Soul? Oh!

This is something I’ve been kicking around for close to a year now. I’ve got a draft from last December called Un-Civil War that I just can’t quite get right.

So there it sits. This draft. But the notion keeps coming back to me more like a ghost haunting me than the orphan attempting to find a home or get the attention it needs.

Last week, though, it settled into my consciousness and caused me to be aware of the same old things differently. I noticed things that had been sticking out, but felt understanding beginning to crystallize.

I think it was watching Biden’s acceptance speech for the nomination as the party’s candidate for president that did it. In it, he talked about how this election is a battle for the soul of our democracy.

Since then, I’ve been seeing Trump supporters differently.

  • The random oversized pickup truck driving around downtown with Proud Boy flags flying off its bed.
  • The lady in Vantucky driving along in the car by herself with the WWG1WGA bumper sticker. That stands for the QAnon tag line “Where We Go One, We Go All”.
  • The people on social media decrying the destruction of “their city” from the protests, without realizing all that’s wrong with that mindset – even though many of them still count themselves as democrats.
  • The old bastard on the hill in Oregon City crazily waving his Trump flag and holding a small sign that asked who Jesus would vote for.
  • The pickup with the “88” window sticker. H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. That’s a White Supremacist symbol, seen also in tattoo form on too many prisoners. 88 = HH = Heil Hitler.
  • The guy in Clackatraz driving around with his convertible top down, holding a pole with the “Trump 2020” campaign flag flying – by far the most representative example of Trump supporters’ IQ. Cumulatively, I doubt they could post an IQ high enough to get MENSA’s attention.
  • Or the family of three – a man, his wife and their not-old-enough-to-vote daughter holding Trump signs and the Blue Line American flag supporting the police.
  • Usually, I give these demonstrators a “thumbs down” gesture and just go about my business, feeling low-grade intimidated nonetheless. Since seeing Biden’s speech and having his question percolate, I’ve realized something different may very well be at play here.
  • These Trump supporters are sad and lonely people. Orphans from modern American ideals who are screaming for any attention they can get themselves. Not realizing that any group that needs coded language like WWG1WGA or 88 to signal others like them probably aren’t worth belonging to. They certainly don’t have a message they can be proud of if they have to hide it.
  • These sad individuals – driving around alone in their cars or standing alone or only with their family-slash-hostages – stand in stark contrast to the other groups I see around town. The groups that make me proud of my town and my race. Whose actions signal redemption for the values of our country versus coded subversion of those values and subjugation of other races and genders than their own.
  • Not the hundreds to thousands of protesters downtown demanding police reform and an end to systemic racism in America – and after last night’s police shooting, I’m guessing it will once again be 1000s, not 100s.
  • No, the people making me hopeful are the neighborhood and school and professional groups that have organized to remind passers by that Black Lives Matter. Seeing neighbors coming together in numbers large enough to crowd all four corners of a city intersection, or line both sides of a suburban highway for a hundred feet is, I hope telling of the results we’ll see in November. Watching someone deliver and start to set up a tent for shade on our recent 100 degree days while someone else hands out water reminds me of the compassion liberals are able to demonstrate for others. And, yeah, watching the Riot Ribs guys cooking in the park across from the Justice Center during the day, when the only people I see them feeding appear to be homeless also makes me feel that same thing…but the randomness of the former example reinforces the best notions of what conservatives condemn as bleeding heart liberals.
  • I’ll take those small reminders, because stacked up next to what the opposition can muster, they’re far more impactful by comparison.
  • As a matter of fact, the largest group of Trump supporters that I’ve seen doing similar messaging isn’t half the size of the smallest BLM group I’ve seen, reinforcing the realization that these fringe groups and Trump supporters are indeed lonely.
  • Which is why they brought guns and mace to Saturday’s counter protests in Portland while the people there calling for reform and justice brought umbrellas and signs. Just like a message that needs to be coded, a message that needs guns to be valid is probably – or at least obviously should be – self-indicting.
  • I’ll still feel intimidated when I see these Trump supporters out and about, but I’m happy to feel something else stirring now: pity. Because while the people with the right idea have lots of company in this battle for democracy’s soul, the opposition is usually fighting solo in their pursuit to spread its soulless message.
  • Soul? Oh!

    The Now Normal

    Maybe this is just me and my pessimistic dark minded nature. But I heard someone talking about wearing masks yesterday and this notion just snapped into my mind.

    Sure, it could easily have been the 1000th time I’ve overheard people discussing pandemic restrictions and referring to them as The New Normal. This time, though, instead of mentally nodding my head in approval of someone “getting it”, alarms went off in my mind.

    I saw visions of people relaxing into “life as usual” routines from their pre-pandemic lives because they deigned to wear a mask and social distance. I saw COVID Circles – which I’m suddenly wondering why no one thought to nickname them COVID Covens or some derivative – carelessly growing in size.

    All because I know how people get. As a lifelong observer of people, I’ve seen the behavior time and again. Once people accept a new reality or process as normal, they relax into it.

    Think about a new relationship or the last procedural change you experienced at work…yeah, let’s go with those. Obviously, I have no current subject matter expertise in either the business or relationship arenas, but I’m kind of a know-it-all in both areas after 30+ years of experience in both…unless someone wants to tell me that people have changed their base behaviors lately.

    For the better.

    So, work-from-homers, how long did it take for you to change your dress code habits for work to the business mullet model once you went to WFH status? When you have a video call are you putting on a business appropriate top while keeping things casual below the belt?

    And you daters and new cohabitors…how long into the shituation – er…relationshit…no, I can do this – relationship were you before the first glimpses of routine showed up? Or the first argument about taking the other for granted?

    It’s just what people do. Maybe they embrace a change. Perhaps they resist it initially. But either way, once the newness wears off, we relax. Often in ways that are deleterious you the situation…at least, that’s my observation. And it’s not that every instance that relaxing into it is bad, sometimes there are organic improvements. Things can just get better once we overcome the resistance and start behaving with acceptance.

    But in matters of public health and wellness, relying on hope that that is the outcome seems capricious.

    A) the group is just too large to assume compliance, even if the anti-maskers stop fighting the yet-to-be-made national mandate. You know there will be dick-nosers out there walking around, flashing people. Not me, I am loving the cover my mask gives me for my aged nose hair shituation. If only it were winter and earmuffs were appropriate, I’d be in a state of follicular betrayal through migration heaven.

    And, B) you know that natural post-acceptance relaxation is going to introduce selfishly negative variables like I listed above versus positive benefits through adherence.

    For those reasons, I think people saying “The New Normal” should be corrected to say “The Now Normal”.

    I think we’ll be wearing masks until next summer. That’s my conservative estimate. But I don’t think we’ll be wearing masks consistently five years from now. Sure, maybe we’ll see a positive shift in behaviors to where when people get the sniffles, they pop on a mask out of consideration of those around them.

    Y’know, like people in Gina.

    Given America these days, it seems more likely that entire COVID Covens will end up on trial for murdering one of their own because one of them had an allergy attack. I can see it now: The COVID Panic defense.

    But if I have to include a potential positive, I’d say that if we can accept things as Now Normals, maybe that allows the American culture to grow into something more cohesive and less resistant to change. Sure, we’ll always have the overcorrecters that horde supplies and lock themselves away in hermit mode and dick nosers that only manage to comply in spirit on the periphery, but the majority of us will be in the center, working together for the greater good…like a good bell curve. Instead of America today where the country seems like a dodgeball field with no one in the center at all.

    So, yeah…how about we shoot for that?

    The Now Normal.

    I dunno. Maybe everyone conscientiously wearing masks got there before me and kept the whole Now Normal notion to themselves…

    The Now Normal

    Hey, You!

    Yeah, you. Can you…not, please?

    I know I haven’t been writing much. It’s a thought that occurred to me just as I was trying to decide what to do with my night. My knee jerk, rationalizing and disabling thought was “Well, it’s because I’ve been driving so much lately”.

    Now, there’s a thought I’ve been having often lately.

    Every time I do, I pop open the app, ready to pat myself on the back for my epic drive times.

    Also, every time I open the app I see I’ve driven less than 30 hours that week.

    It’s nuts, it certainly seems longer. But maybe that’s just a factor of how raspy my throat is from nattering at passengers for <30 hours. Possibly with a little or a lot of “my ass is sore as hell” mixed in. And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn Diezel to keep it clean here. Really, it’s just my right butt cheek that’s complaining, for whatever reason – and, no, it’s not my wallet.

    But that same thought comes around whenever I’m amazed at how many passengers I get from out of state. It’s just a factor of how much I’m driving.

    Except it’s not. And yet, copious visitors there are.

    Visitors from COVID-denying hotspots.

    Recent red state refugees that landed in Portland.

    And when I realize how few hours I drive and how often these folks present themselves, I am amazed at the inverse relationship. Assuming that how out of control the situation seems can be extrapolated based on the number of rides I give people each week.

    Of course, it can’t. This is all just me entertaining myself – and since I don’t feel mentally up to anything more seriously grumptastic than this, this is what you get.

    Another highly unscientific method for tracking these – and I don’t want to channel Trump here, but – visitors and transplants from less than desirable locations is just observation. This weekend, I drove Friday, Saturday and today. Three days in a row is unusual. I needed to make up for taking Monday and Tuesday off while the Silver Fox was visiting. Each of those three days I witnessed at least three license plates from Arizona.

    Just Arizona.

    I didn’t see any Texas or Florida plates…but maybe they are just less noticeable.

    Still, 9+ Arizona plates in ~15 hours seems like a lot. Let’s call it 18 hours of driving, which errs on the high side. Seeing an AZ plate every two hours seems pretty frequent.

    I could just see the virus swirling around the vehicles like dust around Pig Pen.

    Fortunately for my recreational hypochondriac, I’ve got my vents set to recirculate. I know it’s better to be letting in fresh air, but I drive through tear gas zones a lot and don’t want to rely on my reflexes to save my eyes and throat. So when I want fresh air, I put the windows down.

    Simple pimple.

    Now, because for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, last night I had a group of soon-to-be college kids in my car (not like that, Diezel). It was a 4-some, three guys and a girl with hiccups. Now, Lyft asks riders to certify that they will wear masks and not sit in the front, so imagine the hernia inducing restraint I exercised when one of these shitheads kids got into the passenger seat.

    You know you’re all supposed to sit in the back, right?

    Pretty mild on the passive-aggressive-o-meter, right? The kids says “Yeah” and closes the door.

    Okay, then.

    Next, I exercised restraint by not volunteering that they were obviously not going to be adding a tip onto their parents’ credit card.

    When I asked what they were up to on a Saturday night, one of the guys said that my front seat mate was leaving for college the next day.

    Do you even need more than one guess?

    Arizona State.

    Why?

    Ok, with the restraint I’ve exercised up til now, my incredulity here is forgivable, right? Something about not winning them all…

    “They have a great business school”.

    Wharton is a great business school…

    <crickets>

    From the backseat, “Hey, can you make a stop along the way?”

    You know what, Arizona can have these entitled, clueless punks. I hope this kid survives long enough to put his business degree to use.

    I don’t mean to paint Arizonans as universally bad people, mind you. I mean, could anyone with this plate be entirely bad?

    No, no they could not be. But could these flaming patriots stupid Americans just stop running amok with all of their Pig Pen-ish virus?

    Hey, You!

    How Much Ouch?

    All of it.

    All the ouch.

    I’m a fat big enough person to admit when I’m wrong.

    Doing reverse lunges yesterday was definitely a mistake. Where my ass would be if I had one definitely hurts today.

    As a fatter of mact – er – matter of fact, my abs aren’t minding their business today, either. But I’m taking the immediate onset of muscle soreness following yesterday’s mini home workout versus the typical delayed onset muscle soreness as a sign that I have been too inactive for too long.

    So maybe the takeaway isn’t that exercise was a mistake so much as my error was doing the wrong kind of “body building” for too long.

    But, still…ooouuuccchhh!

    How Much Ouch?

    And Then There’s Actual Karma

    Not that I particularly enjoy a karmic smack down.

    Schadenfreude…sure, that I’ll cop to.

    But honestly, the only times when I find myself truly enjoying karma are the times I see someone who has something good coming their way get their due.

    Y’know, like in the pre-lockdown days when someone would sit down near me at a video poker machine. They’d put a urine soaked dollar bill – because it’s Portland, so they are houseless, obviously – into the machine, smack toothless gums while deciding what game to play and then bet min – which is probably sixty cents of that pee dollar (aka: street value of the USD) – only to hit a bonus and win a whopping $10.

    That is an example of karma that makes me happy.

    That is not the type of karma I woke up to this morning. Let me explain…

    Or the Kenton neighborhood of NoPo, 2017…

    I was the GM for Green Zebra Grocery, a store that’s called itself the 7-Eleven of healthy grocers. A Whole Foods in a convenience store footprint.

    Great concept. One that suits my “fishbowl existence” preference – neighborhoods with everything residents need, home, entertainment, restaurants, gyms, and, yes…even grocery stores. Green Zebra – The Zeeb, as the staff nicknamed it – fit right into my worldview.

    Then I worked there.

    Then, I didn’t.

    It couldn’t have ended in a shittier or shadier manner. The founder herself fired me.

    For cause.

    Or what passed for cause in her confrontation averse universe.

    Basically, I was a scapegoat. Or whatever livestock one slaughters to appease the Harassment Gods or fake idols employees pray to in order to dodge personal accountability.

    A grocery clerk left work grateful I’d canceled his shift for the day. He’d shown up visibly impaired, barfed in the sanitizer bucket behind the meat counter, declared “Dude, I did this to myself” when I asked after him…and then claimed harassment after my response to him admitting that he was drunk and stoned at work was “That’s not ok”.

    He was relieved to go home that day.

    When he came back to work and had to face the follow up counseling, he was butt hurt.

    And suddenly, I was the problem.

    He went right to the founder with his complaint.

    He had to change his story a couple of times. First it was “inappropriate comments”, which was vague and scuttled by my counter defense of, “That’s pretty much the culture here – and I’m trying to fix it”.

    Seriously, my defense was a sticker on a manager’s work issued laptop – well, among other examples. And I offered to be the champion of continued change.

    Seriously, that was the sticker staring at me during weekly meetings during my tenure at The Zeeb. When I pointed out that I’d walked into an inappropriate environment and relaxed my own standards to “blend”, the Number Two in the company said, “It’s true” under her breath in a fit of neo-corporate inconvenience. So, basically, the founder decided to fire me after her own Number Two indicted her position.

    Of course, there was the whole, “That actually never happened” defense, which should stand on its own merits anyway.

    After his second story iteration, I pointed out that another complaint made by the same employee had ended in the termination of a meat clerk…that was also on a Worker’s Comp LOA. Apparently, he’d made an unwitnessed comment about the length of the homophobic employee’s hair relative to his gender.

    Now, to me, that’s a definite no-fly zone. But in proving it…when it can’t be proven…well, that scenario ended with erring on the side of caution and terminating the legitimately injured employee.

    However, after sending the founder into another retreat to regroup by asking how many witches she was willing to drown to protect this young man’s fragile sexual identity, she came back – after story revision number three – and fired my sacrificial lamb ass.

    Just remember, after coming to work drunk, stoned and puking in a sanitizing bucket within three feet of raw meat – not that kind, Diezel! – I told the kid he was responsible for managing his crossfade so that it didn’t negatively impact the business or the team.

    Yeah, fire me for that.

    My last words to Lisa – the founder – were, “Surround yourself with good people and then get out of their way”. She’d created a parental environment where if one of “the kids” didn’t like what (in this case) dad said, they went running to mom.

    Short story long – gotta love context – this morning I woke up to someone from my old store’s team posting Instagram story videos announcing the store team striking.

    I recognized the view from the employee side of the cash registers-slash-espresso bar.

    I recognized the founder losing her shit at the situation.

    Unsurprisingly, on camera.

    For several minutes.

    Ranting almost incoherently. The liberal dramatic throwing up of exasperated arms. The dramatic and long suffering demand that her employees abandon their posts so she can ring up customer purchases her-put-upon-self. Customers abandoning their purchases and leaving before Lisa retreated toward the offices yelling that employees win and all employees were getting paid for the day.

    The interesting thing wasn’t the karmic drama. It was in the seeking to understand – one of Lisa’s corporate values. In looking into why the employees decided to strike, I learned it was mainly over hazard pay. During the pandemic, many companies with essential workers – like grocery stores – all employers in that field seemed to offer a bump in the neighborhood of $2/hr for their employees or bonuses of hundreds of dollars multiple times. I’m sure it wasn’t universal, but I didn’t see other grocer’s employees striking so dramatically.

    It’s worth noting that Whole Foods employees situationally went out on strike despite their $2/hr Hero Pay bump that lasted a couple months. Notably, the store in my neighborhood went on strike over a lack of safe working conditions following the death of at least one of their team from COVID-19.

    Lisa apparently offered a one-time $120 bonus for employees. I’m not sure whether that was prorated for full and part time positions. Regardless, $120 for working in an at-risk environment for 12+ weeks – well…that’s $10/week at best for any employee, regardless of the number of hours worked.

    Regardless of the prior conversations, the situation I observed tells me Lisa still either can’t hire the people with the competencies she needs to support her success or she can’t get out of the way of her own team’s success. My experience is that when hiring, you get more wins than losses. There are more people who want to do good work than not. But they need good leadership to do so.

    The situation I personally experienced versus what I witnessed this morning via video shows me that Lisa not only hasn’t learned to get out of the way of good people, she’s literally actively getting in the way to try and single-handedly keep her store open in spite of their grievances.

    Karmicly, I was gratified to see that her customers weren’t any more sympathetic to it than her employees were.

    Where it goes from here is dependent upon whether old dogs can learn new tricks. From what I’m seeing in our country in general and my city in particular…it ain’t coming easy. If it happens.

    And Then There’s Actual Karma

    Car-ma

    Yeah, so you may recall me saying that things that happen in Angela – my car – are cyclical.

    Sometimes That’s Fun

    The other night I went out for my usual 10 rides. It was like the universe was telling me to go home and get baked.

    My second ride called me to the Broadway Cannabis Collective, which is actually just a couple streets over from my house. I picked up a guy who’d been shopping there after hitting the gym in the Pearl because it was his favorite gym in town. Normally his husband comes with him and drives, but not today – which allowed me to meet him. He was a really nice guy, I mention this because he’s an older gay guy – maybe mid to late 30s – and nice, and accomplished…so I’m supposed to not like him, right? Well, I did. So there.

    I dropped him off at his home on – and I swear I’m not making this up – Gay Street.

    I go about my driverly endeavors, minding my own business and just really feeling good for having met that guy, even if only briefly.

    The night was kind of slow – the first where I didn’t really have a ride waiting when I dropped off my current passenger – and I thought about hanging it up after ride five. It was really nice out and I thought maybe I’d take a walk around the waterfront.

    “Just one more loop around the riverfront corridor”, I told myself. That’s MLK and Broadway flanked by the Burnside and Broadway Bridges. As I cruised down MLK toward the Burnside Bridge, I got a call to pick someone up a few blocks behind me at Oregon’s Finest – another cannabis dispensary.

    That’s not even the cyclical part of my driving shift. I mean, well…kinda. Call it a recurring theme.

    I picked up a young woman who was just getting off work and took her home. We had a great chat along the way about…weed. I sometimes feel bad talking shop with my cannabis industry peeps, but she pointed out that the people that work in weed are definitely passionate about it.

    Two rides later – ride eight – I look at my pick up and I’m getting called back to Oregon’s Finest.

    Weird

    I pick up another young woman finishing up her workday and take her home. Along the way, I tell her about my earlier ride and she wonders which one of her co-workers it was. “I dunno, can’t remember her name. Really nice, though. Orange hair?”

    That did actually – even in Portland – narrow it down for her.

    My last ride of the night – ride ten – was a pick up for a last minute run to the weed shop before closing time.

    Any guesses?

    Broadway Cannabis Collective.

    There’s a damn weed shop on damn near every block in this crossfaded town and 40% of my rides in one day were to two of them.

    Pretty strange occurrence.

    Right up there with the day I picked up a guy to take him to work at Mr Nice Guy. I honestly wasn’t sure if that was a weed shop or an adult book store, but once we arrived I figured it out. As I sat in the driveway, trying to decide whether to go left or right to cruise toward home, I got a ride request.

    Turns out, I was going left…to the other Mr Nice Guy a few miles away to pick up a customer.

    Back to back rides with the same business? That amused the hell out of me.

    But not every coincidence is weed-related.

    Yesterday, for instance, my very first ride was taking a guy home from work. As we drove, we chatted about Portland real estate, because…why not? He interrupts himself to appreciatively comment about a rather fit looking age inappropriate woman. With anime pink hair.

    “Probably a stripper, too. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” he adds hastily.

    Which segues – courtesy of your favorite Voice of Treason – into the generational differences regarding sex workers. Our generation – his and mine – still has obvious parochial guilt around the subject. Younger generations embrace sex work as an industry.

    But that’s not the point.

    I drop him off with a ride waiting and go pick up this young woman. She drops her bag in the car and apologizes for forgetting her mask before running back into her house to get it.

    Such a nice young lady.

    I ask her where she’s going and she says to the pet store to get a mouse for her snake. Mentally, I drive into a telephone pole, underreacting.

    In reality, I laugh and change the subject.

    “I have to say, you look exactly like your picture.” She’s surprised by this. I tell her that most people don’t even have a pic on their profile, but it’s helpful for me when I’m looking for people on a crowded street. Then I highlight my own short-haired profile picture versus my current shaggy reality.

    “But your hair is even the same color in real life…I wanna say teal?”

    She fusses with her hair and admits that she just touched it up, but in the picture from last year her hair is actually a little faded. We go on talking about how she always wanted to dye her hair that color growing up in LA, but never felt comfortable doing so until she moved to Portland.

    “Portland is weird that way – there’s really just no ‘normal’ here when it comes to style”, I tell her before asking what she did for work.

    stripper.

    I shit you not.

    Back to back stripper talk rides.

    We talk about that for a while and I tell her how much I truly love that stripping is just a normal part of our bar scene versus some taboo, like in the rest of the country. She agreed, having been a stripper in LA she was kind of surprised by the shame factor associated with it there. The seedy locations. The judgment she encountered on the bus if her work bag wasn’t zipped all the way and her work heels showed.

    “Not here, sister. In Portland, it’s weird to be drinking a beer and not have a naked person within three feet!” As we rolled up to the pet store, I thanked her for keeping Portland the right kind of weird. She told me to stop in to Mary’s if I was ever in the neighborhood.

    I live three blocks from Mary’s. Which is actually the oldest strip club in town. Mary herself – well into her 60s – is still known to pop in for a set now and then. On top of the whole “gay” thing, a 60+ stripper is enough to keep a beer at Mary’s pretty low on my to-do list, but now…

    Anyway, those are some examples of fun circles. But that’s not always the case.

    Sometimes That’s Not Fun.

    I’m glad I don’t have many bad rides. Bad, being relative, of course. Mean people or folks behaving inappropriately? Almost never. Out of over 1700 rides in the last 11 months, I think I could count on one hand the truly bad experiences I’ve had.

    I’ve had a couple of sad story rides that could count as “bad”, too.

    The two young ladies I dropped off at a funeral – the people entering the chapel were almost exclusively teenagers.

    The woman whose long term boyfriend (and local concert promoter) had died prematurely the night before.

    And this nice Black woman from the other night and her teenaged grandson. She was on her way home after spending a few days watching after her grandkids so their mother could help make arrangements for an elderly relative’s funeral.

    It turns out, that death had been expected, however the day after that older family member died, two others had been killed in a car accident. A mother and her son.

    I’d heard about that wreck. It was bad. The car caught fire after the wreck and both driver and passenger ended up dying.

    It wasn’t until this grandmother got in my car that I understood how terrible the accident was. But it was heartwarming to hear about how the family pulled together to take care of one another. The grandson was actually going to spend a few days with grandma now that his mom was back home and able to take care of his younger sibling.

    Also, his aunt was going to do his braids…still, that just seemed like the family taking care of each other in a “life goes on” type of way.

    The circle here?

    In what would end up being my final ride of the night, I was taking a hospital worker from OHSU high up on a hilltop in southwest Portland to her home in deep southeast. Like around 122nd. It was just about 11 PM and we were waiting to turn onto 122nd, her home was just a few hundred feet away.

    The lights – I think, this is where I’m every stereotype of a bad eyewitness – had just changed to allow the cross street turn lanes the right of way. A car turning onto 122nd from the other direction was just crossing the center of the intersection when a car ran the red light on 122nd. They must have been going 50 MPH or more in a 40 MPH zone. They hit the rear drivers side of the car hard enough to knock it backward and across two lanes of traffic, narrowly missing a pedestrian when it landed on the corner diagonal from me. The speeding vehicle ended up in the gas station even further behind it pointed in the wrong direction.

    I’d been – me being me – chattering away with my passenger when all of this happened 30-ish feet away from us. It was stunning, to put it mildly. It looked like the car that got hit only had a driver in it, but they weren’t moving. My passenger wanted to go home, so after waiting to make sure people were calling 911, I went on.

    Coming back down 122nd a few minutes later, the intersection was filled with police cars – luckily they weren’t all down at the Justice Center, which had been the “story” from PPB a few days prior – and emergency vehicles. Still a little shaken up by the accident I’d witnessed, I carefully executed a left-hand turn at the intersection, switched off my app and pointed Angela toward home.

    Like I said, there’s not many bad stories or circles from my time driving…but I probably should have saved that stripper story for the end, eh?

    Car-ma

    What A Long, Strange Week It’s Been…

    Seriously, last week was quite a year.

    I inadvertently offended my sister on social media.

    Black Sheep Bro persisted in his attempts to have a conversation at me about why I should gratefully accept his return to the family dynamic. Reinforcing why I’d rather he leave me out of his notion of family.

    Coronavirus.

    Politics.

    Social Justice.

    Perhaps you’ve read something about Trunt treating Portland like his personal Operation Urgent Fury resulting more in Pinochet-esque kidnappings than anything resembling quelling the city’s outcry for justice.

    The hits just kept on coming.

    It was a tough week – I actually put myself in FaceBook Jail for a couple days just to slow the swirl.

    On top of that, multiple folks reached out to me – either checking in or chiding – because I hadn’t been posting entries on my blog.

    But instead of rehashing the long, I thought I’d recap the strange of the last week. Something lighthearted – just what Doctor Galby ordered.

    Also, “Cocktail, please!”

    After another round of self isolating, I went back to my Lyft driving last week. Probably another reason recent days had begun to feel so long and unending – not much company compared to when I drive folks around, chatting their ears off.

    The result?

    For my efforts, I was rewarded with both mask acne on the bridge of my nose and something like a pimple or a cyst or simply ridiculously painful in my ear pit where the upper strap of my mask looped over the top of my ear. Luckily, that second petty trauma is now just a bunch of dry skin working its way off my body. That mask acne, though…the outbreak on the bridge of my nose may be gone, but my swampy complexion lingers on.

    I’m not kidding – that mask has been like a sauna for my face. And it just wicks from under my mask, too, crawling up my face until even my forehead is a thick, greasy mess.

    “Hello, Puberty? Yes, I’d like to return this skin, please.”

    For whatever reason, there were two consecutive days during my isolation that I woke up at around 4 AM and struggled to get back to sleep. Even though I proactively fed Myrtle breakfast so she wouldn’t go unattended to, she’d still come into the bedroom with some sad little “meows” around 9. Since she didn’t need anything, I chose to interpret her vocalizations as concern.

    On the second day, unsure whether I’d fallen back to sleep or not and not wanting to look at my phone and risk waking my eyes up, I rolled the other way, toward the window. I pushed an eye out from under my pillow – me sleeping is quite a graceful picture – and squinted one eye open to see if there was daylight coming through the edges of my blinds.

    No sun, just one of Myrtle’s big, green eyeballs. I screamed. I think I involuntarily jerked so hard (not like that, Diezel) that I pulled a muscle (also, not that one, Diezel!).

    For her part, Myrt didn’t run and scurry for the underside of the bed or the living room, like she usually does when she gets startled. She just looked at me with those soulless cat eyes like she was willing me to get out of bed so she could have my warm spot.

    I need to get her a heating pad…

    But I got her back a few days later.

    Well, almost.

    I may have friendly-fired myself with a Dutch Oven a couple times the other night.

    A. Couple. Times.

    I didn’t even eat anything weird, so no idea where my bedtime Chernobyl came from. All I do know is that when I looked around, thinking something along the lines of, “That’s for scaring the shit out of me the other day”…no Myrtle.

    Damn it.

    But after a week-ish that was like an emotional finger trap, I’m glad I could at least still find joy in my own weird awkwardness. I decided to take it easy today. Well, I was hoping to get in a bike ride or urban hike before my Virtual Happy Hour with mom and dad – shit I gotta go get something to drink, the company may be virtual, but the liquor will not be! – at 4. Strangely, I woke up famished. After pulling myself together, I set off for my new favorite food cart for an early lunch.

    Closed.

    Fuckity-fuck-fuck.

    What followed ended up being a nice workaround to not exercising because I was hungry.

    Not bad, considering my day was turning into one of these…

    It’s only a quarter mile to the cart, but the other mile and a half was me mincing around from pod to pod searching for inspiration. I ended up at Charlie’s Deli getting what I think is the best sandwich in Portland: their pastrami on rye, extra mustard.

    And, more bright side – I didn’t even get disappeared while out walking by myself.

    Enjoy your weekend, everyone, and don’t forget…Fuck Trump!

    What A Long, Strange Week It’s Been…

    So, How’s Your Monday?

    You’d think I’d know a good sign or minor omen when I saw one.

    Not this guy, nope.

    When I woke up at 3 AM in a manner that caused Myrtle to not just jump off the bed, but land outside the bedroom…that’s not a sign, right?

    That the cause of my sudden consciousness was that I’d dreamed I had been bitten by a snake while sleeping in my actual bed wasn’t a symbol, right?

    In the dream, the snake had latched onto the outside/pinky edge of my hand and was not letting go. It was also making eye contact with me in my dream whilst doing so. After what seemed like a minute in my dream, I reacted…by shaking my hand until the snake was flung clear of the bed.

    Or so I thought.

    But I was distracted from checking by Myrtle crash landing in the living room, so I forgot about the snake as my brain woke up.

    I called out for Myrtle as I realized my hand still ached where the dream snake had bitten me and wondered if Myrtle had been the actual perpetrator. That would explain why she wasn’t answering my call – like she ever does.

    Then I felt something scrabble up my neck and into my hair. I shook my head and loosely ran a hand through it to free it of any critters that had become entangled in my mane.

    Realizing my error, I jumped out of bed, flipped on the light and then flung back the sheets in search of any blood sucking little predators.

    Nothing.

    Heart pounding and semi wide awake, I turned to go to the bathroom. And then a snake…of hair flipped forward on my face.

    Now, wide awake and fortunately still needing to use the bathroom, I answered nature’s call. I tried unsuccessfully to calm my nerves while washing my hands, examining the one for what I hoped would remain phantom injuries as I did so.

    Failing at a return to normal breathing, I stopped at the freezer on my way back to bed and took a shot of ice cold tequila right out of the bottle.

    Might not help, couldn’t hurt that much.

    After a little tossing, I hear Myrt looking for a new place to sleep. She’s trying to open the drawers on my dresser to nest for the night. When I finally grow too frustrated listening to her to focus on my own sleep, I get up and shoo her under the bed.

    She’d succeeded in opening two of the eight drawers, but she’s happiest in the third tier, explaining why she hadn’t gone silent.

    But as long as I was up…I fed Myrtle her breakfast so she wouldn’t wake me too early.

    And took a second shot, to be sure I’d not be awake too early.

    Worked like a charm.

    I woke at 8, thinking I’d like to sleep more, but knowing the daylight would fight me. Hardly a surprise, given the dawn I saw breaking through the windows when I fed Myrt.

    So, I got up. Only to be rewarded by this.

    I hate that cat.

    Sometimes…I swear I added that in my mind as I typed.

    Seriously, I know dinner was late because I didn’t get home til 8 from mom and dad’s…but it was Father’s Day! Cut me some slack. You’re really gonna eat breakfast when you aren’t hungry just because I put it out? And then puke it up while I sleep?!?

    What a loathsome creature.

    I clean up Myrtle’s un-eating and brush my teeth. Rib had been texting me about a cappuccino machine he thought he’d talk his hubby into getting – the exact machine he already has, but with an integrated milk frother, which is so him – so I was painfully aware of my lack of coffee or energy drinks in the house. Throwing on a hat and sneakers, I’m off because obviously, a trip to Nossa Familia was in order.

    You can barely tell I’ve had a rough night and soon to be rougher morning. I arrive on the sidewalk to this.

    Just come the fuck on.

    I’ve had these tires about a month.

    Luckily, I wasn’t planning on driving. I stomp to the cafe, telling Rib I had dibs on their old machine as I went along. When I arrive, I order and the barista asked if I want to use my free drink that I always forget about.

    Yes! Yes…but add the $5 back as tip!

    If Monday has it in for me, at least I can try to get in good with Karma by tipping well.

    Worth it.

    I go back home, water the Silver Fox’s plants, grab his mail and then steal his Dyson handheld to go vacuum my car while I try out the compressor that came as a GWP with Angela.

    Worked like a charm – only took about 5 minutes, too! Now to shower and run up to Les Schwab to see if they can patch up or replace the tire they sold me. Hopefully, they can resist the urge to tell me I should replace all 4 tires again – which I fell for last time. Since these have less than 4K miles on them, hopefully my x-drive suspension won’t notice that one tire has 0 miles on it.

    Gawd.

    I hope that $5 tip worked. I don’t want to spend $250 on a new tire, let alone another thousand on all 4…wish me luck.

    So, how is your Monday treating you?

    So, How’s Your Monday?

    Does This Pot Need A Stir?

    Here’s a conversation I’m not hearing these days.

    That’s what Jesus probably looked like: a Jewish Palestinian man.

    But speaking for myself, this is what I was taught to picture when I think of Jesus.

    Now, the religion I was educated in was largely European, Roman Catholic, so I get it.

    Except…today, I don’t.

    For all of its problems, modern day Europe doesn’t experience the same racial obstacles today that America does, because: slavery. But given our failure to overcome our country’s original sin, I do wonder why this conversation isn’t happening or why the imagery isn’t changing.

    Hasn’t White Jesus figuratively enslaved religious Whites’ minds just as our ancestors literally enslaved Blacks?

    Can a simple image elevate an entire race’s feeling of superiority and set a racial hierarchy that is irreversible?

    I know that early European religious founders created the image of Jesus from an ego centric place. Not that it wasn’t good marketing: listen to this guy who looks like us.

    Very palatable.

    No messy racial differences to overcome initially.

    But now there are racial issues to overcome.

    Messy ones.

    Earlier today I referred to this White washing of Jesus as Christianity’s very own original sin.

    And I can’t shake it.

    I keep wondering what would happen with race in America if we treated White Jesus like we are treating Confederate statues and iconography. As “quickly” as multiracial children are being born and moving us toward evolutionary equality and away from racism – with (I think I recall this correctly) an estimated half of all children born by 2025 to be multiracial – I wonder if replacing pictures of White Jesus with a truer image in Churches and media representations would erode the religious bias toward non-Whites in America.

    Just a thought. I think we’re at least three generations away from a diminished racism in America. Some of that will simply have to literally die out. But in the meantime, maybe we can mitigate the damage those unchangeable racists will do in their realm of influence by exposing those they do influence to a dose of reality outside the home.

    Imagine a child raised in a racist home seeing conflicting representations of Jesus in 2000 years of artwork and the picture of Jesus hanging in their church showing this guy

    Having leaders of the church communities across our country poised to tell the story of “This is what he really looked like, but here’s why you see White Jesus” and present the idea to the child that what they hear at home is the “old” way of thinking.

    Literally, the Dark Ages when White peoples wouldn’t listen to a Black son of a carpenter. I think a child’s mind would grasp the differences between what older relatives said and what they learned outside the home.

    Actually, as I typed that, I thought of my grandfather and how I learned exactly that lesson from my parents. He thought nothing if speaking racist thoughts aloud, but my parents taught me what was right.

    I think today’s church could do the same for young Americans who aren’t fortunate enough to be being raised by my parents or similar versions of them.

    Does This Pot Need A Stir?

    I Got Work To Do

    Clearly.

    One of my favorite things about the civil unrest America is experiencing recently is that it’s inclusive. I think that’s part of what has created the longevity in what we’re seeing with the protests.

    George Floyd’s murder wasn’t any more or less representative of the problems in our country – regardless of whether it’s *just* police brutality, something larger like systemic racism or more overt like flat out bigotry – than Breonna Taylor’s.

    Or Trayvon Martin’s.

    Or any of the many trans POC that have been murdered over the past decades.

    Early on, I was critical of muddying the message with unnecessary or unclear hyperbole. As the weeks have gone on, the messaging I’m seeing has evolved away from that, which is gratifying.

    I do like a clear message.

    But we’re also being presented with messages that don’t exclude people who don’t, won’t or can’t march. Sure, there have been some slips on that unity and inclusivity messaging, but from my perspective, it seems like they are simple gaffes versus an intentional exclusive focus. In my Social Media scrollings, I’m given daily reminders and suggestions of ways to support protests without marching:

    Donating to organizations.

    Making signs or masks for protesters.

    Donating first aid supplies or water – or staffing a booth where they are available.

    Things to read to further your understanding.

    Conversations to have.

    Providing legal aid, if you are a lawyer.

    Donating. Because it can be said twice.

    Personally, I’m focusing my Lyft shifts around times and areas where protests are occurring. There’s nights where I ferry people along the same five mile stretch for several consecutive trips. Frankly, being able to thank them and encourage them getting out to march makes us both feel good. Plus, hearing them complain about sore feet and tired bodies allows me to remind them that it’s only temporary and thank them again.

    It’s nice. And I love hearing the stories of the sense of connection there is amongst the protesters.

    I think that sense of community and connection is what has allowed the activists to sustain their momentum this time around. Outlasting the effort that the bad elements in their midst were willing to contribute.

    Not hearing about the use of police force or property damage over this past week has been a welcome change. It allows the media to keep the true message of the protests front and center in the public’s mindset versus burnt and broken things derailing the focus.

    And then there’s my personal favorite way to show support – supporting Black owned businesses and restaurants.

    And this is where I have some work to do – why I feel behind. I got this email from Yelp the other day

    It’s like many that I have seen on Instagram and the Facebook. Reminders or highlights that I appreciate. And free promotion for the businesses, which I love!

    But then I looked at the list – mainly for places close by that I should try or go back to.

    Something occurred to me.

    Of the 50 Black owned businesses listed, only one was “in my area”. A reminder of how Portland truly lacks in diversity overall. Also, though, how cost prohibitive commercial real estate is in the core of the city, making it a near certainty that DBEs will remain pushed out.

    Maybe with all of the non-Disadvantaged Business Entities folding in the days of COVID, we’ll see a re-thinking of those rental rates.

    Maybe.

    What also shocked me in reviewing the list was that I’d been to one. Just the one nearby. As much as I eat, you’d think I would have happened into a few of these places at least accidentally, but…no.

    Sure, there were two that I follow on Instagram and always intended to go to. But you can’t take intent to the bank.

    So there’s the work I need to do: eat out.

    Just like we can vote with our dollars, we can support with them, too.

    Now, before I finish knitting my selfish, racist bastard sweater out of flammable yarn I should say that Yelp’s list of 50 is hardly – thankfully – exhaustive. I’ve seen other businesses listed elsewhere and I’ve been to some that weren’t listed at all.

    That’s fine. I give credit for effort and someone at Yelp did something, which is better than nothing.

    But back to Portland’s lack of diversity for a second and how I can change my behaviors to support equality myself. This odd fact came up in conversation the other day – I want to tell you about Portland’s best BBQ.

    It’s great. Really, really great.

    Really.

    And it’s owned by a fucking white guy.

    Surprised?

    In retrospect, I was – and not to sound racist, but c’mon…BBQ is kind of half the game with Black cuisine, right? Soul food and BBQ are top of mind when you think of a Black owned restaurant, aren’t they?

    Maybe it’s just me. I doubt it dunno.

    But when I set out for BBQ, do I need to go to the one that some newspaper food critic called the best? Is that maybe just another example of systemic racism?

    How many Black food critics can you think of?

    Zero is how many I can think of. Given the departure of Adam Rappaport from Bon Appetit last week for leading and perpetuating an exclusive culture at that particular food magazine, I’d say I’m both not alone and correct about the pervasiveness of systemic racism in yet another facet of American culture.

    So, do I need to limit my BBQ options to what someone labeled “the best”?

    Nah.

    And I think it’s an example of a small behavioral change that would have a larger cultural impact.

    Changing who or how we support business spreads the wealth. That sharing of resources allows the small Black owned businesses to create their own change independently. Whether that manifests as hiring more people into their business, opening and sustaining a new location in a less diverse part of town or just being able to care for their family on a different level…it matters. Hey, not all changes toward racial equity have to reinvent a wheel.

    And at the end of the day, my belly is still full, so everyone wins.

    I Got Work To Do