Spark

When I came up with this idea back in March I was mostly confident I could pull it off (,mostly), but honestly I wasn’t sure what would come of it.  Would I get a couple proposals and be forced to cancel or just take a road trip with lots of gay bars involved?  Would I find someone on the very first date who would make me swoon and think of nothing else but him for the next 29 days?  Would I be stood up on more dates than not and consider the project a failure?  There were so many possibilities, and the one that actually ended up coming into reality never even registered on my radar at the time.
I met for the very first time 31 extraordinary and unique individuals from every possible walk of life from 20 to 46.  Only one individual stood me up (we’re still not quite sure why) which I think is a wonderful testament to how seriously everyone took what I was trying to accomplish:  To show that gay dating wasn’t dead (not even on life support)… To help people trust in the idea of a “blind” encounter without being terrified about looks and physicality… To help folks, including myself, think outside the box when it comes to love and realtionships… and maybe to find the Spark.

The Spark:  I would define the spark as the almost instantaneous subconscious assurance that the man/woman in question fits that special place in your heart.  It’s nothing you can earn, adapt to, gain, or work towards.  It’s either there or it isn’t.  Love and Lust at first sight it is not… (More than one person has asked me if I’ve found Love at First Sight… and I said this:  “I haven’t yet, but I have a very good feeling I will soon.”).  Those are about the physical as they touch your heart… The Spark is more than that as it encompasses all facets of a person.  I’ve had this “feeling” three times before this trip after the first full interaction with a potential dating partner, and I can assure you it’s an amazing feeling:  intoxicating, hopeful, insane, and magical.  A lot of people know what I’m taking about (I’m saying that as to not appear to be a complete loon-bird).

On this trip I did feel The Spark, and with that feeling I ended up shifting to Plan B (Spark Plan):  follow your heart.  So that’s what I’ve done since…  I still don’t know where the Spark is going to take me, or if in one month, two, three, a year I’ll be ready to permanently give vows to that person for the rest of my life (but if I were a betting man in Vegas…).  I realize my life has been an open book up until this point, and as I close this blog and begin a new journey (and new blog) I want to thank everyone who participated with me along the way.  I also realize that I’m not exactly forthcoming with many details about who is the lucky new man in my life, but that is so we can take things one day at a time for ourselves.  It was never a foregone conclusion that I was going to find someone to love on this adventure.  You can date 10, 50, 100 people and never find love or the spark… or you can find it in the very first person who touches your heart.  It’s never a numbers game, and thirty was just a number.  The individuals who were kind enough, gracious enough, and adventurous enough to take a leap and go out with me in each city are not simply numbers (they were only entered into my phone that way for the purposes of logical organization), they’re wonderful people and hopefully all 31 of them will stay my friends.

If you’re reading this and you’re interested in the take-away message I’d say this:  Take chances in life but don’t be upset if they fail, push the worries of the physical further back in your mind when meeting new people, be happy with yourself being single before letting yourself out to date, and after you’ve taken a few chances… take a LOT more.  If you find happiness… don’t let people tell you how you’re feeling.  Your feelings are yours, and no one gets to tell you otherwise.  I thank everyone for sharing his journey with me, it’s been an absolute pleasure.  -The End

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The 31st Date…

And on the 31st Day… Kevin flew to Beijing China.  Some folks when they first heard this on Halloween when I disclosed this little twist (or big twist depending on how you look at it) thought “oh wow, he just picked up and flew to China, he’s amazing.”  Trust me, I’m not that amazing.  This was actually in the works since the day before “30 dates” began.  I’d love to be able to show up at an airport and say, “I’m Kevin, send me to China,” but alas, that’s not how life works.  You need to apply for a visa in person from the consulate in the region of the country within which you live, and that was going to be a problem for me since I was going to be in many many regions of the country in the month of October.  So praise be with my sister who very kindly offered to take care of my paperwork for me while I was dating 31 different individuals.  But it just dawned on me… you have no idea WHY I would go to such lengths to be on a plane bound for the orient on Halloween.
When I sorted through the 1000 proposals to start this journey I came across two that stuck out above the rest as ones that “spoke to me.”  One of those literally spoke directly to me since he had “known” me for two years, sadly that disqualified him from participation in the 30 dates because I’m a stickler for the rules.  The other was someone I didn’t recognize from their proposal (but who I would later come to recognize after an odd set of circumstances), and I was very eager to have him be my date in Washington D.C.  Unfortunately for me his plans since putting in an incredibly thoughtful and moving proposal had changed due to a snafu requiring him to be overseas during the entire month of October.  On the 29th of September we had a two hour phone call, because he was no longer capable of being a part of “30 dates” and I felt I owed it to him to at least speak with one of the two best proposals I received.  During that phone call a seed was laid down in my brain… I’m a moderately resourceful human being, and by-golly (no one uses this phrase anymore hence why I’m choosing to resurrect it) I was capable of carrying through with that date if I wanted to.  Unbeknownst to “Date 31,” as we spoke I was searching the inter-web for the ability to fly to China on Halloween.  Was it doable? Yes.  Did I do it.  Yes!
Fast forward 31 days and we come to 4pm EST Halloween day at JFK airport.  I departed the US, visa in hand for one final date.  30 had become 31 with the former being completely in the States and the later the only international (now come on folks, did anyone who knows me well really think I’d be able to resist the temptation to travel overseas as a part of this adventure???).  One hour to Boston, Two hours to Chicago, Thirteen hours to Beijing, and there I was… standing in front of Date #31 in the arrivals lane (I had hoped he would hold up a sign with my name on it, he said he thought about doing it which made me smile).  It was an awkward time to start a date, or dating process since it was almost 1 in the morning Beijing time.  He had to work the next day which made that difficult for a date as well.  I had jet-lag in a severe and almost crippling way which then ruined that night.
The story isn’t much more exciting beyond that.  I choose political returns for the election (which occurred early Wednesday morning our time) to be the first time we’d sit together, have a glass (or a lot) of wine and get to know each other.  Lesson learned:  don’t watching political returns with someone you are on a date with, it’s a dumb idea.  Talking politics is fine, participating in it’s holiest day isn’t.  In the end there really wasn’t much to say.  We weren’t at all compatible from the point of view of dating, or as it turns out from the point of view of friendship.  Odd since what had been written in that proposal spoke so strongly to me at the time.
We went our own separate ways, and I personally ran completely and totally out of steam.  I was spent!  And spent on the other side of the planet no less.  In the remaining days in China I fasted, meditated, medicated, took exotic potions, slept, fasted some more, slept some more, tripped out for at least 12 hours, and then returned… returned to Earth and to the U.S.  It was time to make some choices…  -Kevin

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Bird in Hand

Have you all seen the Geico Commercial that pokes fun of Antiques Roadshow?  It is quite possibly my favorite commercial of all time.  When that black woman reacts to her antique being worth “two in the bush” I nearly pee myself.  So when my date told me we were headed to Bird in Hand, PA in order to take our Balloon Ride I laughed quite instantly.  “No, seriously, where are we going?”  There actually is such a place!
Bird in Hand, PA is in fact named after that age old phrase referring to what you have being as good or better as what you may possibly find down the road (in the case of the settlement of the town in 1734).  Bird in Hand is a thriving Amish and Mennonite community with a delectable restaurant (yes that was the dinner my date took me too).  All the food served at the restaurant is local from nearby farms and generations old recipes, and it also has a fantastic family appeal (and we all know how I feel about families :-)
My date was adventurous and chose the all you can eat “super” buffet.  I was much more conservative (slowing down in my old age on date 30) and picked the ham-loaf (something I’ve never had before — does anyone have a good ham-loaf recipe cause it was damn good).  It was my last dining experience of the 30 dates, and it was a great one.  Hometown cooking, in a unique venue found no where else in the world… all a dating Kevin could ask for.  Visit Bird in Hand if you’re ever in the neighborhood.  -Kev

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Balloon Boy

A Balloon Ride… It’s quite an amazing experience to feel like you’re floating over a gorgeous countryside.  My very first balloon ride ever was a complete success.  I felt just like the “balloon-boy” except I was actually in the balloon, and wasn’t going to get any publicity for crashing the balloon into an amish barley field.  Both my date and I were just so amazed at how peaceful and awe-inspiring it was.  You could wave to families from the basket as you flew overhead, scare the crap out of birds and livestock, and the balloon itself actually gives off a high pitched frequency that only dogs can hear (who knew?).  It’s a phenomenal way to get very close to someone and share a “magical” experience.  Technically there isn’t any magic involved since hot air rises, and cold air descends, but I don’t think that should stop you from considering a hot air balloon ride.
One thing I found interesting was that you have to take off and land with the help of several “helpers” while you sit in the basket trying to hold yourself inside so that a dreadful balloon disaster doesn’t occur tossing you out to the ground.  It’s really not as tough as I may make it out to be, but when we crashed into that field we did make a trail of destruction rather long.  If you click the picture of the balloon up top you can watch the video of the experience :-)  -Kev

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The View from Up Here

I’m a firm believer in man-made beauty.  One of my favorite views is the sun showing the red hues of sunset side-scattered off the Hong Kong skyline as seen from Victoria Peak.  Above was the start of my date in Pittsburgh, a gorgeous view on a day promising amazing weather.  Day 30 and the journey was coming to an end.  This was one of my date’s favorite places in the city (he’d only lived in Pittsburgh for two years after moving to attend Carnagie Melon).  No one had ever told me Pittsburgh was so beautiful a city, set in the cradle of the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers as they combine to form the Ohio River.  As seen from Mt. Washington (the view above) it looks like the perfect cityscape: neat, centralized, and elegant… bathed in rivers and symmetrically beautiful.  City vista… a great place for a walk and talk.  To bad we neither had time to walk nor talk… we were late for a balloon date.  -Kev

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Only YOU can prevent Wildfires

I was a firebug in high school.  Whenever our class would do historical reenactments of early European settlers and Native American tribes I always insisted on being the guy who tended the fire.  I love watching campfires burn, and still to this day enjoy the smell of burnt wood on my clothes (not to be confused with cigarette smell in your clothes… I’m talking to you states that haven’t passed the indoor smoking ban yet).  The suggestion to spend our last hours together with the flakey Paula Dean style apple pastry we made with a campfire by the city lights was perfect.  He even brought a self contained fire bowl so that our flames (fanned heavily by night time winds) would not burn out of control and destroy the entire city.  30 Dates, 30 Days, 30 Cities, 1 Fire.  I spent a lot of time on these 30 dates with low cost, high romantic value solutions to dating questions.  In fact some of the best experiences I had during this time were free.  Just a good idea, the right mood, and of course stimulating conversation.  -Kev

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Aunt Lucy’s Delicious Flakey Buttery Paula Dean Crusted Apple Surprise

To look at this photo again after days have gone by since I ate it It sorta looks like alien vomit.  I guess you had to be there to get the smell of the whole operation to get a sense for how amazing it was.  Freshly made spinach pasta, local onions, urban farmed swiss chard, sweet potatoes, West Side Market cheeses, and apples from the nearby orchard (we were going to go picking the apples ourselves as a romantic activity however the orchards stopped up-pick days before I arrived).  So we tossed these ingredients up into the air and when they landed on the table (with a bottle of New Zealand wine) it looked like that… For desert we used the remainder of the apples to make a sweet pastry dish which was to be for the next and last phase of our date, campfire overlooking cleveland.  -Kev

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Urban Gardening

My date in Cleveland practices urban gardening (growing vegetables and crops within city limits).  Cities in the rust belt are finding themselves with an overabundance of unused, vacant land.  Of course not all this land can be used to grow a vegetable garden, but there are some places where it can be done, and this is an example of how to get locally grown, fresh produce even when you live in a densely populated area.  I think about it like this… would you rather buy a fistful of radishes (radishes are measured in fistfuls you know) from an urban farmer who pulled them out of the ground 3 miles from where you live earlier that day or from a trucked in California uber-farm.  This is my push for sustainable local agriculture.  I know organic is a big buzz word now-a-days, but if you read up on what organic farming actually is you’ll find a crock of crap behind the whole thing (literally, they use crap as fertilizer).  Local agriculture is just like having your own garden in your backyard, and like your backyard garden you need to be mindful of seasons.  In Cleveland like where I grew up in central New York (we had a garden out back, and my parents still do) it gets very cold and snowy in the winter.  Not much grows, but that just means to be supporting local agriculture you would need to get more creative.  This year my mother and I made our own spaghetti sauce out of all the leftover vegetables in the garden.  That way our pasta meals over the winter (when we fatten up for hard times) will have been grown right out back.  Just some things my date and I had talked about which I thought I’d share with you.  Two big pushes I’ve been on in the last two months:  Sustainable local agriculture… and eating Lionfish (they’re excellent).  -Kev

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Relics and Pixie Sticks… Seriously!

Let’s define our terms:  A Relic (in Catholic tradition) is a piece of the physical body of one of “God’s Servants” placed in a special housing (usually of artisanal construction) for use in ceremony, worship, and ritual.  A Pixie stick is a sugary candy sucked through a faux straw.  Relics have traditionally taken the form of a piece of bone, the remains of blood, and my personal favorite, the foreskin relic.  Pixie sticks come in flavors such as grape, orange, and of course maui punch.  A Pixie stick is something you eat, and a Relic is something you worship.  One is made of “mostly” organic material and the other is what used to be organic material.  Where is the intersection?  What is he talking about?  And why is there a photo of a scarecrow above?
Both can be found within just feet of each other at the Botanical Gardens of Cleveland and Cleveland Museum of Art.  I’ll let you guess where the sugary sweets are located and where the foreskins can be found.  I’ve always loved museums and gardens.  Both are usually peaceful places where you can absorb some knowledge/culture and usually lend themselves to specific memories.  For example, in the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art I remember seeing several amazing pieces but the one burned into my mind is the anatomically correct papier mache models living in a torture chamber with harsh red lighting (jeez, what does this say about me?)  The experience at the botanical gardens in Cleveland will always be one of huge containers of pixie sticks, while the exhibit across the road on foreskins in a box also attracted my attention.  So there you have it, one date in Cleveland to be remembered through two totally unrelated objects.  Memory by association.  -Kev

p.s. if you want the pixie sticks at the gardens you have to ask the Librarian :-)

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What’s Hot in Cleveland?

Our Cleveland date began with cheese!  In preparation for a wonderful dinner we were to cook together my date drove me over the Guardians of Transportation to the West Side Market for fresh ingredients.  Lunch was “the best falafel known to mankind” in the words of my upbeat date.  It was a damn good falafel and the conversation was good as well.  Discussing urban farming, sustainable agriculture, and raw meats.  My date is employed by a local group which works with youths engaged in urban farming.  There were raw carrots freshly harvested in his car giving the vehicle a very pleasant scent.  So my first recommendation from my Cleveland experience is to ditch those outdated christmas tree car air fresheners and get a freshly harvested carrot instead.
The West Side Market began operation in Cleveland in 1840 and has been going strong ever since.  The feeling inside is of a European style gathering place with individual stalls holding fresh items vendors prepared earlier that morning.  It’s like the supermarket, only infinitely better, giving shoppers a much better sense of where their food is coming from.  What’s Hot in Cleveland?  Three words:  Sweet Potato Scones!  -Kev

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