Happy Valentine's Day. If you're one of the lucky ones, flowers, candy or heart-shaped paper wishes will add to the romance of the lovers' holiday.
But if you're David J. Hasson, Cupid has missed his mark again.
Hasson, the 29-year-old proprietor of Al the Florist, is still searching for a wife. No experience needed.
At least, that's what it says on the sign he periodically posts in front of the wooden flower stand at Telegraph Road and Slauson Avenue in Commerce.
Most people link flowers and romance, and that's the way it has been in a business sense for Hasson. He took over the operation on Valentine's Day in 1981 after his uncle, Alberto Hanan, died.
But that link is missing in his personal life--on a day when thoughts of love are shared, while he makes up bouquets for others, Hasson has no sweetheart.
Tired of the single life, Hasson began advertising for a wife last summer.
But it has been a lonely hearts club story.
'People Started Laughing'
"Do you know that when I tried out the sign, people started laughing?" Hasson said. "People are so cold in this society."
Hasson, a Sagittarius who has soft, brown eyes, a pleasant smile and thinning, wiry hair, calls himself a "simple person."
"I'm humble street-corner florist" who's "extremely pudgy."
Monday night, he snipped away at stems, stripping off leaves, his plump hands deftly arranging flowers in a small crystal vase.
Out in front, carnations, tulips, daisies and mums stayed fresh in buckets of cool water, livening the spot wedged in at the Santa Ana freeway cut-off.
As he tidied up the counter, Hasson talked about love, flowers and what drives someone to advertise his vulnerability on a business sign the way you would a luncheon special.
The sign, he said, was inspired by a story in a supermarket checkout-stand weekly. The newspaper detailed the success of an overweight man who put a similar announcement in front of his house and was swamped with 400 offers. Hasson figured he might have the same kind of luck.
"The singles scene in the U.S. is such that they've made a pretty good business out of it," Hasson, who lives in Torrance, said. "They've made loneliness into a commodity that can be sold, and I think that's kind of cold."
So were some of the responses he received from women who didn't believe he was simply looking for a wife and not just a good time.
"One woman was halfway serious," Hasson recalled, "but even then she told me, 'Girls just wanna have fun.' "
"But," Hasson said, his eyes growing thoughtful, "a guy in the 28-to-32 age bracket sometimes wants something more serious."
What he wants is "someone who will work with me--someone, who, if something is wrong, will tell me, will communicate."
The way he sees it, "love is as much of a business as the rest of it and if there's no profit to it--emotionally or spiritually--there's no use being in the relationship."
In return, Hasson offers a generous heart. But, "you can't go around giving it away indiscriminately, because people will take you for a chump."
Hasson has never been married.
"Most of the relationships I have usually turn around and blow up in my face," he said.
"Nobody wants me."
But Gail Taylor and Wayland Cushman, Hasson's friends and employees, disagree.
They described their boss as "good-natured," "good lookin' " and "pleasingly plump," and one afternoon this week, while their boss talked of his quest, they confessed yearnings much the same as his.
Taylor, 18, longed for a guy named "Larry." Cushman--whose wife died the day after Valentine's Day five years ago--for a blonde in her mid-50s.
Hasson says his business is romantic, but in reality boils down to "hustling in a legal form."
"I trade my flowers for money. I see a lot of affection and a few bucks," he said.
Though he likes a profit, Hasson prides himself on his work: "I try to put a little more personality and effort into it."
Hasson began helping his Uncle Al sell the flowers out of the back of a truck and underneath a canvas awning when he was 15.
That's the way Al had run the business since he started it in 1951. But in 1982, Hasson built the stand for it, keeping a photograph of his kindly looking uncle amid the flowers "for good luck."
As the florist put away his blooms, Cushman smoked a cigar, contemplating the meaning of flowers and Valentine's Day.
"There's something refined about flowers," Cushman, 75, said. "Friendship, intimacy--I'll even go for that love bit."
Hasson wants all three qualities in the woman of his dreams, believing that the spirit of love should be nurtured year-round.
"It doesn't matter if it's Valentine's Day, Martin Luther King's birthday or the middle of August."