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Some girls view a first date with excitement. I view first dates with dread. What if he’s a poor conversationalist? What if I have nothing to say? What if he collects the skulls of all the women he’s dated?
Admittedly, I need to stop watching Silence of the Lambs.
I drove to the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium parking lot to meet Jack for our first date, 2009’s Bay Blues Festival, my stomach was churning and I was considering exit strategies. In a blind panic, I called my best friend.
“Hello?” “What are the signs of psychosis?” “Diana, it’ll be fine. You always do this.” “I never have anything to say on these things. This is stupid.” “It’s not that bad.” “It’s ALWAYS that bad.” “Look, I’ll give you the emergency call.” “Really?” “Yes, you psycho. When do you want me to call?” “Give me 15 minutes.” “Ok, have fun.” “Seriously, 15 minutes.” “I’m hanging up now.”
I pulled into the lot to consider my options: I could keep the car running and get out of Dodge, or I could be an adult and go on the stupid date.
Jack was already in line for the Blues Festival shuttle. He seemed better looking than I remembered, and I instantly regretted not retouching my makeup. But he saw me: too late for a retreat now.
As I met his eyes, he smiled. Right, that’s why I wanted to date him. I smiled back, blankly, until his expression changed to confusion. “Um, shouldn’t we get on the shuttle?” It took me a moment to realize that the 10 people ahead of us had already taken their seats. There I was grinning at him like an idiot, blocking his path and the paths of about 30 angry blues fans behind me.
I blushed and raced onto the bus to find my seat, leaving a befuddled man following in my wake. I stammered through opening conversation and mentally ordered myself to stop blushing. We chatted about inconsequential things until the bus pulled up to the festival. Now I had a chance to redeem myself.
I sauntered over to the Media pavilion and picked up my press pass and guest pass. Jack didn’t seem to marvel at my importance. I persevered, explaining that I had interviewed Glen Marhevka, a trumpet player from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, which had earned me our tickets to the event.
We talked about our interest in swing revival music. Slipping between swaying blues fans, we found a patch of grass to claim as we continued to talk music. He had pretty good taste, and he knew who Buddy Guy was. I was beginning to relax, and he started to smile more. My cell phone rang. It had been 30 minutes, not 15. “Hello?” “Oh god, oh god, it’s a horrible emergency.” “Yes, well I’d love to talk, but I’m busy at the moment.” “I knew it!” I hung up before the smug mocking could continue.
But suddenly the crowds parted and he appeared, wading through a sea of lawn chairs with two daiquiri drinks in the ugliest plastic tiki cups I had ever seen. He handed me a fearsome-looking green cup with a plastic eye patch and earrings protruding from the glass. I thanked him and took a sip. He smiled, and I could feel that goofy grin stretching out my face again.
I still have the cup. I still have the man, too.
In spite of my multitude of neuroses, 10 months after the festival, Jack asked me to marry him. I think I said yes. Okay, maybe I shouted it. This year as the sun sets at Sandy Point State Park and Buddy Guy takes the stage, Jack and I will be there. Probably holding two more of those ugly plastic daiquiri cups.
We’re hoping to collect a set.