Always Date an Honest Drug Dealer

A Midsummer Tale ~ Third Place
Amy Rideg


My landlord planted corn last summer where he had previously envisioned putting a hot tub. He mused that he had planted the seeds too closely together but thought they would grow just the same. Before this, the most he ever tended the yard was to give it a mow when the weeds got waist high in areas visible to the neighbors. That yields some pretty hearty weeds considering he stands at about six-foot-three. I figured if he grew corn the way he grew weeds, we would have a fine harvest.

Yuki1 was his garden inspiration. He said she could plant what she wanted in his yard if he would be able to eat some of what she reaped. I wondered how the deal worked as I watched him tending to the patch of ground he had hoed, where he had planted corn seeds too closely together, and that she had only visited a handful of times. I figured it didn’t matter as long as the weeds were being whacked at more regular intervals.

My landlord is proof that Santa Barbara’s dating scene is great for people looking for a good time but not for those seeking a serious relationship. He is in his early forties and has yet to find The One. As my landlord resolved to grow corn and win Yuki, I also resolved to find love. I had been looking before, but I approached the search with fervor as I neared the big three-O. I pushed myself to be the socialite I never dreamed of becoming. I attended classes at the city college, went to sing karaoke downtown, frequented the fundraising nights at the art museum, and started dancing salsa. The year started off with some sparks, but by summertime things were sizzling.

I met Poetry Guy in poetry class at the city college. We went out for drinks and ended up watching a movie at his house after he promised it would be G-rated—his behavior, not the movie. He told me on our second date, a walk on the beach, that he had a habit of disappearing for weeks at a time, hindering his ability to have a real relationship. This was after he had disappeared for a week after our first date. Our next date was The Cure concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl, where we had front row seats and could see Robert Smith’s blood-red lipstick and mascara up close. Poetry Guy danced like he was trapped in a box and only mildly trying to escape, even after a couple glasses of wine. After the concert we drank more wine under his poetry-inspiring cyprus tree and listened to the waves crash against the cliffs. There was almost no moon that night and so we held onto each other, tripping our way back to his place. Inside, we watched his favorite documentary on birds and kissed while I fended off any further advances. The next day he came over to my house to watch a movie. I thought maybe he had broken his habit, but after that night I didn’t hear from him for several months.

Lesson #1: If he tells you he can’t have a real relationship, listen. And if he dances like your father and has a favorite bird documentary, run for the hills.

I met The Bartender while going to karaoke. I was swept away by his charm, the kind all bartenders possess to get good tips. My friends consistently told me that I could do better. We went to dinner at a newly-opened tapas bar, and I have learned to articulate “tapas” very carefully, since every coworker I told thought he had taken me to amateur night at the local gentleman’s club. I assured them no shirts came off that night. We savored the variety of tapas he ordered for us, then he burped and blew it from his lips like he was exhaling the smoke from a cigarette. Perhaps that should have tipped me off. When I failed to see him at the karaoke bar two consecutive weekends, I texted him and over lunch he told me he had been fired because one of his customers came to buy from him at the bar. Weed is a side business of his. How very considerate of him to tell me he’s a drug dealer before our meal began. Once he did, I felt at ease. Probably because I knew it would be the last time we would ever intentionally see each other.

Lesson #2: Always date an honest drug dealer. It saves you a lot of time.

Next came The Bartender’s friend, The Farmer. Perhaps I was foolish to date friends within the same time frame, but after I met The Farmer and exchanged numbers with him, it took him a whole month to get in touch with me since pistachio farms two hours outside of Santa Barbara proper get horrible cell phone reception. He told me he almost hadn’t contacted me because it had been so long, but his friend, The Bartender, told him he should. Our first date was sushi and Chardonnay, followed by a walk along the beach and a stop for ice cream. He then showed me his parents’ house and introduced me to his entire family. A few weeks after that, and after the end of The Bartender, he picked me up and drove me high up into the mountains overlooking Santa Barbara. He bought us sandwiches for the drive, which took a little over an hour. We hiked and then found a campsite where he prepared dinner. After devouring freshly-grilled salmon, garlic mashed potatoes, a garden salad with homemade dressing, and a glass of merlot, we changed into our bathing suits to sit in the natural hot springs among the rocks on the side of the mountain. It was romantic paradise. I never heard from him after that date, but did see him downtown months later with another date on his arm. No worries. I had a date on my arm too.

Lesson #3: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. But while it lasts, enjoy getting pampered.

For her birthday, I bought my friend Daniela a VIP pass to Santa Barbara Museum Nights, an event a coworker had called a meat market. The same meat that frequented local bars was just dressed up in fancier clothes. Daniela donned a navy-blue tube dress while I wore an emerald-green halter dress. At the swanky cocktail party, Daniela exchanged compliments with a curly-haired fellow. He told her he liked her glasses and she said she liked his eyebrows. She went home with Eyebrow Guy while I hung out with a guy who volunteered at the museum event. I was much too sober for the drunken kisses he planted on me. And when I drove him home, he insisted that I pull over so he could throw some chairs situated on the side of the street. It was two nights before the Santa Barbara Solstice Parade, and locals had diligently placed their chairs along the street to save a spot to watch the parade. Diligence is ludicrous to a drunk, so the chairs landed haphazardly in someone’s lawn. When we got to his house, I went inside to use the restroom and was tackled on the bed. I excused myself. My distinct memories of that night were two black bananas sitting in a hanging wire basket in the kitchen and him running after me to make up for his behavior.

Lesson #4: Never enter a man’s house who has thrown furniture in your presence. Not even to use the bathroom.

The following week, Daniela asked me to go to Vegas. We left six hours behind schedule, stopping on our way out of town so she could give Eyebrow Guy a kiss goodbye. I had seen Rotten Bananas at Trader Joe’s when we went to get road trip goodies and Daniela made me text him afterwards, saying he deserved a second chance. We planned to watch the Euro 2008 soccer final the Sunday morning after Daniela and I returned from Vegas. Friday night Daniela and I went dancing at Pure, the nightclub in Caesar’s Palace, and met a group of guys who were Vegas regulars. We left the club in time for them to buy us a sunrise breakfast. Vegas #1 asked me to marry him as we passed by the hotel chapel, saying that our kids would be hot. After a nap, Daniela and I went to the pool where our Vegas #1s had said they would meet us. Instead, the #1s didn’t show up and we met round #2. It was my Vegas #2’s birthday, so we joined them in their room to celebrate with champagne. We saw the #1s in the lobby before getting dinner with the #2s. They told us they were turned away at the exclusive pool party and asked us to join them for dinner. I reluctantly said goodbye to my #1 since we had promised to dine with the #2s. After a late dinner with the #2s, Daniela was gambling and I wanted to take a nap before driving home, so I went with Vegas #2 back to his room. He immediately started tugging at my clothes and putting his unwelcome hands all over me. I escaped and called Vegas #1 for comfort. He asked me to come to the club where he was dancing, but Daniela and I were done with Vegas. A week later I left Vegas #1 a voicemail, thinking we’d had a connection. He never called me back.

Lesson #5: Guys you meet in Vegas are not interested in relationships, so don’t attempt to contact them after crossing the Nevada state line. Even if they have proposed marriage and mentioned your future children.

I was running on almost no sleep when I met Rotten Bananas to watch the soccer game. He bought me lunch afterwards and we talked more with the friends who joined us than with each other. We never went out again but wave when we see each other at museum events.

Lesson #6: If there’s no chemistry without alcohol, say goodbye. But free steak bites at a local pub almost make up for Rotten Bananas.

The Friend was a guy who I’d known casually for years. He’d had a crush on me in the past and I always wondered if a relationship were possible with him. He was passionate about the Pittsburgh Steelers, still lived among beer cans and empty pizza boxes, and was about twice my size. Nonetheless, I thought I’d take a chance. After we hung out multiple times among friends after years of minimal contact, we finally went to lunch, sans friends, at a popular place by the beach. We had good conversation and he picked up the tab. On the ride home, the date took a wrong turn. When I said my landlord cooked sometimes, he proceeded to say he couldn’t believe that my landlord let me out of the kitchen. I told him he was losing points and I suppose he figured he had lost them all because we never went out again.

Lesson #7: If you haven’t been out with him after you’ve known him several years, there’s probably a subconscious reason. And if he thinks you belong in the kitchen, he wants a maid not a girlfriend.

I went with my friend Marcela to the monthly event at the art museum. She mingled solo for a bit and brought back a guy who had been flirting with her. Since she has a boyfriend, she thought she would help me out. Immediately I pegged him as an Asian Lover. He was a ghostly-white guy flirting with my Filipina friend, his last girlfriend was Japanese, and when I told him I was half Japanese, his eyebrows raised and he squared his body towards me. I had been targeted. Our date was at a Vietnamese restaurant and the Asian Lover seemed just as drunk in the middle of the work day as the night I had met him. He droned on about how he owned a house and had a great job and then split the less-than-twenty-dollar tab down to the fact that he had an iced tea and I only consumed water. I didn’t respond to his text inviting me out again.

Lesson #8: It doesn’t matter if he has a house and a cushy job if he’s not courteous enough to pick up a small-change tab on a first date. Who knows, maybe he didn’t want to pay for the non-Asian half of me.

One of my landlord’s coworkers had been dumped earlier that year, so when he started contacting me on Facebook, I took it as more than just friendly interest. The Coworker asked me to go out for dinner to enjoy some Italian food and beer. The conversation never halted, mainly due to the fact that he filled every empty moment with stories or casual comments. We walked around downtown since Old Spanish Days, better known to locals as Fiesta, was in full swing and people were out listening to the live music, throwing confetti-filled eggs at each other, and making their way into crowded bars. I was neither excited nor upset as the date ended. Our next date was over a gelato and he kept the words flowing while I watched his gelato melt. After that, I let our Facebook communication fizzle.

Lesson #9: If the first date leaves you ambivalent, give it a second chance. Checking your watch every five minutes is not considered ambivalence.

I never considered the Skinny Dude in a Hat who frequented karaoke until he told me he’d quit smoking and drinking. I didn’t know if it was for good, but it was enough to get me to go to dinner with him one night before singing. He was a writer too and we exchanged stories we’d written. He made me laugh all through dinner and I thought his tireless wit might help me overlook the balding head under the well-worn hat. We ran into The Farmer and his date on our way into the karaoke bar and I was grateful to match him date for date. After we got inside, the ex-girlfriend of Skinny Dude in a Hat appeared. He split his time between us, which led me to believe that maybe we weren’t really on a date but that I was just his jealousy generator. I sang a duet with my friend, Mr. Wannabe American Idol, and during the instrumental, he asked me to go to coffee. I accepted. Skinny Dude in a Hat seemed surprised that I didn’t follow up on our literature swapping.

Lesson #10: If his ex just so happens to be on your date with you, you are probably a pawn in the “I want you back” game. Bald heads can be overlooked, but jealous little exes cannot.

Mr. Wannabe American Idol had offered to buy me a drink many times. I turned him down because I’m not a big drinker and also because I was only interested in him as a friend. Our coffee date turned into a gelato date since I don’t drink coffee. He impressed me by showing up half an hour late and not calling to inform me of his tardiness until I was about to leave. Besides his late entrance, I was still put off by his unusual speech patterns and perpetual smile, both of which seemed false and theatrical, much like his singing. Something about gelato makes me want to check the time, and I couldn’t wait to leave that date to go to my salsa class.

Lesson #11: Your first impression is usually right; people seldom get better with time. Especially if it’s the clock ticking as you wait for them to show up.

My salsa class turned out to be a date in disguise. A sexy, Latin Dance Machine had asked me to check out another salsa class. He was already there and told me we should go walk around since they were reviewing the basics. He asked if I wanted to go for coffee and I smiled at how I was considering drinking coffee with him when I bluntly refused to drink it with Mr. Wannabe American Idol. We ended up sitting on a bench, talking and then returning to the dance class. Our first real date was another night of dancing. He was waiting outside of the establishment and paid for both of us. We danced for hours and he bought us water during breaks. As the night waned, he asked for a ride home. He held my hand as we walked to my car and opened the car door for me. We sat and listened to music, singing to one another in Spanish and English. The Latin Dance Machine danced through my brain non-stop. My sister and my mom hadn’t met him but they were wary since he was younger than me, was not as gainfully employed, and also because he reminded them of a past relationship of mine that had ended badly. I decided to give him a fair try and he still opens my car door for me almost a year later.

Lesson #12: Listen to what your own heart and mind are telling you. Your family can only see the surface.

My landlord didn’t impress Yuki with his corn-growing skills. He harvested it too late and only had one ear that was entirely edible. The rest had black rot and worms. He had to chop off the tops of those ears to salvage the good parts.

Final Lesson: Planting seeds too close together can yield a large harvest, though only one might survive. You just have to chop the heads off the rest.

Names have been changed for the privacy of individuals mentioned.

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Amy Rideg is a software engineer in Santa Barbara. She completed a minor in English at California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo. Besides writing, she enjoys dancing, singing, and learning foreign languages. E-mail: Amy.Rideg[at]gmail.com

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