Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Giants of Basketball Style: Lawrence "Long Socks" Moten

I'd like to take a timeout from the usual subject matter of this blog to pay tribute to a true Giant of Basketball Style: Lawrence Moten. Despite barely making a ripple in the NBA, Moten still holds the men's Big East career scoring record. He poured in the points for the Syracuse Orangemen (now just the "Orange") from 1991 to 1995, inspiring an adolescent me with his unconventional game and fashion.

The early and mid-90's were not a time when those who wore knee-high socks were looked upon with favor. I faced this prejudice as a member of my 6th grade traveling basketball team in '89-'90. My refusal to push my socks down and meticulously shape them into a "casual" appearance isolated me from my peers. (Well, that and the total lack of confidence.) Still, though, I persevered in my lonely, principled stand until the following year, when I began middle school and immediately repressed everything that made me stand out.

At least I could take comfort in seeing Lawrence Moten on TV, rocking the knee-highs all alone and scoring with ease. He looked so cool with those long, white socks accentuating his slender, 6'5" frame. As a chunky, 5'11" white guy, I knew I would never look that cool in those socks, but still I kept a pair or two through high school. By the time I got to college, I had the confidence to regularly pull them all the way up and stand alone on the court (in style terms). Without the shining example of Lawrence Moten, I doubt I would've had the courage to make that bold fashion choice. So here's to you, Mr. Moten, and your amazing socks!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Near Misses

My back has been in revolt since yesterday afternoon. That's when the lumbar region tightened up, rendering moot the idea of doing yoga. I'd already done the full regimen of lower back stretches in the morning. Such are the dangers of lifting a lawn mower into and out of a car trunk about 20 times a week. (My only job right now is mowing lawns for seniors as a nominally independent contractor who gets all his clients from a non-profit.)

Since I can't work out today, I have more time to write, so I can fill y'all in on my latest romantic misadventures. The title of this post is a spoiler, though. These are only tales of blown opportunities, which have always comprised the lion's share of my love life. Hopefully, I'm learning from my mistakes, or this story will get old real quick.

The first incident was a few weeks ago at Galactic Pizza in Uptown. I rarely go in there, so I figured I'd check out their dining experience on a Wednesday evening. I sat on a padded bench with a bunch of tables along it, like an old-fashioned diner. A while after I arrived, a girl sat down at the end of the bench, two spots from me. However, almost immediately after sitting down, she picked up and moved to my other side, right next to me.

Instantly, I'm thinking, "Jackpot!" And, yes, that's because she looked very cute. What followed, though, was an extremely frustrating half-hour of near-flirtation. In my peripheral vision, she appeared to be glancing at me, but every time I turned to face her, she looked away. She was also very fidgety, which I took to be a sign of intense interest and also, perhaps, a shy, nervous disposition. Since this is a disposition to which I'm also subject, I tried not to count it against her.

I accepted the fact that I would have to make the first (direct) move. But there was a young woman and her mother sitting within earshot, and I was quite self-conscious about hitting on a woman in front of such an audience. (Maybe I'd be less hesitant to hit on women if it weren't called "hitting on." Why the violent imagery? It's hard enough to do without the implication of assault.)

The only line I could think of was the oldest one in the book: "Do you come here often?" That made me especially sensitive to the presence of the other people, but, even if I'd come up with a perfect line, I doubt I would've been anymore eager to use it.

After paying the bill, I lingered over my glass of water and notebook. (I'd been writing before my food came.) A burst of courage/desperation came on as I realized that the clock was ticking down, but I couldn't do it. I got up and left, turning to look in the window as I walked by. Of course, by then, when it was too late, she was staring right back at me.

Charlie Brown has a word for this feeling: "AUUUGHHH!!!" It was so frustrating, and she was so cute, that, for just the second (maybe third) time in my life, I posted a "Missed Connection" on craigslist. I even put a picture of myself with it. That's not an easy thing for me to admit, but, like all us confessional comedians, I'm hoping the humor of it will justify the public humiliation. (I also have to admit that I found many of the other Missed Connections hilarious, although those people seem to be in much more dire emotional straits than I.)

The second, and final, incident took place over Pride weekend in downtown Minneapolis. I decided to take in the Brave New Workshop's latest revue. Again, I was alone (a recurring theme in my work and life) and sitting behind a bachelorette party. However, this wasn't a stereotypical bachelorette party. The women were quite well-behaved. The only sign of rowdiness came during the improv set, when one girl made some loud (PG) suggestions for the performers.

One of the party girls caught my eye. I glanced at her throughout the show, but I never caught her looking at me. Afterward, I was walking along Hennepin and her party was behind me. In fact, the girl I had my eye on was directly behind me and accidentally (apparently) kicked my foot. She apologized and, without looking back, I brushed it off. We stopped at an intersection and she repeated her apologies. I turned around to reassure her and she gave me the arm-touch (by which I mean she touched my forearm).

That was the "Eureka!" moment. A few seconds passed while I contemplated my next move. Unfortunately, while I was contemplating, her group headed off in another direction. If not for that momentary delay, I could've easily attached myself to their merry band. But after that I would've had to give chase, a less-than-appealing proposition for a solitary man.

Discouraged, I continued to the elevators in Mayo Clinic Square (formerly Block E) to return to my car. Rather than take them down to the parking garage, though, I mustered the courage to go back out into the night in a long-shot attempt at salvaging something meaningful from that evening. There was a self-consciously unrealistic hope of tracking down the bachelorette party, but really it was just a way to convince myself that I hadn't totally wussed out (again).

I walked down First Avenue toward the Warehouse District, passing by the packed bars and clubs and the people trying to get into or out of them. Most of the people looked to be in their 20's and very physically attractive. But eye candy was all that scene had to offer me. Some casual sex would've been nice, but I had no interest in picking up any of those girls. The noise was deafening wherever I went, and few of the women looked like they were interested in the same things as me. (Of course, considering my preppie attire, I probably didn't look like I was interested in any of the things that I'm interested in. Except sports.)

I've never actually engaged in casual sex, and one of many explanations for that is the bullshit you usually have to go through to get there. Even at the end of the night when I'm usually wallowing in regret, I didn't feel that bad about missing the boat with the bachelorette party girl. She'd sounded a few sheets to the wind already, and drunk people are not my favorite people to be around. Also, "Bachelorette Party" is one of the deepest circles in my personal Hell, so I wasn't really chomping at the bit to hang out with them.

The first situation at Galactic Pizza was by far the better scenario. At least I've gotten to a place where I can accept the possibility that such a cute girl would be interested in me. Now all I need is the additional confidence (and wherewithal) to strike up a conversation.