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It is 8:14 a.m. and the sun is already shining strongly through the blinds like a peeping Tom, only more annoying. Last night I tossed and turned, dreading the decisions that would soon confront me. That's right, it's Valentine's Day! Where do I take the wife? What do I buy her? Of course, like always, I am planning everything off the cuff. What the heck, not to worry, I live in North Park, where there are at least 200 restaurants and numerous boutiques and artsy shops within a square mile from my home. With a sigh of relief, I stumble out of bed and kiss my sleeping wife.

It is 8:45 a.m., and after taking a nice cold shower to wake up, I decide to go on foot to run my Valentine errands. That's right, on foot! North Park is urban convenience at its best; also, 1 took the day off work. Besides that, North Park is a world-class people-watching area, kind of a mixture of Venice Beach (without the beach) and a West Hollywood in the rough. There's never a dull moment; in fact, I like to think that my Wabash Garden condominium complex represents North Park well. There are only eight units in the complex, yet there are six different nationalities or ethnic groups present: Brazilian (my lovely wife), Mexican, African (Kenyan), English, Guatemalan, Korean, and a few gringos like me, some gay and some not. There you have it, Babel in my back yard. What a community!

It is 9:00 a.m. I need some wake-up, so I decide to go to Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge to grab a White Mocha Chocolate with nonfat milk and a bran muffin. You see, my wife is 11 years younger than me; I've got to keep in shape in order to keep up with our future children and to stave off the young studs. Speaking of young studs, I peek into my gym, Urbanbody Gym, to see who's feeling ambitious this morning, more power to them, all six of them. As I continue walking down University toward Claire de Lune, I see a few regulars hanging out at some of the other local cafes, chatting and people-watching. I feel like I know some of these people, even though I've yet to have a conversation with them. I also pass by one of the local tattoo parlors, ever so happy to be in the mainstream. Getting a tattoo was once the act of a rebellious teenager or the realm of bikers and hippies; not so anymore, just ask"the girl next door" to show you her tattoo. Like a good husband, I take mental notes on boutiques and artsy shops that might have that special gift for my wife. Should I buy her some naughty underwear at the Rubber Rose, or splurge and buy her a slinky dress from Kate Ross? Whoops, there I go again, just thinking of myself. How about a day at the hair dresser with a pedicure and manicure thrown in? Or how about a dinner and show at the Hawthorn and the Birch Theatre?

Kate Ross catches my eye as I leave Claire de Lune so I wander over to see if I can find me a good price on an outfit my wife pointed out to me while window-shopping one evening. I peek at the pretty girl folding and moving clothes. She smiles and signals to me to come in, but I am not yet ready to tackle the challenge, so I give her the standard "I'll be back."

I decide to hop on over to the Rubber Rose to check out some adult fun tools and lingerie. Immediately the "besos not bombs" sexy underwear catch my eye, but a few fantasies later, I glimpse some of the art in the next room. Hmm, should I support the local artist and buy a painting to go along with that sexy underwear? After a few giggles with some employees and customers, I scurry across the street to the Lost Your Marbles Too gift shop to check out jewelry and other handmade arts and crafts. This place is great. There's original handmade jewelry, paintings, candles, chimes.

It is now 11:15 a.m. and my head is spinning from all the possibilities and an imagination gone wild. I need some air, so I decide to take a stroll along Texas Street to check out some of the historic Craftsman homes and the finely groomed gardens while dreaming about which one my wife and I will buy some day. Wouldn't that be the perfect Valentine gift? Then I take a left on Upas from Texas and mosey on down to the Blue-foot Bar & Lounge, a friendly and fun saloon. I order the beer of the week, Stella Artois, and ramble on with the bartender. I head home after about an hour, but not before stopping at the Rubber Rose to buy the "besos not bombs" underwear.

It's now 7:00 p.m. I've got a few surprises up my sleeve, and my radiant, elegantly dressed wife is ready for her North Park Valentine's Day Ball. First, I drive us to 30th and University to find parking. After parking, we walk to Hawthorn's to get a good Chocolate Martini, the wife's favorite cocktail. Then we skip over to the Apertivo Italian Wine Bar and Restaurant for dinner. After some pinot noir and an exquisite dinner, we walk a half-block to the Birch Theatre to see the latest production. Next, we go to Heaven Sent Desserts, where we split a specially ordered Tres Leches with green-and-yellow icing — the colors of the Brazilian flag. Finally, our Yellow-Cab chariot whisks us home — better to pay the five bucks than be behind bars — where I present Ana with a rose, a poem, and the "besos not bombs" underwear. The rest is history.

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