Before 32 List

#42: see First Date on Bway

We’d gone one block in ten minutes. Traffic was at a standstill, and our taxi driver, even with his most valiant efforts, couldn’t snake his way though the parking lot of Park Avenue.

I avoided looking at the time. First Date was going to be my first Broadway show, and we had to make our way to Longacre Theater on West 48th Street. Two more blocks south, a little over four blocks west. Caitlin checked her phone again and sighed, and I saw. Ten minutes. Ten minutes until 7pm, and we were stuck.

Strangely, I wasn’t that worried. Caitlin looked like she was going to have a heart attack, and I guess my unconscious decision was to sit on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. I found myself smiling and making jokes.

One block and $15 later, we bailed in the middle of an intersection in true New York fashion and raced to the theater. At times we broke into short jogs, only to be stopped in dense crowds milling around. Rockefeller Center, with its beautiful Christmas tree, was attracting throngs of tourists, and the block in front of The Rock was closed to traffic. 6th Avenue, which we had to cross, was barricaded by traffic cops controlling the flow of cars and pedestrians.

Times Square was a blur, as was Broadway. “It’s up there,” Caitlin declared.

“Where?” I was out of breath.

“The red and white sign, down there across the street.” We still had a block to go. It was 7:10pm.

Under the twinkling lights of the Longacre marquee, we finally, breathlessly, flung open the door to the theater and greeted the woman who stood as we came in. We were over 15 minutes late, but she was kind and quickly led us to the stairway. Laughter and singing erupted from the auditorium as we climbed the stairs to the balcony.

Our seats were in the center of the balcony. In the front row. We were those people, apologizing quietly as we desperately tried to make our way to our seats in the narrowest aisle ever.

As quietly as she could, Caitlin, who’d seen the show before, whispered the few details I’d missed. I nodded, wide-eyed with pure happiness. Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez, who played the leads, were bantering in the spotlight below. We were immediately giggling, and the entire audience was enraptured.

First Date is about a mild-mannered Jewish 30-something, Aaron, on a blind date with Casey, who’s far more adventurous and likes bad boys. Supporting actors play out the inner dialogues each character has with friends and family members. One of my favorite scenes had Aaron and Casey telling each other about themselves, and Casey tells him that she has a son. Aaron reacts, and Casey erupts in laughter and tells him she was just kidding. After he expresses his relief, Casey grows quiet and shares that she was lying and did, in fact, have a son. Stuttering, Aaron apologizes, and Casey cracks up again. Aaron, completely overwhelmed by the joke, throws up his hands and yells an expletive.

First Date Broadway

This picture is from the official First Date website. If I’d been close enough to take this, Zachary Levi would’ve smelled my pheromones and immediately fallen in love with me.

It’s a scene that sounds played-out and tired as I try to describe it, but his reaction to her joke made the audience break into delighted laughter and applause. The entire show was light and energetic, the script quick and witty, and I especially loved when Levi’s character was frustrated. In the final number, Levi was bounding around the stage, and Caitlin’s high compliment – calling him the next Dick Van Dyke – was proven true. We all clapped at punchlines delivered during songs and laughed uproariously at the banter. It was the perfect first Broadway show.

I’m a big fan of Krysta’s after first seeing her on the TV show Smash. She’s amazing. Admittedly, though, the main draw for me was Zachary Levi. I didn’t watch Chuck but, oddly enough, love watching Chuck bloopers on YouTube. That’s where I first saw Levi’s personality and became a big fan of his. I also love Tangled, but who doesn’t?

Sadly, there was no intermission; the show was short, but had it been much longer, it would’ve dragged. The cast bowed, and then Levi announced a fundraiser they were participating in for Broadway Cares. Buy a signed Playbill, a signed poster, or pony up for a photo with the cast on the stage. I bought a signed poster for $60.

This was the view from our seats after the show.

This was the view from our seats after the show.

Longacre Theater

The inside of Longacre Theater

Caitlin and I wandered around the theater taking pictures.

We went down to the orchestra section, but couldn't see the cast anywhere.

We went down to the orchestra section, but couldn’t see the cast anywhere.

We finally exited and waited on the street by the stage door to thank the cast as they left. A big, friendly man stood outside the door and assured all of us who were waiting that both Zachary and Krysta would sign autographs and take pictures with all of us. For the 20 of us waiting outside in the cold, it was worth it.

First Date marquee

He burst out the stage door with music playing from the speaker he was carrying and an ear-to-ear smile on his face. Zach was tall. I was taken aback by just how different he seemed standing in front of me, as opposed to on TV or on stage. He talked to our group and thanked us for coming to the show. As tourists saw that a celebrity was signing autographs, a few came up to take pictures of their own. Zach hid behind the man guarding the door and exclaimed that he was only there for the people who’d seen the show.

First Date - Zach

He’s TALL.

I didn’t get anything signed, since I had the poster, but both Caitlin and I took pictures with him. It was my first time to be around a celebrity, and it was unreal. We thanked him and then waited for Krysta, who was equally gracious and kind, but not as ebullient as Zach.

First Date - Krysta

She was TINY.

Once we’d said our thank yous, Caitlin and I set out to find a cab on 8th Avenue. I was sad to leave while Zach and Krysta were still talking to the rest of the group, but it made no sense to stay out in the cold just to fangirl.

As we tried to hail a cab, Krysta and a couple of her friends eventually walked past. I exchanged a look with Caitlin; the look on her face said This is totally normal while the look on mine consisted of exclamation points.

Caitlin laughed. “Welcome to New York!”

#1: Go to a speed dating event

There were three pages in front of me: one detailing the rules, one where I could write notes about each “date”, and one I had to turn in at the end if I wanted to connect with one of the guys. Sitting at a table, an empty chair across from me and a placard with a 6 in the middle of the table, I read the rules.

tableThe placards were in sequential order and let the guys know which table to move to next. Each date would be six minutes long, and we were encouraged to “ask more than mundane questions like ‘what do you do’ & ‘where do you live’.”

How about these questions?

How about these questions?

Reading the rules page made my copyediting brain hurt. “Please support the establishment by buying something & take care of your bartender!” The sentence was bold and underlined on the rule sheet. I got a large glass of water; I would need it.

The majority of the women were sitting at tables already, my friend Kris sitting next to me at an adjoining table. Men were trickling in and being led to different tables by Bob the  Bulbous Cheekbones, the organizer. Kris and I used the thick Crayola markers on the table to write our names on sticky name tags. She put hers on her placard, while I put mine on my shirt.

Surveying the men walking in, I was both excited and worried. A blonde was sitting at a table across the room, and he looked promising; one thickly-bearded guy was sitting near the door looking terrified.

Bob walked toward my table, leading one of the men my way, and my heart sunk. Chuck the Truck Driver sat down, avoiding my eyes, and stared at the paperwork.

Not a word.

“So… did Bob tell you what to expect?” I asked.

“No.”

“Well, it looks like we’ll have six minutes to talk, and then we can take notes on this page-” I shuffled his papers a bit to point to the paper, “and we fill out this page with who we’d like to talk to again-” I pointed to the bottom page.

Silence. Great.

“Do you need a pen?” I asked, sliding one of the blue pens on the table toward him.

He pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket and began writing on one of the feedback forms. He’d said one word to me, the same word I would use to answer the question, “Do you want to see Chuck again?”

While Chuck finished his busywork, Bob brought Giles the Smile to Kris’s table. He was immediately engaging and friendly, though he looked a bit nervous. Oh, I thought, he could be promising.

Finally, Chuck was done with whatever and it appeared his mouth might work. The event seemed like it had officially started, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and ask Chuck a question.

“Have you done this before?”

“Uh, no. I haven’t.”

THREE WORDS AND A GRUNT – I’ll take it!

He was nervous, that much was obvious. I refused to sit in silence and let his anxiety ruin my first “date”.

“What do you do, Chuck?”

Floodgates exploded open, and Chuck spoke! In sentences! With inflection and everything! I listened as he talked about his job, where he lived, and as he answered my various this-is-to-prove-I’m-listening questions. His unkempt ‘fro and bushy beard were distracting, but I kept my eyes on his, which were focused on my name tag. Which was on my chest.

My first “date” was inadvertently staring at my chest for six minutes.

The bell rang, and we ended our conversation. I had a break between dates, so I jotted down some notes. As I wrote, Bob came over and asked how my first date went.

I texted my coworker about Chuck. He apparently livened up on his second "date".

I texted my coworker about Chuck. He apparently livened up on his second “date”.

Bob was nice enough, the kind of guy who could be gay or straight or bi – I couldn’t get a read on him. He had insanely round cheek apples, and I wondered if he had implants or a terrible Botox injection or just really weird genes. He sat hunched over a bit, as if he were negotiating a deal under the table and policemen were sitting nearby.

I saw the countdown timer on his phone. 20 more seconds. Oh, come ON already.

The next two dates were eh. Man from Nigeria, sharply dressed in a button-down and a tie, but still casual in jeans. He, too, was nervous, but thankfully he stared at the table or behind my right shoulder. Our conversation was stilted and boring.

Bill Nye the Pale Guy followed Man, and he was a tall, typical engineer who wore glasses and had a bone-crushing handshake. He’d been to speed dating events before, so the conversation was far more balanced. Then I made the mistake of telling him I wanted to move to Colorado or the West Coast at some point. He looked like I’d just kicked his computer.

“Why?”

“I love the mountains, you know?” No reaction. “I just feel energized when I’m near the ocean or the mountains. Plus if I workout, I like to do it outside. Hah – not if, I mean when-”

His eyebrow raised. “If. Kind of a Freudian slip there.”

How charming.

I noticed that the guys, without any concern for privacy, would fill out their “Let’s Talk!/No Thanks.” sheet in front of me; I could read everything. Meanwhile, I had my notes page covered, and I hid what I wrote as though they were missile launch codes.

Freddy Fresh Air sat down next. Conversation was refreshingly easy, he held my gaze, and we laughed a lot. When I caught my coworkers watching me from the bar, I waved, and Freddy waved, too. He was the first person I told about Taiwan, and it was the first comfortable conversation of the night. When he stood to leave, he said, “I’m sure I’ll see you again.”

John the Blonde, whom I’d seen earlier from across the room, sat down after Freddy left. He nursed his beer and blotted his face and hands with two wadded-up napkins. His accent was strong, and thanks to the noise level, I was having a horrible time placing it. For a reason I couldn’t manage to hear, he’d moved to Dallas from Florida a couple years ago. I’d found my opening.

“Oh, so where were you before Florida?” I expected Australia… New Zealand? Maybe? I couldn’t figure it out.

“Just Florida!” What. “I’d never been outside Florida until I moved here!”

He told me more, and I tried not to focus on the spinach in his teeth. I couldn’t believe, after all my travels, that a thick country-bumpkin Floridian accent had thrown me. I felt betrayed by myself.

My lips were growing dryer by the minute, and the water I’d ordered was almost gone. I felt like I was shouting, and the din in the restaurant was only getting louder. There were no breaks, no time to get up and relax. I was enjoying myself, but the adrenaline was pumping; I could feel the exhaustion sneaking up on me.

My next date had an unnervingly steady gaze and an air about him I couldn’t quite figure out. We chatted for a moment, and then he stated that he was in the Special Forces, and his demeanor made sense. He carried himself as someone who’d been in the thick of terror, who’d pushed himself to the limit, and I was completely fascinated by his stories. Special Forces Steve had stories about going on reconnaissance missions in North Korea, and about the concentration camps there. Even without the romantic spark, I was utterly invested in everything he said.

But what if he’s lying?

It was a thought that popped into my head on a number of “dates”: what if the guy sitting across from me was lying? I decided that I only cared if I was interested in a real date, and that’s when I’d really investigate the legitimacy of the stories. Until then, I was just going to have fun.

After Special Forces Steve left, a tall, broad-shouldered man sat down. Mr. Nothing struck me as someone who’d been a linebacker in college, and he had thick, spiky salt-and-pepper hair. He was nice. He was polite. We talked. I have more chemistry with a carrot, and we both knew the attraction wasn’t there. It wasn’t as awkward as it just felt like we were wasting our time on each other.

I glanced over at the table where my next date was sitting, and was dispirited. Mr. Nothing was replaced by Amish Amos. Dark hair ringed his entire face, from his forehead to his beard. He had perfect porcelain skin, but I wouldn’t know what his teeth looked like because he didn’t smile. I found out that he liked history and then, THEN, he started talking about the stock market.

Zero chemistry? No problem. He was going to teach me how to properly trade stocks instead. At one point, during a break in the stock market talk, he asked what I liked to do in my free time. I mentioned my To Do Before 32 List, and actually pulled it out to show him. He barely looked.

“See, lists can be kinda bad sometimes, you know?” Oh. “‘Cause, like, you do everything except number 32, and you did great, but all you can think of is, ‘I didn’t do number 32!’ And it’s ruined, ’cause all you can think about is 32, the one thing you didn’t do.”

I may not remember the exact dialogue, but I do remember that it was number 32 because he would not shut up about it. Chill out, dude. I can tell by your bowl cut that you’re a precision man, but do you have to rag on my list?

Again, I caught myself looking over. The event was nearly over, which was great, because my ability to string together a simple sentence had waned. I was making an absolute fool of myself when I tried to expound on simple concepts like my occupation and what I liked to do in my spare time.

I started strong, but I was limping, miserably, to the finish.

I didn’t get a good look at Teacher Thomas until he sat down, but once I did, I was pleased. I struggled to pronounce his name correctly, and when I asked its origin, we launched into a great conversation. We laughed and held eye contact, and I learned that he taught high school. His thick black hair was tousled and his eyes kind and inviting. Six minutes went by too quickly, and I knew I would like to talk to him again.

Giles the Smile, who had been Kris’s first “date”, joined me at the table once again. My brain was fried. My mascara was smudging down my cheeks. I was glued to the plastic bench. My throat was swollen. I was spent.

He seemed as tired as I was, and while he smiled and we had a good time talking, it seemed a little forced. I stammered, I made terrible jokes and, overall, was a terrible date.

When the bell rang at the end of the “date”, Giles stood, and I glanced over.

“Oh, no, you don’t have to get up. I’ve already met him.” I was practically begging. Please don’t let Chuck the Truck Driver sit down again. I can’t have another terrible conversation.

Giles walked away, but Chuck did, too. Kris and I began comparing notes, and we noticed some of the guys were returning to talk to other girls. Giles had made a beeline for a girl a few tables in front of me, and Teacher Thomas was sitting with another girl.

Kris's picks

Kris’s picks

They could talk to other women all they wanted. I was still going to put their names down as potential dates.

My notes and picks

My notes and picks

At my station was a ton of trash that had been left behind. Chuck’s paperwork and blank name tag, Man from Nigeria’s blank notes page, John the Blonde’s napkins and beer bottle. Thanks, guys.

Kris and I got up and headed to the bar to close her tab. We ended up talking to Steve, a well-dressed man with about ten years on me who’d been talking to my coworkers while they watched us. Small chitchat turned into a long conversation about speed dating, awkwardness, and basic manners.

I mentioned that I’d been told before that I’m intimidating. Kris nodded. “I can see that.”

“I don’t think you’re intimidating,” Steve countered.

When I said that Amish Amos had been disinterested in my list, Steve wanted to see the list, and we proceeded to talk in depth about it.

Steve, if you’re reading this, you restored my faith in men. Thank you.

I heard back, and Freddy Fresh Air asked to see me again, too. We shall see.

#11: go to a gun range

For two years I lived in Taiwan, where guns are illegal.

Then I moved back to Texas, where most people have at least one firearm, and some carry one at all times.

Guns scared me. They were, for all intents and purposes, a way for anyone to play God and take a life. I would see a handgun on a counter or table and leave the room. I didn’t know how to check if it was loaded, how to make sure the safety was on, how to make sure I didn’t accidentally shoot something… or someone.

Terrified.

On my To Do Before 32 List was #11: go to a gun range. I wasn’t looking forward to it, I didn’t want to do it, and I was anxious about it. I wanted nothing to do with guns.

In College Station there’s a man named Gene Schiller who, along with his wife Bernice, owns Schiller Arms. I took their one-on-one Basic 101 Marksmanship Course for $25 with Gene.

Gene knew I’d never even held a gun before, and we started from the absolute basics of handguns. The small range where his students practice allows for target practice at 3 yards, 7 yards, and 15 yards. We started at the 7 yard mark, where he flipped the target so that the blank side faced out and placed a bright red sticker near the top. After I nailed the sticker a few times (which, as it turned out, was in the groin area of the target on the other side), he faced the target normally and told me to aim for the X.

45 minutes into the hour-long lesson, he had me shoot left-handed, standing sideways, as though an assailant had shot my right hand, which is my trigger hand. He had me aim for the forehead.

As time passed, Gene asked if I minded staying a little later. He was excited about my accuracy and wanted to teach me more advanced shooting. Repeatedly he asked if I was interested in competitive shooting which, the more he mentioned it, the more interested I became. I was having fun!

After each shot, I let out a quick, high-pitched, “OH!” It was most definitely not on purpose, and it was a little embarrassing, but I couldn’t help it. Every shot felt like a miss, and the power of the Glock surprised me every time.

I arrived at Gene’s house at 5:30pm; I headed back to my parents’ house at 8:30.

Halfway through the lesson

Halfway through the lesson

Gene taught me from a competitive shooting standpoint, not from a personal safety one, and that made all the difference in the world. I don’t want to think about shooting a person. I don’t want to think about how I would react to killing someone. But give me a target and tell me to hit the X, and everything changes.

“I want the X!” I would tell Gene, before reloading and trying, once again, to shoot out the center of the target.

Will I ever conceal and carry? Probably not. But am I irrationally afraid of guns now? Absolutely not.

#3: Visit the Dallas Museum of Art

The Dallas Museum of Art is free in the summer, and Klyde Warren Park is right across the street. Briana, Michael, Brooke, and I arrived at the DMA at 11:30am, half an hour after it opened. Around 2pm we went to the park for lunch, and then returned to the museum until it closed at 5pm.

I didn’t think I could take pictures inside the museum. Surprisingly, you can take as many pictures as you want in the permanent exhibits, so all these pictures were taken with my iPhone.

It was my second time to go, and my favorite exhibit is still the European Paintings and Sculptures on the second level. Come to Dallas and go to the DMA. I recommend it.

#24: 31 pieces of gum – blow bubble

Number 24 on my list of activities to complete before my 32nd birthday: chew 31 pieces of gum at the same time and blow a bubble.

The suggestion came from Cairan, and since I was trying to take all my friends’ suggestions, I added it to my list.

Cairan, I really appreciate your friendship. I do. But there were several moments the night I endured this torture that I regretted knowing you. (Not really. But kinda.)

Instruments of torture.

Guantanamo Gum.

Five packs of gum and a thingy of Bubble Tape. No big deal.

I was actually pretty excited, especially since Mikey said he’d join me. I was an idiot, and Mikey was the poor lemming that followed me off the cliff.

One piece in. 30 more? Yeah, right. I decided I would stuff as many as I could and then blow the bubble.

One piece of gum, and my first bubble. Unimpressive, I know.

One piece of gum, and my first bubble.

I was enjoying myself. Mikey was going to match me, piece for piece, and once Mel got home, she would join us.

Misery loves company.

Two pieces of gum. Slightly bigger bubble.

Two pieces of gum, slightly bigger bubble.

Then…

Three pieces. My ability to blow a decent bubble was failing because my jaw was already tired.

Three pieces. My ability to blow a decent bubble was failing because my jaw was already tired.

And then…

Four pieces. After this, everything went sour.

Four pieces.

Mikey also had four pieces in his mouth at this point, and Mel had returned home. We forced her to catch up with the Bazooka, and I spit out my wad of gum and started on the Bubble Tape. I thought it was going to be easy.

Oh, idiot.

See the label? It says, "6 feet." SIX FEET.

See the label? It says, “6 feet of fun.” SIX FEET. I’m five foot seven. That’s just weird.

Idiot, idiot, idiot.

StartMiddleEnd

Bubble Tape has a thin, powdery coating to keep it from sticking to itself. According to Mel and Mikey, I looked like Tyrone Biggums from Chappelle’s Show after just three feet.

Bubble Tape is a slimy, disgusting mass.

That's all she wrote.

That’s all she wrote.

It was too much.

I gagged.

I was DONE.

Mikey had 10 pieces of Hubba Bubba gum in his mouth and a pained look on his face. Mel conquered the Bazooka and had nine pieces in her mouth.

We did good.

We laughed, but that made us gag, which made us not want to laugh. Mel told me repeatedly not to throw up.

Thanks again, Cairan.

The literal sweat and tears this mass of trash inspired were from pain and suffering.

At least that’s over.