Pasta Perfection

Day Thirty-Nine: Angelica

Comments

Demeanor -- Rosemary-like: astringent and striking
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "It's alright! I always get the same thing - the Five Cheese Ziti al Forno™."
Advice to young women who want to get ahead in the world of competitive Speech -- "Wear a skirt and pantyhose. And bring extra pantyhose for when it inevitably tears. Judges outside of California will expect a skirt, and getting to wear pants is not more important than the speech you worked on all year."
Snapshot --

"My boss was shocked that I knew what a bong looked like. He said at other schools, I could be fired for that."

--

This date was a fun challenge! A debate and speech coach for a private Christian college, Angelica knows a thing or two about dealing with entitled, white men like myself. Though I'm sure she could have easily destroyed me with her mastery of verbal fencing, she spared my life and pride, for which I am eternally grateful.

10 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Crouching Penne, Hidden Spaghetti

Day Thirty-Eight - Krystle

Comments

Demeanor -- Thyme-like: subtle and reserved
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "My friend and I always came here when we used to follow pop-punk bands around."
With friends like these -- Made her friend drive all the way to the date with her, and then wait outside the Olive Garden for the duration
Snapshot --

"So, you work with kids. What can I do when there's a screaming child at the next table?"

She ponders a moment, and then gives me the exact answer I was hoping not to hear. "Eventually, you just tune it out."

--

Krystle is a preschool teacher who dreams of one day becoming a travel writer. She's a shy-until-you-get-to-know-her type, which is unfortunate because I only really got to the "get-to-know-her" part near the end of dinner! She's very nice, though, and was almost as amused as I was when I found out that the waitress had accidentally (??!) dropped an Andes mint in my Coke Zero. See a picture here - be forewarned it's not very good because I was shaking with excitement at winning this magical prize.

11 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
A Tasty Snack!

Day Thirty-Seven: Mandy

Comments

Demeanor -- Basil-like: strong, sweet
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Okay, so, about that. My dad hates this restaurant. Absolutely hates it. And he won't tell any of us why. So I've only been here once before."
Mildly threatening tip for my 'really bad' selfies -- "Try to stop breathing when you're taking them"
Snapshot --

((reading her star sign's features off her phone)) "Aquariuses are cheerful. They like to have fun."

I interrupt. "I hate to have fun."

"Well, you're not an Aquarius."

She's got me there.

--

Mandy is an artist who works in the mediums of metal sculpture and photography. She taught me a lot about both of these things, including some genuinely helpful advice to really get the most out of my burgeoning pasta photography business. Granted, I only have one customer, and they haven't paid me or acknowledged my existence yet, but since I've taken over 300 different photos for them by now I think I'm due for one heck of a paycheck!!

Thanks much to Mandy for that and coming all the way from Los Angeles to dine with me!

12 more dates to go.

BONUS: Waiter Spotlight --

Our waiter brings me yet another refill of my soda (diabetes ain't easy).

"Here you are, sir. Diet Coke."

He places it on the table, and before I can say anything, he bursts out, "Just kidding!! It's Coke Zero."

I congratulate him on this classic bit of misdirection, the ol' aspartame-switcheroo.

Today's pasta was
White Balance

Day Thirty-Five: Freda

Comments

Demeanor -- Salsiccia-secca-like: fresh, dry
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "If...if I was picking a restaurant for a first date, it would not make the short list."
Chooses to advertise herself on online dating sites with the phrase -- "Not horrible-looking or fat"
Snapshot --

Freda: Coke Zero, huh? I've never had it.
Vino: Oh? You should try some!
Freda: Okay. *takes a drink*
Vino: Well?!
Freda: That's vile. I can't believe you drink that.
Vino: ...I feel like we're getting off on the wrong foot.

--

My last date of week five was Freda, a confident woman working as an administrator. She is not a fan of the Olive Garden, and was not shy about telling me so.

Part of the reason for her OG aversion is that Freda is very into healthy eating - apparently, she doesn't even allow sugar or flour into her house because she doesn't like the idea of anything "white and refined". That said, she seemed to tolerate me well enough.

14 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
A Gaze Into The Abyss

Weekend Trip - Phoenix, Arizona

Comments

Phoenix was the second of my three weekend trips (see San Francisco's trip here). The city is what I expected based off the jokes of hack comedians of the nineties - it's full of old people and oppressively hot, even in the middle of November. After biking to the Olive Garden I was covered in enough sweat that I was actually grateful that my first date had bailed on me.

I stayed with a lovely woman named Dorena from AirBnB. Here's a picture of her rabbit!

While hanging around between dates at a gas station, I was grifted out of $10 by a local con artist who claimed he needed the money for a tow truck fee. My big city sensibilities did not detect anything at all fishy about this until he took my money and placed it into a wallet that, I kid you not, was *overflowing* with cash. Then he asked me to give him $10 more, which I politely declined.

One last thing I noted was the lack of crosswalks and the resulting extreme frequency of jaywalking by the city's numerous homeless people. I tried to think of some kind of joke for this (something about how a Phoenix is a bird, and a Jay is a bird...phoenixwalking? idk) but it ended up being too complicated to be funny. If you come up with one, feel free to email me - vino at allofgarden.com . Put BIRDJOKE in the subject line so I don't get it mixed up with all my fan mail and positive feedback, which are all immediately deleted without being read.

Day Thirty-Four: Courtney

Comments

Demeanor -- Capicola-like: simultaneously spicy and sweet
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Honestly, I love it. This is delicious."
Color of hair, as described by her -- "Deep, plum purple"
Snapshot --

((on her plan to use her student loans for the down payment on a condo)) "Well...you've got to have goals. And I already have a car."

--

In one of the more bizarre setups for a date I've had (and bear in mind - all of these dates are at Olive Garden, for a blog, so there's a certain baseline of bizarreness), Courtney was offered to me, almost as a sacrifice, by her sister, who I met through Tinder. Why Courtney's sister decided to throw the poor woman to the wolves of Olive Garden is beyond me, but I hope that Courtney did not share her leftovers with her.

In any event, Courtney is a quick-witted student who has gone through several majors and may indeed go through several more before finding that special one that makes you want to settle down and actually graduate. I expect she'll go on to great things!

15 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Firebird

Day Thirty-Three: Dagny

Comments

Demeanor -- Pâté-like: Mincing, smooth
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "This is my first time here. But I have high hopes." (She ended up liking it!)
Level of influence Ayn Rand has on her life -- Does not extend beyond her name
Snapshot --

((upon seeing a man play Beatmania)) "Ooh. A typing game!"

--

Dagny (pronounced like you'd initially think, but might be afraid to say out loud because you think 'that has to be wrong') is an English as a Second Language teacher in Japan, who I was fortunate enough to catch in the middle of one of her rare trips to the States. Erudite and sarcastic, but not in a tiring way, Dagny was a fine dining companion.

Tragedy struck, however, when we hit up the arcade next door to the Olive Garden. The claw machine that used to contain the giant cat pillow of my dreams had its prizes replaced with some other, inferior, non-giant-cat-pillow toy. My dreams of being a giant cat pillow owner will never be realized. I had to cut the date short - one day I might be okay, but not today.

16 more dates to go.

Today's pastas were
Colonel Bernie
Trump Card

Day Thirty-Two: Olivia

Comments

Demeanor -- brisket-like: frequently sauced
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "You could do worse for ten dollars. You could also do much better."
Irish Credentials -- Inventor of the "Tater Shot", which is a tater tot artfully dropped in a shotglass of whiskey.
Snapshot --

"You know, you remind me a lot of my ex," said Olivia, who then promptly changed the subject.

--

Olivia works as a baker in a local independent shop, and warned me before we started talking that she had "heard 'em all" vis a vis baking puns. "Anything about 'dough', 'bread', 'rising'...don't bring that amateur hour stuff here. This is my life." It was pretty intimidating. Usually people disparage my puns after I make them.

Jokes I might have tried, if she hadn't said that:

-"Flour Power"
-The old "baked goods"/"baked bads" switcheroo
-Something about a "yeast infection" (if the mood seemed right)
-Hoping to see 13 of something and ask her if she called it a dozen (this would likely have required some setup on my part, but would be worth it)

17 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Rich Uncle Pennybags

Day Thirty-One: Sarah

Comments

Demeanor -- Bresaola-like: tender, mature for age
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "My favorite Olive Garden memory is the time me and my friends had a $200 gift certificate so we ate a ton of food and drank a ton of alcohol and ended up in a McDonalds because someone wanted chicken nuggets."
What I really appreciate her being cool about -- That I asked her to Olive Garden, set up a date, and two days later forgot and asked her again.
Snapshot --

Sarah wasted no time in speaking directly to the heart of my interests.

"Did you know that Denny's cuts you off after the 10th plate of their so-called 'Unlimited' pancakes?"

--

I liked Sarah right from the moment I saw her pink dress and leather combat boots. It's a combination not many would try, and even fewer would wear on a first date, yet she pulled it off amazingly. On top of that, it made me look like an absolute schmo, since I just wore some kind of t-shirt. You know. Like an idiot would wear.

Anyway. She's an aspiring screenwriter getting her master's degree and working in retail. She has a hermit crab! Neat!

18 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
The Chicken

Day Thirty - Celene

Comments

Demeanor -- Cecina-like: dry, salty
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- See for yourself
Painfully determined, determinedly painful -- Agonizingly finished an entire bowl of angelhair and pesto alfredo, the heaviest imaginable combo, just to prove she could.
Snapshot --

"You see," I mansplain, dipping my breadstick into the extra marinara sauce topping my pasta, "this is a far better value proposition than ordering a side of dipping sauce. That's - "

She interrupts me. "Four dollars. Threen ninety-five if you want to get technical."

It was at this moment that I fell in love.

--

Celene and I are kindred souls - and not just because we both have un-ironic Olive Garden blogs (but that is the main reason). There's something about her detached, analytical air, combined with her dedication to the same corporate agendas I worship, that really resonates with me.

I was so impressed I almost didn't notice that she tacked on an $8 dessert, to go, to the bill and then said she could pay me back through some weird online service I'm fairly certain she just made up on the spot. I'm not even mad, though; I live by the credo of Poet Laureate Ice T, who advises us to hate not the player, but the game.

19 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Glutton-Free Rotini

Day Twenty-Nine: Kelly

Comments

Demeanor -- Prosciutto-like: thin, raw
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I like it. The waiters look like they actually want to be here."
Has half a dozen stories about -- Bizarre ways the fish in her aquarium have died
Snapshot --

"So, you work at ((redacted: a non-Olive Garden Italian-American style chain restaurant)). You probably already know what I'm going to ask."

I blurt this out within 5 minutes of meeting Kelly. I can't bear maintaining a pretense of apathy towards this vital topic. Fortunately, she is understanding.

"Yeah. I think the food here is a little better."

"Wow. When I put that on the blog, do you want me to blur your face out and change your name?"

--

Kelly wears many hats - hostess, aquarium-tender, student, Tinder Queen - and yet manages to balance them all while maintaining her humble personality. It's this affable nature that made it easy to overlook her taking a full hour to eat three bites of fettucine alfredo.

Also, she has the world's cutest cats! I appreciate any date who shows me pictures of their cats. This is not sarcasm. Future dates, take note.

20 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Half-Moon

Day Twenty-Eight: Ashley

Comments

Demeanor -- Sapphorific; pleasant as a three-dollar bill
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I'm shocked that I like this so much."
High Roller -- Sat down and immediately ordered herself a coke zero and an eight-dollar "Sangarita".
Snapshot --

"When you write the blog entry for me," says Ashley, putting down her Sangarita™, "you have to make it clear that I'm gay."

I nod slowly. "I think I can do that."

She seems unconvinced. "I'm serious. I don't want anyone thinking I'm one of your...pasta floozies."

--

Ashley is a computer programmer who lives deep within the dense forests of NorCal. Her biting wit can make her a little intimidating, but beneath that is an intelligent, extremely funny woman.

As the second of her two requirements for being on the blog, please enjoy this photograph of Ashley's treasured corgi, Scout.

21 more dates to go.

Today's pastas were
Brotini
Palfredo

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