Around the time that I turned 12 years old, I became an avid reader of 17 Magazine, particularly of the flirting advice columns liberally sprinkled among its pages. But, being a resident of Korea, I found myself faced with two major obstacles to following the sage advice of these teen-advice columnists, which were that:
- I didn’t have the (American) audience on which to practice these very (American) flirtation tactics, and,
- I only had in my possession the one copy of 17 that I of course read the shit out of between ages 12 and 17.
When I finally returned to the U.S. for the first time since age 7, 16 years old and ripe with teenage hormones and boy-craze, you can imagine how excited I was to dip in to my arsenal of long-treasured 17 tips for attracting the opposite sex.
The one in particular that I was most eager to use was none other than dog-walking. I was in luck: My hosts in LA had two adorable dachshunds eager to leave their cramped backyard quarters. Unfortunately, I had failed to account for two key factors that would completely negate said “luck” in the course of my grand dog-walking, boy-attracting experiment utterly and in whole, and these were that:
- These were the most misbehaved, least well-leash-trained dogs ever, and,
- I didn’t know the streets of the neighborhood nearly as well as I thought I did.
Oblivious, I set off with high hopes. Max and Nari the Dachshund Couple pulled me enthusiastically forward, often to the point of pulling my arm nearly out of its socket. But I struggled to maintain my composure, smiling brightly for every bypasser who strolled my way, even when tripping over some obstacle on the road, ill-prepared to meet them due to canine impatience.
My hosts lived on one Santa Carlotta Street in La Crescenta, near Glendale. My plan was to simply circle around the block and end back up at Santa Carlotta Street. What I didn’t realize was that I was dealing with two dead-end streets. Meaning that, “circling the block” would be anything but just circling the block. One block up, one block over, one block down, and back home again would be more like: two blocks up, one block over, one long downhill walk equivalent of three blocks down, one long trek southeast commensurate to two blocks, one block back uphill, then two blocks northwest just to return home.
I made it as far as my descent down along Pennsylvania Avenue. Then I reached the end of that block and nearly had a heart attack. Greeting me at the intersection was not a sign for Santa Carlotta Street, but, of course, El Caminito Street.
The year was 2001, far before the age of smartphones, but even if it had been modern day, I of course wouldn’t have been able to access Google Maps or Mapquest for that matter, since I was from Korea, and even if I weren’t my parents were too cheap to have paid for smartphone data usage for me anyhow. In other words, I was pretty screwed in terms of navigational aid. Still, determined to log in at least a number or two that day, I held my head up resolute. With a charming smile still plastered across my face, I continued forward, trying in vain to force down the panic rising from the pit of my stomach.
Three hours later, after I had explored every street I came across, got pulled in even more erratic directions by the dogs, got thoroughly turned around, and consequently couldn’t so much as find my way back to Pennsylvania Avenue anymore, my smile had long since been swept away by the torrents of sweat that had been pouring down my face all afternoon. To make matters worse, Max and Nari had apparently sensed my faltering self-confidence and, consequently, had begun weaving in and out between the two of them. Being lost in a neighborhood you’ve never been in is bad enough without having to constantly untangle two very naughty dogs’ leashes.
The sun was starting to descend into the hill, and I finally let go any remaining sense of determination to maintain my dignity. I approached a kindly looking lady watering her plants out in her front yard.
“Excuse me,” I started in a trembling voice, “Could you tell me how to get back to Santa Carlotta?”
To my soul-crushing disappointment, I saw the same look of confusion that had crept up on the face of every local I had asked that afternoon how the hell I could make my way back to Santa Carlotta Street. No one seemed to know what the hell Santa Carlotta Street even was.
“I’m sorry,” she said, biting her lip. “I didn’t know even know there was a street by that name around.”
“Oh,” I said quietly. “Okay. Thanks.”
I began to trudge downhill again when suddenly she called me.
“Excuse me,” she said, “did you say Santa Carlotta Street?”
I spun around. “Yes!” I cried, triumphantly.
She tapped her cheek with her finger. “I’m not sure exactly where it is, but I think you might be able to find it by going down this way.” She pointed in a Southeasterly direction (which, incidentally, was completely incorrect).
The dogs, those bastards, were already pulling me forward. But I was overjoyed to have an objective.
“This way, you said, right?” I said, absent-mindedly following the dogs down the hill. I turned my body and slowly began following suit with my head even as I continued addressing my “savior”. “This way? Oh my god, thank you so much.” My face was now almost facing forward. “Thanks, I’ll head—”
I walked face-first into a pole.
The pole hit me smack dab between the eyes. I struggled to resist the temptation to rub my forehead and glared ruefully at the two dogs. In response, Max plopped himself onto the ground and scratched at his ear, while Nari looked up at me innocently, begging for a pet. I denied her request, then looked back at the lady. She was struggling to hold back laughter — unsuccessfully.
Feeling more dejected than ever, I trudged on in my search for Santa Carlotta Street.
* * * * * * *
About an hour later, my mom found me and the dogs wandering the streets a mile away, scooped us up in her car, then grounded me for a week.