Xtopher’s Rib

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

May 24, 2016…if you’re curious.

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

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

His response was, “Thanks, Dad!”

Classic Rib.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Limbo.

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

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

Ok

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great.

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

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

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

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

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

Sassy.

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

Glad I could help pass the time. Hehe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was cute.

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

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

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

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

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

Made sense.

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

I asked what he was doing since getting to Seattle.

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

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

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

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

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

Go, Rib!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok

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

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

Waiting tables.

I was a little jealous!

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

I was proud of him.

Even not realizing what was ahead for us.

Oooooh, foreshadowing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know…so dramatic.

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

Y’know, like I did with Sacha.

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

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

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

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

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

I needed time to heal and adjust myself.

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

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

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

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

And now he’s done it.

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

Right, HuffPo?

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

<dramatic sniff>

Xtopher’s Rib

The Mulligan

A Mulligan – for all of you non-golfer types out there – is a do over.

The Mulligan was my do over.

I’m on the left…

David was my second boyfriend after coming out to myself as gay. It would still be another five years or so before I completed the coming out process: telling my family, not making discomfort over my sexuality other people’s problem and then ultimately being able to discuss it as a non-issue. However, after my first boyfriend – who hit me and cheated on me – David was my chance to have a right relationship.

In other words, he goes back quite a ways.

Back to the days when people were officially “not dying from AIDS”.

Back far enough that when he didn’t die from AIDS – years after we broke up – I wrote about it on MySpace.

We had met at Ripples. Yup, another Long Beach story!

It took a while. I had to watch him from a distance for about 18 months before I worked up the nerve to casually bump into him at a Beer Bust.

Yes, I’d been going to Ripples before I was actually legal..

He was so cute. To me, at least. I liked the way his underbite made his head look like a peanut from the side.

I’m willing to admit that that might be an odd attribute to find attractive. But having watched him from afar for so long, I found that his mannerisms were also quite endearing.

He would flutter his eyelashes when he spoke.

The way he gestured. Casual and intimate, but not flamboyant.

I learned later that these mannerisms were part of his southern upbringing.

Genteel.

Perhaps not the most masculine adjective for a guy, but for me, this worked. It made me feel comfortable.

Eventually.

At first, I thought those fluttery lashes were more like bitchy eye rolls. This incorrect assumption was part of what intimidated me and kept me from approaching him. Later, I learned that they were just a conversational tic – y’know, the things you learn bar stalking people. Even later, I would learn that this was also a way for him to camouflage his disease when talking about things that made him uncomfortable. Effectively breaking eye contact so that he could assert himself when he was insecure in doing so.

It was interesting to get to know someone so well, on that intimate a level. Well, for me, anyway. Remember, I was probably 21-24 when we were together. Realizing that I could understand and know someone that well was new to me.

How could I not love him?

God, we did everything together.

Beach, movies, errands.

Wait, almost everything. He didn’t work out.

Still, the beach was the most important thing. This was SoCal, after all!

He was in the Air Force. OMG…seeing him in his uniform.

His roommate was an older guy and a civilian worker for the Air Force and they’d met and eventually begun living together when Rick’s original roomie moved out. They shared a two bedroom townhouse. Within six months, I was living there.

There were only four units in the row house, but they had the end unit which provided them with a small yard area where they’d have barbecues on the weekends or just chill with a cocktail after work. It was at these gatherings where I’d met many of their shared friends and eventually been adopted into the group. Les, Randy, the Billys Black and White…I’m still socially connected to some of these mutual friends through the magic of Facebook. These were good people to know. They helped me to nurture my identity as a gay man.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have three chosen families in my life. Groups of gay men and people who supported me emotionally and enriched my existence through theirs. Relationships that transcend simple presence.

This group of men was my first.

We had a neighbor in the row house that The Mulligan dismissively referred to as Bitch Tits. He was quite a little doughboy, but it was learning months and months after meeting him that the two had dated that made me understand the true emotion behind the moniker. This was quite a while before Fight Club came out as a book and Meatloaf’s character in the movie took the nickname mainstream. I sometimes amuse myself imagining The Mulligan crossing paths with Chuck Palahniuk and somehow influencing that character.

There’s a legacy…

One of the difficult things that I learned about The Mulligan was that he was super insecure. This manifested itself as an irrational jealousy.

At one point, he was even jealous of Bitch Tits. Usually, though, this was an issue for us after an afternoon at the beach or evening at the bar…when I spent the evening not talking to other guys.

I mention this because learning this about him allowed me to learn something about myself: I’m capable of being all in in a relationship.

The Mulligan was mustering out – does the Air Force muster? – and one of his benefits was being moved basically wherever he wanted since the Air Force has dragged him away from home. One of the other discharge requirements was a physical, which was when he learned that he had HIV.

His discharge from the Air Force was a pretty emotional time for this gayby. But I was so ga-ga in love with this guy…when he said he wanted to be closer to his family back in Mississippi, my thought was basically “Let’s get out of this place and away from your damn triggers”.

We’d been back to his hometown of Long Beach, MS a couple of times. We had been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras with his best friend and Long Beach was just a couple hours away by car. It didn’t hurt that in some strange irony, his best friend’s grandparents were snow birds that spent their winters on the Gulf Coast.

Neither of us were keen on living as a gay couple in Mississippi. We settled on the gulf coast of Florida. The beach lifestyle was one we were reluctant to give up, but the east coast was too far from his parents.

So…off we went.

We lived together for about a year in Florida before I learned something else: people don’t change because I sacrifice.

I realized this when I’d “done laundry” with a neighbor that he’d met actually doing laundry. The three of us had hung out after they became friends. Meeting up in the laundry room with a four pack of wine coolers to do laundry made the time pass quicker.

Being accused of having a crush on this friend he’d made kind of negated the joy that situation presented, so I stopped.

Funny, I hadn’t noticed him packing his jealousy when we left California.

Must’ve been in the trunk of his car…

A while later, he’d gone to visit his parents for a weekend. I couldn’t go because I was working. When he came home and asked me – what’s the opposite of nonchalantly? Challant? – how many times I’d cheated while he was away, I tried to make a joke out of it. It’s my way.

“Just the usual three-way”, I said, waggling my hands.

When women persist, it’s empowering and creates a political call to action.

It’s not usually so cool when men persist, especially insecure men.

This was when I learned something else about relationships: you can’t let someone else’s happiness erode your own.

I was so nuts in love with The Mulligan. I think part of that was me fully accepting myself and another person for who we were; good, bad and ugly. But I came to realize that I couldn’t bankrupt my own happiness in the hopes that it would infuse his. He wasn’t unhappy, but he was making himself situationally miserable by letting his jealousy ride roughshod over his emotional well-being.

And his relationship.

Realizing that a relationship should enhance my own happiness, I broke up with him. He couldn’t be happy with me – or anyone – until he accepted and got happy with himself.

Luckily, we had a two bedroom.

I felt like the biggest shit in the world for dumping a guy with HIV. It was pretty much still a death sentence in the early 90s, but my mental well-being wasn’t any more of a cure than the drugs available to him.

I was offered a promotion at work – well, at work in Houston – and took it.

I spent a year in Texas before getting promoted to California. Effectively working my way back to SoCal and my second hometown.

In late ’95, my boss offered me a lateral promotion to Portland. I passed, reluctant to give up my situation in the LBC. I was back in touch with old friends. I had a cadre of new friends, too. This was when I was living across the street from Ripples on one corner and the gay beach on the other. I was just a few blocks from where my dad lived.

I had it really good.

Made, one night even say.

My boss, being a pretty damned good salesperson – or one hell of a manipulator, depending on how you looked at it – somehow leveraged being close to my grandparents and a $5000 a year raise to get me to reconsider.

Sorry, Dad, gotta go!

I moved up to Portland in late January of ’96. I had rented a place on the river.

…just in time for the big flood of ’96.

Oh, well, life is lumpy.

This is what I wrote about on MySpace.

I’d gone to bed one night and was dangling between consciousness and sleep. As I lay there, I heard someone whispering my name.

Now, this was not an unusual thing for me. I had experienced this many times in my life.

Usually, I heard my Mom’s voice.

A couple of strange times, my Dad’s best friend.

I had heard the phenomenon summarized as an awareness that you were on someone else’s mind. They were thinking about you or worried or some such.

Mom = awwwww.

Let’s not go there on Dad’s best friend, m’kay?

Hearing The Mulligan saying my name wasn’t weird…but it went on so long. I rolled onto my back to get comfortable, not really thinking about it.

Floating above me was The Mulligan.

The ceiling of my room was gone and there was The Mulligan, looking down at me, smiling and casually moving his arms and legs like he was treading water.

He laughed at my alarm.

I asked – without speaking – what he was doing. He told me he wanted me to come with him.

Nice non-answer, buddy.

I asked again, adding, “Come with you where?”

Again, he didn’t answer me directly, just repeating his invitation by way of replying to my question.

This went on for quite a while, him drifting above me like he was floating on some current just above my ceiling. Well, where my ceiling should have been.

There was this enveloping sense of warmth and joy throughout. It was surreal.

I’ve never experienced anything like it.

You’ll be glad to know, though, that in true early onset grumpiness fashion, I eventually told him that I had to get to sleep because I worked early the next day, rolled over and closed my eyes. I squeezed them closed so hard that I could feel them shielding me from that warm light emanating from The Mulligan.

I remember before I “fell asleep”, checking with one eye over my shoulder to make sure the ceiling was back where it was supposed to be.

The next evening, I got a call from Black Billy. As soon as he identified himself, I blurted out, “He’s dead, isn’t he?” When Black Billy asked how I knew, I told him the story from the night before.

I could hear him thinking he should have called me before happy hour, but I was stone cold sober as I recounted the prior night’s experience.

That was almost 22 years ago. It’s still one of the weirdest and most amazing experiences of my life.

Occasionally, when I’m out having a drink by myself, I’ll think about him. I mean Ghost Mulligan, since ghost-him is old enough to drink now. In my mind, I’ll ask him what would have happened if I said yes.

He just smiles that peanut-headed smile and bats his eyelashes at me.

The Mulligan

Something Is Missing

This blog post’s title could cover a wide array of potential topics in my life:

Structured exercise.

Work/life balance.

Vegetables.

But in this case, it’s personal belongings and transitively, a feeling of my personal security.

I began this post at the first of the year.

Too raw.  Set it aside.

I came back to it about six months ago.  Couldn’t finish it.  Too embarrassing.

But now that I’ve uttered the words, “I think I could be open to dating again”, I feel like – at least therapeutically – I need to wrap up some of my old dating and relationship posts.

Since I’m on vacation, I’m trying to trick myself into writing more and wrapping up those dating drafts by also finishing up old vacation stories.  Like…hiding the hard stuff in between some fun memories.

There’s cumulatively eight drafts in this mix…only two of them are vacation stories. Three if you add in a ninth draft, but that’s a guest post I set aside for The Fox to share his Cuba adventure from last year.  

That’s 1/3 fun and 2/3 dating-trauma-drama.  That sounds like my life.

But nine is too many for a vacation week.

The Silver Fox is about to set off for a month-long Spain adventure…maybe his return could be my more realistic deadline.

Maybe I could just delete a bunch of drafts about painful stuff that I can sometimes make funny but am clearly telling myself on a subconscious level that I don’t want to process.

Except

My most read posts are my romantic misadventures.  You people are quite an unsavory lot, aren’t you?

How could I say no to that level of depravity?

So, here it is.  The worst, first. 

I’m just gonna skim through it and make sure it’s quasi-intelligible and post it.

Do you see that?

Right there, between my tool storage and the TV antenna The Silver Fox gave me to give to my parents to help get them off cable.

Yeah, on the shelf over my under-utilized spice rack and my cat treats.

Pay no attention to the stacks of Mac & Cheese.

There’s something missing.

And that freaks me out.

Not because I can’t recall exactly what it was.

Not because it was something so germane to my daily life that I can’t go on without it.

Because it’s simply gone.

And I didn’t “gone” it.

Someone else did…and that someone didn’t have permission to be here.

So, an unnecessary recap:  I’m pissed and maybe also just a tad scared.

I’m not scared for my safety.  

I’m scared because this isn’t the first time this has happened.

This year, sure.  Maybe.  I’ve been ignoring it, hoping it would go away.  The last six months…definitely not so much.

I’m scared because whatever used to be here was of no value.  Not to me.  It just was.  But to the person who disappeared this item?  It is a symbol.  A middle finger to me.  An eye-level eye opener that this is still happening.

Oh, mom…stop reading at the beginning.  Sorry.  I was distracted and forgot to warn you.

But since we are talking about – or, to – MomDonna, you should probably know that the last time she and dad visited, she walked right up to my door, looked at me side eye over her shoulder and opened the door as if to suggest that I should not be leaving my door unlocked.

Well, sure.

Kinda.

I purposefully live in secure buildings.  For the security, sure.  But also by chance of living in cities and in condo buildings where the security is part of the amenities…because I like to leave my doors unlocked.

Sue me.

Or – in this case – fuck me over.

Early in December, my Earthquake Money went missing.  I didn’t notice right away.  I noticed after my landlord texted me on December 29th and told me that my rent hadn’t been deposited yet.  

This was a week after her text wishing me a Merry Christmas.  You’d think she would have known then.  But, hey

Ok, that struck me as odd.  I usually write out my rent check and then fail to succeed at a few opportunities to deposit it.

I am a procrastinator, after all.

So, when my landperson told me my rent check hadn’t been deposited, I had to confront my assumption that I had completed the transaction as normal.  I don’t actually retain any of that in my long-term memory.  Sure, I recall snippets of the interactions I have with bank personnel.

And Chipotle meals…Chipotle being one block away from my landperson’s financial institution.

My assumption that I completed the transaction lies in the absence of the check from my entry hall table.  That’s my checks-and-balances system.

Luckily, I save the deposit receipts.

December was conspicuously absent amongst the other 14 receipts from past deposits.

So, what happened?!?

Fuck if I know.

What I do know is that I have a drawer in my hallway console table where I keep my Earthquake Money and miscellaneous financial shit like my rent check.

Right there, under the tray where I keep my wallet, keys and the coffee can with loose change.

The drawer is a hidden drawer.  You have to know it’s actually there and then touch it right so that it swivels open.

All this, of course, points to something of an inside job.

My missing rent check could be the result of the obvious culprit of an inside job, who likes to greet me coming home from her perch atop the table.  But I pulled the table away from the wall – careful not to disturb the wine stored beneath it.

Sunglasses.

Wine corks.

Other, less favorite playthings of Myrtle’s.

An epic dust bunny.

Fortune cookie fortunes – speaking of unwritten blogs, this one doesn’t even have a draft!

No. Check.

The easy solution is to grab some of my earthquake money and rectify the situation with great immediacy.  The awkward reality is pictured above.  My secret stash drawer was giving me Old Mother Hubbard vibes.

I keep bundles of money in that drawer that I win when I gamble.  Last summer, in a fit of discipline, I imposed an embargo on the drawer:  money goes in, it doesn’t come out.  It was an attempt at moderation.  If I won when gambling, I put it in the drawer. $500 denominations were the buy-in for a “deposit”.  I’d accumulated several $500 bundles of $20 bills.  The $50s and $100 bills eventually collected into a $2000 bundle, the $500 bundles of the bigger bills were too insubstantial and would bunch up.

Terrible problem to have.

What was an actual terrible problem to have was being confronted by an empty drawer that should be full.

I sat down and thought about it.  I examined the real possibility that I’d broken my rule in a drunken moment and blacked it out.  I went to a couple of bartenders and asked if they’d recalled any particularly egregious moments of drunkenness over the past few months.

That was a cold moment.

But at least I was accountable enough to my behaviors to blame myself first.

One of these fantastically fun and patient people looked me square in the eye and said, “I’ve served you off and on for two decades.  If I thought you were doing yourself damage, I’d tell you myself.  This one’s on  me…you look like you need it.”

The second and third were on me, and the $20 tip I left him on my $12 tab was the least expensive therapy co-pay I’ve made.

Back home, I went to my original earthquake stash…a drawer in the kitchen that I’d used when I first moved into my condo.  It got too full of wraps, foils, baggies and back up chefs knives to be a viable storage spot, so I’d moved my stash.

Plus, back up chefs knives…another first-world problem.

But there was $700 and change in there.

Which was a help in paying my now-two-months of rent due.

Not much of a help in figuring out my pricier mystery.

I had to set aside my deer-hunter cap for the moment to solve my rent problem.

Back to the hall table.  I kept other important-yet-homeless things in there, including my e-trade debit card.  

This is the account I had loaded with $25,000 of the proceeds from my Seattle condo sale.  I’d been Day Trading with that money to subsidize my existence while failing to find a professional landing pad.  I’d been wire-transferring $5k/month for bills and living expenses and calling any month that I walked away from with more than a $25k balance a win.

Well, this was my “break glass” moment.  No time for a transfer, I was gonna need my debit card to cash advance two months of rent.

I think we all know how that ended up.

Social Security Card.

Fake $5000 poker chip.  If only.

Passport.

Another fortune cookie fortune.

My almost full punch card from a coffee shop I stopped going to after The Broken Poet.

My actual checkbook.

No debit card.

WTF?!?

I had been digging through the drawer on my knees and rocked back to rest on my heels as I processed what was going on.

I felt gut-punched.

I looked slowly to my left, toward my front door.

I got up and adjusted the lock so that it was locked from the outside.

Davey.

When we’d broken up the previous Fall, I’d gathered up his left-behind things, borrowed The Fox’s car – ironically, an Escape – and delivered them to the boy who’d ghosted me.  He wouldn’t come to his door, so I just left his stuff on the porch and left.  The only thing I’d asked of this guy was to return my spare entry door key.

Yeah.  That was too much of an ask.

However, I’d not given it much thought.  He lived way out in a part of town that I always think of as Shitville.  My neck of the woods was definitely out of his way.  When he’d visit, he’d come in for a few days at a time, having one of his housemates in what was basically a flop-house watch his cat…which was why I gave him my spare entrance key in the first place, so he could come and go while I was at work.

I had heard from a friend-quaintance that he’d recently met Davey.  Based on the context of the things he said – He’s sweet.  Lost, but trying to get his life together -and what I had gleaned of this acquaintance’s life choices that he’d met Davey at an AA meeting.

I never thought he’d steal from me.

Setting that aside, I set up a wire transfer, cancelled my debit card and told my landperson she’d have her January and December rent in a week.

She was…not happy.

I wracked my brain over the next week or two about what to do.

I also locked myself out twice.

All of the phantom noises and clicks that I’d heard over the past six months came randomly back to me over the ensuing weeks.  Things I’d thought were doors clicking shut or neighbors in my basically uninhabited floor and written off as the sounds of a building settling became sinister scenarios.

The times I’d woken up to what I thought were doors closing late at night were what I believe started my late night sleepwalking patrols from earlier this year.  It certainly explained the episode where I’d woken up to the pile of light furnishings and decor in front of my door.

I am Xtopher’s complete loss of control.

My e-trade account had been hit pretty hard.

$500 withdrawals anywhere from a couple times a month to a few times a week over the last 90 days.  There were a few times where withdrawals had been thwarted by insufficient funds when I’d made a trade.  

Unfortunately, I wasn’t that involved in trading after going back to work the prior October.  I’d lost sight of a couple of bottom bounces – not the good type, Diezel – and dropped about $15k on trades in November and December.

Good thing I had a paycheck to look forward to…but I know enough now to not look forward to existing on that paycheck.  Thank gawd for my parental benefactors, otherwise I’d have drowned by now.

You see, my final response was an overreaction.  Absolutely.  But I now own an annuity.

After getting a new debit card and filing a fraud report with e-trade, I steered desperately into my financial situation to stop the spin.

My trading account has slightly less protection than a typical bank account.

Their fraud department was able to get shit quality ATM pictures of what looked to be Davey in a hoodie, a cracky looking twink (so much for AA), and a transvestite that wasn’t quite pulling it off.

I thought I knew who these people were.  Davey had talked about movie nights at his flop-house with a crew I imagined would present similarly.

I was offered the opportunity to file a police report, which could lead to some restitution if anyone was arrested.

Ultimately, I screwed myself over by storing my debit card in the envelope my PIN was mailed to me in.  That’s a no-no, but I knew I would never remember the PIN if I needed it.  Not that I planned to need it.  On top of that, my sense of accountability had me reluctant to move forward with any shadows of doubt remaining about who I suspected.

I began hanging out at one of the bars that I knew Davey’s transvestite housemate frequented.  Doing a little Kojak-action at What is arguably a bar in a three-way tie for Worst Gay Bar In Portland.

After a few possible connections with her, going to the bathroom to compare the ATM picture while she smoked, I was uncertain.

Fuuuuck.

As my deadline for filing a police report approached, I gave it one last chance.  I went out in search of a few times with mixed results.

Just missed her.

She’s visiting her kids this week.

And then, paydirt.

She has the kind of voice that precedes her like the cloud of drugstore perfume and stale cigarette smoke that follows her…I heard her coming.  An unexpected encounter at Embers, where she’d been 86ed by the same bartender that told me back in December that he had my liver’s back.  I was peeking over the taps at the bar while the bartender confronted her at the door.  I guess I wasn’t the only one attenuated to her voice.

As I’m watching, a third unseen voice breaks free moments before scootching through the door and heading for the bathrooms.

Davey.

So much for AA.

I turned my back to the door, hunched my shoulders and sipped my beer until it was done.

Then I stood up, squared my shoulders and walked out of the bar, thinking, “Fuck it.  I’m done lying down with dogs.”

Every meager paycheck since then, every time my parents have asked if I had “walking around money” since then has been a reminder that I can’t be vulnerable like that in today’s world.

I may have The World’s Most Dangerous Cat living with me, but I don’t have to expose myself to the Daveys of the world that even she can’t defend me against.

And sometimes, just as extra punishment to myself, I would tell my parents that I was fine…and that reminded me that I am fine.  That realization helped me to be more honest with myself, my parents, my best friend and, now, his best friend…the internet.

I’ve gotten myself square, emotionally.  Now it’s time to get myself righted financially, and that means living off my paycheck while still saving for my future…and also not punishing my future self by depriving myself of a potential boyfriend.

So, I’m open to the possibility of dating again.

Plus, my building replaced the entry door, that’s obviously a sign.

Something Is Missing

Staycation

Admittedly, this is not as exciting or fulfilling as my August vacation with the family.  To be honest, this vacation is the result of my testing the new vacation request system at work so I knew how it worked.

But, The Boss approved it…so, Bob’s your uncle.

Speaking of uncles, mine flew in on Wednesday from Houston.  Coming to Oregon from Texas for some dry weather, I reckon.  I didn’t get to see him when he landed because I had a meeting that ran long.  I’m not entirely sure when I will see him, actually!  Mom-Donna threw out a few weekend ideas for get togethers, but I had commitments both days and had to pass.

Of course, both things fell through, because this is my life…where the Galby Effect originated.

So, here I sit.  Balancing bursts of housebitch activity on this vacation Saturday with bouts of couch surfing…and now WordPressing.

Couch Surfing round 1 was Miss Congeniality.

I’ve got Miss Congeniality queued up and ready to watch, but I’m not quite ready to commit to that…yet.

Which means, a lil vacay update for you all instead of finishing one of my two dozen blog drafts.  

It’s my vacation…rhymes with procrastination.

Let’s not pretend that’s a surprising development.

Let’s see.  My vacation started after a six day stretch at work, which ended only an hour later than I projected.  Good thing, too.  That gave me just enough time to get home, change and let The Silver Fox cajole me into an inaugural vacation beer before the hotel tour I had arranged to see the guest facilities of the new hotel next door.

I’d see the bar, that’s for sure.  Besides serving one of the best Oregon beers – Breakside IPA – Turner Creek Tavern also offers up some pretty tasty morsels.

Some of them are even on the menu,

But after watching my view over the last 18 months go from this

To this

To this

And, finally…this

I felt like a view from their rooftop patio was in order.

Plus, The Fox has a great nephew that is going to PSU and he’d love to have the boy’s parents stay so close by when they visit.

You could say that our recent twice weekly and now this tour was recon.

It was a good start to my work break.  It’ll be my last break until probably March/April next year.  I’m hoarding the last two weeks and rolling them over into 2018.  I’m not sure I’ll stay in my present job later than that – it’s frustratingly dysfunctional and I simply don’t earn enough money to secure my financial present and future on my salary.  So, if I leave within that timeframe, I’ll have four or five weeks of vacation time – and hopefully a bonus – to take with me when I leave.

Anyhoo.

A few days before my vacation started, I’d told The Fox that I had been thinking maybe I should date again.

If you ask him, he might tell you I was trying to kill him by saying that to him.  But, it’s about time.

After Sacha left me on our “seventh” anniversary (it was our sixth) I was alone for six years before meeting Rib.  He and I were together for four.  I released him back into the wilds of Capital Hill three and a half years ago, so…math.

Math says that it’s time.  My process is complete.

Actually, when I broke up with Rib, I did so with full cognizance of the fact that it might have been a reasonable assumption that he’d be my last boyfriend.  I’m gonna be 50 in a few months.

Maybe – definitely – I was past my gay expiration date.

But that’s another blog.

Maybe.

Having said the words out loud, I wasn’t surprised to find myself attracted to the guy giving us the hotel tour.  What did kind of surprise me was that in my thank you email, I gave him my phone number and offered to take him out for a beer.

That also afforded me the opportunity to creep myself out, since I’d basically hit on him at work…breaking my dating rule about hitting on guys in their work place.  Obviously, that’s what Missed Connections are for!  

Sure, it was just an email and a fairly innocuous one, at that.  It’s not like I told him I wanted to put my Tab D into his Slot B. 

It’s just a beer.

And he’s new in town and said he loved IPAs.

Speaking of dating rules – well, this is more relationship advice – get one that’s new in town.  Especially small towns like Shittatle and PDX.  Less cross-pollination.

Unless his boyfriend followed him to Oregon.  But I’m pretty sure that only happened to him because he and I would eventually cross paths, share an attraction and this is my life.

Of course he’s going to be in anunfilfilling relationship.  Because that’s what could possibly go wrong.

But, we’ll still have a beer.

It’s not like I have anything else to do this weekend since I’m on vacation, my weekend plans fell through and The Fox is out of town.

I can’t watch Netflix the entire weekend!

But, I can go do my recycling and then hit the sofa for round two of couch surfing for today.

I am going to potato my couch so hard…

Staycation

And Yet I Still Don’t Like Sushi

Well, I never called him again after that night ten years ago, but he keeps popping up in the periphery of my present day life.

Not calling seemed like the right call for a date that ends with him pushing a drag queen.

Down.

Hard.

It was one of those surreal cartoonish moments.  One minute I’m standing there talking to said DQ, the next her feet have made an appearance and there is just enough time to register the surprise that flits across her face – and this surprise could have been the thought “I have those same shoes!” – before she hit the wall three feet away and crumpled to the floor.

Then everything clicks into place and you realize that your date pushed her.

Hard.

His next shift was probably his last at CCs.  He was banned from the bar in the moments following that altercation, so that just seems like a realistic assumption.

I’ve thought of him a few times recently because one of Portland’s local Drag Queen celebrities recently died, Tiara Desmond.  It was she that I’d been talking to that night as we often did when I’d come in for a drink and she was working.  She might have been working both CCs and Darcelle’s at that point…all I know is she was around CCs at least as often as I was.

She had a more legitimate reason to be around.  I was just there drinking my way through some therapy after my boyfriend had left me.

For a waiter.

On our anniversary.

No biggie.  Just another gay in the life of Chris.  And there have been a lot of gays in my life.

The point is, she was always nice to me.  Genuinely nice, which I really needed.  More than I needed whatever medicine I was swilling at the time.

But her death has brought that night to the fore front of my consciousness frequently in recent weeks.

He was a go-go boy at CCs back when CCs had go-go boys.  The hottest one, in my humble, pickled opinion.  And HE asked me out.  Which is probably the beginning of the end of me being impressed with myself by younger guys hitting on me.

There’s always a reason.

Always.

What’s wrong with you?

What do you want?

But just because I’m no longer impressed or flattered doesn’t mean I’m not still open to the potential opportunity.  I like to think I’m more selective in my screening nowadays.

Probably, I’m not.

We’d gone on a couple of impromptu dates.  He was off work, let’s us grab last call at another bar or running into each other socially out on the town.

Or more accurately careening into one another.

We had a couple of date-y dates.  My favorite was also my first Pimps and Whores party.  I want to say it was at his place.  I hope it was because I think we woke up there the next day.  My memory of that time is decidedly fuzzy.

But this deliberate date was dinner.  I’d suggested it and told him to pick the place – dangerous stuff for a picky eater.

He chose sushi.

Fuck.

I chose Masu.  If I’m gonna eat food I don’t like, I’m gonna do it like a baller ant the newest and it-est sushi place in town.

We had a good dinner, surprisingly, I didn’t starve.  When I went to drop him at home after he asked where I was going as I exited the freeway.

“I’m not done with you yet” he replied when I told him I was heading to his place.

So, we ended up at CCs.  For a nightcaps.

You know the end result of that side trip.  I hadn’t figured him for the jealous type.  But who knew what else was going on.  I was kind of naive back then.

Remember, my boyfriend of six years had left me shortly before and I’d never seen it coming.

Needless to say, I felt my culinary compromise failed to deliver a decent return on my investment.

Smash cut to this evening.

I’m out for a semi-regular happy hour with my favorite local…let’s call them the Fabulous Baker Girls.  The surname is a 60% match.  The adjective is a 100% match.  They are all diversely fabulous.  So FBG1 and I are out at Henry’s having some beer and small plates and chattering away the evening.  It’s beer, so I’m also monitoring my gastrointestinal seismic activity, which is fine because FBG1 takes small talk to a level.  I love just sitting there and letting it was over me.  I don’t think I could keep up with her if I tried, she has the gift for gab.

Quite enjoyable.

Anyway, now and then when we’re together, something clicks.  Tonight it was after she’d suggested splitting the HH California Rolls and I had told her to go ahead, but I might just watch.

A few conversational ellipses later, she’s talking about this tangential friend and how he does a drag brunch somewhere in town.

<pronouns shift accordingly>

Oh, yeah…with Bolivia Carmichaels?  I’ve seen a few of her shows advertised at CCs.

“I’m not sure, I think it’s on her Facebook page” and I’m grossly paraphrasing our conversation here…

And I find her Facebook page and we start talking about the place and how I need to get there since I keep hearing about it.

I’m not sure how many degrees of separation this DQ was from FBG1 nor whether the DQ’s husband was part of said degrees or not, but I literally failed to suppress my ejaculation when I clicked on his profile.

Sorry, my ejaculation was of the “OMG, I dated this guy for a minute just after the turn of the century” type.  Just in case you thought otherwise.

Dirty readers.

And just guess who that husband was?

I tried some California Roll.

And I still don’t like sushi.

And Yet I Still Don’t Like Sushi

Peace on Earth?

How about peace in one’s mind?

The holidays are definitely my favorite time of year.  Mainly because of the spirit of the season.  Fuck gift giving.  I’m a capitalist, don’t get me wrong.  That said, I’m impulsive, spontaneous and probably more selfish than most…therefore, I buy what I want, pretty much when I want it.  My family is not the same, per se, but they definitely have shifted the focus of the holidays to the experience for the young members of our family and, oh yeah…just family.  Being together.  Cooking.  Eating.  Playing games.  Being together.  As.  A.  Family.

That’s what the holidays have meant to me since forever ago when I began living my life independently as an adult.

With a career in retail.

I’m sure you can see how that would potentially jade my pleasure during the holidays.

I only decorated when in a relationship.  I never made the time to write out the Christmas cards I purchased every year.  Usually from a co-worker’s child to help with fundraising for their school activities or summer whaling adventures or what-have-you.  I didn’t bake cookies or treats for my friends.  Nor did I particularly participate in gift giving.

My holiday experience truly existed in the spirit of the holiday.

I had to dig deep to find my pleasure in the holidays as working in retail simultaneously attempted to suck the pleasure right out of them.  It wasn’t initially an exercise in retaining my sense of the season as much as it was in resisting the urge to give people a good baby-shaking when they needed it.  Apparently, that’s frowned upon.

I looked at the innocent joy of kids experiencing the magic of Christmas (and other asundry religious holidays that occur around the Winter Solstice).  There’s some purity there, let me tell ya.

Then I would be reminded of the offset of kids being monsters the rest of the year.  Heck, if I took off my rose colored glasses, I could catch them being not so sweet and innocent around Christmas, too.

Damn.  Was it a small victory or an ample sized delusion to lay the mantle of my holiday spirit on kids?  Who knows…I dug some more.

My grandmother had managed to camouflage the fact that she was a grumpy old man by actually being a woman and having firm ideas on what social graces should and shouldn’t be.  Having her influence in my life resulted in a guy who is actually soft and gooey under his crusty exterior.

I open doors for people or hold them for those passing through after me.

I say “please” and “thank you” to servers.  And still tip decently, too.

I’m known to help people carry their bags if they are overloaded.  As a fellow customer.

Classic Portlander, too.  I’m going to give you directions on the street if I think you need them and wait out an awkward right of way situation at stop signs.

So, maybe this was a place for me to make some holiday spirit.  Those small gestures are so much more easily executed this time of year with all the shopping and visiting people are doing.  We need each other’s social grace to get through our holiday madness!

So, I did do just that.

Much to the consternation of my ex here in Portland.  He would get so grumpy when he’d turn around and see me stuck holding a door for an endless string of shoppers.  Forgetting that I also held it for him.

And it was all good an fun and fine.  Until cellular phones got smart.

And then there’s Amazon and other online retailing.

When people venture out for holiday errands now, they are usually plugged into their phone and paying zero fucks to anything happening outside that bubble, so they don’t seem to notice someone doing something nice for them…like not letting a door smack them in the face as they stroll obliviously through.  Because now we’re entitled and distracted.  Or the people out running errands kind of pissed that they couldn’t get it delivered and had to leave home to do something for someone else.  When I suspect someone falls into this category, I do muse about whether they couldn’t have just stayed home if they had been willing to pay for shipping on whatever they needed…and likely paid for parking when they came downtown to procure.  That’s a fun mental exercise:  how much would they spend on shipping versus parking and did they consider this?  Did they procrastinate too long and now they can’t have it shipped so they have to go out and shop in the real world?

Just musings, but not any that are productive for nurturing a holiday spirit.

Take three.

I tried appreciating the charitable workers making merry the holidays of those less fortunate.  I was in SoCal when my case of the bah humbugs hit me.  I would drive to work and see the bell ringers doing their thing at the mall entrances.  I’d empty my pockets of change for them every shift I worked; on my way in from the parking lot, on my way back after lunch or coffee breaks…just shekels, but still.  I would participate in the giving trees set up in the lobby of my bank.  For whatever reason, I’ve rarely done the Toys For Tots thing.  I dunno why.  Maybe it’s that I don’t find myself in toy stores that often.  Even with my nephew I tend to by clothes for gifts.  Yeah, I’m that uncle.  So my holiday cheer was somewhat convenience-based, I guess.

Then I moved from SoCal to Portland and from Portland to Seattle.  That’s when the shitcake really hit the fan.   Here I am, freshly primed for the holidays in a new town and looking for those bell ringers.

Empathy on high!

The problem?  When I moved to Seattle, my commute transitioned to a *ten* block walk.  That asteriskonomical ten is for mom.  She knows why.  Anyway, I’m giving all my coin to the beggars set up on each corner as I walk through downtown Seattle to work.  Not each intersection, each corner!  They are – fairly literally – all occupied by homeless people and street buskers doing their thing.  Well, except for the corner that Nordstrom takes up to build out its Santa Workshop.  Barely an open space for a bell ringer to set up a bucket and do their ring.  I start giving small denomination bills because I believe in their charity.  My first holiday in Seattle I nearly went broke.  I started resenting the beggars that preyed on my empathy.  My charitable spirit was intended for a different target.  A target that would probably deliver $.39 on the $1 to those in need, but still…

Maybe this thread of holiday cheer was wearing thin as it aged.

Back to the drawing board.

Then my grandmother died.

I don’t know why I associate her death with a shift in my holiday focus, but I do.  It could be that she was a holiday constant, my mom’s mom.  My other grandparents were divorced and shared visitation at my family’s home on holidays, whereas my maternal grandmother usually stayed overnight.  Maybe it was that she shaped many of the values that are part of my worldview today.  Maybe it was that I knew I couldn’t keep making myself feel merry by giving out loose change.  That’s as much a placebo as willy-nilly gift giving.

Again, who knows?

The important thing?  That I felt that missing piece of my family during the holiday.  My family had already changed its gift giving mentality prior to her death, we changed it up a bit every year.  It kind of evolved to where we are now.  My sister really drove the shift.  For a few years we drew names and bought a gift for a specific person; and the nephew.  She always seemed to break that rule…or drew my name a lot.  And my brother’s.  And then my parent’s, of course, but we all seemed to break that rule with them and them with us.  It was a good idea, but we weren’t really all that disciplined about it.  This year, we’re trying a cookie exchange.  I’m not sure how I feel about that…but it’s not about the cookies, right?

It’s about the family.  I know this.  I always got this part of the holiday, even with my weird and awkward divorced grandparents.  But something still wasn’t right.  And it’s always been one of those niggling little mental itches.

One of the other evolutions our holiday celebrating took was my parents’ ritual of spending a night at the Heathman when they came into Portland – that’s the hotel from Fifty Shades for all of you middle-aged and under romanced people out there – to shop for gifts.  Like I said, they  were horrible at following the gift giving rules.  Y’know, come to think of it, most of us were.  As exciting as the prospect of buying two gifts was, I think we all got a sense of enabling from just going out shopping for someone else and pretty soon, the tree was piled high with conspicuous consumption.  Anyway, my parents would spend a night or two at a nice hotel, shop, go to dinner, enjoy the seasonal immersion that downtown Portland has to offer.  It was special.

Of course, as kids do, I come along and ruin everything.  I moved back to town.  Literally town, not 30 miles outside of town like the rest of the family.  So, here I am in the hotel’s back yard getting invitations to dinner with them.  Which has happened a few times now, and I enjoy that and look forward to it as part of my holiday ritual.

This year, they even extended an invite to the Silver Fox.  Which enabled what I think might be the final evolution of my search for the holiday spirit.  It was nice for the Fox, too, since mom and dad wanted to go to Huber’s and he had never been.

It was the week that his ex was scheduled to be served a well-deserved restraining order.

Sad?

Break ups.

Scary?

Standing outside your ex’s window and throwing sticks at it.

Sending 30 harassing texts in the overnight hours.

Posting personal financial information and medical history on social media.

Extortion.

Cursing someone’s children and grandchildren.

Like I said, well-deserved.

Still sad.

Remember that sense of empathy that almost caused me to go broke when I moved to Seattle?

So, during dinner, the Fox gets a text from a concerned friend after they saw yet another installment in the defamation of my best friend by his (and it should be noted that I am not a trained psychologist, so this is strictly my lay opinion…regardless of its clinical accuracy) psychotic ex.  He glances at it with zero reaction and remains in the moment that our festive foursome is experiencing.

I knew nothing other than he had gotten a text.

When he told me later, I mentally golf clapped at his focus and ability to distance himself from such a painful and frightening experience.

And that’s when it kind of clicked in for me.

The peace on earth that we hear invoked during the holiday season seems purely sentimental.  A wish akin to that of winning the lottery, although I think most Americans are more active in winning the lottery than we are at creating any peace on earth.  Just a thought for another day.

But can it be attained without peace in one’s own mind?

This ex – who so needs a nickname, but I’m not sure he will have any permanence on my blog, so I’m pinning it for now – was creating such upheaval in my life, and I was only on the periphery.  I could not even imagine what my friend was experiencing.  But all the lashing out didn’t seem to be coming from a place of heartache.  It – and this was a pattern I knew from his behaviors toward me during his relationship with the Fox – seemed to me that the acts he was committing were from a place of insecurity and poor self-worth.

And that got me thinking…was my external focus on finding my holiday spirit merely an avoidance technique to shift the focus from my internal dissatisfaction with the holidays?  Or of my life in general that was amplified by the intensity of retail during the fourth quarter?

It’s either a crazy tangent or simply a moment of self-awareness-slash-clarity; yet, there it was.

Was I putting pressure on kids to be sweet and wide-eyed, charities to infuse my street corners with a sense of generosity and people to be just…not such raw versions of their lowest possible selves instead of being active in participating in creating the holiday spirit I wanted to experience?

Was there peace in my piece of mind?

And, honestly?  Yeah.  There was.  And has been all along.  But my thought on this is that really, the holidays are about more.  That more is external.  It’s the communal experience of the holiday.  The inner peace and external peace are interdependent for a solid holiday spirit to thrive.

Our holidays are populated largely by the same mass of humanity that we live with daily.  But that spirit is supposed to move us en masse to joyfulness.

We have decorations to remind us to celebrate that spirit.  But more often get caught up in being the best decorated…not for the elevation of the spirit, but selfishly for being the best.  ‘Murika!

Songs give our emotions a rhythm to move them from within us to those around us.  And headphones and earbuds either keep those songs in our own bubble by preventing their escape.  Or, perhaps worse…to keep the airborne festive songs out of our bubble.

But after witnessing the turmoil of my friend’s tortured ex-boyfriend, what I want for this year – and years to follow – is to be present in my own state of mind.  To experience and enjoy the holidays without allowing my dissatisfaction at the missing romance of a holiday spirit to diminish someone else’s experience of their holiday.

I’m fond of asking people if their behaviors are part of the solution or part of the problem.  Are your actions and words helpful or hurtful?  This commitment to my own presence of mind will hopefully allow me to experience the peace in my mind to fully enjoy the season versus pinning my enjoyment on one facet of that holiday spirit.  Watching the Fox compartmentalize his hopefully ended drama with his ex so it wouldn’t affect his enjoyment of a wonderful evening was a helpful example for me arising from what is obviously a hurtful moment in his life.

I am open to re-visiting the baby-shaking option, but I doubt that will actually be helpful to anyone but myself.  And the lawyers that defend me in the ensuing civil suits.

Certainly, though…if I can’t keep my typical Early Onset Grumpiness in check during the holidays…I’m a grinch.  And that’s not me being a part of any solution, in my opinion.

So, while I’ve obviously solved all of my issues with the holidays <eye roll> let me leave you with my wishes for a happy holiday for you and all of those you hold dear.  May they all enjoy peace within and without for another year.  Until Winter Solstice 2016, my gentle readers!

 

Peace on Earth?

The State of Our Hearts

Late last year, I read something on Facebook.  Go figure…me on Facebook.

It was an article re-posted by someone who is either an obscure celebrity I am unfamiliar with or someone who fancies himself a celebrity-in-the-making.

Shut up.

The comment that accompanied the article he posted was something to the effect of, “This is why I don’t date”.

Then I opened the article.  It was about a relationship ending.  Suddenly.  The author explored his state of mind over the week that followed.  The grief.  The sadness.  The self-doubt.  The return to optimism and balance.

Keep shutting up.

As I read, I experienced myriad thoughts.  The range ran from, “I feel ya, brah” to pity for the re-poster to frustration about the empty soul that dumped our poor writer-slash-emoter to the emptier one that openly admitted he won’t even try dating in an effort to avoid the risk and potential pain that love demands.  I kind of settled into a low-grade frustration at my feelings of being one of the minority who actively tries versus the quitter or the half-assed “let’s see what happens” type.  I get most angry at that last type…they pretend to blend into my group that makes an honest effort but haven’t acknowledged that the lack of effort it takes to belong to their group ultimately not only insulates them from the pain of rejection but also creates more of the group of quitters that just give up altogether.

Great.

Actually, did you even follow that?  It’s ok if you didn’t because I think my brain swelled a little just trying to type it out.  Then again, I’m writing this on my iPhone and the small screen is giving my eyes hell.  I’m sure the 6+ screen size would have made all the difference…

Let me break these Romeos down (and, full inclusion…there’s plenty of Juliettes that fall into these categories, I’m just villianizing within my own sub-group of emotionally stunted gay men):

Type 1 – The Lover and The Fighter

Talk about toiling in obscurity.  The Lover and The Fighter wants it all:  a best friend and a sexual partner, a significant other.  Gasp!

They may appear to be serial daters.  Maybe they are.  They might be seeking that initial spark on a first date versus hanging in for a few dates to see if there is a slow burn potential with someone.  Once they find it, either manifestation of the relationship flame, they can usually be counted on to go to the mattresses (keep it clean, people) for their significant other.  Hopefully, not in a Glenn Close/Fatal Attraction way…but they’ll definitely prioritize this potential relationship over lesser parts of their lives.  That can be hard to find…I’ve seen people fight for a relationship to the detriment of their friendships.  The benefit, though, to a well-cultivated Logical Family is that they are still there once balance is regained by our Fighter.  Whether that balance is the result of a relationship ending or integrating a new love into their base life…well, that’s another story.  We can only hope.

They might also know from experience what they are looking for in a lover or relationship.  Or think they do.  In this case, they become more The Fighter – perhaps too quickly, sometimes – in defense of that vision.  Do they risk becoming too closed off to a potential partner in pursuit of what they want?  I’m certain they do.

What I’ve seen – and lived – is Fighters holding on too long.  Not ending something that wasn’t what they needed in a relationship or significant other.  Maybe even fighting too hard to make something begin where nothing ultimately could exist.  Fighting too hard for hope where none was…maybe that’s fighting too hard in an effort – consciously or unconsciously – to resist returning to a life without the comfort of an intimate relationship.

I’ve been there.  In all of its behavioral incarnations…there’s one place I’d rather be, but until then, here’s where I hope to reside.  In the embrace of my biological and Logical Family.

Type 2 – The Quitter

This one’s easy enough to figure out, eh?

Best case, they have a great network of both biological and Logical Family (thank you to Anna Madrigal for introducing me to that particular expression for one’s Chosen Family) to provide company and affection for them.

The downfall to this best case scenario is that true intimacy is missing.  That sexual healing that Marvin Gaye so famously put on our map of social awareness.  There are lots of ways to meet one’s sexual needs, of course, but it’s the need for the intimacy that should accompany sex for a complete experience that many in this category of person end up missing.

That said, it’s not unusual for me to encounter people – asocially – that aren’t necessarily looking to meet a sexual need on line or on the apps, they are enthusiastically seeking a Cuddle Bud.  Guess what?  Stop being a slut or a coward and find someone to date and call significant.  The intimacy of that cuddling you want is missing because you aren’t risking exposure to the pain that also can potentially accompany someone to cuddle with.  Cuddle Buds and Fuck Buds are pretty much both half of one of the ingredients found in true happiness.

Taking their best case existence and making a total shit show of it are the people fortunate enough to find that Logical Family and then risk it by muddying the waters with sex.  Popular amongst gay men in particular – especially since in heterosexual friend circles, only 50% of the circle would be a candidate for a sexual partner, right? – where I’ve seen many a friend group taken down by a STD.  Why?  Because men are sluts by nature and have poor judgment.  These friend groups I saw decimated by introducing sex – either openly or covertly – into the group?  They were missing communication and honesty.  Maybe along with a dash of integrity and too much selfishness.

Well, that’s the whole “Don’t sleep with your friends, Dummy” piece of it.

Worst case Quitters?  Kaczynskis and Crazy Cat Ladies.

No, Fabulous Baker Girl #5, not like you…you pretend at your CCL status and have a rich and full life outside of that assumed identity.

These are the asocial types that refuse to participate in the shambles our social culture currently exists in, a big part of The Problem, simply because they refuse to be part of The Solution.

One of the reasons I *enjoy* the occasional social pariah status I endure is that I end up there by calling out behaviors – respectfully, I swear – that I find more harmful than helpful to our society.  People who are part of The Problem tend to not appreciate that.  Go figure.  But, I tend toward standing my ground in the hopes that they come to understand my perspective.

That doesn’t always end up being the case.  I had the pleasure of running into two such people the other day.

Two in one day.

Ugh.

I swear there aren’t that many of them.

The first I encountered somewhere I would rather not meet anyone I know – as I was leaving an adult store and he was entering.  What?  I needed something.  And who buys lube at Fred Meyer?  Of course, this was three blocks from my house and three miles from his, so I suspected – as I held the door for him and said “Hey there” – that he was there for some arcade time.

Ugh squared.

No.

Don’t get me going on that diatribe.

Do.  Not.

Anyway, his response was a throw away “Hey.  Thanks.” right before the temperature dropped 10 degrees, just as our eyes met.

Ok, too soon.  For him.  It has only been a year, after all.  Of course, that could be due to the fact that he won’t accept that I call him an acquaintance and he wants to be friends.  Well, buddy…stop having sex with your friends and I will give that some thought.  A mood stabilizer wouldn’t hurt, either, in my opinion.  In the meantime, your friends are a group of people for which I would rather not be mistaken.

There’s a trap that comes with association within this guy’s sub-group.  It’s that “Let’s see what happens” mentality.  I’m not sure that this mentality exists exclusively here.  It’s basically a front for dating that provides a means to the sexual end one might be searching for in the short term.  Does it start as a hook-up and end with “Let’s see what happens” or start with a hang out and hope what happens is sex followed by “Let’s see what happens”?  Who knows?  What I know is that this is frequently the person you sleep with on the first date.

What I have lived and observed happening with this person is that nothing happens.  The hope of The Lover and The Fighter in me being that it ends up being the person you sleep with on the first date that never leaves…The Lover and The Fighter in me gets fooled by this a lot by this type of person.  So much so that I tend to ruin any potential for acquaintances or even a friend, perhaps, because I shut down the hook-up or hang out by asking questions to clarify the initial true intent.  Do I miss out on potential sex?  Sure.  That doesn’t actually hurt me as much as the potential loss of a friend, but I can’t build a friendship on a foundation of meaningless sex.  For me, when I engage in a hook-up, I am accepting and expecting to never see that person again.  Hence, the adjective “meaningless”.

The second occurrence wasn’t so much a Quitter as much as someone who quit me.  I told him he wasn’t treating me like I expect my friends to treat me.  He tried crossing the friend-to-lover barrier and didn’t know what to do once he initiated his campaign.  His response to my challenge was to excise my presence from his life.  That being the case, I wasn’t surprised to be met with an obstinate “Hi” when we passed on the street while I was en route to meet a friend at Scandals for a drink.  I was surprised to find out that he had just left Scandals when I had encountered him…after finding out I was meeting our mutual friend there.  Here’s what I know:  people who are right tend to not run away.  I think he’s just young and hasn’t figured out that balance between being true to oneself and flexible at the same time.

Shush.  I’m flexible.

Type 3 – The Lothario

By far the easiest group to spot.  If you are active on any asocial media site or app, you have undoubtedly run into these peeps.  By running into them, I mean that you probably knew what their genitals looked like before you knew their name.  If you even ever found out their name.

They usually lead with such dynamic attention-grabbing conversation starters as “Sup.” or “Looking?”

These people.

Quitters of the worst ilk.

Not content to simply be part of The Problem, their toxic actions tend to actively even if inadvertently recruit other Quitters.

With a little effort, they could be empty shell people.  Presently, I think of most of them as little more than sex dolls.  And if I wanted a sex doll, there’s Spartacus Leather a few blocks from me at SW 12th and Burnside…I’m sure they sell them.  And if you’re going to have a sex doll, which is more important:  pulse or accessibility?  I’ve found that a good deal of these sex doll people have jobs or significant others to work around, which can be inconvenient.  That last part is a whole different blog entry.  Oh, or drug problems.  Those gems.  If I never see the word “parTy” again in my life…

But, assuming an absence of any desire to improve themselves…even inasmuch as learning that what you put out on the internet not only lives forever, but also matters.  What is their life like?  A lot of “Let’s see what happens” types fall into a pattern, knowing exactly what will happen after they get the sexual bandage they seek…nothing.  Well, nothing barring a potential for an occasional repeat.

Why?

Because they don’t harbor a secret desire to have an intimate relationship?

Probably not the case.

Because they don’t actually know how to pursue an intimate relationship and behave respectfully toward a second person, making the initial sacrifices of time and openness one must in the beginning?

Maybe.

Because they don’t want to risk rejection?

More than a maybe…either consciously or – more likely – unconsciously, I think this is the risk many in my Quitter and Lothario archetypes are unwilling to accept.

But, of course, this isn’t as black and white as someone simply falling into one of the pigeon holes I have created.  The world doesn’t work like that…existing at my whim.  Nor are people that easy.  The complexity they offer is that they will hop back and forth between those scenarios – and more!

Here’s a little Case Study:

A friend of mine was in a relationship that ended a few years back.  In a rather surprising manner.

Why was he surprised?

Because he is a Lover and a Fighter.

His boyfriend was a Lothario.

The Lover and the Fighter accommodates.  The Lothario provides challenges.  Totally oversimplifying, as both brought advantages and challenges to the relationship, for sure.  However, our Lothario stepped out frequently during the relationship and the Lover and Fighter…well, he fought for the relationship and ignored the subtle signs and forgave the obvious infractions.

Ending up dumped all the same.

Surprise.

In the years that have passed since then, I’ve maintained a friendship with one and an acquaintanceship with the other.

I’ve seen The Lover and The Fighter do what he does for men that weren’t worthy of his efforts, salvaging a friendship out of one of those ill fitting relationships along the way, to his credit.

The Lothario has spent his time finding himself to some degree.  I see his struggle mostly from a distance, but during our infrequent conversation, I can see the growth.  He’s made mistakes, both in ending the relationship or its manner of execution, and in dating experience since then.

It’s a bit of an honor to be able to observe.

Even if sometimes I pay the price when it comes to those observations.  I suspect that recently he has found a new potential beau.  A couple of weekends past, he asked if I was up for grabbing a beer.  Of course, I was.  Nothing ever happened, but he did reach out at the end of said weekend asking about meeting up over the coming week.  Nothing ever happened again.

Two plus two to me means he met someone else.  I could be wrong, but that would be more surprising than him actually blowing me off to spend time with a potential new lover.

The variable here?  That sexual compulsion that led him astray during his relationship…who knows whether he met someone that he wants to “see what happens” with or if he simply met someone that he knows “what will happen” and he wants to make *it* happen as often as possible before the situation implodes, to the detriment of his other relationships.

…well, his other relationships are likely – as in my case – stable and insulated enough for understanding once whatever will happen…happens.

Time will tell.

The State of Our Hearts