There is a line that divides Tampa people from St. Pete people. It is called the Howard Frankland Bridge. There is an aversion on both sides of the bay to crossing that line. Tampa people will sooner drive to Orlando or Sarasota than cross the bridge. I don’t think St. Pete people ever leave St. Pete. Why would they? They have everything they need. And going almost anywhere else requires crossing a bridge, if not the bridge. Well, Hitchhikers… I crossed the bridge for this date. And what’s more? I could probably be convinced to do so again. But probably not for about 46 more weeks.
Don’t get all excited just yet… it wasn’t like that. He was just a good person to be around. I’d hang out with him again. I probably wouldn’t even have to wait 46 weeks to do it, but I am a little limited on free time these days. I really did not anticipate how much time I would have to invest in this adventure. Apart from the first first date (who finally quit sending me texts this week), I have no inclination to quit talking to the people I’ve met. In order to reach 50, though, I have to continuously reach out and talk to new people, too. I already have a less than stellar track record for communication anyway, and I’ve let a few inadvertently fall through the cracks. In fact, I only just realized that I haven’t checked the little black phone in almost three days… and it’s been two weeks since I’ve visited my online profiles. But that’s not why you’re still reading, is it? You want to know about First Date Number 4…
You know it’s going to be a good date when he invites your dogs to come along. Marty doesn’t make new friends easily, so I just brought Joe with me. My date had two adorable 13-week-old Golden Doodle puppies in tow. We walked around a bit and talked about the challenges of raising puppies. Before long, I think I started to sound a bit like a know-it-all, so I informed him that I had actually graduated from a professional dog training school to lend some level of credibility to my statements on the topic. He appeared a little nervous after that. He admitted later that he was worried I was judging him on his puppy-training skills. I wasn’t. He’s doing better than I was with my first set of puppies.
It turns out I was the first person he’s met in person since he started his own online quest. As I got to know him, I wondered how many women were overlooking him solely based on his profile pictures; it’s their loss if they are. He is a genuinely cool cat. I probably would have missed out on him, too, back in the day when I was so busy trying to find that one perfect person with whom to share leftovers the rest of my life so I don’t have to eat the same meal four days in a row (seriously… how do dogs and cats not go totally insane with their monotonous diet?).
He is tall. And large. And now I have this song stuck in my head (my apologies in advance):
He is certainly not like Bluto; it’s just that anytime I hear or say the word large, I immediately think of Popeye. And now you can, too.
We found a restaurant with a large outdoor seating area (okay, we found about 45 of them), and a pet permit (make that 43) and grabbed a table. While the waiter was reciting the specials, I was only half listening, but caught the tail end of him talking about something braised with a side of snow peas and some special sort of something on the side. Whatever it was, my brain thought it sounded good even though for the life of me I couldn’t remember anything but peas. When he came back for our orders, he informed us that there was no possible way to go wrong anywhere on the menu because it is genuinely that good. I said the last special, whatever it was sounded good (but asked him not to repeat it), and so did some other item on the menu that I pointed out. I told him to surprise me by choosing the better of the two items as my order.
My date was a little amazed that I would take such a risk with dinner (I think he and I may have slightly different definitions of risky behavior). The waiter totally came through for me, though. The braised something-or-other was an amazing steak (cooked to the chef’s recommended [and my favorite] medium-rare [but mostly rare]). The snow peas were awesome, and the special sort of side something turned out to be the best macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted. It had lobster in it. And crunchy goodness on top. I think my date was a little concerned at how well the waiter seemed to know me.
[Incidentally, the waiter was also a dog trainer (or had been in a previous career). Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder if he wants to go on a first date. Of course, I’d have to cross the bridge again to find out, and that seems like a lot of effort.]
I saved one bite of steak for the road to feed to Joe, who was remarkably patient and well-behaved despite being surrounded by tables full of food, lots of dogs with unfamiliar and enticing backsides, and the occasional horse.
We were constantly getting stopped by complete strangers who wanted to pet our dogs or discuss dogs, or breeding practices, or training. It was fun, though. It was funny how many conversations around us revolved around dogs after they saw ours. We moved on in our conversation, circling back only to answer dog questions from fellow diners.
My fourth first date works as an assistant to a professional sports player (with no ties whatsoever to any Florida teams). He travels a lot during the season, but this year the player added a girlfriend to his list of assets, so #4 has more free time. Like the rest of us do from time to time, he is trying to find greater meaning in the work he does, and is considering a major career change. He has determined to make this year about taking better care of himself for long-term benefits to his overall health and happiness. The puppies are a part of that plan, motivating him to get out and be more active. I have a lot of respect for people who take care of themselves and seek to make the world a better place. He is a good conversationalist, doesn’t take himself too seriously and is very easy to be around.
The people-watching during dinner was fun. I appreciated the pet-friendly nature of the area, but had to laugh at the very different pet parenting styles I saw. There were several purse and stroller dogs. And lots of dogs dressed better than I was. Then again, I was wearing a biohazard t-shirt and jeans, so that isn’t exactly a tremendous feat, nor does the statement do justice to the dog fashion show.
Our date came to a rather abrupt end due to all the stranger interruptions that left little time for goodbyes [I heard from a friend on the way to the car who was stranded with a broken-down car, but first had to return a house key to another].
I received a text a couple of days later asking if there could be a date 4.5 before my 5th date. Time constraints aside, I was recently informed that extensions of first dates are apparently violations of the 50 First Dates bylaws. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.
Four down. 46 to go.