An American (Florida) Legend and Two American (Florida) Girls

There are three facts that are crucial to this story:

  1. I loved Tom Petty
  2. I lived in Gainesville (briefly)
  3. The story makes my friend Blair laugh.  EVERY SINGLE TIME.

It’s 1985 and I’m 20 years old.  I had just completed my first year at FSU.  My parents had recently divorced, my Mom had sold our house in Sarasota and moved back to Norway.  There was simply no money for me to continue at FSU, so I dropped out to establish myself as financially independent (still hasn’t happened).  To top if off, my boyfriend had just left Tallahassee to attend graduate school in North Carolina.  I was homeless, broke and heartbroken.

At the same time, one of my best friends from high school, Lynne, needed a roommate.  She was living in Gainesville and attending school.  Off to Gainesville I went.

I got a job as the morning hostess at a hotel restaurant for $3.35 an hour.  My day began at 5:30 am, and consisted of me groggily greeting well-heeled hotel guests and showing them to their tables.  At that time in the morning, I wasn’t capable of much else.

But, there was one more thing.  I took the room service orders.

One morning, I got a call and the guest told me his order in what sounded like a sleep-deprived voice.  “Yeah… I’d like…a.. BLT.”

The 52 year-old Kari would have said, “Sure, we’ll get right on it.”  The 20 year-old Kari said, “I’m sorry, but that’s not on the menu.”  The caller’s response… “you got bacon, don’t ya?”

BIG GIANT IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the point in the story when Blair can’t contain herself, and dissolves into laughter.  Since Blair is truly one of the funniest people on the planet, this accomplishment makes me almost unreasonably happy.

He went on to list the rest of the BLT’s ingredients (things like toast), essentially arguing the lack of logic in my response.   I asked the caller to hold on, and I ran to the kitchen to ask the chef to make the BLT.  The chef’s reply?  NO!  I marched back to the phone, and heard myself tell this poor guest “I’m sorry, but a BLT isn’t on the menu.”  I interrupted myself, embarrassed by the idiocy of it all and told him, “I’ll figure out.”

I asked for his room number and last name, so I could enter the order into the computer.  I thanked Mr. Teddy and told him we’d get right on it.  But the computer rejected the name, so I called the front desk to see if I got the number or the name wrong.  The front desk person apathetically relayed the information.  “T. Petty.”

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

I can’t remember if I actually screamed, or did an introvert version of a scream (you know, the silent kind).  Tom Petty!  In the same building!  My mind was swirling with excitement, but I knew I had to take control of the situation so no one else would steal my opportunity to meet him.  Instead of the normal process of giving the order to a member of the wait staff, I grabbed a busboy, and told him he was delivering the order, and that I would follow behind with the check.  He went along with the plan (this was before I learned the invaluable skill of carrying large trays).

Up to the top floor we went, and to my disappointment, the door was answered by a woman who I presumed to be his wife.  (Of course I knew his marital status).  I wanted to meet him, so I said, “I’m really sorry to ask, but, can I get an autograph?”

She looked slightly annoyed, but told me, “You’re lucky I’m in a good mood, otherwise I’d tell you to fuck off.” She led Roderick and me into the room, and disappeared behind the door to the bedroom.  She emerged with a paper torn from a hotel pad, which read, “Hi Kari!  (smiley face) Tom Petty.”

Over the next few days, I continued to accompany Roderick on every order.  His wife and I became friendly, and she told me they were in town visiting family, etc. etc.  I never did catch a glimpse of him, but I was elated nonetheless.

Back to Blair.  I’ve known her since the 7th grade.  Blair is one of those people who could read a toaster manual aloud and it would be funny.  And for some reason, the punchline of “you got bacon, don’t ya?” kills her EVERY SINGLE TIME.

That is why the story lives on.  Because it is about two of the great loves of my life.

I could pick two dozen songs for this story, but I’ll pick just two. One is the first Tom Petty song I every heard.  The other, is an anthem dedicated to my girl Blair.

Thank you, Tom Petty.  This American girl will never forget you.  And Happy Birthday Blair Henderson.  This one’s for you.

 

 

I’ve Got Green and I’ve Got Blue 

I’m back from a trip to Dublin, Ireland.  This is where Tiger Man and I decided to meet to spend some time together and get to know one another.

When I left Norway, I was convinced I wouldn’t hear from him again.  But, to my surprise, I got a text after I landed on American soil.  We texted daily ever since.

Until now.

It’s so easy to be flirtatious and gooey with texts, photos, and even heart emojis (am I really 52?). I told myself, over and over, this isn’t REAL.  But, did I listen to myself?  Nope. Nada.  Not a chance.  I forged ahead with this romantic notion that we were inexplicably drawn to one another, and the fact that we lived a gazillion miles away only further cemented my belief in the romance of it all.  Should I have been less gullible? Probably, but I went with the “life is short” credo, and hopped on a plane to Dublin, full of optimism.

When I spotted him at the airport, we greeted each other warmly, and decided to grab a quick bite, since we had some time to kill before heading over to our Airbnb.  And this is when it happened, and IT remained my captor from the moment I was struck.

Anxiety.

I had imagined so many scenarios prior to that moment, that by the time the moment finally arrived, I become frozen with fear and anxiety.  I wanted everything to go so well, that the real me got lost behind a wall of uncertainty and utter blankness.  I couldn’t even decide which groceries to buy when we were stocking up for the apartment.  Where did I go?  Why couldn’t I just let go and be the weird, witty and warm person that I believe I am?

I chose to hide my weakness instead of coming clean.  I couldn’t bring myself to burden him with my demons on this grand plan for a third date. He was wonderful, and I believe the poor guy worked his ass off trying to maintain the conversation, make plans, make decisions, and entertain me, all while I gamely went along, teased him here and there, and tried to overcompensate with physical affection.

In the end, we spent four days learning a little more about each other, seeing a smidgen of Ireland, and making memories that I’ll never forget. When it was time to go, we kissed goodbye, I stepped on the escalator, and then turned around briefly to catch a glimpse of him one last time.

The adventure is over, I’m back home, and the communication seems to have moved from steamy and sultry to positive and oh so polite.  Today was the first day I didn’t hear from him at all.

I can’t say I blame him.

This song is dedicated to Tiger Man.  I don’t know what the future holds, for either of us, but I thank him for being a good sport, for my morning coffee accompanied by a single biscuit, and for the excellent DJ skills.

Two Chocolate Biscuits and One Tiger 

After I met Tiger Man, we started to text every night. Some of the texts were innocent.  Some were not.  Since I was in Norway for only two weeks, I let my guard down a little more than usual and decided to throw caution to the wind (which isn’t always easy for us Nordic types).

After staying with my mom for a week, I decided to drive to Sweden to visit my “ancient aunt” (her words).  With the plans all set, I ever so casually mentioned to Tiger Man that I would just happen to be passing Oslo on my way to Sweden.  He responded by inviting me to his place to stop and have a meal on the way.

My answer…yes.

After several hours of driving, I finally arrived thanks to Google Maps’ decision to send me through a maze of narrow Oslo neighborhood streets. He met a tired and frustrated me at the door with a hug, and quickly gave me a tour of his place.  We settled on his couch and I slowly began to relax.  Somehow that quickly morphed into kissing, and it quickly became clear that we shared a pretty strong mutual attraction (I’ll leave it at that).

After a little while, we decided we were famished, so he migrated to the kitchen to warm up some bread for the chili he had made. While we enjoyed the food, he played me a variety of music, ranging from Cat Stevens to AC/DC, to some unrecognizable Norwegian metal bands.  I asked him if there was one band he wishes he would’ve seen, and he answered ”NirvaaaaaaaNAH” in that stilted, sing-songy Norwegian way.

After dinner, he offered to make me coffee because he said he needed to make sure all my needs were met (swooning begins now). He also asked if I wanted a “chocolate biscuit,” and I said yes, thanks.  He proceeded to put two oreos in a nice little bowl to set on the table with the coffee.  Of everything that happened that night, I think the two oreos (one for each of us), melted my heart the most. It was getting late and I needed to get on the road, so he drove me to where my car was, and kissed me goodbye.

We continued to text, but time and circumstances got in the way of us seeing each other again.  He was out-of-town for work on the day of my flight home, but I wasn’t sure exactly when he’d return.  So I decided to take a risk and make a (sort of) grand gesture.

I texted him to let him know that I wanted to see him and say goodbye, and that I’d be at the tiger statue where we met, for one hour.  I didn’t receive a response, but I went anyway.

So I ordered a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe, and staked out the tiger.  The hour passed with no sighting of him. I grabbed by bags, and began my journey home.

This week’s song is from one of Tiger Man’s favorite bands.  I hope we meet again.

Isn’t it Good?

A fabulous friend of my roommate, and a new friend of mine, suggested that I should date while I’m in Norway.   He sounded so enthusiastic and hopeful about the idea that I thought, why not?  I know Stretchy Pants Guy uses Tinder to meet people as he roams the earth.  Why can’t I?

As it turns out, due to a delayed flight and a lack of planning on my part, I found myself stuck at the Oslo Central Train Station the day of my arrival. With 7 hours to kill, I parked myself at Starbucks (where else?) and began to pass the time by searching through the stockpile of available Norwegian men.  I edited my profile to alert my potential date(s) that I was in Norway for two weeks visiting family, and that I was up for coffee, dinner or “adventure.”  I think it was the latter that inspired interpretation.

Apparently, there are LOTS of Norwegian men who are interested in meeting an American woman with an expiration date. I’m guessing they assumed that meant no strings attached sex for two weeks without having to deal with the hassle of breaking it off – woohooo! (um, no). 

As I busily responded to multiple texts from multiple men, one guy started to pull ahead of the pack. He suggested we meet at the giant tiger statue in front of the station, and I agreed.  As I approached the statue, I caught sight of Tiger Man ducking for cover as it started to rain.  We said our hellos, then headed for the station hall that housed some shops and restaurants.  He directed me to sit while he grabbed drinks, and I dutifully took my seat.

Tiger Man was easy to talk to, and I was grateful for the company.   After the unavoidable discussion on the disbelief over the state of the US, he revealed he was an engineer who recently left the petroleum industry, has three grown children, and has been single for quite some time.  When we discovered a mutual love of books and offbeat movies (he’s a huge David Lynch fan), I started to become genuinely interested in Tiger Man.  After some candid sharing about why we felt we hadn’t met the right person, I looked at the time and realized I needed to get going.  He needed to close out the check, and I needed to grab my luggage out of the lockers, so we said a hurried goodbye.  He rose to give me a hug, and gently kissed me.

I rushed to get my stuff and boarded the train, and began to imagine how cool it would have been to have had a dramatic kiss goodbye on the platform outside the train.  It’s then that I received a text saying he tried to catch me at the train, but he missed me.  I told him we didn’t get a chance to kiss long enough.  He said he was thinking exactly the same thing.

This song is dedicated to my new fabulous friend, who gave me a very “good” idea indeed.

 

Playing for Keeps

The dating sites I use make finding “matches” deceptively simple. Swipe right if I like a photo; swipe left if I don’t.  If the guy swipes right on me, “Boom!” (one of them actually says “boom”), then there is a match.  We may or may not start communicating. If not, then, well, you just keep swiping.

Last night, at dinner with a few of my high school BFFs, I offered up my phone so they could participate in some vicarious swiping.  They did what I do, which is carefully evaluate each one, then make a firm decision before moving on to the next photo.  This went on for a minute or two.  But, then, the daughter of one my friends and our waitress, wanted in on the action.

Her method was far different from ours.  She leaned over the table, and swiped rapid-fire through the photos, swiping left on nearly every single one.  While I calmly witnessed the hijacking of my love life, my friends were visibly (and audibly) upset.  “What are you DO-ing?”  “Stop. stop. stop.”  “What’s she DOING?”  “NO NO NO NO!”

Two entirely different perspectives.  My friends were looking at these men as Potential.  Our young conspirator knew what I know; there will always be more photos.  This struck me with a mixture of both hope and sadness. Hope, because, there’s always that “maybe…”. Sadness, I think, for the same reason.  The maybes, more often than not, remain only maybes.  And I’m playing for keeps.

Which leads me to my list of maybes.

  1. The Belgian texted me and asked if… a) I’ve found my Prince Charming and b) if I remembered him.  I only answered the second question.  He asked me to join him for a drink, “no pressure,” and I said yes.  He ended up canceling. Several days later, he asked if I was busy the next weekend.  I didn’t answer this time.
  2. After telling Patch Guy I couldn’t see him again, we reconnected over our shared anticipation (ok, yes, obsession) for the new Jason Isbell album.  He invited me to join him and his friends tailgating outside a Jimmy Buffet concert.  I went for a bit, and had fun.  But being friends with men is tricky business.
  3. Success Guy is traveling for the summer, and sends me texts and photos here and there.  A possible maybe.
  4. RV Guy is off in the “sticks in Georgia,” and is doing some serious wandering. I think that’s all he is really serious about.
  5. The new guy, Sports Dad.  Unlike most of the men I meet, Sports Dad is cautious. In person, he’s a low talker (yup, a Seinfeld reference).  In his texting, he’s more animated and clearly interested.  But, he does little to move that interest into reality.  He’s smart and finds me funny (both essential ingredients), so I’m doing my best to squash my impatience and see where it goes.  Another maybe.

This week’s songs are dedicated to Betsy, my partner in crime, mainly misdemeanors.  I was lucky enough to have her join me in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry to see Jason, Amanda and John Prine.  They, for sure, were playing for keeps.

To Text or Not to Text.  That is the Question.

I hate waiting.  This is why I have a love/hate relationship with texting.  With friends, the rules with texting are simple:

  1. I send a text.  I get one back.
  2. I receive a text.  I text back.

Early in my dating career (yes, I think I’ve put enough time in), I breezily texted guys with reckless abandon.  A text would appear, and I would answer it.  “Whoa!  You answered right away?”  My guy friends told me that made me look desperate.

Really?

Now, I have learned to strategically wait, because we all know I’m out running marathons or better yet, doing yoga (men love chicks who do yoga), saving whales and other equally amazing activities.  Clearly, I don’t have time to text while I’m straddling a Humpback Whale.

So, when I lay on my bed and watch Netflix at night, what do I do then?

I try to answer a text within what I guess is an acceptable time frame.  NOTE:  there is A LOT of guessing going on in this process.  Unlike in Friend-land, response times in the dating world often vary considerably, from immediate (suspicious), to 5-15 minutes (good and evidently normal), to hours, days, even weeks.

This is always a topic for post-game analysis with my roommate/little sister/dating coach/comedian/friend/confidante.  We try to decode not only the time it takes to respond, but the response itself.   Is he into the chase?  Am I coming on too strong?  Is he busy, uninterested, or just a bad texter?   It’s all so confusing. And at 52, I wonder, aren’t we old enough to not have to do this anymore?

Which leads me to one of my best friends, who I’ll call PB (a nod to the Peanut Butter t-shirt she was wearing when we met in seventh grade). PB got on match.com for a short stint, but decided she’s not into dating right now. Since she had some time left on her subscription, she is going to conduct an experiment:  message guys with whatever crosses her mind, no matter how crazy or outrageous it would make her appear.

This inspires me.  I decide to send a text to let One Guy know that I was disappointed that our communication recently fell off.  He called me back and we talked it out.  Like grownups.

Thanks PB.

Good Night and Good Luck

A friend noted that I hadn’t written in a while, and that she always knows when I like someone because I stop writing.  Damn, she was right.  So tonight, I’m determined to be brave, and to admit, yes, I was beginning to like Someone, and well, here’s how that turned out…

The last few months have been a string of highs and lows.  After the Canadian, I took myself off the dating sites and found myself spending time (fill in the blank here) with a few old friends.  When we were together, it was fun and sexy and cool.  When we weren’t, my phone taunted me with its silence.  Both Blank Guy 1 and Blank Guy 2 clearly saw me as more of an “option” than a priority. Man, is my ego getting a workout. I wish I could report that I ended both in a blaze of crazy badass bitchy glory, but, the truth is, both simply faded to black.  Just like my lifeless phone.

I decided to abandon ship altogether, and quit the dating scene.  Three days later, I abandon my resolve and I’m back online analyzing the significance of the endless variety of profile pictures.  There are pictures of men posing with tigers (is this a thing?), a poorly executed photoshop experiment where a guy pasted his super tiny head on an enormous bikini-clad body builder, and one of my favorites, a guy posing in his fatigues, surrounded by a dozen topless babes dressed like Santa’s elves.  Amidst all this craziness, I did manage to go on a few dates.

First, there’s Success Guy.  An accomplished businessman, he also paints, writes and is driven by the need to mentor and inspire others to live a good life.  I kind of feel like a potential project when I’m with him.  Next, there is RV Guy.  He’s 5 years younger, selling his house, and is about to jump into his brand new Airstream and cruise wherever the road takes him. When he gave me a tour, I quipped that I should go straight to the dealer and buy my own Airstream van.  “Or you can just come with me.”  Hmmmmm.

Finally, there’s the Someone.  I liked him right away.  He was easy to talk to, cussed as much as I did, and when we went to say our goodbyes at our first meeting, I pointed out that I was slightly taller.  His response: “Who gives a fuck.”   The next day, he asked me to join him for a stroll around Dunedin and to watch the sunset, and I happily said yes.  When I left him last night, I was swooning.

Today, I received a good luck with everything text.  Ouch.

This time, I’m choosing to believe that there must be a Silver Lining.