Saturday, August 31, 2013

The hobo

My friend M and I went on a long walk toward the general direction of Cambridge, where I had a dinner date. The plan was that we'd walk until we ran out of time or steam, and then I'd hop on public transit to go the rest of the way.

That plan would have worked well, except when the time came and I prepared to catch a bus, I realized that my Metro card was low on funds and I had just a few coins on me. M scrounged around in her bag and came up with a dollar. We tried to remember if bus fare is $1.50 or $1.75, and managed to pool together a few more dimes in case it was the latter.

The bus arrived. I got on, attempted to scan my card, and got an error message that I did not have the $2 necessary. Oops.

"I have $1.75. Can I give you that?" I bargained with the driver.

"Just get on the bus," he replied good-naturedly, ignoring the dollar bill in my hand.

Dinner was lovely. My date insisted we get appetizers and a bottle of wine. Several glasses of rosé later, the check arrived along with the message that the credit card machine was out of order. The check totaled well over $100.

I decided I had to be honest. "I wish I could help pay," I told my date, "but I only have a dollar, and it's not even mine."

Austerity or no austerity, I definitely owe him a nice dinner.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

If you see something, say something

A date and I went to see Kiss Me, Kate on the Esplanade last night (a musical that really should have been forgotten a couple of years after it was written well over sixty years ago, but here in Boston it is still being staged for reasons that are unclear). The bandshell gets crowded, so my date and I came up with what we thought was a brilliant plan: Pick a spot for our blanket. Leave it there and go kayaking. Buy a bottle of juice and pour our wine into it so we wouldn't get busted for carrying in alcohol, then return to our blanket.

Unfortunately, we forgot about all the enhanced security in town since the Marathon bombing incident. By the time we got back and were informed that our juice was too suspicious to be allowed in, the blanket and bag were long gone, confiscated by the cops. When the security guards understood what had happened they waved my date through, forgetting temporarily about the juice he was holding, to go find the cops in question.

After tracking down the police and bag, he was asked for ID and subjected to a few questions.

"Who are you here with?"

"Ummmm... do you want her name?"

"No, no. Is she cute?"

"Yeah, she's cute," he replied (or at least that's what he *told* me he said).

"We could bring you out in handcuffs if you think she'd be impressed."

He passed on their kind offer. Lesson learned: If you leave suspicious possessions in a public setting in Boston, you will become friends with the cops and be allowed to enter secure locations with alcohol. I would totally do it again.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Tom Waits rule

My friend La Chimiste has just one rule of dating: the Tom Waits rule. The rule is that if a potential boyfriend likes Tom Waits, green flag. If not, beware! Not good dating material.

I like the Tom Waits rule for its simplicity: it's very easy to follow. Liking Tom Waits shows that you have some nuance; his voice isn't exactly a crowd pleaser. A person who likes Tom Waits is capable of appreciating the unusual. A lot of people like Tom Waits, but a lot of people also dislike him, so it excludes a good-sized percentage of people but still leaves a big enough pool that the pickings aren't too slim. Also, it's funny because it's so random -- which, let's face it, is how dating often feels.

Of course, one can't be too inflexible about the Tom Waits rule, and in fact La Chimiste's boyfriend detests Tom Waits.

Some of my friends feel that the Tom Waits rule would be a stronger filter if another person were added to the rule: you have to like Tom Waits AND someone else to get a green flag. Here are a few candidates:

Atul Gawande
Pros: Smart people like AG. He's not white, so it gives the rule some diversity.
Cons: If it becomes the Tom Waits and Atul Gawande rule, that's a very male-dominated rule.

Dolly Parton
Pros: She's awesome and adds a woman to the mix. Like Tom Waits, she's not exactly mainstream (in New England, anyway).
Cons: There's no intelligence factor included in liking DP.

Hillary Clinton
Pros: A man who likes HC isn't afraid of smart, powerful women.
Cons: Using Hillary feels out of keeping with the random spirit of the Tom Waits rule.

Other ideas?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The fishmongers of Maine

My mom and I went to buy fish a couple of days ago while on vacation on the Maine coast. Mom was very nervous about this endeavor, because usually my dad is in charge of fish purchases. All afternoon she talked about how hard it would be to buy fish without him. I countered by telling her, "We can do this, Mom. We are two capable women, and we can figure out how to buy a tasty fish."

We went to one store. The fish did not look promising. We took one look and backed out of the store.

We weren't sure where to go next. "You could check your Google," suggested Mom (that's what she calls the iPhone).

"Or you could check YOUR Google," I said.

"I'm not sure how to," she responded. It turns out that we were out of cell phone range, so neither of our Googles worked.

We tried another store -- your run of the mill grocery store, like the downeast Maine version of a Stop 'n Shop. This was definitely NOT the Whole Foods. However, the fish didn't look terrible like at the last place.

"We need to ask some questions about it," Mom said. "That's what Dad does."

We found a woman who worked there. "Has this fish been previously frozen?" asked Mom.

She felt the fish. "It feels like it's maybe just a little frozen," she responded with a heavy Russian accent.

"Is it farmed or wild caught?" Mom asked.

The woman gave her a confused look.

"I have to text Dad to ask what we should do," Mom said. She got out her Google and tried. The text wouldn't go through.

We decided to try one more place. The fish there was very fresh, they told us, and also wildly expensive. It was so expensive we didn't even bother to ask all of our questions. This fish was made of pure gold, obviously. There was no way it didn't match our criteria. We bought it.

Dad took one look at it and pronounced, "This salmon is from a farm. Wild caught salmon is much darker."

Mom groaned.

The fish was delicious, but by that point it didn't matter. We had failed. I suspect it will be many years before Mom undertakes another fish-buying mission.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Reinstituting austerity

It's been a rough summer financially. I could provide you with the details, but that would be boring. I'll just say that the culmination came on Saturday when I woke up early to drive my old car to the house where the buyer lives, and the car broke down on the way. It could have been much worse -- had I not pulled over when I did, I might have ruined the engine; had this happened before I found a buyer, I undoubtedly would have declined to do the repairs and would have just donated the damn hunk of metal -- but it was a blow nonetheless.

Six hours and $600 later, I gave the car to the buyer, complete with a brand new radiator (somehow it seems I put a hole in the old one). In exchange, he gave me a check that covers all the repairs I did in 2013. Nonetheless, after this latest financial setback I am officially going back to my 50-50-50 Herman Cain-inspired austerity budget. For those of you who don't recall the details of the budget that I went off of exactly a year ago, I am allowed to spend $150 total per week: 50 on food, 50 on fun, and 50 on utilities (is there a word for utilities that starts with F? That would make my budget much catchier.)

No more fancy cocktails or nice dinners out for me for a while. And whatever happens do NOT let me buy clothes! If anyone wants to go out for cheap beers or, better yet, come share a six-pack on my porch, let me know.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Trading up

In high school, I owned a Volkswagon. It was a little dark red Fox, and I loved it. It was quirky and had lots of problems and had a manual transmission and was very fun to drive. Eventually it died on some black ice on a cold January night, and I traded it in for a boring silver Toyota, and the Toyota always seemed utterly devoid of personality by comparison.

It turns out that I am repeating that pattern as an adult. This week, I am giving up my little green hatchback Volkswagon, trading it in for a practical silver Toyota that will be (touch wood) reliable and get good gas mileage. It is quite possible that it will seem devoid of personality compared to my VW; it is also possible that, as a grownup who has to pay the bills and get to work on time and appreciates things like a working air conditioner, I will not care so much.

My Volkswagon and I have been through a lot together, and I thought I would feel sad saying goodbye to it. But like my old Fox it was a quirky car, and similar to some men I've dated, the quirks initially seemed cute but eventually grew to be tiresome (like the way it would randomly start beeping at me to close the doors when they were already closed, or the fact that one rear window had trouble opening).

As I mentioned in a previous post, one major downside to this decision is that I'll be spending much less time with my sweetheart of a mechanic. I've decided that the solution to this problem is for me to start making social calls, just to say hi. My plan is to make the first one tomorrow on my way home from dropping off the old car at the buyer's house and picking up my new car. It's been almost a week since the last time he saw me, so I think he'll be pretty excited.