Wednesday 1 April 2020

A Salute to John L. (wherever you are)

Twenty years and one week ago today, I went out for dinner at an Italian place on 4th Avenue with my friend Julia, a friend of hers, and a friend of that friend — a friendly guy named John. We spent a congenial (friendly!) evening together, at the end of which John invited all of us to a party he was hosting the following Saturday. I turned to Julia and her friend, and we all said, "Sure!"

The evening of the party — April 1, 2000 — arrived, and, with it, the sad news that my two companions had to bail. So I faced an introvert's dilemma: do I attend this party, where I'll have to make small talk with strangers and will probably have a crappy time ... or do I stay home, watching reruns of Cheers and Thirtysomething?

Kerrisdale Library
My decision to go was based largely on the fact that John, the host, lived a mere half block away from me. If nausea set in the moment I arrived, I could go home, having invested no more than a few minutes. So I went, bracing myself as if for a dose of cod liver oil (something unpleasant but probably good for me).
The Constitution (aka Tormentor of Coal Harbour Rowers!)

I brought along a salad (in my memory, it's some kind of jelly salad, which, if true, is pretty funny), and I stationed myself at the food table, making dreaded small talk and keeping my hands busy with celery sticks and dip.

It wasn't long before I caught a reference to Montreal (my birthplace and early childhood home) in a nearby conversation. Spurring myself to make at least one sincere social attempt before hightailing it back to my television, I went over and said something really witty and sexy, like, "Hi, I heard you guys talking about Montreal ...."
Social Distancing Stick

Chica, the True Carnivores shop dog, trying to explain what's going on
The "guys" in this conversation included another Heather ... and a charming, dashing fellow named Paul. I suppose the three of us talked about Montreal for a bit. We definitely talked about writing and teaching. Or Paul and I did, anyway; I think the other Heather vamoosed at some point, and a random assortment of other people took her place. The conversation migrated to the kitchen, where Paul told a couple of entertaining stories in which he mentioned his last name. Eventually, I retrieved my salad bowl and went home — much later, and in a much better mood, than I'd anticipated.

In the days that followed, I found myself thinking about the charming and dashing Paul with some regularity. Knowing his last name from his stories, I looked him up in the phone book (yes! the PHONE BOOK!!) and started wondering if I should perhaps just call him up and — O, introvert's dilemma! — ask him out.
McDonald Beach

I'm pretty confident I would have done the deed. But he beat me to it. Despite my (clueless, not intentional) failure to mention my own last name the night of the party, Paul employed spectacular sleuthing skills and left a message for me at work (given those skills, it's a really good thing he's not a  creepy stalker!). We went on a date ... then another ... and another ... and now ... 

... two decades later, in this Age of Isolation, I can't think of anyone I'd rather be quarantined with.

Our window

So — John L., wherever you are ... thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for inviting me to your party.

Mt. Gardner, Bowen Island,  March 4/20