#HeSaidSheSaidToo

Sometimes I think that I know exactly what to think.

Other times, I find myself reminding said self that there are two sides to every story and somewhere in between there is probably a truth or two lying around.

Still, I rely heavily on my confidence that as a critical thinker and proud owner of a well-honed bullshit detector, I will be guided to the truth.

Recently, though…

Jussie Smollet

Covington Catholic

Boy, howdy. What to think about those topics? Even if my assertion that somewhere under or beside each side’s screams is the truth of the matter…I feel like the old He said/She said idiom is getting more than a fair share of abuse.

Hence, the hashtag.

Yesterday, I was reading a blog entry by a Christian Blogger where he was confronted by a homeless person on his morning bus ride into work. He didn’t engage, and was so caught off guard by the outburst that he couldn’t find any words. He just sat quietly across from the man and held his gaze.

Ultimately, the person moved seats and oriented himself facing away from the blogger. His take on that – even though he acknowledge the obvious mental illness – was that the man was possessed by a demon and that in silently confronting him, the devil had seen his inner god-spirit and run away from him, just like the Bible teaches.

What? You’re still back on “He follows a Christian blogger?” aren’t you?

Full disclosure, I follow a couple of Christian bloggers.

Also several POC bloggers, even though I am just an old whitey.

I should probably say that I also follow a couple a Mothers that blog, too, even though the last time I checked – which probably wasn’t recently enough – I do not personally have a vagina. Or kids.

There’s a blogger I follow who is a teenage girl.

Another that is an old man.

And several that are some combination of all of those things and several other that I didn’t even mention.

Oh, and a couple of blogs about cats.

I don’t want to become trapped in an echo chamber in the blogosphere and more than I do in reality. To that end, I read a lot of blogs that are created from different life experiences than my own.

I follow bloggers who say interesting things. The frame of reference that this provides me helps me remain open.

Even though I don’t personally believe this homeless man was possessed by a demon spirit or frightened of my blog buddy’s god spirit, the story was intriguing. The point was still somewhere in there between his beliefs in god and my belief in science.

The homeless guy was – in my layperson observation – nuts.

And I live in Portland, so I was also just relieved that my writer friend didn’t end up stabbed.

What people believe is their own business, I’m not here to tell anyone that there is or isn’t a god. As long as spiritual-minded people also believe in things that are provable, they have all the balance they need in my book.

But back to Jussie and CovCath.

Those two issues that have captured our nation’s attention recently have me worried that too much emphasis is put on what people want to believe before the full weight of facts is considered. My observation is usually that somewhere in there is a bible of another sort.

The Bible-bible is generally accepted to have around 40 contributing authors. Sorry, it was not literally written by this god person everyone is talking about, nor his son. And that fact is freely admitted by believers and non-believers alike.

That that’s sometimes the last thing those groups agree on is another thing altogether, but I digress

This good book, it’s a recounting of events that may or may not have been directly witnessed by the writer or told to the writer in a second hand-ish account. Or it’s all crap, which is where one has to bring faith to the equation.

Having been raised Catholic, I take the book as a collections of lessons versus instructions. Nothing in my life is predicated on the argument, “Because the Bible says”.

To paraphrase the prophet Jerry Maguire, “Show Me The Science” if you want me to think of what you’re saying as fact versus your opinion. I’m usually pretty ok acknowledging someone’s opinion. I may remind them of the old adage, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they usually stink” with a not too subtle meaningful stare if their opinion is too far out in the field. But otherwise, everyone can think what they want. If they present opinion as fact, I have a problem with that.

This is where I think recent events have us boondoggled, though. The facts of the Jussie and CovCath dramas are still unfolding and/or may never be fully known. In the interim, people are filling that factual void with opinions that are settling in quickly as facts. That’s our bible of a different sort, right there. By the time facts are known, opinion will have already been written down by far more than just 40 random people and 2000 years from now…well, I’m not going to finish that extrapolation. Unfortunately for many of us, Jussie Smollet, CovCath, anyone writing their opinions down on either side of either case…in 2000 years, no one is likely going to give a damn.

Hell, the way things are going, in 2000 years, the Kardashians will all be worshipped as gods, if you want my perfectly snarky opinion on today’s state of literal and figurative affairs.

But, as it stands in the here and now, we’ve got people on both sides filling us all in on what to think. Yes, folks, we’ve reverted to a “Whoever yells loudest is right” mentality, courtesy of our Cheeto in Chief – Benedict Donald himself – telling people that news that doesn’t jive with his agenda is Fake News and tweet-shouting at the masses what he needs them to believe in lieu of allowing them to hear the truth and face its consequences. And it seems to be working for him, this abuse of truth.

And in that case, why isn’t it working for Jussie Smollet and that little jerk from Covington Catholic?

In a vacuum of facts, I’m going with what I saw with my own eyes and I’m not taking the gaslighting that anyone cares to add. Remember, everyone, if you saw it, it happened. We aren’t talking about UFOs and ghosts, we are talking about protesters and B-list celebrities – to be clear, I’m calling Jussie B-list, not Trump (he wishes) – in situations where we have camera phone and video tape footage that should help to inform our opinion.

Believe What You Saw With Your Own Eyes.

Starting anywhere else or with any other premise is a betrayal of not only the knowable facts, but also of our own intelligence and integrity. Whatever else happens in this world, those two things are uniquely ours to defend. Do not give them away freely just because someone yells loudest.

#HeSaidSheSaidToo

Would You Read This?

After finishing my NaNoWriMo challenge in November, I was lost.

I did it. End of challenge, end of story?

Ok, maybe not lost-lost, but in my mind, I had accomplished my goal. It’s not like I had a plan to publish and ultimately have the movie rights picked up by that scrappy little studio over at Amazon. So, for me it was all FIN.

But, because I’m an idiot and talked about what I was doing, people wanted to know: So, what’s next?

Fuck if I know. I wrote a book. Surely, that’s enough?

For me, it really was. But at the same time, going back to my finishing point, I felt like it was more of “Welp, there’s my 50k words. Donezo.” Rather than leave it that way, I went back into my ending to make it an actual ending.

Then I looked at my word count and thought, “Well, that’s really more of a novella versus a novel, per se.” That caused me to give it another read to see where I could flesh it out a bit. As I began reading, I was feeling critical about my lack of scene set up. I hadn’t really thought that I needed to do much in the way of actual world building, since people can probably figure out what Portland in the near present day looks like. Everyone will have their own little bubble world when they read it. Having no aspirations to describe a bougainvillea bush over the course of three pages like Anne Rice would, I didn’t dive too deep into what my main character’s house looked like, whether his office had plants or whatnot. I was letting that go.

But, in making that decision to keep the background simple, I was still staring at a novella-length work. My concept was to demonstrate a generational relationship within the gay community with my characters. I think for whatever reason – AIDS essentially wiping out a generation or two of us gays, which we could hardly avoid once it was upon us; or, being an extremely youth obsessed sub-culture as we are, which has backfired on us spectacularly and instead of forming bonds between generations we have a culture of age-shaming because, newsflash: most young people don’t want to have sex with “old” people. Go figure. That last one we certainly could have helped by simply not objectifying the subjects of our youth obsessed culture. Maybe. But here I was, Monday morning quarterbacking.

Great, now I’m making sports analogies. That’s surely a bad sign.

Neverthemess, that being my concept, I thought it would be cool to think of this as a three book arc. Arc One being a protagonist in a middling generation – a gay guy in his 30s and this isn’t a horror novel? Unheard of! – befriending a younger gay and an older gay and letting the story go from there. Arc Two would see the main character in his 40s while his younger friend gay-grows up and his older friend gets older. In Arc Three, his younger friend would gay-die age-wise in the gay culture and maybe his older friend would just die-die.

The vision I had for the stories was all how that generational experience unfolds and how one learns from the others or how information is handed by one to the next.

Y’know…how it should be. I wanted to show the sharing of information that we need, like when parents have to talk about the birds and the bees with their children because they need to learn about how life works. Well, gays need to know how a gay-life works, too. Instead of talking about the opposite sex, maybe we talk about STIs and anal douching. Keep reading, I’m pretty sure I’m not talking about that topic! Just giving you an idea of where gays need gay-guidance beyond what their parents can provide. Maybe some guidance of younger generations by the older characters that is something that straight parent-child relationships have but manifests differently between gay kids and their parents because…well, the shared experience is gone. More accurately, there’s a gap. Where does one comfortably pick up parenting their gay children once they have figured out who they are as adults? It’s still needed, but…even in my own experience, which I would put up there as one of the best, it’s different. My parents aren’t talking to me about raising a child or empty nesting as they might with my sibs.

One of my own biggest frustrations with gay culture has been how we seem to have lost cohesion and how the collective gay ego fills that void. Where we have an opportunity to build up future generations or respect previous generations, we tend to remain isolated in defense of or because of our inability to become thee better selves that aren’t driven by our next sexual conquest. Turns out, there’s no app for that.

But I also wanted to show the payback we could get for nurturing these intergenerational relationships, how it gives us something to look forward to as we age versus the fear of the unknown that is so often left unsaid between comments among friends like, “I never thought I would live until 30” or not having a friend base with the experience base to guide us through relationship obstacles. How many of us as adults – regardless of sexual orientation – could rely on our parents to guide us through the validity of the open relationship culture that gays face? Of course, the challenge with intergenerational relationships within these characters’ chosen families is to keep them like actual families, non-incestuous. This enabled me to correct one of my own perceived societal wrongs, too, as none of my main character’s sleep together. Their bond is formed based on an individual connection and the resulting dependency – which is not a bad word! – versus a sexual bond, which is where I think our culture’s intergenerational relationships have gone off the rails.

My characters forming a bond was only step one, and a very small step at that. My protagonist learning that there’s more to life than a steady boyfriend after a failed relationship besides work was the catalyst for building those bonds. The pacing when I started out was to alternate between personal life and work life with each chapter. In looking to flesh out my work’s size into a full novel – because if you’ve just got three novellas, why not edit them into a single novel, right? – I may have jacked up that original rhythm, but as the future unfolds, the cadence shifts further and further from work and into life, because now the main character actually has one. So I’m willing to let my thoughts for the original cadence go.

So, now I have my novel. Well, I’m two chapters away from fulfilling that statement, at any rate. That brings me back to the original question:

Now what?

NaNoWriMo tries to help out. The name of the event actually stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is an annual event each November and it seems to me that they have heard this struggle I’m up against before. To that end, they have created a support environment for writers to set other goals for themselves throughout the year to avoid losing momentum. After fucking up my timeline with hubris in December, I took a step back in January to wear my writing impulse out so that I could do some legitimate editing. This also allowed me to make notes in my novel about where I wanted to add to the story to flesh the character relationships out further without doing so willy-nilly and potentially making mistakes that would be harder to correct than they were to make. I don’t trust myself or my own work ethic to put the effort into unfucking up something with that daunting a prospect to begin with.

I mean, look how long it took me to actually commit to writing the damn thing!

Oh, six years. Sorry, I thought you knew that. Maybe more, but I’m not thinking about that right now…

For February, that’s what I did. Reread my book and did some for better or for worse formatting. Turns out, when you aren’t trying to add content, you can do that in a couple of weeks. And I had met my NaNoWriMo editing goal of spending 40 hours in February focused strictly on what I had done in November and where I wanted it to go next. I had figured two hours a day, five days a week would get me there. Turns out, without some sort of stupid work to distract me, I was able to spend two to six hours per day on that process. The key was getting myself away from the house, as it happened.

So for the last week-ten days, I have been still getting away from the house and working on those added chapters. Since I kind of went balls out on this process, it was largely stream of consciousness writing. No outline, aside from what was in my head. Had I not been working off of a specific starting point from my own life, I’m not sure I could have succeeded with that lack of actual prep. Part of me thinks that is exactly what I wanted but instead of failure, I became President of the United States.

No, wait…that doesn’t sound right.

Ah, yes. Instead of failure, I had this slightly random fictionalization of something that had happened in my life. Turning the tables, it gave me a good opportunity to therapeutically re-write my own history from a really shitty starting point.

Going back into those chapters I wanted to add, I had a grasp of who the characters were in this quasi-alternative universe. That allowed me to make purposeful content additions that gelled – I hope! – with the rest of the story.

Needless to say, for Arcs Two and Three…definitely gonna need an outline. I’m going from scratch there and I can’t wait to see what happens to these folks.

And, of course, with NaNoWriMo’s guidance and motivational help, today was supposed to be spent working on that pitch letter. February is the month – I learned – where they host a pitch workshop. Any writer that completed a novel – or their 50k threshold, at any rate – can submit a 250 word pitch to their partners, named The Pitch Doctors, and they will select 20 at random from all submissions and workshop them. Of those 20, they will select one to be partnered up with a publisher. So, y’know, that’s kind of cool. The deadline is February 28th. No, wait…March 1st? Regardless, either way, I have built in plenty of latitude in my goal to submit a pitch letter so that I can make some false starts. Like this one, where instead of writing a pitch letter, I’m jacking off on WordPress. Out of 287,000 participants there were 35,386 plus ME that finished their novels. Out of those 35k writers, I’m hoping only 19 others actually take advantage of their pitch workshop…

But, honestly, it’s gonna take a little mental prep time to get my mind around only using 250 words to describe a story that I just used 87500 words to tell. So, this is what that effort looks like today. I’ve still got over a week…

Would You Read This?

Why I’m Single #20

Oops, I did it again.

News Flash: I’m apparently needy…

While out having a little solo misadventure, I gently hit on a guy. I’d just seen a movie and stopped on the way home for a Pallet Jack at Kelly’s Olympian. Really, I was just being nice, offering him a drink.

He declined, but we made polite conversation as we sat a barstool apart.

I learned that he’d just moved here two months ago – you know how I love those fresh arrivals – from Arizona. I mentioned my parents are visiting there now, which made him chuckle. When I asked why, he told me that the jokes about snowbirds and basically old people in general are no joke.

He is still looking for a good fitting job. He’s in his second home since moving up here, the first place just wasn’t a good fit. His housemate at the new place is a much more comfortable fit, personality-wise.

Anyway, he finished his drink and left. Then he came back a few minutes later and handed me a note and quickly scampered off. It basically said that he wasn’t sure whether I had been flirting with him or not, the dangers of being me. Although we weren’t in a gay bar, so I get his caution. But the note had his number and told me to text him if I had been.

Because I still got a little game.

It was way better than that time I used a cheesy pick up line on a guy at The Cuff.

How does it feel to be the best looking guy in this dump?

It was a slow night. There was only six people there and the dance bar and patio weren’t even open. Usually, there were a lot more ugly people there.

Or the time I shamelessly hit on a friend of D-Slice at one of her Free Drink Friday gatherings. I mean, that’s just bad form…hitting on your friend’s friends.

Isn’t it?

But we were talking and he had the most beautiful smile. Absolutely radiant!

It was quite beyond my control.

Even worse is the time I’m cruising down the street with my top down and see a good looking guy getting into a car, honk, yell “woo-hoo!” and it ends up actually being my neighbor.

See? That last one was just bad game altogether! But it was like 15 years ago or so.

So what’s the big deal? What did I do again? Why am I needy?

(At least what am I needy about now?)

The first three guys were all FTM trans folk. That last example was my lesbian neighbor.

I’m sure I’ve inadvertently made passes at even more trans people that went nowhere and they either never mentioned it or I never got to know them well enough to learn that information.

But what I know about myself is that I want the heart I desire to be attached to the plumbing I recreationally enjoy.

Hopefully all that says about me is that I’m simply not the Kinsey Six everyone would imagine me to be…worst-case, I’m just a Five. If it makes me out to appear transphobic, well, I would hope it doesn’t.

But, am I? Are genitals shallow to the degree of being superficial in love? Am I misdefining what I’m looking for in my love life and conflagrating (Made Up Word Alert!) it with a sex life?

Either way, I’m striking out.

But at least my pick up game has gotten smoother as we’ve traveled forward in time.

Why I’m Single #20

How to Make Friends

by Me!

As much as I may say that I don’t like anyone, I actually tend to make friends pretty easily. When I have a mind to.

Ok, even when I just can’t help myself.

I was reminded of this a few times over the last week, and it had me thinking that I might be leaving you all with the wrong impression of my favorite person.

My ruminations took me back, all the way to my first days in Seattle. As the Operations Manager at the downtown Macy’s it was indirectly my job to make sure the store actually opened every day. It was directly Loss Prevention’s job, but often the Dock Manager would help and if I was there, I did, too.

You see, we had seven banks of doors to open on the main level, each bank had three double doors. On the sixth floor, there was a single door coming off the sky bridge from the parking structure and on the basement floor, there was a bank of three double doors coming off the light rail and bus tunnel. We weren’t hurting for doors so much as we needed a friggin’ army to open them all at 9:00 each day. When I first offered to lend my key to the process, I got the distinct impression that these guys weren’t used to a lot of support from my predecessor.

That didn’t stop them from taking advantage of my FNG status (Fucking New Guy) and giving me some hazing as a thank you for my contribution.

This is how I came to be opening the southeast bank of doors on 4th Avenue each day.

My first customer every day – no matter how strategically I began opening the doors – was a very friendly and exuberant young disabled man. He was the exact opposite of a Walmart Greeter, inasmuch as he didn’t work for us and did not let that stop him one bit.

The first day I opened the southeast doors, I opened all of the inner vestibule doors and then as soon as I opened the first outer door, he was right inside, up in my stuff.

“What is your first name, please?”

I’m standing there with the door in my hand, trying to pivot backward, around and away from him, so that I can keep opening the remaining doors. He actually sidesteps his way with me, until my back is up against the backside of the door I just opened. People were just funneling in the only open door available as I looked down at this guy – who had to be all of 4’5″ and built like a little fireplug – who was completely blocking my access to anywhere but where I presently was.

He repeated himself.

“What is your first name, please?”

“Excuse me, I need to unlock those other doors, please”, I say as I futilely try to negotiate my way around him.

“And, what is your last name, please?”

Somehow, he seems to be perfectly fine assuming my name is “Excuse me, I need to unlock those other doors, please” and has moved on to getting to really know me by asking my last name. He also seems to be taking notes.

Over his head – without much effort, obviously – I see our LP Manager pushing through the doors behind my new friend to open the remaining two doors in my block.

He might be smiling just the teensiest bit. He’s definitely not trying too hard to disguise his laughter at my discomfiture.

This happened several times a week for the 15 months or so that I worked at that store. I have no idea who this kid was or where he came from, but every day…

“What is your first name, please?”

First thing in the morning. No matter where he was when I started opening doors, he used that compact mass of his to move into position so that he was the first person through the door when I twisted my key in the cylinder. I mean, as far as first customers go, I’ve definitely experienced worse.

The Macy’s Greeter situation all came back to me the other week when I passed a guy on a street corner that turned out to be a beggar. The Guy From Saigon. God, of course this has to happen right in front of my mother, but we had parked around the block to run into Penzey’s Spices for one of their coupon offerings and were on our way back to the car. I saw the guy, dirty, straggly hair and all weather jacket that had seen better days standing there in the middle of the corner so that people crossing the street on either side had to pass by him. Mom and I were just hoping to walk around the corner, but had to do so single file because of his positioning.

“I am from Saigon!”

His voice is like a hatchet, chopping through his greeting. Caught slightly off guard by his delivery, I absent-mindedly took his hand when he held it out.

“Can you give some money!”

Note, that was not a question. I was glad that I had boldly let mom go first, so she could keep going as I got this guy’s attention.

“You know, I only have plastic on me”, I apologized as my feet tried to keep moving, but he had not yet returned custody of my hand to me.

“That is ok. You can buy me some food!”

He’s now let go of my hand and is motioning toward the restaurant behind me, which is a Vietnamese restaurant that just doesn’t think Panda Express charges enough for their food.

“You know, that’s a big ask, and I’m gonna pass! Thanks, though!” I’m as cheery as possible to avoid accidentally triggering this guy.

That’s a lesson I accidentally learned about 30 years ago while walking through downtown with my dad. I’m not sure what downtown it was, to be honest. The timeframe should place us in Long Beach, but for some reason, I remember it as Old Town in Portland. Either way, this clearly homeless Native American guy jaywalks across the street and demands, “Give me a dollar!” with an open palm, while literally standing in the gutter.

“No!” I reply, indignantly while me father pulls me into the crosswalk and away from this unknown character. It was probably a good thing, too. I was really worked up over his poor manners. This was back in the days when minimum wage was around $2.35/hour, so this fella had some nerve in my hard working book.

Fortunately, The Guy From Saigon was more than happy to move on to other pedestrians trying to make their way to shops or cafes during their lunch breaks. for her part, mom only got the meagerest of pleasures out of the interaction. Her mom radar noticed me holding my hand away from my body before I realized I was doing it.

“I’ve got some hand sanitizer back in the car.”

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of hand sanitizer, but in this case, I was glad to have my Swiss Army Mom handy.

Because I live where I live, there’s no shortage of opportunities for me to make friends on the street as I make my way to my here’s and there’s on any given day. There is an outfit called Central City Concern that provides shelter and social services to the less fortunate in our city. Since their board wisely gobbled up real estate in Old Town before the Pearl District became a reality, they own about 25% of the buildings in the area. They put them to good use with short term micro studio housing as well as longer term shelters, flop houses and rehabilitation centers.

The end result is that I get a lot of chances to “meet” folks on the streets of the central city that are…concerning.

One such guy is a fella I call The Forgetful Guy.

He’s a shambler.

Just making his way from here to there, just like the rest of us, albeit without any real focus or urgency. It’s a nice day when his antipsychotics are all loaded up just so, he just meanders down the middle of the sidewalk around the Burnside/Broadway/Couch/8th block for hours at a time. I’m not sure where he goes when he’s not there, and when I see him anywhere else, it usually disorients me for a moment.

Then there’s those days where maybe he didn’t get his meds mixed just right or into his system on time. Or maybe his socks are wet. I don’t know.

What I do know is that those days he is just the most vocal, disturbing person to be around. And he’s pissed because on those days, he’s lost track of something.

“Where’s my LIGHTER?!?”

He mixes up the things that he’s lost from week to week or sighting to sighting – because in all fairness, he’s “on” more than he’s “off” – but when he is off, I try to give him about a block’s worth of buffer. It’s still an assault on my ears, though.

Couple weeks back – right around the time I met The Guy From Saigon with mom, I came up behind him on the Couch part of his circuit and when I was about 10 feet behind him, he just let it rip at some woman walking toward him.

“WHERE’S MY SMOKE?!?”

Holy mother of…that was a good effort.

I think I jumped higher than the woman his outburst was actually aimed at, but she went sideways and landed with one foot on the curb and the other in the street. I moved up to her real fast – which I think did nothing for her frazzled nerves in the moment – but I wanted to get myself between her and him.

Before you think I’m too brave – because, I’m too stupid, if anything – I know this guy well enough to place him when he’s around, but I couldn’t pick him out of a line up if I had to. What my quasi-familiarity provides me is the knowledge that he is a one-hit wonder when it comes to these outbursts.

One per customer, please.

Then it’s usually, nothing to see here, please move along, until he encounters a fresh victim.

So, that’s reassuring, I guess. The most impressive part of his walkabouts is that he never lifts his head. I’m sure it’s a physical disability that gives him this posture, but the impressive part is how attuned his peripheral vision is to people around him. Like I said, it’s one verbal assault per customer, and he’s done with you and on to spread his special brand of attention to the next lucky pedestrian. Which is way better than cornering some poor tourist who doesn’t know any better than to expect weirdness in general in Portland, but specifically on this particular block getting pinned against a wall or parked car and not able to get away from The Forgetful Guy. Lunch time is the only really bad time for him to be out and off his meds. Otherwise, there’s not too many people on this particular block. Thankfully.

Now…I have to take a moment to say that I’m really bummed, because when I thought about this Who’s Who of the Friendly-ish Portland Crazies, I made notes about my usuals and then made this note:

The Lincoln High (not) Grad.

“Hot second!”

And, for the life of me right now, I cannot recall the incident that prompted those notes. Clearly someone who was sharing his educational accomplishments-slash-shortcomings with passers by one day a couple of weeks ago while this blog notion was kicking around my brain. A guy who also happened to have quite a catchy verbal tic.

Alas.

I’ll keep my eyes and ears peeled for Mr Hot Second, but that I haven’t seen him in the last couple of weeks suggests that he might be a true transient and has moved on. Maybe he was just letting us all know that he was only gonna be around for a hot second when I saw him.

I think the Silver Fox would be disappointed if I didn’t mention The Richest Homeless Guy in Portland while I was talking about our (mostly) affable street folks.

The Richest Homeless Guy in Portland is a fella that we usually see when we head over toward Nossa Familia for a Sunday coffee or if we need to – need to – buy a lottery ticket. Safeway is one of two joints nearby where we can get a lottery ticket once it gains enough potential ROI to get on the Silver Fox’s radar. The other place is a murder mart called Pico Mart, but they close early and are dangerously close to the Bing Me! food cart, so when we go to Pico Mart for a lottery ticket, we feel ripped off if we can’t get a Bing at the same time.

So, Safeway it is, oftentimes.

And when we go, there he is, The Richest Homeless Guy in Portland, standing by at his station, ready to avail himself to the kindness of strangers.

Or Safeway customers as they exit the store onto NW 13th.

I nicknamed him The Richest Homeless Guy in Portland because he is a monolith of wool, every time I see him. Covered, no…wrapped from head to toe, face barely visible, in more blankets than you could imagine carrying. The first time I saw him, I thought to myself, “That homeless mo-fo is gonna trip over those blankets”, because the edges of his blankets drag the ground.

But he never has, as far as I know. And if he did…he’s well cushioned. And god help him, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say a word. It may be because his mouth is partially covered by blankets, thereby muffling his words. But I really think he’s a quiet guy. All I see of him is eyes, nose, tufts of wayward hair and whichever hand is holding his sign. Otherwise, he’s just slowing moving through the streets of the Pearl District, either on his way to or from the Safeway like a statue of liberty wrapped in moving blankets.

And frankly, aside from an occasional outburst or two from The Forgetful Guy? These folks are all local flavor. Down right affable in the case of The Guy From Saigon and pretty much harmless if they are anything other than affable. It makes me feel…generally comfortable, if that’s the right expression. Not that we have homeless people wandering in our midst. But that they are at least mostly harmless fixtures in our community.

There’s panhandlers that make me feel ill at ease on every block, don’t get me wrong. Usually with a dog I trust more than I would trust them. These friends I’m talking about that I’ve made while living in the Pearl neighborhood? They’re good enough folks. And I’m glad that Portland has the social-ist network that they need for support in their day to day lives.

Because it can’t be easy for them, that’s for sure. That’s why I always try to give them some eye contact and a smile or nod when I encounter them.

How to Make Friends

I Don’t Like Anyone

Congratulations if you’ve made it to this point in my life and I like you.

Or even worse (for you) I call you friend.

Because I think the “like” department is either out of stock or never reopened after the Partial Government Shutdown.

I started thinking about this a couple weekends ago, after back to back dinner parties. But yesterday, it really crystallized for this old grumpopotamus.

I haven’t enjoyed the company of new people at all for at least a month!

Friday, I had an interview with MudBay. Again. Having breakfast with my parents beforehand, they even seemed caught between optimism and incredulity that this interview process was still going on. To be fair, I started with one DM in November and then got switched to a second in January after nothing happened with the first.

It was fine by me, DM #1 didn’t leave me feeling like she liked me as a candidate. This was after she just happened to be present when I did a drop in with a Store Manager that a former colleague recommended I talk to.

DM #2 and I seemed to really jive during our chats. So I was excited about Friday, even though the pay is pretty meh. It’s still seeming like a company that 99% aligns with what I’m looking for in a company.

So I show up out in BFE yesterday to have what I hoped was a final interview.

DM #1 was unexpectedly in attendance.

FFS.

Our conversation this time – she did more of the talking between the two of them – seemed better. DM #2 swoops in at the end to say she’ll be calling all the people they speak to in this round by Wednesday to let them know their status. I would hope that means a yea/nay on the job offer front. Regardless, it was specific. That’s way better than the way DM #1 left me hanging after our surprise first meeting.

I’ll call you when we’re ready to move forward with interviews!

Too chipper.

Also, I didn’t know this was an interview, so she didn’t have my resume to walk away.

So she didn’t have my contact info.

Or. My. Last. Name.

I can find you in our applicant tracker!

Too chipper.

By first name? You said you got hundreds of applicants. From a job that posted in June of 2018…and it’s November.

I can search by referral source, since you were referred by an employee!

Too chipper.

Plus, she should have said Muddy, since that’s what they call one another.

Well, that might narrow down the applicants with my first name. Assuming she remembered it. Or the Muddy’s name that referred me…

So, while I can at least appreciate that this conversation was a good one, I’m still a little rankled by the Shanghai Round Robin style interview.

Mostly, because I don’t like people anymore, it seems.

I actually got to have a spur of the moment lunch with Little Buddy a few days later while she was in my hood doing errand-type things. She was detoxing some family stuff with some fun adult lunch time.

I’m glad I can be that person for someone!

But, naturally, I ruined it by telling her I didn’t like the new people that came to her dinner party.

Why not? They are amazing people! So accomplished.

I dunno. The woman seemed intent on being the star of the party.

Pish. She’s fine, she just didn’t know anyone but me. You know how we can be in a group.

Fair point. But it all seemed like showing up to a wedding in a prettier dress than the bride to me.

I’m pretty sure we left that at a neutral assessment that I am just crazy.

Since it snowed here this week – with an anticipated 4″ on Friday – the wine event LB, 2.0, the Silver Fox and I were all going to Saturday got canceled.

Of course.

Naturally, the snow never materialized…

My walk to f&b for coffee was completely un-treacherous. The Fox joined me and we couldn’t decide if there was an unusual amount of families passing by outside or if there was just too few not families out to dilute their presence.

We were decidedly the only two people in the cafe for the most part until he left at 1:30. There was a couple of ladies who walked in and declared they had a half hour to kill and could they just hang out.

It had started snowing. Big, fat flakes. But, still…no! Buy a goddamned coffee and wait. Sheesh. These ladies looked to be 60-ish.

But the type of 60-ish that are entitled and well to do. Terrible combination. In my opinion, that question cost more in dignity that a $3 cup of coffee would have cost them.

I’m probably just mad because I know the cafe is struggling. Their rent is going up and likely to cut their barely double digit profit margin in half, making it likely they’ll close.

All because they’re in a convenient rendezvous area. And too nice to say

Buy a goddamn $3 cup of Joe or GTFO. Ma’am.

At two, I said goodbye to the staff and wandered next door to wash the taste of coffee out of my mouth with a Pallet Jack. Since I was in the area.

There was a cute and nice couple at the bar when I walked in. They chuckled at the catch up conversation the bartendress and I had but settled up, decanted and left shortly after I sat down. That left me, the bartendress (I’ve gone so long without giving her a nickname that I’m afraid she’s just going to become The Bartendress Without A Name…I guess I could call her T’Bwana, thoughts? It’s an acronym portmanteaus!) and a couple at one of the two tables by the window.

We continued our chatter while T’Bwana did her side work and tended the occasional need of the couple.

A third couple came in with a Plus One from New Zealand. They were fun, but not from around here, so I was over them quickly. Another regular came in and sat at the table behind me, reading.

Then.

It.

Happened.

Eight people came in. Fine. Whatever. I’ve made my peace with this illogical occurrence. Party of eight walks into a bar of mostly two-top tables.

What.

Ever.

I get it, you’re entitled, too. Maybe you’re looking for the old gals next door?

What ticked me off was that they pulled the last two tables in the main bar together for a sit down. The entire room next door – The Rug Room – is empty!

Oh, no…wait, I forgot!

This whole tome, there’s been a couple in The Rug Room. They came in, ordered drinks and went into The Rug Room. T’Bwana went in to check on them a while after and came back in with that “I’m So Sure” head tilt girls do.

What?

Is it weird that there’s 8 tables and 15 chairs in there and those two are sitting cross legged on the floor?!?

Kum-bay-yes! What the what?!?

Regardless, plenty of room for this octet in The Rug Room is the point. Instead, they decide to become a black hole in the middle of the main bar.

And they pulled the last two tables together crooked so there’s no good path around them that doesn’t involve a hop on one foot.

Naturally, I finish my beer and leave.

Loudly.

I might have mentioned something to T’Bwana as I was settling up.

So, I could make an anonymous call to the Fire Marshall for ya…I know you work for tips and can’t piss these oblivious bastards off.

T’Bwana texted me later saying they’d left shortly after me.

Huh.

Ok, one last example of how I don’t like anyone…and it’s my favorite story from the last couple weeks, so I hope you hung on.

This could only happen to me.

The Silver Fox had a dinner party. Me, him and his new neighbor. His new neighbor is having trouble making friends. Now, normally I’d give this type of invite a wide berth, cuz it’s an obvious setup, right?

Well, The Fox has me covered

Don’t worry, you aren’t his type, he likes younger guys, too.

Ouch.

But he’s right. He’s seen a guy I flung with once getting off the elevator on their floor. Me, being the Devil. No. Devil’s Advocate, mention that maybe the NY transplant gay couple on his floor are Portland-ing it up with a random third?

They’re in Palm Springs.

Nertz.

His assumption is solid.

I meet this guy from LA and – more recently – down the hall and he is just so friggin’ so.

Precious.

I’m calling him Jimbo.

A) because he’s from New Orleans, originally.

B) he would hate that nickname. And,

C) if you pronounce the “J” with a Spanish accent, you get “himbo” or a male bimbo, and he was!

He monopolized the conversation with unamusing anecdotes about how precious he is.

He has two houses in New Orleans.

He wants to buy a house in France when he retires. But not alone! Why not? I’m sitting here with you and my best friend, and I’m feeling pretty alone!

His BMW is hard to park in this little garage.

He can’t believe that condos in this building are selling for a half mil more than his house in the Hollywood Hills. Thank god he rented that instead of selling!

Why?

Topping it off, he has a friend visiting from Seattle soon.

Ok, that’s all your problem in meeting friends. No one compares to you. You’re fresh off the boat from the west coast city with the most superficial people, importing people from the west coast city that has yet to learn how to deal with its near instantaneous wealth and living in the chill city trapped between them.

Yeah. That’s your problem.

Shortly after we finished dinner – asparagus risotto and what must have been 24 ounce steaks! – he was talking about a shoe dilemma. He’d just mentioned he was a clothes horse.

The Fox gamely interrupted with a question about Marie Kondo. I loved that.

Of course, since Jimbo’s name isn’t Marie Kondo, he didn’t have time for the question and went back to his shoes. Apparently, they’re his faves but he needs to have them resoled and worked on.

I haven’t tried the guy you recommended, but I just can’t find a good shoe guy up here.

Welp, at least you’ve clearly overwhelmed yourself by turning over every stone.

He went on to share his decision on his ultra first world problem…

I have to go to LA in a few weeks for work. I’ll just take them to my old shoe guy. But I’m gonna tell him he has to get them done in a day.

Because, obviously.

One couldn’t trust this gifted shoe tradesman to be able to mail a shoebox. No, Jimbo needs his shoes now. This guy is so lucky to have a customer like Jimbo. I’ll bet he threw a party when she left town,

The Fox gave his dog, George, a doggie downer before the guests arrived. It had kicked the hell in.

Hard.

George was stoned out of his doggie brain.

And nuzzling my crotch while I scratched his butt.

The Fox got up to get dessert. I was so full, but…dessert!

You know what, G? I’m so full! But I’m still eating my dessert! Yeas I am. Yes I am! I’m just gonna fart to make some room and blame you! Yes I am!

A few minutes later, I pick up a decidedly not doggie scented fart coming from Jimbo’s end of the couch.

Oh, FFS. Really? You’re a precious homosexual…could you please act like it?!?

I debated telling him I was just joking about farting and blaming the dog. I may lack a certain – or any couth, but I have manners.

I can hold a fart – usually – until I get home.

Then he did it again.

Oh, this. This!

I really don’t like most people. But the ones I don’t like most are really amusing. For sure, not in the previous way that they think they are amusing, either. And the people I do like enjoy the shit that happens to me just as much as I do!

Because, it really would only happen to me…

I Don’t Like Anyone

The Haircut Saga

If you can even begin to understand what it’s like to be me for just the shortest of moments, it won’t surprise you to hear that in November I left my barbershop thinking,

That’s it, I’m never coming back!

It was the second time since I considered recreationally growing my hair longer that I’ve walked into Bishop’s in the Pearl with the intent of getting cleaned up around the edges and walk out with a haircut that was basically ready for junior high school picture day.
My goal in my mission to recreationally grow out my hair – into what I call crazy old man hair – was something like a low key version of this:img_3453
What I really meant by stating my goal to grow out my hair was just to openly defy the current hair style conventions of that ridiculous hard part haircut. You know, this one…img_0516
Hard part? More like hard pass!
And I’ve had the same haircut, essentially, for the last 10-15 years, so something of a change was in order…just not what I considered to be the current incarnation of The Big Gay Haircut. Going longer was my only safe bet.
Except…
Not so fast, old Xtopher.
In late September, I walked into Bishop’s, told my gal what I wanted and walked out with this:
img_3454
Fine.
I grow it out a little, about seven weeks, and then go back toward the end of November for my holiday haircut in late November. Gotta make myself respectable for my visit to mom and dad! I make myself very clear that I only want it cleaned up over the ears, not blended all the way up since I want to grow it longer.
“Got it”, she says.

Flash forward twenty minutes…
img_3454

That’s it, I’m never coming back!

I leave thinking that I’ll give it until the end of January. Maybe if I need to cave for something important – like an interview – I will, but otherwise, it’s not like I’m doing anything with my time…so this can be my lil hobby.
Toward the end of January – my birthday – I ask the Silver Fox if I should be thinking about getting a haircut. I hadn’t heard from my family about birthday plans, so I was beginning to suspect something. If my family is planning something, I figure I should mow the shag a bit to look presentable.
“Your family isn’t planning anything”, he says.
Fine. No worries.
“But I’d get a haircut if I were you!” he laughs.
Of course, I reasonably assume that he’s taking a chance to return some of my snark and take it in stride.
He wasn’t.
img_1108
Great. Now he can keep a secret.
Not to worry, I think I pulled the shaggy look off…
img_1342
Notice how the longer hair distracts from my growing girth?
Anyway…lesson learned. I had said I was giving it until the end of January and here it was, the 21st. I figured I could see this through the final ten days and then hit Bishop’s and see if they’ve learned any new listening skills.
The Fox and I head up to Trader Joe’s later that week – he usually lets me tag along so that I don’t have to hoof it 20 blocks with my groceries – read: a half case of wine – which I certainly appreciate. On our way back, we pass right by Bishop’s and I’m looking in and thinking that it figures they aren’t crowded now, but just watch…when I want my hair cut it’ll be like the week before picture week. Then I see it.
Oops. Him.
This guy that I used to…socialize with, privately, if you get my drift, when I first moved back to Portland. He was a complete and utter mess. I’d cut ties with him by the end of that first year back in town.
Of course, the next year, he turns up at a happy hour with Linda Belcher. She had invited me down to Old Town to grab a couple drinks with her common-law husband, Bob’s Burgers, and some of his acupuncture co-horts.
This guy shows up. Mostly because this is my life and this is just what one should expect when one is me. Also because he was engaged to a classmate of Bob’s Burgers.
F.
M.
L.
I learn that he’s in the Hair Program at Paul Mitchell over across Burnside. I’m actually surprised that I don’t see him more often, since I pass by there every time I go to the bank or movies…surprised, but grateful.
A year or so later, I do finally end up seeing him outside. “Long program”, I think to myself, but I’m on the far side of the street, so he doesn’t see me.
Maybe another year later, I see him again and wonder if he’s teaching there, but just assume they are smart enough to not let that happen.
So, here I am, less than ten days away from a haircut and I see him on a smoke break outside. Finally working after taking the better part of three years to graduate from what I gather is a seven or eight month program. My friend, JOrtis is a teacher at the Aveda institute and I just figured, why not ask how long the program should take. I think he said months…but knowing this mess, I could see him spacing out a seven or eight week program with a few trips to rehab.
Nonetheless, it explains something about my last two trips into Bishop’s for a haircut.
Turns out my petulant departure in November contained some pretty true words.
So, here it is, the first week of February and I’m thinking, “Well, it’s not like I’m still not doing anything…oh, wait”, but I’m still not really putting any emphasis on my hair maintenance.
The Fox says that he’s getting used to it, which I somehow gamely twist into a compliment.
And…since this is my life we’re talking about, I get an in person interview.

Screw it. This interview process started in November. If they ask, I’ll tell them that I am not getting a haircut until they offer me a job out of protest.

So, if The Great Job Hunt finally comes through and I get the job, I’ll trim this shituation up, otherwise, this is what they get. Until then…img_3453

Whatever I decide to do with this shaggy mane, the…let’s say lucky barber will have plenty of material to work with!

The Haircut Saga

Toxic Positivity

Yup. This is a thing now. If you’re curious as to what falls into The New Negative

What I’ve highlighted above will be important in a minute. But lemme be straight, even though I call it The New Negative, I understand the message. Loathe am I to quote our country’s Worst Lady – er, First Lady – but the message of her Be Best campaign and this Dallas Yogi are eerily similar.

Well, they are the same, at least in spirit. Until five posts later, my Instagram Yogi posted this

I mean, come on.

But, lest you think I’m going easier on a yogi versus a de facto hypocrite…I have said nothing to either about how their action made me feel.

I sat still and sipped my coffee and thought about the message while Sheryl Crow played at the cafe.

Be Best is a simple idea, with entirely unsurprisingly vague follow up. Maybe the meat of that campaign is the examples the Worst Couple – darn, did it again! – set for us as a bar to be better than.

But when you give a behavior a name, you set a different and specific bar. Something to focus upon to indeed, become better. In that regard, I like this Toxic Positivity thing.

If recent events and years have taught me anything, it’s that self improvement is a journey, not necessarily a fixed destination. Which is why I actually liked that one of my sources of motivation made such a basic error.

It proves that we are moving together on this journey, helping each other up along the way when we stumble. I think it’s too easy to assume that someone is at the finish line encouraging us to join them, but that finish line keeps moving.

As a former runner and current misanthrope, I don’t need to tell you that I prefer solo sports. One of the things I enjoyed doing on a run was talking myself into mini-goals.

Run to that next tree.

Pass that runner a block ahead of you.

Make it across this intersection before that car hits you.

That was fun, it got me there. But sometimes that runner I passed would turn right around and pass me back.

Guess what?

That could be a real “wah-wah!” moment, but instead of being de-motivated, I would just tell myself

Welp, now you’ve gotta pass that person again…

Even though this was usually my motivator

Anyway, I’m not posting today, am I? It’s not a weekend and I gotta work on other writing stuff. So I better wrap this up. Here’s what I’ll leave you with:

Sometimes these movements have consequences that reach across time. I hope this isn’t one of them.

Hollywood without Kevin Spacey and Jeffrey Tambor makes me sad.

There, I said it.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t think they should be held accountable for possible crimes or inappropriate actions. Joaquin Phoenix seems to be doing ok…why is that fair?

Congress working without Al Franken while our President presides unpresidentially every day seems like a gross incongruency.

But I hope in both cases we have learned that due process is one thing and Buzzfeed justice is another.

I am completely over woke. It went from a catchphrase to a…well, this

way too easily. And fairly unchecked, if you ask me.

From a woke culture to a bunch of thugs with microphones and twitchy trigger fingers. And this bothers me in regards to Toxic Positivity because while I’m writing this, If It Makes You Happy by Ms Crow comes on

…and that’s some Toxic Positivity, right there, y’all.

But I want to hear it.

Toxic Positivity