Valet

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Valet parking feels wrong to me on several levels, not the least of which being unnecessary exposure to scrutiny. But there I was in North Beach, a block away from Park Tavern, where I was supposed to meet friends, unable to find a parking spot and with no choice but to use valet parking.

I looked around at the clutter inside my car and thought, ok then, what can I stash? All I could think of was to hide a fork that had rice stuck to it, in the little storage compartment between the two front seats. The rest was hopeless. As I pulled up, I reassured myself by thinking this man, who just happened to be impossibly good looking, was human too. I imagined his bedroom being a wreck. As I handed him the keys I said “excuse the mess”, smiled and added “welcome to my life”. He smiled back and called out to me as I ran away “Hey”. I turned around, worried the car wouldn’t start or something, but instead he said, in a lovely Italian accent, “Enjoy your dinner, ok?”.  I smiled saying, “Thanks, I will” and I promptly forgot about my car and the entire interaction while I enjoyed dinner with my friends.

What happened after dinner was straight out of a movie really…

The same valet stood across the street smiling as if he were waiting for me.  I fantasized that we were going to take off somewhere romantic, until I remembered (oh right!) he is waiting for me… but not really. He’s waiting for me to pick up my mess of a car. Suddenly self-conscious, I thought about how totally crazy it was that this handsome man was standing there with my car door open, waiting for me to cross the street. I wished he’d just put the hazard lights on, shut the door and bring me the keys, but instead, he waited for me like a gentleman until the traffic cleared. When I got to him, he said something (his accent was pretty strong) along the lines of “did you know your engine light is on?”. Oh God, that too? I hadn’t even thought about the engine light that has been on for a couple of weeks. “Yes, thanks! ” kicking myself for not getting the engine looked at yet. I tried to say good-bye and close the door, but he leaned in closer saying “I see you take in a lot of physical activity.”

I was so confused. It seemed like a pick up line, but it didn’t seem even remotely close to reality. I look like I take in lots of physical activity?  I’m thinking um…no I don’t…but then I looked around my car to see the following (and I am not exaggerating): a rip stick, a hockey stick, a basketball, roller blades, a skateboard.. and then what he was referring to…a soccer ball.. in the front seat rolling around with three water bottles. HA! He thinks this is all mine! When I confessed it all belongs to my ten year old son, he leaned in even closer with an even bigger smile, almost offering personal lessons, but stopped himself with “Tell him to keep playing. It’s a wonderful game. I used to play professionally.” Smiling I told him I would do that and I handed him a few dollars.

I drove away with my mess and my engine light (still) on, considering the idea that maybe I could like valet parking after all. And four years later… come to think of it, I wonder if he’s still there? Anyone wanna meet me at Park Tavern?

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Say What?

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A woman on the beach just asked me “Is your dog’s tail real?”. I thought for sure she was joking but it was clear she was not. So, I said “Yes she’s 100% real dog”.  Then she said, “Well you never know these days so I thought I’d ask. You know cause I thought maybe you had a stick holding it up or something”. Then (while I stood looking stunned probably with my mouth open) she went on to explain how upside down the world is by saying her daughter and her son-in-law came home with scented bowling balls (like GO figure?) hers is bubblegum…his is vanilla.” And I was like oh now your tail comment makes so much more sense. Not. LOL. Actually I just stood there looking over at my dog’s tail.

What God Made

I see him out jogging along the beach pretty often. He’s a tall man with very dark skin that contrasts sharply with the white running suit he wears with the hood tightly cinched around his face. He has a slow steady gait. This morning, as he caught up with me on the path, he jogged backwards alongside me for a short bit smiling. He stayed there only long enough to tell me he’d “seen what God made”.

Flashback to Prom Night

As he was changing my tire, he looked up at me smiling and shared a story about the first time he ever changed one. It was prom night, one of those super hot nights in June in the Midwest. The kind that makes you sticky. He was wearing a white tux and borrowed his dad’s car to pick up the girl he really loved, when his tire blew. “Yeah” he laughed, shaking his head “I fixed the flat…and the white tux survived the ordeal. But, at the end of the night, the girl let me know she didn’t feel the same way”. Suddenly he looked kinda sad, as if this rejection were happening all over again, 50 years later. I wondered (to myself) where is this girl now? What ever happened to her? I couldn’t help thinking I bet she’s wishing she had him now.  He is a total keeper, sitting here on the curb fixing my flat because he wanted to, because he wasn’t doing anything much. “I’m just out walking my dogs” he said when he stopped and offered to fix it.

One Night Hand

Two Tweets

I had a boyfriend for a short while today on my flight from San Francisco to Detroit. He was funny and smart, a techie who loved his job. He wore a light grey t-shirt with the classic blue Twitter bird printed on the front and jeans. He was good-looking with smooth brown skin, a well-groomed beard and mustache, perfect white teeth, and an easy smile.

We chatted away on the runway and through take off…laughing, comparing notes on stuff, like where to get the best burritos in the Mission. He was on his way home to New York after two weeks working in the San Francisco office. He told me about his work. I was impressed with his example of why it was meaningful to him: “It connects people in ways unimaginable a few years ago. People really depend on it to transmit critical information during times of political unrest for instance or storms”. He asked about my work too. I told him about my work advocating for babies, birth to 3. We discussed how far behind the U.S. lags in social policies, things like paid parental leave and quality affordable infant care. He seemed genuinely interested, like he “got it”, without much need for explanation. Younger people usually do get my work.

That’s when we established he was, in fact, exactly half my age (23 years old)… which, other than the fact that he understood why investing in babies matters, came as a total surprise to me. Coincidentally, my aunt recently explained to me over the phone, in reference to this phenomenon I’ve noticed lately of talking to men and being suddenly surprised that I could be their grandmother, “I’m afraid it always does (come as a surprise) Jul”.

We shifted our discussion to matters of parenting and family. I was thinking if I couldn’t date him, I wanted to know how someone raises a child like him? Was I doing it already with my two children OR were there secret ingredients I might learn from him that I could add to my parenting mix? He told me about his mother – how she shared my love of hot yoga and healthy eating, having no shame in calling him on a business trip to ask what he was eating and if he was taking care of himself? He said it was sweet not meddling, and he added that she has always been this way. He said, in fact, her interest in conscious living was so deep-seated, she and his father were currently in Nepal on a “healing retreat”. (Time out: Married people in their 50’s together on a healing retreat? I was already in love with them and didn’t even know their names.) He went on to tell me about his sister who just graduated from Juilliard as a ballerina. I think he told me about other siblings as there were 5 and he was the youngest, but some of this is a blur. I started to go into my own little Fantasyland at Nepal. I do remember he talked about his love of all things nerdy and how I should continue to support my son’s interest in coding in particular and my daughter’s gift for the performing arts. He said it sounded like I was doing everything right as a mom. I was getting a pep talk from a 23 year old and it felt good. By now I was ready to sit down to dinner with his family and ask them more questions… “How did you do it?” I’d begin, while sipping hot tea.

I really admired what a confident and alive young man he was…well, until the turbulence started and suddenly, without any warning, he grabbed my hand with his, which was cold and clammy. With a look of shock (at himself I think or maybe in reaction to my look of shock at his grabbing my hand so unexpectedly?) but not letting go, he said “I’m scared. Can I keep holding your hand?” At this point the whole left side of his body was pressed against the right side of mine. I hadn’t noticed it before but the armrest was up. His thighs were bigger than I expected. His body was strong and warm other than his hand, like I mentioned, which was clammy and cold. It seemed a little forward and odd of him to want to keep holding my hand…but i said sure, of course. I mean what else could a good person say? That’s when I noticed he was holding his breath. I suggested he close his eyes, try to think about something relaxing and breathe with me. He did and we breathed together. I told him to concentrate on breathing out (I know from consulting my best friend who happens to be a therapist, the problem lies not in breathing in, the problem lies in not breathing out.). We breathed together…in… and out… in… and out…in…and out. Eventually, his breath calmed down and was in sync with mine. We kept breathing like that until, well, I finally had the nerve to look over at his face (before this point, I didn’t want to look directly at him and hold his hand and breathe with him. It all felt just way to intimate somehow) and that’s when I realized he had fallen asleep… holding my hand!

The really awkward thing was my sister was sitting several rows up. I kept wondering what she would think if she walked by and saw me holding a random guy’s hand, someone I met just twenty minutes ago. She’s too nice to say anything—plus I’m going through a divorce and while she has historically been exceptionally generous and patient with me, she has been particularly so lately, as I’ve begun to navigate the dating world. Would she think it was all prearranged on-line? I couldn’t help but imagine her look of total disbelief. At the very least, she’d give me a “WTF?” with her eyes. His grip was strong and I worried if I pried his hand loose to avoid all that embarrassment with my sister, I’d disturb him and he did look awfully peaceful. So, I just decided to enjoy it…because really, WTF?

So I closed my eyes too and pretended that I was on my way to Paris for the weekend holding hands with a new lover (instead of on my way to a memorial service in Detroit, holding hands with a stranger). When he woke up (what seemed like a really long time later), the turbulence was gone. He thanked me and smiled and we unpeeled our hands. The rest of the flight I felt a little cheated somehow…like that was it?

And that’s the story of the boyfriend I had for a short while on a flight from San Francisco to Detroit.

Dude Mine is Bigger. She Said So.

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It was late and pouring rain when the show was over.  It was the kind of rain that makes people, like me, who don’t like umbrellas, wish they had one. Unfortunately my car was parked several long blocks away. Unarmed I looked at my friends and said “You stay here, I’ll go get the car.” It sounds more valiant than it was because by then, I was way done with entertaining my date. As I saw it, my girlfriend was actually doing me a favor by keeping him company just to stay dry. So I made a run for it and that’s where the story begins…

It was dark and it seemed like I was alone with the tall buildings in downtown San Francisco. I figured nobody but me was dumb enough to be on the street with this kind of downpour. But then, as I rounded the corner in the not too far distance I could see two adorable guys walking under umbrellas (yes sometimes you can tell from behind if someone is adorable and their umbrellas added significantly to their charm—clearly these were two practical guys who knew how to plan ahead and they seemed like friends. note: I find men with friends who plan ahead adorable). How fortuitous!

Jogging toward them I had already decided –unless they really grossed me out and or were drunk– i was going to work my way under their shelter at least long enough to catch my breath. So when I reached them panting, drenched and thankful I don’t wear mascara, I said “can I walk with you for a minute?” The two of them smiled as if to say where the hell did she come from? and in unison they said “sure!”. Grateful, I squeezed right in under the first guy’s umbrella trying to be careful not to get him wet which was an impossibility given the circumstances.

As we walked along joking, it was like we were old pals who hadn’t seen each other in years. It seemed like the shared feeling between us was ”how’d we all get so lucky?” But right then at the height of pleasure that’s also precisely when it all came tumbling down because that’s when I noticed the size of the other guy’s umbrella. It was huge. You know the golf size? The kind that is completely absurd for anything, especially a city sidewalk. In this tsunami rain though I liked the looks of it. Truthfully I’d never been under one of those before and I wanted to try it out.

As cute as my new boyfriend was, it did seem as if we were maybe standing a little close for not knowing names. But I was worried about his feelings if I chose to leave him to be with his friend.  Was it right to change guys mid-block when the first had been so kind to me and agreed so readily to take me in? Would that make him feel bad?  Oh man this was tricky. Since there were several long city blocks to go yet, I had to make a decision fast.

I looked at him with concern and simply asked if he’d be offended if I moved over to be with his friend? He said “no worries.”…but I swear, I noticed a little frown as I moved over and I too felt kind of a twinge of sadness (or was it guilt? I’m not sure)…and I still can’t believe what I said next in hopes of making him feel better…I scrunched up brows with concern and said “It’s not personal. It’s just his is bigger”.

Almost while the words were rolling off my lips I knew it sounded wrong. Feeling the need to clarify I pointed up saying “I meant the umbrella” which of course made the whole thing worse. I mean really? You needed to add that you were talking about the umbrella?

Suddenly the rain was appealing. Without explaining anything to my new boyfriends, I bolted… hoping never to see them again. And as I ran away I could hear them laughing out loud and saying “Dude. She said mine is bigger!” and then “Yours so isn’t bigger and you know it!” then “Yes it is. She said so. ” I still can’t stop laughing about that night and meeting those two adorable guys under their umbrellas. We had so much fun for all of about three minutes.