The American Nightmare :: Ground Kontrol

This date was a bit too close to prostitution for my liking. I swiped right on this gentleman, who was 37 and looked like John Belushi, due primarily to the fact that his Tinder tagline was “Looking for a date to a fancy benefit dinner this weekend. Any takers?” I love a good night of catered food, marathons of bland speeches, and scratchy beige table linens. No, really… I do! It feels so adult to get dressed up and schmooze while holding a glass of red. It reminds me of my youth which was mostly spent throwing tantrums in the bathroom of yet another political fundraiser.

So when this Tinder match asked if I would like to meet up for brunch to make sure I was “suitable” for the event, I obliged, albeit cautiously. It felt like an episode of the Bachelor where women had to compete in trivia contests and Chinese water torture to prove their love for the nameless ex-Football schmuck (is that how the Bachelor works? Probably.) We agreed to meet at Jam on Hawthorne and he rolled up in his Toyota Camry 15 minutes late. He claimed he “got lost” on the east side. I held back the urge to tell him that it is a giant grid and, instead, asked about the details of that evening’s event.

“My buddy from college founded this nonprofit that sends kids to camp. He’s having the annual fundraiser dinner and it is a pretty big deal. I think some famous people will be there, hang on, lemme check the guest list,” he said as he pulled his fucking iPad out from under his arm. Who brings an iPad to brunch? He named some Timbers players before asking if I wanted to see the car he was considering buying. I spent the next 5 minutes hating myself as he swiped through stock photos on Google Images of identical BMWs. “I can’t decide if I want to invest in such a nice car when the backseat is just going to get trashed by my kid.” Excuse me? I am 22 and being a mother (even a dog-mother) is so far out on the horizon of my life. He launched into a very Laguna Beachesque story of how his wife sent him divorce papers on the same day he had to fire his best friend’s wife from being his personal assistant. He told me I seem like the kind of supportive woman to whom he can come home and rant about his day. NO, THANK YOU. I now understand why housewives sneak rat poison into casseroles.

The highlight of brunch was when he said, “I wasn’t sure I would find someone sane on… you know…” to which I offered, “Tinder?” “No. Never say that word in my presence again. Absolutely no one can know that I met you that way. We are telling everyone we met at Whole Foods, okay?” Yeah, because that’s plausible. I was slightly insulted. Tinder is my favorite hobby and this guy is ashamed. Wake up! It is 2014. It gets better; thanks, Obama!

His entire persona could be described in one adjective: eager. He was so desperate to come off as successful that he alienated everyone around him. He basically dictated what I could and could not talk about and what I could and could not wear. He worked as an insurance salesman and constantly name-dropped places he had been, bourbon he had collected, and items he wanted to buy (including a racehorse). It was clear he wanted this to develop into a relationship as he asked what I was doing for the holidays and invited me to some famous Portlander’s mansion in Lake Oswego for New Year’s Eve. I was so confused by his intentions, but the promise of a fancy 5-course meal made me lose all intelligent inhibition.

The Bro Pros:
Overworked, middle aged, and constantly talking about his possessions
Identical to John Belushi in Animal House
Asked me exactly 4 questions about myself the entire evening
Paid for EVERYTHING
Repeatedly asked if he could hold my hand, never did
Plausible character in “Death of a Salesman”

After he officially invited me to be his date (thank god I was worthy enough to pass the preliminary round!), he asked if I had anything to wear and offered to take my shopping. I politely refused. That’s just a bit too close to sugar-daddy territory. He told me to meet him downtown at his office (why? to spend 30 minutes showing me the view. is this where we kiss? no.) and we would meet up with his female friend from Eugene and we would all go to the venue together. Why did he need a Tinder date if he was going to hang out with his friend all evening? Is this a weird threesome thing?

The venue was at the zoo. The “fancy dinner” was buffet style and included cupcakes made by the fundraiser’s wife. People were wearing jeans. They only served beer. Needless to say, it was not the “ritzy gala” of my dreams. After the extremely embarrassing auction in which every table in the venue except ours spent ~$1000 on vacation trips, signed sports memorabilia, and home furnishings, we agreed to ditch the fundraiser and go downtown. I smuggled out 4 beers in my purse and 3 in my dress. Luckily I convinced Mr. American Nightmare’s female friend to tag along to decrease the date-factor. We ended up at Ground Kontrol, his proclaimed “favorite bar” which is code for “I never go out so I’m going to take you to the most popular bar on Yelp.” I had never been, mostly due to my dislike for old-fashioned video games and derision toward the bar’s cheesy reputation.

It was a Friday night at 10pm, so there was absolutely no parking downtown. He parked in a pay lot and, after he failed at trying to convince the attendant that he owned the parking company, paid exorbitant amount of money for 4 hours of parking. We had to stand in the bouncer line outside for around 15 minutes, something I am not a fan of. Is this Manhattan? Is Avicii playing inside? Is this a train platform in Mumbai? No. There is no reason for a line.

On top of the wait, there was a $5 cover. Mr. American Nightmare paid, but not before making a scene out of it. I already had my $5 in my hand but he dramatically grabbed it from me, tried to stuff it down my shirt, and pulled out his wallet and told me to help myself. It was awkward and the people around us in line were certainly live-tweeting about it. Once inside, I learned you actually had to PAY for the games, too. Why do Portlanders love getting ripped off? After waiting in another 10 minute line for the quarter machine, we finally got to explore the bar. It was jam packed with machines, which left little room for mingling. There were numerous traffic jams and it felt more like the dance floor of Jones’ except with an 8-bit soundtrack.

The Bar Pros:
Prime location downtown near Chinatown and the Pearl
Unique schtick – alcohol and games – attracts mostly men
Everyone is standing so it is easy to mingle
Once you pay for drinks and the cover, you’re too poor to play games
Attracts suburban patrons – very Gresham
Dance Dance Revolution was broken 

We played games for awhile before he ushered us to a table to “talk.” Conversation mostly revolved around his ideal woman and his 5-, 10-, and 15- year plans. My favorite moment was when he asked me, “So, tell me, who is the most attractive guy in this bar?” I did a quick scan of the bar and decided on a cute boy in typical plaid. Mr. American Nightmare’s female friend enthusiastically agreed. He frowned, reached across the table to hold my hand, and said, “No, you should have said it was me…”

I promptly yawned and said I thought we should call it a night. He tried to convince me to go to Jake’s Seafood Grill for brunch the next morning. He wanted me to meet his child. I said I had plans. He inevitably continued texting me the following days and, being polite, I responded with short, noncommittal answers instead of my desired radio silence. He eventually got the hint and communication ceased.

Looking back, I feel bad for the guy. It’s clear he just wanted some sort of human connection and female attention, but he has to learn that you can’t be an egotistical, materialistic misogynist and expect those things to occur organically. I hope he finds someone, but unfortunately it will probably be a girl with low self-esteem who is easily impressed by (faux) wealth. But hey, isn’t that what attracted me to swipe right in the first place? What a self-realizing experience this has been. I still would have preferred a 5-course meal, though.

The Bro: 0/10. Absolutely no redeeming qualities.
The Bar: 4/10. I can appreciate the gimmick and it was a good atmosphere.

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