Darkness Simmers Beneath My Surface

I scrubbed each kitchen tile with vinegar,
doused stainless steel appliances
with cleaner to remove all streaks,
lemon-oiled the two halves of the dining room table
and pushed them back together,
dusted shelves until the micro-fiber
cloth changed colors, gathered up garbage
from all four corners and placed them at the door
to take downstairs. Later, I remembered
how I needed to get gas, postage,
buy three limes. But I kept thinking
how you reminded me of Gene Wilder,
your wild eyes, green and lashed, red hair spun
by Rumplestiltskin into barbed wires,
something primeval in the way you understood the world,
a Willy Wonka who spoke, but did not speak
the same language as the rest of us yokels. So throw me a golden
apple, a chili cheese pretzel dog, hand-outs
from a drive-through window where black and white
cats dance the Tacomania; after hours we’ll meet
at the Sweet Deal poker machine, and for one last time,
place our bets, take our chances, sweep the swamp.

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Shoot Me, I’m Dating Online (8)

Dates have come and gone bye-bye.

Let me see. One friend didn’t appreciate my letting him pay for our first several dates, whereas I thought I was allowing him to exercise his male prerogative; then there was the guy who phoned to give me his ground rules regarding what I had to do if we had sex, really harmless, he needed me to sleep over so he wouldn’t feel abandoned; or the fellow who spent the majority of his time kayaking, or the man who lived in East Oakland and was in between jobs as a contractor in the biotech industry, both of which evaporated into the online world without my really knowing where they’d gone and why. Or worse, the man who’d read my entire blog with exclamations about my writing, called me on the phone from Europe (!!), and then faded away into his Silicon Valley motherboard.

But what did any of my dates really owe me except an email,  and how is that any different from regular old dating, where following a night out on the town, the phone remains  a silent collaborator?

Then there was the man entering a second career counseling at-risk teenagers and who had relocated from the mid-west to be with his dying mother and sister (both scoring high in my pantheon of prospective lovers), and who’d even cooked dinner for me with his grandmother’s recipe for tomato sauce, and who showed me around his house with explanations of family pictures affixed to a bulletin board, a man who joined me for walks and  decided that I was not able to communicate according to his particular standards, and began to do the most horrible of horribles – calling me choice names that I won’t repeat here but only to say they included, “overwrought, scary, and idiotic,” which brought me full-circle to a marriage that overflowed with such barbs, so much so that I retreated into the walls of my condo, and vowed “never again,” at least not if I could help it.

So where does that leave me? The other day I was sitting in my stylist’s chair waiting for my hair to set, and overheard a conversation amongst several women about their online experiences.

“You mean it was okay with you that he was bi-polar, had wrecked his car, and was living with his mother, but it was only that he was $27,000 dollars in debt that made you to step away from the relationship?”

“Mmmm…yes. I mean, but he was very cute.”

Send me your online dating stories!

Links to My Work

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Shoot Me, I’m Online Dating (7)

Help! Profile pictures confuse me. Many men  are wearing sunglasses, often standing in front of a car next to a large dog. Let’s think about this for a moment. Here is the first picture a potential dating friend sees. But what opens on the computer is disappointing–a blurry photo of a man wearing dark glasses.

I can only guess that a man signed up for dating site  would want to attract as many views as possible. But somehow, word has gotten out that wearing dark glasses, is a sure-fire way to court love. I’m not certain what marketing firm or social media outlet is spreading this vile message, but it is without any foundation whatsoever. Believe me. Unless you are Paul Newman, wearing over-sized aviator glasses does not a cool profile picture make.

Didn’t anyone learn in high school literature classes that “the eyes are the window to your soul?” So  by wearing eye-covering apparel, a person has pulled down the blinds.

I believe many men in the fifty and upwards set, think this is totally cool. Why? Because there are also photos from the man’s youth–on the beach, standing with buddies at a football game, or engaged in outdoor sports activities. The purpose, I believe, is to allow a glimpse of how an individual used to appear, and his connection to the heavier, balder, and more wrinkled guy of today. Who knows? Maybe in the future, we will be able to post time lapse photos of ourselves. But why would we want to? Watch the breasts droop, the skin wrinkle, the stomach protrude over the belt?

The truth is that most of us think of ourselves as being at least ten or twenty years younger than we really are. When I wash my face in the morning, do I look at a middle-aged woman in the mirror? Of course not. I look at myself with flawless skin.

So here’s the hard part. Even if we wish to fool ourselves, we can’t fool everyone else around us.

So please post a clear picture of yourself, and I will do the same. I’d like to see your eyes, and even better, your smile. I don’t mind if you want your car or dog in the picture.

I am not interested in dating either one of them.

Send me your online dating stories!

Links to My Work

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Shoot Me, I’m Online Dating (6)

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 10.43.30 AM“Didn’t I tell you that I had a thing for serial killers?” I wrote to a fellow traveler after he suggested that we meet to make sure that neither of us were serial killers.

It sounded like a unique opening line.

We decided on an appointed  time for coffee, a rendezvous at Peet’s on Fourth Street. It was an easy off ramp from the freeway.

I looked inside. No obvious suspects. But there was someone who’d just entered.

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

“No.” He looked at me strangely.

I quickly stepped back  to the edges of the terracotta tile and listened to the hiss of espresso machines. TigerTail101 had described his body type as “thick.” I wasn’t sure how that differed from “a few extra pounds.”

“You writergrll?” a man asked. He spun me around and gave me a hug. “What’ll you have?”

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 of a jowl, and he definitely looked thick, but it wasn’t in a heavy or a stocky way thick, more how a magnet collects metal filings around its middle because it hasn’t lost its charge. Overall, he didn’t look like a serial killer. I guess they never do…

We spent several hours emptying our cups.

“I don’t want to talk about my personal relationship,” he said.

“I didn’t ask you to.”

Well, he didn’t talk about his personal relationship; instead, he talked about himself , stopping only for sips of coffee. On and on he went about his apartment, the roommate who was a pizza maker from Brazil, his adopted child in Africa, his dying mother. I spare you the dialogue.

In a few days I received an email asking if I thought we had chemistry. Chemisty? How about something to say to each other?

Anyhow, what do people mean by chemistry? Is that a code word for, “Do you think you could go to bed with me?” Or are we talking about pherenomes here? For in this online world, unlike its more shadowy real-world sister, we have all boldly stated, “I am available.” Picture a huge bar, people milling around with a day-glow profile stuck to their foreheads. Thee next part is more difficult. It requires sorting through thousands of profiles and becoming clever with search criteria to arrive at a place where it’s possible to have chemistry, even with a pretend serial killer.

Am I dreaming?

Please don’t burst my bubble.

Links to My Work

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Shoot Me, I’m Online Dating (5)

A broken heart is an open heart, at least that’s what I hear.

So here’s to all us online daters because after being disappointed and defeated, it takes courage to return to the playing field, and to announce to everyone who wishes to listen, Here I am. Take it or leave it.

Or for some of us, death’s poker hand had closed out our loved ones’ accounts, taking everything except for their memory.

Maybe it was a good marriage and turned bad.

Maybe the love affair lasted for a few months or several years. Maybe we never jumped into the fray because we were taking care of a sick parent or relative. Or even ill ourselves. Maybe we wanted to get everything right including job, career, and travel around the world first, until none of that seemed important, or maybe we were abused as children and had to learn intimacy block by alphabet block, which made us better students of love, children of mistakes, children of all the maybes.

I am one of those maybe’s. Maybe if I had made better choices, maybe if I had second sight, maybe if I had listened to what other people had told me. But in the end, only one thing matters.

A broken heart, is an open heart.

Links to My Work

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Shoot Me, I’m Online Dating (4)

Skate boarding through the chatrooms
of lonely algorithms,
I meet a contractor
who wants to know
my idea of a life-partner

I text him
caring, intelligent, sexy, etc.
and he says wow
that’s just what he’s looking for
and do I think
he fits that description?

I text him
how the fuck should I know
(I didn’t actually say fuck,
one of my rules,
never to curse on a first date,
which this clearly isn’t)

I don’t even know who you are, I text him.
The contractor says ask away
what do I need to know—

Maybe what your eyes look like, hear your laugh,
what it feels like to hold your hand
and he disappears.

But he’s
not totally
unlike the gold and diamond salesman
who sends me affirmations
from the back of Dixie Cups about
keeping my sunny side sunny side up
doesn’t want to actually see me
he just wants to know what I’m doing.

Should’ve texted him
messaging you is such a freaking turn-on

or the guy in camouflage who’s thirty years younger than me
who says he likes older women and I say,
doesn’t work for me,
and he says, never mind, I’m too fat for him anyway.

Really, on what planet have these men registered their profiles?
Like the man who wanted to show his dying mother
my picture when we hadn’t even met.
Isn’t that called a fraud?

Links to My Work

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Shoot Me, I’m Online Dating (3)

One day at a time. Right?

As I waited in line to cross the San Francisco Bay Bridge from Oakland, the agent waved me past the tollbooth. “Keep going. She’s already paid for you,” and pointed to an older BMW that was waiting its turn ahead of me at the metering lights. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. “But why?” I asked the agent. “Because people are nice,” she said, as though I were an ill-bred child.

I shyly tucked my five back into the car’s cup holder, stuck my hand out the window and waved a thank you to the driver of the BMW. She raised her hands above the rear view window and wiggled her fingers back at me. A line from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire floated past my windshield, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” It caught an air current and sailed over my head toward a group of seagulls.

All it took was a moment at a toll booth, a chance convergence that had welled up inside a knot of cars and proved something I really didn’t know, but hoped to experience again. Soon.

Years ago, I had met my love in a world of online trafficking where my profile had been a calling card, a neon sign like Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice attracting hungry eyes to my better qualities.

Before we met, I’d gone out on innumerable coffee dates, explaining my personal journey and listening to the twists and turns of another’s path. I valued that education. Still I longed for the intimacy of a committed relationship. I remember coming to the end of my subscription period. Sick of it all, I knew I wasn’t going to re-up, thought I might try meeting people the old-fashioned way and wean myself from profile descriptions and thumbnail pictures. But on my last online date-to-be, the two of us met across a crowded movie theater. It was a convergence.

Now I feel like a fraud. How could I do this thing again? I had to create another profile and get on with my life. I hoped I was up to the task.

I believe in wonder. I really do, I do.

Links to My Work

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Shoot Me, I’m Online Dating (2)

Without so much as a flirt, I already I had a mark against me. I’d been rejected by the online photo police for posting a picture that was too revealing.

I put the kabosh on my continued investigation of dating sites. Instead, I did the unthinkeable: cleaned house, washed my floors, lifted the burners of my stove and scrubbed away burnt crud, there from the time when I had first moved into the apartment. I even watched reruns of “Twin Peaks.”

Finally, I came face-to-face with myself. As a middle-aged woman, I’d left my bar hopping days far behind. But I could join the profilerati, those legions of faces with nothing more than a song and a dance and a headline.

You can do this, I told myself. And once again, You can do this. I brought up my empty profile page and began to type. Others might choose a dating home based on personal recommendation, but I opted for a free site where I didn’t have to pay for membership, and choose between the one, three, or the recommended six-month plan (for best results).

I moved ahead, staked a claim, here on this online ground where I hoped to show off a new pair of Levi jeans and discover some golden heart. I wanted to tell the truth about myself.

And what, you might ask, had brought me to this particular crossroads? That’s easy: Love’s Labour’s Lost, “I that have been love’s whip.”

Shakespeare, my man, meet the Forty-niners.

Links to My Work

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Shoot Me, I’m Online Dating! (1)

The going wisdom in the world of online dating is “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince (or princess).” But I had to overcome my aversion to green, rubbery lips before I could immerse myself in online dating.

Well, let me back up.

I’m a woman in her mid-fifties, widowed for ten years with two children. My daughter lives with me. She’s the one who actually encouraged me to go online. “Mom, you really should,” she said about twice every week. “You need to go out.”

It’s not like I hadn’t heard about online dating. How could I not? It seems like there’s a dating site to match every religious affiliation, ethnicity, race, and so forth, a Bay Area of choices.

But before I could do anything, I had to do two things: decide on a dating site and then create a profile.

I picked out a site that some of my friends had had success with and was also free. Then I attacked (not literally) the profile.

Call it a marketing resume, a single point of contact that could make or break my abililty to realize a social life. A profile is supposed to give a potential friend or partner a thumbnail sketch of who I might be with the ultimate goal of eliciting a flirt, a message indicating interest, or at very best, courting an actual email.

I gave it a shot. I needed to say “A little about me.”

“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 , 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 single keystroke. 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 my description was floating around in the electronic ether without a photograph, which nine out of 10 times is an admission of guilt.

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?

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 a rather nondescript photo of myself. But then in a sudden moment of abandon, I posted the photo of myself on the tattoo table. I decided it demonstrated that I was daring.

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

It was a stern letter telling me that my picture had been rejected, rejected by the online dating photo police.

Links to My Work

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Different Species

Outside
the deck
two birds
wade

in birdseed,
one small,
a dark-eyed junco,
the other,

twice her size,
a brown-
headed
cowbird

a step away
from my geranium,
quaking
its feathers,

parrying its beak
into a hissing V
and insists
feed me

in a language
available
to imposter
hungry birds.

The junco
keeps
picking up
seed

faster from the
feeder
foster mom does
n’t look

anything like
its real mother
junco pitch
hits

down
the cowbird’s
throat
on my deck

every day
for weeks
the same noisy
racket,

junco hasn’t got
the olfactory
to know whose egg
is whose bird

just knows
a mouth wide open
eats does
n’t discriminate

one cry
from another,
hops to
on my patio railing

cowbird
moos
bell ringing
a dish of seed.

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