"I'll have a Guinness." "Certainly. Do you mind if I check your ID first?" Well great. I'm a dead man...">
"Excuse me, sir?" said a lovely young face with a hint of a smile masked by the awkwardness of approaching a stranger on the street. I'm guessing she was in her early twenties.
"Is this where I pick up the streetcar that's headed to 23rd?"
I wanted to be friendly and say that, no, this was a Streetcar stop en route to P.S.U. I wanted to tell her the stop she was looking for was one block east. I wanted to say that I'd just passed the streetcar she was looking for, which meant the next one would be at least a fifteen minute wait.
Instead, I said "Oh god, don't call me sir."
I'm still young! I'm still hip! I'm still with it! I'm not always sure I still know what 'it' is, but I used to - and that was a time not so long ago. OK, I'm not sure I was ever really with it, but I was without it in a way that made me unique. People usually said I danced to the beat of my own drummer - an odd statement being that I can't dance at all, regardless of who the drummer may be.
"Oh, nothing. The Streetcar stop you're looking for is a block that way."
"You're welcome ma'am" I replied, knowing she had no idea why I said that.
FOUR YEARS AGO:
"A drink to get you started while you look over the menu?" asked the waiter who had no idea how much trouble he'd soon cause.
"I'd like a glass of Cabernet" said my then-girlfriend.
"Very good. And for you sir?"
"I'll have a Guinness."
"Certainly. Do you mind if I check your ID first?"
Well great. I'm a dead man...
"Oh no, not at all" I said, honestly, as I fished my ID from my wallet. Getting carded is like finding a five dollar bill on the sidewalk. Or running late the day after clocks get turned back an hour and then remembering that you didn't turn yours back, meaning you're now running quite early.
"Ahh, very good. I'm sorry about that. You've definitely got a young face. I'd have never guessed that you're thirty."
Oh Jesus Christ... do you need a shovel to bury me with? My brain felt the strain of trying to enjoy a compliment while preparing for imminent doom.
I knew that as soon as this man stepped away from the table, I'd feel the full wrath of a woman scorned. But why must I suffer? I wasn't the scorner!
"I'll be back in a moment with the drinks. And while you browse the menu, might I recommend the chef's special? We got one the most spectacular dishes I've ever tasted tonight. It's listed right over here." As he leaned in to point toward the left hand side of her menu, I was sure he could feel the heat of her temper boiling over.
And with that, he left us alone; just her, me, and our old friend anger.
"Oh you just love that" she fumed. "Don't you!"
"Love what?" I mumbled, pretending to have no idea what she was talking about.
"You know exactly what I mean. You love it, DON'T YOU. Smile a little wider why don't you? How old do you want me to feel Rob? Hmmmm? Tell me."
"Look, it's not my fault he carded me. And yeah, I smiled. Hit me right below the knee and I kick. Compliment me and I smile. I can't help it, I just do. It has nothing to do with you... it's a reflex. I feel awkward, and I smile."
"You smiled on purpose!"
"I smiled on purpose? Are you kidding me with that? I'm smiling now. Do you think I'm happy now? Believe me, I'm not. My night's wrecked because some waiter carded me but not you."
There wasn't much to say over dinner.
There wasn't much to smile about either... but I'm sure I did at least once as I pondered the ridiculousness of it all.
SOMEDAY IN THE FUTURE, AND A TIME NOT SO LONG AGO:
I fully intend to be a dirty old man. I will be the eighty year old who's getting laid regularly. Damn right. And I'll be as horny as ever.
I suspect this because I'm only getting more horny as I grow older. They say that men reach their sexual peak at age twenty, but I feel like I didn't even get started until I was in my thirties.
The same can be said of my style. I was wearing pleated khakis daily until I turned 32! Oh god, did I just admit that? Well, it's true. I was trying to hide the fact that I was so skinny, which was a pretty stupid thing to do. Shortly after moving to Portland, I decided to hip up my wardrobe a little.
I wandered into a shop on Northwest 23rd Ave. called Blake.
Blake is a jeans specialty store. You know... the kind of place where you can find a pair of jeans for three hundred dollars. I was just there because I was meeting a friend for dinner, and I happened to be running early. VERY early. Hey, it was a sunny day during Portland's infinite rainy season. You'd be running early too. So, I needed something to do - and here was this shop that received a great review in Willamette Weekly.
"Hey, I'm Blake. Can I help you?"
"Is this place the denim version of The Ramones?"
"Is everybody that works here named Blake, or do you own the place?"
"Oh, no... I'm the owner."
Blake was a really cool guy who really knew jeans. He not only convinced me to try on a few pair - he then showed me what worked on my body type and what didn't. And he steered me towards one of the cheapest pair of jeans in his store.
"OK, now let me show you a few things that would finish the look off. I know you're not looking to buy any of it... I'm just showing you what I think would really suit you."
He handed me a black t-shirt, a 70's style track jacket with a stripe up the arm, and a skull-cap type hat.
"Now I know you think this is a stretch, but the look really works on you."
"I don't know... it IS a bit of a stretch."
"Maybe. But you said you just moved here, right? So not that many people know what you look like, right? You can be whatever you want to be. So I guess I'd ask, what do you want to be?"
He was right.
I'm not saying I dress in the kind of clothes he showed me that day - but I don't dress the way I did when I walked into his store either.
Age is a lot like that.... you look in the mirror one day and realize you don't like what you see. Where did the years go? When did I become this pleated khaki-pants solid-color boring-shirt-wearing man?
I bought a pair of jeans from Blake. And then I bought new glasses from a shop downtown called Reynolds. And some new shirts. And I found my new loft.
I've been making all sorts of changes - changes that don't reflect a man afraid of growing old. No. These changes are a reflection of a man who is becoming comfortable in his own skin.
I'm thirty four and loving it.
Sure, it's weird to be called sir - but that's more about a term of respect that I don't feel I've earned. I'm just a regular guy. And maybe I'm not always carded these days. But I laugh a lot. And I look forward to sunny afternoons on the swings with a date. And I live in the middle of the hustle and bustle that is downtown Portland, and I feel energized by all of it. And I am happier than I've ever been.
ANOTHER EPISODE FROM FOUR YEARS AGO:
"Tonight's special is our Salmon with mango salsa, served with a side of roast vegetables and your choice of soup or salad. And, of course I can make a few recommendations as our menu is rather extensive. A drink to get you started?"
"I'd like a glass of your house red" said my ex.
"Excellent. And for you?
"I'll have the same."
"Certainly. Mind if I check your ID first? And I guess yours too ma'am?"
Oh no he DIDN'T! He gave her the pity ID check?
This is totally off topic, but your comments reminded me of a Jeff Lewis song-Back When I was Four. I don't know if he'd be quite your thing, but if you haven't listened to him, you should check him out.::::: | February 6, 2006 7:58 AM
That last little story just made me laugh out loud, literally... (Ooh! Too much alliteration! Bad Mari!) Really though, that was funny as hell for some reason...
I never realized what a benefit it was to move from one state to another on your own... it really is a chance to re-invent yourself... I know I did it, though I've never really thought about it...
I think that sexual peak thing is an urban legend... either that or guys & girls are evolving to synch up with each other :)::::: | February 6, 2006 11:02 AM
Nice work, Rob. One can reinvent themself. I lived in downtown Olso for a year recently. Had the title for a good book "out of context" - what happens when a girl whose lived in Portland Oregon for 40 years leaves evrything behind. Thanks for giving up the kahkis.::::: | May 20, 2006 10:02 AM