Here in the Forest of the Sacred Bonfire, it’s been quiet and sleepy. The only sounds to be heard are those of acupuncture text book pages being turned; notebook paper scraps being torn and discarded; and pens scratching said paper with notes and lists of herbs and formulas that must be memorized in anticipation of sitting for a board examination. It’s been a tedious, mind-numbing number of days full of memorizing, forgetting, reminding myself, only to forget again. When you’re a man of a certain age, learning and memorizing don’t come as easy as they once did.
The weekend was a welcome reprieve from rigorous mental exercises. With Lucky dog visiting once again, sitting in the garden and enjoying the early spring blossoms while taking tea felt akin to hosting an English garden party. It was lovely.
The sun day broke the mold of plodding, passing days when an invitation to sight-see at Wat Buddharangsi, a Theravadan Thai Buddhist Temple in Homestead, a half hour journey south from the Forest, arrived through the infernal device. In between flirtatious messages exchanged throughout the week, Sr. Toño chimed in with an invitation to explore one of Homestead’s lesser known landmarks. The sight-seeing tour, he suggested, would make for putting faces and voices to the words and pictures we exchanged during the week; the road trip would give us a chance to introduce ourselves properly. The excursion would decide if the smoke signals between us would continue or become another chapter in the annals of failed online courtship practices.
With my six month MatchMaker membership almost at an end, I decided to relax my stringent dating preferences and be flexible [desperate?] in choosing who to contact for a possible meet and greet. In other words, I cast a wider net in gentlemen choices.
For the past several months I have adhered to a rather narrow and restrictive number of options that led to many weekends at home, alone on the couch, quietly contemplating the meaning of “confirmed bacherlorhood” and finding a better term for it [expired goods?]. Having run out of films and series to watch on Netflix and Amazon, it was time for drastic action. So, re-evaluating my dating preferences, I broke a number of personal rules, ignored a number of warning bells, and clicked on selections I normally wouldn’t consider unless I am heavily intoxicated. The result was a shortlist (emphasis on short!) of options I knew I would not seriously consider — and Sr. Toño. What did I have to lose? I winked.
I was pleasantly surprised, however. Aside from being handsome, Sr. Toño gives good text; he’s knowledgeable about the arts; he’s flirtatious; and he catches cultural references other men choose to ignore for fear of disclosing their (real) age, or have no clue about. Sr. Toño keeps up and runs with the best of them. For a good part of the week we sent each other smoke signals that hinted at things we like and don’t like about life in South Florida. We discovered we have certain life experiences in common and just as many irreconcilable differences. Sr. Toño made me blush with a self-portrait that was both revealing and modest, tantalizing the mind but leaving enough to my imagination. He had (enthralled?) (hooked?) (aroused?) piqued my interest.
Then came his suggestion to visit Wat Buddharangsi on a sun day. I had heard about the Buddhist Temple from friends and fellow acupuncture students who had visited the site and spoke about its virtues. I readily accepted, and suggested —maybe — going to lunch afterwards to converse and get to know each other. After negotiating loose and tentative plans, we agreed upon a time and place to rendezvous and let things evolve as they would. My texting thumbs thanked me for the day break.
I was happy to find that ignoring self-imposed, strict rules can lead to pleasant surprises. Upon meeting, I was glad to find Sr. Toño is handsomer than his photos show; taller than I anticipated [not to self: revise mental image of height measurements to match actual ones]; cleverer than his online persona; and more affable than previous gentlemen callers. He made for a splendid navigator, as I chose to drive, and he provided enough effervescent conversation to keep the radio volume turned down to dogs-only audible levels. The time it took us to drive to Homestead passed faster than the navigation system suggested.
Wat Buddharangsi Temple was built in 1982 to house and host a growing community of Theravada Thai Buddhist practitioners in South Florida. It is a lovely structure that marries South Florida architecture with Thai colors and embellishments. The temple is home to Buddhist monks who open their ceremonies and meditation practices to their community and visitors alike. In the main shrine room, a beautiful, golden Buddha sits on a lotus throne flanked by offerings and Thai art. The center’s buildings house a school, a religious hall, and a bell tower. Wat Buddharangsi holds annual festivals in its premises, such as the Asian Cultural Festival, and the Upcoming Fruit & Spice festival. The space makes for a lovely place to visit on a bright, sunny South Florida morning.
(Click on a photo to see them in slideshow mode.)
Our sojourn continued to several orchid nurseries where we marveled at and purchased orchids to bring home. I was pleased to find Sr. Toño enjoys orchids as much as I do, and he went on to explain how orchids are his homeland’s national flower.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a relaxing lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. Sr. Toño was delighted by the restaurant’s vegan selection, and nearly fainted at the flavor and mindful preparation of his meal. He was appreciative of my choice of restaurant; I was relieved he found something to eat on the menu.
At the end of our tour, we both expressed delight at each other’s company. We exchanged a parting, short, awkward hug before returning to our cars. We promised to follow our excursion with further smoke signals and witty textual exchanges.
I spent the rest of the afternoon back in the Forest, sitting next to Lucky dog by the Sacred Bonfire, wondering if I would indeed hear from Sr. Toño again, or if — as in the past — our parting had been a polite way of saying to each other it was a nice way to spend a sun day, but nothing further would come of it. It was too early to tell, Lucky dog reminded me. Gay men have rules they don’t always break, some of them much too strict, others quite unreasonable, all for no logical or apparent reason. I looked at Lucky dog and asked when he became such a sage. He ignored my question at the sight of ducks wading closer to the edge of the lake than he allows. A dog will do what he must to keep his backyard fowl free.
Later in the evening, my infernal device vibrated and pinged. When I checked to see the cause, I discovered a smoke signal from Sr. Toño. The message included a thank you for the lovely way the sun day was spent, and attached a photo of the orchids he bought, now enjoying the late afternoon sun on his living room table. I remarked how lovely the orchids looked, and agreed the colors went well with the rest of the room. Sr. Toño bid me a good evening. I returned to my book, silently wondering if the smoke signals would continue between us, and when or if the infernal device would vibrate and ping again.