As told by J.T. Townsend
I laughed when Tommy and Bert suggested it. We had been friends ever since I moved to San Francisco ten years ago.
“I don’t need a blind date, guys.”
“Well, you need some kind of a date. You’re not getting any younger.” Tommy was being kind for a change.
"We'll go with you, like a double date." Bert cozied up to me and put his arm over my shoulder, "please." He put his head on my shoulder and batted his eyelids.
“Get away from me. I hate when you do that.” I turned away so he could not see me smiling.
“But is it working?” Bert persisted.
“Who is this guy and why is it so bloody important that I go out with him?” I probably should not have said that because they both moved in with more information about the man than I wanted to know.
“His name is Charlie McDonald and he’s a real nice guy. So what? How old is he?”
“A few years older than you.”
“How many few years older, Tom? And don’t you dare lie to me.”
“Are you suggesting…?”
“Yes, I am. You’ve manipulated the truth before to get me to do things I did not want to do.”
“Well, maybe eight or nine years.”
“Is it eight or is it nine?”
“Bert, for Christ’s sake.”
Bert smiled, wrinkled his nose, and nodded, “Ten.”
“Thank you, Bert. What else is there about him I’m not going to like?”
“Well, he’s a few pounds heavier than he should be.”
“Tom, I’m gonna kick your ass. How many pounds?”
“I don’t know. But he looks great.”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll just bet he does.”
“Come on J.T., it’s dinner and drinks, not a lifelong commitment.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you’re buying if you want me to go. And don’t look at me that way. You’ve got more money than you know what to do with.”
“And, how do you know that?”
“Bert told me.” I had to laugh at the expression that washed over his befuddled face.
He turned to his partner, “Bert. What the hell are you doing?”
“You’re the one pushing Charlie. I just thought I’d help it along a little.”
“Drinks, dinner, no sex, you pay, and I go home alone. What say you, Mr. Moneybags.” I had him cornered and was enjoying it no end.
He thought for a few seconds, “Okay.”
I gave Tom a big hug and told him to cheer up, “I’ll be on my best behavior.” Then I found out he had already made a reservation for the following Saturday at Boudin’s Bistro in the Embarcadero at 8. I yelled at him and then apologized when his face fell into his shoes. Bert was all smiles so I gave him a hug also.
I stepped onto the Powell Street cable car and arrived at the Aquatic Park cable car turnaround earlier than anticipated. It was a delicious evening. Walking through the Embarcadero always cheered me up, the lights, the people.
As I approached Boudin's I saw someone sitting at the bar that fit the description Bert and Tommy had given me of this Charlie McDonald. He was a big man leaning toward the beer he had in front of him. His head was down slightly. He looked up each time the front door opened and had the most lost expression on his face. He wasn't handsome by any means but it was an honest face which I liked. There was a vulnerable quality about him which caught me off guard. I got the feeling he had never done this blind date thing before and was not enjoying it. Tom and Bert had probably railroaded him into doing it for whatever reason.
I was early and planned on waiting outside until Bert and Tom arrived, but changed my mind. I wanted to meet this Charlie McDonald and put him at ease. As I walked in, his head turned. I looked at him and smiled. His face lit up when he saw me. He sat up, turned on his bar stool and gave me the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. He had braces on his teeth that glittered in the restaurant lights. I think my heart skipped a beat as I approached him and put out my hand, “Charlie?”
He stood up and took my hand, “Yeah.”
“I’m J.T. I’m so happy to meet you. Tom and Bert told me all about you.”
“I’m glad to meet you, too.”
He was shy which I didn’t expect. “I guess the boys aren’t here yet.”
“No, they aren’t.”
“Why don’t I join you here until they arrive?”
He smiled and sat down. I ordered a beer. He obviously was not a conversationalist so, I drew him out with small talk. He relaxed and seemed grateful. Then he hesitantly said, “Bert says you’re an architect.”
“Yes, I am.”
He smiled and looked at his beer bottle, “You design ‘em and I build ‘em.”
He was almost embarrassed to tell me he worked construction for a living. I jumped at the opportunity and began asking him all sorts of questions about his experience in the field. His shyness disappeared as we began to compare notes and ideas on the building process. He laughed when I told him how much I hated the permitting requirements. He could not have agreed with me more. I told him I was designing a private residence which brought on so many questions, I asked him if he would like to see where I was on the development of the plans.
He seemed put-off by the idea and the shyness returned, “Naw, that’s all right.”
"Charlie?" He looked at me. "I'd like you to see them. You have some good ideas. You might be able to help me out on a few things I'm stuck on. Whaddya say?" That face of his lit up again and those braces sparkled. He nodded his head, "Yeah, I would like to see them."
“Well, come on. I’m gonna buy a couple loaves of sourdough bread, then let’s go to my place and check out those plans.”
“What about Bert and Tom?”
I laughed, “They’ll survive. Come on.” I bought the bread and we were on a Cable Car headed back to my place before I knew it. I laughed to myself when I thought of Bert and Tom walking into the Bistro looking for us. I turned off my phone.
I pulled out a brick of cheese and a bottle of wine, spread the plans on the drawing board and watched Charlie come to life. He glowed as his mind went through every detail of the plans, asking all the right questions. He knew more than I suspected and did, in fact, come up with some ideas I hadn't thought of.
It was two a.m. when he said he had to go.
“Charlie, it’s too late. Let me fix up the day bed. Stay the night. If I know Tom and Bert, they’ll be at my front door bright and early looking for an explanation on what happened to us. You don’t want to miss that.”
He laughed, looked at his watch and agreed.
The smell of coffee brewing woke him around 7 the next morning. He stumbled into the kitchen and had just sat down at the table when the doorbell rang. “See, what did I tell ya?” We both laughed as I went to answer the door.
"What the hell happened to you? And what's with your phone?" Tom practically yelled at me as he pushed his way in. Bert smiled knowingly as he drifted in behind Tom.
“I turned it off.”
“What the hell for?”
“Charlie’s in the kitchen, ask him.”
“What?” they both yelled at the same time.
I sliced the other loaf of sourdough, placed butter and sour cherry jam on the table and let them listen to Charlie who probably said more words than Tom or Bert had ever heard from him in one sitting. They glanced at me with questions I knew were running through their mischievous little minds, like — ‘What the hell’s going on?’ and ‘Did the two of you make it in the sack?’ I just smiled and ignored them.
Charlie finally ran out of words. So, I suggested we all go to Boudin’s and have lunch, “And Tom, you pay.” He laughed and agreed.
As we rode the cable car back to the Embarcadero, listening to our talented conductor ring his bell, I watched Charlie and thought to myself what a treasure he turned out to be. I was glad Tom and Bert persuaded me to do the blind date thing. As for the sack question no one asked, I was beginning to warm up to the idea.