Break Time!

This might be more of a Hail Mary post than an actual blog entry. So expect to be appropriately underwhelmed.

That said, this email from yesterday caught me off guard, enter the Hail Mary portion of this entry.

About a month ago, I skeptically clicked on a link on the Facebook that I fully expected to create a full blown spam implosion of my account. It was from NORC, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. As best I can tell, they are a legit entity, even though they are new on my personal radar.

They were offering a paid opportunity to participate in their election survey, specifically the influence social media has on people during an election cycle. The whole 6 week enchilada pays about a tenth of my monthly nut, so it’s not significant, but it’s also not nothing.

But it is a 6 week break from the BS that is Facebook, so I happily signed up – after doing my due due diligence.

Haha. Doodoo.

I was just surprised to get the email yesterday that said “Boom, bitch, it’s now!”

Well, maybe I’m paraphrasing.

The long and short of this Hail Mary is, basically, maybe they signed me out of the Facebook, but maybe that act does not keep any of my tethered accounts – such as WordPress – from syncing up. If that’s the case, my ALIHAFG followers there will see this entry and understand my silence. I mean, I only had about a month to get ahead of this thing and failed

So either this works, or people come to the understandable leap of logic that I’ve obviously died. More on my personal experiences with that later.

Maybe.

In the meantime, I’ve apparently got to go be asocial. Also in the meantime, I’m using my one-less-distraction existence to get shit done. I’m halfway through editing – and I humbly discovered a few obvious typos in doing so – my revised book two of No One Of Consequence, splitting book two into books two and three to keep my price point palatable and my earning equally low, I’m sure.

Hehe.

Gulp.

<starves to death>

Kidding, I’m very lucky to have parents – in my damn fifties that would never let that happen! In the interim, I look at this social media break between now and November 3 as freeing up my time to complete this book two rewrite and wrap up a tangental project called Longtime Survivor – which will probably result in a Cease and Desist order coming my way – ahead of November’s NaNoWriMo event…in which my plan – such as it is – is to get a first draft of what I’m calling Fifty Gig – my second non-fiction entry in the Oldie Hawn trilogy. The first of which was dating. Fifty Gig is work and the third entry will be (I think) fitness, now that COVID has iced my physical shitness cupcake.

We’ll see how that optimistic planning plays out.

Break Time!

Dry…Month?!?

Could be. Now that I’ve found this lil secret weapon:

But first, the back story!

As we emerged from August, smoldering from yet another dumpster fire of a month in 2020, it occurred to me that I could only recall one night since March 18th that I didn’t drink.

Now, does that mean there aren’t more?

No.

But realistically, I’d assume that I blacked out more memory in the last six months than my CRS caused me to forget – before you ask: Can’t Remember Shit.

This is a frequent topic during my Lyft shyfts – how are you coping? Oddly enough, I give a lot of rides to people in the cannabis industry. About as many weed indy riders as strippers, to be honest. Besides essential hospital workers, these are Portland’s essential heroes.

For what it’s worth, I think both represent great coping mechanisms. Well, one is a coping mechanism.

So, these weedies – as I’ve just now decided to call them – often tip pre-rolls. That’s great and all, but I suck at smoking, so the last time I was offered one, I appreciatively declined. When I told her why, she got very excited and told me I had to try syrups.

Sizzurp, in case you didn’t see that on the label pictured above.

So I decided to check it out.

This is about the time I started trundling running again – or what I’m calling running these days – and I thought intoxicating qualities aside, pain relief potential could also be a win.

I wander into my local dispensary, Broadway Cannabis Collective – about which I’d gotten a hot tip from a passenger that this was the best shop in town, lucky me – and after waiting my socially distant turn, inquired. Meeting my randomly matched budtender at the cooler, she started in on a dizzying diatribe of information. This was after telling me they didn’t sell much from this cooler, so the info she had off the top of her head was…well, like I said – dizzying.

But what jumped out at me was this line:

These are the ones I’d go with, the small bottle is 125 and the large is 1000, so that’ll really last you!

<record scratch>

1000?!?

I heard my grandpa in my head saying “I just wanted to get “x”, not buy the place”…but played it totally cool.

No, really, totally cool.

Like on a scale of 1 to shizzle, I was a fo‘.

Wait, wait…don’t unsubscribe! I’m sorry! Hehe.

As she continued on, recommending that I try a small bottle to see how I like it and casually flipping labels around to tell me about the profile of each flavor, I saw that the “125” bottle was only $15 and realized the 125 that she was referring to was milligrams of THC.

Glad I played it cool.

Realizing my mistaken assumption, I chose the 1000 milligram bottle, whose dose was one teaspoon. That meant the bottle had 24 doses and I’d just bought two 12-packs of La Croix, so I figured it was meant to be and that I was set for a couple weeks.

You might want to start with a half dose until you know how it hits you.

My budtender suggested.

Ok, so I’m set for a month!

And let me tell you, a half teaspoon sets me up just right! After my evening concoctions the first two nights, I slept over 10 hours both nights.

I’m so fucking rested, I feel guilty.

On the third morning, I woke up feeling exceptional – having neither imbibed alcohol or sizzurp the night before. Stretching, my hands ending up moving from akimbo over my head to stretched towards my toes and then resting on my abdomen – or where my abdomen would be if not for the shed I’ve build over my tool…I realized something was missing. Or at least significantly reduced.

After just three days with no booze.

I’m so mad weed was villianized when I was a kid.

And while my shed may be shrinking, my wallet is breathing a sigh of relief. I can get a 6-pack of a great IPA for $8-12 bucks. That’s a steal compared to $6 + tip at a bar, for sure. It cannot compare to about $1.25 for a half-dose of this sizzurp, though. I’m a convert, mind you, I am typing this post at the oldest bar in Portland…no need to overdo it, right?

Call it a dryish month.

Dry…Month?!?

What Year Is It?

If I can paraphrase the prophet, Morris Day…

Who, by the way, played a house party gig at the frat that tried to recruit me into their coven house in college.

Pike for life!

Anyway, 2020 has been a hell of a decade…so far.

I believe it’s day 11 of smokepocalypse (credit to The Kids for bringing that moniker to life) and to be honest, the last 11 days feels longer than the last 6 months.

I can’t see the sun.

One day, things look like they are improving to merely unhealthy air quality, the next we’re bitch slapped back into hazardous air quality by a Mother Nature who seems quite clearly to have had enough of our shenanigans. On the third day of smokepocalypse, the day the high east winds stopped, there was blue sky over Portland. For whatever reason, the smoke bank was cleaved in two and sat over Salem and Vantucky. It was like that for two days, both ended with the smoke rolling back in as dusk fell.

On the third day – day 5 of smokepocalypse – the smoke bank stayed and hadn’t left since.

During the pandemic lockdown, I was able to escape my daily detente with Myrtle by hitting the road for 10 rides and a few hours. As lockdown wore on, those 10 would become 15 and then 20 and once even 30 as people ventured out on missions of essential work or restocking.

Sidebar: I’m finally down to my last roll of crapping paper – having split a Costco pack with the Silver Fox back around December ’19…if you ever wonder why I seem full of crap, apparently it’s because I pace myself?

Anyway, I’ve discovered something that will finally get people to obey Stay Home orders – and even mask directives, for the most part – over the last 11 days: living in the city with the worst air quality on the planet. Seriously, I celebrated having an AQI under 300 yesterday – normal is <50 – only to have it rocket back up to the high 300s after dark.

It’s too bad, though, this sudden willingness of people to stay home. Not only has my escape from solitude disappeared. No longer can I escape to my strictly social, non-alcoholic happy hour in my car. These days, going out means as long as 20 minutes between rides…and I’m lucky to get 5 before my eyes burn from the smoke entering the car as people get in and out.

On top of that, the trips are short! Like, “I’m so glad you’re driving so I didn’t have to walk (3 blocks) in this” short. While I’m glad they don’t have to walk in this either, those bitches and bastards and whatever similar label is appropriate for non-binary folx that resent heteronormative labels could bother to tip.

I mean, if they really did appreciate my effort. I’m not filling the tank with a half dozen minimum fare rides. I didn’t expect tips when I started driving, but now they motivate me by representing a real-time report card on my efforts. There’s a star rating – that I’ve managed to maintain at a 5-star level over my ~2300 rides.

However, since it defaults to 5-star if the rider doesn’t specifically override it, I don’t consider this much of a barometer. So I gauge my performance off of the percentage of riders who tip. 50% is what I call “needs improvement” and normal for me is around 65%.

Sadly, there have been too many days like this

Thank the Lyft Lords for that Lux ride, but do much for that 10:05 ride. I never mind picking up peeps at strip clubs – although, I find the performers to be far better company than the clientele – except when it’s a 35 minute closing-time ride with a woman hating Eastern European woman hating man. That $5 tip was not enough to unhear the crap he spewed.

Ugh.

But, in his defense, he was one of two tippers that night. Overall for the day, less than one-third…if I bend over backward far enough, I can convince myself that tip levels like that are a micro-factor of the overall economy.

It’s easy enough to believe. Shit is pretty bad in a service industry town like Portland these days.

Which could also be a factor in why people are staying home – smoke or no.

Fortunately for the sake of my (in)sanity, I’ve mentally edited a couple of writing projects I’ve been working on. Meaning, I haven’t actually done anything.

But I’ve also indulged in some creative problem solving. Here’s my prevailing theoretical solution for Portland’s smoke problem – since the weather people can’t seem to conjure any rain:

The 2020 Proud Boy of the Year Awards

Yes, it’s still 2020.

Think of it, this faux ceremony could draw even the Grand Dragon in Chief himself! Something like this is about the only way to lure Trunt to liberal Portland.

Because of the numbers I expect, we would need to hold this outside, even though that skirts dangerously close to following guidelines for larger gatherings. Maybe the event could take place at Waterfront Park. I know the Proud Boys like to hang out there…at least when liberal groups announce they are holding a rally there.

Note to self: get BLM supporters to volunteer as ushers.

Of course, no masks would be expected. Not wearing them would be encouraged.

And that’s the brilliant part! These stupid mouth breathing lame-o-sapiens Americanus would filter the smoke out of the air while hate screaming their assundry – is that not a word? – and mind boggling mantras.

Then they would all go home and die of emphysema or asthma or whatever lung related terminal malady you prefer. Rasping with their last death rattled breath,

See? I told you COVID was a hoax!

Poof.

Clean air in Portland once again and fewer harmful minds reproducing and replicating their ignorance just because unrestricted coitus is their right.

Damnit.

So, yeah…how are you passing time in the smokepocalypse?

What Year Is It?

I’m Not Dead

…just very badly burned…out.

I guess that’s what you could call it.

I hear people referring to COVID-Fatigue or Lockdown Fatigue. Maybe this is a little bit of that?

Maybe I should do what the cool kids all seem to do and self-diagnose with Anxiety? Nah, I’m sure it’s not that…the 20-teens version of Epstein-Barr Syndrome. Which I guess is no longer a syndrome but a virus from the herpes family, believe it or not. Who knew that would end up being a real thing? Suddenly, though, I see how that could have spread as widely as it allegedly did among self-diagnosticians.

No.

Not dead.

Not anxious.

Just…quiet.

I hope you enjoyed the respite from my bullshit.

Self-effacing, but make it poetry.

Anyway, in my self-imposed solitude, I’ve been getting out of bed for several hours each day. Which is good. Most days for a few hours of driving, that affords me some easy, no muss-no fuss socializing during the week.

But I’ve also been sneaking out – under cover of darkness, for the most part…for blobvious reasons – to run a few times a week. This will be week three of that endeavor, and while it’s certainly humbling, it feels good.

Ish.

Notice, if you will, that no one *liked* my activities. I can tell you that I pretty much felt the same.

Because this is me, I have some observations after my inaugural return:

First, ow. I need new shoes. I meant to run yesterday to kick off the week – even though my brain told me that it was probably a bad idea: running consecutive days – but I got stuck in an eight hour drive hole after heading out to catch a ride in a bonus zone that just happened to land on me like a house on a wicked witch.

Starting off innocently enough with what turned out to be a $50 24-minute ride…poof…eight hours went by like nothing. My ass didn’t even really complain, which is something it usually starts doing at around three hours normally. I blame it on my gluteus minimus getting a lil swole from running.

Second, in a fit of what I know now to have been prescience, I woke up with a complaining ACL on my left side. You may or may not recall something which I certainly try to forget, which is my doctor retiring me from running a few – seven is “a few”, right? – years back after I fractured my tibia while training you run a marathon. Well, it took two more fractures – but c’mon, they were just micro fractures, who takes those seriously? – before I believed him. Now, seven years and about 30 pounds later, I’m revisiting the advice. Tempering my activity with a return to shorter distances, a cushiony track versus asphalt roadways and a shockingly low level of endurance that puts me in a run a half lap/walk a half lap cadence…hence the double-digit pace. So if a bit of whining from an ACL is the damage, I’m willing to pop an ibuprofen and push on…tomorrow.

And, third and especially because it’s me, during one of my late night wheezes runs, there was a photo shoot going on in the field inside the track.

Picture it: a perfectly dark night and a 10×10 square of the field exploding with lights set up in what I initially thought was a trap that caught a shirtless, well-oiled musclebound specimen of male pulchritude. You might wonder what kind of idiot would wander into such an obvious trap. Clearly, a muscle head, but to his credit, they did obscure the trap with several smoke machines.

The aesthetic perils of running on the UnderArmor track. Another reason for my choice to run at night. Seriously, though, this being 2020, I shouldn’t assume he was doing a marketing shoot for UnderArmor – it could have been for his Instagram page for all I know!

So, yeah…running. Standby on how that goes. My current goal is 2x/week until I can comfortably run a full lap consistently. This far, I’ve managed that twice, both laps resulted in an internal argument about whether my struggle was because I was that out of shape, had COVID or if this was a post-COVID long-term side effect.

My psyche is a psychotic place. Still, I’m betting it’s option three…

The last year or so, I’ve been commenting that I only really have three activity pillars in my daily life – aside from my number one pastime, socializing. That may sound like I’m either not living a very full existence or that I’m pretty low-functioning, since I usually follow that up with “I can really only succeed at two of the three pillars each day”.

Work – which nowadays consists solely of my Lyft driving. It’s a definitely struggle to make ends meet, more fail than win. But I’m really not sure that a return to 50+ hour professional workweeks is in my future. It’s something I need to work out in therapy, I know. I’m not able to objectively determine if I e left my last posts for legitimate reasons. My friends and family will tell me that I had valid grounds, but I don’t know if that makes us all smart or them loyal. Neither is bad, but I need an outside diagnosis opinion.

Exercise – which has been the first of the three to be sacrificed, obviously.

Writing – and if you think I’ve been eschewing my blog for working on a book, allow me to dis you from that illusion. I mean, I’m kind of joking, but the reality is…no.

So, on that note, let me wrap up with an update on my creative endeavors.

I’ve got a first draft of a WIP sitting on my laptop waiting for edits that I’d wanted complete by April. Alas. I’ve also decided to pull my second novel off of Amazon to rework it. At 550 pages, my initial impulse was to split it in two. The feedback I got from a beta reader and a couple of folks that bought it early on was that it was fine at that length. However, the costs of self-publishing a book that size puts a hefty $17.95 price on the book just to make me a buck on the back end. I’ve decided that I’d rather be able to price my books at $9.95 to make them more easily marketable.

Sidebar: I recently bought a copy of a friend’s book – called Gay and Tired – in a show of support for a fellow writer. Like my goal, his was priced at $10, so I figured it was an easy show of support. It’s sixty pages. It better be the missing chapter of either the Kama Sutra or How to Make People and Influence Friends (wait, that doesn’t sound right) for that price. But suddenly, my 300-ish page books for that same price seem pretty much like a steal. My initial surprise at the shortness made me a little…conflicted, so I’ve yet to read it.

At $9.95, my royalty is about a buck – which is why my initial novel was priced at $12.95, I hoped it would be read and a potential income stream. However, I would prefer to have my story read more than build an actual income stream, which is why I decided to split book two into books two and three. There’s a super logical cliffhanger to end up book two and then start book three. And I think it will be an easier purchase impulse to enable at $9.95.

Now, if I could just cut it down by a couple hundred pages, I could probably apparently make a 600% increase on my royalty.

Anyway, one of the other things I decided to do for book one was to buy a few author copies to drop into neighborhood lending libraries around town.

What? Your city doesn’t have neighborhood lending libraries?

I love this about our lil burg. Of course, since mine has a few racy chapters, I’d probably focus my contribution to libraries in front of houses with gay pride flags hanging on them – there are plenty, trust me – versus those with toddlers standing in the front yard, like in the first picture.

I don’t expect anything in return for this contribution, it’s just something I wanted to do when I first published the book last year – I just never had the discretionary scratch to do it before. Frankly, I don’t really have it now, but given the social climate of 2020 I felt like it was more important than ever to do it. You see, the impetus for writing this was to show an imperfect slice of life between a group of diverse gay men and the bond of friendship that allows them to lift one another up in life. Given the widening chasm between people today, it seems we may never successfully manage to “meet in the middle” on anything again.

This decision was brought front and center again for me yesterday as I observed – and then engaged, which I probably shouldn’t do if I’m going to publish under my real name – on a Facebook thread between a local owner of a queer bar and…I dunno, the public. The issue stems from his decision to shutter the bar in the early days of the pandemic. It was a decision that preceded the governor’s own by a few days, but apparently that was a catalyst for a disenchanted group of workers to air their grievances. Without going into the specific drama, this post was his apology and affirmation of support for the queer community.

The issue I had was how many fringe members of the community decided to shove a spit – not that kind, Diezel – up his ass a absolutely roast him in the comments. One person is a trans individual who took issue with this owners decision to call trans people brave. In a fit of biting the hand that feeds you, this person decided to speak for their entire population by saying they aren’t brave, they’re tired. Tired of fighting for equality and the right to live their lives as their true selves.

Ok, I get that. I remember when attending gay bars was something I felt was dangerous. My favorite bars didn’t have normal windows – they were either painted over or obscured by shutters to conceal the bar-goers. Even participating in AIDS marches and Pride parades made me feel like I was putting a bullseye on myself. But I knew it was important to have that visibility to usher my community into the mainstream.

And I felt it was brave.

Flash forward to the Pulse Massacre and you can imagine how I feel the need for bravery in my community is still important.

But, no…this trans person needed to provide us with an example of the entitlement of their generation by disagreeing with the praise that was levied upon them. They aren’t brave, they’re tired.

Ok, maybe they wouldn’t be so tired if they confined their battles to actual enemies instead of making enemies within their own community.

Just write a fucking book and shut up. Well, not shut up so much as get the impulse to attack your own out of your system. Here’s a title suggestion: Trans and Tired. Imagine how much faster rhinos would have gone extinct if they attacked their own versus just letting poachers take them out. <exasperated eye roll>

I mean, how immature must the queer community be ~50 years after Stonewall? We don’t exactly ooze maturity based on the most visible components of or ranks. I have been referring to The Gays as Lost Boys for decades.

Anyway, I feel like that’s veering off into a different post. Suffice to say, if I’m going to write under my own name and speak my Voice of Treason truths on social media, maybe success isn’t something I should hope for. But it did make me glad I had arranged for these author copies to spread around. Maybe someone will read my imperfect story and take note. Given the Facebook post from yesterday, that seems more unlikely than one of The Gays finding it and actually reading it, but it clearly needs to happen.

Now, to come up with an inscription for the inside flap…

I’m Not Dead

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