Post-Game Wrap-Up

First of all, the game was pretty exciting. I didn’t mind watching at all, though I couldn’t care less who won. No one at the party was a super-fan so we didn’t have any problems with guys in face-paint going berserk when some dude dropped the ball.

Twenty-two guests showed up. Scott, Gunther, Gordo, Polly, and some other obvious candidates, plus the dry cleaner Ramon and believe it or not, letter carrier Hung. The Whole Foods contingent came en masse, and the fun thing was, a lot of people brought a friend or two, so there were new people to meet.

One of the best things about the party was that it was such a weird mix of people that practically no one (besides me) knew more than a small percentage. So everyone was meeting a lot of new people. But hands down, my favorite new person is Astrid the check-out girl’s boyfriend Cesar. He works in marketing, but mostly for appliance manufacturers. His job is to “humanize” appliances by making boring features seem more intelligent. Example: He pointed to my toaster oven. It had a setting called, “Bagel.” He asked me, “What do you think that does?”

I had never really thought about it, but I did use it every time I want to toast a bagel. I said, “I don’t know, some kind of sensor makes the toaster heat penetrate a thicker dough of a bagel?”

He said, “That’s what I do. I make you think the toaster is smart. ‘Bagel’ setting increases the toast time by 10%. That’s it.”*

Turns out, there are only two things that are adjustable on the toast setting. Power and time. You can make the power go from 10% to 100% and you can adjust the time it toasts. That’s it. Putting a button on the front that says “Belgian Waffles” doesn’t change the fact that there’s only those two variables.

I love this guy.**

Anyway, the party was a big hit. Everyone had fun. It was good seeing Scott again. And Gunther even got along with his ex Monica. (I should have mentioned that things didn’t work out with 19-year-old aspiring TV personality Marta. It didn’t long. I think they broke up in December.) I’m not sure, but I think Gunther and Monica may have left together. So maybe if that’s back on, I can add matchmaker to my resume.

* Bagel setting also makes only the top element heat because it assumes you sliced your bagel and placed both sides face up, unlike the normal toast setting which toasts on both the upper and lower element simultaneously. But I already knew that part.

** I will post another entry about the rest of our conversation. I just love it when I learn something that never occurred to me but is so obvious when someone tells you.

Gathering the Troops

This week has been fun trying to invite people to my Superbowl party. The first and only rule is: no emails as it kind of defeats the whole purpose.

I don’t have a Rolodex of everyone I’ve met in the last 18 months but that’s okay. It’s an excuse to track people down and talk to them.

So first, I called the people I know well enough to have phone numbers for. Gunther obviously. And his stupid friend Gordo. I also called Monica but she wasn’t home and I left a message. I called Scott and we caught up for a bit. He’s been auditioning a lot and has a new girlfriend. I invited people from work like Janet, but not Neil and Kyle because they’re just co-workers not strangers I talk to.

I ran into Polly and she’s coming. And my new friend Luke from the pet store.

Tracking down the rest has been a challenge. I left a note for Maria the cleaning lady but I’d be surprised if she showed up. I also left a note for letter carrier Hung and Pedro the newspaper guy.

But I visited Ramon the dry cleaner in person. He was actually very helpful in explaining who was playing and the backstory for the game. I also invited the Cheese Guy and Check-out Girl in person because I was Whole Foods anyway and it was easy. The check-out girl (with the nose ring) is named Astrid and I made sure to invite her in front of Michelle so she didn’t think I was asking her out. She asked if she could bring a friend and I said the more the merrier.

All in all, I invited a couple dozen people and I have no idea how many will actually show up. But I’m buying a lot of beer and a couple party subs from Bay Cities so hopefully it will be a decent turnout.

Parking Ticket Guy

We went to see Man on a Ledge yesterday. Wow, what a bad movie. P.S. that girl from 40 Year Old Virgin, no one believes you are a cop. Whose ridiculous casting idea was that? Was Amy Poehler busy that day?

Anyway, in the garage at the Century City mall, it’s fully automated now. They used to have ticket booths to get out a few years ago but now you have to pay inside and put the validated ticket into a machine at the exit. Yet, for some reason, there is still a guy who helps you put your ticket into the automatic machine. Again, there’s no booth–he just stands there on the concrete barrier between the exit and entrance lanes. He literally takes your ticket and completes the six inch journey from your car window to the machine.

So I said, “I don’t mean to diminish you or say something negative about your job, and it’s great that the mall can gives a few more jobs in this economy, but why did they automate the exit if they were still going to have someone take your ticket?”

He didn’t seem surprised by this line of questioning. He said, “Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense but as long as they keep paying me.”

I said, “I hear you. It’s like they wanted to go full automatic but they didn’t quite trust people to be able to handle it.”

“You’d be surprised. You know how many times a day someone can’t get out because they need help working the machine?”

At this point another can pulled up behind me. Michelle tapped me on the shoulder to let me know.

I said, “Well, nice talking to you.”

I was about to pull out and then I just blurted out: “Want to come to our Superbowl party?”

He said, “Yeah, sure.”

The car behind me honked. I said, “I’m just going to pull over. I’ll be right back to give you my info.”

I went through the exit gate and pulled over. Michelle looked at me and asked, “What Superbowl party?”

I said, “I don’t know. The idea just came to me. Hang on.”

I went back and we exchanged info. So turns out I decided to throw a Superbowl party next Sunday. Yes, I know, I don’t like sports. I don’t even know who’s in the game. But I thought it would be cool to invite all the people I’ve met in the last year to a party and this seemed like a good excuse. Michelle, God love her, said it was a brilliant idea.

On Inertia

We had a low-key engagement party this weekend. Just friends, no family, thank God.

I knew some of Michelle’s friends but I was meeting a lot of them for the first time and I have to tell you I don’t think I fared that well.

At first, I was pretty good making cocktail conversation with the new people. I’d tell them the (abridged) story of how we met, how we got engaged, etc. Then it would be the usual routine of asking questions, like “How do you know Michelle?” or “Where do you work?” This went on for the first couple hours with no problem.

But at some point at around 11:00 I found myself in the kitchen doing the dishes. I literally stopped myself in the middle of a wine glass and thought How did I get in here? Everyone else was still laughing, talking, drinking, and having a good time. But I retreated to the kitchen under the guise of “needing to clean up” a bit.

Michelle found me and asked what I was doing. I made some excuse about how I wanted to get a head start on cleaning up but she pulled me back into the living room. I was thinking, Oh, God. Back to work. 

The truth is I was tired of talking to strangers. I think I’m a million times better at it, but that night after everyone left, I started to wonder if deep down there’s any way to change a fundamentally anti-social nature. Do I really just not like people that much? I can force myself to be a part of the world, but like with gravity or friction, without a applying a constant force, do I naturally just come to a rest?

Christmas

Michelle is coming with me to Pennsylvania for Christmas and to meet my family. (Don’t worry, I Googled her extensively to see if she’s writing a blog behind my back and we’re in the clear.)

I went back and read what I wrote about the holidays last year and one thing stuck out. I said no matter how long I live in L.A., it never felt like home. It seems like everyone here is from somewhere else and come this time of year the city empties out like an office building. I still think that’s true, but to a much lesser extent. I’ve made so many new connections this year (not even including Michelle). Many more friends, tons more simple interactions. That makes it feel more like a home I guess.

But what makes me feel even better and more optimistic about the future (again, besides the fact that Michelle and I have worked things out) is that I feel like I’m growing up. People write all the time about how the 20’s these days are just an extension of adolescence. How in the olden days people would get married, get a job, have kids, all by 22, and take on the psychological manifestations of adulthood. But now, people are still trying to figure out who they are, what do they want to do for a career, what makes a good vs. bad relationship. We’re all stunted adolescents.

I think a lot of that is true. More than ever people in their 20’s are totally confused by life. I know I was.

But for the first time I feel like I’m starting to figure it out. I am liking who I am. I am getting comfortable in my skin. Maybe this is all a result of various love hormones making me giddy, but I honestly think I’ve changed this last year, and for the better.

I’ve read a few books recently that might be categorized as “self help.” And while that area generally makes me cringe, there are a few good ones out there (usually written by actual scientists) and there’s a theme that runs through the ones I like. Nothing is determined. Effort and drive make all the difference. Dramatic changes are possible through hard work. Greatness was never achieved through effortless inspiration but only through tireless perseverance. Anyway, you get the idea.

I started this blog for selfish reasons. I really just wanted to be less lonely. I found that I could become a better person along the way. But I never intended to help anyone else. (Don’t forget, I hate people.) As the Project went on with all its twists and turns, I found I had a lot to say to other people trying to accomplish the same goals. And I found myself liking helping these people.

Anyway, it’s a bit of a ramble today but you get the gist. Michelle and I are going to relax and take a real vacation for the next two weeks, so I won’t be posting again till after the New Year. And then, by agreement, it will just be about talking to strangers, not talking to or about Michelle.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. If you’re feeling down, isolated, and bearish about your future potential for happiness, just remember the one thing I’ve learned in the last 18 months: you can do something about it. It’s been an emotional last few months for me but I think for the first time I can say with confidence that it’s all going to work out.

Elevator Girl

It was like a movie. I was leaving for the night, the elevator doors opened, and there she was. It was so perfect that even Michelle had to laugh. I got in.

I was about to say something. I was about to launch into another big speech. But she stopped me with a look. A look that said, “It’s okay.”

Then she kissed me.

The doors opened on another floor and someone else got in, interrupting the kiss. But Michelle grabbed my hand and held it tight the whole rest of the way down to the lobby. She was squeezing it so hard, I looked over at her, and she looked scared.

We got the the lobby and the other guy got out.

I turned to Michelle and said, “I love you.”

Michelle said, “I love you, too.”

P.S. Michelle said I could post this.

What Am I Doing?

One tweet by a certain famous TV mogul has sent the readership skyrocketing.

And while it’s really cool to know that more people are engaged in the project, it’s also caused me to really reflect on my feelings and motivations for doing this.

At first, it really was just a diary. I didn’t think anyone was listening so I felt like I was just recording my thoughts for myself. Then people started writing in, saying they were inspired. As I got better at making connections I felt like my failures and successes were actually helpful to other people. Not to mention the sense of kindred spirits and community I got from connecting with people just through the blog.

But there are two big problems. As more than one commenter has pointed out, the blog’s notoriety is feeding my (normal levels of) narcissism. The last thing I want to do is become a self-absorbed celebrity who needs the adulation of random people to mask my self-loathing. I’m just some guy who lives in an apartment in Brentwood. I have no interest in being recognized. If only I had decided not to use my real first name, I wouldn’t be in this mess with Michelle, but that ship has sailed. I think I can continue posting without succumbing to the temptation of my fifteen minutes of fame. So while it’s a concern, I think awareness of it is enough to weather the storm.

The second problem, of course, is Michelle. I can’t really justify dragging her into this. Maybe deep down I thought it would never work out so it wouldn’t matter. But then it did work out (or at least I think it’s going to work out). And now I’ve written all this stuff about her and I don’t want to delete it because it’s the crux of the whole blog. But I can’t keep posting about her without her permission.

Michelle and I have been talking. We talk about the blog a lot. I think she will be fine with me keeping what I’ve already written. I’m not sure. But one thing I know is I need to see her and talk this over in person.

Michelle Speaks (to Me)

Michelle called last night. We talked for an hour. Still haven’t seen her in person since Thanksgiving, but I’ll take what I can get.

Here’s the crux of the problem. This relationship is not a trivial matter and we both know it. I made it clear from the very beginning that my feelings are very deep for Michelle. Turns out, she feels the same way. But since this is so “high stakes,” Michelle says she just needs to be sure. She says she couldn’t handle something this big not working out. The thing with Thanksgiving wasn’t so much about being mad or embarrassed. It was about trust and if she’s going to go out on a limb with me emotionally, she has to know I’m not going to hurt her.

I told her I would never hurt her. “But that’s exactly what someone would say if they were about to hurt me,” Michelle replied.

I laughed. Got me there.

So I said the only thing I could think of. I said, “There’s no guarantees. Sometimes you just have to take a risk. And I think the rewards of this working out are so big that the risk is justified.”

She thought about it. I said, “When can I see you?” She said she still needed to sort things out. To give her some time. I said okay.

To Michelle

Dear Michelle,

I hope you are reading this because it’s my only way of communicating with you since you won’t return my calls or emails.

First of all, I want to apologize. I should have told you about the blog. I guess I thought if you read it you would be mad or creeped out.  Turns out, I was right. Plus, I think I was afraid that if you knew you’d make me stop. But I really like writing about this project and I didn’t want to put that in competition with how much I like you.

If you want me to, I will delete the blog. I know it’s a terrible invasion of your privacy but I honestly think it’s helps a lot of people out there. I get comments and private emails all the time from people who are shy or just in a lonely situation and I think my trials and tribulations (side note: does anyone actually say “tribulations” by itself?) have helped paved the path in some small way for people to be happier. That’s important to me. Still, it doesn’t justify revealing personal information about you without your consent, so I will respect your wishes and delete anything you want.

I’m really sorry about this. But not just because I’ve embarrassed you, or made you look silly in front of your family. What’s really eating me up is that I’m afraid I’ve irreparably damaged your impression of me. Yes, I admired you from afar for a while. But then I spoke to you. Yes, I said I wanted to marry you (one day). But that’s just because I’ve never met someone I felt more compatible with. You are not just beautiful. You’re smart and funny and you get me and I feel like I’m the person I always wanted to be when I’m with you.

So please, if you’re reading this, give me a chance to fix things.

–F