Some nights I want to see people I know, others I want to be more incognito. One of the advantages of Cincinnati is it can be as big as you want. Everyone knows the places they need to go -- or avoid -- to see familiar faces.
Stranger in the City
Though the city we live in is vast, we have all said at times, "Cincinnati is a small town." You keep encountering the same circles that seem intertwined and, well, it's unusual to meet people who don't know anyone you know. Last Friday the goal was to feel like a stranger in the city I've lived and worked in for the last 20 years.
I started with Music Hall for a CSO performance. Paavo certainly didn't recognize me in the second row of Classical Conversations prior to the concert, and the Music Hall audience didn't harbor any familiar faces.
Next, I went to Jeff Ruby's. The bar was packed as Blast and the CSO had just let out, along with the CAC opening. Two men there swore they knew me, but I can assure you they did not. My name isn't Lisa, though the gentleman was charming with his, "Excuse me, are you Lisa?" It was sweet and non-abrasive.
The second was more abrasive. "I've met you," he said. I politely declined and denied the frantic look in his eyes. He persisted, "Yes, we have met. You know me, too. You're supposed to say, 'Thank you.' "
Well, I'd had enough, even though he offered to let me join his group for dinner. My girlfriend and I opted for a dozen oysters up front with two delightful strangers.
Fortified with the aphrodisiac and the martini olives, I chose one last spot to finish my incognito night -- Spy Club, which was just getting started as Friday became Saturday. The lighting was perfect for traveling below the radar.
Refusing to be intimidated by the youth on the dance floor, we danced and danced and danced. Slowly the men appeared, surrounding us with their rhythms. It was intoxicating and delightful. The fusion music resounded in my ears, and then the men started to introduce themselves.
This was a safe haven. No one knew me here, though the seven-foot German transplant offered to get acquainted.
His opener: "You are not from Cincinnati." Well, let's just say we'll pretend I'm not for tonight.
Men at Work
My boyfriend and I celebrated our one-year anniversary last Thursday by returning to the location of our first date, J. Alexander's. On the first date I was so focused on him that I hadn't noticed the cute waiters. This time around, it was immediately obvious that I had overlooked something.
Looking at other men can cause some problems for couples, but I think it's healthy. If you love someone and are secure in your relationship, it actually can be quite fun. It's part of having an active fantasy life.
My boyfriend and I both like to look. We always get in the checkout line run by the cute guy at the IGA in Clifton. And if you don't know who I'm talking about, go see for yourself. Then there's the tall guy with the great Rob Thomas-esque combed-down hair and the earrings who works at the Thai Café. He's another one of our all-time favorites. Thai me up, Thai me down, baby!
One reason we always seem to be scoping guys is that there are so many of them up in Clifton. In the warm weather, there's almost always a pick-up game of something going on in the grassy knoll at Clifton Avenue and MLK. The fraternity house on Jefferson Avenue with the sand volleyball court in the front yard is also a good bet. Add in the occasional jogger, and the question becomes how can we not take advantage of the sights?
As we celebrate our anniversary, it appears that winter is finally setting in, and the one thing I don't like about cold weather is the reduction in exposed male skin around the neighborhood. I guess it's a reminder that all good things must come to an end but the best things in life are still free.
One week ago, I swore off caring about guys.
Later that night, I walked without hope into the very crowded Main City Bar and learned that a sweet-faced boy with a mouth full of braces thought I was hot.
On our first date we had coffee at Sitwell's, on our second watched movies, third played pool and fourth slept together. We're both poor, so the dating activity spectrum is limited.
By the middle of the week, I found myself driving downtown to his apartment to pick him up at 3 a.m. as both of us are insomniacs without proper jobs. I did this several times, as a matter of fact, and began wondering if I was now, unofficially, his chauffeur.
When his cell phone minutes ran low, he couldn't afford to get more. Reaching him became difficult. He called from Main City one night with a few minutes left and wanted me to come down. As much as I commiserated, I had a job interview the next day and wasn't about to let any situation interfere.
After that, I didn't hear from my metal-mouthed lover and was afraid I'd lost him. The city could swallow him up and spit him out into the arms of another girl, much cuter and less needy than yours truly.
Exactly one week after hooking up with him, my roommate and I headed back to Main City Bar. I knew he'd be there. On the way, we ran into Terry and Micah. Terry had been stood up twice in one week and was going home, so we offered them a ride
"Tell her to forget about him," my roommate offered.
"It was two different guys," Micah replied.
"Oh," we hummed in unison.
We got to Main City and my search for M.I.A. metal-mouthed lover began. As soon as I saw him emerging from the patio, he ducked into the ladies room. My fears that he was avoiding me coupled with those of Terry's stand-ups led me to promptly ditch the place.
I walked to BarrelHouse, where the Fairmout Girls were playing, hoping I'd see some friends. By the time I arrived, their set was over and the only faces I saw were unrecognizable yuppie ones.
Five dollars poorer, I walked back to Main City. My roommate was seated at the bar, certain she had been sexually assaulted by a man ordering a drink who had grazed her breast. Following her feminist protestations, she told me metal-mouth lover had asked if he'd scared me off.
Presently, he arrived where I was sitting. I'd calmed down and let some nice guy buy me a drink, so I was pleasantly sloshed.
"I thought you were going to follow me into the bathroom," he said, "I was just kidding around."
Great, now he thinks I'm psycho-girl for bolting on his playful antics. Who ducks into the ladies room for a fun-loving romp anyway?
Maybe instead of swearing off men, I should be swearing off sex. Or at least give it a two-week waiting period for background checks.