Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Man Who Met DFW

I am a gigantic David Foster Wallace nerd. Ridiculous. I took a class in grad school called Maximalist Postmodernism, purely because we were going to read Infinite Jest. It was one of those books perpetually on my to-read list, but it’s such a daunting task that I had always chickened out, so I forced myself to do so. And I loved the professor teaching it, and postmodernism is one of my English nerd ‘things,’ so that didn’t hurt. I carried that book around for a month, and did a good job reading a significant portion of it. After that semester ended, I did finish it, and subsequently read it another time, going through and making my own extensive annotated notes. I have since read a LOT of DFW. I call him my literary lover. I have a not-so-mild obsession. I have to pace myself through his works, because they are finite now, although there’s a recently released giant tome called The David Foster Wallace Reader that I want so desperately it’s disgusting. So if you are looking for a present for me, please feel free to buy it. Sooner rather than later because I will probably break down and buy it for myself within the next few weeks.
Anyway, when I first moved to California, I decided to get an OKCupid account. Well, that’s not exactly true. I had an OKCupid account, but I had never actually used it. I decided to properly activate it and see what it was all about. Unpopular opinion time: I feel OKCupid is actually worse than Tinder. Seriously. At least with Tinder, or Coffee Meets Bagel, you have to match with people in order for them to message you. On OKCupid, anyone can message you (at least that’s how I understand it/what happened to me). I was bombarded with messages from random people. Within a month, not even, I ended up deactivating the thing because it was so awful. And there are plenty of people on there looking to just hook up, trust me. I hate that assumption. “Well you’re on Tinder, of course people are assuming you just want to have a one night stand.” No, actually, on most dating sites there are people just looking for that. Check yourself. But that’s an entirely separate, ranty post of its own.
On my OKCupid profile, I had listed some of my favorite movies, including, “Pretty in Pink (minus that bullshit ending);” and TV shows like The O.C. Seth Cohen is one of my dream men, along with Jason Schwartzman, Wes Anderson, and Colin Meloy, and David Foster Wallace. Of course, my DFW obsession was also listed. His first message to me started with, “Yeah, the ending of Pretty in Pink is pretty bullshit, isn’t it? And The O.C. was great until the final season when you could tell Rachel Bilson was phoning it in.” And then he told me that he had once met David Foster Wallace. I looked at his profile, where he listed some of his favorite things as avocados, used bookstores, and David Bowie. Ding ding ding LET’S GET MARRIED PERFECT SIR. He lived in Oakland, but said he would meet me down where I live, and we could get drinks at an Irish bar called The Poet & The Patriot. I was so down with the whole situation. This was my first date in California, and I was so, so excited.
He was already at the bar when I arrived. The conversation flowed easily, and we sat and talked for about two hours. It was actually a very nice time. He walked me to my car, and shocked the hell out of me by kissing me. Not that I minded. We made plans for a second date. I decided that, being new in town and it being the beginning of July, that we should go and stroll the boardwalk, ride the rides, and be terrible Americans together. He agreed. We met up at the boardwalk; he was extremely late, but I was trying to be understanding considering he had a super long drive down to me. Okay, not that big of a deal. We rode some rides; it was going well. We played air hockey in the arcade and it was an intense rivalry. (He beat me by one friggin goal. I’m still bitter about it.) And all of a sudden, things started to go south.
Part of the boardwalk’s outdated attractions/décor are statues of cave people placed on random benches and sections of the park. We had just gotten off my favorite ride, the flying swings, and were walking by a bench that had a large, grotesque African-American female cave woman sitting on it. I was disgusted, and all of a sudden, he pointed at it and said, “Hey! Look! It’s RuPaul!” And I almost punched him in the mouth. That is just wrong on a hundred levels, a very shallow one being that I, personally, am a gay male drag queen in the body of a twenty-six year old woman, and I loooooove RuPaul. Love. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, stupidly, for making that joke, instead of decking him and walking out.
It was the week after the Fourth of July, and he had been down in Southern California visiting his family. He was regaling me with stories of his trip as we walked around the boardwalk. At one point, he started talking about having to pick up a pizza at Domino’s for his family, and how all the employees are behind a bullet-proof glass shield that they have to pass your pizza through. I was going to make a comment about crime, poverty, Los Angeles, etc., when he kept going and said, “But these were the kind of people who looked comfortable behind bullet-proof glass. And this was confirmed when I opened the pizza and the toppings were in the shape of a license plate.” WHAT. I didn’t know young Johnny Depp circa Cry-Baby was secretly working at a Domino’s in Los Angeles. LET’S ALL GO THERE NOW! Allison Vernon-Williams, get in this car!

In actuality, though, I was seriously grossed out at this point, and once again trying to figure out how the hell to get out of this date. We got onto another ride, that was a bit faster than I had anticipated, and when we got off it, we walked and sat on a park bench because I was mildly nauseous and not okay to drive home or do anything at that moment. The conversation turned to movies, music, TV, books, etc. He mentioned DFW again and how cool it was to meet him and get a book signed by him. And then I noticed that he had a habit of referring to celebrities as if he knew them. For example, he kept calling DFW “Dave,” as if they were bros. “Oh yeah, Dave was such a great author.” Yes, yes he was, but just because you met him once doesn’t mean you get to call him Dave. We talked about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, which had saddened both of us. I have a relative who is an addict, and it’s heartbreaking to witness. It is a serious issue, addiction; and PSH’s death was upsetting to me on a few levels; but much like Robin Williams’ death, I understood that it was not a failure on the part of the deceased. Depression and addiction are serious issues that lots of people struggle with. He felt differently, however. “Yeah man, Phil’s death. That’s so upsetting. But I’m so mad at him! Like, you had so much talent, Phil, how dare you waste your life and do that to yourself! I’m so mad at him.” Okay, yeah, you can get away from me right now, sir.
At that point, I'd had more than enough. My nausea from the ride had faded, but my nausea from this classist, possibly racist, jerkhead had increased. Done and done, sir. I told him I was still nauseous from the ride and needed to go home. He walked me to my car again; this time I just gave him a quick hug because no way in hell was he getting to kiss me after all that shit came out of his mouth. I never heard from him again after that; presumably he understood that I was not feeling it. I'm glad we never had to have the awkward confrontation in which I would call him out for being an asshole. I probably should have said more in the moment, but I was so astounded by a lot of what he said that I couldn't form a response fast enough that would be more articulate and nuanced than, "Fuck off!" Oh well.

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