*Not* Dating – America (Canada), Hong Kong

I like to think that my life is just a collection of in-between stuff that doesn’t count, while the times that I travel are when I am truly alive.

Or is that my real life is simply peppered with the travel episodes, which are more like fill-ins that don’t count towards the greater narrative arc?

In any case, after some unimpressive hookups, I was ready. So ready. Travel.

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Ok it’s not the best picture of me in a suit, but just imagine…

America (plus Canada)

My biannual trip back home. Every other year, that’s plenty for me. And, my best friend was getting married!

I was the best man. It was a big deal.

I seem to always travel for weddings these days. That’s cool; it’ beats funerals.

So, I flew to Seattle. My first time in the Pacific Northwest. Over the next few weeks, I would travel to Portland and Vancouver as well (being my first time in Canada). As well as stopping by my hometown Cincinnati, of course. It was right at the cusp of 2012 and 2013, and it was damn cold. I saw winter snow again after years on end in the tropics, and I’m not quite used to it. For the most part, like the last time I went back to the real world West, it wasn’t that big a deal reacclimating.

Seattle seemed surprisingly average. I expected it to be more liberal and crazy. I don’t mean grungey stoners everywhere, but a few more rock show flyers and headshops would have been nice. Mostly it was average white people and average suburban settings, the kind the world imagines from American television.

My best friend picked me up and I proceeded to stay at his place in Tacoma. We went out to bars there, bars in Seattle, as I met his lovely fiancé and social group as we traveled around Pike Place Market, home of the world’s first Starbucks, and further lame tourism.

WP_000154Starbucks, bleh

We celebrated New Year’s watching fireworks explode atop the Space Needle among the office workers. 2012 had come and went and the world did not explode as much as I’d hope. Sure the world is always evolving, however slowly, yet cosmic paradigm-shifting Singularities may be asking for too much.

Going to my hometown to see my family was uneventful. I took a week out to fly to Cincinnati, Ohio to see my mom and dad and sister and brother and several old friends. Ate food. Saw live music. Went to more bars. Some of which in Northern Kentucky which is still greater Cincinnati. The old friends who stayed in Cincinnati tended be the kind of people who just never leave home…

Remember Gwen? It was nice to see her again. She drove me around and invited me to her house and we caught up. Hung out with her growing son… And then met her new boyfriend. I sure didn’t have the confident swagger I had back in 2010. But good for her. Since then she isn’t the most active Facebook user to keep in touch with, but I have heard that she moved to the West Coast and I support her for that.

When traveling back home, it’s all about the people you meet. Still, when traveling back home, for me, a lot of it involves bookstores. To be more specific, a lot of it involves reading comics at booksstores. One of my favorite things to do in America is to simply go to Barnes & Nobles and sit down and catch up on graphic novels.

Naruto, One Piece, 20th Century Boys, and more manga. Transformers, the classic sort. I started to get into Judge Dredd. Fables, for Vertigo fix. Justice League & Aquaman by Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder’s Batman, Wolverine & the X-Men as authored by Jason Aaron. The indie masterpiece Habibi by Craig Thompson was a favored read.

Then I flew back. The wedding was underway. My friend immediately took me to Canon Beach, Oregon. Famed for that scene in the Goonies. A beautifully scenic beach town, though too bad it wasn’t the summer. We took residence in the hotel and rehearsed and set everything up, met some familiar faces and many more new ones. It was weird to see his family in Oregon, his mom and sister who were mere background when I was a teenager and we played video games in his house. It’s weird to meet your friend’s parents when you are an adult. I never know whether to call them by their first name or not.

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Goonies forever, remember?

It was good as weddings go. I can totally rock a suit, it’s a shame I wear a tie so seldom. There was the big party. Dancing. Photos along the shore. High-pressure afterparty. Staring at the stars at night. I made a brief speech, as my duties pertained. Now, according to movies, weddings were supposed to be a good place to meet girls. Let us just say it didn’t work out that way at all for me. I was not at all at the time of my so-called game. I’m not complaining, simply taking note.

And that was about it for Canon Beach. There was another old friend in town for the wedding, a great ol’ companion who followed me to Southern California and the place ended up suiting him more than it did me. He’s still there, living the good life.

While in Oregon, me and old friend decided more travel is always a good idea and went out to explore Portland. There was the proper super-liberal town I was waiting to see. Vegan donuts and graffiti and homeless people. I really loved Powell’s Books! Funny thing about Portland, it has the highest per capita of strip clubs of any city in America. Strip clubs where couples go and girls enjoy having a drink and it’s like a normalized bar-restaurant. With naked lady dancers. Contrast that with the gay bars there; while everywhere else I’ve lived has gay bars full of hip straight people, in Portland the gay bars are for real gays only. That’s the core of what I made of the city: strip clubs full of women patrons and gay bars with men only, and I found that odd.

Moreover, don’t you love the show Portlandia?

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Literally Portlandia

An interesting anecdote crossed my path. At a certain strip club, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a face that I swore I recognized from the news. It was MCAFFEY, the antivirus entrepreneur who was accused of drug-crazed murder in Belize and had recently escaped back to the United States. I was so starstruck, and I freaked out. It’s one thing to see a random B-list celebrity on the street in Los Angeles, it’s another thing to see someone fromthe news in real life. My friend made fun of me for shrieking and making such a big deal about it. I didn’t go up and ask for a selfie together, and that may have been a bad idea considering he had probably recently killed a man. Or he would’ve hacked my phone or something.

McAfee really was in Portland in January of 2013. Look it up.

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Dating in China – Yuki, gross

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Not that this was the same time period, but here’s me in Tokyo!

I sincerely try not to judge people.

I really do. I try, and I don’t always succeed, but I try. Intellectually I know I shouldn’t be judgmental.

When it comes to sexually promiscuous women, I can be torn. On the one hand, we are all adults and we should be free to do whatever we want. Me included. Some people express themselves sexually and they are healthy about it, they want to give themselves pleasure and society shouldn’t force arbitrary rules causing unnecessary shame. It’s simple, really.

Yet, there is on the other hand: how some people seem to warrant further psychoanalyzing to see why they are having all that wild anonymous group sex. Certain peoples with issues and acting out. Can’t help but wonder what’s wrong. Or at least, can’t we be morbidly curious about why people are the way they are?

I still have some enlightening to do myself…

Honestly, I don’t even care that all that much. It’s not my business. Let me start over. This is all from a totally amoral standpoint.

I simply don’t want her to text me those pictures of her fucking multiple men, and often pictures of her fucking those multiple men at once. I’m just not into seeing that. And she kept sending them unsolicited again and again. Emails, text apps. Skanky invitations (for lack of a better term), I’d tell her to leave me alone, and she continuously pushed at me and pushed at me the most graphic sexual imagery possible.

That’s weird, right?

 

Yuki

I don’t think it was a moment of desperation or anything like that. A mere moment of playfulness. Not particularly special or anything.

Well, after online dating for so long, the odds were in my favor that eventually I’d meet someone off and the drama would begin.

So. I was single now and feeling frisky one day, as single men tend to do, and I messaged some lady on POF and said I was doing a survey on hand jobs. Rate your skill 1 to 10. Funny much?

She was apparently intrigued and messaged me back.

Yuki was my age. She’d done some kind of trading business. I know she’d been to Vegas before and was internationally-minded enough. Her ‘name’ was a Japanese (Chinese people rarely use their real names when speaking English to foreigners, they usually choose a Western name but some people do like to be called something more exotic). She wasn’t all that hot. She was curvy for a Chinese woman. She was quite willing. How was I to know it would turn out bad?

After a latenight dinner we took a taxi to my house and so on. Whatever. We met a few times after that I guess. It wasn’t like that memorable. She wasn’t supposed to have turned out to be this big a deal still bothering me today.

Some time passed, there was no indication that we should become a serious couple, and one day she asked if she could stay at my place for several days. Um, what?

She had been telling me she was looking for a new place, looking to move. She was just in-between. It happens. Or, does it?

It was terrible. I can be such a sucker. I laid out some ground rules, and I let her bring over luggages and crash. She went out to work or something in the days, and then came over at nights and left many dirty dishes and crap lying around.

Worst of all, she was always around. My whole personal routine was interrupted. I like to be alone most of the time, to be honest.

I do invite people over from time to time. I’ve written about Couchsurfing, for example. Thing about those situations though, is that there is a plan beforehand. A specific date of when the guest leaves, an endpoint.

Yuki soon overstayed her welcome and I told her she needed to get out. This wasn’t cool. She needed to get the hell out of my house.

It was hard to read this person. I mean, she’d been abroad. A moderately middle-class Chinese woman, I’d suppose. Didn’t seem like she was broke. It’s not hard to find an apartment in Shenzhen, so why did she need to be in-between like this?

Was she actually homeless, drifting from man to man’s houses? Or, just desperate for human contact?

I don’t know. I don’t want to know too much. Just stop taking advantage of me.

Then, another day a month or so later, it came eerily close to stalking.

That time she came over without warning was unacceptable. I hate when women do that. I have a routine, I need to be alone to be productive. I don’t like surprises. Sure I let her stay over, but I told her in no uncertain terms that she could never ever come over unannounced again.

When I later moved, I made it a point to not forward her my new address.

And lest you think I’m some pig rejecting an innocent Chinese girl who only wanted to be my girlfriend… Then the explicitness began.

Now, I’m not necessarily opposed to sexting. I may indulge in such from time to time. But when the unsolicited nude pictures started, and were then followed up by pictures of sex with other men’s dicks, I had to politely ask her to stop. She can be exhibitionist all she wants, but don’t I get to inform consent?

And they kept on coming. Dick pics. Other men’s dicks. More dicks. Then two dicks at once. Then a video. Then more.

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Dating – Back to Shenzhen, China!

SAM_1062A symbolically-numbered birthday, lookin lame. Note long hair at the time

 

In February of 2012 I had been living in the megacity of Guangzhou (Canton) for one year. My search for companionship had yielded mixed results. I had a bit of fun, sure. But nothing ever seemed to turn substantial, and I was getting lonely.

That, and my favorite bar had closed down. In no hurry to leave China whatsoever – I’m still here for the long haul – I decided that the path of least resistance was to go back to Shenzhen. It was the city I knew best, the city I had people in, the city that’s next to Hong Kong (while simultaneously still a Mandarin-speaking insanely developing mainland locale). I just wanted to go back.

I went over and spent a day apartment-hunting. First I had some bad results from online recommendations, then I simply utilized those real estate office guys you see around, and I found the perfect flat in the middle of the city. I soon met the landlord, signed the lease, and went back to GZ that very night and moved in a week later.

It was the best apartment I’ve ever lived in. I stayed there are year-and-a-half, which is quite long for me. For whatever reasons, I tend to move a lot. About every year I get anxious and seek out a better place to live. Yet, so far, I haven’t found anything better that that amazing apartment. Sigh, I do miss that place.

It suited me. Unlike other places I’ve lived in China, it wasn’t too glamorous. The place had character. It was, of course, cheap. It was a one-bedroom and living room, roomier than those big one-rooms. The building had no elevator, but that’s okay I lived on the first floor. It was close enough to downtown, but just a bit outwards of Futian District in the quieter Meilin neighborhood. There was a subway station nearby with a line led directly to the Lok Ma Chau border to Hong Kong. And only a 30 yuan latenight taxi ride to the obvious weekend haunts of Coco Park. It had everything going for it.

I unpacked. I redecorated. Life went on. I got a gym membership in the area, I biked around and explored and discovered my new favorite restaurants. I celebrated my birthday with a few friends. I met new people and hung out with some Couchsurfers; with my conveniently-located new apartment I could host and invited more than a few travelers to stay with me.

My writing was kinda-maybe starting to take off, and I kept myself busy freelancing. I visited Guangzhou a few times, on assignment of sorts for a magazine. Mostly, I worked on my novel and slowly but surely I was to take that more seriously. It was a productive time in my life.

Oh, and I traveled to Taiwan. (I traveled to Japan the most recent trip, by the way. I apparently skipped that part in previous writings. Well there was no hooking up to be had there. That trip to Taiwan was the last time I both stayed in a hostel and stayed at a Couchsurfer’s, with the coming of a symbolically-yeared birthday I decided I was too old for this kind of backpacking travel…)

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Dating – Rejected in Guangzhou

at local gz pub, stay positive olives
At local GZ pub, with olives. Gotta stay positive

Dating in China, blah blah. More often than not it was Rejected in China. Especially during my Guangzhou Year.

Everyone seemed to be doing fine hooking up, yet I always found myself to be wrought with challenges in this game.

People all assume that it’s so easy to be an expat in China. There are advantages to be sure, I admit my privilege. However, honestly I get rejected by local girls all the time.

What can I say? I really put myself out there. That means taking risks. That sometimes means embarrassing yourself, falling on the hard dirt face-first, and somehow finding the strength to do it all over again next weekend. Did I learn anything?

There was the girl who made out with me while my friend was visiting and texted me all the time, yet she would never make the time to meet one-on-one for a date. There was the second date with the Sandy when she slept over at my place and we massaged each other in the morning and then she told me she’s seeing someone else. There was the girl I approached outside in the street who turned out to run a bar in Panyu, and we as per usual made out in a club and then I went to her bar and I could never get her alone again. There was my cute Italian friend, one ambiguous friendship with that flirting tension in the air and nothing ever came of it. The American (from guess where, Florida) who was really into graphic cybersex with me and then by the time we met in person she was constantly talking about her new boyfriend. The Japanese language teacher friend who rejected my advances multiple times. The girl I met while backpacking in Tokyo, who liked me when we were chatting and showed me around in person but wouldn’t let me stay at her place during my travels. I even met a girl who owned a manga shop in Yuefu and I thought she just might be my soulmate, but she evidently thought there were no sparks at all; this was when I began formulating my theory that too much in common is not good for attraction.

Off the top of my head, two girls especially come to mind, of whose rejections were particularly hurtful–

 

Josephine

Josephine. I really liked her. Slim and glamorous. She knew her fashion. A French major, a Europhile. She was meant for greater things than me…

I met her at the big nightclub in Zhujiang New Town. She wore a sexy black dress. I used a great opening line about looking like a drug dealer and pretending people were asking me if I was holding, wondering what she thought of my looks. She laughed, we exchanged numbers.

We had pizza for dinner one day and I bought her a stuffed animal, and she started talking about her boyfriend.

“Isn’t this a date?” I forwardly asked, though trying not to come across as resentful.

“Um…”

I never did get a goodbye kiss from her.

I tried to stay friends with her.

Somehow, her number got lost as I upgraded phones throughout the seasons and I no longer have her contact info. It would be nice to know what she’s up to. Just to be friends on Wechat, see her posts occasionally, not bug her all the time or anything.

Josephine, are you out there?

 

Seline

Probably the most drama I had in my entire Guangzhou era was with Seline.

Now, I met her indirectly through Couchsurfing. But let me assure you that I never ever use the crucial travel-and-networking website as a hookup thing. That is strictly against my code. This was the only time I kinda-sorta broke that code.

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Dating in China – GZ edition: Kendra

Dating in China continues, with my crazy Guangzhou Year.

It was a struggle at first to make friends when I moved to the suburban Panyu District. Wasn’t much of a foreigner scene in my neighborhood; I wasn’t lucky enough to immediately be introduced to cool neighbors like when I first moved to Shenzhen. I often used Guangzhoustuff.com, our local social networking portal, and knew a lot of bars and various interesting places to go. I am open to making Chinese friends, by the way, but I must be honest and admit I usually hang out with Chinese people who speak fluent English and are in the expat scene. For the Nth time, that’s why my Mandarin is passable yet not that fluent-good.

One of the first people I met wasn’t through Gzstuff.com at all, but through Pof.com. Wouldn’t you know? As far as the big free dating websites go, Okcupid seems to be more for relationships and Pof (stands for plenty of fish) seems to be more for *ahem* simply getting laid.

It’s all about the scarcity. In my experience, Okcupid has too much detail. When you fill out all those questionnaires, and endlessly list your favorite music and favorite movies and favorite books, it’s more about friendship than forging attraction. Too much in common is great, but somehow doesn’t usually work when it comes to animal attraction. Honestly I’ve become platonic friends with girls I met on Okcupid more than once, and that’s fine even if not the point.

On the other hand, the brevity of Pof makes for projection and fantasy, which are key qualities in attraction. Just tell barely enough about yourself to get people interested in more. That’s the trick. Guess I could say I had more than a bit of ‘success’ in my Pof escapades…

Anyway, I met Kendra. I met some Chinese girls too in those early days. Later I will go on and on about more people I met throughout the year. Allow me to focus on Kendra for now.

She was from Florida. She was quite curvy. She had energy. She was in a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend back home, and she was in an open relationship with him (and I did not feel guilty at all in this instance). She was wild. She was the first girl I was with since I broke up with Zoey. We celebrated my birthday and got very drunk and stayed in hotels and lots of stimulating conversation.

She was ambitious with her own writing goals, and I don’t think she’s written much anything of merit lately. She was a feminist. Outspoken. Spunk. She was a sensualist. She reinforced my negative prejudices on Florida. She was crazy.

 

First date

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