Hey Look, I Got A Liebster Award!

liebster-award-title-photo1

So, this happened.

I was busy being slowly crushed by the daily onslaught of bullcrap at work over the last few weeks and not even Living Gay Brisbane could snap me out of my funk with his nomination for the Liebster Award.

I really appreciate the timing and am sorry that it took me so long to get around to doing my part and publishing my post and passing on the torch.  His is one of my favorite blogs and he has recently taken it off WordPress to his own platform called Millennial Gay, check it out.

Ok, here are the questions that were put to me:

1) Why did you start your blog? and where do you see it in the future?

I started this blog because of a Facebook dare, basically.  A couple of my friends suggested that I should write a book.  Flattering, and I’m not going to lie…I’m fairly susceptible to that.  If I want to be.

Anyway, a book seemed like a tall order, one that was fairly far off.  I started this blog to help me find my writer’s voice.  Three years have passed, and I think I’ve settled into a comfortable style, but I’m still not sure my stream of consciousness tendencies lend themselves to a novel.

As I begin year four, I think I’m looking forward to at least two more years here.  My goals for this year are to reformat my blog and to actually participate in NaNoWriMo in November and then next year, perhaps look into ways to introduce ads to my blog.

2) What advice would you give to your younger self?

Be more patient and don’t sell yourself short.  

I was impatient to get my adult life launched as a means of escape from school life traumas.  When I was offered advancement in my retail job, I took that instead of pursuing my original interest in a law career.

3) Who in your circle did you first show your blog to?

I tethered my blog to my Facebook page, so when I publish something, everyone can see it.  It was Facebook’s fault this happened, anyway, so they had it coming.

The first person I presented it to was The Silver Fox.  He’s a Facebook Curmudgeon and refuses to participate, so I had to go out of my way to show my best friend what I was up to.

4) Love, Sex or Money? Which one would you choose?

Love.

The question didn’t ask for an elaboration, but that’s not my style.

I’ve had money, sex and love all at some point in my life.  Sometimes, I even thought I had it all.  

Well, here I am.  And I’d be crazy to answer love and not acknowledge how damned lucky I am to have the people in my life that call me friend.  They are my chosen family and – just like my biological family – I love them dearly.

That said, I still wonder if there’s an enduring mate for me out there somewhere.  I have money and sex both when I need them.  Love is a little trickier.  I have the love required to maintain my happiness and well-being, generously supplied by my friends and family.

For me, that enduring love that has eluded me thus far in life would enhance that baseline happiness and tie it all together into one tidy partner.  Er, package.

But, what the hell do I know?

5) What is your idea of the Perfect first date?

I like event/activity dates for a first date.  It takes the focus off of small talk and allows me to get to know someone while also figuring out how we play together.

Gimme a hike on a lovely day.  Blowing a few bucks on video games at Ground Kontrol.  Or bowling!  That’s fun stuff and we can take those activities at our own pace as we talk and learn about one another.

Then again, my old friend DP asserted once that long-term relationships are just one night stands that never ended, so I guess I should be open to a perfect first date ending with a bang, too.  

6) What are your non-negotiables when it comes to a relationship?

I have to be with someone I can talk to.  If we can’t talk, and I mean really talk, then our first fight will probably end us.

On top of that, there has to be respect.  If we truly respect one another, then that first fight and any subsequent fights are nonexistent because they are just conversations.

And then my last non-negotiable would be that we have to be able to play together.  Sure, including sex.  But moreso even just having shared interests outside the bedroom.  Relationships take a little work to maintain – I guess, I’m the single guy, remember? – and if you’re gonna put in the work, the reward should be playing together.

7) First time you realised you were in love?

It was just hormones.

I thought I was going to let that stand alone,  but I keep coming back to it.  Man, when I was a young buck, my friends teased me that I fell in love every time I turned my head.  

It was kinda true then and it’s kinda still true today.  I think many men are beautiful.  I’m attracted to a wide range of types…was it love?  No, that is and was really just hormones.

But the rush is still a thrill to experience, even if it only lasts for as long as it takes to order coffee.

8) Celebrity Crush?

Tom Holland.  Fer realz.

Ok, maybe not…that’s more of an old man’s fantasy.  I’m just attracted to his youthful spirit and physique.  But this old man would not mind slinging a web or two with him.  Maybe if he was ten years older, I could call it a legit crush.

But a celebrity that I do have more of a cerebral crush versus a physical attraction to is RDJ.

I think he’d be a good fit for me personality-wise.  Assuming what you see on interviews is genuine and not just branding.

Obviously, I need to stop watching Avengers movies late at night.

Ok, so now it’s my turn to nominate my own Liebster Award winners.  Since this is a tough choice for me, I’ll stall by saying that if they choose to participate, I want them to answer the same questions I did.  

The reason it’s tough is because 

A) Living Gay Brisbane is one of my faves and he nominated me, so that’s kind of off the table.  He’s one of the bloggers I interact with most on WordPress, too, which is partly why I enjoy his blog so much.

B) I think that some of the bloggers I follow might not be into it, and that’s part of why I love their blogs.  They have more serious content, but at the same time, we trade comments that are both light and fun as well as constructive and supportive.

Ok…enough stalling.

MeRaw, you’re up!  I love your daily entries.  It’s heavy themed stuff, but the love that your daily posts demonstrates is a beacon to me.

Topher Gen…you, too!  There are four or five young, gay bloggers that I follow and your posts are really great work.  I appreciate them but I don’t know too much about you, so…will you have some fun with me here?

Thanks for reading this far, if you stuck with me all the way through, no gold star for you!  But I hope you’ll take a look at the blogs that I nominated as well as Millennial Gay to get a better insight into who I spend my free time reading!

Love and Pizza!

RULES:

Display your nomination on your blog and thank the person who nominated you.
Nominate other bloggers for this award and let them know about it.
Form questions for them.

Hey Look, I Got A Liebster Award!

Gay Rights…

or rather rites…of passage, that is.

I was doing laundry last night and wondering how to kill time while simultaneously reflecting back on my evening out with Little Buddy.

She had taken me out to a show for some quality us time, which was awesome fun – as usual – but also something I enjoyed being able to enjoy with her.  Planning a party is always kinda stressful, so I know I wouldn’t have been able to really enjoy myself in her shoes at the surprise party she threw me.

I know, I’m projecting!

Anyway, this was just time for us to witness and enjoy!  

Witness…Tony Starlight!

Enjoy…his tribute show honoring Sir Elton John.

It was amazing…just the right type of retro-drag-schmaltz.  I’m sure I will get to more depth than that at some point, but something else caught my attention while I lay on the couch, listening to the washer spin.

He took a break during his show to acknowledge special events people were out celebrating.  Naturally, Little Buddy was ready.  I thought about sinking under the table, but knowing my gut reaction to spotlights and microphones, LB had provided a picture to make me easier to track down.

It was fine.  He took it easy on me.  Plus, Little Buddy had thoughtfully avoided any pictures with the diabolical “50” in them.

I’m kinda still busy selling myself on those digits.

However – and this is what I was thinking about last night – he did bust the chops of a couple of younger folk.

There was another guy celebrating his birthday, he was marking his 28th.  Tony suggested he could maybe help him out by being a Big Brother for his drummer.  His drummer, of course having caught my eye several times over the course of the night.

It’s not that I minded this drummer boy, if you will, staring at me.  Darkened dinner theater corner is some of my best lighting.  Plus, one has to admire the craft of an overt flirt like this.  He was using his de facto bandleader as an excuse to gawk openly at me, since I was right over his shoulder.  Whenever he would look at his band mate for cues, there it was.  I could feel him staring at me from behind his sunglasses.

Yeah…you keep telling yourself that, Xtopher.

Anyway, he was looking pretty cool in a patterned shirt under a white fur vest paired with white polka dot pants.  It was a fun outfit.

I appreciated it even more when Tony gave him a little hell when introducing the band.  I swear he said his drummer’s name was “Michael Homo”, but who knows for sure?  Anyway, there he was being outed as a 25 year old college student while Tony quipped he got college credit for playing music for old people.  I think that was supposed to be a cheeky bit of self deprication because this is also Tony’s 25th anniversary year, but I think most of the room felt that burn.

I just sat there and laughed.

But I was realizing how desperately young gays, like this Mike Homo fella, need a good intro into camp during their formative years.  This drummer boy has the schmaltz with a gay tilt that is Tony Starlight.  Lucky for him.  And, further, it needs to be personal and intimate, this camp schooling.  The modern crop of gays seem to get their camp exposure from RuPaul’s Drag Race.  Fine, I guess if you enjoy that kind of thing.  But all it seems to be creating is a bunch of gay parrots that speak in bitchy one-liners and memes.

I’d like a side of personality with mein camp, please.

I’m not saying that a sense of camp humor is the first thing a gay needs to learn, but it should be a part of the whole.  I think it’s a part of being fully sub-culturally aware, regardless of whether it’s an active part of your personality.

It’s part of our collective history, and I think young gays today don’t understand that history.  I love pride month as much as the next gay – total lie, I eschew pride most of the time, but at least I know what it’s about.

Hint: the party is not what it’s all about.

What frustrates me about pride month isn’t so much that I seem to have permanently misplaced my pride body, but rather that our month has been reduced to as many weekends of parades, costumes, excessive drinking and indiscriminate sex as one can cram into a month.  

Today is February 3rd and in the first 72 hours of Black History Month, I have yet to see a randomly occurring parade, party or orgy.  I think the gays are missing an opportunity.  Sadly, I think this thing that should bring us together and strengthen us as a community is on a trajectory to become a divisive agent within our ranks.

I wonder if middle aged blacks are worried that black youth don’t know what this bridge represents

or could even name it in the same manner that I worry that young gays can’t identify this building

or this man

and engage in a conversation about the cultural relevance of either.

Whoa.  How did I end up here?

Suffice it to say, I had a point…originally.

Maybe I can salvage my train of thought.  It was a rough day at work…

Gays today are being cultured by their own generation.  I’ve had conversations with younger men that left me not only certain that they had very little – if any – idea of the struggle to earn the freedoms they enjoy.  

That’s kind of on us as a culture.  

Sure, it wouldn’t hurt to teach some gay history in schools…but how likely is that to happen?

And the hard part here is that a good chunk of a couple of generations was wiped out by AIDS, so there’s not a lot of us old geezers around to do the good work.  Not to mention the priority we put on sexualizing our youth obsessed subculture versus taking the time to raise them before we rear them.

But on the other hand, that phenomenon goes both ways.  There’s a fair number of Daddy Hunters out there sexualizing their elders.  If that’s not a misconstrued cry for help…

Anyway, back to the gay rites of passage.

If I was allowed just one, it wouldn’t be coming out to oneself, or ones family.  Nor would it be the first time in a gay bar or pride parade or sexual encounter.

No.

I think my prescribed rite of passage would be to read Tales of the City.  At least the first six books.

Actually, I think that would be a good thing for any person wanting a glimpse into the breadth of our culture and how our struggle impacted individuals.  Sure, there’s a couple odd story lines in there.  Otherwise, it has a lot of important exposure for people: gays, lesbians, trans, young, old…not to mention rich, poor, middle class, happy and not so happy childhoods and how they prepare individuals to become a part of the culture they identify with or the adult chosen families that they find themselves a part of.

What say you, mein reader…what would you prescribe as a rite of passage into this gay culture we are inhabiting?

Gay Rights…

Birthday: Love

Impressing myself with my own delusional contortions while writing about all the food I consumed over my birthday weekend yesterday, I mused that I wasn’t full from overeating.  No, rather, perhaps my heart was over full from all of the birthday love I had gotten.

Let me set aside the amount of food I consumed – it was all of the food – and tell you how that little bit of pithiness has managed to kick around my noggin for the last day.

Can one be so full of love that they feel physically satiated?

Well, there’s a thought dripping with derp.

The sincerity that I experienced over the last weekend has probably (definitely) always been there with my friends, I’m sure this birthday of mine was just such a focusing agent that the emotions are lingering.  Definitely more present, even 10 days later.

But it’s been coloring my life view lately, too.

Moms with their kids.

Hell, families.

Young couples.

Dogs.

Old couples absolutely take the cake, though.

Mmmm.  Cake.

Seeing old couples tottering through the airport together makes me smile.  Always.  Moreso this last week, though.

Feeling it, I am.

Strangely, I can’t even imagine or conceptualize the type of committment and discipline that’s required to nurture a decades long relationship.

Check that.  I can conceptualize it, actually, it’s the life long partner that’s difficult to imagine.

You have to forgive me, though.  For 10 of my 30 years of adult dating life, I’ve been not dating.  That’s a measly one-third success ratio.  That may suffice for a pro baseball player (I dunno, does it?!?) but in relationship terms, that seems to lack any certain luster.

Especially when spread over two relationships versus one.

Fail.

Yet

I did end my last relationship with the forethought that I may have been ending what was – and has certainly proven to be this far – my last chance at a relationship.  That wasn’t reason enough to try and hold on to something that wasn’t mine, though.

And I think we’re both better for it.  The last thing – in retrospect – that I wanted to do was hang on until Rib woke up one day and asked himself how the hell he ended up with an old boyfriend.

Oldie Hawn, he would call me…and I kid you not when I say I loved it.

But me dying alone or not, at Myrtle’s whim or not, is not the issue that’s been on my mind.

Right, Myrtle?

For once.

Rather, it’s been…surreally, can one be so fulfilled with the experience of loving another that it sustains them through their lifetime?

Whoa.

Now, there’s a derp-full thought.

Tangentially, can one be sustained by less intimate love?  Without asking the question directly, I assume that’s what the cool septua and octa genarians are rocking these days…although Grace & Frankie would have me doubting that assumption.

Personally speaking?  I’d say maybe.  I knew Rib might be my last shot and I did what I thought right for us both.  Since then, I think I’ve followed my Orangatan spirit animal – which is often misconstrued as grumpiness – and just not tolerated foolishness in dating.

I’m starting a movement, too…there’s a legacy.

Sure, I’ve been hoodwinked a couple times. Mostly cuz I’m dumb.  And slightly weak.  I blame my penis.

But I still have a ripcord that I pull when shit gets too bovine.

But I find comfort in the comfortable warmth and familiarity of my Chosen Family…when sincerity sustains more than postcoital pizza or Ben & Jerry’s, I think you’ve stumbled onto something.

It’s made me take a longer, more thoughtful look at young widows and widowers who never remarried.  What is it they know that the rest of us haven’t had the misfortune to figure out yet?

It’s definitely food for thought.

By the way, after all the food I ate last weekend?  Look at what “holiday” my traitorously supportive calendar told me fell on my birthday.

Birthday: Love

Birthday: Food

My birthday was a week ago.

There may be (there is) a cake and fork situation in my refrigerator.  Only just barely, now, though…

But that cake is just the icing on a fantastic birthday celebration.

This is my big landmark birthday and it fell on a weekend.  The perfect recipe for breaking those diet resolutions I never bothered to make.

So.

Much.

Food.

Plus a secret gold star that I survived…but might be too big a shock for people who know me to survive.

The food started on Saturday with a solid four dozen peanut butter cookies that a couple of my co-workers made.  They were taking up too much desk space so I pared them down by a good half dozen in the first half hour.  

A full third were gone by day’s end.

At which point, I had to run out to get ready for my surprise party.

God bless The Silver Fox, but when Little Buddy called dibs for Saturday night, I knew something was brewing.  For his part, he kept the bond of trust, never admitting there was a jig, up with which to be.

And I threw out some doozy theories in the week leading up to the big day.  Seriously, I had the whole thing being filmed by any surviving Zapruder.

Little Buddy had told me she was inviting The Fox, who then made his apologies in advance for missing the get together because he had tickets to a play with Sallory.

“Like you won’t be changing those plans!”, I taunted.

I went on through the week with scenarios like, “The big surprise will be when I show up and announce that I’m only 40”.  

The Fox invited me to join he and Sallory at the hotel bar next door – he and I are…regulars – and kept changing the time.  I teased him with accusatory questions like, “How long does Little Buddy need to sneak in and decorate my place?!?”

It’s not that big and there’s nowhere really to hide.  But if that was the plan…I’m fortunate to have folks who would be bothered to go out of their way  for me.

He insisted that wasn’t the case, but when he had casually suggested the day before that we stop and get his Key Buddy key made for my new place…well, c’mon.  You don’t have to be an Olympic caliber conclusion jumper to arrive at the too easily drawn…conclusion.

All my scenarios be damned, though.

I show up at Tanner Creek Tavern and it’s just The Fox and Sallory.

We have a beer, they ordered food because somehow they hadn’t changed their tickets. There is only one opening night!  Even at The Armory.

I’ve been wrong a lot in my life, so I rallied pretty easily.  Plus, Sallory had brought me a present!

Presents: that which I secretly love but publicly play it cool.

This was still a nice upgrade from last year, though, when The Fox had bothered to be out of the country for my birthday.  I just love busting his chops.  He could light me on fire and he’d still be the best friend I’ve ever known.

This year, Rib and his new boyfriend had taken a page out of The Fox’s birthday playbook and gone to watch the Australian Open live, which inconveniently occurs around my birthday.

So, there we are, us three.  Beer and wine raised to toast the eve.  I’m happy to have them for even a little while.

And while I’m enjoying a simple moment with dear friends, I find myself following four eyes across the bar, focused on black balloons parading from the door and headed in our general direction,

Ok, that one I did not see coming.

Little Buddy.

2.0.

Breitbarb.

The good and getting better friend…he really will need a blog name at some point.

All parading toward our table.

Well, that can’t be a coincidence.

Wires having been crossed, I was expelled from the bar and left to cool my heels in the hotel lobby so our table could be staged with all the required fiftieth birthday party accoutrements.

You know, I’m lucky to have people I love in my life who also tolerate me.  Less surprising to me, but perhaps me alone, is that there’s a bar in my life that doesn’t mind setting aside a table for my friends to mark my pickled ass’ birthday.

On a damned Saturday.

In downtown Portland.

On the Onesie Pub Crawl weekend.

Whatever.  I was here first.

When I returned from my lobby exile, the Filipina Fox and her husband had joined the birthday melee.  So had a new instant friend that I’d met at LB’s and 2.0’s wedding last summer (more on that in a later blog, promise) and her younger, better looking and more Asian blooded version of my doppelgänger boyfriend.  Little Buddy had rallied quite a bar busting group for this lil surprise shindig.  

I was pleased.

So, Little Buddy had made this cake.

It was glorious, but also a shituation, as I learned.

She had been aiming to do a cake-homage to both my Star Trek fandom and my Red Shirt Diaries blog theme.  The red fondant hadn’t cooperated and she’d scratched it and taken it back to the drawing board for a slam dunk of subtlety that bumped the overt Enterprise shaped 30th birthday cake to second place in the Best Ever Cake category,

Sorry, not sorry, Sacha.

It was a Tribble Cake.

I mean, I ate a bunch of those tribbles and a healthy slice of cake.

And a second beer, duh.

Happy as I was, I learned that this party was portable.  There was a table waiting for us at Nostrana.

It’s a tres she-she Italian restaurant that I’d never been to.  I’ve eaten several times at the Pearl District sibling restaurant, but that’s just a front for $50 pizza.  Nostrana is a mother lode restaurant.

We ate the pants off that place.

Remember, I was full from beer and cake.  

Let that stop me, I did not.

2.0 started us off with a charcuterie plate that featured typical sliced cheeses and cured meats as well as a few terrine options and fucking lengua.

Yeah, that’s beef tongue.

It.

Is.

So.

Good.

Little Buddy corralled the Som for some wine.

We were also downing bread like Dr Atkins was heading our way in slo-mo with a scale.

Then.

Then…the pasta main course.

The plan had been to take my Michael Douglas ass out to a bar after dinner but the trifecta of the Onesie Bar Crawl, 2.0 comfort considerations (in a gay bar) and my grumpy old man refusal to pay cover to be ignored in a bar landed us back at my place drinking The Fox’s wine.

It was perfect.

But the weekend wasn’t yet done with my belly.

Sunday morning was brunch with The Fox. No doubt penance for not canceling his opening night plans the night before.

No.

Check that…obviously he shouldn’t have made those plans in the first place.

Obviously!

I mean… he knows how extra I pretend to not be.  It’s like we had never even met.

But a one on one brunch with my NSLP – Non Sexual Life Partner – was beautiful.  What a delightful way to usher in day one of my 50th.

It’s surreal to type that.

Post brunch plans included a pre-family dinner nap…and I kind of needed it.  One big meal left in my weekend and I was already ready for my food coma.

We were eight for dinner.  I definitely didn’t get too hungry for dinner with eight.  But I nearly ate my weight with those eight.  If only our table had been at 8:00, that could have been a seizure inducing alliteration.

Alas, my family all traveled the 20-30 miles into town to join me at the newest Pok Pok. This is a Portland “It” restaurant from years past.  I’d never been, so they had opened a new place “ten” blocks from my place to tempt me.  I’ve been meaning to get there for months since they opened.

This was the perfect excuse.

I think we split nine entrees between the eight of us.  They recommend an entree for two people to share, so we were a little over that ratio given our census.  But best safe versus sorry, right?  Plus, I think I forgot a few in my tally.

Here’s my gold star moment:

My whole life, I’ve been a picky eater.  My list of “No’s” for food looks – and probably is – longer than any single person’s list of disqualifies for potential mates.

And yet, I don’t starve.

Because in my years I have learned to think of others, I made sure that our order included the mushroom salad for my mother, who may have single-handedly in life made mushroom farming a viable vocation.  

Seriously.  She loses it for mushrooms.

One of my favorite mom/son bonding stories is of our family table growing up.  At our pre-Chuck family dinner table on La Cour, I had a side of our six top table to myself.  My sporty siblings sat across from me and I sat next to my mother on my side of the table, obvious gay son dinner table placement, right?

Me being the petsnickety culinarian and my mother making her food budget pennies scream to feed her Galby Five, there were a lot of what I would call lesser filler ingredients.

Onions.

The Peppers Bell.

Mushrooms.

My awesome mom would sit next to me and eat these Xtopher-only deemed lesser ingredients off my plate.  Right out of their individual and separate piles I’d created for each at the perimeter of my plate.

Talk about a Niles Crane worthy OCD moment.

Talk about symbiosis!

Obviously, I stipulated that this Xtopher anathema of a mushroom salad be placed at the end of the table nearest Mom-Donna, furthest from me.  You know that bitch mushroom salad ended up getting passed to everyone and ended up at my corner.

It was my personal hell.

Me, being both a newly minted legitimately grumpy old man and a dick, I quietly engaged in the dinner table conversation with my family while quietly – and for attention only – eating off the mushroom salad plate.

No,

One.

Noticed.

Goddamnit.

I even casually and without irony said things like, “I think there are mushrooms in this” and yet…nothing.

I’d only had a glass of wine and a complimentary glass of champers at Thelonious Wines before dinner and a cocktail with, so I wasn’t even buzzed when I made the decision to choke down some mushroom salad, defiantly.

And no one noticed.

So I went home and ate some of Little Buddy’s bday cake…planting a fork in it for future and what turned out to be frequent use!

I’m still full a week later.

And that’s my birthday.

Of course, with so many people I hold dear in my life turning out to celebrate, my grinchy old heart might just be so full that it’s pushing down on my stomach, making me feel that I’ve over eaten.  

Toss up, eh?

For your amusement, the song Pandora barfed out as I’m wrapping this up was Knocking On Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan…you can’t make this shit up.  It’s my life!

Birthday: Food

I’m (Not) A Survivor

It’s Sacha Story Time!

We were together for six years, which is a long time for a broken relationship.  While I’d say neither of our needs were optimally met, we both drew something or some things out of the relationship along the way.  

I’m not going to speculate as to what his takeaways were, but as my birthday draws nearer, I’m drawn back to this draft I originally thought of about last Spring when reading about the TV show Survivor.

You see, Sacha was a creative type and a person that approached his faith in humanity from a busted up, scientific method standpoint.

Pro: He generally gave great, all-in gifts to his loved ones.

Con: He required significant proof that you loved him.

That last one is pretty easy to dispatch with.  

Also, tricky.

Suffice it to say, tokens went a long way with him.  He called them symbols.  Not at all problematic.

Except…100 people surveyed, top 1 answer on the board.  “Name something that symbolizes a commitment in a relationship”.

“Uh, ring?”

<BING!>

So, you just know that came up way too early in the relationship.  And me being a long-game, “what’s next?” type of guy looked at this simple fix as an opportunity to ask what the next fix would be.

Yeah, no ring.

But we did end up with new cars about every other year – that’s every year for him and every other year I got a new car for a week or two until he decided he liked mine better and I got his hand-me-down.

Oh, and three dogs.

So, I was proving as hard as I could, without capitulating, of course.

That’s the con.

The pro?  

Man, there’s a lot of great stuff to talk about.  He was creative, so when he put his mind to it, he nailed gift giving.  Besides being elaborate, they were usually fairly unique and personal.

Take my 30th birthday.  He reserved the back room at this place called The Alibi. 

It was a disintegrating tiki bar in NoPo that we’d go to occasionally with friends.  I called it “the gayest straight bar in Portland”.

This was before the hipsters resurrected it a decade ago when Interstate Ave got its urban renewal shot in the arm.

So, we were just going there to hang out a bit with Black Sheep Bro and his current girlfriend, Jackie Jack Ass.

Everyone I knew was there.

And, Sacha – not a baker, by any means – had made a gigantic cake in the shape of the starship Enterprise-A.  It was, if memory serves, two half-sheet cakes and two tiers of a round cake.  It was pretty fucking amazing, indeed a unique and memorable way to usher in my 30s.

There were the trip-gifts he gave us.  Sure, I usually ended up funding them.  He always earmarked his annual freelance project money for these trip-gifts, but it never fully funded them.  But, it was ok.  We were making memories.  Again, he usually tried to keep them a surprise, requesting time off with my boss behind my back.

It was special.

I’ve been to Italy, France and Holland thanks to these little experience gifts he gave us.

Oh, and climbed a – y’know – volcano.

But even gifts that weren’t extravagant still demonstrated a lot of imagination and thought, making them uniquely personal experiences.

That’s where Survivor comes in.

For one of my birthdays, Sacha came up with this Great Race themed scavenger hunt or Survivor immunity challenge thingy.  He gave me a clue to start me off and then planted subsequent clues and gifts throughout the house.  Behind the TV, in the dryer, in our gazebo-thing…all over the place.  Once again, Black Sheep Bro and Jackie Jack Ass were on hand, following my progress.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t all on board. He kept kinda having to prompt me along.  Maybe it was because this was where I officially began getting old and grumpy.  Maybe the clues were actually more obscure than I could bet my head around in the moment.  Maybe it’s because I was inwardly terrified that he’d somehow actually submitted me to be a contestant on Survivor or Great Race.  

Maybe I just don’t like being propelled into the center of attention.  I can get there quite nicely, thank you.

On the one hand, even though I may not have demonstrated much enthusiasm in the moment, this example of Sacha gift giving also helped get me to the point I’m at today, where experiences are better than actual gifts.

On the other hand, I still carry the relationship wariness from that moment with me.  That I might get caught up as the Ethel to my boyfriend’s Lucy in some crazy harebrained scheme like submitting me as a contestant in a reality show against my will where I have to pretend to be excited about something I’m not. 

at. 

all. 

excited. 

about.

Let’s call that Why I’m Single #50 – turns out, I’m actually a reluctant participant.

But, I’m going with the pro: experience gifts > things.

So, there.

My birthday is in two weeks.

I’m not registered…go figure.

Your gift to me?  I’m turning 40.

Go with it.

I’m (Not) A Survivor

I’m No Bob Hope, Obviously.

Something really touching happened at work the other day.  And it just kept getting better and better as I observed.

Which is nice, on a shit day at work.  This was Monday number 4 in my work week, in case you were curious.

I was in our D concourse store, ringing.

See? That’s pretty shitty right there, since my job description isn’t heavy on the cashiering responsibilities.

I’d received an urgent text from Giggles about an emergency potty break, groaned and headed out to the D store – go ahead and make that dirty, you reprobates- which is conveniently located as far away from my then current position as possible.  Actually, it might be a toss up for fartherst, but it was still damned not where I wanted to be when Giggles’ Aunt Flo hit town – sometimes I know too much about my co-workers.  I was grumbling to myself along the near quarter mile trip to the store when I realized it was actually minutes past the end of her shift and checked my grumble because she had officially entered the realm of “beyond” in what she does for us.  Hard to be mad at that.  Plus, apparently her body was well enough trained to not drop an egg until the end of her shift.  That’s pretty impressive.

Or at least an impressive coincidence.

So, I get into the store, chuck a thumb over my shoulder to let her know to GTFO and handle her business.

Of course, in typical smart assed Galby-style as I’m moving the customer in her line to my register, I crack wise to her current customer who returns my sass with a bit of his own…even addressing me by name as he does so.  This all has the effect of both confusing and intriguing Giggles, distracting her from the natural phenomenon trying to occur within her enough for her to ask whether we know each other.

We both continue to chuckle it off as I say something along the lines of, “We go back minutes, literally.  Get out of here!” and start helping my line of customers.

None of that was my feel good moment.

I’m often wont to notice men in team sweats and military uniforms moving about the airport.  It’s my own little pervy-ESP.  I was vaguely aware of a guy in the store wearing his desert camo fatigues as I was helping a customer…

Here’s my aaaaw moment.

He’s over by the wall of magazines and a little old lady walks into the store and – slowly – bee lines it for him.  Walking up, gently extending her hand and saying something I couldn’t quite hear.  He takes her hand in his, replies and she quietly turns to leave.

I’m aware of this out of the corner of my eye and also realizing what a lil cutie this GI is at the same time.  Giggles distracts me by walking in and demanding an explanation as to the customer I was cracking wise with earlier.

Girl, go!  It’s your Friday!

But she persists and counters her presence with the fact that she had an emergency but didn’t want to bail without completing her end of shift responsibilities.  Another aaaw moment, albeit it a boss versus human aaaaw moment.  Especially since she was being considerate of an associate who was now 15 minutes late to relieve her.

I had basically walked into the store to kick her out as she was soliciting a customer donation to our airport’s USO lounge.  It’s my driving focus at work, so it was enjoyable as a leader to walk in and catch one of my team in the act of doing something right.

Especially right before one of our servicemen happened into the store.

“Was he a friend of yours?!?”, Giggles is probing.  “You seemed to know each other!  Was he from corporate?”

“I’m sure I don’t know”, I reply wondering if this was actually someone I did know and had forgotten about versus just someone who read my name badge, “But if he was, aren’t you glad you asked him to support our Troops lounge?”, I taunted.

Speaking of troops, our handsome GI was now in my line, ready to check out.

Three back.

I’m not the best at soliciting Troops donations, I probably ring an hour or less per week.  Still, I’ve got about $550 in snack and travel items donations for the year.  I think that’s pretty good for about 50 hours of jockeying a register.

I give some pretty good side eye to Sales associates who work 40 hours a week and haven’t managed to surpass my results…thinking that I’m on a team at work and in their world, they are the team.

Boo.

But I’m conflicted asking the two customers in front of our cute GI, “Woild you like to send a snack or a travel kit to our USO lounge?” while making furtive glances at a sorta grinning GI in my line.

Aaaaw.

I’m sure a negative response is uncomfortable in this scenario and that’s not my goal…but let’s call it a fringe-y type benefit.

When our cute GI reaches me, he drops a razor, shaving cream and toothpaste on the counter.

“Have you been to the USO lounge here? They probably have this stuff.” 

“I actually haven’t, but there’s no time”, he tells me, “my family is picking me up!”

He tells me about a journey of delayed and rerouted flights, but finally making it home to Portland.

I wish him a happy holiday and he’s gone.

The Mulligan is kicking around my brain as I watch him leave and keep running that register until my Tardy Boy employee finally arrives.

This coincides nicely with Giggles’ departure, and while we leave a few minutes apart, I catch her with my long-legged gait handily.

So, here’s Giggles and I, walking through PDX.  She’s trying to determine the veracity of my ignorance claim regarding her last customer.  I’m just chatting.  She’s fun to shoot the breeze with.

Suddenly, I realize that we’re standing outside one of the bathrooms and I find myself looking for a way to let her out of the conversation thinking there’s some ovary pong issues still to be resolved.  Then I realize that we’re outside a men’s room.  I get all neurotic thinking that this is an area rife with distraction for me but also cognizant of how tacky it is to hang out outside a men’s restroom.

It’s an airport, not a rest area.

I suggest we move.

We head toward the exit, still chattering away.

We get through the exit lanes – which are new to a PDX and apparently the most up to date and secure in the country…they just remind me of the final scenes of Love, Actually – and there’s a group of people waiting to meet their loved ones as they arrive.  One group in particular is holding a homemade sign saying “Welcome Home!” With a picture of our cute GI on one side and a second picture of him as a boy on the other.

Little sister is standing in front of the sign, Dad is flanking and Mom is holding the sign.  They are excitedly speculating what could be the hold up.  

Anticipation.

Anxiety.

Nerves…

I casually pull up alongside Mom and whisper to her that her son will be along shortly, he’s shaving and brushing his teeth before coming out to meet them.  She beams back at me briefly with a mixture of relief and what I assume is pride and love that only a mother fully understands.

I move on with Giggles, wishing I could stop and lurk to see the homecoming scene but completely in love with this family’s Christmas Present.

I hit my pre-security store and as I’m heading down to my office on the baggage claim level, I see our GI and his family boarding the escalator.  Our GI lifts his shirt casually to huck up his fatigues, exposing a rather fit soldier physique and I can’t help but think what a nice package this guy is.  Wherever he lands, his chosen family will be getting a guy with roots, a sense of duty and a darned nice looking patooty, to…boot.

Regardless of any fleeting lurid thoughts, I was happy to know that someone so naturally good was out there representing our country and I mentally thanked him for his service.

I’m No Bob Hope, Obviously.

Commitment

Last month, at my company’s annual leadership seminar, I got to see Eric Boles talk.  

My peers in the audience were impressed to see this former Jets football player speaking.  I was thinking, “This guy lives outside of fucking Seattle.”  I don’t think it’s funny to drag me all the way to Atlanta just to see someone from the PNW speak.

But that’s just my EOG default.

Anyway, he talked about change:  what prevents it, why we fear it, how we convince ourselves that we’re fine just how we are.  That reminded me of a saying from my early retail days working at South Coast Plaza in SoCal.  Whenever they would do work in a store, instead of just slapping up a MallWall to hide the vacant storefront, they would print a thematic and inspirational saying about change on it.

“There’s no such thing as staying the same.  You are either constantly improving or allowing yourself to get worse.”

That phrase has stuck with me over the <gulp> decades since, during which sometimes I experienced improvement and others I “stayed the same”…

He told the story of his relationship.  How he’s been married 23 years and his wife will tell you it’s been 3-4 of the best years of her life.

Yuck-yuck-yuck.

You could hear the love and admiration in his voice when he talked about his wife and their daughters.  I was touched because that’s not something you hear much these days.  That raw reverence for one’s partner in life.

Too often these days, it’s less “all for one and one for all” and more “everyman for himself”.

How do you sustain a relationship over time – a lifelong commitment – with that insular mindset?

This was a leadership conference for a billion dollar retailer, so a guy telling stories about his wife might not have been the obvious choice.  But the thing is, I got it right away.  Maybe many of us did, perhaps not.  But for me it was an easy corollary because it’s one I’ve used quite often in my career.

Spoiler Alert:  I stole it.

A while back, I was interviewing with Sur la Table for a Store Manager job in Shittatle and the VP of HR was one of the three people I met with that day.  She talked about interviews like a first date.  If the first one goes well, maybe we’ll go for a second one and see how that goes.  If it goes well, maybe we’ll go steady.

“Is that really the type of analogy someone in HR should use in an interview?” 

I still got the job.

I better have, since it went from there and careened onto sushi body shots.  What the hell was I getting myself into?

Sidebar: 

When I arrived at the HQ for my interview, I rode the elevator up with a woman who walked in just as I was hitting my floor.  I asked what floor she needed and she said she was going to the same floor.

“Are you interviewing for the Store Manager job, too?”, I asked, making small talk.

“No, I work here, but I have an interview in a little while, too”, she said smirking.

“Well, I hope it goes well!”, I said as we both exited.

She said something about how everyone was excited about the new store I was interviewing for and wished me luck.

I thought that was nice and was super excited to talk to my hopefully new VP group, the final round of which was with my smirky elevator companion.  That was a fun moment.  Plus, as snarky as I am, I deserve shit like that happening to me.

Anyway, since that interview I’ve considered my job and co-workers a little differently.  Evaluated them as the relationships they are, particularly considering the amount of time the situation of work mandates that we spend with our co-workers.

Is my relationship with your job or co-workers a good one or a bad one?  Do I want to commit to this for the long run?

It was an eye opening change of perspective at the time and I was glad to see this topic pursued by a public speaker some ten years later.

We’ve all heard our employers talk about the team or how the work unit is a family.  When was the last time you heard it in a way that wasn’t slightly manipulative?  It shouldn’t be something that you hear once in a while – usually at an inopportune moment for you – it should be something you see in practice frequently.

One of the other analogies I’ve heard is how managers are bus drivers.  You only have so many seats available, fill them with the people who want to go to the same place your bus is heading, yada-yada-yada.

But families and buses are different than relationships.

There’s something more potent about the word relationship.  To me, anyway.  More serious.  Weighty.

Plus, it covers a gamut of interpersonal labels.  Takes it away from genetic bonds and into a territory I like to contemplate often:  Chosen Family.

Talk about weighty.  Now you’re into the arena of people you choose to be bonded to, versus the bonds you’re born into.

So, 30 seconds later, after all this has flooded through my mind and I’ve glanced over at my Seminar Boyfriend a couple times <sigh> he’s moved on to talking about our tendency to chase our own happiness instead of invest in someone else’s and how that in turn leads to inability sustain a relationship.

Right?

I like this guy.  If you’ve never heard him speak – or of him, as was my case – I suggest you look him up.

I bring this all up, not because of my work family, but rather because it so broadly encapsulates behaviors you can see in everyday interactions…and I love being able to understand someone’s motivations.  Looking at them through these relationship filters really helps to clarify a lot of what I experience and observe.

Newsflash:  people are scared and selfish.

The French have a word for the type of statement I just made:  duh.  I’m not sure exactly how it’s pronounced.

But just because it’s a simple statement doesn’t mean there’s a simple solution.  Tryst me, I’ve been banging my head on that wall for quite a while, before I even knew what that figurative wall was made of.

People don’t think of how their actions impact others, they consider what they want.

When we get feedback, most often it’s rejected if it doesn’t align with our perception of self.  Hell, if we accepted it, then we’d have to accept that we need to change something about our favorite person.

And none of that points toward an investment in another person’s happiness…just ours.  

A lot of big thinking talk that should hopefully point us toward an internal examination of the motivations behind our actions, but something tells me it was just entertainment for too many of us.

Otherwise, it’s kind of feedback, right?  And we can’t have that, because then we might have to change something.

Commitment