Conspired & Expired

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

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

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

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

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

Fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Him: I don’t care. I love soup!

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

It hadn’t.

Cookie: Our soup of the day is gaslight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The guilt!

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

November of 2017?!?

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

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

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

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

Come at me, karma!

Please?

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

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

Conspired & Expired

Touched…Appropriately

As I mentioned in my last post, another year of my life recently expired. I believe I may have also mentioned that January has been a crap month.

Where. To. Start…

Let’s see, for those members of the TL/DR club who don’t get the above references or click on the links: my car, Angela, spent a week in the shop getting a surprise two-day repair completed. A week. The repair was $2500 and the extra time in the shop cost me another $1500 in driving income. Additionally, I forked over several thousand dollars to Multnomah County for unpaid business taxes that I was unaware TurboTax did not file. Note to self: start a GoFundMe.

In the middle of all of that, my grandfather died. We’re saying he pulled a Betty White, kicking it just seven weeks shy of his 100th. In my mind, I’m choosing to believe he either A) likes older women and wanted to keep his afterlife opportunities with Betty open; or, B) was taking a shot at teaching his family one final life lesson about getting our hopes up since I think we were all looking more forward to him becoming a centurian than he was. Either way, well played, gramps.

He died on the ninth and my birthday was on the twenty-first. We buried him on the twentieth.

You know where this is going…

When the year starts off like a twisted version of a John Hughes movie plot, it can’t be a good harbinger. Is this the theme for the coming year…Sixteen Fifty-four Candles?

If that’s the case, then this year better end up with something like this

Sidebar: The burial was pretty sweet for as fucked up a thing as death is. Back in the 70s, in a fit of post-divorce adulting, grandpa bought two cemetery plots – one for him and the other for his mother. Well, in ‘74, his older brother passed himself away committed suicide and grandpa gave up his plot for him since his wife and kids basically disowned him after that final act. His thought was that he’d pick up a neighboring third plot at some point and they’d all lay there together until the next asteroid. Well, after his mom died in ‘7…8? – maybe ‘76, I’ll lean on that old memory trope as a scapegoat – he pretty much forgot* to do it. So my dad and uncle decided to have grandpa cremated and then buried over his mother’s grave. Aaaaw. Now the three are together, almost as planned.

It’s a good thing he was cremated, too, because in a fit of communication breakdown between my sister and I, we listed several of grandpa’s non-epic-mid-century furnishings for free online – don’t worry, we’re selling/trying to sell the epic stuff. Sis took CraigsList and I went to Facebook Marketpkace. The breakdown came in regards to grandpa’s bed. When sis said to list it for free, I assumed she meant with the mattress, since the other two bedroom sets were similarly listed.

Wrong.

The spare room beds were used for days each year, while grandpa’s bed was used daily a lot more. But I listed it as a headboard, frame and mattress…and someone was happy to take it for the low, low price of $0.

Lesbian someones.

They picked it up one day before the rest of the crew arrived. When the fam eventually did arrive, I tried to steer them into grandpa’s bedroom for a nice surprise. When they didn’t bite, I told them. My sister went and looked – I don’t think she didn’t believe me, but it was still funny that she chose then to go down the hall.

Sis: Where’s the mattresses, did you move them to the garage?

Me: (laughing) No…they took them.

Sis: They did?!? Chris! Why did you let them have them? They were so old and gross.

Me: <cough, cough> Things grandpa’s last date said! <cough>

It was then that I told her that the takers were lesbians.

It may help to know that for a couple decades, I openly referred to my grandfather as The Grand Dragon for his backwards thoughts on minorities. While everyone else in the family seemed content to write that off as “the way he was raised” I couldn’t. Especially after coming out myself – something I feel the need to state as fact since there’s almost literally no evidence at all to support it aside from a moderate and only randomly occurring lisp. I wasn’t convinced he would change, but I wasn’t going to give bad behavior my tacit approval by granting him my presence. Lo and behold, the man shut up. I have to credit him with that, whatever prompted the change in behavior.

Me: Good thing we had grandpa cremated, because if we hadn’t, you know he’d be spinning in his grave right now!

Mom: (out of nowhere) Christopher!

Damned Mom Ears.

Ok, back to me!

My family didn’t go full Sixteen Candles on me – probably because I mentioned the fact that this timing was drawing potential attention away from me, but since it wasn’t a big birthday, that was…ok. My sister suggested she and her hubster take me out for drinks after we put grandpa in a hole the service and that I should invite the Silver Fox – yes, that’s what my family calls him, too.

Then they showed up to the service with my mom and dad in tow. Apparently, dad wasn’t feeling super the morning of the burial, so they came together. Fortunately, he rallied and we all went for drinks after, with The Fox meeting us.

That’s plenty for me. I joke about wanting attention. It’s only a joke. Let’s not remind me of what my traitorous mirrors refuse to let me forget.

But my sister being the nurturer that she is, brought me a lil something to commemorate the occasion

Plus a couple of beers from a local brewery where she lives – but photo evidence of that is not available for whatever reason. Now, it would help to know that she put on her Hints From Heloise hat during our vacation after seeing the white paint scarring my Angela’s bumper – she’d been attacked by one of the posts in the Silver Fox’s parking garage. Unbeknownst to her, I had listened to her and gotten the Magic Erasers as she had recommended. They worked great…and then I apparently forgot (see above) to mention it to her, so now you’re up to date.

On top of that, and either because of the timing of my birthday and grandpa’s service or just because he’s awesome, The Fox had enlisted Diezel’s help in a Sunday night dinner to celebrate my birthday. They took me to Farmhouse Kitchen – which was highly recommended by another blogger Dr Maria – and we filled up on ridiculously good Thai food. And drinks, of course, who’s style made me wonder if this restaurant chainlet was owned by a K-Pop group.

I mean, seriously…a drink in a disco ball glass. But it was amazing. I just tried to not think about the poor bastard who has to wash these glasses! And just take in what you can see of the decor in the background…I told you it looked like a tax shelter for a K-Pop band!

Plus, cake!

Obviously, I’m well cared for by my friends and family. And remember from the above- referenced post that I was too busy with family stuff and driving that I didn’t have the bandwidth to check in on the birthday goings-on on the FB, which I felt bad about. Turns out, there was no need for guilt as I’d forgotten that I’d made my birthday private sometime during the pandemic…if you’ll allow me to lean on the old brain trope once more. Last time. I promise. Today.

Despite hiding my birthday on social media, I still got several calls from friends and former colleagues – that I ignored, because how dare they! – and texts from acquaintances. Not to mention this lil package that showed up late one night last weekend.

It was from The Kids. At first I thought it was just some cute Christmas treats, but then opened the card. It was a Sorry For Your Loss card and just said the sweetest things. Made me all mushy inside. They’d also included a very flat, very smooth stone that they suggested I rub my worries out on (don’t go there, Diezel) and a $20 to have a couple of drinks on them.

Can you fucking believe it? I was certainly surprised.

So much for the pity party I had planned to throw myself. Fucking awesome friends…where do they get off? The gall!

Now, I feel like I should do something to live up to the attention I’ve had heaped upon me…maybe some Xtopher New Year resolutions – yes, I have my own New Years. Hmmm…I’ll have to think on that.

*Side-sidebar: Things grandpa didn’t get around to doing in a century of life; A) purchase third burial plot; B) notarize his will. So this is fun times, but now you know my proChristination comes hard-wired into my genes.

Touched…Appropriately

John Lennon Was Right

Instant karma got me.

Or, car-ma…as the case t’were. I’m accepting that it was my fault for kvetching about one measly 4-star rating out of two and a half years of 5-star rides.

Hence the karma pun.

Anywho…Angela crapped out by the side of the road tonight. Actually, it was in a drive lane, but it was the curb side of the road – if you’ll allow me to split that hair.

I had called my friend, Diezel, before she died. He sometimes works on things like brake pads for me – hey, he works for burgers! His take on it was that it was an alternator and/or battery issue.

Angela had given me a “charging malfunction” error before I had called Diezel. When she had died the first time, giving me a last minute “drivetrain malfunction” message as she locked herself down in a parking lot.

The middle of a parking lot.

At sundown.

In The Numbers. Let’s just say that’s nowhere for an old white man to be broken down. Particularly after dark,

I Google “drivetrain malfunction” + “BMW X3” and learn that I can probably restart it after five minutes. I find a tree, take a whiz and go back.

<Le poof>

She starts up.

Knowing what to expect performance-wise, thanks to the prophet Google, I set out for home. I’m crawling, since Angela isn’t feeling like giving me more than 20-ish MPH.

Sticking to arterial surface streets, I had called Diezel as I limped westward. He tells me to look for a side street to park on and he’ll come get me and take me home, I can have her towed tomorrow.

I know he’s right – he’s an engineer and a rational thinker. I am an emotional thinker.

Emotionally, I want to get home. Knowing Diezel is right, my fallback is to get out of The Numbers.

Shit goes down there. BiPOC folx who live on the west side are reluctant to head to that part of the eastside when it’s dark. Last year was Portland’s deadliest in decades: gun violence, fire deaths, homicides, traffic deaths. You name it, if it was violent or deadly, we either broke a record last year or came damn close.

The Numbers – a nickname based on the blocks between ~122nd and 180th on the eastside of town – had more than the lion’s share of traffic and gun violence deaths last year. Don’t even get me started on the record number of stolen cars last year – October and November had around 13k stolen cars for the two month period.

Two months.

I didn’t want to leave Angela there.

We made it into the double-digit block numbers. I’d just crossed 102nd and was promising Diezel I’d pull off as I hit the 205 overpass at about 93rd.

She died. On the uphill approach to the overpass. I briefly considered jumping, but only therapeutically. Well, mostly.

I told Diezel what happened and he told me to drop him a pin for my location, he was leaving that moment.

Friends like him…they make me feel like I don’t deserve them as friends.

I throw a little pity party while I wait.

I’d just squared up my Multnomah County business taxes from 2019 and 2020, because TurboTax small business doesn’t do them – nor does it tell you that ain’t happening.

The county, though. They tell you. Two years later.

Well, that’s when they told me I owed $1400 in tax for 2019…the year I started driving for Lyft. In August. I decided to get ahead of 2020 – when I’d driven the whole year and made 4x what I made in ‘19 – and dig it out before the county hit me with penalties like the 2019 miss had created.

So much for buying a new place this year.

It wasn’t looking good, anyway, based on financial timing and the likely prime rate boosts coming down the pike this year. At best, I’d be looking at two hikes before I had mutual acceptance.

I’d accepted this. It was nice to at least have a goal to work toward, however briefly.

But here I was again, in crisis mode.

I was startled out of my pity party by a pair of headlights in my windshield.

Diezel!

But…not Diezel.

A Good Samaritan!

Yes! This was the Portland I knew and loved.

It was a woman who had passed by and pulled a u-turn in front of me to pull up to my hood grill – let’s not call it a hood whilst stalled in The Numbers. She walked up to my passenger window and asked if I needed a jump. I told her, “heck, yeah!” and she was off to her cargo area for her cables.

BMWs are weird. The battery in my X3 is in the back, but you jump it from the front. Actually, there is a positive post, that’s it. I’d been watching videos on this, so I kind of knew this – but she wanted to check in with her significant other, so we FaceTimed him. He agreed with my guess that we just needed to attach the negative to a hunk of metal and we were good to go.

She started her car and I got in mine to give Angela a wake up call.

She started right up. I revved her a few times. I was ready to let her sit and charge for a few minutes, but my Good Samaritan was antsy to go. I couldn’t fault her, but knowing about jumping cars from watching my parents do it while growing up in the 80s, that was my best guess for next steps.

Sadly, she was already talking about how to disconnect the cables with her Boo when I came around. He agreed I was good to go, so I yielded to their current information.

As soon as she turned and left, I put Angela in gear…and she re-died.

Diezel immediately pulled up behind me.

My first and third savior of the night.

“Galbs”, he said to me, “you need to call a tow truck to take this to a garage.”

I knew from his tone that this was his way of telling me this repair was beyond his capabilities. At least as far as roadside repairs were concerned.

He gave me a towing company name and number. Three hours.

He pulled another from his list and dictated the number to me. One hour!

Between calls and hold times, Diezel had been amusing himself by blowing his air horn at passing cars that had cut their lane change around us too closely. One of those blasts had clearly scared the towing company dispatcher shitless.

Fifteen minutes later, Diezel decided to get out and strobe his flashlight at the Stupid Americans who were too distracted to see his emergency flashers and proactively – not to mention safely – merge into the other lane.

He was worried about someone rear ending him. Looking at Angela’s dark brake lights and dead emergency lights, I couldn’t blame him. I was grateful to him for being there to save a near-certain collision.

There was a car backing down the overpass in front of Angela. He stopped and popped his rear hatch.

“Why don’t you go meet him?”

I acquiesced, and the man met me by my car with three flares. Another Good Samaritan.

For such a crappy night, the universe was putting a lot of amazing people in my path.

By the time the tow truck was a half hour late, the flares had burned through. Diezel was strobing approaching cars again. We could not believe how people fucked up such a simple thing as not hitting a stalled vehicle.

I couldn’t decide if it was distracted driving, stereotypically too polite Portland-slash-Portlandia-type drivers, or a combination of the two. Cars in our lane would slow to zipper in behind the car with the right of way, and that car would in turn yield its right of way by slowing to let it in front of them.

Both lanes of traffic came to a stop or near-stop several times. I retreated to the cab of Diesel‘s truck for an update on the tow truck.

Fifteen minutes.

Ten minutes later, the driver called. He was ten minutes out. He told me the tow would be just under $200. I asked if he could invoice me because I didn’t have it immediately – see also: why I was out driving on a Tuesday.

No.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck-fuck.

I’d payed two year’s worth of County back taxes and my January bills in the last ten days. Followed by also taking several days off to process my 4-star rating.

The savings I can usually access within 48 hours was nearly tapped. I was anticipating needing to tap into my other savings for the repair – that savings has a five day turnaround, so no driving for the better part of a week on top of opening the drain on my savings again. Not to mention any significant penalties for early withdrawal – or its modern day equivalent.

I was feeling hosed.

I looked a little more longingly at that guardrail. Sensing my distress, Diezel handed me his credit card and told me gently not to worry, pay him back whenever, but get the repair taken care of first.

I offered to at least get him a beer, but he demurred. It was after 9:30, after all…this one hour wait had turned into two and a half hours, not to mention the 30 minute transit and depositing Angela at the garage. He usually turns in closer to 8. Proposing a counteroffer of a hug, since we hadn’t seen each other in real life for over a year, he took off for home.

Realizing Myrtle’s dinner was over four hours late – a millennia in cat-time – I rushed upstairs to feed the mistress.

Then I prescribed myself a therapeutic Emotional Support Pizza that I keep in the freezer in case of emergency.

Don’t judge my Hawaiian pizza tastes!

You cannot understand the number of weekend nights I’ve come in from driving to bare cupboards. This was one of several I picked up after deciding I simply couldn’t face another 3 AM pizza from 7-Eleven. Plus, you can dress up a frozen pizza with red pepper flakes and – especially – an herb mix from Penzey’s Spices.

You’d eat this. <chef’s kiss> Admit it.

Plus, I broke open a bottle of the Columbia Gorge’s finest – from Marchese Cellars – to polish up the therapy session.

It’s a $30 bottle of amazing red. Not a bad companion to a $7 pizza…so if those herbs and red pepper flakes don’t make that pizza palatable…this will! Then this happened

Come the fuck on!

Undeterred, I got that cork out on the second try. Hopefully, that’s a harbinger of the ease of repair for Angela.

Now, I think I have some In Case Of Emergency Ben & Jerry’s around here somewhere…

John Lennon Was Right

Messy, Bitter-ish Old Xtopher

Well, well, well…look what I found in my drafts. Coulda sworn I published this. But maybe since Tanner Creek’s wifi hadn’t had the chance to pick on the Silver Fox in a while, it glitched this into draft status instead of publishing.

Enjoy, please.

After completing this week’s driver challenge, I took myself out for a well-earned dinner at my neighborhood watering hole. It’s literally on my block, I can walk there in the rain without getting wet – which is really something in Portland, Oregon!

Of course, since I’m a neurotic mess complex person, I had to acknowledge the pyrrhic nature of my celebratory dinner – I was alone…again…naturally.

The Silver Fox had decamped once again to the family estate south of town – well, south of several southwardly towns. My other frequent companion at this particular watering hole was at a funeral out of state. To egregiously paraphrase the prophet Yoda, “Fucked, was I”.

But I had earned this. And my ass yearned for a perch with a bar in front of it instead of a steering wheel.

And goddamnit if what to my googley eyes should appear but an infant baby with two daddies queer.

It was fucking a-door-able.

Me: Barkeep, another!

Proof positive here that there’s always more than one cure for what ails oneself. Some more nurturing than palliative.

I experienced a range of emotions. From the expected aaawwww-ness of an infant doing infanty things to a wholesome appreciation of a gaddy couple out for a dinner together. To envy and jealousy at that same notion.

I mean, really…why not me? But then again, no.

Happily, I can report that I was misty eyed over the sweetness of the visage before me. Although, I wouldn’t have objected to anyone who thinks they know me “well-enough” who’d have bet on my potential beer-vaporizing darker emotions wresting control of the situation.

It was interesting that in the moment, I wasn’t overwhelmed with “what might have beens” over my persistent singledom. I was rather struck by how I missed my buddies. The usual neighborhood characters who live nearby – ok, all in the same building that I don’t live in – that I call friend who color in and enhance my happiness. I wasn’t lamenting the absence of that elusive something I never attained; I missed the presence of the folks I have attracted and managed to remain in the same orbit as.

Like I said at the top: I’m quite complex. That complexity only sometimes manifests in messy emotions. And this wasn’t one of them.

And then I had another beer. The end.

Messy, Bitter-ish Old Xtopher

The Red Shirt Diaries: #25

Well, it’s been a minute since I’ve posted under this theme.

Maybe it’s been 100 years, maybe only 9 months. If I’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that time is excruciating relative.

Another interesting thing about 2020 has been how the mentally lethal distractions that inspired this theme – based off of the pre-credit scenes in the original Star Trek, where some extra in a red shirt always seemed to die after beaming down to a strange, new world – have shifted. Before the quarantimes, these mental deaths were always near misses with my own mortality.

Now?

I’m projecting.

Lunch with my parents?

People emerging from lockdown 1.0, unsure of how to navigate life in “the real world” again?

A friend’s small wedding?

Family gathering in Central Oregon for my nephew’s 21st?

Bubble Boy not texting back in a timely manner?

Yeah, they all died at one point or another in my neurotic mess of a brain.

It’s fascinating that my prochristination has me finally getting this out of draft on Thanksgiving Eve. After shaking my initial misgivings about meeting my parents for lunches on their trips into town, I still get a little heebaliscious when thinking about dinner at their house tomorrow.

I overcame my original disease with lunches after just admitting that with the Silver Fox in isolation with his ex-wife about 90 minutes south of Portland, my own isolation was poised to redefine the term lonely. Knowing that I was either at home or driving made me realize that my parents were likely the only people I would actually see intentionally and with any regularity during the lockdown.

Even though I was driving with Lyft ~20 hours a week, I felt like the table between us was buffer enough, since I was completely masked up while I drove people around. Still, it took a few months before we ventured back into hug territory.

Knowing that dinner tomorrow would be just my parents and youngest brother, I agreed to the pandemic indulgence. I still took this past week off from driving, on a doctor’s advice. Right now, I feel like the biggest risk to our meal is a nosey neighbor calling the cops to report our gathering. The Governor has set a 6 people or less from no more than 2 household rule on the day. We will be only 4, but from 3 households. Since the Guv has gone the shocking extra step of encouraging people to report their neighbors if they suspect a violation of these guidelines, I’m thinking maybe I should pick my brother up along the way.

And because my parents are like poster children for great parents, Tuesday evening I start getting texts about coming out tonight to have a special dinner and spend the night.

It’s quite a nostalgic pull from the days when I lived out of state and would fly in early for holidays. But this year, I just can’t get there. I’m missing the rationalization that would make me comfortable spending that much time in their home, potentially exposing them to my city germs.

Also, there’s Myrtle. She’s kind of a situation.

After getting her, I took the advice of friends and family with cats and left her for the night with extra food – with a healthy 50% bump just to be sure – and went to my parents’. Myrtle being Myrtle, I came home to cat puke everywhere – none “fresh” – and a starving cat.

Stupid animal.

The next phase was taking her out with me.

That was an exercise in animal cruelty. She screamed the entire trip out in her cat carrier. Once we arrived, she stayed under the bed the entire visit. Emerging, from what I can tell, only once for some water and to shit on my parents’ hallway carpet.

It’s not easy being her.

So, for many reasons, I demurred on the invite for tonight. Then I woke up with a sore throat today, because that’s just my neurotic brain having fun with me.

But having skipped my nephew’s birthday, dreading the following two weeks and filling my dreams with sole survivor scenarios where my nephew, younger brother and I were the last of our clan, I wanted to go to Thanksgiving dinner.

But now the dreams are back.

COVID has messed up my sleep schedule pretty good. I won’t mix my syzzurp sleep aid with alcohol, so if I drink I’ve resigned myself to bad sleep. But it’s been next level bad these past two weeks. I’ll stay up too late and then get woken up by Myrtle around 9, after logging 4-5 hours. Or, I’ll go to bed around 10 and wake up around 2, wide awake. On the days I can fall back to sleep, it’s usually not until 5 or 6 and then Myrt still wakes me up around 9.

It’s crap.

I think Myrtle just wants the bed. But still, I don’t want to be at my parents’ house with this crap going on and accidentally wake their dogs with my late night meanderings around the house – because then everyone is up.

But I know that part of my recent sleep problems are due to bad dreams. I just want them to remain bad dreams, I don’t need the reality my brain tries selling my unconscious self.

But overall – and I think this is something I need to acknowledge gratefully – no one close to me has died from COVID. Friends of Facebook friends is as close as its come to touching my life in reality. The back of my mind is screaming that I’m due, but I’m shushing it for all I’m worth.

No one got sick from my nephew’s birthday.

No one died after the wedding I dipped on.

There’s been plenty of non-COVID close calls because people forgot how to live after 1.0 ended, but again, nothing in my direct realm.

Then there’s Bubble Boy.

Just so I don’t bury the lead, he’s still alive.

Lil fucker got himself stabbed, though, so it’s not like he’s coming out of this unscathed.

No. I did not do the stabbing. Well, not the literal stabbing. <wink, wink>

Bubble Boy is someone I’ve hooked up with a few times over the years since I moved back to Portland. No, he is not a part of the Dating Into Oblivion blog theme or subsequent book – since we don’t date so much as we mate. He’s not interested in dating and he’s not boyfriend material if he were. But he’s a hot little nugget of a man, I’ll tell you that.

So when lockdown hit and he was up to meet, I decided – after the first three months – to go for it. It took me that long to rationalize a guy in his early 30s having the discipline to isolate or take reasonable precautions during a pandemic.

Sure enough, we start connecting a couple times a month versus our every month or two pre-lockdown rhythm. Then he goes quiet in August. After one missed assignation and a couple unreturned texts, I arrive expeditiously at the obvious conclusion.

Dead.

Then I spend a week re-isolating, assuming – irrationally, I know – that he is in hospital or dead from COVID and that I’ve been exposed, symptoms lacking be damned. Also 1000% not surprised that this might have been the case that my psyche is trying to make to me.

When he finally blips back onto the radar, my reaction to learning he’d been in hospital was “Naturally” and to mentally pat myself on the back. And to be relieved he survived.

After he misses a couple more text replies and another “date” with the explanation that he’d been back in hospital, I ask if he’s sure he should be making plans to meet.

Oh, yeah. I’m fine, my stitches just keep getting infected is all.

Oh, okaaaay.

But, c’mon. You just know that I had to demand an explanation after that overshare.

Stabbed.

“Oh, is that all?” – Me.  Really, it’s so not shocking I ended up alone.

Sure enough, desperate times did indeed breed desperate measures and he’d been mugged one night on his way home. I didn’t press for details, rather assuming it was from something acceptable like essential work.

Plus, I’m enough of a Portlander to know that we are a stabby lot.

You think I’m kidding.

Poorly, by the way. His attacker stabbed him in the collarbone. Of all the…I mean, I’ve never stabbed anyone, but I think I could do so without my blade bouncing off a collarbone, FFS. Although, admittedly on his 5’3″ self, I’d have to work to get down to gut level and avoid ribs and whatnot.

Ok, I’ve clearly put too much thought into that.

But that’s kind of the point of The Red Shirt Diaries – an overactive and macabre imagination.

To redeem myself, when we did successfully meet up post-stabbing and he interrupted the usual commotion involved in our involvement with a caution to be careful of his stitches, I replied by pushing his face deeper into the mattress with one hand, telling him this was his idea and smacking his ass with my other hand.

My little freaky-deaky f*ckbuddy seemed to rather enjoy that. But I also think he knows me well enough to know that I was, indeed, more careful of his stitches after that.

So…one more day to get through and then a couple weeks of what I know will be a neurotic red shirt-esque death watch and hopefully I can sail into the new year with a still-full compliment of friends and family, despite my relatively empty quarantine bubble.

But let’s face it, this being my life, you just have to know that I’d be the one to die of COVID in my circle. How I can’t get there with the people actually in my bubble probably goes back to being raised by great parents who taught me to be concerned for others…

The Red Shirt Diaries: #25

Of Course, *I’m* The Bastard

I own it, but don’t think I wear that label with pride. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you probably know my triggers and how to avoid them.

It’s not all that hard. Try to behave like a decent human being, try to be considerate of others, have a bit of integrity…pretty low bar shit.

It’s that try business that both makes these criteria easy and challenging. And a bit forgiving at the same time.

I never said I wasn’t complex – but still, when there’s wiggle room, how hard does one have to try to remain on the wrong side of grumpy old Xtopher?

And if you’re going to put any effort into a relationship with me…how bad at effort do you have to be to end up remaining on that side of me?

Enter – or re-enter in this case – Black Sheep Brother. If you haven’t read about him, try looking for the black story, er, back story. Seriously, I just did and failed.

Long story short, Black Sheep Bro bailed on the family because he needed some time away. This was maybe 2005-ish. I was still with Sacha, so maybe it was even earlier…2002? I know it was – well, never mind. Short story is already long.

I told him at the time – as he was my best friend. Wow, it just occurred to me that this was pre-Silver Fox! Anyway, he told me he needed a break and I warned him to not just disappear, “Do it right”, I told him, “That way re-entry won’t be a bitch. Or impossible.”

Flash forward to now.

Now.

After I acceded to family pressure to reach out to him after he got married, moved to Shittatle and had a kid. Since we both lived in Seattle, reaching out was the obvious choice – just ask my mom and sister! Hehe.

So I did it. That was three hours of my life I’m not getting back. During that talk, he finally told me “the reason” he needed a break. I apostrophenated – Chrisism – that because the reason defied reason. He said he was disappointed that mom hadn’t been more supportive when he got his DUI.

“I expected more from you”, he said she said.

“But your DUI was years ago”, I said.

“No, the other one”, he replied.

I know I failed to hide my reaction to that, but his excuse still smelled like bullshit. “I think that’s a parent’s job to say stuff like that”, I tried.

It all ended with him showing me he had a full deck of victim cards, but at least I tried.

Flash forward to 2013-ish and he’s moved to Texas with his wife and now two kids. To be near his wife’s family.

In their state of bliss, they both take turns drunk dialing me to talk about how awesome they are. The wife trying to back channel a relationship for BSB and his family, for their kids.

Black Sheep Bro slurring out conditions the family must accept in order to be rewarded with the presence of him and his progeny. Your basic shit show. Now, he’s laying out conditions like “As long as I don’t have to be around That Man“, which genuinely confused me. Of course, I asked, got no clarification and eventually started guessing. For my effort, I was rewarded with a “He knows what’s he did” when I guessed he’d been referring to our father.

For the record, I think both of my parents are pretty damn awesome, so he’s partying alone in this Blame Game.

I also pointed out that last time he laid the blame for his abandoning the family at mom’s feet. I also told him that conditional returns were not something I was going to condone.

Apparently, he doesn’t need that kind of negativity in his life. I’m a real buzz kill, I know.

But since then, I’ve not heard boo from him or his wife, even though I’ve been privy to the goings on because mom and his wife are friends on the Facebook. I’ve also managed to deflect suggestions from the family that I reach out to BSB for his fiftieth. That suggestion arose from his wife’s accurately interpreted vaguebooking that his marriage was ending.

I considered myself fortunate to have been able to beg off that chore since I had an outdated number.

Until.

Present day…I get a text from my sis asking if I’d also received a friend request from BSB like her and our youngest brother.

I hadn’t actually. I chalked this up to our last conversation and noted my surprise that he’d not blacked it out. But I also was only manufacturing any offense I presented because over the years I’ve been friended and unfriended by both him and his wife multiple times and received vague attempts at reaching out from Facebook profiles with fake names and no pictures – all claiming to be Black Sheep Bro.

If I wanted to chat with faceless blank profiles, I’d spend my time on Grindr.

But of course, my friend request came in a day or two after everyone else’s. And goddamnit, I wrestled with it – even while entertaining myself that he’d cared enough about me to do something petty like ask for my friendship last.

Me being me, though, I found a way to be actually – and in my mind, rightfully – bothered. I was offended that after all the water under the bridge we’ve had, he just sends a friend request.

That’s all.

No nothing else.

I didn’t know what to do with that. For a while, I leaned toward just accepting it without comment. How passive-aggressive of me. Realistically, I rationalized, this will probably result in him de-friending me yet again, so why not?

But, then around midnight last night, I decided to demand an explanation.

Via Messenger, because two can play the Drunk Dial game – I’m just playing the 2020 version.

Really? Just showing up after all these years and all your vitriol with a “Hey, y’all!”?

You’re not Paula Deen, yo.

Why? Because your wife left you? Now we’re worthy of your attention?

Tell me why you aren’t sticking it where you and I both know I should tell you to. What’s changed? How have you *suddenly* grown? Because all I want when I see this is to groan…I feel bad for you. But not badly enough to sign up for the same BS behaviors you’ve delivered in the past.

And, y’know what? I genuinely felt that he owed me – us, as a family – some goddamned context. To just blithely send out friend requests on the Facebook without it left me vacillating between he felt entitled to our forgiveness and/or that he felt his actions weren’t in need of forgiveness.

Neither option carried any generous feelings with me.

I have to say, his response presented me with a third option that I’d not considered: that he didn’t know how to ask for forgiveness.

In retrospect, it was a fairly obvious option. But the rest of his response left me a little dubious that his rationale wasn’t entitlement all along.

And how would you have me reach out after all these years? I would follow the example you set…if there were one. Yeah I turned to a long lost family relationship in a time of personal adversity. But don’t recall asking you for shit. You’re still the sanctimonious prick aren’t you. And real angry about it apparently. You wanna tee off on someone else just for making an effort? Try a therapist or your ugly cat.

How cute.

Deflection.

Name calling.

Smells like a Trump supporter-level argument to me.

But, to clarify, he’s trying to equate my living in distant parts of the country with his actively departing the family after dropping a blame bomb on mom. Then dad. The reality there, which he’ll not acknowledge since it’s a fact – and we know how Trump Supporter Logic works with facts – is that I still called and took calls from the family. I still came home for holidays.

I was coming to terms with being gay. He was having a mental breakdown in the heart of a well-known river in Egypt.

I think there’s a big difference there.

And he wraps up his indictment argument by shaming me for kicking him while he’s making an effort.

Trying, if you will. And I won’t, as it turns out. If the level of effort he’s willing to put into this after almost two decades is to tap a button that says “Send Friend Request”, then that’s far too little and way too late. Here’s a parting gift for you, Black Sheep Bro, pardon me while I spray liberally.

It makes me sad. And I’m sure it will or could result in awkward family gatherings down the road. But I’ve traveled those roads before, so I know the terrain. One of the things that I said in my texts with my sister was this:

I feel bad for her and dad. Never having been a parent, I can’t imagine how that parental “never give up” thing must feel. Like on one level it’s, “Oh, here we go again” and on the other, “But he’s our son”…so they can’t not sign up for the potential hurt once again. Just in case it pays off this time.

It’s like me and dating, I called it the Lottery of Love.

Maybe this time

I’ve got a good supply of forgiveness. It’s just not endless – even for my brother. If he wants back into my life, it’s not gonna be with spin like saying his relationship with the family is “long lost”.

He abandoned us.

For me, I’ll sprinkle some of my forgiveness on the situation when he’s accountable for his actions. No more “She knows what she did” or “That man” or being offended that I don’t let him piss on my leg yet again while telling me it’s raining.

He’s still my brother, that won’t change. But I’m fine with the present state of our relationship – which he forced upon me – until he does.

If that means I’m the bastard, so be it.

Of Course, *I’m* The Bastard

COVIDness

COFITness?

How do you properly portmanteau COVID and fitness? Regardless, I should probably emphasize the “co” since what motivated me today was my obnoxiously fit friend’s – Filipina Fox – Instagram post yesterday.

Not mad, jealous.

She took a page out of my home workout book from back when I was obnoxiously fit. When I was living in Seattle, my condo was in the top floor of a 13 floor building.

See also: How to not make money in Seattle real estate – buy on the 13th floor and laugh about it.

Anyway, my home routine included running stairs. Including the basement flight, my route from 13-LL was 1/10 of a mile and I used to knock out a mile or two a few times a week when the weather was shitty.

Usually before catching a car to a bar.

Party-orities.

I’d been thinking about doing some what-I-call-running of the stairs in my building during quarantine, but have been expertly procrastinating. Not (only) because I’m lazy, but I started quarantine off with some reasonable exercise – starting with a couple of long walks in the early days followed by a HIIT home workout and a two mile hike later in the week.

Except

After that HIIT/hike day, I found myself sore. Just a reasonable soreness on day two, prompting me to reason, “Give yourself another day to fully repair and then get back to it on day three.

Except: part deux…

I was more sore on the third day after my work out. Clearly, I needed another day to get my next level procrastination excuses up and running.

Filipina Fox posted her workout story yesterday on day four of my HIIT/hike workout.

This morning, I woke up to a shame double-whammy. First, the traitorous Facebook:

Yeah, five years ago I could eat a 5 lb tub of licorice. At least, that’s what I tell myself these days.

Then the Filipina Fox has to chip in helpfully with this pro-tip:

Already knowing I was doing this, I playfully demurred hoping she would not have any of my resistance. Riding to the call, she fully enabled:

But I still felt I could balance the reward with a little exercise. I’ve got a decade plus on Filipina Fox, so I thought that afforded me the option to adjust my workout down by a magnitude or two.

But it was also a HIIT/stair workout, so there were six upper body supersets mixed in between each six floor stair circuit.

Forget COVID-19, I’m making this quarantine about CoFit-20!

Also, about pizza, beer and now licorice!

COVIDness

Would You Read This?

After finishing my NaNoWriMo challenge in November, I was lost.

I did it. End of challenge, end of story?

Ok, maybe not lost-lost, but in my mind, I had accomplished my goal. It’s not like I had a plan to publish and ultimately have the movie rights picked up by that scrappy little studio over at Amazon. So, for me it was all FIN.

But, because I’m an idiot and talked about what I was doing, people wanted to know: So, what’s next?

Fuck if I know. I wrote a book. Surely, that’s enough?

For me, it really was. But at the same time, going back to my finishing point, I felt like it was more of “Welp, there’s my 50k words. Donezo.” Rather than leave it that way, I went back into my ending to make it an actual ending.

Then I looked at my word count and thought, “Well, that’s really more of a novella versus a novel, per se.” That caused me to give it another read to see where I could flesh it out a bit. As I began reading, I was feeling critical about my lack of scene set up. I hadn’t really thought that I needed to do much in the way of actual world building, since people can probably figure out what Portland in the near present day looks like. Everyone will have their own little bubble world when they read it. Having no aspirations to describe a bougainvillea bush over the course of three pages like Anne Rice would, I didn’t dive too deep into what my main character’s house looked like, whether his office had plants or whatnot. I was letting that go.

But, in making that decision to keep the background simple, I was still staring at a novella-length work. My concept was to demonstrate a generational relationship within the gay community with my characters. I think for whatever reason – AIDS essentially wiping out a generation or two of us gays, which we could hardly avoid once it was upon us; or, being an extremely youth obsessed sub-culture as we are, which has backfired on us spectacularly and instead of forming bonds between generations we have a culture of age-shaming because, newsflash: most young people don’t want to have sex with “old” people. Go figure. That last one we certainly could have helped by simply not objectifying the subjects of our youth obsessed culture. Maybe. But here I was, Monday morning quarterbacking.

Great, now I’m making sports analogies. That’s surely a bad sign.

Neverthemess, that being my concept, I thought it would be cool to think of this as a three book arc. Arc One being a protagonist in a middling generation – a gay guy in his 30s and this isn’t a horror novel? Unheard of! – befriending a younger gay and an older gay and letting the story go from there. Arc Two would see the main character in his 40s while his younger friend gay-grows up and his older friend gets older. In Arc Three, his younger friend would gay-die age-wise in the gay culture and maybe his older friend would just die-die.

The vision I had for the stories was all how that generational experience unfolds and how one learns from the others or how information is handed by one to the next.

Y’know…how it should be. I wanted to show the sharing of information that we need, like when parents have to talk about the birds and the bees with their children because they need to learn about how life works. Well, gays need to know how a gay-life works, too. Instead of talking about the opposite sex, maybe we talk about STIs and anal douching. Keep reading, I’m pretty sure I’m not talking about that topic! Just giving you an idea of where gays need gay-guidance beyond what their parents can provide. Maybe some guidance of younger generations by the older characters that is something that straight parent-child relationships have but manifests differently between gay kids and their parents because…well, the shared experience is gone. More accurately, there’s a gap. Where does one comfortably pick up parenting their gay children once they have figured out who they are as adults? It’s still needed, but…even in my own experience, which I would put up there as one of the best, it’s different. My parents aren’t talking to me about raising a child or empty nesting as they might with my sibs.

One of my own biggest frustrations with gay culture has been how we seem to have lost cohesion and how the collective gay ego fills that void. Where we have an opportunity to build up future generations or respect previous generations, we tend to remain isolated in defense of or because of our inability to become thee better selves that aren’t driven by our next sexual conquest. Turns out, there’s no app for that.

But I also wanted to show the payback we could get for nurturing these intergenerational relationships, how it gives us something to look forward to as we age versus the fear of the unknown that is so often left unsaid between comments among friends like, “I never thought I would live until 30” or not having a friend base with the experience base to guide us through relationship obstacles. How many of us as adults – regardless of sexual orientation – could rely on our parents to guide us through the validity of the open relationship culture that gays face? Of course, the challenge with intergenerational relationships within these characters’ chosen families is to keep them like actual families, non-incestuous. This enabled me to correct one of my own perceived societal wrongs, too, as none of my main character’s sleep together. Their bond is formed based on an individual connection and the resulting dependency – which is not a bad word! – versus a sexual bond, which is where I think our culture’s intergenerational relationships have gone off the rails.

My characters forming a bond was only step one, and a very small step at that. My protagonist learning that there’s more to life than a steady boyfriend after a failed relationship besides work was the catalyst for building those bonds. The pacing when I started out was to alternate between personal life and work life with each chapter. In looking to flesh out my work’s size into a full novel – because if you’ve just got three novellas, why not edit them into a single novel, right? – I may have jacked up that original rhythm, but as the future unfolds, the cadence shifts further and further from work and into life, because now the main character actually has one. So I’m willing to let my thoughts for the original cadence go.

So, now I have my novel. Well, I’m two chapters away from fulfilling that statement, at any rate. That brings me back to the original question:

Now what?

NaNoWriMo tries to help out. The name of the event actually stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is an annual event each November and it seems to me that they have heard this struggle I’m up against before. To that end, they have created a support environment for writers to set other goals for themselves throughout the year to avoid losing momentum. After fucking up my timeline with hubris in December, I took a step back in January to wear my writing impulse out so that I could do some legitimate editing. This also allowed me to make notes in my novel about where I wanted to add to the story to flesh the character relationships out further without doing so willy-nilly and potentially making mistakes that would be harder to correct than they were to make. I don’t trust myself or my own work ethic to put the effort into unfucking up something with that daunting a prospect to begin with.

I mean, look how long it took me to actually commit to writing the damn thing!

Oh, six years. Sorry, I thought you knew that. Maybe more, but I’m not thinking about that right now…

For February, that’s what I did. Reread my book and did some for better or for worse formatting. Turns out, when you aren’t trying to add content, you can do that in a couple of weeks. And I had met my NaNoWriMo editing goal of spending 40 hours in February focused strictly on what I had done in November and where I wanted it to go next. I had figured two hours a day, five days a week would get me there. Turns out, without some sort of stupid work to distract me, I was able to spend two to six hours per day on that process. The key was getting myself away from the house, as it happened.

So for the last week-ten days, I have been still getting away from the house and working on those added chapters. Since I kind of went balls out on this process, it was largely stream of consciousness writing. No outline, aside from what was in my head. Had I not been working off of a specific starting point from my own life, I’m not sure I could have succeeded with that lack of actual prep. Part of me thinks that is exactly what I wanted but instead of failure, I became President of the United States.

No, wait…that doesn’t sound right.

Ah, yes. Instead of failure, I had this slightly random fictionalization of something that had happened in my life. Turning the tables, it gave me a good opportunity to therapeutically re-write my own history from a really shitty starting point.

Going back into those chapters I wanted to add, I had a grasp of who the characters were in this quasi-alternative universe. That allowed me to make purposeful content additions that gelled – I hope! – with the rest of the story.

Needless to say, for Arcs Two and Three…definitely gonna need an outline. I’m going from scratch there and I can’t wait to see what happens to these folks.

And, of course, with NaNoWriMo’s guidance and motivational help, today was supposed to be spent working on that pitch letter. February is the month – I learned – where they host a pitch workshop. Any writer that completed a novel – or their 50k threshold, at any rate – can submit a 250 word pitch to their partners, named The Pitch Doctors, and they will select 20 at random from all submissions and workshop them. Of those 20, they will select one to be partnered up with a publisher. So, y’know, that’s kind of cool. The deadline is February 28th. No, wait…March 1st? Regardless, either way, I have built in plenty of latitude in my goal to submit a pitch letter so that I can make some false starts. Like this one, where instead of writing a pitch letter, I’m jacking off on WordPress. Out of 287,000 participants there were 35,386 plus ME that finished their novels. Out of those 35k writers, I’m hoping only 19 others actually take advantage of their pitch workshop…

But, honestly, it’s gonna take a little mental prep time to get my mind around only using 250 words to describe a story that I just used 87500 words to tell. So, this is what that effort looks like today. I’ve still got over a week…

Would You Read This?

Is Kevin Costner Superdad?

Is there a Dad Prototype?

This is the question I’ve been kicking around for a while after seeing Kevin Costner in a few really well written dad roles. It came back into my consciousness after that Gillette commercial controversy last week.

Playing “the parent” is usually portrayed on-screen as a traumatic life event for actors. Well, insofar as women used to playing anywhere from the 20-something ingenue to the 30-something career woman trying to have it all to the 40-something good wife.

But after that, it’s a leap into playing the mother of an adult child. Traditionally presented as a “yikes” moment for the woman. And, sure…an actor in their 40s or 50s might very well make an argument that they are too young to play parent to a 20-something. It’s valid. Possible enough, though, in real life.

Except…this is Hollywood! It’s anything but real life. In this land, 20-somethings play high school students. The last thing we really want is to see our Young Adult characters leap from the novel to the big screen in an accurate depiction of a gangly, pencil-necked and acne stricken teen.

No, thank-you.

Let’s get some pulchritude and voluptuousness into these teenage characters! Body issues don’t always happen on their own, best if we give ’em a gentle little shove at the get go, right?

With that in mind, why wouldn’t there be an inversely applied standard to casting parents? Sure, a 45 year old can have a 25 year old child. That’s realistic enough…but maybe less common today than a 25 year old having a parent in their 50s since people weren’t getting married and starting families straight out of high school in the late part of the 20th century. But if we’re going to make high school kids feel bad about looking too young compared to their Hollywood counterparts, it seems only fair that we make their parents feel too old, right?

Hollywood, talk about Chosen Family.

Yet, oddly enough, the one person this doesn’t really negatively affect is the dad actor.

I first noticed this a couple years ago when I checked my own surprise at Kevin Costner showing up as the dad figure in Superman.

Well, Man of Steel.

The movie came out in 2013; making Henry Cavill a 30 year old Superman, Diane Lane his 48 year old mother and Kevin Costner a 58 year old adoptive father. Kinda makes my point right there.

But on a different level, you’ve got this 58 year old actor bringing his gravitas to a well written role, too. He takes the simple living, hard working aw-shucks character and makes him a tough but fair plain spoken dad that is faultless. I’m sure actual dads watching the film envied his ability to be tough and unemotional when dealing with his son, pushing him to his best self and then kind of grateful when he got killed off so they didn’t have to compare themselves to him in any sequels.

Great, he’s faultless and selfless!

Just remember, he only had to be this curmudgeonly hard ass for two hours – and everything was written out for him.

His character would be a tough act to follow, even though real dads pretty much work without a net. For 18 years or more versus 120 minutes.

But who else could have raised Superman?

Flash forward a couple years to Molly’s Game.

And me crying while watching him do dad-ing right for Jessica Chastain in that role.

This time around, though…he plays a flawed character. Sure, in his early scenes – coaching her to Olympic greatness – he’s a hard ass, treating her as a physical equal to her brothers and taking no excuses. Later, they clash over gender roles at the dinner table.

It’s a short role he plays, but it builds in a lot of challenges and inconsistencies to the father-daughter dynamic that go a long way toward shaping his adult daughter, who is the titular character.

Of course, their relationship eroded and eventually totally implodes when she discovers he’s cheated on her mother. They become estranged, but the movie does a good job of making him his daughter’s demon, not just for his flaws, but also for the frustrations she suffered in her Olympic pursuits.

It was really impressive writing. About a true story…so maybe they had a head start on the writing. Still, the vulnerability he showed in admitting his faults while also demonstrating that a decade or so later, when she needed him, he was still there and still knew his daughter better than she knew herself. How his own flaws strengthened him and allowed him to be quietly supportive of his daughter – even after she’d grown away from him and no longer needed him as a coach – and a character role model for his daughter…oof.

Heavy stuff.

But, really, played beautifully by this actor that made me jealous of how good a dad he was. And I don’t even have friggin’ kids! It’s one thing to dismiss a role like Superman’s dad as a fluke. Like I said, he only had to do it for 120 minutes and every word was written for him.

This role, though…it’s based on Molly Bloom’s actual dad. On top of that, it’s based off of the book that Molly Bloom wrote and how she perceived her relationship with her father.

Stepping into a role with that dynamic and crushing it…yeah, maybe that Kevin Costner is the dad everyone wants to be when they grow up.

Even me.

And maybe it’s characters like his that we need to aspire to in order to become both better men and fathers. Perhaps if those Covington Catholic boys had fathers as well written and acted as Kevin Costner’s dad roles, they could have walked away from controversy.

But no one is making that comparison. So we’re left with a razor blade commercial saying men need to be better and that behaviors we’ve allowed to be ok and dismissed in the past…weren’t, in fact, ok.

Thanks, Gillette.

Now, who is going to show us the way?

Is Kevin Costner Superdad?

Tappa-Kegga-Day

That was what we called kegger night in college.Literally.

Ok, maybe just too old for a birthday on a three day weekend. Because the MLK day/Xtopher’s birthday alignment means my birthday was celebrated for four damn days.

Today is a day of rest.

Also, I have a handyman here (not) fixing things.

Having been busy yesterday, I just checked the Facebook for the first time since…maybe Saturday? Friday?!? Oh, the social media birthday love. It motivated me to share some of my weekend with you, which I wasn’t planning on.

My brain is fatigued and more than slightly pickled, though…fatigued from three weeks of daily writing. Im thinking of hanging that initiative up this Friday or Saturday. My goal was daily blog posts for a month. Would the 1st-26th count?

My original goal was to wear myself out writing so when I go in to try editing my book again, I make notes on what I want to edit. Last time I went in to try and edit, I started adding and fracked up my timeline.

I figure wrap up my January writing initiative, take a few days to read a book a blog buddy sent over – I’m seriously burnt out on words enough that I’m barely reading the blogs I follow. When I sat down to his book, the only opinion I had was

Nope. Cannot do.

(I’m sorry, Phil, I’m working on it!)

So, take a few days to read my friend’s work then get cracking on some damage control on my own.

Anyhoo, I’m sure you’ve already figured out the pickling problem.

Or, not-problem.

The unexpected outpouring of well-wishes I encountered on the Facebook surprised me, as usual. It also kinda washed over me and extended my birthday feels another day.

Friday and Saturday were pretty low key, drinks and shenanigans with my own version of Fox & Friends. Little Buddy shot me an invite, all spur of the moment, to go see a Power Point Improv show we’d discussed a while back. I couldn’t make it, prior engagement.

Birthday weekend shenanigans…

I debated not telling her it was birthday-related. I really am low key about my birthday. Swearsies.

Saturday when I was out with the Silver Fox, I asked him

My family has been quiet about my birthday. Are they up to something? If they are…I kinda feel like I should get a haircut.

He assured me that they were not. Then he casually remarked that I might want to get a haircut, though.

Jerk.

Hehe. I assumed he was commenting about my overall shagginess.

Resolutions for the new year?

Not exactly my thing. But when I do make them, they are me all the way.

1) Write and post a blog entry daily, which you all know.

2) Not cut my hair.

I’ve been trying to grow out a longer style for the last six months or so. Around June, I figured if I wasn’t going to work, maybe I should indulge my back of mind musings on having crazy old man hair.

Why not?

Only, the last few times I’ve gone in to get it cleaned up around the edges, I’ve ended up long on top, trimmed back to above the ears and looking like a Flock of Seagulls refugee.

So, I gave basic hair maintenance two tries and then embargoed it til the end of January. When I make up my mind about these types of things, I always feel bad for my friends. They’re the ones that have to look at – no, endure the fallout.

Anyway, I don’t care, my family isn’t planning anything, so I don’t give it much more thought. A little later, my mom texts me and invites me to brunch on my birthday.

Perfect. Nice and low key, just the way I like it.

For Sunday afternoon, The Fox and I had just planned on going to the hotel bar next door for a few beers. Then we were going to come back to my place and watch some Grace & Frankie. It was a perfect plan.

When we meet up on the corner, he announces that Owl X had texted him that Pallet Jack was back at Big Legrowlski.

Well, I guess we’re going to BL!

I’m laughing and crossing Everett before I even finish the sentence.

All things being equal, it’s Sunday afternoon. I know either bar will have some of my favorite staff working – all of whom definitely fall into the Guy Candy category. But Joey at Legrowlski is in his last couple of weekends before leaving the country to work overseas and has a habit of “accidentally” oversharing the most scintillating personal details. Unless the Tanner Creek boys are working in jock straps for my birthday, Pallet Jack and Joey win!

We walk in and I’m immediately irked by the twosome sitting in the corner. They brought their dog in. I love the dogs that come with or walk by at The Fox and I sit outside sipping away the Summer.

But not inside.

I’m trading hellos with Joey while I hope the Rug Room isn’t too packed, cuz I don’t want to sit on the small bar side with a dog.

Are you surprised?!?

I’m debating how to answer:

– Surprised you let a dog – other than me! – in?!?

– Surprised that I don’t see Pallet Jack on the tap list?!?

Don’t let anyone tell you that being a grumpy old man is easy.

Decisions, decisions.

The Fox is pulling me out of the way. I’m trying to look behind me to see whose way I’m in and he’s shoving me into the Rug Room.

Surprise!

My parents, siblings and brother in law are tucked around a pub table in one corner. Their table, I notice, is blocking the fire exit. The Fox is standing behind me, trying to get me into the group. They certainly know me.

Little Buddy, 2.0 and JOrtis are sitting around a low table, looking pretty happy with themselves.

Diezel and Linda Belcher are wrapped into the far corner, flanking some other guy. It’s kind of dark and the walls are all black in the Rug Room, but I really don’t know if I don’t remember him, can’t see him well enough to recognize honor if someone brought me a present.

Nah…that would be weird.

Not unwelcome…just weird.

What I should have said is:

Do you know what this could do to a man my age?!?

Or,

Surprised someone throws a surprise party for a something-ty-first birthday?!?

But instead I just stood there with my mouth hanging slightly open.

The Silver Fox is chuckling contentedly behind me and still nudging me, so I begin hugging my way into the room. As I’m finishing, people start shifting their comments toward birthday beers.

It’s not that they are out of Pallet Jack, it’s that in order to ensure they have Peej for the party, they’ve been sitting on a keg for the past two weeks! Owl X and I had even discussed it the prior week as I was leaving, neither palleted nor jacked and she said, “See you soon!”

You got any Pallet Jack on order?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure. Brendan” – the owner and Dude enthusiast – “said he wanted to keep it on tap always, so probably?”

Sneaky.

Joey takes me into the walk-in and I’m resisting saying anything about Three Minutes in Heaven. Somehow we manage to get about five people into the walk-in to document the transition. Several of us are lecturing Joey on how tapping a keg used to be a lot harder than what he talked me through…when we were your age.

I’d actually seen the new tap mechanisms back in my grocery working days a few Great-Job-Hunts-ago.

The Fox was talking about Rent Parties that we would have in college. Get a keg for $35 and invite your friends over for a $5 all-you-can-drink night!

I was telling Joey how we would have to manually pump the taps at those keg nights.

My sister was angling for a good pic. Hint: I no longer have a “good side”!

But here ya go…

Birthday Boy with his birthday beer!

A little later someone rectified the situation on the tap list, too.

That eventually – after we got booted from the rug room three hours later so the band could set up – evolved into having a Secret Tap “for the regulars”. A few of them stopped by over the course of the afternoon and evening and shared a pint with the party. Owl X had been a little late arriving and missed the tap moment, but she found the light controls and smoke machine! Karaoke was briefly discussed and abandoned.

I think we’d held the festivities – and the bar side – hostage with our sheer number of people for another hour before people started heading off into the cloudy evening. No Blood Wolf Moon viewing here in Portland!

Diezel and his date – the stranger was his. I mean, geez, D, it’s my birthday…you gotta let me unwrap something! – had another birthday party to go to and we’re the first to leave. I got to chat with them a while and I have to say, I’m glad Diezel may have found himself a good old keeper.

Not to jinx anything. Since I’m not involved, I think it’s safe…

Little Buddy took her guys and headed off toward the ‘Couv. She has a kiddo at home to think of feeding. I forgot to ask how the Power Point Improv was, but in retrospect, I think it may have even been a red herring!

My family was the next to go, but almost the last to leave besides The Fox, Owl X and I. Mom was “taking one for the team” as my sister put it and acting as the family DD. Still, having her driving after dark on a cloudy night was a little hard for me to be 100% comfortable with.

On the other hand, I hadn’t been drunk with my siblings since…I dunno. Maybe my sister’s wedding? But I don’t think we were out of control for that. My brother rarely has a beer, let alone what we decided was four for him that night. My sister shocked me by jumping in head first with her first beer. Since Peej was not yet available, she had a Notorious Triple IPA…just an 11.2% alcohol by volume concoction.

Hats off, sis!

My dad took a break from his canned water of choice (Coors Light, which I heard they were giving away in Flint for hydration, j/s dad!) and enjoyed some of Oregon’s Finest.

Tastes a little apricot-y.

My favorite moment of the night!

I’d said the exact same words to Little Buddy the first time her, 2.0 and I had gotten together for beers. LB and I were working together again, her and 2.0 had just decided to give the dating thing another go and I’d been convinced to try an IPA. I’d notoriously hated them for 20 years, opting instead for Ambers and Reds.

They were surprised by my statement.

Well, it’s definitely got a stone fruit note to it.

They humored me. Well, maybe they agreed that I had a weird mouth and I agreed to ignore their assessment.

“It must just be a weird palate thing with your family”, Little Buddy said.

This is why we’re friends.

Joey’s shift had ended and my other favorite bartendress had reported for duty, sneaking a crowler of the good stuff into my goodie bag.

Linda Belcher was the last non-regular to leave. Although, since she passes the bar on her way rom her office to the bus stop, she’s known to wander in looking for me on occasion.

Sometimes she sees me and joins me.

Other times I’m not there.

Still others, she doesn’t see me.

I think I enjoy the times she sees me and joins me most, but those times she doesn’t see me are pretty friggin hilarious.

We got to sit in the Rug Room and chat a little. The band was really good, just a him & her type duo. Not too loud, so we could enjoy both the music and some talk. Her husband – Bob Belcher of Bob’s Burger fame, obviously – is in Nepal for several months and I’ve been meaning to check in on Linda Belcher for a couple weeks…just…life.

There were some folks I’d have loved to see present. Some – like Filipina Fox and her husband – were out of town for the weekend. Others, the Silver Fox just couldn’t contact because he didn’t have their contact info. He’s not on social media, so he couldn’t use Messenger as a tool to reach out to my other known associates.

The biggest shocker wasn’t how well he pulled this off – starting with hiding the keg weeks ago. No, it was that he kept it a secret. That’s truly impressive. He’s always accidentally giving away the twist in a movie or show. I think the years that we’ve been friends have caused some of my sneakiness to accidentally rub off on him.

I woke myself up on my actual birthday morning because I’d been smiling so hard in my sleep that I think I couldn’t actually be unconscious and simultaneously that happy.

There’s worse ways to wake up.

We finally got to watch some Grace & Frankie last night. I know you were worried.

Birthday breakfast.

Birthday lunch.

And then the bottle of wine The Fox got me last year at my birthday to round out the birthday proper while we binged on Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s old-age misadventures.

I was exhausted after four days of friendly camaraderie and about a month’s worth of alcohol in that same timeframe.

My low key day today brought all the feels back just by opening Facebook. I’ve been doing a good job of only checking in once a day. Actually, I’ll miss days now and then.

Yesterday was one of those days.

That big old birthday smile came back. For some, maybe it’s not a big deal…but to me, having over 100 folks take time out of their day to wish me well is a big deal.

Touching.

Even Portland’s former mayor dropped me a note.

Replying to these messages is what made me think to blog about my birthday in detail. Plus, this gave me a chance to prove that I didn’t drink too much!

I remembered!

It started out about like this blog…

Then got sweet…

I didn’t even know I had birthday wishes! Outside of the lottery win that refused to comply…

Actually, there was a little WTF moment when I started responding. Check out the background…

Hmmm. <unfriend>? Actually, it fits my personality. Well, not the “god” part. But, it’s the thought, right?

And speaking of my personality. One of The Fabulous Baker Sisters has to weigh in!

And, I’m case you worried, we had more than a few Myrtle mentions…

So, here’s to another year of surviving Myrtle’s Gulag, life and the occasional happy surprise.

Thanks for reading, every one of you!

Tappa-Kegga-Day