This post is about meeting a first date in a book store.

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This happened to me a few years ago. A book store seemed like a good place because if my date happened to be late (traffic, finding parking or whatever) I could browse around and I wouldn’t look conspicuous just waiting on some street corner like a hooker or in some cafe sipping a cup of coffee hoping that I won’t be stood up.

I had suggested meeting by the travel section on the second floor of a bookstore that was mid-way between where he lived and I did.

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I didn’t see him when I got there and so I took out a book on Nepal and looked at the pictures. Ten minutes, then fifteen minutes passed. Twenty minutes is usually my maximum before I leave.  Then, I spotted him at the pen section.

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As with many first dates, there is always that awkward moment before you acknowledge recognition of each other.

“Hi,” You must be Mead.

“Hi,” he said barely looking up from the collection of pens before him.

“I was waiting for you by the travel section. Isn’t that where we said we’d meet?”

He glanced across the room. “Just checking the prices,” he said. “These are way overpriced.”

I shrugged. I didn’t know much about the cost of pens. In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to that opening remark.

We roamed around the bookstore, looking at travel books and talking about places we’d been to or would like to go to, figuring out what kind of traveler each of us was. Most people put on their profiles (myself included) that they like to travel. But wanting to travel and actually doing it are two different things. Just as how you like to travel. I’m not much of a roughing it in the bush kind of traveler. Nor do I bend towards pre-packaged travelling.

After we’d discovered that we had “travel” in common, we went on to the fiction section of the book store. Mead liked to read detective stories. I told him that I wrote crime novels and we had a short conversation about that. When he learned that I’d still not been published (at least not in that area) he lost interest and went back to the outrageous prices of pens.

In spite of this, there were things I liked about him. At least enough to see him again for a second date which turned into a third until finally we were in some kind of nebulous “relationship”. In the end, things didn’t turn out so well between us and I ended up transforming him into a character in my book Missi’s  Dating Adventures.

Here’s a short passage from it:

He had this annoying habit of quoting prices of things he bought. His iPad and iPhone. Cheeses and bottles of olive oil.  Cleaning products for the bathroom and kitchen. Vacuum cleaner bags, candles, coupons for car washes, shoes, blankets. Armani towels. Fifteen dollars. On sale.  When he showed me his basement which was warehouse packed with so much stuff I didn’t dare comment on anything for fear that I might find myself having to listen to his rambling off on prices like an auctioneer.  In his den, off his bedroom, he showed off his new Apple TV. Ninety nine dollars. No tax. Bought in New Hampshire.

One thing Mead had was a great library filled with classical literature and some very good modern fiction. I do tend to have a soft spot for a man who likes to read.

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“Have you read all these?” I asked him.

“Not yet,” he said.

“None of them?”

“Actually, I do intend to get around to reading them.”

So, books for Mead were nothing more than decor. Or pretense.

“At least,” I said, “Books are tax-free.”

Of course the story doesn’t end here.  It is part of a collection titled Missi’s Dating Adventures.  You can read part 3 of the story by clicking here:  I Heard it Through the Tea Leaves




When I meet a man for the first time I tend to focus on what’s wrong with him. Call it sabotaging or relationship anxiety or simply that  even though I do want a man in my life I sometimes fear that he might take up too  much of my time and I will have to forgo my dreams. In fact, this is so much part of my inner making that The Dating Club, the novel I am writing, circles around the theme of a woman having to choose between her career or the man she loves.

So, I tell myself -and in this I do not think my mind is in either panic nor disillusioned mode – I believe that a man in my life ought to make it better and not worse. Naturally, as self-preservation, I look immediately for the worse. Why waste time?

Instead of seeing a good heart, an exciting mind and a man pursuing his own remarkable dreams, I see the physical faults which are enough to stop me from going beyond the surface.

I don’t think that I am alone in this and men probably suffer more from this syndrome than women do.

For these reasons, I think that going to see art is a good first date and an antidote to this OMG I hope it’s not him.

Not long ago, I told a friend about how I thought artists have a difficult time making a living because art, unlike food, for example, is not a necessity.

“Art is a necessity,” he said.

Hmm.  That made me reflect and wonder in which way art was as necessary as our daily bread.

The website http://painterskeys.com/  contains a huge resource of art quotations. I was most interested in seeking those regarding the purpose of art and found as example:

Art has no other purpose than to brush aside the conventional and accepted generalities, in short everything that veils reality from us, in order to bring us face to face with reality itself. (Henri Bergson).

Now that’s an interesting first date discussion bound to get you beyond the superficiality of the size of the man’s ears standing before you and dig into his own reality.

One of my favorite contemporary artists is Louise Carrier Nichols.

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Her art, reminds me of what Edgar Degas had to say about art: Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

Her art makes me see beauty. Looking at something beautiful can help us see the beauty in the person we are with.

Bob Dylan had this to say about art: The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for any one but inspire them?

Why not look for the beauty in the person? And inspire him or her to see that beauty in themselves?

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I once read something by a writer who, I now unfortunately forget his name, said that their life was their art. He didn’t mean it like I couldn’t live without being able to paint or sculpt. But rather that his day-to-day life was his art. The painter Barbara  Cook Spencer reiterated this in more detailed terms:

Art is what each of us is, deep inside – our own beauty. And while we remain related to our fellow-man by those infinite qualities we all share, our art is what makes us different. Art is expressed in the way we cook, arrange flowers, place furniture, raise our children, chair a meeting, close a business deal, or gather our friends. It’s having our own voice. We challenge drabness and boredom by resisting the pressure of comparison and preserving our own individual beauty.

I think relationships can also be works of art. Why not?  What do you think?



Ten Great First Dates: Walk on the Other Side

An interesting first date, I find,  is to visit each other’s neighborhood. When Andre, a man I met online,  suggested that we go for coffee I counter suggested that we walk around his neighborhood, Saint Henri. I told him about my blog regarding Top Ten First Dates. He happily agreed.

It was in Saint Henri that one of Canada’s greatest authors, Gabrielle Roy, set her famous novel The Tin Flute, translated from the French Bonheur d’occasion. The novel depicts the grinding poverty of working-class families of Saint Henri in this post WWII industrialized section of Montreal and won several awards, including the Governor General’s Award, the Prix Femina in France and made into a movie in 1983. Truly a great novel.

I had read the novel in university and again a few years back and so one of the first things I asked Andre when I met him in front of the Lionel Groulx subway station was, “Are there any historical sites of Gabrielle Roy’s Saint Henri?”

“I don’t know,” Andre said, “But I can take you to see a B&B by the name of Bonheur d’occasion.”

As I followed him west we came across this plaque out of nowhere. I looked around to see if perhaps there might be a historic house, perhaps the house of Florentine, the unforgettable character of The Tin Flute or the snack bar where she worked and met the tragic love of her life, Jean Levesque. But there was nothing but this:


It started to rain and we both took out our umbrellas, his black, mine orange. “Do you mind continuing our walk?” I asked.

“Not at all,” he said. I was happy to hear that, although I knew that the rain would affect my photos. Nonetheless, we continued to walk and chat and I continued to take photos.

To get to the B&B we went through Saint Henri Square.  “I come here to write,” said Andre, “because it is so quiet.”  It reminded me of squares I’d seen in Savannah. The park had a wonderful fountain in its center surrounded by bright red park benches.


The B&B  was across the street from the square.

“It used to be one of the most prestigious B&Bs in Montreal,” Andre said as we scuttled through the Friday afternoon drizzle. I could see why.


“But it’s now been sold into condos.”

Saint Henri is considered one of the poorer sections of Montreal, ironically adjacent to Westmount, one of the richest.

Much of Saint Henri still remains poor today although among the dilapidated buildings are some charming homes such as this one and the outside staircases so typical of Montreal.



As we continued our walk,  I learned that Andre had two dogs,  that he’d been living in Saint Henri for over thirteen years and that he once worked for the Human Rights Commission. I suppose, I could have got all this information sitting across from him at a Starbuck’s but it wouldn’t  have been as interesting. Walking around his neighborhood  took away the interview feel of meeting over coffee; it was a lot more relaxing, a lot more natural.

I pointed out features of his neighborhood which, living there day-to-day, he had failed to notice. Like the lovely old lampposts and this wonderful Spanish style building which could easily have been in Old Havana.



I learned that Andre played tennis and badminton and  was interested in boxing.  “You must have heard of Louis Cyr? He asked me.

“No,” I said.

“They just made a movie about him.”

“Oh, yes, I heard about the movie.  It’s one of this year’s top rated Quebec movies,” I said.

We crossed the street to where Louis Cyr’s statue was.

“You know he’s still the strongest man in the world,” Andre said.


All the while, Andre and I talked about our writing. He had boxes and boxes of stories, some that had been published but his favorite was a collection of stories regarding the writing life. “I really like those stories,” he told me.

“So, why don’t you send them out?”

He’d gotten discouraged, not from this collection but from others. “You get to a point where you’re tired of being rejected,” he said.

I asked him about his writing stories and as he described them I knew that these were just the kind of stories that I love to read. I encouraged him to send out queries and we talked a bit about the changes in the publishing industry.

He had brought along an article on Isaac Asimov . “I know all the miseries, but somewhere among them is happiness. I can’t easily explain where it is or what it consists of, but it is there. I know the happiness and I experience it, and I will not stop writing while I live…”

The next day, Andre sent me a short e-mail telling me how much he had enjoyed meeting me and best of all that I had given him the spark to contact publishers again about his writing.

Sparks. You never know how or when they can happen.

Ten Great First Dates: The Market

Raise your hands if you’ve been guilty of suggesting going for a coffee on a first date? Oh, my, quite a crowd.

Well, I’m here to tell you that going for coffee on a first date sucks for many reasons. First of all, meeting a guy for the first time makes me nervous enough without having to add more caffeine to make me look like I’ve just been released from a study on clinical anxiety.

I know. Yes, of course, I know. Coffee is just a metaphor for let’s meet somewhere (preferably a coffee shop) where you can tell me all about your favorite breakfast cereal and I can tell you how much I hate these first dates. Then what?

So, my suggestion is that you roam around a market where you can have interesting things to talk about.

For instance. Look at these beautiful leeks.


I have a great recipe for a leek pie. Took it from The Silver Palate Cookbook and modified it. No longer put in cream but milk. Sometimes substitute the Gruyère cheese for goat’s cheese, like the Greeks do. Have you ever been to Greece?   Oh, you have. So how do you like to travel?

Now would you have a look at these onions?


These are perfect for another pie I make. The secret is in browning the onions and then letting them sit for at least half an hour (even overnight) in a bowl of uncooked whipped eggs. Then you just cook the mixture like an omelet. Do I make my pie crust? No. Oh, except for my blueberry kutchen pie which I put in the recipe in my book Mourning Has Broken. Oh, you’re also a writer. What do you write?

Wow, would you look at all these mushrooms. I used to have an uncle who would go mushroom picking and then place a dime into the pot. If the dime turned green then it meant the mushrooms were poisonous. Apparently, that’s not true. Your grandmother used to do the same thing? She died of mushroom poisoning? Just joking.


You get the point, don’t you? And if you happen to not click with the guy at least you’ve done some of your marketing.



Check out my blog next week, or better still subscribe to it, for the next Top Ten Best First Dates.