On Dating: Yourself, Your Partner, and The Place You Live In

It’s my day off, Friday, and my twenty-one-month-old daughter Evangeline and I are sitting at Lardo off Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon. Lardo is a sandwich shop serving delicious, but not exactly toddler-friendly-health-food. I order my daughter some mac salad but as we sit down to eat she decides to dump out half the bowl instead and starts going for my parmesan and rosemary dusted fries. Now she is dipping them in ketchup to lick them off. I let her dip a few small fries but soon she takes her ketchup-covered hand and wipes it across her face, a face that is already smeared with boogers and snot. Good god, she is a mess! My wife is going to be so pissed.

Yet, are you even a toddler if you don’t have a snotty nose? It makes me a terrible father, I know, giving French fries to a toddler and not fruits or veggies, but it’s not like I ONLY feed her French fries. Earlier this morning I fed her milk and eggs and one of those fruit pouches. I also tried to feed her some of my Bronx bomber sandwich with steak and onions and cheese and aioli but she wasn’t having any of it.

Taking a toddler out to eat is often more hassle than it’s worth, but I’m doing it for a reason. On my day off I like to visit a new restaurant or coffeeshop in Portland (of which there are many, too many possibly, to even go to all of them in one lifetime) and remind myself why I have chosen to live here.

You have to have things to give you hope here in the Pacific Northwest, things that will outweigh the rain and the traffic and the daily winter darkness that descends from October-February. Otherwise you forget why you have chosen to leave the sunny Rocky Mountains for such a gloomy place. So, you go out to eat and let your daughter dunk French fries.

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Sometimes you get tired of the place you live in after all. Sometimes you get tired of your partner. Sometimes you get tired of yourself.

This is my dumb solution: Make dates. With yourself, your partner, even the place you live in. Remind yourself why you love them. It’s not very difficult of an idea, it’s maybe even an obvious or cliché one. It’s the execution and the follow through that makes this task of dating so challenging.

On the one hand, through apps like Tindr, Bumble, and Grindr, we are dating now more than ever before. It’s a whole new world out there (one I sadly, or perhaps luckily, missed). And yet I don’t think anyone would argue that while the quantity of our dates has gone up, the quality of said dates has gone down.

An article on Digital Trends called “More Americans Are Using Online Dating Than Ever Before, But it Still Sucks,” seems to back this up. As the article says:

“A new poll published Thursday by Pew Research Center found that three in ten Americans have used a dating app, more than ever before, even though many found the process disappointing. Pew surveyed nearly 5,000 U.S. adults, 45% of which who’ve used a dating app said their recent experience “left them feeling more frustrated than hopeful.” 

I think we need to get better at dating. Our partners, the place we live in, and ourselves.

After the French fries and the ketchup and snot-smeared face, my daughter and I drive up to Hood River where my sister and her kids and my parents live (my wife was working). Hood River is an hour drive east of Portland through the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge. It’s my happy place. The prettiest place on earth. As close to Rivendell and Elven immortality that us mortals will ever get to experience. And yet, even so, I get tired of the drive.

 I mean, I know that I’m a restless and slightly depressive person, but how in the world is it possible that one could get tired of this drive? There are literally dozens of waterfalls, bridges, majestic clouds, moss-covered rock faces, and Douglas Firs the size of skyscrapers as you drive alongside the Columbia. There are even bald eagles! Motherfreaking bald eagles! And yet, I still take it for granted, or forget that’s it there, and choose instead to make up stupid arguments in my head with my boss and wife while I drive.

Today I need a reminder of how beautiful this drive is and my daughter and I get one. It’s cloudy as we drive, but warm outside (miraculously warm and not even raining), and as we pass the world-famous Multnomah Falls I see a thin ray of sun light up the green trees of Washington across the Columbia. I’m listening to Wye Oak through the speakers and suddenly feel a huge surge of hope and am nearly crying.

For the past month I’d been depressed as hell for a whole slew of reasons—Seasonal affective disorder of course, but I was also recovering from a shoulder surgery (a torn labrum) and it was a long ass recovery process in the dark of winter and I hadn’t been doing much but going to work and drinking and smoking whole plates of cigarettes.

This brief glimpse of sun through the Gorge lit me up. I was full from the sandwich we ate earlier, properly caffeinated, and I’d even slept well the night before. Sometimes that’s what you need I guess—a little sun, a little sleep perhaps, a good ass sandwich, and coffee of course.

So those were my dates with the places I live in—a drive through a Columbia Gorge and a bomb sandwich—both of which technically count as double dates because as I did them with my daughter.

Yet, I also try to take my partner out. Last week my wife and I went on a date to Bamboo Sushi in downtown Portland and then out to a reading at Powell’s Books for Lidia Yuknavitch’s new release. This weekend we’re going to a house show. And yes, technically these also count as double dates—one for me, one for my partner—since these are things I would go to on my own anyways, and so, yes, I’m not exactly being totally selfless, but still, it’s something, right?! Right wife? *In my defense my wife only likes to go on dumb, stupid dates like go to Broadway shows or the ballet or symphony (gross) or have picnics in the park (unsanitary) so that’s why I plan most of our dates.

 When my daughter was born, my wife didn’t go on a date for over a year. It was just too much with the kid—everything, all of it—and for the first three months we didn’t live around family. Now we’re getting better. But it took some work and planning and time and that doesn’t come easy when you’re always have to clean up the Tupperware your toddler has tossed all about over the kitchen floor.

I don’t really date myself all that often—my dates are mostly with bottles of whiskey and packs of American Spirits and maybe a movie. When I actually do have time not dominated by raising a child or going to work, I’ll take myself to a coffee shop and try to get some writing done, (though I haven’t read it, I know the book, “The Artist’s Way,” says to take yourself on an artistic date every week). But mostly? Mostly I’ll just feel tired and will go home and put myself to bed.

Can a nap count as a date? Yes, I think a nap can count as a date, or at the very least, “Self-care” which is what we’re really talking about when we’re talking about dating yourself.

God, it’s so hard to go out and get anything done for yourself isn’t it? You practically have to summon your spirits as Captain Ahab does in pursuit of the while wale: “Awake! Rise! To the Boats! Move! Thar she blows! Pour another coffee down the hatch and get to art!”

Except the battle to care for yourself is working on an essay no one will ever read or care about and Captain Ahab is about to get his head snapped clean fucking off by the jaws of depression and lack of sleep.

I’m glad that I never had a chance to date online. I think I would like it a bit too much. I would just keep swiping, keep meeting, keep dating, thinking that with each next swipe I would find the perfect solution to all my problems. Perhaps that’s why people are dating and swiping more than ever, and yet still remain single. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing as an article in the Observer reports:

“Whether they’re waiting longer to settle down, choosing to enjoy monogamy outside the legal constraints of a marriage, or choosing to forgo the institution altogether, the numbers are startling, record-breaking, and for many, empowering. In a 2017 census report, 55 percent of Americans expressed the belief that getting married is not an important milestone in leading a happy adulthood. As the new year unfolds, single Americans will find themselves navigating a dating world transformed by technology, fraught with uncertainty, but luckily, still paved by genuine emotion.[i]

Not for me, for better or worse, I am stuck with a stupid baby and a wife (and there was a time when I really did begin to resent this). Yet I don’t want to live a bitter life and so I know that you either have to give up on a certain situation or try to make it right.

Hence, you got to date. Yourself, your partner, the place you live in.

As I finish editing this article at Prince Coffee on NE Fremont on this President’s day, February 17, 2020, I feel enormously grateful that I have a day off work and was able to sleep in while my beautiful wife took our beautiful daughter to daycare hence giving me my first full toddler-wife-work-free day in what feels like months, if not two years. I’m thinking of the many ways in which to take advantage of said off day, but in the end, I’ll probably finish editing and then go back to sleep. Sometimes your bed is the best date you can take yourself on.


[i] https://observer.com/2018/01/more-americans-are-single-than-ever-before-and-theyre-healthier-too/

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Oregon Chronicles: A PDX Christmas in the Year of Our Lord 2018.

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We moved to Oregon on August 25th 2018 and were met by one on the mildest and most beautiful falls I have ever seen. Fall as in the season, not the water that drops over cliffs—although those are quite splendid and abundant in Oregon as well. We moved into a house off 18th and Killingsworth in the NE neighborhood of Portland. The neighborhood is extremely walkable and within a five minute walk we can walk to Hat Yai (Thai Fried Chicken), Pine State Biscuits, Proud Mary (Aussie coffee shop), Podnah’s (bbq), Barista, Handsome Pizza, Salt n’ Straw (ice cream), The Bollywood Café (Indian)—a plethora of bars I will probably never visit based on my current Dad situation—and a dog store called The Filling Station. I think we ate out every night the first week we were there. The eating out couldn’t last forever though, and so we started ordering a few Blue Apron meals every week to lessen the load of cooking w/ child.

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For the first month Portland felt like an extended Airbnb vacay. We didn’t really feel like we “lived” there. But once I started working and Cat started her internship at Randall Children’s Hospital two days a week, a routine began to develop. I had trouble finding work at first and though I am busy now and working more than I’d like to, I have already forgotten that it took me over a month to find a job and have almost forgotten how endless the search once was—a futile time suck of days spent emailing resumes and developing a CV for jobs you may never have a shot with. All the coffee people were confused as to why I was the owner of a coffee roasting company in Utah applying for barista jobs in Portland. I also applied for jobs at Nike and PSU on the whim that they decided to hire a completely unqualified person to do the job. They had no such whims. We’d like to buy a house soon but will probably need to wait until Cat goes back to work as she has the type of jobs that look good to lending companies, my barista job …. not so much.

I finally found work with a coffee shop called Con Leche and Smalltime Roasters—a Mexican-American owned coffee shop in their second year of business that was started initially to raise funds for Dreamers. My main goal has been to help build their wholesale and roasting operation, but I also work barista shifts four days a week at Con Leche—which is a shared space with Frank Wine bar in the South Waterfront district of Portland. I have to work weekends, but this also gives me some flexibility to take Tuesdays off while Cat works at her internship at the hospital.

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However, just last week I accepted a position at Sustainable Harvest, a green coffee importing company. I will be working with a woman named Yimara from Colombia as her quality specialist assistant in the lab as we sample roast, cup, and evaluate coffee from around the world—along with helping with some minor logistics. It really is a dream job come true and sort of the next level for me in the coffee world. In February I plan to get my Q Grader, which is like a sommelier or cicero certificate for coffee. I will still be helping Smalltime out on the side but probably drop my barista shifts. The new job at Sustainable will also be good for me because I think I will finally have to quit smoking…but we’ll see.

The move to Oregon has been a combination of excitement and adjustment. Exploring a new city (more so for Cat, less for me) and starting a new job, living in a new neighborhood, new house, new neighbors, friends, and most importantly, family. Though not new, this is the first time in ten years that Cat and I are living in the same state as family. And while the opportunities are exciting, a new move also brings with it a bunch of SLE’s, or Stressful Life Experiences (as this new book I recently bought at the Portland Book Festival called This is Your Brain on Depression calls them) and I still find myself lapsing into similar vices and frustrations I wish I could have left behind in Utah. But as the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

IMG_7650 Cat misses her friends from Utah and is excited to start work again in the summer, but she is cherishing this time with Evangeline so much. Overall, she is adjusting to life in PDX beautifully.

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Evangeline turned six months on November 23rd and now is almost seven months old! Everyday she seems to get more and more active and interactive. She started pulling at our face and nose and glasses and my beard. She pulses her legs, laughs and smiles, and she can practically sit up (though not roll over, not yet). She has been pure joy. Her rosy red cheeks shine bright, and her brown eyes seem to emanate with a purity and light that must be beamed from heaven straight into her little soul. She is 99th percentile in height and whatever is in that formula must be good because she’s growing fast.

On Thursdays my mom drives down to watch Evangeline as both her and my dad now live an hour away in Hood River. Also in Hood River are my sister Alyssa, her husband Eli, and our two little nephews Eero and Bodie (who were born three days before Evangeline). I chose this picture because they both move so fast you can barely capture it!

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My favorite part of the day (besides coming home to E of course) is when I bike to work downtown in the morning. The air crisp and cool. The sun slowly penetrating through the clouds. So far it has barely rained this fall and so I can bike most days. I bike from my house in Northeast down Going, a bike greenway, to Vancouver which is a mini-bike highway. I have found one of my favorite things is mobbing down Vancouver in the early morning with a pack of cyclists all commuting into work. Sometimes there are so many bikers there is even bike traffic and I am forced to weave around slower bikers as faster bikers simultaneously pass me. Often, as I cross the Steel Bridge in the morning, the Willamette River will be cloaked in fog and mist and it feels as if I am biking through the clouds. As I don’t have a gym membership yet, to either a climbing gym or regular old gym, and running with a dog and a six-month old in a stroller just doesn’t sound like fun, biking is my only form of exercise these days. It feels like too much to ask Cat to watch E while I hit the gym for an hour after work after already being gone for eight hours and so biking it is. And I need to do it. Biking = Happy Levi. Not biking= Angry and Depressed Levi.

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I write often but have still not had much luck getting anything published on the level I’d like to be at. I’ve been working on a novel for the last few years that is just not working for some reason (my friend Mike says it might be a movie, not a novel, but the idea of spending another few years turning it into a screenplay just sounds exhausting to me). I’ve also been working on various short stories, essays, and perhaps, who knows, a new novel, along with tweaking a memoir-in-the-works. So, lots of projects but right now they’re all iceberg status, as in, lurking large underneath the surface of anywhere public. While my craft is developing, I feel like I still haven’t found my niche, or my voice, or corner, of what to write about. I now know and am doing my best to accept however, that writing is a long journey. I am ten years in so far of seriously pursuing writing and it might be twenty or even thirty years before anything happens with it. I feel as if it’s best to look at writing (for one’s own sanity) not as a career choice or even art form, but as a form of meditation/asceticism/monkish pursuit. On my best days I can view it in this very zen way—as a practice I will work towards regardless of outcome. On my worst days I chainsmoke and drink myself to sleep because the world is a depressing place and rejections and false starts and wasted time in writing is also depressing. So, I am still the same old Levi, for better or worse (even know, I can sense a creeping melancholy in these words in what should be an otherwise happy and cheerful season/letter).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about our moves is that our cat, Waffles, has really gained a lot of ground with this move and transformed from a scared, timid cat into a bold and adventurous one. She used to be afraid of everything, but this move has strengthened her resolve and moral character. Now she is the one who spends all day outside exploring and our other cat, Chicken, prefers the dry indoors. Both of them no longer hide when guests come over and are much friendlier than they used to be. Amelie, our dog, requires more attention and though I never thought I would say this, I find myself becoming quite annoyed with her at times as it seems a dog is the last thing I want to think about taking care of at the end of the day. It probably doesn’t help that for the past couple months her paws have been very red and irritable, and I find myself spending a lot of time soaking them in Epsom salt and shampooing them and making trips to pet stores to try and change her diet so we can figure out what’s wrong with them—yeast infection perhaps?

Anyways, it’s been an exciting year. For the first time in some time, I am looking forward immensely to what the New Year brings as we continue to explore the many opportunities Portland offers Cat and I as well as watch Evangeline grow.

Wishing you all the best this Holiday Season as the New Year approaches.
Hoping that whatever physical or mental demons afflict you will flee into the night like the spell from a Patronus.

Love,
-Levi (And Cat and Evangeline and Amelie and Chicken and Waffles)

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