Project Paradise

I Need a Vacation!

The winter in New York City was never-ending. For 6 months straight, I had to bundle up in scarves, puffy jackets, long johns and knit hats just to take on the brutal frigid weather. I needed a break. I think for the first time since moving to NYC I uttered the phrase, “I miss Florida.”

I expressed my feelings of missing the sun to my friends, family, and the person who works at the 24 hour gas station. But no one really cared.

One night in February, my friend Sebastian told me that he was planning a trip to Hawaii in the summer and that I should come. Having never been to the islands of Hawaii, I put down my chicken wing and said “I’m in!!”

Two weeks later, when the plans for Hawaii were becoming finalized, Sebastian informed me that it would cost a total of roughly $2,500.

“$2,500?” I exclaimed. “I could get Invisiline with that money! Why so expensive?”

He told me that between the cost of the flight, the hotel, and the different excursions they were booking every day, $2,500 would be the best estimate he could give me.

I checked my bank account that night, seeing if I could swing this trip. I couldn’t. Maybe if I didn’t eat, pay my rent, or if I cancelled my monthly donation to the Animal Humane Society, I could afford it, but I couldn’t do that to those poor animals. I called him that night and told him he would have to vacation without me.

He didn’t seem too upset.

About a month later, with the weather still freezing, I cried to him saying I needed to get out. I needed to go on vacation. I had not been on a real vacation in over three years. Sure, I go to Florida every so often to visit my parents, but I don’t consider driving my dad to his cardiologist appointments a vacation. I needed to get away and use my passport that has been collecting dust in my nightstand.

We got to talking of ideas – affordable ideas – and the two that we came up with was a weekend in Washington D.C. or a cruise to the Bahamas. Clearly, we all knew which one I preferred, but the weather in D.C. wasn’t going to be any warmer than it was in New York. So, with much debate, we finally agreed on a cruise.

I don’t want to brag, but I have been on many cruises. I’m from a small town just south of Cape Canaveral in Florida, so going on a cruise was as easy and affordable as going to Taco Bell for a fourthmeal. I used my experience and knowledge to help Sebastian pick a cruise that would be fun, exciting, and again, affordable.

“All I want is a picture standing in the ocean with the cruise ship behind me” he said. “That’s the only thing I want.”

I assured him that his wish would be possible, but then also explaining the other hundred things a cruise is good for. “There are so many shows, and there’s a casino on board, and the food. Let me tell you about the food. Rows and rows of free food, laid out buffet style at all hours of the night. You will never go hungry or thirsty. It’s amazing.”

“…But can I get my picture taken in front of the ship?”

I already was having second thoughts.

 

Let’s Book This, Damnit

The following week, we both started actively searching the interwebs for different cruise lines, destinations and deals. I have been on both Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise, and out of the two, I leaned more towards RC because it was nicer and cleaner. Oh, and it didn’t get stuck in the middle of the Atlantic for 2 weeks. Sebastian, on the other hand, was more into booking a gay cruise.

“Whhyyyyyy?” I exhaled, while chewing on my chicken wing (yes, I am aware that I eat a lot of chicken wings).

He wanted to, as he put it, “show off his body and meet a husband.” I, on the other hand, hadn’t been to the gym since 2011 and eat chicken wings bi-weekly, so I was not going on a cruise to show off my body. I wanted to go on a tourist cruise: One that would be filled with pale families from the UK and overweight families from the Midwest, and ugly families from Florida. I didn’t want to be in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by men in banana hammocks with 6-packs, hairless bodies, and judgments.

Luckily (for me) the gay cruise was the same price as the trip to Hawaii, so we decided to find something a little bit more in our (my) price range.

I scoured the internet, checking every deal and discount I could find. I found some amazing deals for Royal Caribbean leaving out of Cape Canaveral. I liked this option because I could go home and visit my parents for a few days and maybe (hopefully) scrounge some moolah from their retired pockets. Sebastian was fine with the RC cruise, but wanted to leave out of Fort Lauderdale, so he, too, could visit his family. We decided to compromise and leave out of Miami. For me, this wasn’t a compromise at all because I would be flying into Central Florida, visiting my parents for a day, then driving to Miami (a mere three hour trip), and picking him up along the way. But, as a foreshadowing for the trip, I learned to just say “Okay, sure, whatever you want.”

I went over to Sebastian’s house one Sunday night to watch the Academy Awards, and more importantly, to book our cruise! I had my credit card and passport in hand, ready to make my purchase. Like idiots, we went on the actual cruise line website to book. The final price wasn’t awful, but I knew with my internet savvy and Jew-like spending habits, I could find the same exact cruise for less money and a better room.

We decided to put a hold on booking that night so I could spend my next day at work researching. I called up my sister-in-law, a business travel agent down in South Florida, for help on where I should look. She recommended Cruise.com. I found a Superior Ocean View room for the cruise we wanted to go on for $300. “That’s an amazing deal!” I screamed in my office, to which no one except the mail man acknowledged. I grabbed my wallet, took out my credit card, and started to enter in my information. I texted Sebastian saying, “I found it! I found the cruise! Give me your CC number.”

I entered in all of the required information, did a quick proofread, and hit the Submit button. The next screen told me to wait patiently as my reservation was being completed. I didn’t like that I was being told what to do, but I obliged their request and sat at my desk, waiting patiently. Finally, after what seemed like 10 minutes – in reality, only 50 seconds – the next page loaded and said, “Unfortunately, we could not complete you request. A travel agent will be in contact with you. Thanks!!”

What the hell?! I was so confused as to what went wrong and why this booking process was becoming an actual process. A little side note about me (which will be applied to the rest of this story) is that I am an extremely anxious person. I do not like obstacles or change or hindrances, so when something doesn’t go the exact way I plan, I freak out. This applies to almost all everyday situations. While waiting in line at Starbucks, I’ll repeat my order in my head so when it is my turn, I will be prompt and ready, but mostly, I get so anxious that when I go to order, it comes out sounding like “grandy roast pike milk on the side.”

Needless to say, I was extremely annoyed that the cruise was not booked on the spot. But, a half hour later, I received a phone call from a travel agent from Cruise.com and she told me that she could get me the same room and the same deal, all I needed to do was give her permission to authorize our credit cards. I told her yes and she said she would send me an email invoice in just a few minutes.

As promised, a few minutes later I had an email confirmation of the trip, itinerary, and receipt. There was just thing wrong: she ended up charging my card twice and didn’t charge Sebastian. I realized this wasn’t the end of the world, I could just ask him to write me a check later on in the week. Upon reviewing the invoice for a third time, I noticed one more discrepancy: yes, my credit card was presumably charged twice, but it seemed Debbie (this is what I will refer to her as because of legal reasons…and that I just cannot remember her name) entered in my credit card number once correctly, and incorrectly the second time. I hurriedly checked my bank account and saw that I was only charged once for the trip.

Now, for someone who is anxious, a control freak, has a slight case of OCD, and always plans for the worst, I called up Deb to inform her of her error and to get it rectified as soon as possible. She reviewed the invoice and realized the expiration date on the second charge was wrong. “Oops” was all she replied.

Oops?! Who the hell was I working with? I tried to remain calm and asked her to fix it, but she told me that there was nothing she could do until RC and my bank realized the error. I called up my sister, frantically, and explained the situation. I begged and pleaded with her to call on my behalf and speak to a supervisor. I was not going to go to bed unsure if my vacation was booked or not.

She called me back after she hung up with Cruise.com and said “All you can do is wait patiently.”

If one more person told me to wait patiently, I was going to scream. But, that’s all I could do. That night at dinner, I explained the situation to Sebastian, waiting for a reaction close to my own, but it never came. He just shrugged his shoulders. Why wasn’t he getting as angry as I was? Why didn’t he care? Why wasn’t he outraged? And where was my Sprite?

Well, I guess he didn’t have a reaction because it wasn’t really that big of a deal. He just said that everything will work out and that I should take a few more Xanax. So I did.

He was right. Everything did work out. A week later, everything was fixed and the entirety of the cruise was paid for (on my debit card) and we were ready to start planning our trip. I went back over to Sebastian’s house to fill out the necessary forms and read over all the paperwork we needed. This was it. It was happening and I was so excited. Our cruise was leaving the Port of Miami in just 3 weeks and I had so much to do: shopping, lose weight, get a base tan and trim my body hair. There was nothing else to do but wait. Patiently.

 

Prepping for Paradise

Once the reservation was booked and my plane ticket was confirmed, I knew there was no turning back. In just a few weeks, I would have my toes in the sand on some island while holding a coconut. Since I didn’t have much time, I knew I needed to make some changes to my lifestyle. Being on a beach meant having to be shirtless, and having to be shirtless meant having to be shirtless. I needed to workout.

Being a gym member that never actually went, I decided it was time I unpacked the running shoes from their box, put on my elastic-waisted pants, and trudged in two feet of snow to the gym. Once inside, I was so exhausted from my walk there that I sat down on the bench in the locker room for a bit. A half hour later, I decided to go upstairs where they kept the TV’s and do some time on the elliptical.

The Ellen Show had just begun, so I found a machine with an excellent view of the television and started to climb. Not even at the first commercial break, I was already dying. I looked to the woman next to me and saw she had been on her machine for 45 minutes, with no signs of stopping. “How the hell do you keep going?” I asked her. She mumbled something about dedication and perseverance, but I was in no mood to decode words with more than two syllables. I ended up staying on the machine for another ten minutes before moving on to the treadmill.

I actually enjoy the treadmill because running clears my head. It also makes me pant uncontrollably. Again, the most I could endure of this ‘dread-mill’ was ten minutes, so I went downstairs and hit the showers.

I told Sebastian about my workout the next night at the Cheesecake Factory. “How long do you think I will need to exercise in order to look like you?” I inquired while shoveling a piece of Adams Fudge Ripple cheesecake into my mouth.

Sebastian has an incredible body; complete with broad shoulders and enormous arms, ones that make me curious how he fits into t-shirts. He told me that he had been working out five times a week for over six years and that for me to even look like I made a dent of a difference, I would have to dedicate at least one hour, four times a week for close to a year. “So, I wont have a six pack by the time of the trip?” I asked. He just shook his head no and said, “Definitely not.” So I ordered my third piece of cheesecake and realized I would just have to embrace my curves – because they weren’t going anywhere.

Aside from losing a few pounds, I needed to gain a few new pieces to my wardrobe. The next weekend, we went to this huge mall in New Jersey to shop for cute cruise wear. While Sebastian was browsing the racks of speedos and tank tops, I was over in the clearance section looking for a colorful hoodie. Knowing I was in desperate need for a new bathing suit, I found a really cute Nautica one with a navy blue gingham print. I had to have it. I swiftly went through the seven or so they had out on the floor and realized they didn’t have a small (yes, I can still squeeze into a small, thank you very much). “Miss! Miss!” I screamed to the sales associate folding polo shirts a few yards away. “Do you have this in a small in the back?”

When she told me that everything that they had was on the floor, a lie I assumed, I asked if she could check all of the other Macy stores within a 100 mile radius for my size. “There’s one in Paramus and two in Hackensack” she informed me. I thanked her for her time and walked back over to the winter wear.

Before we left for the free samples at the food court, I realized in that moment that I needed a backpack. I had never really had a backpack and thought the size and portability of one would be essential while traveling the Bahamian Islands. In the luggage section, I looked around for a nice clean Jansport backpack, but no luck. This shorter African-American gentleman swagged over to me and asked if I needed any help. “Yes, I am looking for a backpack. Do you have any here? I don’t see them.”

“Backpacks are over here. Follow me sir” he said. So I followed him. The backpacks he showed me were actual backpacks – ones that you would use…backpacking. The one I needed was a little bit smaller than these. When I expressed to him my preference, he gave me a condescending look and said, “Well, the only other ones we have are a little out of your price range. But I am sure Wal-Mart has what you are looking for.”

Oh. Did this salesman just tell me, to my face, that I was poor? Tempted to say, “Um, I’m actually going on a Royal Caribbean cruise, so…” but that would have just proved his point, so I just hung my head in shame and walked out. I was pretty upset about this exchange, but when I saw the neon lights of a Nathan’s, my day seemed to turn around. I may not have gotten my cute bathing suit, backpack, or awesome beach body, but I sure as hell got a hotdog.

 

Florida, Here I Come!

It was finally time for my vacation to begin. With the weather still not warming up in New York, I was ready to get out of there and experience this illusion referred to as “the sun.”

My flight left out of LaGuardia Airport on Wednesday afternoon and had a layover in Atlanta. While waiting to board the first round of flights, the man on the intercom informed us that this was going to be a “completely full flight” and they were offering “complementary checked baggage” and that if not enough people offered to participate, they would be checking everyone’s bag toward the end of the line. I have never seen so many grown adults fight to get into a single file line since I worked at Baskin Robbins.

Every single time I fly Detla, I have this same issue. I used to fly with a big suitcase, so I would always check it, but I spent more time waiting at the baggage claim carousel than I did on my actual vacation, so from now on I pack lightly and only bring a medium sized duffle bag.

Did I want to bring my extra-large suitcase for a 4 day vacation? Absolutely. I hate having to go through my exuberant collection of clothes and choose outfits I think I may want to wear. I like bringing at least 11 pairs of shoes and numerous outfit changes just in case, because you never know when you will win free tickets to the ballet or be invited to a white party on a yacht. But usually it’s because I get Cheetos dust on 70% of my clothes.

Once this announcement was made, everyone in the airline gate hustled and rushed to get in line to make sure their carry-on luggage made it onto the plane. Me, being the anxious type that I am, started having a mini panic attack, thinking of scenarios in my head I could use to beg and plead with the flight attendant to not take my precious duffle bag away. “But I am going to a funeral tonight and my suit is in this bag. I can’t risk it being lost. I’ve already lost my grandmother. Don’t make me lose my bag, too.”

Luckily, I was not chosen to check my bag. The guy in front of me, however, was. And he didn’t like it one bit. He was one of those Long Island types – where he felt better and more privileged than anyone else on the plane. Naturally, instead of just exhaling and turning over his Samsonite roller bag to the flight crew, he threw a temper tantrum that got so out of hand, 2 security members had to come by and assess the situation. Well, at the time I thought they were security guards, but as it turned out they were just two cashiers from Au Bon Pan.

He ended up holding the line up for a good 15 minutes, so he was not on anyone’s favorite list. Especially mine, because he was directly in front of me and kept turning back, looking at me and saying “You’re bag is bigger than mine. This is ridiculous. I’m being picked on because I am a white male.” I just shrugged my shoulders and hoped he would get the point I didn’t want to engage in conversation.

Finally, when I got to my assigned row, I saw that the poor picked on white male was sitting directly in front of me. “Oh brother” I sighed. He sat there, like a hawk, watching every single person try to fit their oversized carry on into the overhead bin. It was like he was a commentator on Sports Center. “That one will never fit,” “Ha! Good luck pal!” “What are those, golf clubs? Not on my watch!” He was relentless. I kept sighing loudly, to hopefully attract someone who thought this guy was as obnoxious as I did. But no one looked my way.

I put in my earphones, blasted some Taylor Swift, and tried desperately to relax. An hour after take off, the flight attendants came by with the drink cart. When they approached the guy in front of me, he said in true Long Island fashion, “I deserve a free drink for everything I’ve been through. You know, I’m a frequent flyer and I am treated like garbage.” The flight attendant, not wanting a scene, kindly asked what he would like to drink. “Just a coke please” he responded. “But I want the whole can. None of this half-can bullshit.” She placed the can of coke on his tray table and moved on. When it was my turn, I said to her, “I think I deserve a free drink because I’ve had to listen to him complain for the entire flight.” She smiled politely, but said no. Trying to watch my figure before the cruise, I ordered seltzer water because I heard the bubbles help you lose weight.

Once we landed in Atlanta, I had exactly eleven minutes to make it from one end of the airport to the other in order to make my connecting flight. Sweating and out of breath, I made it on and found my seat, hoping to get a quick powernap in before I saw my family. No such luck. The lady to the left of me was a talker, and kept waking me up in my REM state to ask, “What do you think that cloud looks like?” or “Ever read anything by Tom Clancy?”

Finally, when the wheels touched the tarmac of the Melbourne “International” Airport, I had the biggest smile on my face. I was actually here – on vacation. I walked out of those revolving doors and was suddenly welcomed by the warm weather, the hot sun, and my mother snapping a picture of me with a Polaroid camera.

 

Day 1 of the Cruise: Welcome to Miami

As I mentioned, our cruise, The Majesty of the Seas, was leaving out of the Port of Miami. Sebastian flew down to Fort Lauderdale the day earlier to spend time with his family, so I drove down to his grandmother’s house to pick him up on the way to the boat early Friday morning.

The boarding time was from 11am to 3pm and I was a nervous wreck that we were going to miss it. I left my parents’ house at 9am, drove like a mad man down to South Florida and picked him up fifteen minutes after twelve. He got in the car, closed the door, and I said, “This is it. No turning back now.”

It was a little joke, because the weeks before the trip, Sebastian and I were getting into little squabbles, if you will, leaving both of us scared, nervous and worried to spend 72 hours together with no possible way to escape. #besties

Three minutes after driving toward Miami, he mentioned that he was hungry. “Can we please stop at a Panera?” he asked. I shook my head furiously, no. “We are going to be late” I told him. “What if we get stuck in traffic and miss the boat? Then I will be out all that money and I would have to return my fedora, because wearing a fedora anywhere but a cruise ship is lame and passé.”

Again, here comes the anxiety monster. Already fifteen minutes into the trip and him and I are arguing on whether there was enough time for him to get a Chicken Frontega sandwich and cup of broccoli cheddar soup. But, I took a deep breath and repeated my mantra: Okay, sure, whatever you want.

Again, he was right. We ended up getting to the ship at 2:00pm with plenty of time to check-in, go through security, and board the ship. Having this be Sebastian’s first cruise experience (and first James vacation experience) he decided to pop two of his anxiety pills, making him appear more like Anna Nicole Smith than as an excited traveler.

Our first stop on board was to drop off our bags at our stateroom. We were lucky enough to be on the ninth deck in a Superior Ocean View room. He liked this deck because nine is his lucky number. I liked this deck because it was one below the Johnny Rockets.

We entered our room and the first thing we noticed was the bed. Yes, singular. When we made the reservation, we checked the box “2 single beds”, but we were left with just one queen bed and two single men.  “Which side do you want?” I asked, while giving him the closest thing I have to bedroom eyes.

After he made a disgusted face, I opened the blinds and peered out the window to check out the “superior ocean view” but all I could see were life boats, pipes, and a hint of the sky. When I turned around from the window, there was a Macy’s box lying on the bed. “What is that?” I asked him.

“Just a little something for the trip,” he responded. Thinking it was anxiety medication, I opened the box to see the Nautica navy blue gingham bathing suit I so desperately wanted in a size small. I was in such a state of shock and appreciation; I was at a loss for words – for maybe the first time in my life. I gave him a big bear hug and thanked him profusely, thinking what in the hell could I pull out of my suitcase as a gift for him.

We changed into our pool deck attire and headed upstairs to check out what was happening on the Lido Deck. Upon exiting the doors, I turned to the left and saw the love of my life. We stared at each other for a few minutes before I gained enough courage to go over and say hi. Eventually I did, and we hit it off and spent the remainder of the cruise together. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am referring to the soft serve ice cream machine. “Want to just hang out here?” I asked.

We ended up walking around the pool, trying to find a good spot to set our stuff down and relax. The DJ, referred to as DJ Good News, was blasting The Macarena, The Cupid Shuffle, and Gangnam Style on repeat. We ended up sitting next to a very nice couple from Naples who informed us of the all-you-can-drink package deal I must have overlooked when booking this vacation.

Susie, the wife of the couple, told us in a constant slur that for just 55$ a day, you could drink all the beer, wine and liquor you could hold. Her and her husband, Dave, had only been on the boat for an hour and had already drunk as much as I planned to the entire weekend. But, seeing how much fun they were having and how little they cared, I deemed to get on that level of inebriation.

A Filipino gentleman came by and asked if we wanted anything to drink, to which I replied, “2 Bahama Mamas, please.” When in Rome, right? By the time we finished our second round, we were instructed to head to our muster station for the life boat safety drill. I have always secretly loved this part of the cruise because I find it so entertaining to watch drunken idiots put on their life vests and have to stand in a single file line for thirty minutes while trying to listen to all the ways one may die on the upcoming adventure.

This time, though, we did not need to wear our life vests, so we just headed straight to our muster station from the pool and stood there, waiting to hear what to do in case of an emergency. Having had only two drinks, I wasn’t too buzzed, but Sebastian on the other hand, looked like a high school junior leaving her first ever prom party. He got yelled at numerous times for playing on his cell phone and sitting down and throwing up into his backpack.

Luckily for me, we were placed right next to a group of black girls who responded to everything our muster guide told us with an “Mmmmmhmmm,” “Heard dat right there,” and “I better not get my weave wet.” It made this usually ordinary and boring ritual quite fun and entertaining. And I, too, did not want to get my weave wet.

When the drill was finally over, we were told to head to the pool deck for the “Sail Away Party.” This is always my favorite part of a cruise because you get to stand by the railings, drink in hand, and wave to the people on the shore not middle-class enough to sail on a Royal Caribbean cruise. The ships horn blew three times and we were off. Everyone started waving and cheering while DJ Good News blasted Will Smith’s iconic song from 1998, “Miami.”  It wasn’t until the chorus that I realized how ill-timed this song was being played. This should have been played on a constant repeat while everyone was boarding the ship…not while it was pulling away from harbor. The line, “Welcome to Miami, Bienvenido a Miami” is essentially telling the world (or The Majesty of the Seas) “Welcome to Miami!” However, the more the song played, the further we were getting from the actual city of Miami. I brought this up to Susie and Dave, to which they replied, “H-h-h-h-h-e-e-y-y-y-y! Let’s get anuffferr drankkk!”

Fifteen minutes and 100 selfies later, we finally decided to take this time to walk around the ship and get familiar with all the amenities available. We walked over to the back of the ship which housed the basketball court, rock climbing wall, and full gym. “I don’t like this part of the ship” I stated while a basketball hit me on the head. “Let’s find the buffet.”

We got in the elevator and saw a button for the 14th floor. “Should I push it?” Sebastian asked me in a dull whisper. “Not if you want 5 random people in the world to die” I responded. He pushed it anyway.

The elevator doors opened to a circular lounge at the topmost point of the ship. It seemed pretty empty, with the exception of a few stragglers wandering around. “This is beautiful” Sebastian said while jumping over a velvet rope. Not to be that boring kid from Stand by Me, I too jumped the velvet rope to see what was going on, and it turned out to be nothing – just five or six couples sitting down, drinking wine and eating appetizers. While passing one of the couples, I looked down at their plates and noticed there were chicken wings, spring rolls, and mozzarella sticks. That’s right, mozzarella sticks.

Now, if anyone knows me, you know my true feelings on this delicious fried cheese finger food. It was at that moment when I decided I had to have one. We found a waiter walking by, so we stopped him. His name was Wayne and he was from Nigeria. That’s not important to the story, but I just feel that you, the reader, should know how culturally diverse this ship was.

We stopped him and asked where the mozzarella sticks were. He paused and then responded inquiringly, “Are those the little cheese things?” Oh, Wayne, so naïve. Is Nigeria that bad of a country where they don’t offer the simplest of foods?

(I just Googled Nigeria and apparently, no: They do not have a T.G.I. Fridays or a Chili’s. But they do have Malaria, so there’s that).

We told Wayne that yes, we wanted the little cheese things and asked where we could find them. I don’t know why, but Sebastian and I were acting like if we did not ingest a mozzarella stick at that very moment, we would die.

Wayne, seeing our hunger and frustration, informed us that the people sitting up here enjoying appetizers and drinks were part of the Royal Caribbean Diamond Club. “How do we get to be in the Diamond Club?” we both asked simultaneously, refusing to break eye contact with Wayne.

“You have to be a valued customer to the cruise line – someone who cruises often and spends the money to stay in one of our suites. Can I see your Sail Pass Card?” he asked. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my card and handed it over to Wayne. He looked at it and chuckled. “Oh, now I see. Yeah. You are not in the Diamond Club” and then continued to laugh more.

Feeling like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I hung my head in embarrassment while placing my Sail Pass back into my wallet. “I guess we will go back to our cabin in steerage and feast on a rat running by.”

He could see how upset we were (yes, we were literally this upset over not getting mozzarella sticks) so he told us to wait here and he would see what he could do. Sebastian and I found a cute little spot by the window and waited – praying – for his return with good news. Sebastian started laughing, “These people cruise every year and stay in suites, and their big reward is a plate of mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers? Where’s the caviar? Where’s the champagne?” I shrugged my shoulders in agreement.

Minutes later, we saw Wayne round the corner holding a small plastic plate with an assortment of free appetizers for us. He put the plate down on the table and said “I hope one of these is that cheese thing you wanted.”

We started digging in right away. “You did good, Wayne. You did good,” I said with my mouth half-full of mozzarella. When Wayne walked away, I looked at Sebastian and asked, “Shit, should we tip him?” Me being the stingy one, I was praying he would say, “Nah, forget it. It’s just a mozzarella stick.” But he didn’t. He said that we definitely needed to tip him, but he conveniently forgot his wallet in the room. I pulled out my wallet again and saw I only had 20$’s (that’s right, bitch) and told him I was not giving him a 20 dollar bill, nor was I going to ask for change back.

He told me to run to the room and grab a few singles and come back. I quickly shoved two more bites into my mouth and took one for the road. I returned to find the plastic plate sitting in front of Sebastian completely empty. “Hungry?” I barked.

“Not anymore” he replied. “I can’t find Wayne anywhere. Did you get the money?”

“Yeah, I only could find a silver dollar. Let’s give this to him so we can get out of here. These Diamond Club members are looking at us funny.”

We stood there, awkwardly by the elevator for ten minutes, hoping to spot Wayne and give him a tip, but apparently he was on his break, so we just left. We told ourselves we would come back later that night after dinner and give it to him. We never did.

Sebastian and I, perfectly posed, before getting on the ship.

Sebastian and I, perfectly posed, before getting on the ship.

After another hour of walking around the ship and looking at our picture from when we boarded,  we ran back to the room to shower and change for dinner. We had the late seating for the dining room, which I always prefer because you are sat with young, cool, and hip people and there are no children around. The other thing about cruises is that you are assigned to a group dining table of hopefully people around your age, height, or sexuality.

We walked up to our table, table 129, and we were the first ones to arrive. The table held 10 seats, so we had a 1 in 8 chance of finding someone funny, interesting, or more importantly, attractive. We sat there, perusing the dinner menu and waiting for the other guests to arrive for about ten minutes. “Is it going to be just us?” I thought. “I need a full table of new ears, dying to hear funny stories about living in New York City. This was my time to shine!”

Luckily for me, two couples approached our table and sat down. We introduced ourselves, found out that they were all from Miami and just booked a cruise for a nice weekend away. After a few minutes of small talk, mostly consisting of the weather and how the soft serve machine was out of chocolate, the foursome turned their attention to each other, and Sebastian and I were left alone to sit in silence.

Not that him and I had nothing to talk about – we did. We always will find something to humor us or fight about, but since we were on vacation and not an Outback Steakhouse, I figured it would be best to indulge in some adult conversation that didn’t deal with The Real Housewives of Atlanta or different hair restoration prescriptions.

A few minutes later, another couple joined our table and sat down to my left. They were an older couple, maybe late forties or early fifties. Once they were settled, I leaned in and introduced myself. “Hi, how are you? I’m James. This is Sebastian.” They looked at me blankly for a few seconds, turned to each other and shrugged, and then leaned in and said, “No hable Ingles.”

Sebastian, being Chilean born and a native Spanish speaker, greeted them in Spanish and made some small talk to make them feel comfortable. I just sat there, sipping my tap water, while the three of them had a conversation over me. I looked at the foursome, hoping one of them would catch my eye and want to hear about the time I met Tori Spelling, but they were too engrossed with discussing which Miami deli has the best roast beef to notice.

Me and Tori Spelling at some outdoor cafe in 2001.

Me and Tori Spelling at some outdoor cafe in 2001.

Prasad, our waiter for the weekend, came by to introduce himself and take our dinner order. I had about two or three things I was in limbo over, while Sebastian had zero. Sebastian is a very picky eater, and when I say “picky” I don’t mean he prefers heirloom tomatoes or dolphin-safe tuna. I mean he eats hamburgers, chicken tenders, and honey Teddy Grahams. And that’s it. I took him to the Olive Garden once and he ordered a hot tea. So, clearly when there is a fixed menu, he is in trouble. When Prasad came around, Sebastian had no idea what to order. He would go down the list and ask, “What’s that?” to which Prasad would answer, “Lamb chops, sir.”

Fortunately, they had a menu for picky eaters (also known as the children’s menu) and on it was beef sliders and pasta with butter. Trying to “steer clear of carbs,” he chose the sliders while I had the N.Y. strip steak.

After the appetizers were served, I looked at the two empty seats at the other end of the table and concluded that the other two people were not coming. What if they walked in, saw our table and decided they would rather eat at the pizza bar than with us losers? See – I always plan for the worst.

Still sitting in between the long lost cousins of Poncho Villa, I quietly asked Sebastian to trade seats with me. If he was going to ignore me and talk in a different language, I could at least stay out of it and enjoy my wine. I blamed it being on left handed, but they just nodded, smiled and said, “Si, si.” They didn’t know. I am sure Sebastian said in his secret tongue, “He is a horrible person and a racist and he was raised to never share a dinner table with South Americans.” Even so, I was glad to be out of that situation.

Dinner was as good as a meal can be that was prepared ahead of time for 3,000 people, and we all drank coffee and awaited the dessert of the evening. While sitting there, praying it was Crème Brule, we heard a very loud voice coming from the table next to us, table 127. The woman sitting there had just ordered her eleventh umbrella drink and was exclaiming to her table of just how good it was. “It tastes like Hi-C. Just like Hi-C. Remember Hi-C? It tastes just like it. Here, taste” she handed her glass to the guy she was with. “Just like Hi-C, right? So good.”

This caused Sebastian and I to go into what I call “the church giggles,” meaning laughing when it is not entirely inappropriate. We could not believe how obnoxious this girl was about her drink, practically shouting that it tasted like some juice box. Since our attention was already on table 127, we started glaring at the other three members seated with her. One was her boyfriend, a gaunt man coming in at around 335 pounds and another couple. The other man seemed engaged with the table, while the girl, well, didn’t. She was facing us and we saw absolutely no life behind her eyes. It was like she wasn’t even a person. I made a comment to Sebastian in which the rest of the table heard me and all of their attention now turned to that table.

“Do you think she is alright?” one girl asked aloud.

“I think she has had one too many Piña Coladas” another chimed in.

I had seen this look before twice. One was when my sister gave birth and was on a lot of pain medication and the other was Amanda Bynes’ mug shot. This was not good. Our desserts arrived – no, it was not Crème Brule – and we all sat there, watching this girl so intently, our spoons were missing our mouths by a few inches. Finally, the other three members of 127 realized their friend was comatose, so they chugged their fruit-punch flavored drinks and got up to leave. Clearly, this girl was not going to just stand up and walk away, so the two guys had to pick her up on each side and practically drag her out of the Starlight Dining Room.

“What do you think she is on?” Sebastian asked me with chocolate sauce dripping off of his chin. “I don’t know,” I responded, “but she just got Weekend-at-Bernie’d out of here.” The foursome heard this and started laughing, saying that is exactly what happened. So, for the remainder of the cruise, the poor girl from table 127 would now be referred to as “Bernie.”

Once the plates were cleared and the pleasantries were exchanged, Sebastian and I headed to the casino to try our luck. I am not a gambler, but I am a smoker and a drinker, so I agreed to escort him. If I do gamble, I put a dollar bill into the penny slots and let my luck carry me for a few minutes – or until my cigarette has burnt out. Sebastian, on the other hand, saw the movie “Rainman” one too many times and wanted to give Blackjack a try.

“You’re going to sit at a table and play Blackjack? Do you even know how to play?” I asked him, like an overprotective mother. “What if the other players aren’t nice to you?”

I agreed to play a few hands with him, because what the hell, I’m on vacation. The first table we approached was empty, so we sat down. We got up three seconds later when we were told it was a $25 buy in. Adios, buddy! A table on the other side of the casino had a just one couple playing, so we hurriedly walked over, saw it was only a $10 buy in, and sat down. Upon taking our seats, I heard the woman of the couple exhale and say “Ah, shit” to her husband.

I looked up at her in horror. “Excuse me?” I blurted out. She then gave a weak smile and asked, “You guys any good?” One, why the hell does she care? And two, I was drunk. Sebastian told her that he had played before but was far from being an expert. She then relaxed a bit, introduced herself as Rebecca, said she was an avid Blackjack player and she would coach us on how to play. Not being able to add to 21 on a good day, I knew I was out of my element, so I just bought in the minimum, hit when I should have stayed and stayed when I clearly should have hit. I was like Austin Powers, but worse. I called over a waitress, ordered another vodka tonic, and sat there while Rebecca gave Sebastian all kinds of pointers he would soon forget: “Split!” “Double Down” “Backdoor Kenny!”

I asked Rebecca why her husband was playing and she wasn’t, to which she replied, “Oh, I lost all of my money already.” Sebastian was taking Blackjack pointers from someone who lost all of her money at Blackjack. That’s like when I took dating advice from my aunt who has been divorced four times.

We ended up staying at the table for thirty minutes, where Sebastian doubled his money and I broke even. By this time it was after midnight and I was exhausted. “We have a big day of doing nothing tomorrow,” I reminded him. We headed back to the room, put on our PJ’s, and went to bed.

“Hey, Sebastian,” I whispered.

“What?” he growled at me, half asleep.

“Do you think the soft serve machine is open 24 hours?”

 

Day 2 of the Cruise: Coco Loco

The next morning, I woke up around 8am while Sebastian asked to sleep in a little more. I took this time to go upstairs, grab a cup of coffee and ponder about my life. Instead, I just went to the omelet bar.

Today we were docked in the middle of the ocean with the Royal Caribbean private island, Coco Cay, in the near distance. Being on a RC cruise before, I was all too familiar with Coco Cay, so I knew what to expect. Me not being much of a ‘beach person,’ I was in no rush to get off the boat, but Sebastian was all too excited to see what this private island was all about. “This is the day where I get my picture in front of the boat!” he screamed like a six year old who just met the Easter Bunny.

“Yes, it is!” I replied. “You can take all the pictures you want in front of the ship!” And he did; 47 pictures on three different cameras to be exact.

Sebastian finally getting his picture in front of the ship.

Sebastian finally getting his picture in front of the ship.

I threw on my bathing suit, baseball hat, and by unpopular demand, a tank top. Sebastian brought a regular bathing suit, but also a tight black European-style bathing suit he refers to as his “squares.”

“Please don’t wear those” I pleaded. “Leave something to the imagination.” We compromised that he would wear them underneath his regular bathing suit, but that if he saw just one person wearing any form of a Speedo, he was stripping down.

We got on the second tender boat leaving for the island, so when we arrived, Coco Cay was desolate and bleak. The good thing about being one of the first people on the island was that we got dibs on a beach chair. Ten minutes after setting our things down and lathering on SPF 30, an overweight European father walked by us wearing a bright red Speedo. “Finally!” Sebastian exclaimed while slipping off his board shorts.

After the fourth tender boat reached the island, we could begin noticing how crowded it was getting. We decided to pack up our things and move to the other side where it would be less congested and not too many people would be staring at my pear-shaped torso. The other side of the island was immaculate. We walked up to the water and Sebastian said in disbelief, “Wow, it’s all so blue.” Thinking he was talking about my eyes, I graciously thanked him.

We found a set of beach chairs, resettled and reapplied our sunscreen. Having little to no hair on the top of my head, I lathered my scalp up pretty generously, not bothering to rub it in all the way. Finally, it was time to relax. I closed my eyes and tried to take a nap on the pristine beach when I suddenly heard a loud man screaming, “Coco Loco! Get yo Coco Loco here! Drink of de Islands!” I picked up my head and saw a Bahamian gentleman wearing khaki pants and a bright flowered shirt holding a huge tray of drinks like we were at a Mets game. “Coco Loco!” he continued to scream.

I turned to Sebastian who was lying on his stomach and facing away from me. “How the hell am I going to relax with him screaming all day?” He didn’t respond, so I poked him until he turned over.

“What? I was sleeping!” he snarled. “What do you want?”

“I was just saying, how am I going to rest with this guy yelling ‘Coco Loco’ all day?”

“And I’m wondering how I am going to rest with you poking me all day. Go take a walk.”

So I did. I am not one to sit at a beach and relax because I have way too much ADD and things running through my mind. I stood up, put my tank top back on and walked around the rest of the island with my feet in the surf. On my expedition, there were three things I saw that made me stop in my tracks: a Corona truck, two people parasailing, and Bernie. That’s right – I spotted Bernie. And she looked good! She was walking around without the help of her two male friends, which was a very good sign for it being almost one in the afternoon. I wish I had my camera with me, because when I would later tell Sebastian of my findings, he would never believe me.

When I returned to camp, which is what I started calling our part of the island (I used to be a big Survivor fan), I picked up Sebastian to head to the all-you-can-eat buffet lunch. The menu consisted of your typical barbeque items: cheeseburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, macaroni and cheese and spare ribs. I grabbed a healthy portion of each and found a spot in the shade. For entertainment, they had a hoola-hoop contest going on with only three girls under the age of 9 participating. “Go join!” I egged on Sebastian. I remember one night back home in a Wal-Mart, Sebastian found the aisle with hoola-hoops and showed me his routine from his Color Guard days. I feigned enthusiasm.

He decided ultimately that he would just be a spectator, stating that it’s not good to hoola-hoop thirty minutes after eating. On the walk back to camp, our stomachs were full and our bodies were sweaty. We passed a little tiki hut with a sign that read “Excursions.” The list of available amenities included jet-skiing, kayaking and paddle boats. I remember days from my youth when I never had so much fun than the times I was paddle boating around the river. “Can we please do that? Please? Please?” I begged.

We walked up to the two guys in charge and requested a paddle boat, to which they replied, “Not in service today mon. Too windy.” I was distraught. I had gotten so excited in the past sixteen seconds that being told “no” made me feel like when my mom wouldn’t let me watch TV after school. Sebastian went down the list and suggested jet skiing. “Noooo way.” I told him. “I had a very bad experience with a jet ski in a past life.”

Finally, we decided on renting a kayak. When asked if I had ever been on a kayak, I told him yes, which was the truth! There was a stationary one set up in Tennessee that my mom had me get in for a photo op. But had I ever rowed a kayak? Of course not. But that’s not what he asked.

We put on our life vests, which were entirely last season, and dragged our kayak to the shore. “Front or back?” he asked me. I chose the back so I could get away with doing little-to-no work. The first ten minutes we rowed and rowed and made it to the middle of the ocean. There was a deserted island about half a mile in front of us that was our goal to reach. “Why can’t we just float for a while?” I suggested.

Sebastian is a very athletic and competitive person (especially when he plays Scattegories), but I had never seen him so domineering. In the ten minutes we were in the kayak, he was all of a sudden a professional rower. “Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Left. LEFT” he would howl at me from the front. “I DON’T FEEL YOU ROWING!”

I was too busy taking pictures of the scenery and working on my tan. Plus, reaching the other island just to say we did it was not of any interest to me. Finally, our hour was up and we needed to head back to shore. Unfortunately, the wind was not on our side this trip and took excessive amounts of water treading just to move an inch. “We are going to be stranded out here forever and die and I’ve never even had a cronut!” I bawled.

In the kayak - before the fight.

In the kayak – before the fight.

When we finally returned to land, I embraced the two men at the tiki hut with unwelcomed hugs and stories of my adventure. Exhausted from all the rowing Sebastian had to do, we went back to our chairs and took a nap in the sun. Being tired myself, I forgot to reapply the sunscreen before my siesta and woke up thirty minutes later with the back of my calves bright red and burning, being literally, the only place on my body with any color. Perfect, I thought. When Sebastian woke up, it seemed he had missed a few spots as well. Apparently, when I rubbed the lotion onto his back, I did an awful job and made streaks, leaving his back to look like a Where’s Waldo sweater.

Around four in the afternoon, we had had enough sun and sand, so we boarded the next tender boat to head back. We were both in desperate need of a shower, a change of clothes, and an ice cream cone.

While Sebastian was in the 2×2 square foot closet masqueraded as a shower, I went up to the pool deck to see what DJ Good News was spinning. Hoping for some music native to the Islands, I was discouraged to hear Gangnam Style, yet again, but sat down at one of the chairs and watched the belly-flop competition.

After watching middle-aged men jump in a pool for thirty minutes, I headed back to the room to change for dinner. Tonight’s dress suggestion was formal, meaning there would be people dressed in suits and gowns. The nicest thing Sebastian and I brought were jeans, so we were unsure if we would even be allowed in the dining room. Having Johnny Rockets to fall back on, I wasn’t too upset about our chances, but we headed to the dining room to see. I told him that we should enter the dining room about fifteen minutes late, that way we could sneak in our jeans and t-shirts and not be spotted by the classy diners, or even worse, the captain.

To kill time, we went back to the photo area and looked at the pictures taken the night before. Upon looking for our own photo, we were both more interested in finding Bernie’s picture, to see just what kind of shape Marcello, the photographer, caught on film. To our disbelief and shock, Bernie’s photo was actually really good! She looked like a less pretty version of Tiffany Theissan, after she dropped the Amber from her name.

We made it to the dining room and ran from the entrance to our seats, hoping no one would comment on how casual and informal we appeared. Luckily, no one else at table 129 was dressed for the affair, so we blended. There were two newcomers to the table, so I went over to say hi and find out where the hell they were the night before. “We went to the pizza bar,” one of the girls responded. I knew it, I thought to myself.

They were Southern Bells from North Carolina named Brittany and Becky. These weren’t their real names, but this is what I called them for the remainder of the vacation. We ordered our dinner and sat back enjoying the bread basket while sharing stories from our day at the island. One of the girls from the foursome said, “I have news!” We all leaned in, dying to hear what she had to tell us. “I saw Bernie at the beach today. And she was walking on her own!”

“I TOLD YOU!” I shouted at Sebastian. “I saw her today, too. Just strolling through the sand, like a normal person!”

Everyone at the table started chuckling and the man from the Hispanic couple got Sebastian’s attention to tell him something. When he was done, Seb started hysterically laughing and translated what he said to the entire table. “They went to the photo gallery before dinner to see her picture and were surprised at how normal and alert she looked.” We all died. The foursome told us they did the exact same thing! Everyone hopes when they cruise, their table has some sort of unity and connection, and I am so glad that our table did, even though it was at the expense of this poor girl. Becky and Brittany just looked at us this entire time, dying to know the scoop, to which I promised I would tell them over a strawberry daiquiri after dinner.

Later that night, we all split up to do our own thing and I dragged Sebastian to the nightly trivia. “If you thought you were impressed with me before, wait until you see me at trivia,” I bragged to him at the tiny cocktail table. “I was never impressed with you,” he assured me.

Minutes before the trivia was about to begin, an older lady maybe in her fifties came over and asked if we wanted to join her and her husband and form a team. We gave each other the look like we could trust them, and moved over to their table. They too, like everyone else on this ship, were from Florida and seemed nice enough. We ended up winning trivia and I gave myself all of the credit. After accepting my Royal Caribbean magnet, I motioned to Sebastian for us to go. I was pretty tired and my abs were killing me from that kayak ride. We had one more fun-filled day ahead of us, so off to sleep we went, bypassing Rebecca at the casino and the midnight buffet.

Me with my winning prize and Kathy getting comfortable.

Me with my winning prize and Kathy getting comfortable.

 

Day Three of the Cruise: Journey to Atlantis

The next morning, we docked at Nassau, Bahamas. Last minute, we booked this expensive excursion called “Atlantis Aquaventure” that took us to the five-star resort and granted us access to their pool, beach, and waterpark. This time, Sebastian decided to wear his board shorts while I went with a more modest shirt with sleeves. When we arrived, we were the first ones at the water park, so we got dibs on whichever slide we wanted. The first one we went on, named The Surge, was the scariest ride I had ever been on up to this point in my life.

Now, even though I grew up just outside of Orlando where Disney and Universal Studios are located, I am not a ride person. Just like hating the beach in fear a shark is going to kill me, I loathe rides and roller coasters just the same. On an ironic note, the only ride I will go on at Universal Studios is Jaws.

On The Surge, you are sitting on a tube and immediately dropped 45 feet. The lady who works the ride said 8 feet, but I am sure she was lying. After you are plummeted to your death, jets shoot you back up another 1,000 feet into mid air where you are hanging on for dear life. The slide starts to become tamer, having the rider go through normal twists and turns. At the end, you are shot out of the end of the slide into the River Rapids, which is essentially a lazy river. But the word “lazy” is used very loosely. For the next thirty minutes, we moved through the river by rapid-style currents and a wave simulator, ending with a gigantic waterfall.

“Let’s do that again!” I squealed with excitement.

After dragging Sebastian on this slide for the next hour and a half, he suggested we take a walk and see what other slides were available for our use. We came up to a giant Mayan Temple which housed two of the biggest slides in the park: The Challenger and The Leap of Faith. The Challenger was a double slide that you go down competing with your neighbor and The Leap of Faith was a 200 foot drop that plunged you down in three seconds and passed you through a shark tank. “Noooooo thank you,” I said. There was no way I was ever going to get on that slide to my death. But Sebastian was all for it. So, I did what I did on every class field trip to Islands of Adventure, I stood down below with the bags and cameras with the grandmothers and men in wheelchairs, awaiting the riders return.

Watching Sebastian shoot down this slide made me nauseous. I do not find what is so exciting or exhilarating about it! He waited all of that time for three measly seconds? He, of course, had a completely different outtake on the ride, stating it was one of the best rides he had ever been on.

Sebastian on The Leap of Faith, clearly terrified.

Sebastian on The Leap of Faith, clearly terrified.

We spent the remainder of the day coasting around in the “lazy” river and taking sporadic dips into one of the four pools at our exposal. By 4:00pm, our excursion was over and we needed to head back to the ship. We were so sad to leave because it was truly the best day out of the trip. I felt like a kid again and wished we could stay for another few days at The Atlantis. But, not wanting to spend money on a plane ticket back to Miami, I hurriedly ran towards the shuttle bus.

Waiting in line to get back on the ship, we ran into Brittney and Becky, who had also just came back from The Atlantis. “Did you end up buying the excursion?” I inquired.

“No, we just smiled at the pool boy and walked right in.”

“Damnit! If I would have known we could have done that, I could have saved $150!”

Back on the ship, Sebastian and I went our separate ways. Being this confined with each other was definitely taking a toll on us. We hang out back home all of the time, but in few hour spurts, with usually a few days of breathing room. But now, for 24 hours a day, we were by each other’s side, with nowhere to turn. I went back to the room to shower and take a power nap while Sebastian went to the Windjammer Café to stock up on brownies and cheesecake. Upon entering our stateroom, I was greeted by one of our towels folded into an elephant wearing our sunglasses. It’s the little things that make me the happiest.

The newest member of stateroom 9026.

The newest member of stateroom 9026.

Tonight’s group dinner was our last, and I was destined to make it the best one. I also brought my camera with me so I could take pictures of everyone, including Prasad, our dutiful headwaiter.

Nothing too exciting really happened during dinner. Perhaps it was because we were all sunburnt and exhausted. Or perhaps it was because Bernie and her crew was a no-show. Either way, the dinner was uneventful and bland. Following dinner, there was a comedy show located in the A Chorus Line theater and I suggested that we all, as a table, go to check it out together.

The Table 129 Crew

 Table 129 Crew

The comedy show was as good as a comedy show could be at 32,000 knots. He had some pretty decent material that was relevant to staying on a cruise ship: “What do they call a discount on a cruise ship? A sail!” But then also some jokes I heard at my cousins Bar Mitzvah: “What did the blonde get on her IQ test? Lipstick!” I wasn’t too impressed. I turned to look at Sebastian and the rest of my new friends, and they were all hysterically laughing at this comic’s attempt at humor. “How do they think this is funny?” I thought to myself ordering another Bay Breeze. I had never felt so disconnected to a group of people in my life. Well, except my seventh grade basketball team, but that’s a different story.

After the comedy show ended promptly at 11:30, it was still early and I wanted to make sure the last night on the ship was a success, so I dragged everyone up to The Spectrum Lounge where they were having a scavenger hunt. I tried my earnest to get my group to participate, but they wanted to sit in the back and observe from afar.

The Activities Director hosted the game and probably knew about 14 words in the English language, making listening to the game rules both hilarious and confusing. I now know what it feels like to be a contestant on The Voice with Shakria offering her input.

By midnight, we all said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways. On the way back to the room, Sebastian took me to the casino, for one last chance of luck. The BlackJack tables were all full, but there was some room at the Roulette table. I am a fan of Roulette because it is equivalent to playing a slot machine. It is just a game of luck and chance, with no math or poker-faces involved. We each played $20 and lost the money before I could take a sip of my Blue Hawaiian.

We went back to our room to pack up our belongings for our last night of sleep on The Majesty of the Seas. It seemed to have gone by so fast! I couldn’t believe it was three days ago when we embarked from the Port of Miami. Now, in just a few hours, we would be back to real life. I didn’t want my vacation to end.

While we lay in bed, I asked Sebastian what his favorite part of the cruise was, besides getting his picture taken in front of the ship. He replied, “Getting those free mozzarella sticks or trying a Bahama Mama for the first time.”

“So, your favorite parts of this vacation are things we could have done at an Applebee’s?”  He didn’t answer. I nudged him and saw he had already passed out, straddling the towel animal.  I guess he didn’t want the vacation to end, either.

 

Day 4 of the Cruise: Back to Land, Back to Reality

Sebastian and I were awoken to the sound of the cruise director on the intercom at 7:30 in the morning. She was explaining the method for debarking from the ship, the forms we will need to fill out, and each decks respective holding location.

“Shut the hell up!” Sebastian screamed while he threw this pillow, almost knocking over the towel-turned-elephant I would be taking home as a souvenir. I got up, put on my last day’s outfit and went up to the top deck for some coffee and a cheese danish. I sat down at a chair, staring back out to the sea, and thought of everything I did in that short weekend: the food, the food, and can’t forget, the food!

I went back to the room to pick up Sebastian and head to our designated waiting area. Once seated, Sebastian grabbed my camera and went through the 614 pictures I took of him. “Is this what my calves look like?” he would ask me every other photo. “What about my arms? Is my hair line receding? Should I wear my squares more often?”

This was one thing I noticed on my time away with Sebastian – he loved the use of the question. Every three minutes, he would ask me something – mostly something I could never have the answer to. “How many feet is this ship? How many knots do you think we are traveling now? What do dolphins eat? Do you think this ketchup is Heinz or Hunts?” I felt like I was cruising with The Riddler.

During his recent round of questioning, my stomach started to grumble. That coffee I had earlier was starting to kick in and begin my digestive process. In case any of you were wondering, no, I did not go to the bathroom once the entire trip. I have this weird phobia about public restrooms where I only go in them to wash my hands or look in the mirror. I also physically cannot go when I am sharing a room with someone – especially a room this small in size. I was too afraid of the sounds and the smells I would be cooking up in that tiny bathroom and frankly, I did not think Sebastian and I were on that level yet.

So, when I was sitting there feeling my stomach grumble, I was both excited and scared. I tried my hardest to hold it in, knowing I would be back at my parents’ house soon (well, 4 hours). I did everything I possibly could to distract myself. From saying the ABC’s backwards to doing long division in my head, I needed to get my mind someplace else.

Fifteen minutes later, and unable to figure out the square root of 336, I excused myself from the row and told Sebastian I would be back. “I think the ice cream machine is closed,” he warned me.

Me enjoying one of my 27 ice cream cones.

Me enjoying one of my 27 ice cream cones. Also, I’m cross-eyed now. 

“Please don’t even say the words ‘ice cream’ to me.” I leaned in and whispered, “The time has come. I need to use the bathroom,” and then gave him a stern look on my face to let him know I meant number two. He grabbed my arm as I started to walk away and said, “I don’t think the bathrooms are working.”

“What do you mean?” I screamed in the A Chorus Line showroom and theater. “This is not the time to try to start being funny!”

“Well, while you were upstairs and I was in the room, I went to the bathroom and when I went to flush, nothing happened. There was no water or anything. I think they shut off the plumbing or something.”

My mind was going in circles with all the information he just gave me and I wasn’t sure which I wanted to discuss first. I went with the issue at hand. “Why would they shut off the plumbing? There are still people on this ship, and some of these people need to take a shit!” I decided that it was best for me to find out for myself because what the hell does he know about basic plumbing?

I walked out of the theater, clenching as tight as I could, and found the nearest bathroom. “Out of Service” the sign said on the door. I ran over to the men’s room and it had the same sign. I went up one flight of stairs – same thing. For the third time in my life, I had that feeling of “I’m going to shit my pants.” I sat back down next to Sebastian, looked at him and asked, “So you just took a crap in the toilet, noticed you couldn’t flush it and left it there?”

“Yes,” was all he said, and really, that’s all he could say. I needed to take my mind off my inducing stomach pain and started filling out the custom forms. When our section was finally called, we grabbed our suitcases and headed off the ship – in a much smoother way than Jack and Rose did. As my last steps on the carpet approached, I grabbed out my phone and took one last selfie on The Majesty of the Seas. Two more steps, and my vacation had concluded.

We made it through customs without too much of a hassle and reached my car. “Goodbye, ship!” I screamed on the top floor of the parking garage. “I will miss you.” I put my car in drive and headed to the airport to drop Sebastian off for his flight back to New York.

We spent the next thirty five minutes in complete silence. Spending that much time with someone is incredibly difficult -especially in a cabin the size of a Ford Focus. As much as the quiet bothers me, I welcomed it with open arms, thankful Sebastian was out of questions to ask me. People always say, before you marry someone, you should live together. I think, before you marry someone, you should go on vacation together. And after this vacation, it was pretty apparent that Sebastian and I would not be getting married (unless I came down with a deadly disease – he has fantastic health insurance).

By noon, we had approached the Jet Blue terminal to send Sebastian on his way. “I don’t know how I am going to react to the sudden disappearance of your presence when I wake up tomorrow” I told him as he slammed the car door in my face. “See ya” he shouted while running towards airport entrance. Our impending separation was probably just as hard –if not harder- on him.

I merged back onto the highway, heading back to my parents’ house to spend one more day of listening to them argue about the volume of the television set, when I realized my vacation was done. Every day I would look at my calendar and count down the days until Project Paradise, and now it was over. I would go back to my normal, quiet, and single life while 3,000 new people would board The Majesty of the Seas, ready to eat, drink, and dance to The Cupid Shuffle.

I stared out at the Florida turnpike, leaving South Florida and realizing I had nothing else left to look forward to, except maybe Bloomin’ Onion Monday’s at The Outback or a less expensive hair restoration procedure. I turned up the volume to the radio as I started to drive away when that all-too-familiar Will Smith song was playing, welcoming me to Miami. I smiled to myself, happy that Project Paradise was a success.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Trust Your Gut

Intuition: Instinctive knowledge or belief; a hunch

Intuition is a funny thing. We all have it, but sometimes we don’t listen to it. Other voices get into our heads, challenging our intuition or gut feeling.

This happened to me last week.

In early November, I was busy swiping left and right to countless pictures of New York singles, in hopes to find my soul mate on Tinder, because that’s a possibility, right?

Among my many matches that evening, one stood out. His name was Steve and he is a therapist and a writer – my two favorite professions in one person! I figured I could receive some helpful edits and advice for my writing while also lying on his couch talking to him about the issues with my mother.

Perfect dating situation, right?

We quickly did the normal Tinder-thing and exchanged our phone numbers to make the texting all that easier. But, I could tell from the first message he sent me that I wasn’t going to like him, mostly because after every message he sent me, he added “Sexy” to it, a word I only want to hear from Jake Gyllenhaal, my personal shopper, or the cashier at Chipotle.

He said that we should meet up after work and I said yes, but quickly regretted my decision. I told my friends about meeting him and expressed my concerns and they all told me to just “shut up” “go with it” and “stop eating at Chipotle every day.” So, I listened to them and decided to go. Who knows, he may be my soul mate. I stopped listening to my gut and gave him a chance.

He works and lives in Harlem, so he suggested grabbing a few drinks up in that area. He then mentioned the place we were going to is “just minutes from his apartment.” If he thought I was going to get drunk and hook up with him, he was kind of right.

Having never been to Harlem, I obliged his request and told him that I would be there at 6:30, the time he was getting off work.

I missed the train and had to wait, making me 15 minutes late – something I very rarely do, and a trait I find extremely disrespectful. Luckily, I got service for a few minutes on the train and told him I would be there a little late and he replied that he works across the street from the bar we were meeting at and to just text him when I got off the train and he would meet me.

Once off the train I texted and he said, “On my way.”

I stood outside of the bar with my arms folded, waiting for him to appear. I looked left, right and behind me, and he was nowhere to be found. A 6’2’’ white male would stick out like a sore thumb in Harlem, I thought.

I ended up standing outside the place for 15 minutes until he arrived, which made me a little annoyed, but I figured it wasn’t the end of the world.

The end of the world, however, was the way he acted and spoke. Now, I am not into the flamboyant type – you know the guy who talks with his hands, wears more than one bracelet on his arm, and says the word “Yaaaaaaas!”

I noticed that he was extremely flamboyant from 100 yards away. One, he walked like he was on the catwalk in Rupal’s Drag Race. Secondly, he had a tan tote bag around his shoulder, only holding his cell phone. Isn’t that what pockets are for?

He greeted me, kissed me on the cheek, and grabbed the front door to the bar. We ended up sitting down at a table, in-between two couples having a much better time than I would.

The waitress approached us and asked for our drink order. I asked for a glass of the Cabernet while my date smacked his lips, rolled his eyes and said, “I’ll take a Makers Mark on the rocks because I’ve had a daaayyyyyy.”

It was my first time ever hearing someone say the word “Day” with more than 1 syllable.

When the waitress left us, I wanted to grab her arm and plead, “Stay just a little bit longer. Please don’t leave me alone with her.” But she walked away before I could even take a reach, so I inhaled and said to myself, You’re already here, so just have the best time you can.“Do you want to get a plate of nachos?” I asked, thinking this could at least help.

We sat at the table, looking at each other for a few seconds (which seemed like 10 minutes) when I finally asked, “Where did you grow up?”

“How many times are you going to ask me that?” he replied. “This is like, I don’t know, the fourth or fifth time.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but I was waiting for him to laugh or say “Just kidding” but both never came. So then I figured I would change the subject to work.

He told me that he works at a health clinic for HIV testing and that he is a writer on the side. Being more comfortable with the latter, I asked him what he liked to write about. He told me that he had a Dating column at a newspaper in Chicago, something I actually found fascinating.

“That’s my dream job,” I told him. “Tell me more about that!”

“Well, I don’t know what you want me to say. It was a lot of work.”

Kay.

It appeared that I was not going to be able to have any semblance of a normal conversation with this guy. Thankfully, the nachos arrived and I devoted all of my time and attention to the heaping dollop of sour cream lying on top.

I looked at my watch and it wasn’t even 8 o’clock yet. I could not sit at this table without having any type of conversation, so I took a deep breath and  asked what he watches on TV – a conversation I could have with a deaf monkey.

He mentioned a few shows I never really heard of or watched, and of coursed he was “obsessed with the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” He then went on to say that he was a closeted Pretty Little Liars fan. FINALLY, something I could work with. I, too, am a closeted PLL fan and had just watched the season finale the night before, so finding someone who wasn’t 12 to talk about it with has been quite a challenge.

We spent the rest of the evening talking about the possibilities of who “A” could be and I was finally starting to enjoy the conversation.

When the waitress came by to pick up the empty plates off our table she asked if we wanted another drink, to which he replied, “No thanks, just the check” and then took a huge yawn. “Is that cool? I had a really long day and I’m exhausted.”

Although I was extremely happy he asked for the check (which meant I could be home before 9pm and eat the rest of my Oreo milkshake sitting in my freezer) I was actually kind of bothered by this. HE was the one fake-yawning and saying HE had a long day? HE was the one ditching ME? Oh, I don’t think so.

I wanted to say something right then and there that I was the one who was cutting the date short. That I was the one who was not interested. That I was the one who was exhausted! But, I just smiled and said, “Of course.”

The best part was when the check came, he didn’t seem to be in that much of a hurry to leave. He just let the checkbook sitting there in the middle of the table, waiting for me to pull out my credit card.

I don’t think so, buddy. I had to take a train to Harlem, wait 15 minutes for you to get here, and talk about an ABC Family television show for thirty-five minutes. If anything, we are splitting it.

So, I waited the ten minutes it took him to get the point and reach for his wallet and I threw in my card, too.

He walked me to the train, apologized again for being “such a bore” and hugged me goodbye.  Once on the train, I was ecstatic that it was over, but still really angry. I started thinking, “Why doesn’t he like me? He should be begging for me to date him. I’m handsome, smart, funny, and don’t get me started on my eyes. How is he the one who blew me off?”

I shrugged my shoulders and just laughed it off. I knew that I wasn’t going to have a good time and I wish I would have ignored my friends, co-workers, and the guy who toasted my bagel and just trusted my gut. Because my intuition is never wrong.

Except when I thought eating a 4 day old Milkshake was a good idea.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Love & Other Drugs

A few days ago I had a dentist appointment on 50th and Madison to refill a cavity. While waiting for the dentist to see me, I did what all single gay men do when they have time to kill, I opened Grindr. It’s always exciting going on Grindr in a new area and see different guys, so while I was browsing, this one profile struck me out of all the others. His picture was of him sitting on a boat wearing a life preserver, and I thought that was cute.

So I sent the first message: “You sure know how to make life vests look good.” Ok, I know. Not my best work, but it ended up gaining a response, to which he said, “Let me know if you ever need rescuing.”

A quick and clever reply? Don’t mind if I do. So I took the bait and ran with it.

We ended up chatting for the rest of the day which eventually turned into exchanging phone numbers which ultimately turned into setting up a date. Our original plan was to meet up on Saturday night for a few drinks, but yesterday while sitting at my desk I had the sudden urge to be a little crazy and go out on a school night.

“Hey, would you be free to meet up for a bit tonight?” I asked, hoping he didn’t already have preset plans.

“I’m free after 8 – let’s do it!”

Perfect, I thought. I could go home, cook dinner, shower, and trim my pubic hair. He also told me that if things “went well” I could just crash at his place that night. So, just to be prepared, I brought my office key, phone charger, and toothbrush with me, all hidden in various jacket pockets. “Of course things are going to go well”, I thought. “I’m gonna get my groooove on tonight!”

We decided to meet up at a loungy gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen at 8:45. I, the one who lives in New Jersey, arrived on time while he, the one who actually lives 4 blocks away from said bar was 15 minutes late. Uncomfortable with going in the bar  alone, I stood outside and chain smoked until he arrived.

On first impression, I was satisfied. He was handsome, had a nice smile and a beautiful head of hair. (I have noticed since losing my own hair how much I value a good head of hair on someone else.) He stood with me outside while I finished my cigarette and we started some small talk. I still had my headphones in and he said that he loves having his headphones in so homeless people don’t bother him. I told him I like leaving mine in so I can walk down the street talking to myself and people think I’m on the phone, having a fight with the cable company. (Don’t ask what I talk to myself about).

We went in and sat at the bar and ordered our drinks. Him, a Stella and me a Coors Light because I am the epitome of class. Plus, it was a Thursday night, I didn’t want to get wasted.

The conversation never really had a great flow; lots of awkward silences and “Oh, I like this song” comments. After we both had two beers, we decided to switch it up and have something a little stronger. “Maybe if we get a little tipsy the conversation will be better” I thought to myself.

Nope. Unless “better” is passive-aggressively making snide comments to each other.

He asked about my writing and I told him about that book I wrote. “It’s a book about the way technology has influenced the way people meet and fall in love, with some personal stories thrown in.”

“That sounds boring.”

“Oh.” I said. I was waiting for a ‘just kidding handsome’ with a light leg tap, but it never came. So I continued, “Well, I don’t think it’s boring at all! I mean, I am biased, but it’s really funny and smart and I think people would get a kick out of hearing some of my horrible dating stories.”

“Define horrible.”

I hate when people ask me what my worst dating story is because I’ve had some bad ones, but honestly nothing so bad or disturbing. “Well,” I answered, “I once went on a date with a guy who was doing cocaine the entire time in the bathroom. That was pretty bad.”

“Did you do cocaine with him?” he asked.

“No! That’s insane.”

“To you it’s insane. To people who live in North Dakota it’s insane. But imagine people living in NYC or San Francisco reading your book. You think they are going to read that and find it interesting or extreme? Absolutely not. You should have done the coke with him. You should go to circuit parties and pop Molly. You should seek out threesomes and orgies and leather parties. You should immerse yourself in the culture. Then, you will have one hell of a book.”

Uh.

At this point I was losing the remaining interest I had in him and excused myself to go to the bathroom to text my friend the thumbs-down emoji.

When I returned, he was chatting with the guy on the other side of him and eating the mixed nuts from the bowl in front of him. Finally, after two minutes of me sitting there, he returned his attention to me.

I quickly tried to change the subject to something – anything – else. I did see his point, and I do agree that sometimes I am a little vanilla and prudish, but at the end of the day, I am not trying to write a book about how outrageous and slutty one can be. My ultimate goal is to write a book about how pathetic and desperate one can be.

I saw that my drink was pretty much full and it was getting past my bedtime and the idea of going back to his place was slimmer than my waistline in 2011. (I used to be really skinny). So I started taking huge long gulps of my drink, hoping to end this date as soon as possible. And this is about the time when we got on the topic of judging a book by its cover, metaphorically speaking.

He went on to tell me how he can pretty much know everything about a person within the first three minutes of meeting them. I, too, somewhat agree with this ability. Maybe not as short as three minutes, but I can usually tell very soon if I will like the person or not –  but I wont know everything about them.

Curious, I asked him what his take on me was and he shied away and asked, “Do you really want to know?”

I took one long drink of my vodka and said that I would love to know his first impression on me. I mean, one of the best things about going on dates with people is you get to learn things about yourself that maybe no one else could have showed you. So, yes. I wanted to hear what this stranger thought about me.

“Well,” he began, “you seem very reserved and a little uptight.”

Ok sure, I can definitely see that. He is not the first person to call me uptight. I know I am. Fine. Whatever. Next. 

“Ok, I agree. And?”

“And you seem very set in your ways, not wanting to change or shake things up. I feel that your favorite time of the day is when you can lay in bed and play candy crush and fall asleep by 10pm.”

Wow, he really was hitting the nail on the head. That IS my favorite time of day. But so what? Who cares?

“I agree with that assumption as well. Anything else?”

“I feel that NYC has made you tired and cynical. And you don’t trust people easily.”

I nodded my head and said, “Well, I do believe NYC has made me somewhat cynical, but I have been here for a few years and you only just moved here 2 months ago. So it is a bit different. You are still excited about the city and want to go out every night and explore. That’s how I was when I first moved here. But I guess things changed.”

I then thought about how he said I don’t trust people easily. I feel that I am pretty open with people, and I think my big issue is that I trust and let people in way too much and too easily. So I asked him about what I have done to make him think I am a closed-off person and he replied, “Because you are wearing an undershirt.”

Wait, what?

“Wait, what?” I was so confused! “What does an undershirt have to do with anything?”

“Well, I took a Psych class back in San Diego and my professor said that the number of layers people wear indirectly affects the number of layers they have for letting people in. It’s like a wall. I’m just saying the minute I saw you were wearing an undershirt, I kind of knew you were going to be uptight and reserved.”

At this point, I had no idea what to say, and these drinks were hitting me all at once and I felt that I needed to just pass out. I told him that I was wearing an undershirt because it was 18 degrees outside and I had to walk 10 blocks to get to the bar and then I made a snarky remark about how he shouldn’t let some teacher at a California Community College influence the way he reads people.

 

Needless to say, we both paid our check and headed out into the blistering cold weather – although I wasn’t too cold because I had my good ole undershirt on me.

We said good-bye with the promise of hanging out again soon, I hugged him and went on my way back to New Jersey.

While going through the tunnel on the bus, I suddenly got very lightheaded and felt like I was going to faint. I looked out my window and felt like I was in a rocket going into space and started tweaking out. I needed to get off this bus immediately, I thought. I tried focusing on anything but my mind was going a mile a minute and I couldn’t concentrate on anything.

Once off the bus, I ran home (fell twice) and jumped right into my bed with the lights off. Hoping I could just pass out, I realized this wasn’t going to be that easy. I was having a case of the ‘spins’ and no matter which side I laid on, I felt like I was going to throw up. Which I eventually did. I ran to the bathroom and spent the better part of my evening throwing up beer, vodka, and Hot Pockets.

A few hours later, when I was finally done being sick, I sat there on my bathroom floor and pondered about how I got this drunk from three drinks – two of them being Coors Light.

The only thing that was going on in my head was “I got roofied.”

I had heard of people using a date-rape drug and always wondered what it actually did to the person. I was wondering to myself that if he did, indeed, slip me a date-rape drug, why didn’t he date-rape me? Did he have a change of heart? Did he no longer want to rape me? I was all of a sudden so upset and ashamed. I sat on the cold bathroom tiles and thought “am I not date-rape-able?”

I then quickly changed my thinking. “There is no way he drugged me! No one does that anymore. I’m sure I just drank more than I thought.”

The next morning I woke up, took a nice long shower and went to work. Upon re-telling this story to my co-workers, friends, and the guy at the bagel shop downstairs, I came to the conclusion that I very well may have been drugged. “I did leave my drink to go to the bathroom!” I said, feeling enlightened.

I decided to send him a text message to find out the truth before I just start making false assumptions. So I wrote:

“Hey! Hope your morning is going well. I just had a quick question… Did you put something in my drink last night?”

To which he responded, “NOW you have your story!”

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Does Tinder Really Help Ignite a Spark?

tinder2-660x270

The world of dating has changed completely from our parents’ generation. No one is meeting each other in bars and no one is making any grand gestures. We don’t even need to shower or put pants on to find love. Not when your soul mate is a click – or a swipe – away.

In the past 5 years, there has been much advancement in the world of technology, from paying a friend back on your phone to finding a cab anywhere, anytime – we rely solely on our smart phones. So much, in fact, that we have turned to them to find love. Or at least a date.

The newest dating application, Tinder, is a quick and easy way to find singles in your area, by swiping right (yes) or left (no). It is connected to your Facebook account and allows the user to choose (up to six) photos that will potentially hook-in possible suitors. Making sure your profile picture is perfect requires a lot of time, energy, and sometimes, Photoshop.

Tinder is free, fast, and full of hopeful romantics that have resorted to playing a newer version of Hot or Not. You like someone, you swipe right. If that person also likes you, it’s a match! From there, you are allowed to openly message them, hopefully igniting some kind of spark.

But, with so many people using Tinder, and usually getting so many matches, it is almost impossible to have a conversation that lasts longer than a summer in Alaska.

As an avid user of this application, I have grown tired and weary of ever finding love – or even someone to go to the movies with. Not that I’m uninteresting (my mom thinks I have the personality of Dick Clark) it’s just that there is so much competition, and in a world of wanting “The Next Best Thing”, it is nearly impossible to sustain a conversation when you are being matched with five new people a day.

So, how do you find love on Tinder?

Well, for starters, be different. Bring something new to the table. Instead of the usual “Hey there” try something inventive and exciting. When you are matched, you can see if you have any friends or interests in common, so work with that. If you both like “Family Guy” ask who their favorite character is. If you both like Mumford & Sons, talk about the time you went to see them in concert.

It’s hard to say if these matches will eventually create some sort of spark or you’ll find love, but it’s something to do while you wait for lives on Candy Crush, right?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Keebler Elf

Just before Myspace was going out of style and I still resided in Boca Raton, I received a message from a guy named Bryan. Apparently, we had a few mutual friends so he sent a quick message to say hi as he added me as a friend. Back in the day, I would add people just because I liked their shirt.

From browsing his profile and photo albums, I immediately fell in love. He was adorable. He was smart. He was a Southern gentleman. But, he lived in Georgia.

We spent a few nights that week talking on the phone, and I was instantly obsessed with his twang and country accent. Everyone I had met in South Florida barely spoke English, and if they did, they knew how to say three things: “Hello”, “My name is”, and “How short do you want the lawn Mister James?” It was definitely time for a change.

“Ugh!” I screamed repeatedly alone in my room until Cory, my roommate came barging in.

“What’s the matter?” he asked after my ninth exhale.

“This always happens!”

“Herpes?”

“No!” I screamed. “Well, I don’t think so! But that’s not what this is about!” I got off my bed and sat at the computer chair. “Whenever I meet someone online that is cute, smart, worthy of dating, AND that is interested in ME, they always live so far away. Remember that guy in Anchorage? Anyways, I met someone last week on Myspace and he is perfect.”

“So where does he live? Hopefully somewhere really pretty that you could go visit! Like the Caribbean. Or Denver.”

“Neither,” I said with a melancholy growl. “He lives in Camden, Georgia.”

Once again, I was being a bit dramatic, and Cory was in no mood to comfort me or give in to my pity cry. “Oh just get over it. You could easily go to Georgia! I believe there is a train that goes there at midnight.”

“This is no time for a Gladys and the Pips reference, Cory.” I laid back down on my bed and cuddled my pillow, wanting to change the subject. “So, how exactly do I know if I have herpes?”

Two weeks later, my phone rang as I was in the middle of my rigorous workout. “Hello!?” I yelped, interrupting my third sit-up.

It was one of my best friends from high school, Katie Kelly. I have always loved her name, and have always secretly wished her middle name was Kendall or Karen, just for the amusing initials.

Katie lived in Jacksonville, working on her Bachelors at the University of North Florida and living with her Navy Seal boyfriend of one year. She was going on and on about her sister getting married and that she needed a date for the wedding.

“What about your boyfriend?” I asked, while wiping the sweat off my forehead.

“He’s going to be on the ship for another four months. And everyone is bringing a date. Even my cousin, Lynn, has a date.”

“Wait. Isn’t she the one with one leg?”

“One foot” she corrected me. “I cannot show up to this thing alone. Please save me!”

I thought about my school schedule and my lack of monetary funds, but then quickly got excited to watch Lynn attempt to do the Hokey Pokey, so I agreed.

“Fine! I will go with you. We will match our outfits but I will not put out!”

I hung up the phone and decided that I had enough physical activity for one day. I didn’t want to pull a hamstring four weeks before the wedding and not be able to do the electric slide. I jumped into bed at 3 in the afternoon for my first nap of the day when I suddenly realized: Jacksonville is just below Georgia! When I go up for the wedding, I would be able to see my best friend AND meet Bryan. I sent him a quick message telling him my plan and asking how far away he was from where I would be staying and he replied “20 minutes, 30 minutes tops. We could totally arrange a meeting!”

I turned down my shades, pulled up my covers, and suddenly had Georgia on my mind.

The weekend of the wedding came before I knew it and I had to quickly throw one weekend worth of clothes into two suitcases. I called Bryan and told him of my whereabouts and that as soon as I could, I would ditch my friend and we could meet up.

I made it to Jacksonville just after 5pm and pulled into Katie’s apartment complex, where she was standing in the parking lot, jumping up and down like a six year old who just saw the tooth fairy fly away. The sight of her pathetic excitement almost made me turn my car around.

I rolled down the window as I pulled into a parking space. “Enough with the jumping jacks, I’m here!” I popped the trunk of my car and said, “Would you be a doll and grab those two suitcases? I’m beat from all this driving.”

As Katie pulled out my two Lacoste suitcases and hauled them up to her third floor apartment, I pulled out one of those miniature fans and exhaled, “Gaw it’s hot up here”. She turned to look back, giving me an evil snarl and almost ran right into the wall. “Whoa! Easy with that one. It has my shoes in it!”

Once inside, I took my spot on the couch, where I would be sleeping the next few nights. Katie then got me a glass of water. It was from the faucet, but I drank it anyways. “This weekend is going to be so much fun!” She exclaimed. “I hope you are ready to do some cha-cha-sliding”.

Katie knew how much I hated organized dancing and could probably tell with my lack of response that I would be sitting at the open bar all night ordering vodka tonics two at a time.

“I know. This seriously better be one hell of a wedding. I am missing the season finale of Survivor: All Stars for this.”

“Really? Survivor? That show is ridiculously gay. No offense. It is so staged. You know they are all sleeping at a Sheraton Hotel once the cameras turn off.”

I almost jumped off the couch in anger. “You know that’s not true!”

“And besides,” she continued, “Survivor comes on Sunday nights. You’ll probably be back home in time for it anyways, and you definitely won’t miss the tribal council meeting. You should have just tape recorded it.”

“Wow. For someone who hates the show, you sure do know quite a lot about its airtime and rituals, Katie.”

“TV Guide” she said and crossed her arms.

“And tape record it? I haven’t seen an actual working VCR since I was in diapers. Anyways, do I have time to take a short two hour nap?”

“No. Tonight is the rehearsal dinner and I figured we could go meet up with my girlfriends for a few cocktails before. They really want to meet you.”

(A little side note):

It seems that every time I go to visit a friend, I always have to go out and meet their other friends. Can’t you go out with your girlfriends every other day that I’m not there? I get it. I am not your only friend, so stop making me meet the rest of them. And then you throw in that bullshit of a story “They really want to meet you”. No they don’t. 9 times out of 10, they have never heard of me in their lives and suddenly I am just some random guy sitting at a table drinking something with an umbrella in it.

The conversation always goes like this:

GIRL FRIEND: Hey guys! This is James                                                                                                                                               FRIENDS OF SAID GIRL FRIEND: Who?                                                                                                                       GIRL FRIEND: James! The guy I was telling you about. We’ve been best friends since we were four.     FOSGF: Oh! The guy who got the baseball scholarship to Vanderbilt?                                                              GIRL FRIEND: No, that was my brother. James is my gay best friend, goes to college down South. Really funny…                                                                                                                                                                       FOSGF: Umm. Oh yeah, I remember him now. Nice to meet you, Jeff.

But I digress back to Katie’s couch. I didn’t know how to tell her that I made plans for the night already, so I just said, “I made plans for the night already.”

“What? You came up here to be my date to my sister’s wedding. How could you have made other plans? You’ve been here litchrally (I know that’s spelled incorrectly, but that is how she pronounces it) five minutes. I don’t want to go to the rehearsal dinner alone!”

“Katie, you were going to go to the wedding alone if it weren’t for me. I’m sorry. I met this guy a few weeks ago and he lives about thirty minutes away, and this is the only time that we would be able to meet. He’s already on his way from Georgia and…”

She cut me off and stood up, “Georgia?! How…I mean why…no, I mean how are you meeting guys from Georgia?! You live six hours away!”

“Online.” I added, “Do you want to see a picture of him? He’s so…”

“No.”

Katie started pacing back and forth through her eleven by eight foot living room, fuming from the ears and nose. “Well, I am sorry. You are just going to have to tell him you have previously made plans and that you didn’t come all the way up here to meet him.” She paused. “Wait a minute. Did you come all the way up here to meet him? And that the wedding was just a great excuse?”

I sat there in shock, mostly because it was true. “No! I came here to go to your sister’s wedding! I honestly just thought you would need me for tomorrow. And I really really really like him and wanted to see where things went.” Note to readers, if you want to get your point across, just keep repeating “really” a few times. Then they’ll know it’s important.

I was really hoping that she would be okay with me leaving for a little bit. I saw her start to weaken and sit back down. “Well, I mean tonight is just going to be my immediate family. It would be kind of boring for you, I guess.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I screamed. Aside from the ‘really rule’, saying ‘thank you’ three times shows just how thankful you really are. Only assholes say it once.

“Yeah. But because I am letting you go and ditch me tonight, you will do the cha-cha slide, the electric slide, and what other dances involve sliding. You hear me?”

I didn’t even have a chance to respond. I had already started trying on different outfits.

Not even twenty minutes since I was “allowed” to go on the date, Bryan called me and said he was getting off the highway and suggested that we meet up at a Starbucks a few miles down the road. “I like coffee” I agreed.

Now, as a serial online dater, I have met guys pretty much everywhere: bars, clubs, restaurants, the dumpster behind a Best Buy, etc. My least favorite is Starbucks. One, because it is inundated with people at all times, and they are all in just one tiny room, staring at you when you come in. You know you are meeting someone for a date and they certainly do too once they catch that awkward hello you’re about to do.

Oh, I guess it’s my least favorite for just one reason.

So, I made it to the Starbucks as directed and parked my car. I had already received the “I’m here” text a few minutes ago, so I decided to take my time and build up the anticipation. I got out of my car and headed straight for that door, knowing Bryan was inside, somewhere, waiting for me.

I slowly opened the glass door and looked around the coffee shop. To my right were these three guys studying for some sort of test. Why anyone was studying on a Friday night is beyond me. No one was in line for coffee except this old lady. I then peered to my left and saw two oversized purple velvet couches in the corner. One was vacant. The other held Bryan.

I walked over and he did not even look up from his BlackBerry. I tried to get a clear shot of what his face looked like so I wasn’t approaching the wrong guy. I hate to say it, but I cleared my throat to get his attention. He looked up from his phone and I quietly whispered, “Bryan?” He looked shocked that someone in a Jacksonville Starbucks would know his name and at first gave me a skittish look. Then I guess he realized he was going on a blind date. He smiled faintly and said, “James. It’s nice to meet you.”

I sat down on the purple couch next to his. “It’s nice to meet you too, Bryan.”

“Oh, please. Call me Keebs. It’s my nickname. Everyone I know calls me that.”

Keebs, I thought to myself. Hmm. I don’t like nicknames. Never have. I just don’t get them, I guess. I once met a guy named Steve, but his nickname was Gary. I can’t even connect the dots on that one. I swore that after we hooked up I wouldn’t speak to him again.

“Did you want to get something?” I asked.

“No, thanks.” He replied. “Don’t really like the taste of coffee. Plus, it stunts your growth.”

Since neither of us was actually drinking coffee, and a family of four was standing over me and Bryan waiting for us to get up, I suggested we leave for dinner. “I know just the place” he said.

I stood up from my chair with my right leg half asleep, went to the door and turned around to hold it for Bryan…I mean “Keebs”, and this is the moment I discovered the nickname. This is the moment I understood Keebs.

He could not have been a centimeter over 5’3’’. Nowhere in his MySpace profile alluded to the fact that he was almost legally a midget. I mean, just to state the facts, I am no giant. I am 5’9 (5’10 in the right shoe) and usually someone’s height doesn’t bother me. But someone’s lack of height surely did that night. I was hoping that the six inches he was missing in height he would make up in girth.

As we walked across the street, a car zoomed past us and, as an instinct, I threw my arm out in front of him to stop him from getting run over. In my attempt to save his life, I smacked him so hard, my ring left an imprint on his forehead.

“It’s okay. It’s fine. He is a nice, normal, sweet guy. How tall (or short) he is shouldn’t deter you from having a fun time.” These were the words I was telling myself as I got into his Ford-250 pickup truck. I can barely get into one of those things and I would have loved to see how he managed to climb on up. I noticed on his front driver seat he had a phone book. “Who uses a phone book anymore?” I thought to myself. Until I saw his tiny little ass sit down on it.

“It’s okay. It’s fine. He is a nice guy.”

We were heading to the nice part of Jacksonville where there are great shops, restaurants, and bars he told me. I wish Katie wasn’t so mad at me because she would have been dying right now. The radio was blasting Toby Keith (okay, at least he was a Republican) and the windows were rolled down. I tried making small talk but he kept saying, “Let’s just keep the good convo for the dinner, alright?” in that Southern twang of his.

A long fifteen minutes  later, the truck was parked and we were walking toward the restaurants. I was so concerned everyone was looking at me the way Nicole Kidman was looked at when she was “married” to Tom Cruise. I didn’t want them to think that I knew about his height prior to us going out, so when I would catch people stare I would mouth “blind date” and they would look back at me, shrug their shoulders, and give me a knowing look that read ‘Hang in there’ and ‘God is watching and he is proud’.

As we walked down the pier, we passed so many inviting and interesting restaurants: A family-owned Italian restaurant, a Sushi one, a Thai one, a Mexican one. I couldn’t wait to find out where he was taking me. We made a left at the end of the pier and that is where I noticed the God-awful orange awning of the tackiest restaurants around, Hooters.

“This is not where we are going,” I said silently to myself as he ran to the door and held up two tiny fingers. “Table for two, please”.

“Denise is your server and she’ll be right over” Brandi cheered and then skipped away. I picked up the menu and started browsing the culinary selections.

“Have you ever been here before?” Bryan asked me.

Yeah, I’ve been to a Hooter’s before you moron. My dad would drag me here to watch football games and to stare at women’s boobs since I was seven. My grandmother has even been to a Hooter’s. But, I am sure she didn’t drive six hours to be taken on a date to one by a troll.

Bryan, yes I will call him Bryan from here on out because just typing the word ‘Keebs’ makes me nauseous. So, Bryan ordered us a fried pickle appetizer and swore on his life by it. “This will be the best part of your night,” he said. I nodded my head knowing he was right.

The dinner conversation was light, and mostly touched on the different types of wing sauce, if Georgia really does have the best peaches, and stories of his ex-boyfriends. I excused myself to use the bathroom, just so I could get a minute to myself. In the stall, I texted Katie and told her that I would much rather be at her family’s dumb rehearsal dinner instead of out on the docks with this shrimp. She replied, “Duh.”

When I got back to my seat, the check was laying on the table. A sign to me that this night was over, and thank Jesus for that. He picked up the checkbook and reached for his wallet, like a true Southern gentlemen. “Wanna just split it?”

I really didn’t have any other choice.

As we walked back along the pier to the parking garage, Bryan spotted a sports memorabilia store with a Georgia Bulldogs flag out front. “Mind if we stop in for a minute?”

I really didn’t have any other choice.

I was starting to feel that Bryan was having an identity crisis and being unsure of his sexuality – Hooter’s AND a sports store, both bad choices for the gays.

Pretty much the entire store was covered wall-to-wall with Bulldog shirts, hats, pillows, beer cozies, and statues of a bulldog wearing the uniform. “These are kinda cute” I said, making myself enjoy the store for what it was.

“Aww, I love them. Oh my gaw, look at this little guy. He reminds me of Kevin, my dog growing up. Wearin’ the hat and all. I think I’m a get him.”

Bryan made his way to the register holding this three foot dog statue that came up to his nipples and paid the lady the forty-seven dollars for it. He couldn’t buy my 10 wings, but fifty bucks for a dog statue was a much better way to spend his money.

Back on the highway, I saw the dog statue sitting in the bed of the truck out of my side-view mirror and had to ask, “Hey, Bryan- “

“…I’d prefer it if you just called me Keebs.”

“I’d rather not. What’s the deal with the statue? I’ve never seen anyone go into a store so quickly and buy something so specific. And I know shopping. I am an expert. Why did you have to get it tonight? I am sure there are better, more team-spirited dogs in Georgia.”

He put his left blinker on and got in the turning lane. The light was red, so he turned to me and said, “Well, I needed it tonight so I could drop it off.”

“Drop it off where?” I asked, concerned.

“Right here, down the road. To the cemetery.”

I chuckled and said, “Why the hell are you bringing some dumb statue to a cemetery at 10pm?”

The light turned green and Bryan made the left. Staring down the two-lane highway, listening to the silence, he swallowed hard, “My dad died one year ago today. He is buried right up here on the right. And he was such a big Bulldog fan, let me tell you. So, I figured that on that way back to me droppin you off, I could just put the statue on his grave and say my peace, mainly because I haven’t been to the grave yet.”

I put two spaces between the next paragraph just so you could take some time to process what has just happened.

Talk about a morbid date, huh? I immediately pulled out my BlackBerry and started frantically texting Katie. “Help me, please” I wrote with over twenty exclamation points. Like the great friend she is, she ignored every message I sent her. And then it hit me as the car went into park. I was really doing this. This was actually happening.

Bryan hopped the six feet out of the truck and went around the back and grabbed the dog. I just sat in the car, silently praying that I was in a bad dream. Hoping he would realize this was a little strange and to just go to the grave by himself, I heard a knocking at my window. “How the hell did he reach the window?” I thought to myself.

I looked out my window and could only see the top of his head. I rolled down the window and told him that cemetery’s freak me out and that I would be best sitting alone in the car. “Also,” I added, “what if a cop comes and tows your car. I should be here, just in case. You go ahead.”

None of these options were working and he was being relentless. I rolled my window back up and got out of the car. He grabbed onto my hand as we walked down the rows and rows of tombstones, passing many different flower arrangements and plants. But not one single dog statue.

When we finally got to his father’s grave, he turned to me and said, “James, I really appreciate you bein’ here for me and all, but do ya mind if I say goodbye to my father alone?” Uh, no! I don’t mind. I would love for you to say goodbye alone. Did I seem like I was itching to be beside you during this intimate family moment?!

Bryan knelt down and placed the statue in front of the tombstone and started speaking to his father. He started tearing up, got up off the ground, and whispered “Go Bulldogs”. He grabbed my hand and we headed back to his truck.

The rest of the car ride was spent in silence. He dropped me off in same the Starbucks parking lot where we met 5 hours earlier, at a time when I had hope and optimism. I opened my door and thanked him for the night.

“I had a swell time, too, James. And if ya ever in the great county of Camden, Georgia, well, give me a holler.” And then, just like that, he went into the night, probably back to his tree fort to make cookies and snacks.

I must have drove eighty miles an hour back to Katie’s apartment. Luckily, her lights were on which meant that she was back from the rehearsal dinner and could listen to the horrendous night I just had.

Katie sat through most of my story in shock, with her mouth hanging almost to the floor. “Wait, so you’ve never met this kid before tonight?”

“No” I replied.

“And he just brought you to a cemetery? To say goodbye to his dad? What kind of looney tunes are you going out with? You have got to stop this online dating. Seriously, he could have killed you out there.”

“Katie, the most he could have done was scratch my knee caps.”

I apologized for choosing a boy over her, and after hearing my story, she forgave me.

The next day was her sisters wedding. We ate. We drank. We danced. We drank. I was dragged onto the dance floor to do the slides, both electric and cha-cha. I even slow danced with her Grandma Evelyn. I was having such a great time I didn’t even think about the night before, until the waiter came around and passed out the desserts.

“What are they passing out? Didn’t they get a wedding cake?” I asked Katie.

“No, they didn’t want to have a traditional wedding.”

“Yeah, the whole getting-married-in-a-church thing is pretty unconventional.”

When the cute waiter(who didn’t take my number as a tip) finally approached our table, he held a tray with an array of delectable desserts; Cupcakes, pastries, and cookies. I decided I would have one of each…but only one. It wasn’t until then, when I looked down at my plate and saw the cookies, that I asked the waiter just to make sure, “What kind of cookies are these?”

He looked down at his tray and said, “Oh, these. They are Vienna Fingers. They were bought for the kids table, I think.”

Katie and I looked at each other and at the same time squealed, “Keebs!”

We lifted our cups of coffee, clinked them together, and said “To stunting our growth!”

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sweet, Sweet Revenge

Everyone loves a story about revenge, right? While this story may not deal with violence or cunning intelligence, it does deal with lies and deception. And, well, a little bit of humor. Enjoy! 

Early in my second year at FAU, I had lost half of the freshmen fifteen, I was attempting to go to class, and I had fully broken up with Jon. And clearly by “breaking up with”, I mean changing my phone number and deleting him off of Myspace.

Remember those days before Facebook was the powerhouse it is today and Myspace was well, stupid? The days when we still had both accounts open, friended the same people, posted the same pictures, and left the same comments on our friends walls. Boy, were we all idiots.

Anyways, I had realized that the last thing I wanted was a relationship. I was in my prime, in a new city, and I was tired of being tied down. Well, relationship speaking. I was definitely not opposed to a little S&M bondage (just don’t tell my life insurance carrier).

I wanted to go out and have as much fun as I possibly could. I was a nineteen year old college student with a fake I.D living in South Florida.

My fake I.D. was actually a driver’s license I stole out of somebody’s wallet at a dorm party and replaced with a Coldstone Card. While I was eligible to gain access to all of Miami’s hottest clubs, they were eligible for a free ice cream cone. Even Steven.

One November evening, I went out for my 20th birthday with some friends to a bar in “Downtown” Boca Raton. I say downtown in quotes, because anyone who has ever been to Boca knows there is no downtown area. It’s just the place in town without a bagel shop or Synagogue.

I was accompanied by my closest friends, Cory, Marissa, Katie, Jamie, and Josh and I was already a little drunk from my two glasses of wine from the Cheesecake Factory.

“I am so happy that you all came out to celebrate my birthday” I exclaimed after the each bought me a birthday shot. In another world, I would have preferred five totally different people, but I made due.

“Let’s do Lemon drop shots next” Cory shouted over the 80’s cover band.

“Let’s kill ourselves” I shot back as I readjusted the birthday crown I bought for myself earlier that day at Party City.

In addition to the crown, I was donning a shirt Marissa had bought me to wear for the night. It was neon green that had “Made in the Eighties” written on it.

“You know, because we are going to see an 80’s cover band tonight, and well, you were made in the eighties. Get it? It’s like…a double meaning!”

Man, I need new friends I thought as I graciously accepted the shirt and wished that people would have stuck to the list I handed out weeks prior. Aside from the fun 80’s shirt, I got a “Friends” desk calendar from Josh, an empty picture frame from Cory, and a bottle of champagne from Katie and Jamie. I was most excited about the champagne until they drank it before we went out to dinner. So, my real gift from them was an Andre sticker with a matching cork.

We spent the rest of the evening dancing to the hits of Billy Idol and Hughie Lewis and the news, all while drinking overpriced beers.

During, the bands rendition of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, I realized that I, too, wanted to dance with somebody, anybody but my friends. I turned to my left and saw two overweight forty year old women in matching Madonna costumes. “Eh” I thought. I then turned to my right and saw a group of fun people, my age, dancing and having the time of their lives. Since I was drunk, and when I’m drunk, I feel invincible enough to do anything, I jumped in the middle of their dance party.

Usually, they would have pushed me aside, or walked away, but seeing as I had on my “Birthday Crown”, they all embraced me as if I were one of their own.

After fifteen minutes of non-stop dancing, the one boy in the group turned to me and said “Sweet shirt man. I totally get it.” I faked a laugh because he was cute. “I’m Tim”.

“James. Nice to meet you.”

“So, is this how Boca is every night?” he asked while wiping the sweat from his forehead.

“Not really. Boca kind of sucks. Do you live in West Palm or something?”

“Pittsburgh, actually.”

“Are you that big of a fan of The Breakfast Klub that you traveled all the way down here to watch them play Whitney Houston to death?” (I know, too soon).

“No, I am actually here visiting the FAU campus. I’m thinking about coming here next year, so I wanted to check it out” he responded.

“Oh, awesome!” I shouted over the music. “You will love it, it’s a great school.”

We spent the remainder of the evening drinking, and dancing, and getting to know one another. You know, like you do at an 80’s cover band party. When the end of the night came, we exchanged phone numbers and added one another to our Facebook pages, as one does nowadays. I headed home and couldn’t wait to turn on my laptop and browse through his 453 pictures.

The next few months, Tim and I had a pretty sporadic relationship. One week we would talk every day, and one week I wouldn’t hear from him. It isn’t uncommon behavior with someone who lives 1,500 miles away. I still went on dates, and I am sure he sat at home crying that he wasn’t with me. Everything was still normal.

After having a really good month – meaning we sent over a 30 text messages to each other a day and talked on the phone every night – I decided that I didn’t want to wait until fall to see him, so I finished up my glass of vodka and called up Tim.

“Hey Jimmy-Jam, what it do in the Florida South?”

“Hey, Tim. I am just sitting here on my porch, smoking a cigarette, and I decided that we should plan to see each other. I mean, I know you are moving down here in the fall, but it would be nice to see you beforehand. Don’t you agree? I think we should arrange something. ” I couldn’t believe I was rambling on so much about wanting to see him. I also couldn’t believe I could finish an entire bottle of Smirnoff Vanilla vodka in one sitting.

“I feel ya, holmes. Well, I mean, I don’t have anything going on up here. Would you want to come to Pittsburgh and chill for a weekend?”

Would I?! Wait…Would I? I didn’t know anything about Pittsburgh. I didn’t even know what state Pittsburgh was in, but I knew I was in the state of complete determination and desperation to not have to care about that.

“I would love to come visit you in Pittsburgh! I’ll check out flights tomorrow and let you know!”

We hung up the phone and I logged in to my Delta account to search for flights. The next morning, I informed Cory and his boyfriend about my travel plans.

“Wait, wait, wait. You’re going to fly up to Pittsburgh? To see that guy you met on your birthday? Seriously?”

“Yes, Cory. Some of us have a spontaneous side. You should try it.”

“Spontaneous is about driving to the movie theater and then deciding what to go see, or trying something different at Denny’s. Not flying across the country for some guy. What you’re doing is crazy.”

“First of all, it is not crazy! And secondly, we go to Denny’s every week and every week you order Moons Over My Hammy, so zip it. What do you think Mauricio?”

“Yo no se.” (Mauricio is Peruvian and doesn’t speak much Enlgish.)

“Ugh, you are just jealous of my happiness. Both of you! I’m buying the plane ticket and I’m going up there. I’ve never been. Plus it would be nice to eat a cheese stake and see the Liberty Bell.”

“The Liberty bell is nowhere near Pittsburgh!”

“Whatever!” I stormed out of the living room and sat at my desk and bought my plane ticket for the weekend in two weeks. That should give him enough time to get everything ready and plan all of our fun activities and for me to get enough time to take off work. Perfect.

As soon as I received the e-mail confirmation of my flight, I texted Tim the details. His text was brief, but he definitely sounded excited.

Two weeks later, I was sitting in my living room watching When Harry Met Sally when Cory sat down beside me with a bowl of popcorn.

“You all packed?”

“Yeah, I think so. I hope it isn’t too cold up there this time of year, I don’t have any winter jackets.”

“It’s March, you’ll be fine.” We both took a scoop of popcorn.

When the movie finished, I headed off to bed. I wanted to have a good night sleep for my big day. I hate flying, and was trying to mentally prepare myself that the plane would not crash.

I set my alarm for 11:30am, so I would not over sleep. I hopped in the shower and got myself ready while I made Cory bring my bags to the car. I decided to text Tim once I got in the car: “Omw to the airport. See you in a few hours!”

His response was almost immediate: “I don’t think we should go through with this. I am sort of getting back with my ex. Well, we actually never broke up. I’m Sorry! Hope you can get that ticket refunded!”

I sat in the passenger seat of Cory’s Ford Taurus in complete shock. “Turn the car around. I’m not going. And please don’t tell me you were right.”

“Want to go to Denny’s?”

The following weeks were consumed with studying for finals, working at the restaurant to make extra money, and to forget about Tim. I hadn’t spoken to him since his text he sent me en route to the airport, and I didn’t plan to ever again. Well, until I ran into him at that very same bar on my birthday the following year.

“Thank God there is no cover band here tonight.”

“Si” said Mauricio.

I’m going to run to the bar and get some shots of tequila. Who’s in?”

Naturally, everyone rose their hands, so I headed over to the outside bar with Marissa. When the shots were laid out in front of us, the bartender said “That will be 28 dollars.” I looked over to Marissa.

“You heard him, pay the man.”

“I thought you were buying the shots?!”

“It’s my birthday, why the hell would I buy everyone shots? I said I wanted to get shots. Not buy them.”

A very disgruntled and aggravated Marissa helped me carry the eight shot glasses over to our table where everyone shouted “Thanks James!” over the music.

We all toasted to me and my youth and chugged down our shots. I slipped one of the lime wedges into my mouth and looked up, and that is when I saw Tim, standing two tables over with a bunch of girls.

“It’s him” I said.

“Who? Ryan Reynolds?”

“No. Him. Tim.”

I suddenly looked to Cory for advice. I was begging him to tell me what I should do in this situation. Should we all just leave and head to a different bar, or should we stay and act like we are having the time of our lives?”

“But I am having the time of my life!” he exclaimed.

“That’s cute, but I really don’t know what I should do. Screw it. I’m going over there and saying something.”

“Are you sure? What are you going to say?”

“I haven’t decided that yet. I’ll figure it out on the walk over.”

Four steps later, I was standing behind Tim holding a huge Nikkon camera taking pictures of three random girls. Once the shot had been taken, I gently tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hey-oh-my-God-What are you doing here, James?!”

“I live here, remember. I see you are living in Boca now.”

“Yeah, for about a few months. I love it. Hey! We met here exactly one year ago today! How cool!”

Why the hell was he being so nonchalant about everything? Does he not remember what he did? Is he even going to bring it up? Should I even bring it up?

“Awesome. Well, I just wanted to say hi. I’m going to go back to my friends. See ya around.”

“No, no, no. Let me at least buy you a birthday shot. Don’t think I don’t remember!”

Of course, I thought. This he remembers. Being raised right and taught to never say no to free alcohol, I agreed and we headed off to the bar. An hour later, I was hammered and completely forgave him for having a boyfriend and telling me not to come up to visit him the day of my trip. My friends came up to me and told me the bar was closing and that it was time to go, so I hugged Tim, gave him my new cell phone number, and told him to add me on Facebook.

In the parking lot, I was just getting into the back seat of Cory’s car when I heard Tim screaming my name. I looked over and saw him running towards us, waving with one hand, and holding his camera with the other.

“Shit, James. I have a huge favor to ask of you. My credit card got declined at the bar and I have no money to pay my tab. My friends already left and they aren’t answering their cell phones. Any way I can bum fifty bucks?”

Against all of my better judgment, I took off my seatbelt and headed back into the bar with him and paid for his tab on my credit card. Happy Birthday, James. As we walked back out into the parking lot, I said goodbye again and approached the car.

“Wait! I…well, I also don’t have a ride home. Can I just crash with you tonight?”

I looked over at Cory and Mauricio and felt suddenly so alone. It was my birthday and I’ll have sex with an asshole if I want to. I said yes, and we went back to my apartment.

The next morning, I drove him back to his apartment. He kissed me on the cheek and said, “I promise, I will mail you a check for the fifty bucks. You’re a life saver.”

“…But you don’t have my address!” I hollered, but it was too late. He was already in his complex. I drove back to my apartment to take a Benadryl and sleep the day away. I’ll never hear from him again.

_________________________________

Five years later, I was living in New York City trying to make it big as a writer, and barely scraping by as a waiter. I spent all day filling out job applications and sending my resume to every publishing house in the city, and all night serving $18 dollar cheeseburgers in Time Square.

One night after work, I opted out of going to a bar and instead returned to my bite-sized apartment to watch a bunch of YouTube clips and hangout on Facebook. When I logged on, I saw that I had a message. It was from Tim.

“Come on!” I screamed to my computer.

I opened up the message and it read:

Hey James. Long time, huh? Well, anyways, I don’t know if you know this, but I work for a television production company as a PA, and I travel all over the country. Next week, I am going to be in New York City, and I saw that you now live there (way cool) and we are looking for a few extra hands to work with us for a week. If it’s something you would be interested in, let me know. Would be great to see ya!

Tim

p.s. I also need a place to crash.

I stared at my computer screen for a good fifteen minutes before even thinking about what to reply. Instead, I called Cory. He couldn’t believe that Tim had messaged me and said I should definitely fuck with him. “He told you not to come visit him while you were on the way to the airport because he had a boyfriend. He had you pay his bar tab on your birthday. James, it’s revenge time.”

Yes, it totally was revenge time. He was a dick. An asshole. And a horrible lay. This was my chance to get him back. So, I hit the reply button and said:

Hey Tim! It sure has been a long time! A production assistant? That sounds like a fun job. And I love T.V. So I would be very interested in helping out for the week. And don’t worry. You are always welcome to come stay with me. Can’t wait to see you!

 J 🙂

Not five seconds after I sent the e-mail, Tim was texting my phone thanking me for wanting to help out, and for the place to stay. I said it was my pleasure.

The next week, Tim was on his train from Boston to New York and said he would be in the city in about an hour. He texted me when his train got in and asked what address he should give the cab driver. I told him my address was 42 West 88th street, Manhattan, New York.

…I live in Hoboken, New Jersey.


FacebookTwitterMore...

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Year in Review

Usually, at the end of the year, people tend to reflect on the memories they have made, the things they wish they would have done differently, and the times they truly lived life to the fullest.

Me? On New Years Eve? I am sitting in my living room, drinking a glass of cheap red wine, and reflecting on the dates I have endured the past year. I am also being rejected via text message by some boy refusing to come over and watch a movie.

Pathetic.

And that is actually the word to describe my year in the world of dating.

Sure there were some nice guys, but like I always say, they aren’t any fun to talk about. So I figured I would write a brief synopsis of the dates I went on this past year and hopefully, if I am not too drunk, I will be enlightened to the error of my ways and hopefully find a similar path of mistakes and slip-ups.

Let’s begin.

2013 started off with a bang, and I don’t mean one made by a cheap firecracker bought off the side of the road in Tucson. I mean literally.

Last New Years Eve, I went to a party at a friends house where I continually drank every bottle of liquor in the house and smoked every last cigarette in my pack. Once the party had ended, a few of my friends and I headed down to the Lower East Side to check out some bars. When the bars  closed, and not even tired enough to go home, we headed across the street to an after-hours party that cost 20$ to get into. While waiting in the never-ending line of drunks and crack addicts, I met Kris – a graphic designer from Australia who was opening a brand new pack of Marlboro Lights and was giving me a hard time on acquiring one.

“It’s just one cigarette, you dingo. Give me a cig. I’ll do anything.”  Well, I shouldn’t have said anything, because next thing I remember was hooking up with him in the bathroom at this grungy bar – pants around my ankles and nothing but shame. But, in the end, I did get my cigarette, so everything worked out for the best.

The next “man of the year” was actually a man I had never met. Or will probably never meet. His name was Jared and we started talking on the ever-popular iPhone app, Grindr. He worked downtown, lived in New Jersey, and was smoking hot. And when I say smoking hot, I don’t mean Robert Downey Jr. in the 80’s. I mean Abercrombie and Fitch shopping bag smoking hot.

We would talk all day, every day, exchanging mundane activities from the day, learning about our families and upbrining, and sometimes, on the rare occasion, participating in a little bit of phone sex.

Now I am never one to dial and dime, but I had never – up to this point in time – participated in phone sex. I always thought it was juvenile and ridiculous. Plus, I never even met this guy, so I really didn’t know who I was talking to.

Speaking of “never knowing who I was talking to”… it turned out that he wasn’t really the guy in the pictures. He lied. He told me he was a 27 year old professional working on Wall Street. What he really was was a 40 something year old guy, working part time at a theater company living with his parents in Fort Lee, NJ. Yes, that’s right. I was catfished.

I was so upset about this because I truly was starting to gain feelings for him, and it turned out everything was just a lie. I didn’t even get to meet Nev! Ugh, so that is the story about Jared – if that IS his real name.

Moving on to the Spring. In the months of March and April, I was dating someone who was funny and sweet, but I just think we didn’t have too much in common. Maybe that is why he stopped calling me?

And over the summer, a girl friend of mine talked me into downloading a brand new phone application called Tindr – a refurbished Hot or Not that is connected to your Facebook pictures. I was obsssseeesssssssed. There is something so therapeutic about swiping “No” to hundreds of guys in the course of a Gossip Girl episode.

There is also nothing so exhilarating as clicking “Yes” on someone and having it be a match. Every time I would swipe to the right, my heart would stop for a second to see if they, too, liked me.

One night out at a fancy dinner (probably Applebee’s) my girlfriend Rebecca stole my phone and asked if she could “play Tindr on my phone.” Since I was not having much of any luck, I obliged her wishes. Plus, if she was busy swiping left or right, I had the entire basket of mozzarella sticks to myself. #winning

The next morning, I was alerted I had a new match. His name was David and he was very handsome. Most of all, he seemed so interested in me. He would reply three separate, long messages to my “how are you?” question instead of the usual “fine” or “horny” or BLOCK.

David and I met, had a wonderful first date, followed by wonderful second, third, fourth, and fifth dates. He was a great summer romance and we had a blast. But just like Sandy and Danny, it did not last. And plus, I look awful in a pleather pant suit.

So there I was, back to the drawing board. I don’t know why my friends make me play Pictionary on a Friday night!

The following few months, I was scraping the bottle of the barrel. I went on one date with a guy that had buck teeth and did club promotion. I went on another where a guy did cocaine in the bathroom and told me I looked like a leukemia patient.

“Is this what 27 will be like?” I asked the guy in the truck making my tacos. He didn’t respond, but gave me extra sour cream, so I smiled.

The last guy I  dated in 2013 (unless that boy realizes he is being stupid and comes over in the next half hour) was this guy named Keith.

Keith was a great guy – and clearly the best guy I had dated all year. He was successful, handsome, and so sweet. He held the door at restaurants and complimented my J.Crew button-down shirts. But, there was no zsa zsa zsu. No passion. No…real interest. He was the one I was most upset about because I truly could see something there, but at the time, I just was not ready for what they call a “mature relationship.” I mean, he didn’t even know what “That’s So Raven” was.

So, what did I learn this year, aside from not mixing dairy with vodka? That I just may not be ready for a serious, mature, relationship. I have a lot of things I need to work out before I can fully commit to someone. Being in a relationship is hard work and I don’t know if I can give someone my undivided attention.

But, nonetheless, I had a pretty great year, and even though I didn’t find my Prince Charming, I learned so much about myself from every one of these guys. What I want, what I don’t want, and how to properly perform phone sex (use the speakerphone).

When it comes to dating, this year my resolutions are to be more confident, expect the best, and stop giving hand jobs (seriously, what’s the point? Do it ya self.)

I am so excited to see just what, and who, 2014 will bring! So get ready – this writers’ dating life is far from being expired!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Single Bells

Ah, my friends, it is that time of year again. The time where we spend our Saturday nights making festive cookies, blaring “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” on repeat and drinking spiked (soy) egg nog.

No? Just me? Okay.

The one thing missing from this equation is a significant other to eat those delicious cookies, someone to sing and dance along to the songs on the Holiday Pandora station, and a guy to get drunk with.

Being in your late twenties and being single is pretty unpleasant, but the holidays sure make it 10 times worse. No one to buy gifts for – and more importantly, no one to receive gifts from. No one to help you carry your Christmas tree home and up three flights of stairs. And no one to fight with you about which Home Alone movie is better. You know you’re in bad shape when you listen to “Christmas Shoes” just to cheer up.

There is something about the cold weather and the ending of yet another year that really makes you sit down and ponder about life in general. Am I happy with my career? Do I enjoy my friends? Is this the city I want to live in? Should I have slept with that guy with the questionable rash?

While all important questions, sometimes we don’t like the answers. Looking back at our decisions in the past year regarding dating, it’s impossible not to cringe at some of the choices we had made. Even now, while writing this post, I can think on both hands about all the times I should have played it cool, not texted that guy at 3am, to not be in an abusive relationship, or to not suggest Mexican food on a first date.

Aside from doubting my actions when it comes to finding love, the end of the year also brings a lot of positive flashbacks from great memories with friends and the elusive good first dates. I have met so many amazing guys this past year and have not only learned about them, but I learned so much about myself. I know – what a cliché! I can’t even believe I typed that – but it’s true.

Going out with all different types of guys has made me realize what I want in a relationship. And, also, what I do not want.

Some things I could live without in the dating world: Someone who asks me out but doesn’t have a plan, someone who takes me to a gay bar on a Friday night at 11pm, someone who does a line of cocaine in front of me, and someone who thinks just because they bought me a cheeseburger at an Applebee’s means they get to sleep with me.

What I do want: someone who is caring, shows compassion, texts me daily, takes me to places I have never seen or been before, and most importantly, someone who can make me laugh. Money comes and goes, and looks don’t last forever, but if you have a personality that can keep me amused every day, that’s the most important quality I could ever hope for.  (And I mean, money doesn’t hurt).

So yes, I know that the holidays are tough – going to company parties solo, eating an entire box of candy canes alone, and singing “Single Bells” in the shower – but once Christmas is over, you can look forward to New Years Eve…Oh wait, I forgot…that whole “not having someone to kiss at midnight thing.” Ok, so forget that. Once Christmas and New Years are done, you can look forward to…ah, shit. Valentine’s Day is next, right? Damnit.

Okay, well just get through the next four or five months, and you will be happy again.

Happy Holidays! 🙂

 

FacebookTwitterMore...

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The 15 Worst Things I Have Heard on a First Date

Dating is an incredibly difficult and tiresome activity us 20-somethings need to partake in. Here is a compiled list of the 15 worst things  I have heard on my many dates. Enjoy. And may you never ever date these people.

1. “I’ve actually never read a book in my life.” 

anigif_enhanced-buzz-2203-1382126835-15

2. “I just did a line of coke in the bathroom.” 

anigif_enhanced-buzz-2231-1382126688-12

3. “Are you going to eat all of that?”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-31447-1382127016-0

4. “Oh, I actually still live at home.”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-530-1382127116-8

5. “Mind if we stop at the cemetery real quick? I need to drop something off on my father’s grave.” 

anigif_enhanced-buzz-31511-1382127154-5

6. “Can you order me a Malibu Bay Breeze?” 

anigif_enhanced-buzz-31442-1382127286-4

7. “Is the shaved head a look? Or are you going through chemo?”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-10502-1382127387-26

8. “You Look Different in Person.”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-2406-1382127706-6

9. “I forgot my wallet. Can you spot me?”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-10509-1382127437-18

10. “Want to skip dessert and head to my place?”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-592-1382127491-15

11. “Really? It doesn’t look like you have a gym membership…”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-10462-1382127549-24

12. “I quit my job on Wall St. My biggest passion is club promotion.”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-3378-1382127740-15

13. “Wanna fool around in the bathroom?”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-2363-1382127797-4

14. “Don’t you know how fattening Macaroni & Cheese is?” 

anigif_enhanced-buzz-2391-1382127837-8

15. “I think I’m falling in love with you.” 

anigif_enhanced-buzz-10454-1382127335-2

I guess it is safe to say I will be single for a long time. It’s fine. I don’t even care! 

alligator-tears

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Falling for the Nice Guy: What’s the Catch?

I am no stranger to blind dates, first dates, good dates, bad dates, and crying in the bathroom, but the past few years, especially since living in New York City, the guys who are actually nice seem like the stranger men to me. Call me jaded or call me cynical (my mom sure does) but when I meet someone for a date, and they are genuinely nice, it is rather shocking and out of the ordinary. And I don’t mean “nice” like they call you the right name or make sure you get off first. I mean nice in the fact that they hold the door, pull out your chair, ask you questions, and make eye contact.

Absurd, I know.

For the past few weeks I have been seeing someone who definitely falls into the “Nice guy category”. After our first date, I came home and called my friends and told them about every minute and mundane detail (like I do after every date) although where I normally would say, “…so I blew him and left” or “he drank white zinfandel with ice” I noted how nice he was – something my friends had very rarely heard me say when referring to a man. The nicest guy I have come across in the past three years is Harum, the guy who works at Dunkin’ Donuts.

All of their reactions were the same: “Oh my god, finally a nice guy”… “This is exactly what you need”… “Marry him.”

While my friends were all infatuated with him, I on the other hand, was on the fence.

So, I hopped down, ordered a pizza, and tried to figure out why I was so damaged and jaded.

After my fifth slice, I decided one more was enough and then called one of my girlfriends to talk this out. All of my friends are great and each one has a specific purpose. I have one friend I go to when I need to talk about work. Another one to talk about food. And another to talk about exercise. Actually, I haven’t talked to that friend in a few years…Hm. I hope he’s okay.

Anyways, I called my girlfriend who is really great at analyzing guys and relationships, and has more of a “real” attitude than some of my other friends. While finishing the last of the pizza, I listened to her tell me something I think, deep down, I already knew: You are attracted to assholes.

“Huh” I said. “I guess that’s kind of true.”

“Kind of true? James you dated someone for four months who only texted you after midnight. You dated someone else who forgot your birthday. And don’t make me bring up the guy who pushed you down a flight of stairs.”

“Okay, okay. I am attracted to assholes” I finally admitted. “But how do I stop?”

“How the hell should I know? I just texted a guy who thinks my name is Jennifer and asked him to come over. I’m in the same boat.”

I went out with the nice guy again, and just as expected, we had a wonderful time. He paid for my dinner, helped me put my coat on, and even walked me (out of his way) to my train. He has a successful job, his own apartment, and he reads from fun. He even gets his books from the library, not a book store. Swoon.

I spent the whole train ride wondering what was wrong with me. I had a great evening and liked him a lot, I just didn’t have the butterflies. I didn’t have the zsa zsa zsu. I didn’t have anything.

But there was something missing. I thought about the other people I have dated who gave me butterflies. They weren’t necessarily “assholes” or “jerks”, but there was some type of challenge. Whether it was the drive for passion or just the determination of keeping it interesting, there was always something keeping me texting them. Something that made me want to prove they should date me. But now, in this situation, I already had him. He is already interested. He wants to date me.

So why do I feel nothing?

I know that now, as a “mature” 27 year old, I need to be appreciative that someone so great thinks I am so great as well, but am I a fool for wanting there to be a challenge? Or should I just suck it up, stop playing games, and give this one a chance?

Hello? Answer me.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,