From this week's Bouncer column:
I recently plunged back into the world of online dating. "Plunged" is a good word, because you become immediately immersed, struggle to find your footing, begin to panic and gasp for air, and, if you are lucky, slowly rise to the surface again, relieved to be back where you started: merely floating as a single but happy person. Then it's back to lolling by the pool for another two years.
Bars are tailor-made for the date before any real "first date," the sub-date where you figure out if you even want to go on a first date. The problem with bars, however, is that they have booze in them, and therefore foolish decisions can be made in a matter of seconds. Conversely, nerves are often doused with gin, and things are said or done that can blow a potential spark completely out. This time I decided to meet my quarry by doing the pedestrian "go for coffee" thing. This is something I thought I would never, ever do, because the folks who seem to go this route are the same ones who do things like meditate or go to climbing gyms on their lunch hours. But there is indeed wisdom in the coffee option -- it can be over in a matter of minutes if you need to skedaddle, and there is no waiting for the tab.
We had decided to meet in front of the Gap near Powell Street BART. He was late, so my nerves began to intensify. I can psych myself up for about 10 minutes, then anxieties usually take over, and I must meditate or go to a climbing gym. Neither was an option, so I struck up a conversation with a homeless guy who was selling things he had found on the street. "Two for one!" he said, smiling broadly. He had carved wooden boxes, a Discman, deodorant, a pile of books, some burned CDs from some poor schmuck's now-missing collection (an odd mix of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the White Stripes ... and Milli Vanilli?), and some knit gloves. There was something very Dickensian about the setup, and his enthusiasm to hawk the crap made me feel melancholy. He seemed baffled that I wasn't interested in any of it. "Wait!" he said, pulling out a bag from a bag and pausing to poke his index finger into the air triumphantly. "Wait till you see this!" He opened the bag and revealed several thin white packets. Maxipads? He pulled one out and I read the label: Female Condom. Huh.
"Well?" he asked, expecting me to purchase the entire caseload. Just then my date walked up. I said hi and introduced the two of them. The man hit him up for change, and I interjected and gave him five bucks, declining to take any of his products in exchange. "Y'all have a good date!" he said ...