Squawk Radio

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Liz: In Praise Of The Cheap Date

All the conversation yesterday about young love and first dates made me think about those early years with my husband, and how we never had any money to go out on decent dates. Not that a “decent date” to a teenager requires much more than a tank of gas and a deserted country road, but there were those nights when we wanted go out and do something. (Besides make out, I mean. Okay, AFTER we made out.) It was a challenge to find something to do that was cheap and fun.

One thing we loved was to go to Hawley-Cooke Booksellers, a massive independent in Louisville that was an AMAZING place for when and where it appeared. It was a HUGE bookstore, teeming with books on every subject imaginable. There was a fireplace and comfy chairs, and patrons were actually ENCOURAGED to relax and browse. In this day of Barnes and Noble and Borders, it’s hard to imagine such a place being revolutionary, but for Louisville in the late 70s, it was an awesome thing. And David and I spent countless evenings there doing something we both loved: exploring the world of books.

My favorite cheap date back then, though, was to drive through stately old neighborhoods and look at the gorgeous houses. This was especially nice after dark, because the lights in the houses would be on, and we could look in the windows to see how they were furnished. I’m sure this is where the seeds of my desire to become an interior decorator were sewn. My two favorite streets to explore (okay, okay, STALK) in Louisville were Rainbow Drive in Seneca Gardens and Castleberry in Bonnycastle. I’ve given houses on both streets to my characters to live in a number of times. Who knew I was cataloguing material even as a teenager to use in what would be dozens of books a decade or two later?

Even after we married, we were still strapped for cash and looking for cheap dates. When we lived in Puerto Rico, where my husband was stationed with the Coast Guard, we kept track of which days the cruise ships docked in Old San Juan, because we knew those were the days when the jewelry stores gave away free pina coladas to lure in customers. We had some GREAT cheap dates that way. Tossing back boat drinks and looking at expensive jewelry, pretending we could afford it. Of course, after doing this for a while, we had to start donning disguises...

Even now that we can afford to go to nice restaurants and see plays and attend the ballet, I still love cheap dates best. Our favorite thing to do these days is send the boy over to his cousin’s for an overnight, then pick up carry-out from India Palace, open an inexpensive pinot grigio and sit on pillows on the floor of the family room behind the coffee table, flipping through the choices on on-demand. There’s just something about it that... I don’t know. Makes me feel like a kid again. Except that, as kids, we probably would have had carry-out from Steak ‘n’ Shake and a bottle of Cella Lambrusco. (Yeah, okay, I suppose there IS such a thing as a date that’s TOO cheap.)

So what are some other great cheap dates? What does everyone else do for fun when they’re trying to save their pennies for something else? And why, when all is said and done, are cheap dates often the most romantic? ‘Cause I sure do remember the night drives through Seneca Gardens and the pina coladas in plastic cups more than I do the ballet we saw not long ago...
Elizabeth Bevarly, 7:46 AM