Wednesday, July 05, 2006

El Egocéntrico

I've been busy getting ready for my trip to Paris (the zumerkurz at the "Maison de la Culture Yiddish-Bibliothèque Medem" starts Monday). I'm desperately trying, for instance, to learn Yiddish alphabetical order: if you don't know alphabetical order, you have to open a dictionary, hunt around, and hope...

I thought I'd take a break and share a story in response to my daughter Melina's Intensive Dating Experiment.

For a year or two now I've found Craig's List a good resource - I've sold things, bought things, I even got a pingpong table for free.

So at the onset of Passover, on a sudden whim, I put an ad out, offering to make charoset for a lucky fellow.

I got a surprising number of responses and met with those who fulfilled minimal requirements: (1) around my age; (2) able to spell all the words in response correctly; (3) knows what charoset is. One such was:

El Egocéntrico

He first wrote me under an assumed name - that of a minor literary figure known only to cognoscenti, and therefore not known to me, as I am not a member of the cognoscenti.

We corresponded briefly, he shared his real name, and then we met outside Carr Mill Mall.

I recognized my date, as he approached, from his picture on the internet (we all google our dates, don't we?) and he actually looked better than his pictures. He was tall, had cute grizzled hair, and looked good in jeans. I wondered, though, at his extremely pointy, scaly, black cowboy boots.

It was pouring rain, so our plan to take a walk before dinner did not fly. "Is there a bar near here?" was El Egocéntrico's first question; I could tell by my answer ("I dunno, I don't drink") that our date had already fallen into the "no" category.

We sat on a bench and watched the rain as he lengthily unpacked his credentials - he is a published author and poet, a graduate of a distinguished writing program, a professor at a university, a seasoned traveler much at home on the Continent. I knew all that already, of course, since I had googled him, but he was entitled to tell me himself.

Next he unspooled a protracted tale of woe. He had married a younger wife, later in life, and they have children of single-digit ages. His wife, a painter, was "intimidated by my friends." "Why? What's intimidating about your friends?" "You know, they're - writers." He patiently helped me understand: he is part of the underappreciated American intelligencia, and the IQ points shimmering in the room when he and his friends converge make for an atmosphere dense with creativity and therefore daunting to others.

He continued. He had been having - well, what I'd call a midlife crisis, but he called it something else which has slipped my mind. He went to Europe, having gotten a gig writing a tourbook, and had an affair, and fell madly in love with the Other Woman. The Other Woman, though, after many months or maybe a year or two, went back to her Other Man, having never told him about El Egocéntrico. Meanwhile El Egocéntrico, perhaps in preparation for leaving with the Other Woman, had come clean and told his wife.

The wife threw him out fairly immediately and he is now one of the newly nestless souls. I was his first internet date: "My friend made me do it." He asked me for some tips about how he should approach internet dating in future.

By then the rain had slacked off. We took our walk and had dinner at the Lime & Basil. I agree with the reviewers - the food is fantastic, but the place is not at all romantic (being noisy and painted a bilious green which makes everybody look sick). With this casual restaurant selection, I had struck out again with El Egocéntrico, because the place doesn't have a liquor license - how was I supposed to know? He was a good sport about it, and the story continued.

On the way back to our cars, he mentioned his leather jacket - which he was not wearing because it was a hot day - for the second or third time. So naturally I asked: "Why do you keep talking about your leather jacket?" He corrected me: "I actually have two leather jackets." He said the jackets, coupled with his expensive sunglasses, "are part of my mystique." I was admiring, as I don't have a mystique myself, and in fact don't think I even have any friends who have mystiques.

I wonder how he's doing.

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At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story! Well written and a great line at the end.

I think he could probably learn something from your writing.


At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 3 leather jackets, but they are invisible.

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He has found out where he can buy mystique! That has some degree of intrigue, but not very much.


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