Saturday, July 24, 2004

Free Speech Zone
A free speech zone bounded
on three sides by a house, parking spot, and a sidewalk,
not very big, but it does the trick for now
say whatever you'd like to say and say it well

On three sides by a house, parking spot, and a sidewalk
without it getting back to people you use to work with,
say whatever you'd like to say and say it well
because truth throws a trip wire and makes it rain

Without it getting back to people you use to work with
who'll try to slip a pillow case over your head,
because truth throws a trip wire and makes it rain
far outside the free speech zone where people are dying.

Who will try to slip a pillow case over your head,
and make you look like some kind of a sleeping idiot on uppers
far outside the free speech zone where people are dying?
Step closer. Closer now.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Climbing Into the Attic,Year 2040
There's a parrot with a Barbie peg-leg... 

a PowerPoint slide show that turns into a mini-opera,
but only when you play it on a laptop, 
which is why everyone wants one,
at least everyone who lives in this house.

Oh, Grandaddy. Play it on a laptop.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

This is so stupid
someone has sent me an email (tralatrala) and he sounds like the kind of person I'd like to meet (right age, size, an involved father, with the community), but I haven't heard from him all weekend after that first contact I want to hear find out more about who he is even if we don't become special friends there's something about discovering another life's trajectory  (wuz it something I said)?

Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Book of Online Dating: 9
What do people mean by chemistry anyhow? Is that a code word for, "Do you think you could go to bed with me?" Or does it mean something more like do get goose bumps when you see me?  Basically, are we talking about pherenomes here?
I guess everyone has their own definition of chemisty and the trick is in finding two people who are on that same wavelength. But how will I even know when I'm in the presence of a similar pherenome type of guy? I once thought I did, and nearly ran my car into the parking lot fence if I happened to see a certain someone walk in front of me to get his coffee from the local java hut.  
I was so emboldened that I even invited him out to coffee which he agreed to do at some appointed time when he was able to  "get his head above water." As far as I know, his head is still submerged, or perhaps it is simply busy doing something else. So much for chemistry. But I do know the trick is that two people must both be experiencing raging hormones at the same time, which is the beauty of online dating.   
For in this world, unlike the more shadowy sinister one out there, we have all boldly stated as we walk through the registration door, "I am available." 
However, the next part is more difficult. It requires sorting through thousands of profiles and becoming clever with search criteria and actually connecting with someone to arrive at the place where it's possible to even get a chemistry reaction, reverse engineering if you will, from the general run-of-the-mill score. So by the time we get that first hit, it's possible to really know something about someone so that everything falls into place.  Or am I just dreaming?
Quiet out there.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The Book of Online Dating: 8
We spent several hours emptying the contents of our cups.

"I don't want to talk about my personal relationship," he said.

"I didn't ask you to."    
"I really like living by myself." He sounded like he was trying too hard to convince himself, and went on to describe his current difficulties. 

Once we had emptied our cups and recounted our stories, we left the caffeine haze of Peet's to find our cars. He seemed like he was still sorting everything out, and wanted a friend around to help ease the pain.
In a few days I received an email asking me if I thought we had chemistry. Chemisty? How about something to say to each other?   
Next time before I agree to meet a guy, I'm going to email him a lot first. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Book of Online Dating: 7
"A latte," I said.

TigerTailwas more genuine than self-conscious, something which I liked. However, he did seem a bit faded from his online picture by about five to 10 years, the hair more grey than sandy, the jaw more jowl, and he definitely looked thick, but it wasn't in a heavy or a stocky way thick, it was more how a magnet collects metal filings around its middle because it hasn't lost its charge.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Book of Online Dating: 6
"Excuse me," I replied, and took a quick step backward to the edges of the terracotta tile where I looked at a group of pictures in black frames. They were all of architectural structures, steel beams heaped in various arrangements like pick-up sticks. The place was noisy with people putting in their order for some form of coffee.

Okay, so this wasn't this guy. He'd given me a funny look. I wondered what TigerTail101 would look like. He had described his body type as "thick" and I wasn't sure how that differed from "a few extra pounds."

I waited to make my connection, on the look-out for someone I knew from a 2x3 inch picture. This is really ridiculous, I thought,  how this online dating thing is making me put aside my notion of romantic love. Maybe that's something reserved for younger people, I sighed , whereas online dating services are like a Sears catalog of potential fits, narrowed down to a search criteria.
"Black pumps, half-inch heel. Actually, I really like those lime green numbers. They'll go with my new dress."
This was matchmaking. In my Internet reading, I've heard that in some parts of the Muslim world, Taliban aside, people do their spouse-hunting online and look at profiles not only of potential marriage partners, but also of their parents.

But how can we possibly do this through words? What about that certain je ne c'est quoi -- a downward cast of the eyes, for example, that makes a person irresistible? Or the way somebody laughs that makes you open up inside with endless blue sky?

Tell me, are education, income-level, and religion fundamentals that must first be acknowledged before any real dialog can happen? And how can you even know what the fundamentals are if you are a young person living in a Westernized country where those kinds of definitions tend to be so much more fluid? What is the difference between what people think they want at a certain age, and what we later come to find out we really need?

"You writergrll?" this man asked me. He spun me around and gave me a hug. "What'll you have?"

Monday, July 12, 2004

The Book of Online Dating: 5
"No," he said.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

The Book of Online Dating: 4
"Didn't I tell you that I had a thing for serial killers?" I wrote to an online fellow traveler after he suggested that we continue an email exchange to make sure that neither of us were serial killers, or live dangerously and get together at some appointed place for coffee.

After hanging out at work eight hours a day with transportation planners, and then going home to listen to my daughter's hip-hop music, I needed a break. I opted for up close and personal.

We arranged to rendezvous at Peet's in Berkeley's Fourth Street district, an easy off ramp from the freeway, plus there was available parking.

In the early sixties, Peet's had seceded from the growing Starbuck's coffee machine to develop its own center of artisan coffee and teas in Berkeley. Fourth Street is one of Peet's newer Berkeley satellite outposts with umbrella-shaded tables outside the actual store. Up and down the street were an assortment of hip retailers. I took a slow stroll looking through the windows until I spotted Peets 100 yards ahead, just as I was tucking a $20 dollar bill into my wallet.

For I had realized on the way to our meeting point that I had no money, and I thought it was bad karma to rely upon tigertail101, for that was my date's handle, to offer to buy me a cup. So first I found an ATM machine and stepped up to its stylish mustard-colored window. I knew that if my date didn't make that initial offering to buy me a cup, I'd think he was stingy. But on the other hand, I wouldn't offer to buy him a cup because that would smack of feminist baggage, which I'd already checked at the car door.

I looked to see if I could match a thumbnail with a face. I saw no likely suspects. But there was someone who'd just entered the area, which was noisy with rattling cups and the hiss of espresso machines. He was looking around, and he was cute.

"Do the words serial killer mean anything to you?" I asked.

The Book of Online Dating: 3
It was a stern letter telling me that my picture had been rejected.

It was more than I could handle. I'd been rejected by some anonymous photo police. For several months, I stayed away from the online service. In fact, I resisted the temptation to go online, and instead frequented coffee bars, attended poetry readings, and watched all the movies in my NetFlix queue. I cleaned house, began to lift the burners of my stove and visited the crud that grew beneath them with soap and water, emptied closets and drove to Goodwill with a box of offerings. I even got a pedicure and watched "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" with a newfound appreciation for spa treatments.

Finally, I snapped out of it and opened a message from my sister who had mailed me an electronic album. I was holding her new grandchild from a recent visit, and decided this was a wholesome picture. But surely, no one would think this was my grandbaby? I decided to excise Zachary with Photoshop's handy cropping tools.

What was left of me was a smiling face. I posted my picture.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

The Book of Online Dating: 2
Speaking of photographs. I'd like to speak about them for the moment.

I went through my collection trying to decide which one to use that would tantalize the troops into thinking I was a hot number. But that really wasn't my goal, I asked myself, now was it? Suddenly, I was filled with doubts and almost self-loathing should I find myself anytime soon in Las Vegas.

I clicked open my stock of jpegs. This particular one of me lying on a tattoo parlor bench was going to give the wrong impression, not that I knew what the right impression was, but certainly not one of a single rose curling up the middle of my lumbar region. It revealed a lot more than I thought was appropriate, particularly with a skimpy white towel draped across my ample behind. Another more recent photo showed me in full dress attire but I was standing before the entrance to a Howard Johnson's Motel, and I didn't want to communicate a certain flighty disposition.

This was about forming new and meaningful relationships, I waffled again. I knew I wasn't going to be able to do this. Finally I located my courage at the bottom of a circular file, in addition to a rather nondescript photo of myself gazing at a disappearing point beyond the camera's frame. Actually, I was looking at my friend who was waving her hand at me and saying, "Smile, will ya!"

I could get the photo digitized, I conjectured, "That should take me at least another day. Maybe two if I'm lucky." But then in a sudden moment of abandon, I posted the photo of myself on the tattoo table. I decided it showed I was daring.

The next day I received my first communication from the service.

Friday, July 09, 2004

The Book of Online Dating
The last thumbnail I dated looked like a frog. But who minds a frog when after 20 years I'd been married to a coyote? Frogs have the potential of becoming princes, once a person overcomes their initial adversion to them, while coyotes just howl at you every night.

My frog did not become a prince, although there is a good possibility he may yet become another's. While our time together lasted for but a brief eight months, we did manage to help each other get through the initial downslide of mutual relationships, he from some psycho, and I from a husband who loved me in all the wrong ways, at least to my way of loving. But what did I expect? At the bottom of a slippery slope is just a bunch of mud.

So after taking yet another oath of celibacy not that I'd ever broken it, I pushed aside my membership from the online dating world. Instead, I decided to meet people in the old-fashioned way, that is, in real life. Once I made this decision, I knew things would really start happening for me; I'd begin bumping into potential dating partners in the elevator, on the street, standing just behind me in line for coffee. It was simple, just a question of belief, might I go so far as to call it faith. My desire and openness for a healthy relationship would simply translate into other areas of my life, which is why after several months, I found myself signing up for another dating service. Only this time, I didn't hurry.

Now before I typed the numbers of my credit card and pressed the Return button, I began to hone my profile. Call it a marketing resume, a single point of contact that could make or break my abililty to realize a social life.

"Gorgeous brunnette with a figure you could die for, at least I do several times a week in the gym," I began, "is fluent in several tongues in several colors that she swaps out for different occasions, is looking to meet someone who enjoys watching tomatoes grow at the Alameda County Fair."

"That should do it," I said to myself, and posted my erstwhile notice with a flourish of a keystroke. I wasn't a paying member yet. My half-baked profile would come up, of course, in searches and I could even send an initial icebreaker with some canned expression of interest like "Hello, there tiger," or "You're an Errol Drool and a Half;" but I couldn't receive email and my description was floating around in the electronic ether without a photograph, which nine out of 10 times is an admission of some kind of guilt.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

My father rode buses in the Civil Rights Movement,
Atlanta Department stores dropping to sleep on people's
couches, rolling up his change of clothes
inside a paper bag, his grab bag, he said.

He told me stories, how the CIA followed King
from airport to hotel room,
how back in those days,
people believed in doing things like the Panthers

who fed kids breakfast,
how my father spent the better part
of a decade demonstrating against the War
in Vietnam, telling them hell, no, we won't go.

He'd grab me by a belt loop,
pull me into the rib of his corduroy
pants saying, "now don't rush outta here, son,
without remembering."

On that particular day I was moving out,
didn't need to be a non-paying guest
beneath his roof. "I have to go," I said,
and stubbed the gravel with my toe

when he checked to make sure
I hadn't left anything behind,
then all hell broke loose as if I hadn't already
heard it a 100 times before.

"That's great, Dad,
but who's going to tell a Palestinian
kid not to blow himself up because his life
means something?"

All he could do as I slammed the car door
and backed out of the driveway,
was to salute me with his chin.
"You will," he said.

Change your direction. Come here.
Be as a goat upon a petri dish and develop new tastes.
Unwind from today's to-do lists. Stream like a dervish.
You are the streamer. Drink tea with a snippet of fresh mint.
Come to this place, my hand extended in greeting.