Weekend Trip - Phoenix, Arizona


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


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

Day Thirty-Three: Dagny


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


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


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


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


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

Day Twenty-Eight: Ashley


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

Day Twenty-Seven - Andrew


Demeanor -- Garden salad-like: responsible, mature, but not without its own charm
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- ((lowers voice conspiratorially as waiters walk by)) "I don't want to, y'know, offend the staff here. I mean, it's mediocre. But there's comfort in that. You don't have to wear a jacket."
Most bourgeois moment -- Paid more for a single shot of whiskey than I've spent on any meal in my entire life.
Snapshot --

As always happens when two grown-ass adult men get to talking, the subject of cute dog tricks comes up. I ask Andrew if his dogs know any good ones.

"The little one can stand on her hind legs and kind of flap her paws in the air. She's a little Rory Calhoun!"


Andrew, an audio engineer living and working in Bakersfield, came all the way down to my Olive Garden (roughly a two hour drive!) for his shot at internet fame and free pasta. He was alerted to my existence by his friends and longtime All of Garden fans, Tamerlane and Dogs of War, which I think might be pseudonyms.

Anyway, this was a pretty new experience for me, date-wise. What with us both being straight, cis, heterosexual, white men, we didn't have a lot of romantic chat about our future together or what shade of chartreuse would look best for the remodeled foyer's new dustcovers. Instead, we spent our dinner luxuriating over our privilege. It was a welcome change of pace, but I'm ready to get back to more traditional dates tomorrow!

22 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Nope, That's How It's Supposed To Taste, I Guess

Day Twenty-Six: Kelsey


Demeanor -- Taco salad-like: aggressively saucy
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I like it a lot. I'll qualify that by saying that I have, like, no standards. But I like it."
Reaction to being offered a refill after her first bowl of pasta -- In order: Bewilderment, disbelief, excitement, beatific serenity with the universe.
Snapshot --

"So," I say, as we walk outside the restaurant, "are you ready for the selfie?"

"Yes!! I know exactly what I'm going to do."


Right from the start, I knew there was something different about Kelsey. Maybe it was her laugh, which was not a chuckle or giggle, but a straight-up cackle -- frequently directed at something she had just said. Maybe it was her Tinder profile, which said nothing but "if you don't swipe right i'll kill myself" and made me feel like I was, in my own way, a life-saving hero. Or maybe it was the number of stories she told that started with some variant of "okay, this is going to sound horrible, but..."

I like her a lot.

23 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Audible Moo

Day Twenty-Five: Heaven


Demeanor -- Caesar salad-like: always prepared
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I always come here for my birthday, but they don't give out free food. :( "
Favorite indie film directors you've probably never heard of -- Neville Rothsberg, Emygdia H. Finn, "The Radish", Miss Quince
Snapshot --

The dinner is over, and as we're preparing to leave, I make a casual, though admittedly snarky, remark about Heaven's inability to finish her first bowl of pasta. She glares.

"You suck. You can put that in your blog."


An aspiring filmmaker/silicone manufacturer, Heaven has chosen a challenging career. She has informed me that the most frequently asked question about her line of work is as follows:

"Oh...silicone....Is it for....y'know...*makes jiggling motions at chest-height* boobs?"

If you were curious, the answer is "only sometimes".

24 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was

Day Twenty-Four: Annette


Demeanor -- Fruit salad-like: sweet, enjoyable to all ages
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Pasta is totally the moon to my werewolf."
Percentage of date spent on Snapchat, Kik, Instagram, and Millienialz™ - The Web App For Today's Youth -- 48%
Snapshot --

Took this literal snapshot of me while I was preparing today's photo.


Annette, a biology student from NorCal, is a frisky and excitable young woman who has perfected the art of getting adorably flustered. I asked her to take the selfie for us, since she seemed pretty capable of modern phone technology. She took one while I was fixing my hair and refused to allow any others on the blog, so enjoy my self-absorbed preening.

25 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Cordon Bleu