First off, what I initially wrote was perfectly true: Jake seemed like a nice guy, I had a reasonably enjoyable evening, and it really was the least painful first date I've ever been on. (Ten minutes into a typical first date, I realize that loathe and detest the person sitting across from me.)

So I wasn't going to post about what really happened, just in case I did end up going out with him again and it turned out that the peculiarities of the first date were a total fluke and he was actually the man of my dreams. But even a few days worth of the passage of time wears away the first blush of "He didn't seem like a bedwetter, pathological liar, or Rush Limbaugh fan! Yay!" Also, I obtained some information which threw an even harsher light on a certain memorable moment.

So here, cut for length but trust me, you really want to read this one-- here is the true story of my date with Jake.

Just to set the scene, I should mention that I have a tendency to make men who attempt to date me feel emasculated. I know this because they shoot me terrified looks, then run away, then complain to their friends. My opinion is that this is their fault, not mine, and if they were properly self-confident I would not seem threatening to them. I mean, I don't scare my guy friends.

But I do seem to scare dates-- I think my basic hostility to the dating process communicates itself-- and so I make an effort to let them pick the restaurant and otherwise not run over them like a Zamboni. Which is why I had that "here we go again" feeling when I managed to order for both of us without consulting him.

Now, this was an accident and really not typical of me. I offered to let him pick the restaurant, but he said he didn't know the area, so I took him to Nanbankan, a Japanese restaurant where all the waitresses know me and encourage me to practice my Japanese. (I now realize that the next time I walk in there, they're all going to say, "What happened to your date?" And snicker.) It was definitely my turf, not his, although I really just picked it because it has good food and a pleasant atmosphere.

You order a bunch of tiny dishes on skewers and share. I explained this to Jake, and since he was staring at the menu in confusion I went first. Now, he'd said on the phone that he had a big appetite, and he'd also said that he eats anything. So I ordered what I'd order if I was out with any other friend-- sausages with mustard, grilled onion, quail eggs, and gobo (a tangy root vegetable) rolled in ham-- "Wait, wait," says Jake. "That's too much!"

The waitress and I laughed. "The portions are very small," she explained kindly.

"Really," I said. "That's just half a meal. Now you order some things."

"One unagi roll," said Jake. "I'm not that hungry."

He proceeded to let me do most of the eating. Maybe he didn't actually like Japanese food, although I think he should have said so.

We chatted for a while, pleasant pleasant, mutual friends, we both like kids, and then he asked what I do. I was surprised that the "Japanese men have tiny penises" woman, who is the friend-of-my-friend who set us up-- actually, that sentence should have warned me-- had not mentioned this already. I said, "I'm a writer, and my first book is coming out in October. It's the true story of how my crazy hippie parents raised me on this weird ashram in India."

He said, "That's cool. You know, I have a lot of good ideas, but I'm not much of a writer, but I have good connections, so I'm sure I can sell them some day... I'll just find someone to write them for me."

I was flummoxed. He was literally the first of hundreds of people I've said that sentence to who did not immediately and sincerely say some version of, "Wow! How neat! Tell me more!" I wondered if he had spaced out and hadn't heard what I just said. Then I registered the stupid thing he had just said.

I said, "Writing isn't about ideas, writing is about writing. Ideas are a dime a dozen. A bad writer can take the best idea in the world and turn it into garbage, but a great writer can take something as cliched as "boy meets girl" and turn it into something great. if you want to be a writer, you have to write."

Then, still wondering if he'd heard the incredibly fascinating thing I'd said earlier, I worked the premise of my memoir into a continuing lecture on writing. Still no reaction. I wondered if Jake was the most self-centered person in the universe, or if there was some simple explanation for his lack of interest that I just wasn't figuring out.

Meanwhile, he's telling me about his business ventures. You all must have some archetypal image that come to your mind when you meet people who are self-employed and only work with their buddies doing a bunch of unrelated and unlikely-to-succeed business ventures which are clearly poorly researched, yet which they think will make them rich fast. My own personal archetype is "chinchilla farms." Jake, I discover, is a chinchilla farmer: he went to stunt school, he caters for movie sets, he's about to go to Portland to buy antique furniture and auction it in LA, he's going to buy a boat here and sail it to Costa Rica and sell it for a 20K profit...

I seized upon the stunt school, which I found most interesting and least likely to make the words, "You're going to lose your shirt" or "Have you thoroughly researched this?" slip from my lips. And that was when the date with Jake went from "enjoyable evening with someone I'll probably never see again" to taking up a high position in the pantheon of "Rachel's hilarious dating stories."

"But what I really want to do," said Jake...

"Is direct?" I asked-- actually, I didn't say that, but I did think it.

"... Is set the world record for jumping out of a plane at 20 thousand feet without a parachute and landing on an airbag, and I can get a TV station to film it and they'll pay me a million dollars!"

"Has anyone ever done that?" I asked.


"Don't you think there's a reason for that?"

"But I'd make a million dollars!"

"You wouldn't make a million dollars," I said. "Believe me."

"It's not that crazy," protested Jake. "I have a plan for training for it and everything. See, I'll have people standing on the ground with different colors of helium balloons, and then they'll release them at intervals, and I'll skydive out and bump them with my chest, and that's how I'll know my trajectory is accurate!"

"Has anyone ever done that?"

"No, but I think it would work!"

At this point I had a blinding flash: he's pulling my leg. "Are you serious about this?"

He chuckled. "Well, I'm not planning to do it next month. But yeah... well... if I had terminal cancer, then I'd definitely do it... and I know something like Fox would just jump on it, and-- hey-- it's really not that crazy. My stunt instructor, who was Burt Reynolds' stunt double, jumped out of a plane without a parachute-- not that high, of course-- and he survived!"

"Did he make a million dollars?"

"Well, no..."

"You see!"

Jake returned me to my house, where I let him in to collect his motorcycle helmet that he'd left in my closet. "You sure have a lot of books," he said. "Mine are all still in Idaho."

"When did you move to LA?" I asked.

"Oh, when I was twenty." He's thirty-six.

We exchanged pleasantries, and he said, "When I get back from Portland-- I'm going there with a buddy to buy chinchillas--" (Actually, what he said was "antique furniture") "--I'd love to take you hiking in Topanga."

For some unknown reason but probably influenced by the thought that I'd love to go hiking in Topanga-- like with my friend Jeremy-- I said, "I'd love that."

Then he hugged me in a brotherly manner and left.

The other night I told this story to [ profile] branna, the physicist, and [ profile] tweedkitten before we all watched "Fruits Basket." Branna whipped out a pen and said, "Let's see how hard he'd hit-- how high was the plane supposed to be, and how much would you estimate he weighs?"

"Mmm... About twenty thousand feet, and Jake's about 6' 1", medium build..."

Branna said, "Let's just assume 150 pounds. So..." She begins scribbling on the back of a Mapquest printout. "...Square root of nine is approximately three..."

I added, "He said he'd achieve escape velocity... no, wait, that can't have been what he said, that means he'd go into orbit, right?"

"I don't think you should go hiking with this guy," said TK.

(I now think he either said or meant "terminal velocity," because he had said that after a certain point he'd achieve maximum velocity and then he'd just keep falling at the same speed.)

Three minutes of calculations later, Branna announced, "He'd hit with two thousand pounds of force."

I said, "Or, in layperson's terms: the equations equal squish."

The next day I looked up Jake's stunt school instructor, the one he said had leaped out of a plane without a parachute on to an airbag and survived (but didn't make a million dollars), the one whose record Jake wanted to break.

Here's what I found:

"The highest jump made by a movie stuntman without a parachute is 70.71 m. (232 ft.), by A.J. Bakunas doubling for Burt Reynolds in Hooper (USA, 1978). He fell onto an air mattress. Born in 1950, A.J. Bakunas was regarded in Hollywood as one of the best stuntmen around. Specializing in high falls, he appeared in Dog Day Afternoon (USA, 1977), The Car (USA, 1978), Go Tell The Spartans (USA, 1978) Hooper (USA, 1978), The Warriors (USA, 1979) and The Stuntman (USA, 1980). On September 9, 1980, when doubling for the actor George Kennedy during the filming of Steel, Bakunas fell from the top of a construction site in Lexington, Kentucky, but the jump resulted in the stuntman’s tragic death when the air bag he landed on split."

Jake didn't mention the part where the guy DIED.

So I'm hoping the brotherly hug meant that he'll never call me again. Assuming he manages to return from Portland without breaking his neck.

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