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Illustration by Jason Crosby

In an airport bar, anyone can be from anywhere. The patrons are all transient, all in limbo, and although they'll make snap judgments about each other — based on some article of clothing or gesture — they really don't know the first thing about those around them.

In this bizarre holding pattern, they're stuck in a place they wouldn't necessarily have chosen. While some at the bar are no doubt wishing they could just get home, others are more enthralled by the break in routine — and the possibility for adventure.

All this also holds true for the singles scene in San Francisco. At a time when more Americans than ever are remaining single through their 30s and beyond, this city has become a gathering place for the unattached. Some are complacent in their solitude, while others remain solo based on lofty romantic ambitions.

The reality seldom resembles the dream, but, then again, sometimes that person on the next barstool winds up far more interesting than you could have imagined.

For several weeks, SF Weekly has been collecting tales of romantic takeoffs and turbulent landings in San Francisco. Some are funny. Some are deeply depressing. Each demonstrates a little something about what it's like to be single here, now, in a city that feels so much like drinks at the airport.


Between flights, there's always the one guy doing more drinking than the rest. Maybe he starts talking to a woman near him, and begins to find her very intriguing — movie star intriguing. Rather than trying to find out more, though, he plays it cool.

Isaac wasn't the kind of guy who went on many dates. Ensconced in a mid-20s "boozy zone," he had been cavorting strictly with bar skanks, he half-jokes. But when several years ago an incredible opportunity arose — a chance to go on a date with the famous and highly desirable actress Zooey Deschanel — he jumped on it.

"My whole life was going to change," he remembers thinking.

Isaac had been volunteering at 826 Valencia, the pirate store and writing center founded by Dave Eggers, when one day Zooey came in with some guy associated with 826. Isaac was introduced to Zooey, and although he's not "a starfucker," he immediately decided he wanted to make an exception. "She was this really pretty girl, and although I hadn't seen her in anything, I figured out that she was a movie star."

Zooey began coming back to 826 every week, which Isaac found strange, considering that movie stars usually live in L.A. But he was glad of her company, and they hit it off. He couldn't believe how easy it was to flirt with her, and began telling his friends that "something might be goin' on with me and Zooey."

Finally he went for it and asked her out. She said yes.

Isaac took Zooey out to cocktails (apparently even a movie star was not dinner-date material) and "it's going so fucking well. I'm playing it really cool," Isaac says. "I'm not going to mention her movie career, because I'm going to be a badass and get to know the real her."

His plan seemed to be working. A few drinks in, they started making out. At that point, Isaac decided it was the best date he ever had.

Zooey brought Isaac back to her place and they started kissing on her bed. He couldn't believe he was scoring with Zooey Deschanel. And then he started to look around. There were some weird photos of Zooey with snow in the background. When he asked about them, he found out she was from Minnesota. Hmm.

Then she mentioned something about being a waitress, and it began to occur to Isaac that he was not about to bang Zooey Deschanel. Instead, he was about to bang a girl who looked like Zooey Deschanel. In fact, Isaac had met the real Zooey only once (and that guy she came in to 826 with? Yeah, that was her boyfriend). This girl — "Diane or something" — had started volunteering right after Zooey came in, and had the same dark hair and blue eyes.

Back on his date, having realized his mistake, Isaac went through "a very weird shift." He was still getting it on with an amazing chick, he told himself, but no matter how hot and fun and smart she was, she was not Zooey Deschanel.

After that night, they never went out again. Isaac regrets it to this day.


In periods of transition, strangers may turn out to be douchier than they initially appear.

On her first Saturday night after moving to San Francisco, Amanda went out in North Beach and met a guy named Larry. He seemed nice, and offered to show Amanda the city. She was thrilled at how easy it was to get a date, and delighted when he invited her to NightLife at the Academy of Sciences, a display of exotic creatures from abroad set to hip music and plenty of alcohol.

When Thursday came around, Larry asked Amanda to take a cab to his apartment. Amanda lives in the Richmond. Larry lives in the Marina. "This was before I knew what a Marina DB was," Amanda says. "But I think I found one."

The first sign of potential douchery: Upon arrival at Larry's, Amanda noticed some Gossip Girl DVDs on the shelf in his living room, but tried to put them out of her mind as they had a glass of wine. Then they headed out to Larry's vehicle. As they approached a line of cars, she was sincerely hoping that the bright red Smart Car was not his. It was.

Although Larry had lived in San Francisco for seven years, he did not know how to get to the Academy of Sciences. Amanda, who had been a resident of San Francisco for less than a week, gave directions.

Larry paid the $12 admission for himself and Amanda, but she got the drinks. Although he said he would "hit you back," that never happened.

Amanda hoped that Larry would have some ideas for date-y bars to hit afterward, but he chose West and Matrix Fillmore, both sleazy clubs where Amanda ended up paying for the drinks again. Larry took a bunch of shots, then showed Amanda the VIP room. He proudly told her that he had rented the place out on his birthday and everyone got totally wasted.

"The only stories he told were about times he was wasted ... and his ex-girlfriend," Amanda says.

Larry detailed that relationship, their breakup, and the ex's new fiancé. At the end of the evening, he asked Amanda to come home with him. When she hesitated, he whispered in her ear, "I wanna get you naked."

She hailed a cab and never spoke to him again.


At SFO — and in S.F. — sometimes a thorough security check is necessary.

The twinky Latino was flirting with "some old creeper" across the bar at Esta Noche in the Mission when Stuart caught sight of him. Stuart was looking to meet someone, and he wasn't about to let this cute guy go home with a man three times his age. He walked up and said one word: "Really?"

"That guy bought me a drink," the Latino explained. His voice was nasal. His name was Alejandro.

"I'll buy you a drink," Stuart countered.

Minutes later they were walking back to Stuart's place when Alejandro made a confession. They were headed into the area where South Van Ness meets 25th Street, which was sort of a big deal, because, well, Alejandro was a Norteño. They were entering Sureño territory.

"I could get killed for coming here," Alejandro told Stuart. "But I really like you."

Stuart thinks he remembers rolling his eyes, but he was so drunk he isn't sure.

When they arrived at his apartment, Stuart speedwalked in and gave his roommates a warning: "Okay, guys, I bought home a gangbanger, but you have to be cool with this because I'm gonna get laid." They shrugged, and Stuart rushed Alejandro to his bedroom, "so no one had to talk to him."

To Stuart's surprise, the gangbanger turned out to be great in the sack. So although Stuart had planned to kick him out for the night, he changed his mind. "I was superdicknatized," he says.

Stuart continued calling Alejandro for a week after their encounter, but apparently the gangsta was unwilling to venture back into enemy territory.


In the airport and this city, people wind up in the same place whether or not they want to.

Kate, a writer in her late 20s, hadn't had much luck with online dating services, but she still had hope. So when another OkCupid person she'd been e-mailing suggested hanging out, there was no reason not to meet. He didn't seem all that promising (the word-to-emoticon ratio was suspiciously low) but he seemed cute, reasonably intelligent, and nice. The guy suggested a date for the coming Sunday, and although Kate planned on replying later that day to say okay, she first went to get some work done in a coffee shop.

She selected a chair facing the entrance, and although she had communicated with her potential date only via OkCupid, when a guy walked through the door she was sure it was him. Furthermore, when she saw his slight, hipster companion, she was sure that the two were on a date. Kate was terrified her date would recognize her, but either he didn't or he didn't care that she was there. The two proceeded to sit on a couch directly behind her and commence their date.

She listened as the guy repeated many of the same details about himself that Kate had learned over OkCupid messaging. There was talk of woodworking ("Could the metaphors be any more transparent?" Kate says) and indie music. There was uproarious laughter. Kate heard the woman say, "You're hilarious," and quietly disagreed.

The couple left the coffee shop after a few hours, looking happy; when Kate got home, she sent a message to say Sunday wasn't going to work. They e-mailed halfheartedly a few more times, but Kate was deflated. "I felt like I'd already been on the date with him," she said, "and there was no reason for a second."


As we saw in Up in the Air, deception runs rampant among strangers in airports. If you're in a place for only a short time, why not become a different person? And while you're at it, you might as well construct an identity for somebody else.

Jules, a single man visiting San Francisco, was out in the Mission one night last year. He was a little tipsy and couldn't recall the bar he was in, but he'll never forget the hot blonde woman who approached him.

"You were my anthropology professor at Berkeley!" she said.

Jules is not a professor. He has never even been on the Berkeley campus. But maybe this woman knew him from some other context. Maybe she was kidding.

"Ah, really? Which class were you in?" he asked, waiting for an explanation or punch line.

"Multicultural communication."

Jules happens to be a French guy with a job that requires a lot of travel. He had just returned from Sudan. Still uncertain of where this was all going, he segued into some stories about his travels.

But as he expounded, he began to realize that the woman was a complete stranger who seemed to actually believe that he had been her professor. She struck him as sweet, fun, hot, and very engaging.

"So, like any self-respecting heterosexual man, I went with it," he says.

They hung out at the bar for another couple of drinks, then headed back to the place Jules was crashing for the night. "My friends were out of town, so I had the pad to myself," he says, "and that's where the magic happened."

The next morning, Jules called the woman a cab, and they parted with no awkwardness. Nothing further was mentioned about the student-professor connection, which left him wondering: "I still don't know if I played her or she played me."


The journey to finding the right person can get lonely. Sometimes in the limbo periods, just about anyone is worth talking to — for a little while.

About two years ago, 29-year-old Yingying had recently split with a boyfriend and was looking for somebody to hang out with. Nothing serious. More a companion than a lover.

She didn't know how to go about finding a casual date, but the easiest way seemed to be putting an ad on Craigslist. She wasn't sure whether to mention that she was Asian, but in the end she did. "There are high expectations of Asians in sexual contexts," she says, "and I'm the opposite of a typical Asian girl." (She is tall and voluptuous.)

She is also working on a Ph.D in psychology, and the respondents to her ad were far from the thoughtful, friendly candidates she had in mind. In fact, many of them felt compelled to send pictures of their genitalia.

There was only one respectable response, which came from a doctor. She looked him up online, and his story checked out. So she agreed to meet him for an afternoon drink at a wine bar in SOMA.

When Yingying walked in, she immediately noticed a guy at the back of the bar who looked older, chubbier, and generally less attractive than the photos she had seen. She had the sinking and correct feeling that he was her date. "He had a long ponytail," she says. If there's one thing Yingying can't stand, it's a man-child.

She had the obligatory drink with him, and found him sort of nice. He bought her another. The conversation meandered into apartment hunting, as Yingying was looking. The doctor said he thought she should see his, which was nearby.

She knew it probably wasn't a good idea. But she was on romantic layover. She had nothing better to do.

They headed to his loft in SOMA, which was beautiful. They began debating the merits of South Park versus Family Guy, and that's when the doctor insisted showing Yingying his favorite episodes. He sat her down and began scrolling through the shows he had recorded on TiVo. She recalls looking at the onscreen list and seeing some news programs, and some comedies, and then something about hot naked Asians. Then college-aged Asians. As he scrolled down, Yingying beheld a smorgasbord of Asian porn.

Totally uncomfortable but not wanting to acknowledge what she had seen, Yingying sat through an entire South Park episode. When the show was over, she asked the doctor why he had a ponytail. He told her he would never cut it off because it reminded him of his younger days.

Somehow that was a greater offense than his fetish. Yingying made for the door.


When you meet somebody in an airport bar, and it goes reasonably well, a question presents itself: Is this person worth a missed flight? Or, in terms of S.F. dating, is this person worth staying out past the last BART train?

Alan joined Match.com a few years back. He spent a lot of time ignoring messages from women who didn't interest him or pursuing women who never replied. But eventually he persuaded a woman from Oakland to go on a date. She came to San Francisco and they had dinner, which "wasn't terribly awkward."

At a bar afterward, she made the mistake of trying to keep up with Alan on whiskey and sodas. "I don't know why a girl would ever try to keep pace with me, because I'm six-foot-four and weigh over 230 pounds," he recalls. "She was a pretty slim girl. Maybe five-foot-seven or so, 120 pounds?"

That night, he managed to usher her back to BART before it stopped. But on date two, the woman drank just as much, and seemed to conveniently forget the time. Five whiskeys deep, he offered to have her crash at his place. The date had been nothing special, but she had no reasonable way back home.

On the cab ride back, the woman kept apologizing. Pajamas and sleeping arrangements were discussed in a very proper tone. They hadn't even kissed yet.

Although details are hazy, and he's sure he didn't score, Alan does remember getting her into his bed. That, and the moles.

"While we were making out, I kept trying to run my hand down her back and finding all of these moles — really big ones," he says. "I kept trying to work my way around them. It was like a minefield of moles."

In a way, working around the moles was sort of like what desperate S.F. singles seem to be doing all the time — trying, often unsuccessfully, to ignore all the undesirable aspects of their potential partners.

Alan and the woman had a third date a few days later, and the same thing happened. She got too drunk, missed BART (by accident), and asked to stay over. The mole thing was still distracting, but Alan still hoped for sex. Nope.

"There's this leg-pry thing that happens in high school where the guy is trying to get to other bases and the girl snaps her legs shut like a bear trap," he says. "It's all very cute, but adults usually give an excuse for the rejection, like, 'I'm on my period.' I got nothing."

While the "no sex" part seemed atypical, in Alan's experience, this date was pretty much reflective of his experience in San Francisco. "I was always meeting girls that were okay but not superwonderful," he says. "All of the time we spent together involved drinking."

Then again, he says, if he had been dating the right people he'd already be in a relationship. That's what he was after. "It's a challenge to find someone in your league who also has matching qualities," he says. In a city like San Francisco, where many people are transplants, he often gets the feeling he's in an airport. "The only thing you have in common is the bar you're at, and knowing that you just got here and you won't be here much longer."

After that last date, Alan stopped calling the woman. Some connections you don't mind missing.


But sometimes — if you let yourself dare — that person beside you can turn out to be far more interesting than you think.

It had been way too long since Christine, a frisky 29-year-old Mission resident, had gotten laid. She decided to hit up a neighborhood bar, the Argus, which she had been meaning to check out anyway.

Inside, she cozied up next to one of three guys in the bar. He had his face in a book when she ordered a Zinfandel. She tried not to look too interested, but stole furtive looks at his glasses and his muscular arms. He ignored her.

Finally, Christine had an idea. She pushed a candle toward him and smiled.

The guy said thanks, and read for a few more minutes. Christine was ready to give up when the guy put his book down. "So, how's your night?" he said.

They proceeded to chat for what felt like a couple of hours about various things, including qigong, scuba equipment, and the book the guy was reading: Old Man's War, a sci-fi novel about septuagenarians enlisted for an intergalactic battle. He seemed knowledgeable and kind. He was also a bit older. When they got up to have a cigarette, he stood a full head shorter than Christine. Whatev, she thought, three drinks deep.

After another couple of rounds, she began touching his leg, but he seemed lukewarm about the situation. Finally Christine blurted out, "Okay, let's go." When he asked where, she couldn't contain herself: "Your place."

The guy lived just two blocks from the bar. Upon entering his apartment, he pulled Christine aside. "There's something you should know about me," he said, finally — finally! — touching her. "I'm a very dirty man."

They entered the man's bedroom, and Christine was surprised to find herself in a veritable BDSM lair. An industrial-sized lube bottle sat on the nightstand, flanked by a buttplug and a feather. Beneath the mattress, a restraint system peeked out. A silver-sequined cape hung in the closet.

"Well, at least he warned me," she thought.

She spent the night there, and had the best sex of her life.


If your flight gets delayed, help fix the plane.

I was single and working too much," says Chas McFeely, a 40-year-old San Francisco copywriter. Like many creative types in San Francisco, he is the kind of guy who is always dreaming up apps and start-ups and websites. And, like many singles, he was finding that it wasn't so easy to meet the right, smart woman in a city full of them. Bars never worked for him. Online dating was always frustrating. Setups were the best, but they were infrequent.

"I have had some great relationships with long bouts of casual dating in between," he says. "Some of that was due to misguided priorities, though I think it's just taken me a long time to really know who I am and what I want."

In early March, he launched his dating site, Hook Chas Up. On it, he offered $10,000 to anyone who can introduce him to a woman he falls in love with and eventually marries.

Soon after the site went live and drew extensive media attention, the e-mails poured in by the hundreds. All that attention wasn't necessarily the goal, though, and in some ways it made his search more difficult. Chas has been waking up at 4 a.m. each day to answer each message personally, which has been overwhelming. He's still trying to find the right smart woman in a pack of them.

He had initially planned to let the public know how his dates were going, but changed his mind. Instead, he's spending his time answering e-mails and going on dates.

Perhaps there's a lesson here. As others are eyeing one another in bars and checking each other's profiles, as they're drinking until they can't go home and lying to each other and themselves, Chas McFeely — in that forward-thinking, San Francisco way — is inventing new ways to make his connection.

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7 comments
Elizabeth frantes
Elizabeth frantes

All I hope is that none of these idiots breed. I know that's too much to ask for. In fact, according to a study I read in the journal Evolution, there is a very, very strong correlation between low IQ in women with early/frequent childbearing. So, unless breeding makes women stupid, it's the dumbest of the dumb who do.

Georgeorwell6
Georgeorwell6

OMGYou are a mental case Frantes. I just saw this on the internet. You are an absolute crackpot. I did a google search on you and found this.

From: elizabeth <efran...@hotmail.com>Subject: Re: Why Don't Right To Lifers Support Government Paying 50% of Child Support?Date: Sat, 21 May 2011 12:10:33 -0700 (PDT)Message-ID: <235e3b5e-1dbb-4e56-9f91-d3dc2bda2768@34g2000pru.googlegroups.com>

"Antiabort females should be gangraped to death.Slowly.

I feel that antiabort males should have their genitals ripped offand forced down their throats, and antiabort females gangraped untildeath."</efran...@hotmail.com>

Georgeorwell
Georgeorwell

Elizabeth Frantes,Your view points are wacked. Maybe you need to consider a long vacation or get some medical attention. You are just way too far out there. Aren't you the same wacko that said antiabortion women should be raped slowly and to death? I mean come on, seriously. What person in their right mind would ever think of such a sick thing?

GuessHandsOn
GuessHandsOn

I see that Miss Harrell herself hasn't logged onto her OKC profile for a long while. Maybe, she, too, is disturbed about dating in SF.

I Miss "Latin Freeze"
I Miss "Latin Freeze"

25th & South Van Ness is and has always been Norteno territory. If Alejandro was a Norteno, he wouldn't have had a problem going there. In fact, Esta Noche is deep in Sureno territory.

I understand that the gang life doesn't mean much to the SF Weekly, but considering how many Mission youth get killed over it, at least have the decency get the territories right. If you need a fact checker, ask any kid at Mission High.

Manu
Manu

Wow! This stories are so interesting! I'd like to know more about SFo people's lifestyles

 
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