Archive | May, 2012

Picking Up the Pieces

17 May

It was my first blind date. And, naturally, it happened thanks to the wonders of the InterWebz. I’d met a girl through Match (during that short window when I’d give that crappy site a shot). Like me, she was a reformed Soviet Jew straddling the line between family expectation (working as a speech pathologist) and yearning for self-definition (buying an apartment in Park Slope). It soon became apparent that while we were both cool and amazing people, the chemistry was lacking. We had a couple of drinks at Heartland Brewery in South Street Seaport and called it an evening. So  I was quite surprised to receive an email from her a couple of days later. She thought I was great. So great, in fact, that I was “perfect” for her younger cousin, who was equally great.

Who was I to argue with a woman’s praise? So I got her cousin’s email address and exchanged a few perfunctory messages. What do you do/where do you live was covered and a tentative date schedule. It was only on the day of our meet-up that I realized I had no idea what this girl looked like. That was the whole point of the blind date, but still. Going on a date with someone you’ve never seen before is sort of like ordering fruit online—you’d better trust the source. So when it finally occurred to me that I could cheat and Google her it was too late—she was not at all my type physically, but I felt like an ass canceling so I decided to just got and see what happened.

The day of our date, as luck would have it, my bathroom ceiling, which had a bad leak for days, finally caved in. I walked in to rubble in my bathtub and on the floor. The space looked like a bombed-out WWII building. It was a couple of hours before our date and I called the girl to inform her about the fiasco. As soon as I told her about my bathroom her tone changed and she sounded really suspicious.

“I’m still coming, I just need to move some of this rubble out of the way first, so I might be running late.” She was tentative and lukewarm.

We met at a lame music venue on the Lower East Side. Not one of the hipsterish ones but the kind that low-airplay mainstream radio bands. Not that I’m a snob but the lineup was pretty atrocious. Despite not being my type, she looked really nice, all set for a raging Saturday night on the town. What I didn’t expect to find was a couple who were clearly there with her. She introduced me to her friend.

“She’s health, I’m money,” the girl proudly declared. It took me a few seconds to figure out that this was a joke about their respective professions and their neat fit into Russian-Jewish parental expectations.

Next she introduced me to the girl’s boyfriend, a very typical Brooklyn Russian guy, the type I avoided at all costs in high school. He promptly told me that he sold cars in Brooklyn. I asked him if he was in school or working full time.

“College is whack. I make six figures, no college degree.”

The couple gave us some alone time, and we went for a drink at the bar. I was kind of hoping she would commiserate over the giant gaping hole that used to be my ceiling, assure me how happy she was I wasn’t crushed in the collapse, and buy me a PBR. No such luck. Instead, she took on a stern voice and made perfectly clear that if I hadn’t shown up she would have never given me another shot. Fine.

We went back to the couple and listened to some bad music while the girl and I had an awkward 20-questions-style interview. It turned out we had very little in common other than a tenuous connection to a college hockey rivalry being played out at MSG that night. Soon she grew bored of the joint and told us that she wanted to go clubbing at Lotus. Already on the fence about staying, I told her I had no interest in going there, but she was free to do so since it was her big night on the town (she lived in Jersey). The girl immediately relented and we somehow decided to drive back into Brooklyn and maybe go for a nightcap somewhere. My plan was to hitch a ride back to my house, since the other girl’s boyfriend lived nearby and was driving.

The car was one of those souped-up Japanese cars that outer borough and suburb-bound Russian teens and twentysomethings favor. The dude started gunning his “turbo” gear and scaring the crap out of the two girls. When he was doing 60 in a 25, I suggested he might want to slow down, but he was hell-bent on waving his dick around. Finally, we rolled into Gravesend, a neighborhood abutting Sheepshead Bay and Bensonhurst that we were all well familiar with.

He drove us to a “club” on Avenue U called “Pleasure.” As you might guess, it was anything but. After parting with $40 at the door, we entered what can only be described as a time portal into the 70s. There was a disco ball, a smoke machine, a swank-looking bar with icy-blonde Russian girls pouring overpriced drinks, and absolutely no one dancing or really even inhabiting the space. We sat down and ordered some food and drinks. The car salesman ordered fries and, after telling me some tiresome tale of his car-selling coups, slumped over his girlfriend’s shoulder and passed out. I invited my date to dance to the cheesy techno beats, trying to salvage a bit of the night, but she declined and went into an awkward silence. We sat apart, looking at a soggy plate of fries at the smoke machine filled the empty dance floor with its artificial haze.

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A Brief History of Heels in Time

15 May

Heeling Good About Yourself

Heels: Before and After Christ*

Approx. 4000 B.C.
Earliest depictions of shoes (flexible leather pieces held in place with lacings) in ancient Egyptian murals on tombs and temples.

Approx. 200 B.C.
Platform sandals called kothorni, with high wood or cork soles, become popular among Roman tragic actors.

Approx. 1000 A.D.
At Saxon weddings, father of the bride customarily presents the groom with one of the bride’s shoes, symbolizing transfer of his authority over her. The bride’s shoe is thrown to the bridesmaids; the one who catches it will be next to marry.

1154-1189
King Henry II of England popularizes shoes with narrow, pointed toes. Legend says they hid his deformed toes.

1189-1199
Knights of Richard the Lionhearted begin to wear sollerets, downward-curving pointed toes, to keep their feet from slipping out of stirrups.

1215
A law passed in Paris bans university professors from wearing shoes with long, pointed toes. However, shoe toes, a symbol of rank, grow longer and pointier during the next two centuries, culminating by about 1382 in the spiky-toed cracowe. Kings and princes sometimes wore toes 30 inches long.

1386
Knights fighting in the Battle of Sempach in Switzerland are forced to amputate their shoes’ long toes after dismounting before they can advance on foot.

Approx. 1500
Shoes begin to be made in two pieces, with a flexible upper attached to a heavier, stiffer sole. This leads to the introduction of the heel, devised as a better way of keeping a rider’s foot in the stirrup. Heeled boots for men quickly become fashionable.
1509-1547
Henry VIII of England favors wide-toed shoes, sometimes 12 inches across, which had to be stuffed to keep them on his feet.

1533
Short-statured Italian bride Catherine d’Medici, married at 14 to the Duke of Orleans, wears shoes with two-inch heels to exaggerate her height. The high heel may have been invented by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).

1553-1558
Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”), another vertically challenged monarch, wears heels as high as possible. From this period until the early 19th century, high heels are frequently in vogue for both sexes.

Mid-1500s
An extreme shoe style called chopines, popular among women in Italy, Spain and France, had pedestals of cork or wood as tall as 24 inches. A Venetian lady wearing chopines needed two servants to help her in and out of a gondola.

1628
Pilgrims arrive in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A law is passed prohibiting “excess in bootes.”

1660
French shoemaker Nicholas Lestage, so clever at his trade that some accuse him of sorcery, becomes shoemaker to Louis XIV. The heels of Louis’s shoes, some decorated with miniature battle scenes, are as tall as five inches. High “Louis” heels are also fashionable for ladies.

1745
Madame de Pompadour, tiny-footed favorite of Louis XV, popularizes high, narrow “Pompadour” heels. Ladies tape their feet to reduce their apparent size and faint at court.

1793
Marie Antoinette ascends the scaffold to be executed wearing two-inch heels. However, in the wake of the French Revolution heels become lower than at any time in the 18th century.

1794
Quincy Reed opens America’s first retail shoe store in Boston. Around this period, Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) invents machines for cutting soles and riveting them to uppers.

Early 1800sB
Flat shoes and Grecian-style sandals become popular.

Approx. 1865
The “sneaker” or plimsoll, a canvas-topped, rubber-soled shoe, is invented for badminton and tennis. Ladies’ heel heights vary but stay below two inches during the rest of the century.

1904
The ladies’ “pump” or court shoe, a British invention, reaches America. Shoe stores begin to stock shoes with a range of widths around now.

Approx. 1955
Tall “stiletto” heels for women’s shoes, invented in Italy, become a fashion rage. Very pointed toes come into vogue for both sexes.

1970s
Return of the platform shoe.

1980s
Athletic shoes diversify and gain popularity. Some women begin wearing them to work or for commuting.

2100(Projected)
Women adopt holographic projections of heels, miss authenticity of painful blisters and wounds. HoloHeels create hipster revival of classic heels.
*Source: http://users.powernet.co.uk/wingett/History1.htm

Old Dog, New Trick

7 May

Back off, dude

For the purposes of this story, names have been changed to protect the people involved.

In my many years of dating, short relationships going nowhere, and long relationships going nowhere good, I’ve pretty much known who I was. A generally nice guy, fun date, and all-around decent boyfriend. Like everyone, I have my shortcomings, but my dating resume is generally buoyed by unclinginess, a lack of jealousy, and easygoing nature. Last, week, though, I did something new.

We were at a lounge in lower Manhattan. One of those digital community events, not unlike a MeetUp, where people who usually don’t know each other soon become fast friends in the gated environment of a new community where icebreaking is lubricated by a generous stream of booze. After making the rounds and making some new acquaintances and allies, I spotted two girls standing off by themselves, one of whom I judged too cute to leave in that position.

Now, I’m not an operator, nor do I do this often, but I had my mark. Seconds later, banter was in the air as we toasted each other and the night. Everything was turning up in my favor. The girl’s friend, Inga, who turned out to be someone she’d just met, was spoken for, while the object of my curiosity—Myra— was almost certainly single, facilitating my entry point. When she went to the bathroom, Inga apologized for “cockblocking.” I was amused by a girl speaking in bro parlance, and assured her she was not. I also gathered some intel, including Myra’s affinity for online dating sites. All signs pointed to singlehood.

Two drinks later, we were tearing up the dance floor, more or less, as house music pumped through the crowd. And, another drink later, we were off for after-party shenanigans elsewhere. The liquor now taking charge of our faculties, we somehow merged with another group of ragers, which included a ver nice but somewhat sleazy-looking guy named Jose I’d met at a previous event. At this point Myra, thoroughly sloshed from the last drink, lunched into a string of Spanish gibberish. With my limited understanding of Spanish, I was both amused at her nonsensical phrasing and impressed by her glib pronunciation. Jose seemed equally amused.

Perhaps it was the shiny bold head of someone new, or the mild exoticism of a Latino dude, and certainly the many cocktails coursing through her veins, but Myra’s attentions started drifting from me to Jose, at least for the time being. When we got to the next bar/club, he launched a full-scale offensive on her. Now, most times, I would probably grow indifferent and let this go. But something about the whole sequence, if not the girl herself, screamed injustice. You know the scene from the Matrix when Neo finally sees the agents in ones and zeroes ? I went into action.

At the bar, Jose, who had some sort of hookup with the bartender, was handing Myra another cocktail, which she quite visibly did not require but would clearly accept. With one hand, I interceded, intercepting the drink (luckily vodka-based, from which I’m immunized by the Soviet part of my blood), and pounding it back in a few quick gulps. The other hand I wrapped around Jose’s shoulder, turning him deftly to a corner where we couldn’t be overheard.

“Jose, I like you and think you’re a nice guy, but I was talking to this girl before you and think I kind of like her, so you need to back off.” I followed this up with a firm assurance that I wasn’t trying to start trouble and may or may not have insisted that “I come correct” (I’d been wanting to say that!).

Jose, somewhat nonplussed by my directness, quickly recovered, apologized, shook my hand, and handed over the “keys to the car.” I was now in the driver’s seat. For the first time in my life, I had confronted a man over a woman, won, and somehow walked away without a black eye or broken nose. It was the best of both worlds!