Three Act Plays

That’s what they all are, right?

Plays.

Three acts is the norm. Sure Billy S did some shit back in the day. Then there was the occasional epic endeavor, like Angels In America, that had so many kicks to the heart balls to deliver that it needed to be broken up into two three act plays.

But overall, three gets the job done. Two, and people feel blessedly cheated. Four, and no one likes you.

Plus, there’s the whole “I can nap at home for free” chestnut among reluctant theater-goers. Four acts seems less like a nap than an entire damn night of sleep.

At least for my nearing-geriatric sleep patterns.

Why is this on my mind tonight?

Well, I just poured my third glass of wine. Emptying the bottle.

Heavy pour.

But it is in deference to a Silver Nugget – a phrase coined by Little Buddy about the secrets people started sharing with me when I turned 50. She – Little Buddy – is not yet 50, but enjoyed my sharing of privileged information here on this blog, and felt compelled to come up with a name for these aged secrets.

Being the Little Buddy that she is, this process involved an evolving train of thought on a text thread.

It was impressive, and I know I’ve failed to retrieve the best of her efforts from the impenetrable vault that is my memory. The fallout is mine to deal with.

The Silver Nugget in question came from my sister, who was not yet 50 at the time of this nugget’s disclosure. It was more of a hybrid wisdom: things of a life hack nature combined with parenting perks.

In this case, it was my sister pulling the epically resonating parental sacrifice offset of having my tween nephew refill her wine glass for her. He comes back into the room heeltoeing his way to her throne chair in order to avoid spilling anything from a glass that was filled so full, its meniscus existed only on a theoretical plane.

Being a highly decorated and multi-faceted snob, I had to make mention of the situation. It was also helpful – and I credit my Catholic upbringing for this skill – in deflecting my own uninhibited imbibing. An ongoing situation – clearly – for another time.

Being a mother, my sister coolly spared my judgment a total of zero fucks and set me straight.

“Why waste the trip?”

Fair point, but my snobbery was feeling robbed of a Karen moment.

Being in high end kitchen retail for several of my career years, I knew things.

I knew that a bottle of wine held five pours.

I knew that a proper pour was five ounces.

And I knew that wine glasses came in varietal sizes, designed to enhance the drinking experience by combining the sinuses and the palate for an optimal flavor experience. Overfilling the glass defeated these design endeavors.

Adding a total of zero additional fucks after hearing my objections, for a total of…<carry the none>…yes, zero actual fucks, my sister completely poo-pooed my criticism of her life choices.

I now know that was a mom life hack.

And now embrace it.

On a Monday morning, approaching 2 A.M.

And as I watch crappy movies from the earliest of aughts featuring the best of actors, I find myself wondering if I’m enjoying my wine in three acts better than these movies in their own three act efforts.

I think I am…but now I’m on my last glass and still have an hour and a half of Under Suspicion left to go. I think I should have made sure to have some backup spiked seltzers for this crisis.

Here’s one of Little Buddy’s bronze nuggets – which evolved during a fit of pandemic drinking: anything under 5% ABV is hydration.

So my spiked seltzer backup is…health food.

Technically?

Don’t argue with your elders.

Three Act Plays

Imagination Run Amok

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you don’t need to be told that I posses a wild imagination. Over active and wild.

This week has given me plenty of fodder, too.

Witness the latest opportunity to doom forecast:

Yes, obviously another of my neighbors has died. Yes…obviously. There’s simply no other way to see it.

My only evidence? Those seven packages were only five yesterday when I left. Those five had been delivered late in the day on Monday.

Never-mind the reality that this dude works from home and always has work packages in the lobby. Nor my observation based on our floor’s recycling room that indicates he also has a wicked online shopping habit.

Who goes away for three days – and counting – when they are expecting an avalanche of packages? Or, when you’re that guy, who doesn’t try to make friends with one of their three cohabitants on the floor?

Ok, to be fair…he did suggest I come over for a beer after he moved in, but I didn’t even know his name. Like, bro – bro…introduce yourself before inviting someone over. Who’s teach the How to People classes these days? I have some notes.

Anyway, a few weeks after that odd encounter, I had cause to call the police on him after a prolonged screaming match between him and some female guest that spilled into the hallway. After that, I was happy never seeing him again, which is actually likely in my small building of 18 units. For what it’s worth, there’s been at least one other similar domestic occurrence, well, that I’ve personally witnessed. Remember, I work very late on the most probable domestic disturbance nights – Friday and Saturday.

Ironically, the oldest and longest tenured resident on our floor – I’m the second longest tenured resident – is an old lady living in 4B around the corner from this dude’s unit. She’s probably mid-70s at the youngest…but the way things are going, I’ll bet she outlived the other three of us middle-aged-at-best, fat white men. She who laughs last…

Imagination Run Amok

Still Mad: An Update

In case you were wondering, Mother Nature is still pissed at us. Feel free to see what caused me to make that obvious statement originally before reading on – or not. All will be clear soon enough.

I woke the other morning – yes, I was up before noon! – to find these pics of my beloved Park Blocks/front yard from a local news anchor on my Twitter feed.

Another of our North Park Block’s hundred-plus year old trees had fallen overnight. As you can see, it more tipped over after its roots basically failed to hold it in the ground. I mean, we’ve had a lot of rain the past couple of weeks…but not that fucking much rain.

Minimal upside, I suppose, could be that the building it fell onto is slated for demolition to make way for a hotel that will take up the park-facing half of the city block that it sits on. As soon as the other building on that half of the block is removed from the Historic Register.

Yeah, that part is kinda fucked up.

I walked past the site this morning after checking Angela into the “spa” for her repairs. It doesn’t look better by light of day.

The clean up isn’t done, obviously, but I’m surprised the building wasn’t more damaged. I guess that’s a testament to the masonry workers of the…19th century?

I guess the actual bright side here is that no one was hurt. This being Portland, home to the third largest homeless population in the country – behind NYC and SF, if you can believe that…we should not be on a population based list with cities of their size – we have urban campers on virtually every block in the close-in downtown area. Not every side of every block, but you’d be hard pressed to find a block without tents on at least one side. Not to mention RVs parked along the city streets for weeks at a time before being forced to move to another street.

That being the case, I’m glad these poor souls living just to the left of where the tree landed on the building weren’t harmed in the incident. But you can be damn sure they had the living daylights scared out of them.

Mother Nature is mad. At us…and with good reason. But I see no reason that the least among us should pay the ultimate or any physical price for the damage the wealthiest and more conspicuously consuming among us create.

That poor tree, though. I’m so sad for the ongoing damage our Park Blocks are sustaining. Everyone go buy an electric car!

Still Mad: An Update

John Lennon Was Right

Instant karma got me.

Or, car-ma…as the case t’were. I’m accepting that it was my fault for kvetching about one measly 4-star rating out of two and a half years of 5-star rides.

Hence the karma pun.

Anywho…Angela crapped out by the side of the road tonight. Actually, it was in a drive lane, but it was the curb side of the road – if you’ll allow me to split that hair.

I had called my friend, Diezel, before she died. He sometimes works on things like brake pads for me – hey, he works for burgers! His take on it was that it was an alternator and/or battery issue.

Angela had given me a “charging malfunction” error before I had called Diezel. When she had died the first time, giving me a last minute “drivetrain malfunction” message as she locked herself down in a parking lot.

The middle of a parking lot.

At sundown.

In The Numbers. Let’s just say that’s nowhere for an old white man to be broken down. Particularly after dark,

I Google “drivetrain malfunction” + “BMW X3” and learn that I can probably restart it after five minutes. I find a tree, take a whiz and go back.

<Le poof>

She starts up.

Knowing what to expect performance-wise, thanks to the prophet Google, I set out for home. I’m crawling, since Angela isn’t feeling like giving me more than 20-ish MPH.

Sticking to arterial surface streets, I had called Diezel as I limped westward. He tells me to look for a side street to park on and he’ll come get me and take me home, I can have her towed tomorrow.

I know he’s right – he’s an engineer and a rational thinker. I am an emotional thinker.

Emotionally, I want to get home. Knowing Diezel is right, my fallback is to get out of The Numbers.

Shit goes down there. BiPOC folx who live on the west side are reluctant to head to that part of the eastside when it’s dark. Last year was Portland’s deadliest in decades: gun violence, fire deaths, homicides, traffic deaths. You name it, if it was violent or deadly, we either broke a record last year or came damn close.

The Numbers – a nickname based on the blocks between ~122nd and 180th on the eastside of town – had more than the lion’s share of traffic and gun violence deaths last year. Don’t even get me started on the record number of stolen cars last year – October and November had around 13k stolen cars for the two month period.

Two months.

I didn’t want to leave Angela there.

We made it into the double-digit block numbers. I’d just crossed 102nd and was promising Diezel I’d pull off as I hit the 205 overpass at about 93rd.

She died. On the uphill approach to the overpass. I briefly considered jumping, but only therapeutically. Well, mostly.

I told Diezel what happened and he told me to drop him a pin for my location, he was leaving that moment.

Friends like him…they make me feel like I don’t deserve them as friends.

I throw a little pity party while I wait.

I’d just squared up my Multnomah County business taxes from 2019 and 2020, because TurboTax small business doesn’t do them – nor does it tell you that ain’t happening.

The county, though. They tell you. Two years later.

Well, that’s when they told me I owed $1400 in tax for 2019…the year I started driving for Lyft. In August. I decided to get ahead of 2020 – when I’d driven the whole year and made 4x what I made in ‘19 – and dig it out before the county hit me with penalties like the 2019 miss had created.

So much for buying a new place this year.

It wasn’t looking good, anyway, based on financial timing and the likely prime rate boosts coming down the pike this year. At best, I’d be looking at two hikes before I had mutual acceptance.

I’d accepted this. It was nice to at least have a goal to work toward, however briefly.

But here I was again, in crisis mode.

I was startled out of my pity party by a pair of headlights in my windshield.

Diezel!

But…not Diezel.

A Good Samaritan!

Yes! This was the Portland I knew and loved.

It was a woman who had passed by and pulled a u-turn in front of me to pull up to my hood grill – let’s not call it a hood whilst stalled in The Numbers. She walked up to my passenger window and asked if I needed a jump. I told her, “heck, yeah!” and she was off to her cargo area for her cables.

BMWs are weird. The battery in my X3 is in the back, but you jump it from the front. Actually, there is a positive post, that’s it. I’d been watching videos on this, so I kind of knew this – but she wanted to check in with her significant other, so we FaceTimed him. He agreed with my guess that we just needed to attach the negative to a hunk of metal and we were good to go.

She started her car and I got in mine to give Angela a wake up call.

She started right up. I revved her a few times. I was ready to let her sit and charge for a few minutes, but my Good Samaritan was antsy to go. I couldn’t fault her, but knowing about jumping cars from watching my parents do it while growing up in the 80s, that was my best guess for next steps.

Sadly, she was already talking about how to disconnect the cables with her Boo when I came around. He agreed I was good to go, so I yielded to their current information.

As soon as she turned and left, I put Angela in gear…and she re-died.

Diezel immediately pulled up behind me.

My first and third savior of the night.

“Galbs”, he said to me, “you need to call a tow truck to take this to a garage.”

I knew from his tone that this was his way of telling me this repair was beyond his capabilities. At least as far as roadside repairs were concerned.

He gave me a towing company name and number. Three hours.

He pulled another from his list and dictated the number to me. One hour!

Between calls and hold times, Diezel had been amusing himself by blowing his air horn at passing cars that had cut their lane change around us too closely. One of those blasts had clearly scared the towing company dispatcher shitless.

Fifteen minutes later, Diezel decided to get out and strobe his flashlight at the Stupid Americans who were too distracted to see his emergency flashers and proactively – not to mention safely – merge into the other lane.

He was worried about someone rear ending him. Looking at Angela’s dark brake lights and dead emergency lights, I couldn’t blame him. I was grateful to him for being there to save a near-certain collision.

There was a car backing down the overpass in front of Angela. He stopped and popped his rear hatch.

“Why don’t you go meet him?”

I acquiesced, and the man met me by my car with three flares. Another Good Samaritan.

For such a crappy night, the universe was putting a lot of amazing people in my path.

By the time the tow truck was a half hour late, the flares had burned through. Diezel was strobing approaching cars again. We could not believe how people fucked up such a simple thing as not hitting a stalled vehicle.

I couldn’t decide if it was distracted driving, stereotypically too polite Portland-slash-Portlandia-type drivers, or a combination of the two. Cars in our lane would slow to zipper in behind the car with the right of way, and that car would in turn yield its right of way by slowing to let it in front of them.

Both lanes of traffic came to a stop or near-stop several times. I retreated to the cab of Diesel‘s truck for an update on the tow truck.

Fifteen minutes.

Ten minutes later, the driver called. He was ten minutes out. He told me the tow would be just under $200. I asked if he could invoice me because I didn’t have it immediately – see also: why I was out driving on a Tuesday.

No.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck-fuck.

I’d payed two year’s worth of County back taxes and my January bills in the last ten days. Followed by also taking several days off to process my 4-star rating.

The savings I can usually access within 48 hours was nearly tapped. I was anticipating needing to tap into my other savings for the repair – that savings has a five day turnaround, so no driving for the better part of a week on top of opening the drain on my savings again. Not to mention any significant penalties for early withdrawal – or its modern day equivalent.

I was feeling hosed.

I looked a little more longingly at that guardrail. Sensing my distress, Diezel handed me his credit card and told me gently not to worry, pay him back whenever, but get the repair taken care of first.

I offered to at least get him a beer, but he demurred. It was after 9:30, after all…this one hour wait had turned into two and a half hours, not to mention the 30 minute transit and depositing Angela at the garage. He usually turns in closer to 8. Proposing a counteroffer of a hug, since we hadn’t seen each other in real life for over a year, he took off for home.

Realizing Myrtle’s dinner was over four hours late – a millennia in cat-time – I rushed upstairs to feed the mistress.

Then I prescribed myself a therapeutic Emotional Support Pizza that I keep in the freezer in case of emergency.

Don’t judge my Hawaiian pizza tastes!

You cannot understand the number of weekend nights I’ve come in from driving to bare cupboards. This was one of several I picked up after deciding I simply couldn’t face another 3 AM pizza from 7-Eleven. Plus, you can dress up a frozen pizza with red pepper flakes and – especially – an herb mix from Penzey’s Spices.

You’d eat this. <chef’s kiss> Admit it.

Plus, I broke open a bottle of the Columbia Gorge’s finest – from Marchese Cellars – to polish up the therapy session.

It’s a $30 bottle of amazing red. Not a bad companion to a $7 pizza…so if those herbs and red pepper flakes don’t make that pizza palatable…this will! Then this happened

Come the fuck on!

Undeterred, I got that cork out on the second try. Hopefully, that’s a harbinger of the ease of repair for Angela.

Now, I think I have some In Case Of Emergency Ben & Jerry’s around here somewhere…

John Lennon Was Right

4

There’s a first time for everything, they say.

Sidebar: there will be no sidebar tangent on the whole “they” phenomenon of deferring judgment of our own to that faceless, possibly all-knowing cabal known only as they. But you just know I’m dubious of their wisdom. Especially if they simply turn out to be nothing more than garbage-variety stupid Americans. <gasp>

There does, though, seem to be a first time for everything.

Just about two weeks ago now, I got my first non-5-star ride rating from a passenger.

4.

I was amazed at how much this affected me. I mean…

Out of about 7300 rides at that time, one measly 4-star rating. I couldn’t tell if it was the loss of my 5-star streak after almost two and a half years (August 2019-December 2021) or the overwhelming randomness of its presence against over 7000 other ratings.

I mean, I know not everyone bothers to rate me after a ride. In those instances, my rating defaults to a 5-star automatically.

Maybe it was that she chose to click a box to support her rating.

Unsafe Driving.

Yeah….that was probably it.

I’m not meant to know who these ratings or comments come from. But this was a particularly gnarly week. It was the holiday week. And it snowed.

Of course, that created some shitty driving conditions. Particularly since the snow followed a day of rain where about 2” fell before sundown and carried on into the night. Snow was really only falling in the higher elevations…y’know, like 500 feet.

That’s high elevation for Portland!

But on Highway 26, coming into town, that created a real shit show driving situation.

That highway is a steep grade down hill into town – heck, out of town for that matter…I’d hydroplaned going uphill on this freeway on my way to the pickup. That takes some doing.

I digress. Water was running across the lanes and down hill, then running even deeper with traffic where tires had grooved each lane. It was like a liquid tic-tac-toe board.

Since we were still at about 400 ft above sea level and a good 150 ft above the valley floor, there was snow coming down with the rain. But not just any snow. It was big, wet flakes. Like Mother Nature’s minions had confused Portland’s weather with their children’s home room winter decor.

Seriously, these snowflakes looked like they were cut out of construction paper by second graders, they were so huge. When they hit the windshield, they made an audible thwack.

It was no Snow Falling On Cedar moment,

Highway 26 is also windy – in both senses of the word, but in this case you just need to know it was twisty and turny. Did I mention we were heading downhill?

Even going only 40 mph, I hydroplaned. Twice.

And this is the weather this suburbanite chose to go into town in.

Lucky me, I got to drive her.

And then she said my driving was unsafe.

Girl, your judgment is unsafe!

Best part? She tipped me!

That’s what really made her stand out. I knew it was a white knuckle ride. Mainly because I’m referring to my own knuckles! But I remembered seeing the tip and thinking that was really generous of her, given the hairy road and weather conditions.

Then she fucked me in the comments.

It wasn’t that big a tip.

Anyway, the app itself does a fairly good job of building in an occasional rogering for us drivers, too. In this case, it’s that we don’t see individual ride ratings, we get a weekly recap about nine days later. That means that I’ve given between 50-100 rides between the time someone rates their ride and I see the recap.

But! There’s an appeal process.

All I have to do is scroll through my history to the ride in question, mind you, this is all we see in our ride history

No addresses, rider names, rating…just the date, time and earnings. So, sure…let me scroll back through the rides for that day – I give 20-40 on Fridays and Saturdays – and take my best guess and then tap “I Was Rated Unfairly”. I can narrow it down by filtering out the riders that didn’t tip, but I’m usually getting tips from 40-60% of my riders, so of the 15 rides I gave that night during that nightlife ride window, I’m still gonna have to take my best guess out of about nine possible rides.

Nine days later.

On the plus side, the app does default to a 5-star rating if the passenger does nothing. And it’s not like I’m really suffering…

I mean, roughly 20-25% of my passengers enjoy the ride with me enough to bother to tap a button telling Lyft I’m friendly or go above and beyond during their ride. Hell, 1445 riders tapped a button saying I’m a good driver.

So, why let one rider out of 7300+ get under my skin?

I dunno. Maybe they are right. Maybe with me, it’s always gotta be something.

But, honestly? I think it’s C-PTSD. My therapist talked a little about this with me during my too-brief mental health tune up this past summer when Black Sheep Bro came prodigally back.

I can’t let go of something that’s wrong. Not easily, anyhow. It’s why I left my last professional job, and why I left my part time gig with Amazon. Not to mention one of my temp jobs – credit to me, though, I finished the assignment but passed on the request to extend when the owner asked for me to stay longer.

All of those situations had me in places where I was witnessing bad behaviors from leadership. I had to go. That’s my trigger, bad behaviors. Specifically, people getting away with them. Especially if that creates a double-standard.

This? This was just one passenger prioritizing Saturday night fun (or whatever night it was) over personal safety and then making it my problem/fault she felt unsafe. And tipping me to cushion the blow.

Or at least that’s how my mind spins the blanks that it fills in. Blanks that are created by the absence of immediate feedback.

Whaddyagunnado, though, right?!?

Normal People: Fuggeddabowdit!

Me: …

I tried to shake it off. Carry on like normal. Move on.

How that manifested in the doldrums between Christmas and New Years, though – when ride demand is down because people are holed up with family, not to mention the exacerbation Omicron added to the mix – was me trying to soldier on but failing to be busy enough to distract myself from the trigger.

I went out Monday to do some afternoon/rush hour rides. Because New Years weekend was so slow – seriously, NYE was a Friday and it’s typically my biggest night of the year…I did half the business I do on a regular Friday night! – so I quit “early”. After the ball drop, before last call. So, I had three make up rides to pick up in order to true up my Lifetime Rides number.

What? I like it to end in a 5 or 0. That’s not weird. It’s tidy. I’m fastidious!

Sheesh.

I was in my third make-up-rides ride, trying to decide how awful long another five rides would take – those three put me at the two hour mark, usually I do 3-4 rides in one hour – when one of my drinking buddies texted me. I saw the preview drop down from the top of my phone, “Tanner Creek at 530?”

Fuck, yeah! That was a much more therapeutic better use of my time!

The next day, I got my 4-star ride. I didn’t drive again until Friday. Outside of my vacation in October, I hadn’t taken three days off in a row since…I don’t even know when! In non-challenge weeks (where I drive about 25-30 hours), I’ll take three days off, sometimes even four. Just not together.

I didn’t get out of bed until after noon each day, including Friday. That was the week of bad Bruce Willis flicks where I stayed up until daybreak at least twice. I over ate, over drank, smoked too much weed and didn’t exercise at all.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give that week a…4.

But I came out the other side of it, so there’s that. Note to self: I gotta stop letting things get corkscrewed up into my psyche.

4

Must Distract TV?

I freely admit that my TV watchlist is certainly no “Must See” NBC Thursday Night Lineup, but a good many of the programs that streamers have put in front of me lately are barely presenting as fodder to keep me…let’s call it sedated.

While, not great shows for a variety of reasons, they are at least doing a fair job of keeping me disengaged from the surreality of the world around me. I can’t say that’s their explicit intent, but that assumption just seems slightly more generous than declaring them simply bad shows.

A sampling:

Leverage: Redemption

Maybe my memory of the original run of this show being “good” is clouded by the reality that it was shot in Portland. Maybe I’m just old and forgot that I didn’t like it originally, but tolerated it – see also: my first point.

Woo-boy, though. Lemme tell ya, the reboot sucks. Hard. Unless the point of the reboot is to showcase these actors’ skill in reading a line, then this is just painful to watch. And back to that whole “bad memory” possibility? I seem to remember thinking Noah Wylie could act at one point.

Just goes to show that acting is not like riding a bicycle…

Elite

Soapy and schmaltzy, this show is pure, dubbed brain candy. With a healthy side of nudity – which if I didn’t know these actors playing high school students were in their mid/late 20s, would make me feel weird. And since – as I pointed out to the Silver Fox – the nudity has a hearty, if not almost exclusive boy-butt-focus, that weirdness could be assuaged by handing me a priest’s collar, I’m willing to absolve myself.

And, boy…there sure are a lot of murders at this high school.

Grace & Frankie

I know…calling a show with such overt gay themes makes me a traitor to my own community. Again.

Me, the Voice of Treason.

But, again…it’s older actors demonstrating they can read a line off a cue card. Some of the writing is funny. Some of the scenarios are kooky fun. But it’s a little late in the game to reinvent the whole Lucy/Ethel trope which this show leans so heavily upon.

At this point, I just think it’s just Netflix pandering to older audiences to keep them engaged with Netflix as a viewing platform. If that’s the case, at least they are doing so with story lines designed-ish to appeal to younger, woke audiences: like the late in life gay story arc. In that regard, if they succeed with drawing Boomer and Greatest gen viewers, they are also engaging them with potentially mind expanding content.

There is a certain value to that.

The Snarky Car Insurance Commercial:

This was a surprise to me. But it’s a tip of the hat to the ridiculous horror movie writing paradigm.

Two couples run out of a corn field. One guy suggests they hide in the cellar, his girlfriend counters with the attic. A crying girl suggests they just hop in the already-running car, while her boyfriend popularly points out they could just hide out behind the wall of also-running chainsaws.

A masked man with dubious intent slowly shakes his head.

The voiceover states “When you’re in a horror movie, you make questionable decisions…”.

And when Americans are in lockdown, apparently, we do as well…medicating with stupid soapy TV (and plenty of booze, I’m sure) to make our way through.

As far as this commercial goes, though…can we just disable celebrating stupid? It’s like we learned nothing from 20+ seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Stupid people are not entertainment. If we can’t use the word retarded to describe stupid people, let’s stop airing what equates to mutually-exploitative content featuring people with intelligence that…has not progressed in pace with the majority of people of similar age. TV like this, celebrating vacuous nitwits has just seemed to drag its audience of already stupid Americans down to their level.

It’s weird, I started this post as a draft in October! Then, in typical creative old Xtopher fashion, abandoned it. But this week I realized that my TV viewing hasn’t necessarily improved over the past quarter.

Sure, there were some standout binges with – and thanks to for making the content decisions – the Silver Fox on several of his trips up from his self-imposed exile in the hinterlands of Oregon. Shows that were new seasons of proven winners like Hanna and Lost In Space. Or the coming tomorrow new season of Euphoria.

Then again, I only got sucked into Elite as a result of his content suggestions, so…<shrug emoji>

On the other hand, though, lay my own questionable decisions. Decisions that are either better or worse since they are movies versus entire seasons of TV shows, so at best I’ve only lost a couple hours.

Right?

Nah.

Because it started with an innocent viewing of Divergent after a late dinner earlier this week. But then I proceeded to immediately watch the next two movies in the trilogy, resulting in a 6 AM bedtime. That’s right, I pulled an all-nighter for a Young Adult movie series.

Blame it on the imminently watchable but better on low volume Theo James.

The worst part? I couldn’t immediately fall asleep because I couldn’t figure out if I disliked Shailene Woodley more than Jennifer Lawrence from the Hunger Games movies. I fell asleep at least knowing that I like Hunger Games more than these movies…

As a palate cleanser, I decided to watch 12 Monkeys after reading an article about Bruce Willis’ “19 Best Movies”. Plus, I missed my annual Christmastime viewing of Die Hard (#2 on the list, BTW). I remember thinking, “Well, he’s made way more than 19…” and then got distracted by not being able to find 12 Monkeys for free on any of my streaming apps. Having just spent ~$15 getting burned by renting the Divergent movies, I decided it was best to try to scratch my Bruce Willis itch with a free movie. On the plus side, it was less than 90 minutes long, so I’d be on with my day in no time!

Nothing. No satisfaction whatsoever. A Bruce Willis Itch FAIL. And, that was 90 minutes of my time I wasn’t getting back. Lesson learned: when Willis isn’t the top billed actor in an action movie, that’s a red flag. So the next day, on to another.

I began to wonder if this guy ever actually made good movies. When you read in the trivia section of IMDb that Willis shot all of his scenes in one day…maybe don’t let your curiosity get the better of you.

It’s like I didn’t believe myself when I said “If Willis isn’t the top billed actor in an action movie, that’s a red flag”. Maybe this just proves that old actors reading lines isn’t limited to just TV series.

Or maybe it proves that I didn’t want to watch 12 Monkeys so much as I wanted a shot at seeing Brad Pitt drop trou. Hard to say. I did finally manage to scratch my Bruce Willis cinematic itch by watching Looper. Now, that was a hidden gem. Or one everyone else knew about, but I missed. And with Joseph Gordon Levitt as a co-star, I got a collateral Hollywood Heartthrob fix to satisfy the Brad Pitt’s naked butt quotient.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read a book.

Must Distract TV?

I Think Seal Was Wrong

You know I love a good song tie-in, even if it’s just a mis-heard lyric. But in the case of this post’s title, I’m riffing on Seal’s biggest hit: Crazy.

In it, he suggests that we’re never gonna survive unless we get a little bit crazy.

Smash cut to my morning – yes, I was up before noon – of news and email reading.

I came across this ad in one of my business newsletters. Now, not to suggest that anxiety is crazy, per se, just don’t get me started on the casual armchair self-diagnostics that I am often confronted by.

Yes, I ask. Also, I know that last paragraph ended with poor grammar. Anyway, I’m kinda over people minimizing legitimate affliction just to overdramatize their own petty struggles. So I demand – figuratively – a doctor’s note.

I don’t know why I don’t have more friends…

Anyway, what’s really crazy here is that this ad suggested that there are 284 million Americans suffering from an actual anxiety disorder. OUT OF 335 MILLION TOTAL AMERICANS!!!

Can we agree to ballpark that stat at an 80%? My blog, my rules, so I say we agree…plus, it’s not like I’m blithely self-diagnosing with a potentially serious mental health condition. I’m just doing some liberal rounding.

So what this ad is suggesting is that 4 out of 5 Americans is suffering from anxiety.

<looks around at America>

Yeah, sorry Seal…I don’t think getting a little bit crazy is helping us even thrive, let alone increasing our rate of actual survival. If anything, the type of crazy running around our country is decreasing our survival rate.

For instance, our COVID death toll as a nation stands somewhere between the populations of North and South Dakota. Think on that for a second, we’ve lost an entire state’s population to COVID in just under two years.

On the plus side – for Seal, at least – it’s not like our least populous states have any huge concert venues…

I Think Seal Was Wrong

A Christmas Wrap

As I sit listening to my favorite Christmas song ever for what is likely the final time of this year, I can’t help but pre-miss it. But it’s made an appearance or ten every year for the last 40, so I know it will be back for Christmas ‘22. Hopefully we all can say the same.

Waiting anxiously to hear Christmas Wrapping play for the first time each year is a much better tradition than Whamageddon. Which, not to brag…but I made it until December 17th this year before being sent to Whamhalla.

Hoping you and yours, wherever you are and however you choose (or choose to not) celebrate the season are happy and well. And together, if possible.

A Christmas Wrap

Cue The Go-Gos…

And before I begin, congrats to the Go-Gos on their recent inauguration into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

For as much anticipation taking a year off of vacation and travel created for us all, I have to say that my own came and went without much fanfare.

In October.

Which was great on a couple different levels. First, I got to deploy all my snark when asked if I was participating in Octsober. Um, it’s a family reunion-slash-vacation, so that’s a big

The second great thing – and just to be clear, I’m enumerating things beyond seeing the foursome from Texas that I call my extended family. Truth be told, they are the only other family. Anywho, the second great thing was the timing of it all. We’d originally planned this for late June-early July of 2020. And then 2021. But the parentals ultimately decided to exercise their right to cancel/reschedule on the last day they could before everything locked in 30 days out. With COVID and Delta being what it was, they made a good call.

October was the reschedule. For whatever reason, the original date lined up with my youngest brother’s 45th birthday. The fallback encompassed my sister’s 55th. This, of course, brought up my unresolved – and equally heretofore unknown – issues around 70s and 80s coffee commercials. Y’know, the ones with the butthurt housewife that’s upset when her husband orders a second cup of coffee with his dessert. They even spoofed it in Airplane!

Why don’t we ever do family vacations around my birthday?!? Surely not because it’s in the middle of January and everyone is knee-deep in their resolutions.

But the real coup d’etat on the timing was the timing! October isn’t the summer anywhere in the northern hemisphere, nor is it yet fully winter. In the Oregon high desert, that means the resort town we meet up in is itself deserted.

Also, there are no crazy temps either way. Sure, it got down to the 30s at night, but the days were high 50s-low 60s. It was awesome. Light sweater weather during the day, at worst. Then at night it was cold enough you could leave the window open a crack to get that crazy cold air deep sleep going.

Plus, the parents were on the main floor. “Age Rules” being what they are, that means that in addition to playing the TV at the same volume as their ages, the temperature was set the same way. If I didn’t open my window, I’d have woken up looking like a Costco rotisserie chicken!

All of this really bubbles up to the reality that after 4 pm, all there really is to do in Sunriver in October is eat and drink.

Well, that and watch the neighborhood deer.

What? You thought that seeing my family would be the best part of this story to me?

Don’t get me wrong, my enjoyment of my food and beverage consumption was greatly enhanced by my family’s presence. Not just because they are my blood. No, because the extended family foursome I have are Texas residents, so you know one of them was unvaccinated – and proudly declaring her natural immunity from the COVID she survived. Given her Instagram stories, I can safely guess this was from spending her pandemic galavanting around the western side of the country.

Still, I am of the opinion that she should have been vaccinated. I expended a great deal of emotional energy during the vacation trying to not lecture my 20-something first cousin on this topic. Helpfully, we seemed to be seated quite near one another at every damn meal. Well played, family. Well played.

Our usual meal routine for family vacations is that breakfast is a drop in event, we’re on our own for lunches and dinner is a family time. Generally, each person gets a cooking night but since working folk might pop in or out during the vacation according to their schedules, occasionally couples can pair up.

Me? I’m always fucked. I mean, destined to cook alone – the one time I brought someone, his grandmother died the day we fucking arrived…the nerve. I mean, lesson learned. Not that the family minds my solo-cooking misadventures, particularly since their favorite pastime seems to be harassing me while I cook. Can’t blame them, though…I can generally be relied upon to do something entertaining while cooking.

Hey, in the grand scheme of things, two small fires out of all the vacations we’ve taken is a blip at most. Right?!?

There are food related vacation traditions involved, for sure – beyond my minor conflagrations.

The ‘Phew generally orders pizza for his night. And that’s usually the day we arrive so we can ease into it.

The lil bro usually grills burgers.

The bro-in-law usually grills steak.

Mom makes spaghetti.

Dad…well, dad takes us all out to dinner. Then, per family tradition, argues with his brother about whether he can chip in. Short version: he can’t. Long version: we all had another round while they debated.

And, me? Well, since I love cooking but hate cooking for myself, I go all out. I’ve been known to pack not just a favorite knife – turns out, my LTR ends up being cutlery – but even a 10 lb pork loin and most of the ingredients for a molé or a paella pan or what have you. Hey, I’m not starting a fire cooking Mac & Cheese, ok?

You might notice the Texas Foursome was not listed. Not a bunch of cookers in that group. The mom isn’t super domestic, so they come by it honestly. Since there’s usually more people than nights, this usually isn’t an issue, though. Myself, I think this was the first time I’ve stayed the full duration.

This time, my COVID cousin brought along her fiancé. It was my first time meeting him, but it seemed everyone else had met him before briefly at some family function I missed. To his credit, he took up steak grilling duties for one meal – which my brother-in-law regrettably but graciously abdicated. I mean, who wouldn’t cede grill master duties to a Texan?!?

Poor guy. He asked how everyone wanted their steaks cooked and then served us all saddles. I know the pain of going from zero to 60 on cooking. The fires I set are obvious. His was more subtle – merely cremating a cow carcass. Why he gets a pass and I get harassed…well, further evidence of how nice my family is.

Or how much more they…like me?

That all being the case, I still found myself using my extra family time relaxing into cooking for pleasure. I had planned a beef stew over polenta dinner, with an ancillary black bean chili type dish.

Texans, remember? I knew there’s gonna be extra nights. Plus, with COVID protocols being in effect, I was pretty sure dad wasn’t getting a reservation for 10+ anywhere.

I got my stew inspiration from a cook at the restaurant on my block. The recipe served 30, so I halved it. There was 12 of us that night – the ‘Phew brought a girlfriend for the night – and everyone got one serving. Yikes.

My hecklers’ fantasy moment? Making polenta. It’s pretty easy…boil some stock, stir in the polenta and then stir as it does it’s polenta thing. I made the full restaurant recipe, but chose the wrong pan. I chose a 4-quart saucepan and needed at least another quart of space, although in retrospect, I’d have chosen a 6-quart sauté pan so I had more surface area for the liquid to cook off.

So, I fucked up the polenta. Think of it as me being a gracious host and serving low hanging fruit to my loving tormentors.

Remember, to make up for it, I had a second meal up my sleeve!

Plus, my mom pulled her favorite “I have a gay son”/Thanksgiving trick on her cooking night – handing me the spatula. So I cooked up a bunch of spaghetti.

Then, in a fit of “don’t end up like me” life lessons, I made a breakfast date with my 20-something first cousins from Texas and made a date for a breakfast cooking lessons. That sentence was…ouch.

The menu? Frittata and home-style potatoes.

I told them around midnight – it was more of a dropped gauntlet than an invitation – to meet me in the kitchen at 8 the next morning. Then we drank for a couple more hours.

She looked perfectly put together.

Surprisingly, my youngest cousin was already there when I arrived. I’d set my alarm for 745 and brushed my teeth and threw on a ball cap.

When I expressed my surprise, she was all, “What? You said 8!”

For my part, I mumbled, “Well, we’re batting .500”…you know I was still drunk if I was credibly attempting sports analogies. I started in on how easy frittatas are – I mean, do you want to make more than two omelette ever? – and how it can be something you just throw together with supplies on hand, put under the broiler and then slice up like a pizza and throw on the table.

Easy-peasy!

Guess who showed up right about then? That’s right…COVID cousin!

I told them my default frittata: cubed ham, cubed cheddar and broccoli florets. Pro-tip: you can buy the ham pre-cubed and use frozen florets. Aside from that, you’re big decisions are what herbs you want to use. Garlic powder, maybe a red pepper flake and “anything green” were my loose guidelines.

I put COVID cousin on frittata prep and showed my younger cousin the potato ropes. Since we were nearing the end of the vacation, my sister – tasked with provisioning the pantry for each of these vacations and affording my uncle another opportunity to hone his “let me chip in” argument – was in high “use everything up” mode. To that end, I instructed my cousin to use the remaining potatoes.

Short cut for home style potatoes: quarter them and nuke them for 3-4 minutes to soften them up. Then cube them and throw ‘em in a sauté pan with some oil and…whatever spices you have handy!

Why? Because the M.O. for this Homo in the kitchen is “Because I can!” Pretty much everywhere else I’m my life I seem to can’t so this is cathartic.

Keeping with my traditions of affording my family opportunities to harass me while I cook and simultaneously making a near-critical-slash-comedic error, the 6-quart sauté pan I chose for my cousin turned out to be too small for that many damn potatoes.

Fuck my fucking life. On top of the ongoing Struggles of Xtopher, I forgot to get a frittata spread pic. Ugh. Will these humiliations never end?!?

But at the same time, this minor crisis allowed me the chance to show my cousins how to roll with the culinary punches. I’m no Julia Child – despite my default childish behaviors – but I’m all for her “no one needs to know what happens in your kitchen” confidence. If they walked away with any of that from my struggle of tossing 4 lbs of cubed potatoes in a 6-quart sauté pan…my work as a twice-their-age cousin is done.

Since they are in their 20s and I haven’t seen any home cooked meals posted on their Instagrams, I’m gonna guess these confidence boosting lessons will need a <ahem> booster shot.

Cue The Go-Gos…

Do Not Read This Post!

Seriously, you will be sorry.

You have been warned.

Last chance to run…

Ok, then.

My friend Diezel sent this to me the other day and I can’t stop thinking about it or re-telling it. We’re talking more than once a day I repeat this thing.

I love it. But I don’t trust my own judgment when it comes to brilliance. I blame that on my certainty that most other people are willfully idiotic.

But here it is:

You’re welcome.

Do Not Read This Post!