Friday night = date night for this busy blogger. That's how I found myself in a previously unexplored (for me) section of the Bronx at 8pm, with Michael Evans himself trying to sell me copies of his book "Son of a Snitch" and its many sequels. Cue date nine.
The Place: Centro Cultural Rincon Criollo, Brook Ave between 156th and 157th, The Bronx
The Guy: Doug, 26, a "set up"
What Creative Time Says: Can the city come together around a single neighborhood garden?
My good friend Julia jumped on the dating bandwagon when I first began this whole project and said she had the perfect guy for me to go on a date with. "Hilarious, spontaneous, and hot!" she told me, and after a telephone conversation and numerous text messages we set the date. Doug had a choice between the community center and the Whitney and I was psyched when he chose the center, wanting a little extra adventure myself.
The sun was beginning to set as we walked to our destination and while most of the street was lined with chain stores and discount dens, the glow of the setting sun lit up ancient architecture and side-street townhouses quite nicely. Music blasted from stoop gatherings and, when we asked a group where we could find "the gardens" they knew right away where to point us.
Yvette, whose husband owns the garden with the key, a delightful array of vegetables with an incredibly friendly scarecrow (date eleven?), and whose father started the whole center, was kind enough to give us a tour of the space, pointing out different types of vegetation and telling stories about their owners. We met her husband (they met in NYC!) and her father and a wonderfully talkative man named Tito who extolled the virtues of the neighborhood and invited Doug back for a big upcoming block party (and mother's day, father's day, and every other holiday imaginable, Doug made quite the impression!) The liveliness of the conversation (Tito punctuated his phrases with "puh puh puh") and the authentic, edged, way in which everyone spoke of their neighborhood was fantastic.
When we approached the intersection there was a version of KFC, dunkin donuts and the glowing Lechonera restaurant. The waitresses at first clearly were confused as to how we ended up there (I think everyone was, actually) but when I asked her to just bring us whatever was good she turned game and played along with our adventure. She brought us the most delicious steak dish I've had in a long time, not quite as tasty friend plantains, delicious chicken of which I made Doug eat the skin (it's the yummiest part!), and, the kicker, chilled red wine.
After dinner, on the way to the lower east side where Julia's boyfriend's band, The Wind Up, (shout out here to their rocking first song in the set) was playing at the legendary Arlene's Grocery, our Ipods made out on the subway. I use this term of phrase to mean that we played songs for each other from our ipods, trying to get a taste of the other's style of music. Sadly, my collection is depressingly sparse and all my "cool" tunes are from guys I've dated mix CD's, but I'd like to think I can hold my own. Doug had some awesome emo-hipster-punk-indie songs that we jammed to along the B line.
To be honest, I probably wouldn't have chosen Doug as a date on my own. I tend to go for more hipster than wall street. The truth is, however, that clearly something has gone wrong with my choices, or my matches or what have you, and thus, part of this exploration is to open myself up to guys who I may not pick for myself but who may just surprise me. Doug was everything Julia said, charming, funny, up for anything with an energy level that matched my own (especially once I got hungry, darn hypoglycemia). We had a great night together and hopefully can catch dinner again this week before I head off to CA to visit my sister for a week. It's like a rooster in the Bronx, you wouldn't go looking for it in the city because you'd never expect it to be there, but you never know, you could be delightfully surprised. Stay open, stay curious, that's my new motto! Plus, the man who runs the center had a key of his own, so I always know where to look in case I can't find my pair.