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Sometimes it boggles my mind to think about modern dating. The last time I was in dating mode was roughly 1995 or so. A lot has really changed since then, not least of which is the technology we have now.  Back then the internet was around but it was clunky and not really used for social networking too much.  Certainly no Facebook or online dating sites.  Cell phones were expensive and generally terrible reception, and there was no texting.  No sexting, no Skyping.  No smartphones that could take flirty pictures and send them to people instantly.  While I’ve certainly kept up with the times and the technology to some degree, I’m a babe in the woods incorporating it into sex and love.

For instance, there’s that commercial where that slimy guy goes on a date and is trying out various lines on the girl, and she keeps busting his lies by checking his Facebook right on the spot on her smartphone —obviously it’s a bit exaggerated, but Facebook (and blogging) offer ways for people to get to know each other quite quickly.  While there are downsides to this—obviously, you lose out some on the mystery and fun of the getting-to-know-you phase – but the upsides strike me as pretty significant.  For one thing, honesty is something that’s reinforced and rewarded.  Sure, you can cook up an online persona that’s different than your own and trick people into thinking you’re something that you’re not, but if you’re actually interested in interacting with people face to face, falsehoods and deceits are going to be discovered.  It’s just way too easy now to bust people in lies.  So while being honest might reduce the number of people who find you interesting on the surface and leave your inbox or chat screen quiet, the people who do find you interesting and connect with you are actually going to find you interesting for real.  For people who don’t have a lot of time to waste flailing around an ocean of Mr. or Ms. Wrongs looking for the Right, that seems quite helpful.

Take Facebook for instance.  My life is so ridiculously busy that I rarely have time to set aside for regular human interaction outside of work and kids.  But thank god for Facebook—it lets me keep in touch with the family and friends who mean a lot to me, and keep me connected and involved, even if it’s just pushing a “like” button or firing off a funny comment.  I imagine whenever I might actually have a woman in my life I’ll be able to carve out some actual face time for her, but the majority of time we’re going to be busy with our separate lives.  I suspect Facebook will help us stay connected and in touch during the times we are apart, and that seems pretty cool.

I’m guessing my smartphone will help do similar things, firing off quick texts just to let each other know they’re on our minds even if we don’t have time for a phone call.  Sending funny – or sexy – pics.  And I’ve read about having virtual dates via Skype which sound intriguing for when you can’t be together face to face.

I know so much about dating in 2012 is going to be really weird from my 1995 frame-of-reference, but I’m pretty excited to experience it!  So have any of you recently gotten back into dating and have had to get acclimated in how technology has impacted love and sex?

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A couple months back a lovely and smart gal I’m friends with on Facebook recommended some books to read, and since I’m now a full-fledged convert to the Public Library, I logged in and added a few of them to my pick list.  I recently finished one of the books on the list– Ready Player One.  It’s a total geek/nerd fest, chock full of fun sci-fi, future dystopia, adventure, evil villains, and TONS of pop-culture references from the 80s.  The first quarter of the book was enjoyable, but once the action started picking up and a romance angle got tossed into the mix, I was hooked!

Once I finished the book I jumped on Facebook and thanked Jeri Lyn for the recommendation and praised the book’s awesomeness.  Then another friend on Facebook commented on my update:

“The author is from here in Austin. Should I make it a point to go to one of his many in-store appearances?”

How cool is that?  Ernest Cline lives in Austin with John!  I told him the book is awesome and he should go and pick up a copy.  He did go and pick up a copy… and put up a picture on my wall:

May The Force Be With You

He added a comment to the picture:

“I will keep this here in Austin until your next visit.”

My first thought was HOW FREAKING COOL!  My next thought was… how freaking cruel– I’m here in Virginia, he’s in Austin Texas… I’ve never been further west than Tennessee except for a flyover on the way to Cancun for my honeymoon with my ex!  How am I supposed to run by Austin to pick up the book?

A couple days later I was driving along and thinking about John, and Austin, and then I remembered– I had another old friend who lived in Texas.  I couldn’t remember exactly where, so when I got home I jumped on Facebook and checked.

She lives in Austin.  It’s actually a fairly wild coincidence… when I met John he’d moved to Richmond from New Jersey and was my downstairs neighbor for a couple years.  We hit it off well and I introduced him to the city I loved and grew up in.  At the same time I was also friends with/dating the sweetheart I wrote about here (The balm the healed my heart-sick soul), and I’d gotten to be friends with one of her close friends Tracie.  John, Tracie and I probably all partied together more than once.

Eventually John left Richmond and ended up in Texas.  Not long after that I was roommates with Tracie for a couple years before she left the state and ended up in Texas.  Now they both live in Austin.  Austin, which I’ve heard is one of the coolest cities in the United States.  I remembered that there’s a huge movie and music festival there, South By Southwest, that I’ve always wanted to go to.  John reminded me of the Austin City Limits music festival, which is huge!  So huge that all the tickets for the three-day event in October has already sold out now in June.

SXSW, Austin City Limits… either would be an awesome adventure to go on… but the expense of plane tickets, hotel, and the event itself– not to mention time away from working my part-time job– it all just seemed like a nice but unrealistic daydream.

However, now I know I’ve got friends that live there, who I could presumably count on for at least sofa space and use of a shower.  Who’d hopefully like to go with me, and show me around Austin.  Hotel expenses, eliminated!  Also, now that I’ve added a roommate that’s helping ease my financial burden a bit… suddenly Austin doesn’t seem like a pipe dream.  With some planning and time to sock away some money…

“I will keep this here in Austin until your next visit.”

Plot hatched.  Commence scheming…  Fingers crossed, 2013 — Austin here I come?

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It’s been quite the momentous week for me.  It started improbably enough last week after getting off from my part-time job super-stressed out and grumpy.  I’d worked all day at my full-time job, went in to my part-time job working at the local college campus, and had to deal with clueless rude teenagers for four hours.  I either needed some stiff drinks or some comfort food, and since I had to get back up early in the morning to go to work, I elected for food.  Some friends had recently raved about a place called Cookout, which used to be a Bullets burger joint up on Broad Street, and apparently they have insanely good food for insanely reasonable prices and stay open insane hours of the day and night.

Fastfood Nirvana

So I get there 11:30 on a Tuesday night and it was packed with people, choking the double drive-through and waiting in the walk-up line.  I decide to go up to the window to order, and as I was waiting someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I worked for the college (pretty much an ice-breaker question since I was in uniform).  She introduced herself and said she worked at the hospital and we mentioned names of people we knew that worked with the other.  Small world!  Anyway, she gave off this incredibly friendly, positive and smart vibe and was totally adorable, and after a little conversation I got her cell number to text her my number and name so we could be Facebook friends.

Now, for those new to my blog, a quick overview of where I am right now in my life socially—I’m recently divorced after being married for 12 years, I’ve got two kids and three jobs.  Even though I’ve been living a “bachelor life” for 18 months, I have practically no social time—I’m always either working, sleeping, or I am with my kids for visits.  I’m taking steps to change that—recently my ex moved into another house, I moved back in to our old house, and hopefully in the next couple months I’m going to get the placed fixed up so I can get a roommate.  That will let me cut back on the part-time hours I work and actually be available for social outings, having friends over to the house, and things like that.

What I found nice about my new Facebook friend is the possibility of expanding my social circles, which has been pretty static for a long, long time.  I mean, it’s possible I might not ever see her again, but then again maybe she’ll come to my housewarming party and bring some friends, or maybe she’ll invite me out to something she has going on out of the blue.  Who knows who I might get to meet through her down the road?  It’s just kinda nice to have that possibility open up out of nowhere.

So the next day I was in a great mood… and the Great East Coast Earthquake of 2011 hits, with the epicenter here in Virginia roughly 30 miles from where I work.  The ground moves, windows are loudly rattling, and I’m suddenly very aware of two floors of steel and concrete above my head.  I nab my cell phone and keys and make a beeline to the exit, and stand around with my coworkers in the parking lot, mildly freaked out by such a strong earthquake here in a state not at all known for earthquakes.  The last one we felt was 8 years ago that was considerably milder than that one, and that one was the first earthquake I’d ever felt here in Virginia.  No damage done, and life goes back to normal.

As the week moves on, I’m looking forward to Friday because it’s the birthday for one of my co-workers at my part-time job, and we’ve made plans to go out for drinks afterwards to celebrate her birthday, along with several other co-workers.  Now, I’ve tried to tag along for social outings with some of my coworkers ever since my ex and I split up, but just about all of them are considerably younger than me and I guess they don’t really see me as someone willing to go out and get down.  This time around though I manage to get in on the plot and am totally stoked when we get off at 11pm and all of us head over to Mulligans.  Turns out it’s karaoke night.

Uh oh…

All of my coworkers are excited about karaoke.  Another one of my coworkers who was off that night has already been at Mulligans for an hour or two and is ahead of us on the drinks, and on the singing.  He’s having a ball and getting everyone into the groove, being our de facto host, with his lovely and sweet girlfriend as hostess.

I’m a torn about the karaoke.  I have always had a pretty good case of stage fright and a long history of being bashful and shy.  I also love to sing and I’m not terrible at it.  In fact, right out of high school I was lead singer in a rock band for about a year and had a great time, in part due to the large amounts of alcohol I had to drink to beat back the stage fright and shyness.

I order a couple highballs — bourbon and ginger ale — and quickly drink them down.

There’s a book at the table that has a list of all the available songs and I quickly turn to the Rs to find R.E.M., my old standby.  There’s nothing from them in the book—what??  I flip through some more, trying to find other songs I used to sing in the band back in the day and don’t have very much luck.

Meanwhile our hostess is giving me requests.  She tells me she’s got some favorite songs that her boyfriend never sings for her, and asks me to sing them.  Fat Bottom Girls by Queen.  Yikes—Freddy Mecury is probably overly ambitious for my vocal range.  Maggie May by Rod Stewart.  Hm, I could probably pull that off.  Add It Up by Violent Femmes.

Now that is a fucking cool ass song!  Do I have the balls to get up and sing it?

Why yes, I had this on vinyl...

I order a couple more bourbons…

All my other co-workers including birthday girl have been up there and sung at least once.  I’m looking through the book some more, trying to hunt down something a bit safer, something I know I can nail.  My hostess is back at my elbow, giving me a super-serious look.  “You’re running out of time!  You need to get on the list.  Now!”

She’s gorgeous and young.  She’s got tattoos and a killer smile.  She wants me to sing her a song.

I scribble my selection on a slip of paper.  “What did you pick?” she asks me.  “It’s a surprise,” I say.  I drop the selection in the box, and go get one more drink.  Before I’m done my name is called.

Shit!  I run up on stage.  There’s a tinge of stage fright poking around the edges, but the bourbon’s provided enough liquid courage so that excitement is mostly what I feel.  Can I do it?  Can I sound at least okay?

Daaaaaay… after day….. I will waaaaaalk… and I will play

But the daaaaaay… after today….. I will stop and I will start

 Why can’t I get just one kiss?  Why can’t I get just one kiss?

There may be some things that I wouldn’t miss

But I look at your pants and I need a kiss

Violent Femmes– the crowd goes nuts.  Host and hostess and my coworkers are there cheering me on.  I think I’m getting the pitch right and trying to make sure I’m projecting but this is just such a damn fun song and I’m drunk and the music is awesome and I just roll with it.

I stumble a bit on the Oh, ma-mama, mama-mo-ma-mum parts but I recover nicely and the audience doesn’t seem to notice.  And then it’s over and I get the applause and the hugs and the back slaps and people telling me I sounded great.  Flush with praise and excitement, I scribble down another selection and give it to the guy, but about 10 minutes later it’s last call and they shut down the karaoke.

Well, shoot.  I get a large glass of water.  My evening is over already…

Or is it?  Most of my coworkers roll out quickly, but I’m talking with my host and hostess as we leave and some friends of theirs invite them to an apartment to continue the good times.  I’m surprised when the invitation is extended to me!  2:30 in the morning with a hurricane coming and I’m contemplating going to a Fan party?

I miss The Fan...

“Sure!” I say, and hop in the car with host and hostess.  Why the fuck not?  One advantage of being single, huh?

Going into the Fan apartment I’m flushed with memories of good times.  I lived in this area for a decade and went to many Fan parties back before marriage and kids.  Hardwood floors, tall ceilings, sparsely furnished with essentials—comfy furniture, TV, stereo, books, bed.  My empty hand is quickly filled with a beer and we talk about music and books and life and love.  We soon move out onto the back porch, and I’m grooving on the familiar small Fan yard, and the strong breeze, the air smells like the ocean as Irene’s long reach begins to gently lash at the trees.  Everyone is super-friendly and warm, lots of hugs and holding hands and welcoming body language… I love ‘em and they love me too, and my worries over being looked at as the weird single old-guy appear to be unfounded.  I kinda want this moment to last forever…

Coolest. Houses. Ever.

Finally, it’s time to call it night.  Host and hostess take me back to my car and I fire it up.  The clock tells me it’s after 4:30 in the morning.  Yowza!  I drive home in the quiet darkness, buzzing off love and warmth and good vibrations.  I get to the house, jump on Facebook to update my status…

…crawl into bed as the sky begins to lighten and the wind and rain pick up.  Irene approaches.  I think about how much fun that was, and the new people I met, and hope that perhaps my social circles widened just a little bit more and I’ll get to do this again.

So, had any interesting or unusual things happen to you recently, natural-disaster-related or no?  Share in the comments!

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