L.A. Affairs: Zion tour leaders clash, then find a common path

L.A. Affairs: Volcanic, tectonic, platonic, romantic? What happens when two tour guides collide

L.A. Affairs is our weekly column about the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles -- and finding romance in a wired world. If you've got a story to tell, we want to hear it. We pay $300 per published column. Past columns and submission guidelines are at latimes.com/laaffairs

He approached, another tour leader who had more experience than I did, who had more confidence and more personality. He began telling my passengers that Zion National Park was created through hot lava that was making its way up to the Earth's surface. I quickly realized, as he elaborated, that even if he had some of the facts right, he was making other things up. Now I was angry. He was not making me smile. Yes, we worked for the same tour company, but he was talking to my group, the people whom I was trying to impress with a delicious first-night pasta dinner. This man was wasting my time and laughing about it.

How did I end up at Zion being pestered by a charming tour leader with no boundaries?

I grew up in San Pedro, disliking the southern part of the state, blaming it for my terrible high school years. Stubbornly leaving for Portland, Ore., as soon as I could and then traveling even farther, to Thailand to teach English, movement became my stability. Therefore, when I got home from Thailand, I applied to be a tour leader, driving a 15-passenger van all over the United States. It was the most stressful job I have ever had. However, I came to love the moments when everything was perfect.

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And the men. The male tour leaders were confident and rugged and bearded and exactly my type, except for the fact that they were free spirits when it came to women (meaning they slept with a lot of them). The men thought of me as an equal and respected me. For this I respected them and told myself I would never fall in love with one.

And so we're at Zion. I was not falling in love with this man. He left and I was happy about it. We saw each other a couple more times throughout the summer. We were friendly, supportive and even considered each other cohorts.

At the end of the summer, I made my way back to Los Angeles, and I got a chance to write. It's what I had been waiting for, so I seized it quickly and held on tight. But after a few months, I was reminded of my very man-less state of being. I was invited to a bash in Reno, Nev., where all the ruggedly handsome free-spirit tour leaders were going to congregate, and even though I was pleased with my quiet existence — it felt simple and clean and gracious — I agreed to go.

Of course, I saw the Zion Man in Reno. We were in a hotel, in somebody's room, with many other tour leaders. He was dressed in a crazy floral shirt and suit vest. It was Halloween. I was dressed in a suit with a polka-dot bow tie and striped blue socks. I had decided to embrace my pixie cut and dress as a man. He looked at me. The look became a stare.

I didn't expect this reaction. I was a woman, dressed as a man, with no makeup on, and no sex appeal. The stare lingered. He told me I looked like Bob Dylan, or rather Cate Blanchett playing Bob Dylan, from the film "I'm Not There." I smiled. I was flattered. Zion Man was confident and rugged. He was also intelligent and had opinions. It was beginning to happen.

I fall fast under normal circumstances. I'm the girl who thinks that because we have the same phone, or both have tattoos or similar points of view on the Ebola crisis, then we are meant for each other. Of course, we didn't have the same phone, and he doesn't have any tattoos and our opinions about the Ebola crisis are very different. But we do both love the author Dave Eggers and think the organization that he began, 826, a nonprofit that helps kids develop writing skills, is necessary and beneficial.

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I told him I would be volunteering there after this chaotic weekend. We giggled out of coincidence. We both read a lot. We have both decided not to come back as tour leaders next year. He is moving to New Orleans.

I spent the entire night talking with him. At 6 a.m., we were sitting in a bar, drinking Lagunitas. We talked and looked at each other intensely. It felt real. I had never felt a connection so persuasive, and I have felt a lot of connections. He invited me to New Orleans. It turns out he's a romantic. The chance to run away from Southern California presented itself in this beautiful, romantic, free-spirited man.

I told him I couldn't go. I was having a much bigger love affair with life in Los Angeles.

I told him to stay in touch, but I know we will probably never see each other again.

So, here's to you, Zion Man. You should consider moving to Los Angeles. Strange things happen here.

Taylor Simmons is a Los Angeles-based writer.

L.A. Affairs chronicles dating in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, write us at home@latimes.com.

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