Sample This…

…exemplary specimen of proChristination.

I have shit to do. Instead I’m gonna do this.

Warned, you have been. To wit:

A friend posted this on the Facebook today. My response: Stop judging my lunch!

And it was no lie, nor exaggeration. I had indeed had Mac & Cheese for lunch that day. A box of it. Keep in mind, while I may lose points for my seven year old’s palate in your mind, I require bonus points for making lunch at 10 AM while on a conference call and then using my actual lunch at 1 PM to exercise and shower.

Juke the system, did I.

Also, this was all in the name of “research”, too, since the Silver Fox had sent me an article a few weeks prior ranking the top 10 store bought boxed Macs and Cheeses.

Obviously, I needed to sample the brands that had never crossed my razor-thin white-ass lips.

Especially since one of them was crowned #1! I felt I had a moral obligation to fulfill and don’t understand how you could possibly see that any other way.

I’m not going to waste your time airing out the scoring system and this particular food writer’s bonafides. But I will tell you that they were both extensive and his Mac and Cheese pedigree rivaled my own – although he never mentioned any enhancements like my very own ripped off from my mother White Trasherole.

Imagine how stupid my dumb face looked when I read that the #1 title went to…belly-drumroll, please…Walmart’s Private Label!

<gasp!>

And their boxed Mac was only $.34/box!

Yes, that’s a liqueur in a sperm shaped vessel…

I spent the week after I read this trying to happen into the vicinity of a Walmart to drop $10 on this experiment. Mind you, before college, I’d never been into a Walmart. And then I think I only went in once. Turns out there’s better things to do in Manhattan than go to a Walmart.

Even if the Manhattan in question lies in Kansas. I’m not counting the two-on-one gay bashing I got in that Manhattan as better. More of a draw.

After that, I wasn’t in another Walmart until 2006. Which would be two decades, depending on how you count the years between 1987 and 2006. I count that as 20.

And believe me, that 2006 occurrence was under duress and orders from my then-boss, a very barely hinged person named Susie. And she may have spelled that one of the crazy ways with a Zed versus the normally accepted basic version.

After that, I wasn’t in a Walmart until…2012 or 13. I wasn’t pleased with the trajectory my Walmart visit’s half-life was taking. But that visit was in a bumpkin-town outside of St Louis booze emergency situation while Rib and I were at his sister’s wedding,

I’m not saying we accidentally started the whole People of Walmart thing, but I will say that I’d never heard of it until after my wedding reception rant about the experience later that same day.

Are you going to call that a coincidence?!?

So I was back in the decade-plus club for time elapsed – lapsed? Phil will tell me! – between visits and was for the first time in my life willingly looking for a Walmart. That’s not a brag, but it’s certainly humbling.

I just had to know!

I mean, this guy had the credentials, but that’s never stopped someone from being a shill, right?

Well, you know what they say about cops, right? Same with Walmarts. Never one around when you “need” one. For research purposes only.

One thwarted week into my research search and I decided to…<gulp> download their app.

By that time, my Mac and-chemically-powdered-cheese-addled brain was desperate to know the answer. I could get free delivery two days later – I think – but I couldn’t wait! I had to know!

Plus, I was starving and had no food in the house, because: bachelor.

There was one delivery window for that baleful day. Same day delivery is $10, so I went for it.

But, being the shrewd consumer that I am? I made that $10 charge scream. But all in the interest of research, right? To that end, I went all in on my experiment. The guy who makes a living writing specifically said he didn’t deviate from the box instructions, in the interest of judging the purest intent of the manufacturer.

I one-upped him and bought all of the ingredients required in the Walmart Private Label brand.

Then I rounded out my cart with other non-essentials (read: things I usually bogart from the Silver Fox when he’s not looking) like trash bags, light bulbs and the like. I mean, it was $4.50 for the 10 boxes on Mac and Cheese – maybe the article was 15 years old, I dunno. Still…$.45/box is pretty good, and on just what I saved on 10 of Walmart’s private label boxes over the $1.89 for Kraft these days, I’d pay for the delivery charge in savings. Then a buck and change for the half-and-half and I think the butter was less than $4. So a $10 delivery charge for $10 in groceries seemed a little nutso. Realizing I was unencumbered by any consistency for the sake of fairness rigamarole like the author, I added in several bags of Walmart frozen peas and cans of tuna so I wouldn’t face limits in concocting meals with my 10 boxes of Walmart’s best.

This was all before I realized there was a hefty tip added in – and I swear, I look for that crap, so I don’t think it was there until afterward. I noticed it when I got a message from the app saying, “thanks for tipping your driver $7”.

Sounds suspect, but wudevs. I’m certainly not stingy with tips, but this just seemed like a shady situation. Plus, it was the Walton family…you can’t honestly think they respect or value their customers any more than their employees. That $7 tip was probably a 70/30 split with the family.

But that’s neither here nor there, really.

What’s both here and there?

It was…good!

Foundational snobbery shooketh.

Before reading this article, I wouldn’t say I had an opinion about boxed Mac and Cheese so much as an awareness for what I was in the mood for. Did I want an unadulterated experience? If so, that meant a splurge on the Velveeta cheese sauce in the box variety. If I was shooting for more of a White Trasherole meal, a box of the powdered cheese stuffs would do just fine.

I was enough of a snob about it to know that was a line that didn’t blur much. I might add peas to the Velveeta but never tuna. But that was the end of my snobbishness.

I had also sampled enough to know that the Amy’s brand organic was pretty lackluster, yet ran about the same price as the Velveeta counterpart. For powdered cheese! Who do you think you are, Amy?!?

Any of the GF varieties I’d ever tried were flat out hot garbage. The reviewer shared my views on this…or at least bore them out with his rating system.

Given that level of situational awareness on the topic, I have to admit to my surprise on the Walmart brand. If I had to find a point of dissatisfaction, it would be…appropriately esoteric. Something like their frozen peas stayed too crunchy, with almost a dryness inside – regardless of how long I cooked them. That or, more specific to the key component, the pasta seems starchier than other boxed pasta.

See? Esoteric.

How much fucking Mac and Cheese do you have to prepare to know how the starchiness manifests while cooking?

Well, I don’t know. I just know two things: A) I’ve cooked a lot of this stuff; and B) starch content affects the bubbles in the boil – the more starch the pasta releases, the bigger the bubbles get in the boiling water.

Oftentimes, this manifests as a slimy film around the waterline of the pot that dries kind of like sunburnt skin. But with the Walmart brand, it’s more like a paste around the waterline. In a People of Walmart level of appropriateness, it’s kind of the same level of repulsive as talking to someone with an eye booger or that white film in the corners of their mouth.

Given those visuals, I usually rinse my pasta, since my body doesn’t have the best reaction to pasta or gluten or starch or something. But I’m an intrepid non-gourmand, so I’m not letting that stop me! And, lest any of that mental imagery curb your enthusiasm around trying this, well…feast your eyes on this lil parting gift again and go forth:

It’s worth the…adventure? Go ahead, save a buck!

Now, if someone writes an article about Walmart having good wine? I don’t wanna know! I’m happy enough with my Trader Joe’s and Grocery Outlet wines that I have yet to explore what Rib swears is a good selection and pricing paradigm at the Costco. Stay in your lane, Walmart.

Call me backlogged. Or more of a problematic Mac and Cheese consumer than drinker – bet ya didn’t see that rationalization coming.

Sample This…

I Can’t Have It All?

Part 2: What the hell was I thinking?

Damn universe, always teaching me lessons…like crippling humility.

So, there I was…having most of it. Gently nudged into balance by the Silver Fox. I’d gotten Angela all spruced up for her annual check-in with Lyft, but was focused more on those other pillars that make me feel like a normal person productive: writing and exercising.

No big news on the writing front.

Yet….

Couple blog posts. I re-read my prime WIP, by way of seeing where I need to tweak formatting before I hit publish. That’ll happen this month.

For sure.

So that’s something. Hoorah for lightly edited stories.

Also something?

I exercised twice as many days in March as I had in February. That ain’t nothing. April’s looking good, too, there’s a Class Every Day challenge and I’m on track. But balanced old Xtopher is keeping in mind that some days will be ride days, others will be strength…but mixed in will be days that are just a longer than my usual 5 minute post-ride stretch classes or even yoga classes.

Balance.

Also helpful? And this is where all that foreshadowing nonsense comes in: I got de-platformed by Lyft.

You read that right. Boy, they rogered me but good. Real good.

But that’s another blog.

I chose to look at it optimistically. The removal of a barrier to a balanced day.

The thing is, though, my temp gig doesn’t pay that well. I mean, I can’t complain, it’s not minimum wage – which I’ve certainly done as I explore non-career level employment. And it pays the bills. And-and, in a real Pinocchio twist, they started making sounds about converting me from a temp role to a real boy job.

The pay talk…we’ll see. I’m looking at it as a positive – even though the talk happened on April 1st. That’s just how my life goes. It was a good talk.

Except, the universe being the lesson teacher that it is, I was de-platformed by Lyft after dumping about $3k into little repairs for Angela that I’d been putting off. That was the month after the surprise $2500 I’d put into her in January, no less.

And after all that I had boldly (ie: no drink in hand) faced my taxes.

The day after I’d done my first draft of the taxes was the day I got the dry fuck from Lyft.

I’ll tell ya…I don’t believe in god, but I fully embrace the notion behind the phrase “If you wanna make god laugh, make a plan”.

And that’s what I had done. Made a financial plan that included making quarterly payments to the Feds for my $11k tax bill.

Thank god it was only a first draft. The second draft is a much less traumatic $8k, but it’ll still require an episiotomy after my main revenue stream gave me the same treatment it gave the driver that raped a passenger here in Oregon.

That seems fair. My punishment is the same as a rapist. My crime? I got two speeding tickets in a 12 month period. Yeah, well stick with “sounds fair”.

More on that later, I’m sure. You know how loquacious I can be when I get going on something.

Now, look…I may be seriously fucked right now, but I’m all Mr Bright Side, damnit! Even if that just means I jump off the bridge with the best view in town – that’s a tough one here in Portland – and don’t take anyone else out with me.

So that naive dumbass Mr Bright Side fella is looking at this as a way to achieve balance. Less opportunities for proChristination. Fewer distractions.

Bright side. Mr. Me.

But since my temp job doesn’t keep me in the happy hour budget I like, tax debt or no, nor does it afford the luxurious $30 treats Mistress Myrtle prefers…I need a second income stream.

Reluctantly, I signed up to be a delivery old man boy with DoorDash.

I hate it. It’s boring. It does give me that “in service to others” paycheck I found I missed after leaving retail. So, that’s a plus. And it pays around $7-10 more and hour than the temp job, so there’s that, too.

But it’s sooooo fucking boring.

Bright side? I can really only tolerate doing 5 deliveries in a shift. More than that is excruciating. Ok, that last part wasn’t very bright side, I admit. But, dashing out to do 5 deliveries after work a few nights a week and then a double or triple on a – singular – weekend day leaves me plenty of time for happy hour hangouts during the week – and it gives my budget the wiggle room to offset said indulgence. It leaves me the time for writing and exercising.

All. That.

There’s plenty to be grateful for. And since I hate it, the ~20 hours I give it each week balances my books. Well, excluding the G-men obligation. I might have to see if there’s a niche market for barely out of shape old men on OnlyFans to solve that problem. God only knows what weird shit passing as erotic that The Gays are lapping up these days.

Fucking morons.

But I think I’ve got a third draft of my taxes in me. I just need to make a phone call first. I think we all know how long I could drag that task out. So I’ll also file an extension…sometime between April 14th and 17th.

It’s good to have a plan.

And goals. Since my goals are work, exercise, write and not “pay less in taxes than Trump” I think I’m in a good place.

Fuck, being optimistic is a weird feeling. I should’ve stretched more before this post. Anyone else miss grumpy old Xtopher?

Don’t worry, he’ll be around. Until then, cheers to the bright side and cheers to you for reading. Thanks!

Look how my thigh is about the same size as my thumb in that pic. You go, Chicken Legs McGee!

I Can’t Have It All?

Decisions, Decisions…

I had everything planned out for the week. To a literal T. But you know the old saying: If you wanna make god laugh, make a plan.

That’s all the god-talk you’re getting from me.

I had my two-part “Having it all” post for mid week and weekend, sandwiching a fatness fitness post, and that was my writing week.

But then I won tickets to a pre-concert private show from a local radio station and now that’s all I wanna write about!

But I’ve gotta stick to the plan, right?

<crickets>

Anyone?

So, it’s the fitness post, then. Chalk it up to underwhelming demand.

Plus, it’s quick and I’m tired.

I don’t write about my Peloton often. It’s such a cult-y thing, so I try to be low key. Although, since I dropped 30 lbs in the first two months and then likely gained it all back over the holidays, maybe I’m pissing away a potential Peloton payoff by not being more vocal. Surely their brand can’t stand the scandal of my Delta Burke-esque results.

But I digress.

Yesterday was my one year anniversary with my bike. I was kind of jazzed about that and kind of blues about it, too.

I know in the dark attic spaces of my mind lives the remnants of my insipid narcissistic younger self. He still thinks with a twink metabolism – you know the kind, the type of metabolism that burns more calories thinking about exercise than I do in a 30 minute spin class. That guy figured length of bike ownership would produce results. Like, simply by passing the one year anniversary, I’d magically transform my flab-ulous center into fabulous abs.

Well, lemme tell ya, the only things of steel on me are my jaw muscles. And it ain’t just from flapping them. It’s also due to all the masticating I do, too.

On the other hand, there’s the guy who currently lives in the biggest rooms in my head. He’s the guy that decided I deserved ice cream tonight.

So, yeah…he’s a coin toss between self-care and self-sabotage, that guy.

He’s the one that enabled my weight gain over the holidays when I was recovering from a bruised tailbone. And compounded that with an overly-permissive attitude about getting back on the bike once I healed up.

He was finally vanquished in late February by a coalition of all of the other Chrises I keep locked away upstairs. Led, of course by Twink Chris.

Getting a largely work from home temp assignment didn’t hurt those efforts, either. I found I could wake up early and workout, shower and be “in the office” by 8 or wake up at 745, grab an energy drink, brush my teeth, be at my desk at 8, then workout and shower during my hour lunch break.

Which do you think I do more?

Regardless of my shiny-skinned, baseball cap wearing mornings, I was relieved because I’d been bracing myself for the defeat of not making it back on the bike by my one year anniversary. Let’s face it, that was a real possibility, given how seriously I take my health and fitness.

I mean…what kind of asshole buys exercise equipment on April Fools Day?!?

That’s the bullshit attitude I’m talking about.

Fortunately, that didn’t come to pass.

As much a fact, I made progress that once again even impressed my favorite person. By mid-month, I realized I was on pace to hit my 200th ride by my anniversary. It’s easier than it sounds, racking up ride numbers – think cool down rides after each ride and you’re looking at an easy two-fer scenario.

Heck, I realized I was also in striking distance of hitting my centurion strength workout and my 25th yoga class.

Clearly, none of those accomplishments mattered in the company of my stretching results. And I’ll be goddamned if I’m gonna look at a sore thumb result like that and not choose to give myself a stroke versus a pat on the back for everything else I achieved over the course of the year.

That’s a healthy attitude.

So in the last 8 days before my anniversary, I finally started taking the advice of the trainers and replaying my 5-minute post-ride stretching classes. Since I know that’s kind of cheating, I punished myself by making myself do at least a 10-minute morning stretch class on the days I didn’t ride – which was, yeah…also kind of a cheat.

But in this case, those particular two wrongs did make a right.

Here’s what I’ll say about my drive to sync up these milestones with my first anniversary of ownership: It was kind of a “Go big or go out like Mr. Big” mindset, and if you know what I’m talking about, you know that was a perfectly Xtopher thought to have.

Talk about your Red Shirt Diary topics!

Ok, that’s all I’m saying about the cult. But here’s a couple pics of the instructors that keep me cumming coming back to the bike.

I ride because I secretly would love a sexy man to make that face in my presence…even if I couldn’t see it.

And since you just had to endure that mental imagery, here’s a pic from one of the ABBA themed rides, just for a fun mental palate cleanser…

That’s my towel on my handlebars and a collar so big and 70s fabulous on her top that it looks like a towel draped around her neck. And now I’ll wrap up with some sweaty old Xtopher pics so you can experience a fraction of the emotional pain that I inflict upon myself…

All in pursuit of keeping my <ahem> pointer visible in my own line of sight and this pointer consistently on the right side of 200…

Namasté, bitches!

Decisions, Decisions…

I Can Have It All!

Part 1: Everything’s fine!

I creep into every week with a simple goal – to have a day or several where I succeed in all three pillars of what I consider a “good day”. I want to make some money, exercise and write.

That’s it. Nothing earth shattering. No outrageous goals like cure cancer before lunch.

You may wonder how I struggle to accomplish this. Like, why is my weekly goal “a day or several” and not something more aggressive reasonable like “at least three days a week”?

The answer is simple: go fuck yourself.

Wait. That came out wrong.

I used to run, run, run and go, go, go. All day. I did that for 30+ years, starting in high school, no less!

Now I’m tired. Actually, I’m not just tired…I’m fucking tired.

And after leaving my retail management career behind after 30+ years, I was ready to rest. I liked my little income setup: Lyft 25-ish hours a week and keeping an iron in the temp job fire to keep things fresh. My average for temp placements was 2/year, which I was fine with.

I was a little less fine when I got my W2 for last year’s temp assignments and saw that I’d earned around $1700 in 2021. And that mindset is never the right time to pick up the phone when your temp wrangler calls.

But I did, didn’t I?

Because I’m a dumbass.

Which is how I ended up on assignment in early February. It’s full-time, which I hate because I frankly make more driving. Plus a 40 hour/week commitment seems so vulgar now. But I’m getting used to it.

Stubbornly.

Case in point, I was still committed to getting my minimum $500 in ride earnings in each week after this temp job came through. That goal actually wasn’t much of a problem, most weeks I was clearing four digits. I swear, with Lyft, if you download the app they practically automatically send you $500/week. I think if you go longer than one week without managing to earn over $500, they send someone to check in on you.

What I’m saying is that it’s pretty much a sure thing. People gotta go places, you’re going to make money. I’m ok with that.

Until…the Silver Fox ruined everything. Root of all evil, that guy.

I met him at our local after work one day when he’d come back up to town. Him being all pro-me, he was apologetic or overly grateful or something…stressing that he didn’t want to keep me from making money.

Ooh, foreshadowing!

But I assured him everything was fine. I’d overachieved prior to his visit, so it turned out that Bob’s now my uncle. In assuring him I was ready for a rest – there’s that foreshadowing again – I spilled my prior week’s Lyft earnings to him.

Amazed, he asked how long that took me.

Me: I dunno…like 30 hours? Nah. Less! I dunno…I was getting up at 430 if I couldn’t sleep and going out for the early bonus hours before plugging in to work at 8. Then doing a little driving after work on some days, too. Oh, and then Friday and Saturday!

SF: And you worked 40 hours on top of that doing the payroll thing?

Me: <raises glass to self> Yupperz.

SF: Geez! You worked 70 hours last week!

Me: <blinks cluelessly>. That can’t be right.

SF: That’s amazing.

Me: It never occurred to me that I’d worked that much. Driving doesn’t feel like working. Not at all.

See? He’s obviously the devil.

Anyway, that also drove home the point that my stubbornness had over-corrected and was keeping me from succeeding at accomplishing my other metrics: writing and exercising.

Shift my focus, did I.

Plus, Angela needed some spa days. I’d been putting off my oil change and replacing a fog light some malcontent had popped out of my bumper last summer during our…protests.

Who objects to a fog light being in a bumper where it belongs?!? That’s what I want to know. Stupid protester.

Anyway, I book a few days in the shop for the car and dial back the driving.

Ratchet up my workouts – which had gotten ridiculously infrequent. Like less than two/week.

I still struggled to write. I posted a couple of blogs and opened my laptop to check on a draft…the shock of which nearly fried my laptop.

What? It was a long pandemic.

But I still have WIPs to get out on “in progress” status. The Gays aren’t big readers, so it’s really only for my own sense of accomplishment. It still bothers me that they are languishing there in WIP status. That’s on me. No one reads them? That’s on someone else.

Shockingly, that stubborn streak of mine asserted itself in a strangely non-self-sabotaging manner. I started choosing to exercise or write versus choosing to drive, aka: proChristinate.

It was oddly liberating.

And motivating.

Maybe I could manage to have it all several days a week after all?!?

Tune in soon. See if that next shoe that drops is a platform heel with a goldfish living in it or a cross-trainer that washed up on the shores of the Puget Sound with an amputated foot still in it.

Yeah, I think we all know which way this is going for foolishly optimistic old Xtopher….

I Can Have It All!

Well, Now I Feel…

Something.

Bad?

Nostalgic?

Accomplished?

Formerly accomplished?

Probably that last one. So…thanks, Facebook Memories.

Three years?!? How has it been that friggin’ long already…since I’ve had a date?

Kidding. Trying/not trying.

But I guess it’s just one more reminder that it’s been a long pandemic. If we factor those two years out, then it’s only been one year!

Don’t get me wrong, I tried to make hay out of the forced free time we all gained with the 2020 lockdowns. In April, I started NaNoWriMo – despite having two WIPs from prior NaNos still waiting for completion, then didn’t finish. Again.

I think I got derailed after a Twitter battle with a local stripper, who I’m sure knew nothing of my existence until I dared to correct him on his feed. Then I was all he could focus on, earning me featured status in his social media stories where he called me old and ugly. Not to mention a failed writer.

The young people are so woke – which seems to manifest with being disagreeable and combative. That’s regardless of the validity of their initial point. What moxy.

Sure, I’d only finished three books at that point, clearly, that’s failure in the eyes of a stripper who leaves the stage in a thong.

I actually finished all tasks associated with my job title, son. I have to imagine that a stripper’s job isn’t complete until they are clothes free. But what do I know? When I was a young man, tracing on one’s flesh was viewed differently than it is today – and I appreciate the evolution of sex work from villainized and humiliating to artistic expression and empowering.

This kid was – pardon the entendres – a dick.

Ultimately, that all stopped when he blocked me – the penultimate admission that he was wrong. The ultimate expression being actually saying it. But this is hardly the United States of Accountability, let alone Admittingyouwerewrong.

Anyway, as this was going on, I flirted with the idea of going to one of his shows and tipping him one of my books – yeah, I’ve got a few copies laying around. My overt grumpapotamus self imagined reading wasn’t high on his hobby list, see also: how he got to his current level of misery in his life.

Judgy.

The women strippers I meet driving with Lyft are all – every damned last one of them – such interesting people. Very engaging. Great stories. The male strippers I meet are all cunts. And not in that cool English slang type of way. At best, they look at me, and treat me like, I’m an ATM. Not that I go to strip clubs often…none of them have palatable beers.

I also considered going and tipping him $.02, since me giving him my figurative two cents was what set him off in the first place. Ultimately, I decided my absence was the best action for me.

Still determined to make some productive hay out of the lockdown, I pivoted to another project I’d been kicking around. When I finished my third book, it came in at a whopping 530-ish pages. I hardly consider myself a gay George R. R. Martin, so I sought out opinions from a few beta readers. They all told me it was fine.

But that length made printing costs pretty high and I think the lowest price I could charge was $19…and that was with me making less than a buck a copy. I knew there was a logical plot break that I could use as a kind of cliffhanger if I chose to split this into two books, I just hadn’t.

But with one half finished draft from April’s NaNo making me feel guilty, I decided this was the perfect time to tackle that split.

Obviously.

And I did it!

Well, “did it” so long as completing the split and edit of the first half. I knew I needed to flesh out the second half to beef it up a bit. It had originally suffered under the pressure of me knowing the page count was running high for one book. This was my chance to flesh it out.

But my first goal was to get the newly shortened second installation in my No One Of Consequence series back up online. Then I hit a formatting snag. Just a teensy one, but it proved to be overwhelming to my lockdown self and I never went back to finish it. I couldn’t imagine jumping to the third installment to get that story wrapped up, it just seemed wrong.

Four frustrating months go by. I spent a lot of that time considering the optics of dying during a pandemic with unfinished works. I thought it looked pretty good. Other artists somehow pull it off.

Margaret Mitchell.

Elvis.

No, wait…Hemingway! That’s a better comparison. I’m a drinker, not a druggie. And we’ve established the fact that 500+ page books are not my style, so…yeah. Hemingway.

That was probably my biggest self-soothe of the pandemic.

It carried me through the next three months. Right up to the next NaNoWriMo event, the big one in November. Now I can finish!

Or…start another work.

The following April?

Ok, this was pure motivation. And adrenalin.

I had just gotten my Peloton and was jazzed to pick up the autobiographical trilogy I’d fancied when I wrote Dating Into Oblivion. When I wrote that, I was nearing the end of a year long blogging theme that had resulted from a friendly intervention at my 50th birthday party.

Rude.

As a result of the collective will of my well-intentioned friends, I leaned into a blog theme I had just finished that I hashtagged fitfy. It was a play on fifty, an age I had been determined to reach with some progress toward accepting my aging self with a healthier attitude toward diet and exercise.

I’d been having trouble forgiving myself for not being able to eat and exercise like an idiot twenty-something. Naturally, my 51st birthday had involved me tapping a keg of my favorite beer at my then-favorite bar.

Anyway, knowing I had that “fitness in my fifties” notion in the back of my head, I decided to tackle dating in my fifties. It gave me something to do, at any rate. I figured the trilogy could round out with working in my fifties. It was a notion I rather fancied.

The problem was, there wasn’t much I could actually do since I’d just gotten my bike. I considered harvesting stories from my year of fitfy blog posts, as I had when I put together Dating Into Oblivion. But I considered that would have been only a portion of the project. I needed new content to complete the story.

Another partial credit NaNo for old Xtopher. PaCreNaNo? Kind of sounds like a pancreatic medical crisis.

Maybe that stripper was right.

Shudder.

Possibly, but improbable. Maybe what I needed was the motivation of writing something people might be attracted to en masse. My current accomplishments and WIP library all featured what I call gay shit – and I hate to break it to you, but The Gays aren’t known collectively as big readers.

It’s the pandemic – everybody else was pivoting, why not me? That sounds like a riff of a Cranberries album.

I picked a theme close to every Portland NIMBY’s heart: the homeless. Came up with a mystery plot. I even created a nom de plume based off of my parents middle initials and old world naming paradigms – JT Robertson.

Finally…in November of 2021, I completed a NaNoWriMo! Have I published? No. I’m mentally kicking it around, polishing it up. Completely retooling the voice. Flipping the plot 180 degrees.

Y’know…the basic writer’s nightmare.

April’s NaNo is weeks away.

Weeks.

I’m determined to finish something from my WIP list before adding anything else to it. I figure at this point, if my goal is to have a WIP library consisting of a prime number of works – it isn’t but I need to set boundaries of some kind – then I either need to finish one or add four!

I think seven is enough of a library. Let’s see if this Facebook Memories shaming is enough of a motivator to get NOOC2 published and back online. Lord knows that providing airplane reading material for a friend’s trip to Africa last month wasn’t it, so fingers crossed.

Sure enough, I woke up this morning, uncovered my laptop…and started organizing my tax receipts. Then I got this text

RUDE!!

So I wrote this, instead. I refuse to be so known by my best friend.

To answer my original question: seen. I feel seen.

Well, Now I Feel…

Training Myrtle

Long time readers may be familiar with my struggle, which is being my cat’s steward. Those who aren’t or those curious for a good reason to nominate me for some sort of heroism award can read up under the #mistressmyrtle tag.

A quick summary: I occasionally indulge in a one-sided conversation with Myrt that goes something like this:

Am I your fourth home because you’re such a bitch, or are you a bitch because I’m your fourth home?

For her part, Myrtle gives me an inscrutable cat stare.

I am curious, though, since I got her at a year and a half old. That’s a pretty bad track record…averaging a bounce every six months.

This was last year’s FB reminder…

For my part, I’ve been her home for six years.

You’d think that would get me a little loyalty, but no. It’s always something. This door is too closed, these windows face the wrong direction, you’re not warm enough, there aren’t any birds outside. Or – her fave, I think – you aren’t bleeding freely enough.

Breakfast was served too late, or not early enough. You served me the same dinner two days in a row. And it was cold tonight.

I dunno.

She has a distinct way in which she voices her displeasure. I call them Protest Poops.

They started as part of her complaining about her litter box, and usually occur about a foot away from the box. Subtle, no?

The cat seems to like smelly things, food & treats mostly – but her litter box is no exception. I learned that changing the litter resulted in her boycotting the box altogether. That was certainly no good.

A cat who is freaked out by fresh litter?

The workaround seemed to be that I scoop for a few days and then add in some fresh stuff. But that’s not an exact science, and sometimes I was reprimanded with a protest poop to encourage me to do better on my ratio-making.

Quick reminder, she doesn’t seem to care too much for me, so there’s that.

Lately, though, The Mistress’ displeasure seems to be escalating.

And traveling.

She had a habit a couple years ago of peeing in the shower. I blamed it on some rando pissing in my shower after an evening of – um…entertainment, so I couldn’t really be mad at her for doing what animals do, right?

Simple solution: my bathroom door is always closed now. Plus, it saves toilet paper.

You get the idea…

But she’s also started pooping further away from her box. Behind the front door, behind her cat tree, in the bedroom, behind her other cat tree.

We’ve had conversations about it. Well, some conversations. It’s either she doesn’t want to talk about it or she just screams at me and won’t have a dialogue.

With few choices left in my arsenal, I started punishing her. If she pooped outside her box, no dinner/breakfast, depending on the time of the offense. On the flip side, I started giving her treats exclusively when I cleaned her box. Same with breakfast, if I heard her using her box, I’d get up and clean her box, then give her breakfast.

She’s always been a food motivated creature.

Of course, she started gaming the system. She’s no dummy.

She’d use her box and immediately jump up on the shelf where I give her treats.

Waiting.

Meow.

I look over, tail twitching, chin bobbing in my direction, as if to say, <ahem>!

Well, it was a system that worked, I guess.

Until the other day.

I was on a call and heard her scratching dramatically at her box.

Really hamming it up.

But I’m on a call, so I’m stuck at my desk, right? There’s only so far you can go wearing a headset that’s plugged into your laptop. And I’d already learned that my desk was too close to the cat box, so I’d moved it across the living space.

After the call ends, I get up to go do my scoop and reward routine. The box was empty.

Laughing at how manipulative she is, I go looking for her. I find her mid-poop in the bedroom behind her cat tree.

“Do we need to talk about this, Myrtle?!?”

Meow!

“You’re a bad kitty! So baaaaad!”

Myrtle runs for the bed and stuffs her fatness flat as her back paws claw her slowly under. It’s quite pathetic to witness. Probably how she feels when she sees me trying to get off the couch.

All I hear of her for the next six hours – aka: dinner time – is a random plaintive meow from under the bed when I walk by.

Such a bad kitty.

And a bad kitty who still wanted dinner?

The feline hubris.

I made her wait a few hours. Just on principle.

Training Myrtle

Near Misses

One of my favorite George Carlin bits, that there’s no such thing as a near miss. You either miss something or you don’t. I believe his position was that a near miss was technically still a hit.

Makes sense to me. Literally.

Ever more precious to me is that his audience was made up of the same group he was lambasting with the observation: Americans.

Stupid, stupid Americans.

And we loved it. Iself, included.

Well, one of my weekly tasks at the new gig is covering the payroll portion of the company’s weekly onboarding. Guess who follows me and sometimes comes in early? Safety. So each week I’m reminded of how many times near misses came up throughout the day when I went through the onboarding process – which was an odd experience, since I was contracted through my temp agency.

My inner dialogue was working overtime that day correcting them every time one of the presenters reminded the participants to report unsafe conditions, even near misses.

I mean, at least say it ironically.

I watched the other captives participants for any recognition of the devil may care attitude that was being programmed into them – “My safety doesn’t matter, I only have to report injuries”. But there was none.

I guess when paired with the word “American”, stupid takes on some of the same qualities as “fuck”…it can mean a variety of different things, contextually.

I’m one of the self-aware stupid Americans. It’s misery. I envy the Americans who are too stupid to understand how stupid they are.

For what it’s worth, my favorite mental near miss scenario of the day was the bride whose groom was late, but eventually made it to the church. Better luck next time, near miss sis.

Near Misses

Conspired & Expired

Someone once said about the wilderness that everything in nature was trying to kill you.

Another someone said that it isn’t paranoia if everyone really is out to get you

Well, readers…I am where those two potentials intersect. I’m going to leave you to look up sources yourself, because I have a short tale to tell.

For years, my dad has – as is his way – quietly espoused the virtues of soup. More recently, the Silver Fox has hijacked that same bandwagon – as is more his way.

The other week, The Fox and I bellied up at Tanner Creek for a dinner and some drinks. His – and potentially my one day – neighbor and I ordered the radicchio and apple salad, which we both love. The Fox opted for…soup. He does this occasionally, he likes soup.

Fine.

I can take that low key degree. He’s no soupaholic after all. But just before his soup arrives, the chef comes out and says hi to us. We’re all three chummy with her, so we expect a drop-in if she’s working.

Cookie: Did they tell you about the special?!?

She’s glowing – which as a newly in love person, isn’t big news. This night, however, it’s because said special is a soup.

The Silver Fox is beside himself. Losing more marbles over this disclosure than I thought he had remaining in inventory. Immediately, he orders it.

Me: You ordered the other soup, are you switching?

Him: No, I’m ordering a second serving!

I could see he was shocked I would seemingly suggest two were too many soups.

Him: I don’t care. I love soup!

Yeah, yeah…a septuagenarian right of passage, it seems. Although, one he seems perfectly willing to pretend has been a constant in our dining out universe.

It hadn’t.

Cookie: Our soup of the day is gaslight.

Not to be outdone, mom and dad show up a few days later on the calendar for lunch. They have cleaned grandpa’s “non-perishables” out of his cabinets. I notice because when I climb in the back seat, there’s a ripped paper bag still trying to be full of canned goods sitting next to me.

After commenting on the condition of the bag, knowing the embarrassment of paper bags at grandpa’s and wondering why someone wouldn’t double-bag canned goods, they are proffered to me: the favorite child and also the least likely to take an interest in my own sustenance.

I demur, despite the box of Kraft’s finest nestled into the pulpy gash.

After lunch, they take it up again. This time, I feel it’s my responsibility to teach them the consequences of being too polite. No part of me thinks they thought it mentioned “Hey, let’s bag this shit up for the oldest disappointment boy!”

So when they insisted, I decamped the backseat and too the bag. I looked positively homeless or hapless walking into my building with this bag of canned goods cradled in my arms like a stolen child.

Later that night, when I unpacked the bounty, I felt guilty and sent this text to mom.

Yeah, I’d taken a bag of soup out of my dad’s backseat.

The guilt!

Of course, that passed the next day when I made the purloined Mac & Cheese…

November of 2017?!?

Turns out that was a box of Kraft Karma & Cheese!

I’m not complaining, I figure this event has two benefits:

First, balance. As much as the older generations cling to their passion for all things slurpy, I reach back to my Mac & Chz like Linus and his blanket.

Second…resilience. My toddler-in-college diet hasn’t killed me yet and 5+ year old Mac & Cheese didn’t manage the task. For all I know, this is what kept grandpa going until just weeks shy of his 100th. Obviously, I’m not done suffering meant to be here. I’d like to see a cockroach do as well against that aged box as I did. It would die before ever getting it opened…and I ate the whole damned yellow-dye-#7-including thing in one sitting.

Come at me, karma!

Please?

I shouldn’t tempt fate or beg…you just know that means I’m going out Elvis-style – sans drugs, of course! I’m a good boy.

…and since I’ve mentioned all of that, I may as well tell you that I’m 40% of eating my way through those soup cans! With my dad and The Fox as role models…I never stood a chance against them!

Conspired & Expired

What *Is* In A Name?

Well, an attitude of gratitude, if you’re Billy S. – sweet smelling flowers and whatnot.

However, if you happen to be within the splash zone of my imperfectly beautiful mind, you might have to settle for groaners that probably amuse only myself. But I’m still releasing them into the world, because I’m a giver like that.

So, please…enjoy a few names that are ruined forever for me. There’s never a moment when I’m confronted by these names where my first thought isn’t the following:

Oliver.

“‘All of her’…clothes off?”

Anita.

“Not surprising, you look kinda needy.” I had a coworker named Anita way back who got married and took her husband’s name. It was Beaver. Anita Beaver. I need a beaver. I couldn’t not use her full name from that day on.

Amanda.

“‘A man to’…hug and kiss?” To be fair, Rib put this one on my radar. Not sure if it’s a Rib original or borrowed from a source I’m unaware of. But it’s solid.

Prior to that gem, my mind always corrected the pronunciation to “Demanda”. And, on that note, here’s a lil “ruined names” bonus:

And, for a lil extra credit, Neil and Bob…but only when used together, so it’s an exceedingly rare occurrence, making it ever more sweet. The first thought I have – and I really try not to say it out loud – is “My two favorite verbs”!

I don’t know what broke my brain, but this is what it’s like in my head. 🤦🏽🤦🏽🤦🏽 My prevailing theory is that my subconscious thinks I was meant to be a Drag Queen and is always on the lookout for a good drag name.

What *Is* In A Name?

The Homeless Guy With Game

You gotta admire a down and out guy with moxie.

I was running into my building to feed Myrtle last night. In doing so, I passed one of the fire exits to my building. These are recessed doorways, making them a perfect opportunity for someone wanting to duck out of weather, shoot up or take a nap – hell, maybe all three, depending on the day.

I saw the bike-turned-upside-down gate and a pair of feet stretched out under it before I passed by, so I knew it was occupied. Turns out, there were two occupants of the tiny makeshift shelter. He looked like he was feeling no pain. The other occupant was sitting cross-legged with a jacket draped over her head, like Cousin It went as a coatrack for Halloween.

“You’re pretty fun to hang out with. Do you want a boyfriend?”

I mean, way to just casually toss that out there. A directness I can appreciate.

“No”, I hear in a tentative voice from under the coat,” I mean…I already have one.”

Ouch.

And what had they been doing – and for how long – that this guy knew he wanted to lock her down but didn’t know she was already taken?!?

I acknowledged he at least shot his shot as I fobbed into my front door. My trip home was a quick one, literally ran in to feed my cat, hit the can and then I was off again.

Passing back by the door, I saw the girl was still wearing her coat wrong and the guy’s head had lolled back and to the side a bit. He was apparently not done making his case.

“…I also speak Japanese and Farsi, but I can’t write in Japanese…”

Geez. How far down on your assets list are those tidbits? I’m assuming his “physical” attributes – those most exaggerated bragged about by dudes – were either previously known or had topped the list. Then again, based on where this conversation was taking place, we knew he skipped right over where he lived and what kind of car he drives.

Oh, Portland…

The Homeless Guy With Game