I Found My Heart in San Francisco


We drove because he liked me. It wouldn’t have been a problem to fly – a little more expensive, a little less travel time, both essentially non-issues – but he insisted on a road trip. I didn’t argue. You learn a lot about a person when you’re trapped in a hunk of speeding metal with them for six hours. And I wanted to learn a lot about him.

The trip was impromptu- “This might be the last weekend I can really have fun for awhile. Want to go somewhere?” He texted me on Thursday. We’d only been dating for a month, but it seemed like a lot longer. It just felt right. Friday morning we hoisted our bags into the trunk of his car and took off up the I5, San Francisco bound.

It’d been over three years since I’d made the trek up to the Bay Area, and I’d forgotten just how much I love California. “There’s a reason we pay such high taxes here,” he said as we cut through snow-kissed mountain ranges, past geometrical rows of orange trees, through rolling hills as fluorescent as an exit sign. “People have figured out where they can finally have it all.”

Having it all. I thought about this as I stared at him, my fingers running through his hair, my nails dragging gently along his broad shoulders. He reminded me of Joaquin Phoenix in this moment, his slight crooked smile, the way his Ray-Bans perched on his nose, the rust color of his close-cut beard. What did that even mean, to have it all?

“Oh my God, yessss!” I squealed as he put on Peter, Paul and Mary’s Puff the Magic Dragon. I pulled out my phone and hit record, holding it close to Harry the Seal, a dash ornament he’d had since he was in high school. Behind Harry rays of amber  broke through huge thunder clouds, the remnants of the worst storm in years. “Could this be any more perfect?” I laughed at the sublime blend of beauty and the absurd.

* * * * * *

We checked in around 6:30 and got ready for the evening. “You can wear something more casual,” he informed me as I shifted through my embarrassingly large suitcase. I hadn’t travelled with more than a carry-on for years, but I hadn’t been sure what to pack. He’d made all of the plans, and I was delighted to have it be a surprise. I threw on a cotton dress, tights, heeled boots, and a leather jacket. With make up and hair it took 15 minutes. “That’s one thing you’ll like about me,” I smiled, “I never take long to get ready.”

Our first stop was Union Square. He held me close as we watched the ice skaters, my breath finally visible. I loved my solitary sports bra runs on Christmas day in Palm Springs where my parents live, but it felt good to be experiencing the season in Hallmark fashion: warmed up by a guy next to the brightly lit Macy’s tree. “Ohhh,” he cringed and laughed as a teen in a backwards cap and hoodie hit the ice. Hard. “Yeah, I’ve definitely been there,” I admitted. “Oh, I know,” he nodded, kissing me on the forehead. That was one of the things he liked best about me- my adorable clumsiness.

We stopped at a wine bar on our way to Chinatown, where we proceeded to fatten up on pork fried rice, Peking duck, lettuce cups, and a sort of tempura crab, one of his favorite dishes in the city. In fact, it was the whole reason we’d come to the hole in the wall, empty save two other tables. And I understood why. Salty fried goodness, a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, a wonderful guy – what more could a girl ask for?

Well, an awesome Saturday for one. After dinner Friday we had a night cap at a local pub, soaking in the festive pre-Santacon cheer, before retiring around midnight. Which meant that I got up early feeling rested and ready for a six mile run. “It’s the only thing I absolutely require when I’m traveling,” I’d told him before we left. “Whatever you need, babe, just as long as you do it in the morning.”

After my run to the wharf, we showered and headed to Haight-Ashbury for brunch at Zazie. We enjoyed boysenberry bellinis, crab benedicts, and cornmeal pancakes with lemon curd and strawberry that rivaled my dad’s best morning efforts. “You’re going to love that about him,” my girlfriend had told me before our first date, “he’s a huge foodie. He will totally wine and dine you.”

And he did. And I did love it. We rounded out our meals in San Fran with seafood and Bay Bridge views at Waterbar and some of the best dim sum I’ve had at Yank Sing. But what I loved even more was the Keith Haring exhibit he took me to Saturday afternoon. He knew how important art was to me, and so we strolled over to the De Young Museum after Zazie to soak in some culture. As we floated through rooms of luminous American art, I wished I could somehow squeeze him tighter than I already was. I mean, I knew he couldn’t tell the difference between a Martin Johnson Heade and a Winslow Homer, but did that really matter?

The short answer: no. Because that’s what I was learning the more time I spent with him. No, he hadn’t heard of Inherent Vice, the latest film from the director of his favorite movie of all time, Boogie Nights. No, he didn’t enjoy reading fiction for fun, although he loved obtaining knowledge. No, he wasn’t going to join me on my morning runs because his asthma wouldn’t let him. But so what? It’s not like I could name a single NHL player from the Kings game we’d gone to the week before, even though I’d had fun. Nor could I tell you anything about tort reform beyond what I saw in Hot Coffee (he’s a lawyer). Or even begin to comprehend how to put together a business proposal (he’s also an entrepreneur).

But what we can do is laugh for hours with each other. And talk freely about anything and everything, from politics to religion to family to Family Guy. And we can also get super competitive about bowling and Scrabble and a game of horse. You know, the things that matter. And we can show up for each other in pretty much any circumstance, whether it’s NFL Sundays or a three hour film about a 19th century artist, even if it may not be totally our thing. And finally, we can spend 12 full hours in a car together and one romantic weekend in San Francisco and still want to know more about each other. So much more. And you know what? I think that might just be what it means to have it all.

At Least We Didn’t Have Sex



I met Greg on a double date with another guy. Actually, it became more of a group date, because he invited another guy, who in turn picked up two more girls for our dinner table. A party of seven can hardly be called a date, and therefore I felt little remorse in asking Greg for his number after my original suitor called it an evening. (That and the fact that suitor #1 had actually defended Wal-Mart’s employment practices and denied climate change – sorry, John, it would never have worked out).

I’ve had enough years in the field that I should know to always let men come to me. It’s a basic human law – boy chases girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again, and so on and so forth. It never works the other way, unless you are trying to deconstruct the entire genre of romantic comedy, in which case it might, just MIGHT, work if you are Reese Witherspoon. But for the most part, this simplest of dating rules is hard and fast. And repeatedly broken by yours truly.

To be fair, after the initial contact – “Great meeting you! Enjoy the rest of your night! X Amy” – Greg did get into the driver seat. Well, sort of. He began texting me every day, cute, simple inquiries, and even made Google stalking seem utterly charming (he sent me a headshot of myself with a message “look how adorable you are”- pretty creepy, except when it’s coming from a gorgeous 6’3” blond Olympian god). However, I made the mistake of suggesting our first date. I should have known right then and there it was doomed to fail.

The actual date itself was far from a failure. In fact, it was the exact opposite. I met him at his place in Santa Monica around 4 pm and we ventured out on beach cruisers to enjoy the impossibly perfect weather (78 and sunny, in case you forgot). We chatted and laughed and listened to Arctic Monkeys from his Jambox, and my god did he have the most incredible calves and shoulders. We stopped in Venice Beach at the end of the boardwalk, got Kombucha from the mini mart, and drank it while discussing global economics and Bill Maher on the pier (I know, heaven, right?)

And it didn’t end there. We ditched the Kombucha in favor of Jalapeno Margaritas, and that’s when it happened. I dropped the bomb. “Sooo… Do you want kids?” Why the hell did that just come out of my mouth?! He kind of half smiled, then replied, “I don’t know yet, I’m a little indifferent.” Okay, maybe not the answer I was looking for, but it was fine, I guess. But then he continued, “I feel so bad for girls, it must be terrible having to worry about the clock.” And in that instant I knew. I knew that he knew what I was after, and I’d freaked him out. I flailed around for a few minutes before finally saving face with an even more extreme topic – near death experiences. Lucky for me I have a really good one which I always fall back on in dire circumstances, and it worked. Our easy rapport resumed.

We made one more stop for espressos and chocolate (I know, right?!), then returned to his place. His darling rescue dog Blair jumped all over us until we agreed to take her out. It was now a little past 7, or as I like to call it, The Jasmine Tree Hour. His street was lined with them, and I commented on how the fragrance differed from the trees we have in Hollywood. “Better? Worse?” he asked. “No, just different,” I replied. And he pulled me into that swim god’s torso and kissed me. Soft, gentle, perfect.

We got back to his place once more and changed for dinner. He caught a glimpse of me with my shirt off in the bathroom and apologized. A wonderfully sweet reaction, except I really just wanted him to rip all of my clothes off. I sat on his bed and played with Blair as he finished getting ready, then stood up and moved close to him. I leaned in and kissed him deeply. Fatal mistake #3. He pushed me up against a wall and it was hot. Too hot. He felt amazing – his hair, his body, his lips. He picked me up and placed me on the bed. We rolled around, clothes on, for several minutes. I ended up on top, and finally pulled away. “I’m in two places about this,” I whispered. “I understand,” he said, “let’s go get something to eat.”

I don’t think I even need to tell you that dinner was great. Conversation flowed like an electrical current, coursing between family, career, TV shows, creative goals. When our waitress asked about dessert and he confessed he had a terrible sweet tooth, I wanted to propose right then. My capacity to fall so quickly never ceases to astonish me. After dinner, we made out on his kitchen counter for at least 15 minutes, before I realized it was midnight and I still had a friend’s birthday to attend back on the east side. I was proud of myself for managing to keep my dress on, a small victory, but one I felt confident would keep me in the game. I got in my car and instantly texted two girlfriends – “it was amazing! He’s amazing! Ahhhhh!”

And those things were true. It was amazing. He is amazing. I was literally saying “ahhhh” in my car. So then why didn’t he call? I spent the next day trying not to think about it, hiding my phone from my loose fingers (they have a mind of their own when it comes to texting). Since the first night we met, he had messaged me every day, and now—nothing. I felt like crying. Why did I have to be so aggressive? Why did I lay 52 cards on the table? Why do I always break dating rules that have been in place since the Stone Age? Why why why why why? Anybody privy to my inner monologue that day would have been drive insane. And I was.

I understand why people hate dating. You put yourself out there, open up that sensitive spot we spend most of our time protecting, start to imagine another possibility for your life… But that’s just the thing. Just because one person’s imagination takes them down an aisle, doesn’t mean it’s a shared experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I was ready to marry Greg, it was just for those 8 hours, during that kiss, well…

The reality is someday I’m going to meet the guy who I share that day with and he does call, whether it’s boy chase girl, girl chase boy, or everyone chases everyone. Because ultimately, it’s not a game. It’s a partnership. And for all of the Gregs in the world, there are a million reasons why it just doesn’t work out. It doesn’t mean I’m not special or worthy of love or that he didn’t have an amazing time too. It just means that it wasn’t the right thing right then for the both of us. Because it’s not a simple, one way, Jasmine tree-lined street, it’s a crazy, jam-packed, ten-lane 405 freeway. And that can take some serious patience.

And hey- at least we didn’t have sex.