Friday, February 17, 2006

Nice but huh?

So I went to dinner with KT and Dave. I had no idea what to expect so I did my best to not think about it.

I arrived at the cafe right on time but did not recognize anyone walking between the aisles of books. I found myself feeling a bit anxious, a little excited at seeing KT again but also frustrated not knowing the context.

I positioned myself in an aisle that had a clear view of the cafe entrance. I picked up a book that only had one copy left. It is a book about a woman who disguised herself as a man and lived that way for six months. I had read a brief description about the book in Time magazine a few weeks ago and it sounded fascinating. Her conclusions were that men are caught in traditional expectations that force them to be confident than they are prepared to be.

Anyhow, as I skimmed a random page in the book, I eyed a pair of khakis walking towards me. I didn't look up at first because I wanted to be sure they were coming at me rather than walking by me. Sure enough, the pant legs paused just behind me. When I looked up I saw Larry. He was hesitant but fairly sure he recognized me. We had just enough time to greet each other when I spotted KT coming the the door.

We started chatting there on the spot. I can't recall but I think we could have stood there for sometime. I felt I had to interject and ask about dinner because my stomach had been growling ever since I circle the streets for a parking space. KT quickly suggested Spice Malay, and I happily concurred. I don't think Dave was familiar with the place.

I must walk fast because I always seemed to be in the lead as we walked the three blocks to the restaurant. Mostly, KT and I conversed as we walked. The first question I recall him asking is where my friends live. We also discussed the different Singaporean-Malay restaurants in the area. He brought up that I work in Fmt and guessed that I drove across the bridge. I say yes and added that the commute is fine since it's reverse. I then added that Gry was a far place to drive to and he responded similarly about it being a reverse commute. He further shared that he had considered transfering to a closer location but he wants to wait until he gets his seniority. It takes three years at Kr. The night air was definitely a sign that winter had returned after the two weeks of spring the area had had.

I'd like to think I was myself most of the night. There were times when I paused and questioned myself, but that was more about etiquette, such as when I reached the door first. It would have been nice to have the door opened for me but it just didn't seem like that would happen. I also took the lead on telling the host to seat the three of us.

It was a typical, rectangular table with four seats. As the first person to reach it, I took the seat against the wall. KT followed by seating opposite me while Larry sat next to him. Don't you just love the fear of proximity between the sexes.

The night lasted about 2.5 hours in total. We covered a multitude of topics and it would be unrealistic for me to attempt to review them all in detail. The best I can do is write out my thoughts as I recall them.

- sports, coaching changes and performance of EB and R teams
I mentioned the firing of the R mascot.
We discussed watching basketball games live, the success of basketball coaches, and the series of football coaches at both schools since our undergrad days.
Reminiscing about rivalry games and watching from the Hill

- ordering and food
What's the difference between Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine?
I knew the neighborhood restaurants well, but not because I eat out all the time
He said there's a good Malay place near the UC subway, so I'll have to get the name from him sometime.
KT has to remember to call home so his parents don't expect him for dinner
I cook when friends are around so the food gets eaten

- eating habits
Eating leftovers, saving half of lunch for dinner
I mentioned that I have eaten tatertots in the past as dinner. KT commented that's not a bad meal. But then I added it is when you eat them with mayonnaise

- housing, living where the single people are
Larry had seen some article on Match that said the ratio of men to women in Sunnyvale is reverse compared to most of the Silicon Valley
People had asked why KT didn't buy a place in MH, but he wants to be near single people.
Everyone he works with is married.
He hates all the high-density housing and recognizes he'll likely have to buy an older place to get the land. He still wouldn't really reveal what or where he's looking. At least I got him to admit he actually lives in Upin even though he keeps saying Syl. Larry lives on Hmtd so Upin is basically across the street.

- dating in LA versus SF
Female friends of KT's say that Bay Area guys are anti-social and LA guys are jerks
He's attended two C2A events in LA. They are much bigger than the ones here. The groups are split by geography.
He once chatted with someone he met through the event and she mistook him for someone else she had met. She started asking him about his travel to London. He said he never traveled much, only to Taiwan.
I joked about the awkward "Dead People in the Elevator" guy I once met.
Mentioned that a friend of mine is getting married to someone she met a speed dating. They seemed impressed.
KT laughed and said, "I don't know what older women talk about but I have 50 and 60-year old men who come to my office. They ask if I'm married then they tell me "don't ever get married!" He laughed because the men just seemed so unhappy and grumpy. My response to that was to tell them about this traing session I once had at a company. One of the charts explained how you shorten life expectancy depending on your choices. You know, smoking decreases life by a few years. I told them how a woman not getting married decrease their life by a year or two. On the other hand, men who don't get married lost seven years. We all laughed. I mentioned how one of my co-workers, a single guy in his mid-30s was really disturbed for a couple days. It was funny. KT, with his logic, agreed it made sense because women keep on their husbands to eat healthy.

- learning languages
KT took intermediate level Mandarin. His class included many foreign student from Asia who used chracters differently than for Chinese.
Larry joked "Do you need a tutor?" as he pointed at KT.
His parents are originally from P. His grandfather emigrated there. They tend to speak Mandarin with a Taiwanese accent though they speak another dialect at home.
He critiqued how Taiwanese are lazy when the pronounce Mandarin and how "z" and "zh" sound similar. He doesn't seem to like that his mom pronounces Mandarin with a Taiwanese accent but can't really complain since she speaks it better than him. What is it with the snobbiness about speaking correctly?
I mentioned learning French for five years when I talked about going to Europe this year for vacation. I mentioned how I try and take a vacation every year and hope to go to Asia next year. I think they nodded their heads.
He took a little French but never really kept it up. He learned Spanish on the fly and took medical Spanish at Sdo.
We all talked about how it's odd that when we can't think of a word in one language, we switch to another foreign language rather than revert to English. How does this have to do with how the brain compartmentalizes learnings?

- organizing church activities
Most of KT's time last year was consumed by leading the coordination of an annual retreat for the church. The retreat including LA sister group. They are both Chinese Catholic.
He got suckered into the job by a friend trying to pass on the responsibilities. It also meant he put off house hunting.
He had to help with fundraising and many trips to Costco.

- East Coast vs SoCal vs NorCal
LA grew on him after living there for six years. He got tired of clubbing but likes how easy it was to find places open late at night. Even SF is not as good. He admitted that LA grew on him towards the end of his years living there. Sdo was never a fond place for him. He complained that it was always brown and conservative.
KT moved to the BA from Rch when he was 12. He was old enough to recognize the cultural differences. He still feels more like an East Coast person in terms of his speech and views though he probably is more casual now. I think he likes the Bay Area and sees no reason to leave.
I explained that I'm technically a midwesterner since I was there until the age of six. KT joked, "so you enjoyed routing for the Badgers when they played the R in the Rose Bowl." He smilled as I gently cheered at the thought. He's got good humor about the whole rivalry thing. I think that mostly because of his sister.
- living at home (parental relations)
I changed subjects and said, "So you must get along well with your parents to live at home?"
KT's reaction was had to described, it was a little skeptical and a little bit of disbelief. He seemed to try and phrase it properly stating simply that he's the only child that they don't currently have issues with. He said that he's also probably somewhat of a buffer between his parents since his dad seems to like control?.
His mother still works. His dad is retired but keeps busy doing things like voluntering to teach driver's ed for AARP. His dad is also active fighting growth and construction projects in Upin.
I mentioned how my dad keeps busy with orchestra and other hobbies he's tried over the years. He asked how old my dad is. Thought about the math but say much about it.
His sister has a tough relationship with Dad because I guess he has standards. I can imagine what things must be like for her as the oldest.
Overall they're pretty good, they let him come and go as he pleases and don't constantly check on him. He's tried to offer to pay for things but he says it's probably a matter of pride that they won't accept anything from him.
He's lived at home ever since he came back to the Bay Area. He didn't expect things like the church retreat to take away all his househunting time.
He was very intrigued by the fact that I'm from Cd. I guess there are family who live in that area. He was wondering if my parents might know them. I wonder if he's as intrigued as I am about our six degrees of separation?
Somehow I mentioned my school and that four people went to R. KT immediately popped up and asked who they were. I had thought about this previously but figured he wouldn't not know them. I rattled off three names but nothing rang a bell. I added that they are all now attorneys and he agreed that they wouldn't have known each other. The fourth person did not actually end up attending R until grad school.

- siblings (dentist)
So I knew previously KT has a sister. I guess she is older because of the EB thing. It just seemed like if she nagged him about it, she had to be older. KT also has a brother.
I mentioned I have a significantly younger brother. KT asked by how much and I told them nine years. I then turned the question back on him and asked about his siblings.
His sister is two years older. They have a pretty good relationship.
He and his brother are separate by more years than me and my brother. It definitely sounds like an accident, but he couldn't get his mother to admit it.
The relationship with his brother has improved as they've gotten older. I can definitely agree that getting past college has added more common understanding of life. Still he doesn't see much of his brother because when he visits home he goes out with friends the whole time. KT was funny in recalling changing his brother's diapers and how weird it is to think about that now that he's grown up.
Somehow I mentioned that I previously lived in Blt. KT mentioned that his brother-in-law has a practice there. He then elaborated that he's a dentist. Alarm bells went off in my head but I simply figured there's a lot of dentists in Blt. I acknowledged my dentist is there. Then KT said his first name... . I immediately knew and admitted that that is my dentist. Wow, what a small world. KT continued to describe a few things about Dr.'s personality and I could totally imagine it. We talked about their kids and the office staff. He told a story about once being on the phone with his sister and hearing the girls playing in the background. A few minutes later he could hear the girls fighting. His sister turned away from the phone and complained to her husband, "S, I asked you to watch the girls for a few minutes... ." Kind of odd hearing about your dentist outside of work eh?

Larry is an only child. KT said that he doens't have middle child syndrome since his brother came so much later. I offered my perspective that my brother and I are like only children who are related. In the midst of the conversation, I reinforced how much I still appreciate having a brother because I always wanted a sibling. I risked offering my personal belief that if I have children I have to have two. I think they both were nodding their heads in agreement as I explained that I think it's important because they learn to socialize and shared.

- snowboarding
Talked a little bit about skiing and snowboarding. KT simply explained he guessed I was a snowboarder because most of his female friends are boarding these days. He's only tried twice and not recently.
Larry asked me for tips on how to be prepared for learning snowboarding. I told him there really wasn't much to say except be prepared for some frustration and a lot of sitting. That's when I remember to warn him to buy waterproof pants. KT agreed and also mentioned wearing a jacket with an inner gaiter to prevent snow from getting up your clothing.
I asked whether the church had ski trips they could join. KT looked at Larry and joked, "You're going to organize one, right?"

- Mty weekend
Towards the end of the evening, KT asked what folks were doing for the three-day weekend. He is going with a friend down to Mty for a couple days. I could never determine whether it was a man or woman because he always referred to the person as "my friend" and avoided the use of pronouns. It made me very curious. He solicited my suggestions for things to do while they were down there. I mentioned Sq, Pcg for butterflies (though it's likely too late in the season), the aquarium area, and 17. I also recommended Cream for dinner. I honestly haven't been down there in almost three years. Even Dave was wondering why I knew the area so well. I didn't think I did. Honestly, since KT is the long-time resident I was surprised he was asking me. That's why I couldn't help wonder if he was going with a girl and wanted a female perspective.
Larry is hoping to get the guys together to play tennis on Monday.

So there's all the random conversations we had. Larry was still fairly quiet and there were times I felt I was directly talking with KT, but it went well. We started to run out of steam around 9:30pm. There were several pauses, but somehow KT always found a subject to continue the conversation. Frankly, I really wanted to go home and pee. Plus, I just didn't know where this whole dinner meeting was going.

When the bill came, Dave slid it in his direction. KT then pulled his wallet out as he continued to talk. I felt awkward and pulled my wallet out so as to match their motions. At first KT dropped a $20 on the table. Larry immediately told him "no" because he owed him for a previous time. After some quibbling, he put the $20 back down. I added $16, asking if that was about right. Larry decided to take the cash and pay by credit card. KT checked the bill and threw in an extra dollar after Larry gave him my $5 bill as change. They had me take the leftovers.

We said goodnight to our waiter on left around 10pm. Outside the restaurant we pointed to the location of each of our cars. Larry looked like he was ready to dash off. KT asked if I wanted a ride to my car since I was the only one who parked near the cafe. I paused for a minute. I usually prefer to walk, but considering it was late and cold, I told him "yes."

His car was parked just to the side of the post office. I was curious to see what car he was driving. He was driving his dad's old Mercedes. As he worked to unlock the passenger door, he commented if he didn't drive it no one would. He apologized the messiness and placed some items in back so that I could sit.

The four block drive was very mellow. No one said anything for the first block. Somehow he brought back up his weekend plans. He'll stay at the Super 8. I mentioned that that might be the hotel with the nice beach location. His friend will be scuba diving so he plans to rollerblade. I showed some surprise that he was not accompanying the friend (very careful not to say he or she). I offered that maybe he could seakayak next to his buddy.

That's when we came upon my car. He just noted it was a VW. He pulled in front of it and stopped. I turned towards him, said something about dinner, and wished him a good weekend. As I shut the door, I said goodbye but don't remember seeing his face for some reason.

And that's the end of the night. Of course, I drove home perplexed. What was this evening all about?

If he had wanted a date he certainly had the opportunity with me in his car. Nothing. I'm sad about it because I do like him. He seems like a decent person. It would be nice to get to know him better and see if there's any potential. So bizarre.

Honestly I don't think I expect to hear from him again. I will hope of course, but I don't feel like I was given any indication that there would be future meetings. This whole encounter has made me question how I feel about my life, my relationships, my ability to make decisions. I experienced such elation, anxiety, hope, confusion, etc. that I haven't found in some time. I feel like it's part of me that got boxed up and put in a dusty closet this last year and some. What now?

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