I was treading water at an ad agency in Toronto when I spied an unusual ad in the morning paper. It was an announcement from the U.S. government recruiting able-bodied Canadians to apply for a lottery to enter the U.S. legally with a resident alien, or green, card. I took the bait and signed up.
Fast-forward two years. I arrived home from work on a miserable winter afternoon and found a large envelope in my mailbox. The U.S. Department of Immigration was inviting me to live in the United States!
I was excited about the possibilities that lay before me, but once I looked at a map and realized how large the U.S. was and how many choices there were, I ruminated about what to do — for several months. Then an old girlfriend called from Santa Monica to tell me, among other things, how terribly hot and uncomfortable the weather was. It was February.
Like countless snowbirds before me, I decided to move to California.
Within weeks of my arrival, my brother back in the frozen north decided to take advantage of having a close relative with an empty bed in a warm climate. Lorne stayed for several days, during which time he dragged me to what seemed like every bar and honky-tonk in L.A. County. I loved listening to the music, but driving from the Westside to Sherman Oaks to downtown every night was too much for me. I needed to slow down. On Lorne's final Friday night, I selected Harvelle's in Santa Monica. I like the blues, and it looked to be a cool, retro kind of place.
I don't recall who played, but I remember that I enjoyed the music. The crowd, on the other hand, not so much — too many people, too hot and, back then, too smoky. As the clock closed in on midnight, I signaled to Lorne that I had to leave. We began walking up 4th Street to our car when a small dark Mazda RX-7 suddenly pulled up and stopped next to me. "Here," said a woman partially hidden behind a half-rolled-down window, "take this." She handed me a crumpled piece of paper and the car zoomed off.
I opened the folded paper to find a handwritten note: "You have been voted most intriguing man of the night. Call me," with a name and phone number added.
Cool, but kind of weird, I thought. I wasn't sure what to do.
The next day, Lorne was off bright and early to LAX, leaving the rest of my day open. I rode down the beach path on my bike, stopped at a magazine shop on Wilshire Boulevard, grabbed a bagel and cream cheese at Bagel Nosh, then got back to my apartment to face the inevitable — calling the mystery number.
I was reluctant because I had no idea whom I was calling. I had barely seen the woman in the passenger seat who had handed me the note. I knew there was another woman driving, but I couldn't see her through the glare of the windshield. In fact, I didn't even know which one wrote the note.
Eventually, I picked up the phone and dialed.
"Hey," answered a female voice with a Southern accent that sounded to my Canadian ears like a cross between Scarlett O'Hara and Minnie Pearl. The voice apologized for the silliness of her note and explained that she and her friend had singled me out at Harvelle's but were too nervous to strike up a conversation.
"Do you remember me now?" she asked. "I was standing right next to you."
I had absolutely no recollection of any woman standing next to me but made an attempt at an excuse, wondering why I hadn't noticed her. Surely the band at Harvelle's wasn't so entertaining that I'd fail to notice a charming female closing in on me.
After a few minutes of casual banter, we decided on a dinner date at Cantalini's, a kitschy Italian joint on Culver Boulevard just down the street from her two-room cottage in Playa del Rey. Arriving late, I reluctantly knocked on the door expecting the worst but was taken aback by the appearance of a tall slender blond with a radiant smile.
"Hey! You made it," she said, fumbling with a stack of CDs. Her name was Leslie, and her accent was from North Carolina, but her employer — the United States Air Force — was even more foreign to me. Leslie was a captain and stationed in El Segundo, but she didn't look like any military officer I'd ever seen.
I did my best to be intriguing at dinner and I guess I succeeded because we've now been together 20 years — and we're the proud parents of a brilliant, creative 13-year-old boy who is definitely very intriguing.
All this from looking through the classifieds many years ago.
Ron Goldman is an advertising graphic designer and copywriter.
L.A. Affairs chronicles romance and relationships. Past columns are archived at latimes.com/laaffairs. If you have comments to share or a story to tell, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times