My First Bar Kiss

cat cornerThe first time I ever kissed a man in a bar also coincided with my first time in a bar (growing up law-abiding in the US, I was making up for lost time!)

When you’re 17, you feel like it’s an accomplishment to get an older man to converse with and want to kiss you (in retrospect, I realize how creepy this sounds) but on that, my third evening in France, I was looking to move on from my ex and first boyfriend who broke my heart for a leggy henna-tattooed piece of white trash (see The Making of Albany Eden); what better day than his birthday to dance on the grave of the relationship he killed? But I wasn’t thinking of Jackson that winter evening at the Cat Corner nightclub off La Croisette in Cannes.

My friend Linda was 23 and she knew men. She was beautiful, Swedish, with perfectly flipped natural blond hair. I hoped that being in her company would help me fool guys into thinking I too was a natural blond.

“If I don’t want to talk to a guy, I’ll say I’m from Nebraska because every time I say ‘California’ it leads to more questions,” I explained to her.
“No, say you’re from Finland and your English is not so good. As long as you don’t say this to a Finnish guy, no one else speaks this language….40km from Helsinki, end of conversation.” Linda was wise beyond her years.

I noticed a pair of eyes from the other end of the bar. I was sure he was looking at Linda. I turned my head from her to me and his eyes smiled, as if almost to say “yes you!”

Before I knew how I felt about this, he and his friend were on their way to our table.

Dammit, I thought to myself because I wanted to shoot a few guys down before committing to one for the whole evening, but he was awfully cute.
“Hi ladies” he said. “I’m James and this is Don” James was the more handsome of the two.

James barely looked at Linda and cozied up next to me. Oh my God, I finally got to try out my material on a live one! He’s quite attractive, but I needed practice.

“So where are you from?” He asked, looking intently at me.
“Nebraska” I said, suppressing my proud grin at my coy cleverness.
“Oh yeah? I’ve never been! What’s the capital of Nebraska?”

Note to self: review fifth grade notes of state capitals and remember that not all guys are stupid and trying to get into your pants. Some are clever and genuinely interested. I liked him immediately.

“Actually, I’m from LA,” I admitted.
“Wow, I’m sorry to hear that,” his grin made me uneasy: on the one hand we just met and, on the other, I wanted to bite him lovingly.
“So what are you ladies drinking?”

Linda was having white wine but I was determined to finally try all those drinks I heard about in the movie Cocktail but didn’t yet know what they were. It was this evening that I initiated my ritual: new guy, new cocktail.

“I’ll have a flying squirrel,” I said with confidence that was sure to impress even the Sultan of Brunei. Swoosh. He’ll think I come to bars all the time in France, I thought to myself.

Don and Linda stopped their conversation and all three looked at me. I must have impressed them. After all, I knew about sophisticated cocktails and was decked out in my best Gothic skirt and motorcycle boots with my platinum hair and dark roots. I had the Gwen Stefani style while she herself was Just a Girl. My confidence was soaring.

“Right love. And why don’t you take a look at the menu and tell me what you’ll have if they don’t know how to do a flying squirrel.”

I perused the cocktail menu. “Kir Royal,” that sounded sophisticated, “that’s what I’ll have.”

When he came back with the drinks, I realized I’m not a huge fan of Kir Royal. I would later discover the Tequila Sunrise (thanks to the move, Desperately Seeking Susan), which would become my signature nightclub drink for the next five years.

Two sugary cocktails later, I had learned that James was from Down Under, surfed, and had his own business in England. Prior to this evening, I had only had those intense conversations with Jackson and was pleased to learn that other guys could be as engaging and passionate.

Our lips were locked by midnight and we stayed until the barman turned the lights back on. After that, we parted ways (I was 17!). Linda and I grabbed a taxi back to our dorm and the boys walked back to their hotel.

James and I ended up being sexy pen pals for ten years to follow. He would call it “the kiss that lasted a lifetime” and although we tried several times to meet again, it would take us twelve years to reunite. But that’s another story…

-Albany Eden

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The Russian Scientist and the Mosquito Poison

“Come on, let’s go to a night club tonight!” my dear friend Angela said.

I had been in China for nine days, felt allergic to the pollution and was experiencing some kind of culture shock as I was not in Shanghai or even Beijing. I was in the north of China in a city of millions where at this precise moment, I thought I was the only non-Chinese.  I was also not feeling too great because of all the mosquito bites.

“Ok, but first I need to bathe in the mosquito poison.”
“Fine,” she said, “we leave in 20 minutes.”

China had been a lot of things: built up, bustling, buildings crumbling, dirty…I wondered what a night club would look like in a city where the local cobbler was just a woman in a club chair on the sidewalk surrounded by bags of tools and material.

That night I learned never to judge a city’s nightlife by its day life. Whatever this Chinese city didn’t spend on street repairs, it put double into the nightclub! The Sunny Sunshine club was spectacular. I wonder if I have seen such a nice club even in Europe. First, it was air-conditioned, which was greatly appreciated in the sweltering Chinese summer heat. There was a live singer with talent, beautiful sculpted watermelon fruit platters being served, what looked like a hundred Tiffany chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, cocktails with sparklers and a separate jazz bar, to give variety in the music.

Among the heads of black hair, nobody bothering us, the music, the 90’s vibe, I really started to enjoy myself. Angela was engaged but still remembered how to enjoy a night out. We danced and drank and it was she who first noticed Alexei. After she pointed him out, it was hard not to notice him. At 6’4” he towered over the Chinese and was looking straight at me.

Alexei was a Russian aerospace engineer in China for a few weeks to teach the Chinese something about building airplanes. After my coy flirtation ritual, he finally offered me a drink. For some reason, often when I meet a man I like and he offers me a drink, I will order something I have never had before.

“I’ll have a B52”
“What?” he said with his heavy Russian accent.

Alexei didn’t understand. I had to type it into his iPhone. That’s actually how we communicated that night when we had to, but for the most part we were dancing. Towering over me, the only way for him to get close was to put his nose in my hair.

“Your perfume is perfect.”

I didn’t want to tell him that I was wearing only mosquito poison. With Angela’s help, we exchanged numbers. A few dates ensued and coincidentally the pollution in China started to bother me less. Alexei was handsome and brilliant, so I couldn’t understand why he was single but he told me he had trouble meeting women since he was working in the field of aerospace engineering.

On Alexei’s last night in China, Angela, Alexei, his friend Oleg and I all went out for a drink. That evening, I had forgotten to wear my mosquito repellent and of course noticed a few bloodsuckers circling around me preparing for an attack.

Alexei was trying to look into my eyes and speak intently. Perhaps he was telling me what these weeks together had meant to him but I couldn’t hear a word because I was preoccupied by the floating insects. Finally Angela asked the waitress who gave us a bottle of precious mosquito poison. I guess she expected it to come out in drops but when Angela tried to apply the product on my legs, it all spilled out and got all over my lap and bare thighs.  Almost instantly I was upright and running upstairs to the restroom to clean myself off.

china night club albany edenAs I dried my legs in the unisex restroom (unisex restrooms are very common in this part of China), Alexei came in. There must be something in mosquito poison that Russian scientists cannot resist. Of course it was the restroom and my friend was waiting downstairs, so Alexei did not get what he wanted. We went back to the table, enjoyed the evening and after a great night with friends, said goodbye as he was going back to Moscow the next day.

For the next couple weeks, we’d message each other and he’d always send me emoji roses. I wanted to see him again. Angela offered to invite him to her wedding and I thought that was a perfect idea. It was strange that the spelling of his name that he gave me and the one in his email address (when I asked for it for the wedding invitation) were not the same but I thought nothing of it. Moments after giving her his email address, I got a call from Angela.

“Albany, you have to have a look at this.” Apparently, in typing his email address with the correct spelling of his last name, she was immediately directed to his Google+ page where all of his personal photos were public. It didn’t take long for me to understand that not only was Alexei married to a beautiful young Russian woman, but they had a baby together! I deleted his number from my phone when I saw a photo he posted of himself in a warehouse-like giant supermarket with a trolley full of diapers; the caption he wrote beneath this picture read: “5 minutes of pleasure, a lifetime of worries.”

I guess mosquito poison doesn’t repel married men with babies.

-Albany Eden

An Evening with Leonard Shelby

men who forget everything

“So where are you from?” This Norwegian’s mind reset every thirty seconds like in the film, Memento. Abby was patient with him. We were on the island of Hvar at a trendy bar with outdoor seating. Three women at a square table left space for one more.

“Albany and I are from the US and Kaya is Indian,” she told him for the third time. I don’t know if he actually heard her but he took a long drag of his cigarette and enjoyed the effects of whatever drug he had used to lace his nicotine.

Island of Hvar, Croatia

Island of Hvar, Croatia

“That’s an interesting t-shirt,” I was trying to be charming like Abby. The t-shirt had a cartoon naked woman mowing a lawn.

“You’re funny!” said the Norwegian, “where are you from?”
“India, we’re all Indian!” I proclaimed.
“Nah, I don’t believe it! I’ve been to India.”
“Interesting, where did you go in India?” Kaya asked.
“I never went to India! Where are you from?”

“We told you, we all three come from Jamaica.” I said again, sounding annoyed now. Like Leonard did with Sammy Jenkis in the film, I wanted to ascertain the extent of the Norwegian’s brain damage.

“Hahaha,” he took another puff of his cigarette before stroking Abby’s forearm with his two fingers. He looked intently into her eyes. “So lovely lady, where are you from?”

That night Abby and I had short drinks and had long since finished them but Kaya was drinking a mojito and is a lightweight so we didn’t want to rush her but when the Norwegian’s hand went from Abby’s forearm to her leg we both stood up and decided we’d buy Kaya another drink somewhere else.

“Where are you going?” he said in his same monotone voice.
“To the moon,” I replied.

“Hey can I get a cigarette first?” he gestured toward Kaya’s Marlboro Lights. The best thing to do when a robber is after you is to throw your purse behind him so he will have to turn around to get it and you can run away. Kaya did this with the cigarette and we were all three stunned by this man’s slow reaction time. He finally stood up off the bar stool, got down on the floor. At the foot of a statue of the Venus he looked up, facing it, cigarette in hand, and said “so where are you from?”

– Albany Eden