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This blind date led to a treasured relationship

Not every setup leads to a deep connection, but this one did.
You never know what will happen on a blind date.
You never know what will happen on a blind date. [ Shutterstock ]
Published April 20

I asked my wife, Karen, if she ever went on a blind date.

“No,” she said nonchalantly. “I never had to.”

Ouch, that hurt a little. Because I had to, starting in high school.

I fell into a familiar trap, where all the guys wanted to date the same five girls, the ones who were popular and crushingly beautiful. I asked one of them to a party, and she told me she had to go out of town to visit her cousin. Of course, she showed up at the party with another guy.

I was about 16 when a high school pal set me up on a blind date for a school dance. Her name was Barbara. She was cute, lively, and, after our first dance, slid her hand in mine for the rest of the night. It was so sweet. (I just found her via the internet. She didn’t remember me.)

Flash forward to 1967. I was a college sophomore in Providence, Rhode Island, and played in a rock band called Tuesday’s Children. Joe was our lead singer, and we played lots of songs by The Doors. When that now-famous group came to Brown University for a concert, we knew we wanted to go.

Joe and his girlfriend set me up with her friend from nursing school. It was a bit drizzly, so my date wore a yellow raincoat. We walked to the venue, and I could tell that she was miffed that we had no wheels.

The concert was great, with Jim Morrison (once a student at St. Petersburg Junior College) at his best, his voice growling and soaring through numbers such as “Soul Kitchen,” “Light My Fire” and “Break on Through.” At intermission, I was high on the music, not paying that much attention to my date. She went off to the ladies’ room, asking me to hold her raincoat.

I never saw her again.

Looking back, I get it. I was a skinny kid, with acne, and bad hair. I was nearsighted and wore Buddy Holly glasses. I hope I had some redeeming qualities: I was creative and funny. And if we had clicked, I would have been the most loyal boyfriend of all time.

Those qualities had time to emerge in the few weeks that I got to know my future bride, Karen Major. It so happened that we worked in the same office. She was so beautiful that I felt I was out of her league. But I wrote her a clever note asking if she wanted to go to a movie. It would not be the last time that being a decent writer helped me get someplace I wanted to go.

Which brings me to my most successful blind date of all time.

Picture me on Valentine’s Day weekend in 1981 at the Lakeland Civic Center. I am sitting in the stands to see a concert by a group that was growing in popularity, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. My friend Jeff Klinkenberg, a well-known writer at the then-St. Petersburg Times, had secured the tickets. I thought I would be sitting next to him.

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Instead, I found myself next to a young man with a clean-cut, corn-fed, Hoosier presence and dazzling blue eyes. He knew everything about Springsteen, and, if we can move ahead four decades, would see the Boss perform more than 100 times. Tom was a new reporter at the Times and would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1998.

By the time the concert was over, after an encore that included “Good Golly Miss Molly,” I had the intuition that I had just met — if not my soul mate — if not my BFF — then one of the dearest friends I could ever have. “Love you, brother,” is the way we say it.

Whether it was talking about the craft of writing, about our wives or other women, about families in all their complexities, about births and deaths, about secrets no one else knew, Tom and I can depend upon each other — for anything.

Now that’s one hell of a good blind date.

Turns out, it was not a random encounter. Jeff made sure that Tom and I had tickets in seats next to each other. “I knew you guys would hit it off,” he said. He set us up!

So how about you, dear reader? Got a story about a blind date, good or bad, you would like to share?