Archive for July, 2010

I’ve been on a lot of dates in my life. Every now and then I think about how much money I’ve expended in my lifetime on the opposite sex and while I have no way of knowing, it’s still a staggering thought (debate: If they didn’t work out, which they didn’t, was it a waste of money?). I sometimes wonder about what I could buy today if instead of buying that extra plate at a restaurant I had put that money in a jar. Still, no sense crying over spilled milk. No sense crying at all, frankly.

So, since relationships have been recently on my mind (which, if you read this blog, my definition of “recently” is fairly expansive), I started thinking the other day about dating, and 1st dates in particular.

First dates suck. They’re awkward, stressful, and put way to much pressure on the guy. We (men) approach 1st dates like a bank heist. We case out the joint for a long time, we might even venture in and pretend to be interested in a checking account just to get a better look. We construct our plan, attempting to predict problem areas and provide for contingencies. We assemble our team, make the hit and then, of course, nothing EVER goes according to plan, and we almost always get busted.

Still, every so often the elements combine in your favor and fate smiles upon you.

3rd Place: The Foreign Scare

Merry was my first and last blind date. It was October of 2008 and I needed a date to the Odyssey Dance Company’s annual Thriller. My roommate Ben’s girlfriend (now wife) Natalie had been taking for weeks about her friend Merry who was, apparently, “perfect for me.” Feeling sad and alone (2008, look how far I’ve come) I told her to put her money where her mouth was and make the date happen. She did.

Merry made the trip down from Boise and stayed the weekend. We took a big group of friends up the canyon on Friday for a bonfire so I had a chance to get to know my date before, the date. This was awkward (“hi, you don’t know me but I’m taking you out tomorrow”), but undeniably pleasant.

The next day the four of us had some dinner at Cafe Sabor (Merry was a vegetarian at the time, something she has fortunately grown out of since. Still, it was a strike against her). After dinner we made our way to Thriller. Merry had taken tap dancing lessons so she appreciated the dancing, I appreciated three guys dressed like Jason jumping around with machetes. Between the two of us we licked the platter clean.

Afterwards we made our way to the bunker (the house I used to live in) and watched Footloose (my first viewing) in which Merry’s tap teacher was an extra (through Merry, I’m connected to Kevin Bacon by 4 degrees).

The icing on the cake was after the movie when Merry asked me to play her a song on my piano. The way to a man’s heart is to provide him ample opportunity to show off and then (listen closely) to be impressed whether you are or not. My basement had a cool look at night and I played her Rescued by Jack’s Mannequin before we rejoined Ben and Natalie (read: provided them alone time to fondle each other to their hearts content) and then called it a night.

2nd Place: Cowgirl Up

I met Cami at a group thing and was immediately smitten. For the next seven days I lied, cheated, and stole to maneuver myself into a position where I could ask her out. I finally did and enlisted the help of my Trevor for a night of nights.

We started with a vintage Cache County Demolition Derby. While we were there Cammi and I played a game of seeing who could find the most redneck member of the crowd. We laughed, we joked, we got to know each other better and we sat very, VERY, close together (BTW, I’m kind of a cuddle slut).

Then, the Piece de Resistance. After the derby we swung by Panda Express for some to go (mmm, orange chicken) and headed to the roof of the Best Western on 3rd and Main for dinner. Yes you read that right, we ate dinner on the roof of a hotel on Logan’s Main Street at night. Voila. It was picturesque, delicious, and scored me some serious browny points.

To close the evening, we made our way to a park where the 4 of us ran around on playground equipment. Trevor and his date bailed soon after, leaving me and Cami alone, sitting on top of a jungle gym, in the moonlight. I broke my cardinal 1st date rule and kissed her, I had to.

1st Place: Gutter meatball

When I was a senior in High School I, after much deliberation, asked out Julie. This was a big step for me because I was transitioning between cliques and this evening marked a departure from my comfort zone.

As such, I went with the easy date: Bowling and dinner. Nothing fancy.

We went bowling at Weber State (probably cosmic, don’t really remember). Bowling is a total cliche, and yet its a great date activity. When you go with another couple you spend more time sitting and talking than actually throwing a ball down a lane, and yet the regular interruption and sense of competition keep the night flowing without running into awkward silences.

After the game I said to the group, “Where should we eat” at which point my wingman Ben (I’ve had a lot of friends named Ben) BRILLIANTLY suggested “Let’s make dinner.” You want to know to a woman’s heart, cook her something.

We stopped by the store and bought ingredients for black pepper chicken alfredo over fettucini (what I would request for my last meal) and of course, a bottle of martinellis. When we got to Julie’s house we were locked out so Ben and I McGyvered our way in through an open window (I know that sounds problematic, but it really kept the mood fun and spontaneous). Once inside we outlawed the girls from helping with the preparation, exiling them to the barstools where they watched in awe as the two Men put on a culinary show of (artificial) maturity.

Once prepared, we ate dinner while playing the I Never drinking game (with the martinellis). I never, another great 1st date staple, providing you with interesting tidbits about a persons personality and the occasional nuggets of slightly embarrassing revelations (the good kind though, the flirty kind).

After dinner we threw on a movie and got our cuddle on. The whole evening was fun, low key, and we quickly adapted to the roadblocks. I could have kissed her that night, and I thought about it, but it wasn’t necessary. It was all good.

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The Gread Divide

This is a couple of months late but I finally got my hands on the culminating photograph of the Peter Breinholt concert.

Last time I talked to Steve our money still hadn’t shown up :-> He’ll just have to deal with that when he gets back from Africa. He’s the group leader, I got my A in the bag, and now I have officially washed my hands of this entire affair.

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In my dream I awoke in bed next to another man. To be completely accurate, it was not me – Benjamin Wood – that was in bed with another man, but the persona operating as the protagonist of that particular dream. To avoid confusion, I will refer to this persona as Jim.

In 23 years of dreaming my brain has constructed no small number of characters, many of whose viewpoints I have operated under while navigating the dreamworld. I have been both human and animal, male and female, land-based and aquatic, old and young. Once even I transformed mid dream from human male to large spider, and yet another time I watched as a young boy in terror as my mother was mauled to death by a lion in the master bedroom of my home in Huntsville. Why there was a feral lion in such a cold climate and how it got into the house I will never know.

The fact that on this particular night I was operating as Jim is not altogether startling, even with the apparent realization that Jim is a homosexual. As a matter of fact, Jim was not actually gay, but I’ll get to that later.

Besides the apparent clash with my personal innate heterosexuality, this dream has stood out in particular memory for me. When I – or rather, Jim – awoke in bed next to another man (a moment we will refer to as “Time X” for reasons that will present themselves soon) the dream narrative began only Jim, the persona, came equipped with a full breadth of developed emotional memories.

Jim had grappled for years with his sexual orientation, torn in a conflict between what he thought he felt and what he believed to be natural. Shortly before Time X – a matter of weeks, maybe even days – Jim announced his homosexuality to his friends and family amidst a wave of contrasting emotions – confusion, uncertainty, betrayal – and thereafter moved in with his partner, a man of comparable age who resembled Patrick Jane from The Mentalist only without the pomp and circumstance.

Now I – Benjamin Wood – became aware of this back-story not by way of a typical montage of scenes. Theses events did not play themselves out in sequence before my minds eye but rather I – or Jim – was emotionally aware that all of this had transpired prior to Time X even though I – Benjamin Wood – only entered Jim’s world at Time X, or the moment he awoke in bed with another man.

Confusing? You have no idea.

Now, what happened next was particularly interesting. Jim was the protagonist persona of my dream even though I РBenjamin Wood Рam 100 % heterosexual and subscribe to a religious identity that frowns upon homosexuality  (I want to note, however, that I support full and total legal equality for gay individuals and couples).

The comic tragedy in the story of this dream is that at Time X when Jim awoke he realized…he wasn’t gay. Upon awakening next to another man, I – Jim – was so repulsed that in my head – Jim’s head – I thought “oh no, I was wrong. I’m really not gay.”

Obviously, this would be completely outlandish in a real-world scenario and was most likely the result of my heterosexual identity breaking through my fictional dream state but as it always is inside a dream, everything seems on the level until you wake up.

Now, in a similar way that I – Benjamin Wood – was aware of the events prior to Time X without experiencing them in any way, I proceeded to take part in an intense emotional struggle where I – Jim – battled an impending sense of hopelessness as my world crumbled around me. Jim was now going to have to go back to his family and say “just kidding, I’m straight.” What would they think? How could they accept me now after putting them through this? Will they think it was all some terrible charade? AM I really straight?

It was amazing, everything I’ve told you transpired in the space of seconds upon awakening in bed next to another man (“awakening” in the dream, while I slept). Fascinating.

Upon Jim’s awakening, his partner lying next to him subsequently awoke. Knowing nothing of Jim’s psycho-emotional 180 he began being affectionate, attempting to spoon his partner, an action that Jim – I – found so physically and emotionally unbearable that he – or I – could no longer remain in bed. His partner, aghast at the sudden stand-offish attitude of his once loving partner was absolutely crushed at the seemingly indifferent treatment and Jim – I – remained in a cataclysmic nauseating shock.

I awoke soon after (in actuality, this time) thinking “man, that’s the weirdest dream I ever had.”

This was a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been thinking about it lately due to the fact that I’m currently reading Valis by Phillip K. Dick (without a doubt the strangest book I’ve ever read) which deals heavily with mental processes and insanity (among MANY other things) as well as my blissful anticipation for the film Inception which deals with dream worlds and subconscious security.

I have often felt pain in my dreams but this is the only time I can remember where I felt legitimate emotional anguish. Stranger still, I felt emotional pain that I – Benjamin Wood – have never experienced in real life. My mind crafted an individual to such detail that without playing the scenes of his life I was emotionally and mentally aware of the pain, torment, and confusion that he had gone through, all in a fleeting matter of seconds while I – Benjamin Wood – struggled so violently to preserve my own heterosexual identity that undoubtedly my own personality broke through and merged itself with Jim’s, sending the narrative construct of my R.E.M. cycle brain off a cliff and disturbing my physical slumber in the process.

Beyond that is awe at what my mind was able to accomplish, and is able to accomplish every night. Jim awoke in a queen bed with soft-hued bedding, his partner had a fully distinguishable face, the room they were in was an apartment of some kind and was not on ground level because the view outside the windows was level with the middle floors of surrounding skyscrapers, hence this apartment was also located in a relatively metropolitan city. The walls were a kind of cream color and based on my vantage point I couldn’t quite see the carpet but I’m sure if I had looked down it would have been very detailed.

The fact that the mind can create such a seemingly complete architectural and atmospheric structure, place fabricated characters inside of it, and then pass through a complex narrative with emotional arks and plot development all while I – Benjamin Wood – lie down with my eyes closed on my twin bed in Logan…

The more I think about it, the more fascinating it all is.

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Continuing in the tradition of week-late summer blog postings. The family and I descended upon Garden City for our annual Bear Lake adventure week. For the last decade or so we’ve been spending one week every summer at the Sweetwater/Ideal Beach resort at Bear Lake doing our best to avoid actually entering Bear Lake’s waters.

The first couple of years we would rent wave runners for a romp in the chop but as our clan has gotten older (read: younger due to insurgence of spawn) such high-octane thrills have given way to a week of poolside relaxation and a LOT of Tennis.

Of note this year is that my immediate family has begun the process of transitioning into a self-sustaining extended family. In years prior a trip with “the cousins” meant a vacation with my parents siblings and their children. As of this year however the voyage included the children of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Wood only (and distinguished guests) making “the cousins” My sibling’s children, and my siblings and I – in turn – the generation of “Aunts” and “Uncles.”

I can not tell you how weird this is for me.

Being the youngest, I am the only Wood child without a spouse and spawn. So while it’s all fine and dandy to call me Uncle Ben it makes for an interesting trip when you are caught in an age-chasm between those changing the diapers and those whose diapers are being changed.

The best way to deal with this, repeatedly spanking my brother Jake on the tennis court – which I did, with the help of my double’s mate/Australian brother-in-law Varian a.k.a Big V. This victory comes with an asterisk, however, in that none of us are particularly good at playing doubles, especially my father, Jake’s teammate.

The other way to deal ageism is that if you can’t beat them, join them. I somehow conned Catherine into being my plus one for Thursday night and took full advantage of the opportunity, packing as much activity into the relatively short time she was there with us. We swam in the pool, biked into town for a shake and had a moonlit kayak ride before playing a board game with the bunch and calling it a night.

In closing, here’s some pictures I took. As usual, they offer no catalog of Wood family fun. Instead they’re the usual amateur landscapes that I pretend anyone gives a hoot about.

The water at Bear is at a great level right now. It got hit, like all of Utah, with the drought 8 or so years ago and has never gotten back up to where it used to be but this year was the highest it’s been in a long time. All around the edge of the lake we had these great sandbar islands with water behind them. The pools where about 10 degrees warmer than the lake and I saw a few groups set there stuff up to play in them, instead of the lake 40 yards away.

I’m starting to develop a certain taste for shots of benches (as seen here). There’s something poetic about them for me. More often than not you get these city benches that are just dropped on the side of the road because someone might want to sit down. Then there’s the other kind of bench, those benches that are placed intentionally at a location because people WILL sit there, because they overlook some mammoth spectacle of nature or awesome vantage point. To take two steps closer and get a shot of the lake, you end up with another little pic of water and horizon. With the bench in the foreground (at least for me) it makes me think of how often you can’t see the forest for the trees.

As it turns out, I wanted a different angle for that shot but some lake-strolling punk decided to set up camp right in my frame. Oh well, it still turned out ok.

As I said before, Bear Lake’s water level has been crazy low for the better part of 10 years. That armada of wave runners parked on the sandbar used to be rented out of this cove but were uprooted by the drought. We’ve been going to Sweetwater for 10 years and every year I gauge the water level by how close it comes to filling this cove back up. You can see the old docks slumped on the side of the hill on the right side of this shot; and the whole interior is a stagnant pool of moss and weeds. Just beyond the cove, in the center, you can see the glistening turquoise water, just out of reach.

And, notice how the two benches are facing the OTHER way.

If I were some snobby bigshot photographer I would think up some great metaphorical name for this picture. Something about yearning for the past, or maybe some allegory for heaven and hell.

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