Friday, May 1, 2009

The (Love) Life of Brian - Part V

The saga continues.  Again, this is pretty lengthy, and reading this is totally optional.  Please excuse my self-indulgence...

Following my break-up with Lisa #2, another dry spell ensued for me in the dating/relationship milieu, but I wasn’t totally bereft of activity with women-folk in the mid/late ‘90s.  Two new co-worker ladies came along in the intervening years after Lisa and although I didn’t have a hope in hell of dating either one of them, I became friends with both and I quickly discovered the benefit of having more female friends because I’d been told that women just love to fix up their single friends with single guys.  That never quite happened with these two particular women, but “networking” with them, so to speak, did open up some new social avenues for me and it was fun to just enjoy each other’s company without being under pressure to try to impress them.

About the time I was dating Lisa, I met a girl with the unusual first name of Sharum.  No, she’s not Middle Eastern, but a very pretty all-American piano-playing girl who worked in the Trust Dept. at the bank I was employed at back then.  She was already engaged to be married when I met her, and she was a church-goer too, so I had zero chance of romance with her, but we hit it off and did lunch together from time to time.  I’ve been friends with lots of engaged/married women who were afraid of doing lunch with another guy for fear of jealousy from their mates, but that was never a problem with Sharum, and she knew I wouldn’t be stupid enough to try anything uncouth with her.  We didn’t even really have all that much in common, but we still connected on a friendship level, and she is a real sweet person.  She got married in the fall of ’94 and from what I hear, the marriage is still intact today—15 years is a minor miracle these days!

My co-worker friend and inspiration Susan—whom I spoke of in Part II—died in a house fire with her two children in January of ’95, which pretty much set the tone for that year, which was a dreadful one for me personally.  My dad suffered some serious neurological problems and had to be hospitalized and my mom suffered a mini-stroke later in the year (thankfully, they both fully recovered eventually), my personal life was in the doldrums, and then after spending most of the year in a frustrating search for a place to live on my own for the first time, in October I found myself dealing the with Landlord from Hell at the house I briefly rented (a torrid tale I will share in a future blog post).  If it hadn’t been for the Chiefs going 13-3 that season and the Kiss reunion on MTV’s “Unplugged”, the fall of ’95 would’ve been a complete washout.  That, and a ray of sunshine came to me all the way from Iowa in the form of a cute brunette divorcee named Rose, who started working at the bank in late ’95.  We hit it off almost instantly at the company Christmas party and I don’t mind telling you, I was smitten.  Rose was bright, intelligent, well-dressed, pretty enough to take to Chinatown (using Fred Sanford’s beauty yardstick) and an all-around fun person to boot.  Even cooler, Rose was a big football fan and liked hockey too, and I later learned that she’s even into racing cars and such.

Rose and I quickly became friends and she was one of my first-ever houseguests at my new abode during my Super Bowl (Cowboys-Steelers) get-together in January of ’96 and even brought me a nice housewarming gift.  Pretty soon, we did lunch dates and attended hockey games and such on a regular basis.  While I was hopeful early on of being more than just friends with Rose, she made it clear that she was looking for marriage again and especially motherhood, and I told her, “I won’t lie to you—that disappoints me, but I still want to be friends,” and I’m proud to say we’ve remained so to this day.  Rose found what she was looking for too, and is happily married again to a really good guy and they have a young son now and are currently living half a world away in Saipan, where her husband works for the U.S. government.  Between Sharum and Rose, it’s so ironic that some of the better outings I ever had were lunch dates with these women that I had absolutely no chance of dating, not to mention that they both were quite possibly the prettiest women I’ve ever had dates of any kind with.

Beyond that, I don’t recall going out with any other women during that period, apart from a couple of ill-fated set-ups along the way.  My good friend (and boss man at the time) Phil and I had gotten to know a gal named Ruth Ann who worked in our mail room, and she liked to get out and party on the weekends (even though she had like four kids, I think) and had a friend she thought I might be interested in.  I was skeptical, but I played along and we all went out drinking at a hole-in-the-wall bar one Saturday night.  Good thing I didn’t get my hopes up, because her friend was nothing to write home about—not my type at all, and borderline white trash, for lack of a better term.  It wasn’t even a case of “Lookin’ better every beer” with this gal, who as almost as wide as she was tall.  Phil’s girlfriend at the time also had a single friend she tried to set me up with, but this woman would’ve given “Whole Lotta Rosie” a run for her money, size-wise.  I’m 5’8” and stocky, yet I actually felt like Mini-Me or Herve Villachaize standing next to her.  I’m fairly flexible when it comes to weight on women (I’m no lightweight myself, after all), but if she’s built like a linebacker or Shaquille O’Neal, chances are good I’m not interested.  This gal seemed nice, but didn’t have much personality, let alone much self-esteem, so I politely passed on her too.

I also remember attending various and sundry “singles” events during this time and not enjoying them very much.  I even attended a few at a church that welcomed all faiths (or non-faiths in my case), but as I’ve mentioned before, I totally suck at socializing with strangers.  I just don’t have the gift of gab in social situations and like I say, I’m a cut-to-the-chase kind of person, thus I hate small-talk.  The other problem with singles events is everyone tries too hard to impress the other person and they don’t act naturally.  I even found some events downright demeaning, like the one I attended at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand nightclub that was comprised of nothing but Johnson County (KS) yuppies and high-maintenance women that I wouldn’t stand a chance with—I felt like an ’87 T-Bird in a BMW/Porsche world, so I walked out after only ten minutes.  Anyway, by that time, I actually found myself rather burned-out on the whole “Gotta find a woman” quest, so I put it on the back-burner and concentrated on fixing up my newly-acquired house for a while.  Besides, I was often told that when you’re not looking is usually the time you find someone, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give that a try.

By the summer of ’96, I finally caught up with the rest of the world and joined the Internet generation.  Oddly enough, the very night I signed on to AOL was when the Olympic bombing took place in Atlanta, so I started off with a bang, so to speak, but I digress.  It occurred to me that I could make use of my AOL profile as a drawing card for potential mates, and before long I got an e-mail from a girl named Tracy.  She said she was more or less looking for the same kind of relationship that I was and that she lived near 74th & Lewis. Well, there’s a 74th & Lewis just a few blocks from my house, so I was initially intrigued, until I realized she meant 74th & Lewis in Tulsa!  D’oh!!  We had precious little in common—Tracy is conservative Southern Baptist and I’m radical moderate Midwestern Agnostic—but we wound up being e-mail pen pals, so to speak, for several years.  We even met in person a few times, as I later attended a ballgame with Tracy and her boyfriend in Tulsa, and vice-versa when they came up here after they got married and did a Royals game.  It was nice to have a female friend and sounding board, but after a while, our correspondence became very stale and boring (mundane stuff like, “Oh, that’s too bad your washer broke down”, “sorry to hear you had a flat tire”, etc.) and I lost interest in it.  I also felt stifled because I had to water myself down for fear of offending Tracy and her conservative church-goer sensibilities, thus I couldn’t be my true self with her.  I more or less blew her off and quit writing to her a few years ago and I’ve felt bad about that, but she just didn’t challenge me like the next woman I was about to encounter did.  If you’re reading this, Tracy, it was nothing personal and I’m sorry.  But, if you’ve read my blog at all these last couple years, you’ve no doubt discovered that I’m a little earthier than I seemed to be…

Sometime in early, 1998, I received another e-mail from a fellow AOL-er named Stacy in Seattle who said she liked my hobbies and interests that I had listed on my profile and would I like to chat sometime?  After being on-line for a couple years, I’d encountered quite a few phonies and posers, so I was actually skeptical at first if she was legit or just playing me, even though she was two time zones away and wasn’t really looking for a relationship (she was already living with a guy anyway).  Hell, Stacy is a guy’s name too, so for all I knew, this could’ve been a dude messing with me!  I kept a journal back then, and often referred to her as “this Stacy person” or “that Stacy girl” until I got to know her better and was convinced she was the real deal.  Soon we were chatting live with each other on AOL on a regular basis, and unlike Tracy, I had far more in common with Stacy.  Since I was working second-shift at my new hospital gig at the time, I was already a night owl, so we’d often chat into the wee hours of the morning after I got home from work.  It was so nice to finally connect with someone on a very cerebral level, and we got to know each other very well over the next year or so.  She was very unhappy with her live-in boyfriend at the time, so I was often a sympathetic ear for her when she needed to vent.  Other times, we just shot the shit and enjoyed visiting with each other.

One of Stacy’s unique features is she has little-to-no hair.  She has the medical condition called Alopecia Areata, which causes hair loss in both men and women.  Obviously, Alopecia can be devastating for some people, especially women, but Stacy was able to cope and has a great attitude about it, usually choosing to wear bandanas in public or wigs for more formal occasions.  She was a real cutie in her photos, too, and as things turned out, the National Alopecia Areata Foundation was holding their annual conference in Denver in July of ’99, which Stacy was planning to attend.  I hadn’t been on a decent vacation in quite a while myself, so I came up with the bright idea of driving to Elway Country and meeting Stacy in-person for the first time.  I figured I could tool around do some sightseeing on my own while she attended the conference and we could meet up at various times throughout the weekend and have dinner or just hang out, and I could play tour guide for her since I’d been there before.  She loved the idea, and was even able to swing me a free ticket to a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field (which I was planning to attend anyway) via the Alopecia Foundation, which was recognized during in a pre-game ceremony.

In an effort to save a little hotel money and since I just love to drive at night on road trips, I decided to leave K.C. at 10PM on Wednesday, drive all night and get into town early in the morning just as the sun was rising on the Rocky Mountains, which is a really cool sight.  Two problems with that plan:  A) I was unable to get a good nap in during the day on Wednesday, as planned, and B) it was cloudy and rainy when I pulled into town Thursday morning anyway!  I was okay driving until I got about 2/3 of the way across Kansas and the caffeine wore off, so I pulled off at a rest area and napped in the car for an hour-and-a-half or so.  That helped a little, but by the time I got to the Mile High City around 8AM, I was very tired.  No biggie—I figured I’d check in to my room and nap for a few hours, then head out for the ballgame, which started at 1:00.  Problem was, I couldn’t check in to my hotel until well after 10:00, so I had to kill two more hours.  Once I did get checked in, I got all of an hour’s nap in before it was time to leave for the game, which was looking rather iffy because of rain in the Denver area.

Luckily, some Mountain Dew-induced adrenaline kicked in, and I was able to enjoy the Rockies/Dodgers game as well as the dandy new ballpark in downtown Denver, which is one of the best in baseball—too bad it’s named after such a decrepit beer!  Even though the Alopecians were honorees at the game, the team chose to stick them in the cheap seats in the right field bleachers, but it was kinda fun sitting amongst them and visiting.  I found many of the bald chicks there to be far prettier than some of the women with hair in the crowd, too. I started wearing down near the end of the game though, and by the time I got to my car, I was running on fumes.  Unfortunately, I was due to meet Stacy at her hotel downtown at 6:00, and I wasn’t sure if I would last five minutes with her.  It was too late to postpone, but I figured I’d just meet with her and visit for a bit, then go back to my hotel to crash, and re-connect with her sometime on Friday when I was fresh.  Little did I know what this evening held in store…

To be continued…

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