Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

April 24, 2008

The Evil Box of Relationship Death

As I’ve mentioned before, Wine Guy and I recently marked the one-year anniversary of the day we met. We celebrated with a trip to the museum in the same park where we went on our first date, followed by dinner at the same sushi restaurant. I admit it -- I had high, romantic hopes.

The museum was nice and dinner was tasty, though I must say I get much less joy out of a "free" sushi meal when the guy is actually my boyfriend instead of just some potential schlub I'll never see again.

We then decided to visit a popular dessert parlor (my treat since dinner was expensive and I felt bad). This is where the night went to shit. While waiting in the ridiculously long line, we got in a huge fight which started when I overreacted to what I took as his stubborn unwillingness to accompany me to a friend's party later that week. If you will allow me, I would like to chalk up my overreaction to PMS and excessive pain from too much walking around (I haven't done much since the surgery).

Whatever the reason, the fight was awful and left me quaking with anger (at him) and disappointment (at an anniversary ruined). Once we finally got to the table, Wine Guy smartly took a trip to the bathroom, giving me some time to calm down and glimpse reality. I decided to eat shit and apologize. God bless him, he accepted and we proceeded to nibble on our decadent coconut cake, both of us a little emotionally bruised and drained.

I thought that would be it for the night. A potentially romantic “milestone” (you know how I love those) tainted by my bullshit.

What I didn’t expect was a massive realization about where our relationship was heading and an inspiring turnabout that left me giddy about “us” all over again.

That weekend we had a ridiculous heat wave. We’re talking high 80s and almost unbearable (certainly unexpected for early April). So when we returned home around 9pm, we decided to sit outside on my patio for a little bit because it was just too hot to burrow down on the sofa. The next thing I knew it was 3:00 am and we had been talking and laughing for hours – just like we did in those first few months of dating.

Sounds fun, right? But you're probably asking, what was the massive realization?
Here it is: TV was killing us.

When we first started dating we were almost boastful about how we had so much to talk about that we didn't even need TV. We never turned it on and never wanted to. Sometime over the last 8 months that changed – and neither of us realized it – until the night of our anniversary.

At one particularly humorous point in our marathon conversation, I jumped up and grabbed something that had been hiding on my shelf, untouched for months -- The Effin’ Bee, which stands for FNB, or the Friday Night Book. Back when we couldn't stop talking to one another, this was the tool we used to record ridiculous ideas, inane jokes, little sketches, clever business concepts, trips we want to take, etc.

After we scribbled a few things down (our big hit of the night was Cool Band Names - my favorites being "Sack" and "Puddle") it occurred to us both that it had been months since we’d written in it. Why? TV - The Evil Box of Relationship Death.

We both agreed that talking and scribbling in our book was MUCH more fun than channel surfing. True, we were "together" while watching TV, but in reality all it had done was create an invisible divide between us. (In our defense though, this all started while I was recovering from surgery and unable to do much except lie there in a semi-drugged state).

It wasn’t until that 3am moment that I realized how much I’d missed Wine Guy even though he'd been near me all along. He agreed and we both vowed to keep the TV to a strict minimum in our new place. The next day Wine Guy called Kansas Cad and told him we do not want the big-screen TV that he had previously offered to us. Instead, we’ll try to entertain each other and, of course, have that Tivo around for strategic watching on our much smaller screen.

So be careful out there. TV can kill your relationship. And this is coming from someone who makes their living in television!


April 18, 2008

In Memory of a Cat and a Relationship

Even though we’ve been broken up and officially ‘just friends’ for years, there was one part of my relationship with Only Child that lived on – our cat Tino. When we moved in together, I was convinced that my cat AppleButt, who had a kitty roommate in my previous place, was lonely. So I insisted on adopting another cat to keep her company.

Only Child resisted the idea and, in fact, didn’t even come with me to pick him out. Instead I brought a friend and we fell in love with the most handsome male cat in the shelter. He was frisky but loving, beautiful but rugged and, according to his profile at the upscale coastal shelter, was found “in the bad part of town.” I insisted that OC come to the shelter to meet him and, just as I thought, we brought him home that day. We named him Valentino because of his sheer handsomeness. He quickly became “Tino” – and a member of the family.

Not that everyone was thrilled with his presence. AppleButt had apparently decided that no other cat could replace her previous friend and did her best to ignore Tino’s playful attempts to engage her. To her credit, I can see why she didn’t take to him. He was a bit of an oaf and didn’t really know his own strength. He played rough and AppleButt is just a little too prissy to put up with that.

And Tino was also pretty insistent about his demands. He had to go outside when he wanted and if you didn’t let him out immediately upon request, there would be a nice ammonia-smelling wet spot on your favorite leather chair or, if he was really mad, on your mattress. After awhile, we just let him win and he became an outdoor tomcat, even though I hated the idea of what that could mean for his lifespan.

As we all settled in together, it became apparent that there was a gender line being drawn in the house. AppleButt was my girl. She slept on my head, allowed me to snuggle (some say smother) her like a baby, and pretty much gravitated towards me. Meanwhile, Tino leaned towards Only Child. He liked the more “distant” physical attention Only Child gave him (read: no baby-style cradling) and slept at OC’s feet in bed. It grew into an understanding who belonged to who.

So when it came time for me to move out and get my own place (the first step in a long, drawn-out breakup process that, in hindsight, seems ridiculously obvious), it kind of went without saying that AppleButt would come with me and Tino would stay behind in the bachelor pad.

That was six years ago. During that time I would get updates from Only Child about Tino’s latest hunting achievement or his new phase of excessive meowing at 5 am. He still had a place in my heart and, even though I didn’t see him often, he was still “my boy.”

Then yesterday I got the call from Only Child that Tino was missing. He often spent the night outside but always came home the next day. OC had just returned from a trip and had the neighbor taking care of the cat, but no one had apparently seen him in two days. I was usually the one to panic when the cat was gone for even five minutes, so the fact that OC was calling in the middle of a workday to tell me this meant things were not looking good. I tried to be reassuring, all the while feeling dread at what this might mean and, of course, guilt for having left Tino behind without even getting a chance to say goodbye. I advised OC to put up some signs around the neighborhood, call the shelters and talk to the neighbors. I hung up feeling shaky.

An hour later he called back. The first thing I heard was sniffling and then a quiet, “He’s dead.” Apparently OC had gone to talk to the neighbor who lives one street up, where Tino would often visit, and she rather coldly informed OC that animal control had just taken away his body. She then went on to describe in unnecessary detail the condition in which she discovered his mangled, half-eaten corpse (an apparent coyote attack, which may sound weird to some of you city folk but, even in the densely populated beach area where OC lives, happens all too frequently). OC was clearly upset, as was I.

I didn’t know what to say. Or feel. I kind of went numb. My boy was dead. My boy that I hadn’t seen in at least a year. Does that even make him my boy anymore? Does that make him “our” cat anymore? As sad as it was to hear of Tino’s untimely and violent death, the greatest amount of sorrow I felt (and still feel) was for Only Child. They were family to each other. They slept together every night. They bonded. There’s a reason I call him Only Child –he’s a bit of a loner. So this is a particularly hard loss for him. Or at least I think it is anyway. I worry.

But I’m not his girlfriend anymore and there’s only so much comfort I’m allowed to give him. I spoke with him for a little bit on the phone, but he had to hang up-- I suspect because he needed to cry in private. I called him back later and shared my grief. He seemed thankful for it but at some point we had to get on with our day. After we said goodbye, I was left with my sadness and, more than anything, my hope that OC’s current girlfriend of over two years (who sometimes reads this blog and I hope is not upset at my writing this) is willing and able to give him the sympathy, love and companionship he needs right now.

Anyway, if you don’t mind, say a little prayer for Tino. I know he left this world doing what he loved, wandering the shrubbery-covered hillside, hunting and sleeping in the dirt. He was willing to piss on everything that was dear to his owner so he could have that freedom. Too bad he had to die for it. Damn coyotes.


April 11, 2008

Full Circle

One year ago today I drank too much wine and bourbon while talking to an interesting guy at a wine bar. I know it sounds like a rough mix of alcohol, but I now consider it a lucky concoction as he may very well be the man I spend the rest of my life with.

We both feel seriously "gifted out" after the holidays and Valentine's Day, so we are playing it low key. I decided we should reenact our first date when we went to a museum in Balboa Park and then had sushi. Of course, back then I picked sushi because it served as my motivation for dating (if the date sucked, at least I got free sushi out of it). But now it's just a special treat for both of us.

I've been pretty focused over the course of our relationship (and in this blog) about "milestones" reached in this relationship: the three month mark, birthdays, meeting my mom, the holidays, our first road trip together, and our first disaster. But for some reason this huge milestone hasn't gotten me all worked up. It just feels simple and good. And it's also overshadowed by the fact that we are moving in together in six+ weeks, so there are bigger milestones to be thinking about!

Not to mention our first Passover dinner together with my family. Hopefully my brother Pat-hole will keep his drinking to a minimum and Wine Guy's first Passover dish, which he is preparing at my mom's request (she is thrilled to finally have someone to talk to about cooking since I care not a bit), turns out to his (and our) liking. Do the milestones ever end?


April 7, 2008

Who's That Man In My Bed?

You know that feeling when someone you're close with takes off their glasses in front of you for the first time and you are stunned, thinking "Holy crap. Is THAT what you look like?" Well, that's the sensation I had when Wine Guy showed up at my door not long ago with his goatee shaved off.

I think Wine Guy is adorable. Goatee or no goatee, thin or tubby, glasses or no glasses. I'm not sure what other people think about his looks objectively, and I don't really care. When I look at him I see a man of quality who I'm lucky to have. So if he puts on some weight or gets more gray hair, I may not be thrilled, but I don't squeeze him any less tight.

That being said, I was shocked when I opened my door to see his clean-shaven face. All of a sudden I saw him. I instantly realized that I've always known him as Wine Guy, my boyfriend with the goatee and glasses. And yes, he is an overly intellectual, slightly nerdy-but-hip computer guy, so "the look" he had unintentionally cultivated seemed right out of Central Casting. Only, I didn't realize that I saw him as this "package" until that day.

He stood in my kitchen as I looked him over, clearly enjoying my sense of surprise. As I took in his face, I thought if I was going to LOOK at him, I wanted to see it all. "Take off your glasses," I commanded.

He did. I stared.

What a strange sensation to really see someone you thought you knew so well for the first time.

"So....that's what you look like. Huh."

I suspect at this point he was starting to grow concerned. What exactly was my reaction?

Even now, over two weeks since the shaving, I can't really say whether I like his looks better then or now. I guess I like them both for different reasons. He looks a bit younger now, not that he looked old before. His smooth cheeks are wonderful to kiss, but that stubble in the morning -- not so great. He has nothing to rub when he's thinking of what to say; now his fingers sort of graze his face, searching for a place to land. His glasses stand out more, for whatever that's worth.

What matters most is how he feels about his appearance. He was ambivalent about it until he went on a work trip last week to San Francisco. One night when we were catching up on each other's days, he shared this with me, "Well, I definitely get more attention from women since I shaved my goatee. I think I'm keeping it."

Wine Guy has never been the "player" type. From what he's told me about his past, he's never had that sensation of walking in to a room and just knowing the girls are all scoping him out. So him saying this and innocently meaning it was, believe it or not, a terribly sweet moment. I was so happy for him that he felt handsome. Just the way I saw him.

So I replied, "Well then keep it off." And so far he has.

Besides considering all the chicks who will now undoubtedly be hitting on my boyfriend, I can at least say that I know what the man in my bed actually looks like.


April 1, 2008

In the Dog House?

Although our moving date is two months away, Wine Guy and I are both eager to secure a place quickly. Neither of us want to go through the torture of apartment hunting, scheduling visits, credit checks and all that crap. So when a co-worker told me about a house that is about to become vacant just around the corner from my current place, we jumped. A cute craftsman in a cool, walkable neighborhood, right price, nice neighbors - seemed perfect. So what if the landlord sounds a little nutty and it doesn't have as much space or storage as we envisioned? Despite these creeping doubts, we were still pretty excited about it and awaited a return call from the landlord.

Meanwhile, another option emerged as a bit of a surpirse. Wine Guy's friend Kansas Cad wants to move out of the townhome he owns to a more bachelor-esque studio rental downtown (he is a committed cad after all). At first we joked with each other about renting it from him because we thought we were settled on the cute craftsman. But the longer we sat with our doubts, the more we realized this might be a real opportunity. When we asked Kansas Cad about it, he reacted enthusiastically.

To be honest, I'm not thrilled with the neighborhood. It's "beach adjacent" which is a nice way of saying the slums of the beach (if anyone is from LA, think about what "Beverly Hills adjacent" means in an apartment listing -it ain't pretty). But it's in beautiful condition, new hardwood floors, redone kitchen, washer/dryer (a big deal for me as I am way OVER laundromats), a fireplace, a garage, two bedrooms, one and a half baths, and a new deck. Plus, it practically overlooks the tennis facility I use all the time (well, when I wasn't a gimp) and the location near the coast makes it easy for Wine Guy to hop on his bike for his weekend rides. Throw in the fact that the rent is reasonable and we know the landlord is not a nut (a player sure, but a sane one), and now it's sounding like a pretty damn good deal.

But all those great features are not why I want to rent the place. There is one, singular reason I am willing to live in the Beach Slums as opposed to the hip/cool gay neighborhood I have lived in and loved for six years.

I can have a dog.

Kansas Cad's place is one block from a grassy dog park and a five minute walk from the famous Dog Beach. I am the first to admit that I have blatantly transferred my potent maternal instincts on to my ferocious desire to have a dog. I look for excuses to visit my friends who own dogs. I volunteer to dog sit for my mom's dog when she goes to the theater on Sundays. I subscribe to The Daily Puppy. I even lurk around Dog Beach pretending I'm there with my [imaginary] dog just so I can watch the frolicking.

Screw Disneyland. To me, dog parks are the happiest places on earth. I love the way the dogs all play together, like kindergartners in a slobbery sandbox. I envy the way the owners all socialize, even though they would probably not even say hello if they passed each other on the street sans dogs. There's just something about dog camaraderie that brings out the goodness in people. Well, most people.

I want to be a part of that. I want to have a reason to rush home at the end of the day. I want to have something there that needs me. I want to have something that Wine Guy and I can nurture together (like Gouda and her boyfriend BabyFace did just recently). And since I'm not the kind of girl to get knocked up without the knowledge and approval of my partner, I think I at least deserve a damn dog while I wait.

Awhile back when WG and I had the "moving in together talk," I asked him if we both wanted the same things. He responded, "Well, what exactly do you want?" Without hesitation I said, "To get married, have at least one kid, and a dog. And I don't care what order that happens." It sounds blunt but, hey, he agreed.

So perhaps the dog will come first. I sense Wine Guy is a bit freaked out by my absolute insistence on this. "I will only live at Kansas Cad's place if we can have a dog. Period." Perhaps he was just stringing me along all this time and now that it could actually happen, he's balking. We did have an "incident" with his doggie tolerance early on in our relationship that still lurks in the back of my mind (as does my semi-retraction a few hours later).

We'll see if he really means it. In the meantime I'll start checking the listings on Petfinder. And if anyone knows of a Shiba Inu that needs rescuing, let me know.