Here Comes The Grumpopotamus!

This might entertain you.

It might not.

Really, it’s a lil good old therapeutic bitching for mine truly.

I went to bed content last night. Then I woke up…happy. Tired, still, but feeling happy. Before my feet hit the floor, I could feel that happy buzz ebbing. I know the Grumpopotamus is coming and I want to complain about what sent me to bed happy last night before it gets stampeded by it.

You see, I got to spend some social time with good folks last night. That right there is enough to make me content.

I found out around Little Buddy’s birthday that she’d never been to see the world famous drag show at Darcelle’s. Over the course of the next several months, we were able to coordinate a date to rectify that. Her husband, 2.0, is an unusually game fella and agreed to come along and the Silver Fox surprised me by accepting my invite.

I love that I have such an interesting group of friends! I can invite my best friend, a late in life gay, and one of my closest straight friends to a drag show and I expect my gay friend to decline but am not surprised that my straight friend is up for it.

My world is topsy turvy most of the time, but it’s a world with really. good. company.

Anyway, we go to the show because if you live in Portland…you go. Little Buddy having never been was a situation that needed to be corrected. I probably average a visit annually through no real effort and am familiar with the routine and several of the performers, but there is a drag sub-culture here that brings in a pretty steady crowd for their Wednesday-Sunday show schedule.

That’s nice, seeing a three-quarter full venue on a Wednesday night made me feel good for some reason. Sure, that reason might have only been relief that it wasn’t just my foursome and two bridal parties in the crowd.

The rest of the house was made up of relatively normal people, including a world famous (in Hood River, OR) stylist who was celebrating her 40th birthday.

Y’know, I just realized that I misspoke. The rest of the crowd wasn’t normal. There were four people celebrating birthdays in the audience last night, including two women who thought someone putting a microphone in their hand was an invitation to take over.

The aforementioned 40 year old – who world famously styled her double plus figure into some stretchy jeans and an open back top that looked like it was just a repurposed animal print bathroom curtain – was making the bridal parties look normal, and one of the brides was wearing a veil with dick horns on it. Her combination afforded me the opportunity to learn that she was wearing lacy underwear. I saw enough fabric over her waistband to make myself a pair of lacy underwear and enough skin to make Buffalo Bill break out his sewing machine, so that was nice and ughy. World Famous Stylist…

The second woman preventing us from being a normal audience was celebrating her 23rd. She was a “nurse” from a town whose population is just a couple unplanned high school pregnancies away from officially being “podunk” called Banks. Before she spoke, The Fox and I had referred to her as The Kardashian after seeing her tip the performers because…well, just close your eyes and think “Kardashian”. Whatever image pops into your head is exactly what she looked like. She had trouble answering the few questions Darcelle asks the birthday celebrants: how old are you, where are you from, what do you do…these are all questions that just function as set ups for Darcelle’s schtick. However, when the answer to “What do you do?” was “Uuuuhhh, I’m a – uuhh…nurse!” I think even Darcelle was momentarily surprised.

Or worried that she would one day soon be her nurse. Maybe she was scared.

You see, Darcelle is 87. As she pointed out, 88 in 100 days and she might need a nurse sooner rather than later.

I hope it’s not this nurse. We all agreed that she was likely the type of nurse that catered to rich old men with heart conditions…

Darcelle is the world’s oldest performing drag queen. She’s been doing her show at her own venue since 1967 and won an Emmy recently for a documentary about her story.

Holding a microphone is not an invitation to upstage her.

And this is why I went to bed happy last night. I got to watch this entertainer do what she’s been doing for half a century in the company of some very good friends. Any experience you can share with good friends is worth the price of admission. Watching Darcelle tolerate the antics of a Kardashian Nurse that weighed less than the wig and sequined full length dress she was wearing despite the fact that Darcelle’s age makes navigating her own showroom a physically challenging task was inspiring to me as a casually grumpy old man that barely tolerated the workplace shenanigans at my last job.

I felt pretty sure that old Walter Cole perfectly understood his place in the hierarchy of that room last night. I could sense it in his posture. The 23 year old didn’t realize that too soon she’d be some incarnation of that 40 year old world famous stylist who didn’t realize that she could call herself whatever she wanted while she was holding that microphone – go ahead, it’s your birthday – but that she’d failed to understand that she was standing in front of a soon to be 88 year old man, dressed in a gown that by itself probably weighed 40 lbs, wearing a two foot tall wig and enough makeup to paint the inside of the room we were all sharing who had been doing it for a decade longer than this 40 year old had been on this earth and she would never be him.

On top of that history in front of us, we also got to see some fun, campy lip syncing performances.

The entertainers ebb and flow throughout the week, depending on their day jobs and other gigs. The DQ I’ve known the longest – Bolivia Carmichaels – is the resident hostess at CC Slaughters right next door and leaves Darcelle’s after the 8:00 show to do a 10:00 show there. That’s a lot of work behind a microphone. Servers typically work 4-6 hour shifts…because taking care of people is hard. Bolivia taking care of people by serving up entertainment for 4 hours, in drag, largely unscripted?

That’s hard work.

I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t even know how to start. But I know that sassing a Drag Queen isn’t going to make me famous for anything other than being obnoxious. Darcelle gives a talk toward the end of the show about how every performer she hires learns their schtick by laughing at themselves first and the audience second. It’s a good lesson. People who are self-anointed as world famous or whose biggest accomplishment to date was finding a dress that was short enough have not yet mastered this lesson.

I’d bet they missed it last night, too.

But Darcelle still came out and did my favorite number, Rhinestone Cowboy. Even if it was an abbreviated version because she’s almost 88!

We got to see the present company do a Crying Game worthy version of Hey Big Spender from…Sweet Charity? That absolutely brought the house down.

I missed seeing the company do it’s Cellblock Tango. But it needs more than three queens to make it work.

However, in the end? Penis headdresses and world famous pretenders couldn’t rub the luster off a great experience with great people.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’ve got a spin class to get to. I’m hoping some endorphins will help keep the Grumpopotamus at bay!

Here Comes The Grumpopotamus!

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Disillusionment

No secret here, I love social media. It’s a great source of entertainment and usually makes me think more and allows me to engage more than just watching TV.

It’s also no secret that I loathe certain aspects of social media. Particularly the dating apps – which I call asocial media – that I believe are undermining our humanity as an American culture. Pretty much I blame the gays for turning dating apps into hook up apps and the straights for falling for the notion that it was a good thing.

Then there’s the Trolls.

And the social media sites that are just testimonies to ignorance or racism or bigotry.

So much ugh.

But there’s also snarky and amusing private groups on social media that I love being a part of. Places where the goal is just good fun, from who can be grossest to inappropriate-but-equally-not-serious racism and sexism to meme commentary on our political backslide.

I saw this the other day on one such page that’s called Seriously, Don’t Be So Serious. I can tell you the name cuz you can’t get in without a sponsor, so neener-neener-neener.

There’s a lot of layers going on here. That’s a key component to good humor in my mind…not that there’s anything wrong with a good Dad Joke!

First, this is a still from Mommie Dearest. The film version of Christina Crawford’s story of growing up as the adopted child of Joan Crawford, a notorious Hollywood monster from the days of the Silver Screen. She’s played to camp perfection by Faye Dunaway, who earned a couple of Best Actress nominations for her work. But the real validations were the Razzie and Stinker awards and nominations this film garnered. As a matter of fact, I don’t think it lost any Razzie or Stinker award that it was nominated for, including Worst Actress, Worst Supporting Actress, Worst Film And Worst Film of the DECADE!

It was destined to be a camp classic. Completely embraced by the gay community for Dunaway’s scenery chewing acting, but on a deeper level for the story it represents. Not Crawford’s fame and narcissism, but for the fact that her adopted children were able to survive it and find a life beyond it.

That last bit is something that anyone who struggles with adversity in their young lives – like accepting their sexuality and coming out – can relate to. At least those generations when coming out was an ordeal.

Not today. Gladly!

But on the other hand, it was funny because it exploited Trump being forced to walk back his support of Putin over his own Intelligence Community by saying he misspoke and meant to say he couldn’t see why it “wouldn’t” have been Russia meddling in our 2016 election when he had actually stated that he didn’t see why it would have been Russia. Even in his apology to America that wasn’t, he still managed to say that it could also have been so many other people besides Russia.

The internet lost its tenuous grasp on civility.

Twitter was aflutter with memes and commentary depicting the ironic opposite of things that have happened. Christina Crawford’s quote from Mommie Dearest was “I’m not one of your fans, Mother!”

And it was sublimely hilarious since – by her account – all mama Joan ever wanted from her adopted children was an extension of the same blind love and adulation her fans provided. She was represented as a true Covert Narcissist.

The comment thread was an amusing and harmless bit of cattiness and snark.

It was all good natured and in good fun, until this one.

What bugged me about this was not just that people had already posted a link to the movie for those folks who weren’t familiar – so he was commenting on this without reading the whole story – but that he seemed to go out of his way to age shame those of us who did understand it.

My response:

Maybe my frustration at the flippant and dismissive “I’ll ask my 70 yr old mother” is too serious for this thread…especially since the answer is in the thread.

Worse yet would be someone who truly might not know about why Christina Crawford’s story is important to the gay community as more than just a throwaway campy quote not having a peer group outside his mother that could help illuminate him.

That’s on all of us in the LGBTQ community.

What a tragedy it would be if gay culture had a shelf life of only a decade or so. We need to understand and embrace icons that do more than *read* each other for ratings.

Why people that had to overcome things like abuse – even losing their lives in some cases – provided us the visibility, representation and freedom we have today and not take it for granted.

If we allow our community to blithely joke about their own lack of generational continuity, we’re gonna lose sight of what our community is outside our own cliques.

So, kudos to everyone on this thread who said it’s not ok to not know stuff and bothered to share the knowledge.

Bigger kudos to anyone who was curious enough to want to understand and educate themselves.

Sorry…like I said, maybe too serious a thought for this group.

I’ll sashay away for now.

PS: totally giving a hall pass on the issue to straight people on this thread…😬

…I deleted my comment.

At that point, I felt frustrated and guilty. Also that I hadn’t stepped on a social media landmine by posting a too serious comment on a humor page. But that punk kid was under my skin.

Was he really participating in the dialogue without bothering to read the actual dialogue?!?

I know! I was being too serious. Still, I was bristling at my own pet peeve that if you’re going to bother talking, you have to be aware that listening is the price of entry. This kid not reading the comments before joining the conversation would have just made him look ignorant if he hadn’t gone one step further and intimated that no one under age 70 would understand this.

Too far.

But I edited my comment down to just a basic, “you shouldn’t have to be old to know about this, but maybe gay…and if you’re young and gay then it’s frustrating you don’t know because maybe that’s a sign of how our culture is broke down”.

Shocker, my actual comment was shorter than my paraphrasing of the comment…don’t bother acting surprised.

I also suggested that our culture might have more cohesiveness across generations if we didn’t spend Pride month partying our asses off instead of enriching our young people.

But then again, you can probably infer from my young heckler that there’s not a lot of respect for older gays from the newer versions.

I blame Reagan.

Then, of course, this happened.

It is ok to not like the same things. That’s not what I was taking issue with. I don’t for a moment think that living a life where you “don’t get it” is better than perhaps reading too much context into a situation.

See also: clueless

Also, see also: ignorance is not bliss

His response to my comment left me assuming this guy was at least straight-ish and very sheltered – possibly Quaker – growing up. Of course, this was also happening:

And I’m totally ok with that, from a straight person viewing a gay culture – albeit campy – moment.

Still, the bitchiness of the original comment led me to believe the guy with the 70 year old mother was totally gay. Furthermore, unless his mother was 45+ when he popped and locked his way into the world, he should have at least a glimmer of recognition when confronted with a screen portrayal of Christina Crawford. So, of course I felt I had no choice but to actually fully explain my frustration…thusly:

The comment was basically me bemoaning the fact that gay generations are typically pretty isolated from one another. There’s no passing of the cultural torch from one generation to another to create a tapestry of gay culture and history . The one time we can count on an open commingling of the generations is Pride. I wouldn’t say I’ve observed us fully interacting during Pride, but at least we all came together to celebrate a moment and party in the sun.

So, my point was that if we removed the Pride party atmosphere, we’d have a venue to interact, exchange stories and ideas, etc.

Think about how February works with Black History Month. Much more educational in my experience. But think about moving it to August…would you be surprised if BHM became a huge soul jam BBQ event? I wouldn’t – and I’d want to crash it! – but I don’t think it would maintain the same influence over black culture that I recall it having when I was coming up.

Plus, Pride takes place during the school year summer break, so we miss out on an actual classroom component of formally educating young people either on what will become their culture or on the acceptance of one that exists outside their own.

I know…too serious.

And, while I was beating myself up over getting too serious in what was supposed to be a fun venue, this happened.

…so at least I could feel like I not only salvaged a moment of over serious Xtopherness but that I’d also managed to reach someone and share a moment of alignment.

The original commenter never replied. I’m sure he’s very busy being completely and obliviously frivolous.

What a punk.

Ok…grumpy old man moment: over

I’ve got to decide whether or not to keep writing – about fun stuff now or go for a bike ride in 90+ degree sun. Either way, I’m for sure finishing this cold brew…

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Disillusionment

TFW

For those who don’t know, TFW translates from text shorthand to English as: That Feeling When.

It’s generally followed by some awkward inanity, for instance…

TFW: you manage to pluck that unseen ear hair – the one you can feel and hear but just. can’t. see.

This, my friends, is the glamour of aging!

Personally, I’m celebrating with a beer.

TFW

TIL 7: Early Bird Special

It was coming on to 3 AM when I started this Blog Post several weeks ago. I had realized that my 50 year every day experience is defying the stereotypes that I grew up with.

Well, beginning to…

I thought I had it figured out. I am by no means ready to start joining the elders’ dinner at 4 PM, frankly the reasoning there eludes me.

Here’s why: no, wait…here’s why not.

The older I get, the less time I want to spend in a crowded bar, late at night, struggling to hear what people are trying to say to me. Likewise, I’m not dying to face the struggle of functioning within normal parameters the next morning.

So, I get it!

I traded in my dance shoes for a Happy Hour menu and I couldn’t be more satisfied.

I stop off – when I’m working – on my way home for a drink or two to wash the day down and I’m likely home by 6:00 for Mistress Myrtle’s dinner time. Occasionally, I’m late, but generally have her settled by 7:00.

Other times, like when I’m not working, the Silver Fox and I might head out for a beer or glass of wine around 3:00. Still others, well grab a bottle of wine and head to his rooftop in the late afternoon for some RNR – Rose oN the Roof.

The key here is that the evenings socializing is generally wrapped up well before any young ‘uns would even consider beginning their pre-funk.

Sidebar: when I was a kid, we wanted to get to the bars around 10:00, maybe a little earlier depending on how broke we were and when they started charging cover. Nowadays, the pre-funk seems to start around 10:00 with 11:00 being the target barrival time. I’ve got one younger friend – one of my Bachelors – who doesn’t even seem to plan anything for a Saturday night until around 10:00. That manifest as a Facebook post along the lines of “Anyone going out tonight?”

Kids.

Nevertheless, I figure that I’m figuring this whole early bird thing out in true TIL style.

Except

I can’t quite reconcile the eating dinner at 4:00 PM thing.

Lately, The Fox and I have both kind of changed our eating habits. Occasionally, well grab a breakfast sandwich at coffee, but more often than not, we both seem to be pushing through to lunch around noon or 1:00. Then we might have something at HH or go to our respective homes after for a post-happy meal.

Even more recently, I’ve found myself powering through to about 3:00 – after a handful of almonds or dried mango in the morning – and then eating one big meal for the day.

Oddly, I’ve gained about 15 lbs in the last few months.

Hint: It’s the beer! Don’t tell me, though, let it be a surprise.

Anyway, I’m almost into the Early Bird routine, but just not quite nailing it. It’s a bummer, too, since it would be nice to include my parents in these adventures and still have them be able to get home before dark.

However, something about the whole concept has been bugging me. Here in the Pearl District, we’ve a bevy of boutique-y restaurants. Walking in for dinner around 4:00 might give you a slight Happy Hour crowd in a bar, but in a real restaurant it’s still largely a pretty solitary dining room. Needless to say, Portland – or any urban area – would probably never successfully claim to be the birthplace of the Early Bird special.

My money here would be on someplace like Clearwater, Florida. I’ve lived there…trust me.

Regardless of where it started, it spread pretty quickly. Likely due to both local restaurant competition but also a slightly viral nationwide spread from snowbirds taking the practice back home with them to middle America in the off season.

And you can bet that it was quick casual or cafeteria style chains that nurtured this Early Bird dinner phenomenon.

Ruby’s, Sayler’s, Sizzler (RIP), Old Country Buffet, Cracker Barrel…probably some Applebee’s, Olive Garden and Cheesecake Factory type joints, too, could probably all be relied upon to have some sort of Early Bird menu or well known and heavily trafficked seniors discount.

But like I mentioned, that seems counter intuitive to me.

Assuming for the moment that I’m – ahem – normal in going out early in an effort to avoid crowds.

These chain style restaurants are going to be packed early with seniors taking the marketing bait…that seems like something that would irritate me. Sure, I’ll get my own table and no worries there, but if the kitchen is overwhelmed by a generally crowded dining room?

Well, some poor server is going to be dealing with a specifically grumpy Xtopher.

Clearly, I still have a few lessons to master before I can claim to fully understand the brilliance of the Early Bird routine. But between the Silver Fox and my parents, I’ve got some good resources – and reasons – to figure it out.

Well, them and the cast of Grace & Frankie, so

Okay?!?

Plus, I’m really more of a Grace-type, anyway.

So what’s the hurry?

TIL 7: Early Bird Special

Xtopher’s Rib

This here, ladies and gentlemen and all-gendered readers, is the oldest draft I presently own.

May 24, 2016…if you’re curious.

It’s been back on my mind because of my commitment to wrap up my open gay-jacent writing projects during Pride month. Also, Rib graduated Flight Attendant College last week and this was his first full week working as a Flight Attendant.

I sent him a text when I realized he had finished the 8 week course, which seemed to go on forever from where I witnessed it. I wonder what it felt like to him…although his occasional social media updates suggested he enjoyed his time there.

His response was, “Thanks, Dad!”

Classic Rib.

I should note that Rib actually provided his own blog identity after briefly wanting to change his name to Rib during Culinary School.

It is a name that has stuck with him, at least with my friends. The Silver Fox spied this restaurant on a trip through Spain and Portugal and demanded I forward it to Rib.

I initially started this post after I participated in a Writing Workshop that the original Fabulous Baker Sister had suggested to me.  It was my first such experience and I found that my ex had been a topic that came to mind during a couple of the assigned exercises.

Not knowing what to expect of the workshop, I arrived just the slightest bit anxious.  Also, the teensiest buzzed thanks to a spontaneous happy hour with my parents.  I love my mom and dad. The pre-funk helped me relax into the exercises.

I had been thinking about what – or if – to write about that experience.  It was really amazing.  There were four exercises we did and two of them had ended up involving the best of my ex boyfriends.  Later in this same week, he moved into his first home with his partner, so he’d kind of been center stage in my consciousness for several days around the week of the workshop.

Regardless of how readily he sprung to mind after the prompts given at the Writing Workshop, the blog entry kind of stalled.

Limbo.

Truth be told, I had actually started this draft the year before the date I quoted earlier…that was just the most recent edit.

The summer before, Rib and his boyfriend had come down for a spontaneous visit. I think it was near the end of Summer. They live in Seattle and had been to dinner at one of Rib’s former classmates from Culinary School. She lived in Olympia and when I got the call, he said that they had decided to pop down to Portland since they were so close.

Ok

Seriously, though, that type of spontaneity in a relationship is just fun.

They checked into their hotel and then popped over for a nightcap. We may have gone out for a Spanish Coffee at Huber’s that night because that’s what you do with out of town guests in Portland.

It was a fun evening, connecting with them as an actual couple, like adults. I admit that when we all lived in Seattle and ended up together, I’d recreationally by the boyfriend shots just because I knew how he suffered the next day.

To his credit, he was at least a willing sport, borderline good sport about it.

The day after their surprise visit, we went wine tasting in the valley. They had just bought a humongous orange Jeep. I was kind of jealous, never having really gotten over getting rid of my own Jeep at Sacha’s urging back in ’02. He hated it, granted it was a piece of shit…but the boys’ Jeep was certainly enviable.

We hit three different wineries and had a wonderful afternoon tasting at the different estates, two of which were simply breathtaking. I can’t believe I don’t have pics from that day at my fingertips…checkout my last post for a little insight as to how those might have gone missing.

Anyway, after the Writing Workshop, I was all jazzed up to share my Rib relationship story. Then I saw an article in the Huffington Post suggesting that people who were friends with their exes were either narcissists or psychopaths.

Great.

Here I was, 45-plus years on, feeling proud to finally have an ex that I was able to remain friends with. I’m off brand for friendship with Sacha. The Mulligan has the bad manners to die.

So, yeah, no pressure, Xtopher…but I felt Rib was my one last shot at exercising the concept of actually maintaining a post-relationship relationship with an ex.

You see, here’s the deal, Rib and I were never supposed to date, anyway.

We’d met in a bar one night when I wandered out for a solo beer in Seattle, as was my weekday ritual. There was this ginger nugget of a guy siting at the corner, right near where I ordered my beer.

We chatted while I waited to be served, so I ended up sitting next to him. Rib was sitting around the corner of the bar and occasionally interjected during our conversation.

Sassy.

He eventually drove the other guy away. As I watched him leave, I realized that he was actually meeting the bartender, Rock, at the door and they left together.

Glad I could help pass the time. Hehe.

Then it was just Rib and me. He’d still blurt out random conversation as I sipped. Eventually, I realized that hidden by his hedgehog hairstyle were earbuds.

“You’re listening to your own music?!?”, I said realizing now why his additions to my earlier conversation had seemed so erratic, they had come as he overheard our conversation between songs.

Seems he didn’t appreciate the bar’s music. When I asked why he didn’t go to a bar that was more his style, he admitted that the bartender gave him free drinks here.

“The one that just left with the guy I was talking to?”

We chatted a little more, learning that he’d only been in town for a few weeks, having moved from SoCal. He liked it ok, but had not yet adjusted to how hilly it was, gesturing to his feet, where there was a large pair of high laced combat style boots.

Apparently, they were pretty heavy to lug around, especially after a few drinks. He admitted to having fallen just recently and blamed the terrain.

It was cute.

He ended up coming home with me that night – nothing happened, you pervs! I’d gotten him – with Rock’s help – a little too relaxed to safely haul his boots home.

Interestingly, and DP will tell me that he told me so, he never really left after that first night. DP’s relationship philosophy, as he’d described it to me once, was that you meet someone and take them home…they either never leave or you never see them again.

It’s admittedly jaded, but also truer than I’d like to admit.

However, while Rib was right up my alley as far as my tastes in guys go; I wasn’t ready to blindly accept DP’s sage dating advice at face value.

Over the coming days, I learned that Rib had chosen Seattle because his sister lived here and he’d wanted to get out of his mom’s house and onto his own two feet without totally forfeiting an actual safety net.

Made sense.

In SoCal, he’d gone to college for a while and then dropped out and moved back into his mom’s house. For the time before deciding to move, he’d been taking care of the family cats and cooking meals for his mom while she worked.

I asked what he was doing since getting to Seattle.

“Oh, y’know…taking care of my sister’s dog while she works and cooking dinner for her”

“Good thing you got out from under your mom’s skirts”, I joked.

Obviously, we weren’t a good match. I’m grumpy old me and he was just this endearing Lost Boy. I told him that and when he asked why, I told him that I expected a boyfriend to have a job.

Dating younger guys, I hardly expected them to have similar professional accomplishments, but I expected them to at least be working toward something.

Thinking that was that, I was surprised that he went out and got an interview at a local candy shop-slash-tourist trap.

Go, Rib!

Ok, that was kind of impressive and before you know it, we’re six months in.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. We’d have talks about serious stuff – how to continue his upward trajectory toward being an adult – that would end in big, slow rolling tears. It was strange to navigate those talks. They usually started with a Rib mini-tantrum, something like him hating his job.

He’d just blurt out, “I hate it! I’m quitting!”

I’d counter with something like what he hated about it and he’d yell “Everything!” or complain that he didn’t get paid enough for what they expected him to do. He’d eventually settle down and pull his knees up to his chin as he gained an understanding of what he was struggling with, arriving at the realization that he needed to be able to stick it out at a job he “hated” until he found something else.

He didn’t like it, but he understood it.

My rule of thumb when dating younger guys has always been “leave ’em better than you found ’em”. Rib surprised me by being pretty open to the perspective I had to offer – despite occasional tough conversations like I described above – when he encountered challenges, either at work or just in getting his feet under him in a new city.

Like I said, he’d grown frustrated with his job and somehow – I think through another co-worker – gotten hooked up as waitstaff for the private club behind my condo.

It was a challenging job jump because it was a pretty exclusive, high touch club. But he took to it.

He really got excited about the environment, from learning about high end wine to serving in a fine dining environment.

At some point in those first years we were together, education came up. I’m not sure how. Probably, I was a bossy jerk about him completing a degree.

Given his enthusiasm for cooking – for his mom, then his sister and now me – and food in general from his experience at the club, he was thinking about Culinary School.

It made sense, too. The boy was a complete geek whenever he came to my kitchen store. His passion and enthusiasm were obvious and my team loved seeing him pop into the shop to explore or take a class. Soon enough, we were having Thanksgiving dinners at the condo with his mom and aunts visiting from SoCal and the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico.

Rib actually managed to complete his culinary degree debt free because of his Native American heritage. It was a big plus for him an took a lot of the stress out of his decision to finish his education.

His graduation was a big deal, as it should be. It was shortly after his Chef of the Day project. His mom came up from SoCal, his Seattle-sister was there, obviously, and my parents and sister drove up from Portland in what turned out to be the winter storm of the century. It had turned their three to four hour drive into a nine-plus hour affair.

Luckily, Rib went all out for his CoD and the menu included baby octopus. Prepared as obvious octopus. Everyone forgot the travel journey and seems to only remember that. But in having so much of our respective families present, it really felt like a family affair.

After graduation, he floundered. What he’d realized in college was that he didn’t want to be a cook.

Ok

When pressed during conversations about it, he’d articulate how he wanted to use his education to be able to design menus, but he was getting more and more interested in the front of the house experience he was picking up at the club.

His boss at the club ended up connecting him to a restaurant in Pike Place Market. It was fine dining and Rib was pretty excited about the change. It ended up being a good change for him. He was working part time hours and with the tips he earned he was making high $40k a year.

Waiting tables.

I was a little jealous!

This Lost Boy that I’d picked up in a bar a scant few years earlier that had had no job or inclination was now a college grad and making a respectable living for himself.

I was proud of him.

Even not realizing what was ahead for us.

Oooooh, foreshadowing!

So…right, even with all this growth, the boy still had quite a bratty streak in him. It was a constant in his personality and part of what I loved about him, but occasionally he’d take it too far.

Frequently, we’d be out with friends and – depending on the situation – he’d get bored because my friends did boring “old people” stuff and he wanted to dance and carry on or we’d do stuff with his friend and I was too much of an “Oldie Hawn”. We each enjoyed the others friends, but when he wasn’t into it, it could really get stressful.

It was on one of these nights out, us and DP, where I don’t remember what exactly was going on, but he wasn’t enjoying it.

Oddly, we were headed to his favorite late night food spot for some pozole, but he was still not having it. He was literally dragging his feet and bitching from a half a block behind us about how lame we were.

It was then that I realized that for all of his growth, this was as far as he was going to grow with me. I sent him home and went to dinner with DP.

I don’t know what he did when he left, but he was home when I got there, sitting on the floor somewhere between a pout and guilt. I told him that his behavior was unacceptable.

He knew, he flashed a couple of those big, sad, trauma tears and I told him we should break up. I could see that he was maxed out on growth, having taken a big step in moving from SoCal to Seattle, but he hadn’t really given up the security of having someone else in his move from Mom to sister to me. My thinking was that until he had to really bear the burden of his own responsibilities, this was as close as he was going to come to becoming his own man.

It was a super hard conversation. Flashing through my mind as it was happening was another conversation. We’d run into a friend of mine at The Cuff and he was chiding me about Rib being so young. This was early in our relationship, they were just meeting for the first time. In response to his trading, I’d said, “What? He’ll be 30 before I turn 50!”

It earned me a laugh and an eye roll at the time, but in breaking up with Rib it was playing in my mind as I admitted to myself that this could be the last relationship of my life.

I know…so dramatic.

Still, I knew that Rib would eventually get bored stagnating in this almost state. He’d come to this same conclusion eventually, then he’d leave me. Whether it was six months or six years later, I was certain it would happen and then I’d resent him. I’d react indignantly and overemphasize the sacrifice of my leveraged happiness that I’d made by selfishly staying with him.

Y’know, like I did with Sacha.

It took me a long time to get over my anger at him for leaving me. Part of that was the way that he’d left me, the other part was jealousy that he’d had the balls to leave me when I’d stayed with him out of fear of being single at the time.

So, I knew what I was talking about in this situation.

We set up a timeline for finding him his own place and within a few weeks, he was looking at furniture and settling in. I sent a lot of good kitchen stuff with him that we’d accumulated over the years together, but I knew that he’d get better use out of it than me.

His sister – unhelpfully – set him up on a date about three weeks after he moved out. She’s a serial dater, so I wasn’t surprised. However, I thought he really needed time to get to know himself as an individual before really dating again.

That disagreement – and Rib’s subsequent sudden new boyfriend – caused me to lay down a six month embargo on contact.

I needed time to heal and adjust myself.

Well, not “adjust myself”…y’know, just get an answer to “Who is single Xtopher?”

At the end of that timeframe, we found ourselves drawn together on occasion. Sometimes randomly, running into each other at a bar, cue shots for the boyfriend! Others, I’d get a request for a solo lunch date and we’d talk about struggles: work, boyfriend, what have you.

The boys still come to town – not enough in my opinion – and I’m happy to let them treat me to a $300 dinner…has anyone seen my pride? Usually, though, I see them pop up on social media. It’s a pleasant vicarious surprise, seeing them post from Flushing Meadows or Australia as they attend an Open. A sudden trip to Germany with the fam for Oktoberfest.

I’m glad to see him thriving with his new boyfriend. Now, particularly seeing him become a flight attendant after trying to get into the program for three years. That was something that came up seemingly out of nowhere, but he didn’t let the first two experiences discourage him.

And now he’s done it.

Anyway, I can’t think of a better way to wrap up Pride month than completing a project about a person I was lucky enough to spend some time with and am privileged enough to still be a part of his life, albeit just as a friendly little narcissistic and/or psychopathic sliver.

Right, HuffPo?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go be alone forever.

<dramatic sniff>

Xtopher’s Rib

TIL #4: Tech Cheat

So, I’m sitting here at Big Legrowlski – alone, again…naturally – trying to figure out how to make a story on the Instagram. Well, making a story in and of itself isn’t terribly difficult. It’s the extras: adding additional pics to it and enhancing it with text…oy.

And links?

Fugeddabowdit.

It’s one of many situations that make me scream – sometimes in my head, sometimes in real, live technicolor – “I need a twenty-something!

Notice that I didn’t say “one of many recent situations”…gentle readers, this has been going on since I exited my own 20s.

Mind you, I’ve only vomited out about 5000 words into the WordPress Abyss today, why not keep going. FYI, that’s a lot of words and there was plenty of emotional heavy lifting between brain and keyboard…so, yeah. A little millennial vs old timer levity was required!

This phenomenon I mention…it is not one that I alone seem to struggle with, either. Witness this random post from a friend on the Facebook.

Not that I don’t enjoy my friends’ equal discomfiture, here in the techno-wilderness.

On the flip side, it’s nice to encounter situations that let you know that – somehow – it goes both ways.

Surrealiously…it takes 5 million years to make a goddamn rock. You’re only a millennial so where’s the disconnect? Sending a FAX should still be current events.

Situationally speaking, of course.

So, between those two generational extremes…what is it that I’m learning today, exactly?

Jesus, not to get myself into any situation that somehow evolves into me brokering peace in the Middle East, but I’ve learned today that this isn’t just a grumpy old Xtopher peccadillo, this tech frustration.

It really does go both ways.

Here I am, the perfect example of that statement: sometimes screaming to be helped by an assuredly more tech-comfortable younger person, other times the actual younger person being asked to help the Silver Fox figure out why his phone shows a music app running on his phone that he swears he’s never installed.

I’ve learned that, regardless of one’s chronological accomplishments on this galactic rock, technology is the great leveling device. You might think you’ve got your shit dialed in and your figurative water fowl aligned…you just haven’t met your technological undoing yet.

It might be the next it app that proves a boondoggle for your supposed savviness. Then again, it could be the old school alarm system at your kids’ house that keeps you huddled on their porch in a rainstorm as you wait for them after failing to gain entry, defeated by a keypad and four-digit passcode.

One never knows, do one?

In an abundance of flip sides leading up to this entry, I’ve also learned not to downplay expertise from surprising resources. I have this blog-buddy, Phil, that read of one of my storage issues with Apple.

Having grown weary of their too-frequent “Storage Almost Full” push notifications that really seemed to just be a squeeze play for an extra $.99/month from poor old Xtopher, I tossed off a whiny blog post.

What does the universe provide me in return?

A recommendation from Phil in my comments that I simply get a flash drive, onto which I could save my photos, music and anything else that congests my cloud storage situation. That would leave my cloud space free for apps and other shit…shit literally being “I don’t know what”.

Phil and I have bonded over many things: humor, beer storage, saddle rash. We’ve clashed over more important, serious issues along the lines of writing – in a strictly helpful, mentor-y manner. We’re not arguing Oxford Comma here, folks.

Phil is a grandparent.

Setting aside the reality that I could be, too, in a bizarrely alternate reality, Phil has subtly led me to believe that he’s got a few more laps around the sun than I have managed.

And here he is throwing me tech pro tips.

I’m sitting on my couch, reading this comment of his and resisting the urge to look over my shoulder at the Apple G4 Tower that I’ve had since the early aughts that has all of my music stored on it – stuff I transferred from CD into the drive after getting tired of dusting my CD cases.

A drive I moved from Portland to Seattle and back again – five households in all – to preserve my music library.

“Oh…just get an external drive?” – Me

Jesus.

I need a twenty year old. Stat!

TIL #4: Tech Cheat

Why Do Drag Queens Hate Me?

News Flash: they don’t.

Well, not any more or less than the usual person.

For some, I’m an acquired taste.

But as we flit into Pride weekend in Portland, I figured drag was as good a topic to reflect on as any. And I’ve had kind of a funny history with drag queens. Or DQs as I’ve referred to them in the past, since saying two words is so damned hard.

Actually, in thinking about this, I realized that maybe DQs should hate me. Maybe just a little.

You see, I realized that in my early gay days, I was kind of embarrassed by people who did drag. Reflexively, I want to give myself a pass for this early discomfort, since it is something that I know was happening when I was first working to overcome my own gay shame and internal homophobia.

This was the late 80s and early 90s. My knee jerk (or just flat out jerk) reaction when seeing a drag queen in a Pride parade – about the only place I ever encountered them – was “Welp, that’s what will lead the news story about Pride”. My thinking – or frustration – with that obvious reality was that Pride parades were supposed to help normalize our culture for the flyover states. Showing the most flamboyant elements of our culture was doing more harm than good in that battle.

Then I realized a few things:

First, unless we’re naked, we’re all in drag. This is some Grade A DQ wisdom. And it’s dead-bang spot on, especially once we start dressing ourselves. We dress how we want to be perceived in the world.

Second, and piling onto and expanding that sense of expression, drag is a frigging art. If you’ve never watched one get into face- as it’s called – find a YouTube video and be prepared to be amazed. Drag Queens are equal parts self expression and performance art. Regardless of whether they are on a stage or socializing, when a DQ is in face, they are performing. That’s not just Jeff in a Dress you’re seeing. Jeff has a different name and persona once he slips those stilettos on.

Third, our community’s most extravagant fringes should be our ambassadors to the Normie Culture. Accepting anything less than our wildest representations is acceptance with conditions, like that friend who accepts that you’re gay as long as you don’t do gay stuff around him.

Bitch, when I’m being your friend…that’s me doing my gay stuff.

So, flash forward to me overcoming my own homophobia. It only took me leaving the LBC for Florida, living in Texas, moving back to Long Beach and landing back in my hometown of Portland.

Easy-peasy.

Except…not so fast.

When I move back to Portland in ’96, I lived on the Willamette River. This was back when Stark Street was commonly and crassly referred to as Vaseline Alley because most of the gay bars were clustered along a three-ish block stretch. Not the closest gay bars to my home, of course. That was Embers.

Half dance bar, half drag performance venue…I would bypass it for Stark Street unless I was out with a group of friends that wanted to shake their booties.

Interestingly enough, I credit this balance between my “safety in numbers” approach to Embers and my early onset grumpiness with helping me develop a comfort and then appreciation of the drag community. You see, I would go dance at Embers with my friends, but being an evolving grouch, I could only take so much crowding and being stepped on before I had to give myself some alone time on the drag side of the bar.

Not that it was empty or even less crowded. But it was quieter…if only by comparison to the dance side. I’d stand in the back and watch the show for a bit or throw a $20 into the video lottery or grab a beer and enjoy it solo.

Ok, I usually did that last thing with either of the first two while the walls buffered the thumpa-thumpa of the music next door and I decompressed.

It was here that I first saw Linda Lee, Raven, Poison Waters and many other performers that showed me the breadth of our drag personalities.

Linda Lee simply refused to tuck as part of her prep. Usually you could count on at least one flash of a pantyhose encased crotch during her performance. She also didn’t really bother to learn the words to the songs she was lip syncing. When she got to the end of the words she knew, rumor – or legend now – had it that she’d either start mouthing “fuck you” over and over until she found another chorus or treat us to an incredibly obscene tongue display.

I remember seeing Linda out in public one day. Well, part of her, at any rate. It was a summer day and I was driving around doing errands and had one stop downtown before heading home. I was looking for parking and realized that I’d just missed an opportunity in the shape of a car door being carelessly flung open in front of me. I’d just rounded a corner and stopped versus trying to change lanes to avoid taking the door off. The door started to close again just as the driver’s leg was coming out. It was a thick, varicose veiny old man’s leg and it caught the door to stop it from amputating the leg as he tried to exit the car.

That was when I realized the leg was attached to a subtle pump, maybe a tasteful 2″ heel. It was midday after all. Gradually and awkwardly, Linda pulled the rest of herself out of the old car, her skirt riding up as she scooched of the driver’s seat, turning to hold the door open with her half exposed ass as she gathered her stuff off of the passenger seat.

Another signature Linda Lee show.

Raven was another story. For a crass as Linda was, Raven was to opposite to the point of genteel. The first few (hundred) times I encountered her, I was sure she was hitting on me. She’s Native American, so right up my alley. She’s also about 20 gay years older than me, so that alley ends at the end of a pier. Gradually, I got comfortable with her overtly flirty style and would just enjoy our occasional chats from her perch at the bar for what they were: low key social interaction. Those “I’m talking to a man in a dress” conversations were what really helped me embrace drag as both an art form and lifestyle that was an integral part of our gay community.

Still, neither of my experiences with these DQs prepared me for the time a performer ended her number by jumping off stage and making her way directly toward where I stood at the back of the bar. She was smiling like a crazy person and barely broke eye contact as she navigated the tables between us, prompting me to basically do one of those look-to-both-sides-then-mouth-“me?” things like the cool guy I am.

It was me she was headed for.

Apparently, I was distracting her throughout her number and I was to be chastised, thanked and asked out on a date.

In my stunned and flabbergasted state, I agreed, forgetting my Groucho Marx motto about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have me as a member. That carried over to finding fault with someone who was attracted to me…I wasted so much time hating my beautiful younger self.

This was somewhere between hereand here

in my 20s.

<sigh>

Anyway, we went out. I can’t remember his name, but I do remember our date started with me picking him up at his place and ended at my place the next day.

Being a good American conspicuous consumer, I appreciated that I was picking him up at his place in an old two story 20s-era apartment that I’d probably just about kill to live in. Tile roof, stucco exterior, arched doorways and fantastic landscaping. I was jealous and impressed…drag obviously paid better than I’d thought. Turns out, his day job – and family, black sheep that he was – set him up pretty well. Drag was just an expensive hobby, as his second bedroom turned sequin gown filled dressing room attested.

He was a beautiful boy outside of that fancy dress, but it was that second bedroom – and the later realization of that thought about the dress – that made us a bad match at the time. Both my faults. I’ve often wondered where he ended up…he was a really nice, fun guy. Too bad FaceBook was still a decade away.

After my decade long Seattle exile, I moved back to Portland and re-settled myself near the remnants of the now scattered gay bars. Stark Street has been rendered unrecognizable from the enclave of gay bars I’d left, only one remaining. Gentrification touches everyone…but I’d positioned myself close to my primary gay watering holes: Embers and CCs, which had the added bonus of being close to Hobo’s and Fox & Hounds for when I wanted to eat with my people and/or be left alone, respectively.

Embers and CCs has a steady stream of Drag Queens because they both had a drag component to their bar environment, CCs even has a Drag Queen Bartender

which is truly a rarity, I believe she’s one of only three in the US. Every shift is a completely different incarnation, each a very elaborate artistic creation.

Major drag bars aside, my favorite interactions with DQs occurred in settings that reminded me of my barside chats with Raven all those years ago. The Fox & Hounds is around the corner from CCs and on the opposite side of the block from Darcelle’s, Portland’s own world famous and Guinness Book of World Records holding female impersonator. This provided a steady stream – trickle, really – of drop in drag queens who, like me, wanted a drink in relative peace.

Even though I’m pretty sure all three bars are semi connected by Portland’s underground network of Shanghai Tunnels, most DQs would work the sidewalk around the block, chatting and taking in a casual smoke on their way to Fox & Hounds for their “break”.

I’d casually chat with these performers about where they were performing or whether they were just out and about for the night as well as what was going on. Sometimes, we’d just sit quietly, sipping in the camaraderie, others we’d play some video lottery and urge each other toward victory or commiserate our losses. Still others, we’d talk about our town and the community and the subculture that is drag.

At the end of the day, our struggles were what united us more than our sexuality. After one evening of winding down at Fox & Hound, I’d decided to wander around the corner to CCs to see what was going on. It was the first day that weed was legal for recreational use in the great state that is Oregon and there was a palpable – if not subdued, for some reason – energy in Old Town. There was a group of people from all walks of life planning a sort of smoke in on the Burnside Bridge beneath the ubiquitous Old Town sign

I learned this as I was passing CCs’ hostess in residence. Our relationship had run the gamut from enthusiastic, gushing fan when I saw her at my first Pride after moving to Seattle – a welcome bit of my hometown – to our current low key drive by greetings as she worked the crowd at CCs. This particular night, she acknowledged me by offering me a hit off her joint. I passed, but thanked her. She reminded me to go to the bridge later to celebrate. End of story.

My absolute most favorite DQ story happened shortly after this. I was meeting a friend at the Mock Crest tavern for a drink after work. I was working a few blocks away in North Portland at the time and got off work around 11. Oftentimes I’d chill with a beer or two before catching – or missing – the last bus home. We were sitting in this little shotgun of a hole in the wall bar, enjoying a beer and listening to the three piece band that they’d managed to somehow cram into this tiny space as we talked.

It was very pleasant, which I know is a surprise coming from me.

As we’re sitting there chatting, in walk a couple of Drag Queens and I’m wondering how the hell they got so lost as to end up in a dive bar in NoPo…only to realize one of the two was friggin’ Raven!

It’d been nearly 20 actual years since I’d seen her and my presumption was that she’d died, like her counterpart Linda Lee had. I bought her and her friend a beer and learned that she wasn’t dead, “just in my 60s!” as she’d put it. We chatted for about a half hour before she and her friend took off for town. They had stopped in to mentally prepare themselves for the evening out on the town seeing friends while navigating the crowd of “bitchy kids” as she put it.

I apologized for having been one of those bitchy kids when we first met and she gave me a big kiss, hugged me and told me I was always a delightful companion at Embers.

Not bad for a future grumpy old man.

As if that wasn’t enough to put a smile on my face, I’d also missed the last bus of the night. Naturally, I stayed and closed the place before grabbing an Uber home, reflecting on how life really is just such a rich and delightfully strange and unpredictable journey.

Back to my titular (hehe) question. Drag Queens certainly don’t hate me. If anything, some might say the opposite. In the best possible way, their collective acceptance of pretty much anyone they come across helped me to become a better human. Certainly, the acceptance I have felt from the drag community over the years has helped me accept – and stop hating – myself.

The things we learn in unexpected ways…

Why Do Drag Queens Hate Me?