Tag Archives: beer

Not with a Bang But a Whimper

4 Jun

ImageIt was a casual mid-week evening of extreme beers and mild rage (in theory). A couple of my friends met me at Peculier Pub, that underrated NYU hangout on Bleecker that happens to offer one of the great bottle lists in all of New York. They even offer mediocre Eastern European varieties. Rarely will I imbibe a Belarussian lager, but I appreciate the option. The evening started out fortuitously with Founders Imperial IPAs and proceeded to the inevitable Samichlaus. 3 or 4 “erudite” beers in, the night started getting more interesting.

First, a Korean girl wandered in, looking lost. My friend uncharacteristically invited her to join us, whereupon we learned she was a language student. Behind us, a gaggle of geeks were holding court. Somewhere between the Korean girl and her friend (who soon joined us) singing the virtues of Dr. Who and a portly gentleman in a Dr. Who tee shirt behind us, we finally realized that the two girls were there for a Dr. Who fan club meeting. Awesome. Eventually, we had to release the Korean exchange student to her flock, but not before getting her to translate a North Korean beer commercial on YouTube (North Korea has beer commercials?).

Turning our attention back to our palates, we sailed further down the River Malt. At some point past that time when you stop paying attention to time, an odd couple started shadowing our booth. A skinny guy in a vest and a semi-ditzy, heavily inebriated blonde were swaying back and forth, hugging and pecking one another on the cheek. They sat down next to me and proceeded to unburden themselves of many a slurred thought. Sensing perfect marks for some bartime fun, we gave them fake names and got into character.

When the male half went outside to take a call, the blonde moved closer in and started chatting me up. I asked how long they’d been together. Laughing, she informed me that he was just a friend and was bi. As if catching herself, she immediately leaned in and whispered, “I’m pretty sure he’s just gay, but don’t tell him I said that.” Her secret was safe with me. She continued to engage me in conversation (such topics as, “What’s up with Jewish people, does it like, mean you’re Jewish?”) but I was only a quarter-interested in the mental wanderings of a 21-year-old FIT student.

I was trying to return to chatting with my friends when the girl nudged me and asked if I could accompany her to the restroom. Naively, I got up and walked her over to the typically grungy unisex bathroom in the back and returned to the booth forthwith. My friends stared at me incredulously and commanded me to return to the back of the bar immediately and proceed inside the bathroom with the girl. I complied. The door was ajar and she whisked me inside. We looked at each other somewhat awkwardly. She seemed to be vacillating between come-hither bluntness and some pre-sobering moral doubt. She made some throwaway remark about wall graffiti that I interpreted as her handing the ball over to me.

There I stood, drunkenly contemplating what is probably the only chance I would ever have at some honest-to-goodness bathroom sex in an NYC bar. But there was no push, no motor running. The only thing filling my mind was a total lack of investment and desire for this girl, who wasn’t half-bad-looking. After about a minute more of sloppy banter about bathroom walls, she hugged me, said, “Sorry that he cockblocked you,” pointing in the direction of her friend, and ran out of the bar into a rainy night. I walked back to our booth to tell my friends, and you all, one anticlimactic tale of staring.

The Countdown

12 Apr

Was it so hard to tell me, jerks?

In the sometimes too-predictable world of online dating, there are those pleasant surprises when the script gets thrown out the window, and two people enjoy a totally spontaneous, organic connection full of laughs, meaningful glances, and prolonged silences pregnant with ineffable feeling…Unfortunately, most online dates are nothing like that. Instead, they go something like this, at least for me:

  • T minus 3 days: Date/location set.
  • T minus 2 days: Phone numbers/other means of contact exchanged.
  • T minus 1 day: A text confirmation is dispatched. Hopefully the other party confirms.
  • T minus 12 hours: I make sure my teeth and hair are brushed, hygienic products and olfactory enhancements applied, presentable clothes worn.
  • T minus 6 hours: I remind myself to resist that pile of onions in my Halal cart order lest I risk social suicide.
  • T minus 1 hour: I look in the mirror to make sure there’s not a giant booger hanging out of my nose, or a big splotch of toothpaste on my chin. If there’s toothpaste, I remind myself to check that at T-12 hours and curse all the people who have seen me throughout the day who chose not to point this out.
  • T minus 5-10 minutes: I arrive on location comfortably but not pointlessly early. If I’m at a bar that fills up quickly after work or on a weekend, I have time to grab some seats, which she is sure to appreciate (or, at least it solves a minor but unnecessary first-date problem of awkwardly waiting for basic comfort while you’re both sizing each other up).
  • T minus 2 minutes: I peruse the beer/wine list, preparing myself to wow her with my vast knowledge of spirits. At this point I may also start to wonder if those weird angles in her photos were intentional.
  • T plus 2 minutes: I throw a glance at my watch and a few at the door, curious about how she will make her entrance and how I will appear to her. This might also be a good time to check on a few near-certainties (is my fly zipped, etc.).
  • T plus 5 minutes (pre-smart phone era): I start to get annoyed, checking my watch and phone more frequently.
  • T plus 5 minutes (post-smart phone era): I feel slightly more relaxed, launch Words with Friends or Draw Something.

Date Late

  • T plus 15 minutes (pre-smart phone era): I am now fully annoyed at not getting a heads-up, wonder if this will finally be the time I get completely stood up, start to get annoyed when I’m asked if I want to order a drink for the 3rd time, contemplate passive-aggressive text, decide against it and end up calling or texting to voice my concern as casually as I can muster.
  • T plus 15 minutes (post-smart phone era): Getting frustrated with a bad board in WWF or not being able to guess what my friend’s squiggly lines are supposed to be. Forget all about date, fail to register vibrating/ringing of phone as she sends an SOS after getting mugged in the adjacent alley.

Date On Time

Showtime: You size each other up nervously, hug or awkwardly shake hands, and proceed to judge one another physically for a few seconds while ignoring what the other person is saying. If you’re both satisfied, a lovely evening may commence. If one of you is much happier than the other, one of you will be really frustrated very soon and the other will have some grievances to air with the friend who thought this was a good idea. If both of you are equally dissatisfied, you might be on your way to a beautiful friendship.

To Beard, or Not to Beard

15 Mar

Will you be my beard?

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.” — William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

A few months back, I contacted a very comely lass on OkCupid with whom I’d had a few flirtatious exchanges. We didn’t have a terrible lot in common but—and unfortunately—as a man, this didn’t stop me. In fact, my mind works in such strange and mysterious ways that it can twist what is an ostensible and fundamental mismatch into an exciting challenge. After a few exchanges, and due to her taking a week to respond to 2-line messages, I could tell the thing was going into pithy pen pal mode. So I requested a face-to-face. Her reaction to this was not quite what I expected:

“Sure, it would be fun to go out. But I must ask you, do you have a beard? Some of your pictures suggest that you do and others suggest you do not. Sorry to be blunt, but I’m not a fan of facial hair.”

Well, this was a new one. She was skipping the phase where we go out and pretend to like/tolerate everything about each other until a meaningful connection is formed and negotiating capital accrues. She was going straight into deal-breaker negotiations! I told her that I do currently sport a beard, but assured her it was well-trimmed, encouraging her to give facial hair a chance. She replied indicating that while it was a dealbreaker for romance, a beard would not stand in the way of friendship, to which she was also open.

Unsure of how to proceed, I dispatched a teasing message suggesting that her adamant stance might be more flexible upon a live encounter, and I was willing to take the chance. She, in turn, burned me by questioning whether my profile, which also indicated friendship among the menu options (just covering my bases, folks), was in fact accurate, and whether I even knew that it said that. SLAM! My ego was slightly hurt, and I was getting a little pissed, but that lizard brain was now firmly in control and wanted to meet this girl, if only to show her how cool I really was.

When the time came for our date, I wondered what the hell I was doing seriously considering trying to “convert” her into a scruff-lover. What to do?  How was I to respond to her all-of-nothing attitude? A quick and informal poll of my male (and some female, even) friends revealed that this was not a tough question at all: “Shave it,” was the most common answer to my predicament. At this, I bristled. Pardon? I should shave off my prized beard as a first-date investment? Maybe if we met, clicked, and fell in love, then I could grudgingly renounce and subsequently shear off my furry mask. But this was a FIRST DATE, for Pete’s sake!

So after taking immaculate care trimming my shaggy blanket into a well-manicured stubble, I went out into the night to meet her, on Christmas eve of all times (neither of us is Christian). She had already asked for 2 short extensions, which I granted, but when I got off the train I got another text asking for another 30-60 minutes. This should have been a major red flag but I had already schlepped into the City from Brooklyn, so this was happening. She texted to see if I wanted to do it another night and I tried to keep my reply from sounding too pissy. After about 20 digital pages on my iPad at the bar, and her getting lost (aka 1.5 hours later), she finally showed up. We had a nice time sipping fancy brews and chatting about our very different backgrounds (she’s from North Africa and I’m from Eastern Europe). At the end of the night, unsure of how to address the elephant in the room, I made a joke about her mulish beard ultimatum. It cracked a smile but not her firm position. With neither of us able to compromise our positions, we were deadlocked. We hugged, said goodnight, and went to our respective homes, her holding on to her pride and I to my beard.

South of Rock Bottom

7 Mar

No wonder I hibernate in the winter

Last week I had to go to Raleigh, North Carolina for a work meeting, shuttling in and out for a little over 24 hours. These short trips, with a few exceptions, bring me to random cities that speckle our countries between the coasts and give me the opportunity for solo travel exploration. As a rule, I deal with people considerably older than me, so social activities beyond an early bird dinner are usually not an option. So I end up going out by myself quite a bit. What’s a young whippersnapper to do on a Saturday night in North Carolina? In New Orleans, one of my favorite places in the world, the wealth of music clubs easily solved this problem for me. But what the heck is there to do in Raleigh? I asked Yelp. But Yelp can’t find me a friend, and I felt like having a drink with another human being than night. After a brief and desperate stab at Plenty of Fish’s mobile app, I did the unthinkable…I loaded Craigslist Raleigh Personals…yeah.

Needless to say, POF aside, Craigslist is the rock bottom of online dating, the equivalent of a jewel thief stealing change from a street musician—it’s a desperate move, more cry for help than real attempt at human bonding. The only way I could justify it was by telling myself that I was in a different town where I didn’t know anyone. I tried my luck, figuring no one would even respond at 10:30 PM on a Saturday night. 31/M/out of town/show me Raleigh…something like that. And I made sure not to post it under Intimate Encounters, mostly to fool my conscience into thinking this was normal social behavior. Not 10 minutes later, I had 2 replies in my inbox. One was from someone whose email address masked her real name but identified her a girl who enjoys running. She was interested in chatting but not hanging out. Since I’m not a 12-year-old boy in an AOL chat room and this isn’t 1998, I asked a few polite questions about stuff to do and moved on.

The next message was more intriguing. It came with an actual name (albeit a colorful one). She referenced a bar very close to my hotel in Downtown Raleigh that Yelp had earlier recommended. One that served mead and moonshine, no less (South!). She was heading out there in a bit and asked if I wanted to meet. This was as perfect logistically as it would get, so I sent her my number and asked for hers. A few minutes later, she replied asking for my picture and telling me that she’d left her phone in her friend’s car but would be wearing jeans and a blue top. Right away, my mind broke down the possibilities based on this dubious development:

  • 60% this was a dirty prostitute or worse
  • 30% it was some unsavory specimen of lady I’d never want to meet
  • 10% this experience would be neutral or better

For the first two possibilities, my contingency was simple: the hotel is virtually across the street and I can make my escape at any time. I shrugged, emailed her my photo, and headed over to the place. After a 5-minute wait due to over-capacity (take that, NYC!), I was waved into a basement den full of college and post-collegiate types, with a few hipsters thrown in for good measure. I noted the lack of diversity (98% of the bar was white) but this was preppy downtown after all. I sidled over to the edge of the bar to check out the menu when an attractive Southern belle asked me if it was raining outside. As someone who doesn’t hit on girls at bars very often, I took this as a cue to mildly flirt with her.

“What’s good here?” She pointed at a couple of bourbon-based cocktails.

“Wow, moonshine, really?” I asked, expecting her to flip her hair coquettishly, smile, and launch into a conversation about regional differences. Didn’t even crack a smile.

“And what will you be having?” I asked in the least cheesy-sounding tone I could muster. This was met with crushing silence and I buried my face in the drinks menu, pretending I was talking to myself. Biatch! No matter, I already had a date for the evening, after all!

I grabbed a regional double IPA and tried to plant myself non-creepily between hordes of bros and couples on dates. A table opened up and I plopped down, realizing that without the twentysomething social pressure to mingle and strut, 30-year-olds can comfortably sit at a bar playing Scrabble and Words with Friends without harsh judgment. Soon a co-ed group of friends invaded the table, no doubt annoyed at my intrusive presence. I stood my ground and eavesdropped on their conversation and inside jokes. At this point, I was pretty indifferent to my mysterious Craigslist date. The whole no phone thing was pretty sketchy and I was having some pretty intense tile exchanges in WWF. I sipped my beer and people-watched. At one point, a larger blob of southern preppies showed up, clearly intent on coagulate with their other half at my table. Stubbornly, I dug in my heels and furiously shuffled my tiles trying to ignore the exchange of pleasantries (bar conversations sound so dumb when you’re neither drunk nor involved).

The girl never showed. This was something of a relief. When I woke up the next morning, my biggest regret was not trying one of the bar’s moonshine offerings, a cultural opportunity I should have grabbed. In my inbox was an email dispatched at 5 AM by my now missed connection. “You’re hot! Too bad I missed you,” she declared, which meant she’d not seen the picture before leaving the house. She claimed to have gone to the bar, waited for me with a drink, then gone upstairs and waited there. It was a small bar and our time there overlapped, so I didn’t know how we could have missed each other, since the crowd thinned out after midnight, but c’est la vie. I was slightly flattered at the superficial appraisal of my “profile photo” but not enough to do something completely insane, like asking her to hang out during the day. Another city, another one-man rage, another missed connection, but this one I could live with. Still, in the back of my mind, I was intrigued at the unsolved mystery of the girl in jeans and a blue top waiting for me at the bar with a glass of moonshine and no phone in her pocket.