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The Decade of Blind Dates
“The Decade of Blind Dates” is a provocatively funny, sad, yet genuinely joyful storytelling of the ten years of intimate explorations of Peter Bauman, artist and admirer of beauty, after the occasion of his coming out. The author’s beautiful command of the English language, coupled with his obvious sophistication, world-wise ways, and immense insight into human (and canine) nature make this a book that begs the reader to forego dinner, forget work, and simply sit back and enjoy the ride. These things I did, and now I must catch up, after laughing with hilarity and joy, crying so I could not read through my tears, and re-reading paragraphs and descriptions just to enjoy them once more.
Peter is seeking love. Sex and beauty and all things feeling displace the search for love, but Peter has many years to make up for. He is forty-five at the outset of the book, and after his adored wife Becky points out to him that he would be so much happier with a man, they divorce amicably and their two teenage children urge him to find himself, a process which proves almost unbearably slow before internet dating. Peter’s written letters in reply to the gay want ads he peruses in likely publications take weeks to receive responses, and bring home the startling differences between a slower time and today. Amazingly, the slower time was not so long ago! Since Peter’s sainted Becky has found ultimate financial success with her olive oil crust pastries, her munificence allows him to devote his life to his art, unfettered by the banal need to earn a living.
Peter’s best friend Barry, with his twenty-five year fiasco of a relationship with Len, a horrible old crank and cheat who behaved like a bad father, or worse, provides the continuity between Peter’s many sexual encounters over the ten-year period. Some tender and sweet, some hilarious, some just sad, their rehashing of each boyfriend (manfriend?) conveys the work involved in trying to find love in midlife.
The ever-present specter of AIDS, painfully intrude upon the mundane and the sublime, and rituals must be followed to ensure the periodic negative test for AIDS. Eventually prostate cancer rears its ugly head. It hardly seems fair that Peter has to have vigils for both AIDS and PSA test results. Peter is coaxed back to health by Chas, with his Adonis body and his relentless swim coaching, personal training, and cheering-on at the gay games at which Peter excels, with personal triumph that gladdens the reader.
Peter’s mother, Geraldine, admonishes him to make something of himself, while his father encourages nothing but happiness. Peter’s musings on the meaning of relationships are so enthralling as to drag the reader into a vortex of thinking, feeling, fearing, enjoying, regretting, impossible to resist.
I loved the intense colors of Split Rock Island, the wild private island Peter inherited from his artistic mentor, Lee. Jutting out into Lake Champlain, the huge old house, fallen into genteel disrepair, beckons to the reader just as it had nourished the artistic souls of both Lee, and then Peter, as it became his and Fred’s, his wonderful canine companion, who ages as we tromp through discoveries with Peter over ten years. Everyone loves Fred, especially the reader. On Split Rock Island, you can feel the spray on your face and hear the crack of the glass-like ice on the vast lake as spring arrives.
“The Decade of Blind Dates” is a fabulous read – Peter with his intimate knowledge of all things fine – fine art, literature, couture, music, cooking and wine. One becomes jealous that Peter is so accomplished, and yet he is blind to love…
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