketched out on the basis of where we went to see shows. I didn’t frequent bars until I came to DC. And bars are where we wound up when he some spare time in between frequent business travels to Florida and Texas and wherever else NASA does it’s thang. Brian drank a lot. He had stories of morning, afternoon and evening benders while vacationin with friends. That his liver was still in tact (there didn’t appear to be any jaundice clouding his giant, translucent green eyes) was a miracle! Although, he’d cut back considerably on alcoholic intake in the months before he left town. Even gave up drinking coffee. He was accustomed to the bar life, and was one of these guys who could sit down, order a beer and make conversation with patrons and bartenders alike. We hung out with my brother in Orlando making rounds downtown one time and I remember he told the waiter with all ballsy seriousness that I was a food critic for the city paper. We got our plate of nachos free! Brian assumed I drank a lot too, and he’d laugh like I was professing innocent sarcasm, so I normally just nodded and shook my head when he mentioned one name or another of now defunct hangouts back home. He liked any sort of outrageousness in large groups and was an annual attendee of things like Burning Man, and that event in the city where everyone dresses up like Santa. When his brother got married, he instituted a mandatory Lost Boys (think Peter Pan, not the 80s vampire flick) costolume them for the bachelor party as a sort of homage to perpetual youth, I suppose. And, he too, like most people I met that summer, loved music and going to shows, though he seeemed to particularly favor the jams bands like Phish and the Greatful Dead, and had a strategy for pleasing bar patrons while at the same time getting the most bang for his buck on the digital jukeboxes. There’s a reason for self-indulgent 12 minute tracks!
Yuppie Daniel. Daniel was living in the area just a few weeks when I first him. In our first encounter, I couldn’t help but notice that he had these giant sausage fingers, considering he was rather slender. He was a California native who just finished his undergrad degree in business (I think), only to wind up relocating to the opposite coast upon scoring some kind of finance job in Old Town (Virginia). Daniel, like damn near everyone else I seemed to meet, was a work-a-holic and on plenty of occasions, he’d call to excuse himself from the evening’s social plans, that he wasn’t going to make it out because he was working late or just got home quite late from working. He was another fan of music and even bought an electric guitar, which he was pretty proud of, even though he could only play when he was sure it wouldn’t disturb the neighbors. One night, The Other AC and I ran into him and his old college friend at Dremo’s, and for some reason, Yuppie Dannie felt oddly compelled to assure us that, in so many words, he was not a Yuppie. Dressed in his pink pinstripe button shirt and gray slacks, and always giving this air of constrained homosexuality, he told us that the Daniel he was in California went to crazy parties and had long, punk hair. I’m not sure how much truth there was in that, but either way, it was clear that Yuppie Daniel had indeed won in the tug-of-war. Punk was dead. Long live the Queen.
Jim Berlin. On the first day we met, Jim Berlin was going to join my brother, The Other AC and I for drinks at the Galaxy Hut, a squished little bar tucked into Arlington’s Courthouse area, but I wasn’t really in the mood to meet any newcomers. As it turned out, though, the young easy-going guy who works as a personal trainer for a gym in the city (Lyz is our indirect proof of his continued existence, as it goes in our small town big city). He was a good looking guy, had buttloads of charm and, we always joked, the Winning Smile. He was also a Maryland native who favored obscure bands, shuffleboard at the Rocket Bar, and braved the Polar Bear dip for charity. He also joined us on Halloween, decked out as Ash, of Army of Darkness (major points for not only being willing to dress up, but design his own costume from scratch!!) as we strolled aimlessly around Adams Morgan one night, and lounged in a psychotic ex-girlfriend’s cramped Halloween apartment party the next. And, maybe ironically, we’d meet up once more in the last nights of Dremo’s as they auctioned off their wares. And that was the last I saw of Jim Berlin. The Other AC had suggested that he probably assumed us to extend from a vital social network that in the end, really wasn’t to be.