The Red Shirt Diaries #12

This will be the twelfth entry of TRSD.

The first that’s actually non-fiction.

Potentially non-fiction, at any rate.

Mostly non-fiction.

And it’s not a funny-way-that-I-meet-my-demise entry like the other TRSD, which are really just the nonsense synaptic equivalent of watching someone fall down while ice skating .

I’ve been watching the last part of the second season of The West Wing today.  I’m sure the statute of limitations on spoilers is up, so I can say without fear of retribution that Mrs. Landingham dying, watching President Bartlet deal with coming out about his MS and then the cliffhanger question of “Will you be seeking a second term?” ending of this season wrecks me every damned time I watch it.  As a matter of fact, knowing what’s going to happen makes it emotionally more devastating to me because you start watching the things that go on beforehand and they just make it more intense.

So, I’ve been ugly crying on my couch a lot today.

At a TV program.

Like some dumb jerk with misplaced emotional attachments.

And then I read on the Facebook an update from a casual friend of mine that he was shaving off his Pride-inspired rainbow flag hairdo to commemorate the end of Pride month.  His update was beautiful.  It inspired me.  It was thought provoking.

He talked about how cognizant he had been of his own trepidations in becoming a visibly representative member of the LGBTQ community.  How it impacted his behaviors while he wore his rainbow ‘do.

I skipped this Pride.

I skip a lot of them, actually.  It’s just not my scene.  Not because it’s too anything specific.  I don’t go to the Rose Festival Parade, either.  I guess I don’t like large crowds is the best way to describe it.

But beneath that, well…is what I think is a Red Shirt worthy fear.

I went to last year’s Pride because I felt like I owed it to my community to be a part of the strength of our numbers in the long shadow cast over 2016’s Pride month by the Pulse Nightclub shooting last year.

This year, I returned to my curmudgeonly avoidance.  Once a decade is enough for me.  Not only because of my normal preference to avoid big crowds.  Also in part because of that Red Shirt worthy fear I mentioned earlier.  For the last six weeks or so, I’ve been on a sharper than normal edge.  I feared – realistically feared – that Pride was under a more than usual target.  It wasn’t something I felt compelled to be involved with.  I worried as I worked the day away that checking my phone was going to present me with unwanted terrible news.  Actually, I had been feeling that simmering trepidation for each of the weekends preceding PDX Pride on the 18th while Pride was celebrated in cities around the country and around the world and once again on the following Sunday for my friends and chosen family celebrating in Seattle.

The text I got from my sister asking me if I was home that Sunday left me with a vague fear…worried that she was worried that I had been somewhere something bad had happened.  Turns out, she and her family were in front of my house, assembling to march with the Portland Police Bureau in the parade.

That’s a whole different kind of fear, right there.  One I thought maybe I dodged, not becoming a parent:  fear of powerlessness for your loved ones’ safety.  But, my brother in law has a leadership role with the police force, so march, they did.

And as Pride month comes to a close <knocks wood> I find myself relieved that we made it through the month without any major bullshit hate crimes or massacres against the LGBTQ community.

Relieved and surprised, truth be told.

I’ve kind of lost my faith that Americans can comport themselves in a manner that still respects people’s differences.  It’s way heightened since November of last year, that’s for sure.  That stupid, hate mongering cheeto has enabled a lot of small minded people through both his direct words and actions as well as by his visible inactions and silence…he didn’t even make an official Pride proclamation.

But today’s cathartic binge-watching has kind of helped me out of another funk I have been experiencing lately, too.

It seems I’ve been fighting this battle of dis-ease on multiple fronts this month.

First, a vague, random danger like with the MAX stabbings.

Then, the more general fear or danger of participating in a potentially targeted event like Pride or an Ariana Grande concert.

But lastly, a quite specific fear for my personal well-being after a surprise random verbal attack on my on my person at work.

It’s like a trifecta of potentially PTSD inducing bullshit.

Nearly four weeks ago, a fairly generic conversation about whether it was unrealistic of me to expect employees to check their work schedules weekly – it’s my responsibility to create the weekly schedule – ended abruptly and unbelievably when my peer at work got up, yelled, “Just do your fucking job!” at me and essentially stormed out of the office.

I can’t believe how close to home random violence and hatred hits sometimes.

I was flat out godsmacked (not in the heroin overdose-y way) at such a surprisingly violent and random outburst at work.

And my dis-ease at this final scenario has simmered and percolated over the course of the month simply because…nothing happened afterward.

No apology.

No admission of wrongdoing.

No perfectly within reason – in my opinion – termination of my peer.

Nothing.

In the worst possible ending, he’s begun to just behave as if nothing happened.

Raise your hand if you know me.

<surveys crowd of raised hands>

“OK…you!”

“Um, I would guess that you, Homey, are not playing that?”

Yeah.

Homey ain’t playing.

Man, there’s some stuff from my upbringing.  I was raised with morals.  Standards of acceptable behavior.  There were fucking nuns, ok?  I learned some shit.

And, boy…did it stick with me.

Over the course of the two days that followed the…oh, let’s call it The Incident, shall we?  Yeah, over the course of the next 48 hours, I tried to make it semi-safe, between silently seething on the inside, for my apparently festering wang of a co-worker to apologize or admit his error so that we could begin to get past it.

I tried a little levity and was rewarded with an eye roll.

I tried resetting my own attitude to neutral by walking in on day two with a chipper, “Good morning!  How is everyone?” and was ignored.

Well, buddy, if you got a problem you need to make amends for…I’m not gonna work harder to resolve it than you are.  Stick your hand in your pants.  Anything?  No?  Maybe that’s the problem…he doesn’t have the balls to admit his wrong-doing.

But, that’s not my problem.

But maybe that’s not the actual problem.  Maybe he’s convinced he hasn’t done anything wrong.  And that obliviousness is a big red flag to me.  On that flag is printed something like “Beware!” molly you in danger girl

If someone in my personal life fucks up that badly and compounds it with being too ignorant or self-entitled or childish to apologize to me then I’m gonna get out my social scissors and cut a bitch out of my life.  End of story.

Not so at work.  I gotta work with this jag, so I put on my big boy pants and go to work, tolerating his existence.  It’s the best I can do.  The best he could have done – apologize – is now off the table because, in my book…when you mess up, you gotta own it…quick.  Ironically, I feel the same about counseling someone for poor performance at work, it needs to be immediate.  Well, once we crossed over that 48 hour window, I couldn’t accept an apology as sincere.  Actions speak louder than words, right?  His actions weren’t anywhere near saying that he was sorry for his behavior.

But, wait!  I’m not completely unreasonable.

Sure, you can’t sell me an apology, but you can at least acknowledge fault with me and I can muster up some forgiveness.  Hell, in a professional environment, I may even let someone off the hook without subjecting them to a lecture on how they failed to meet my expectations or grilling them on how they are going to re-earn my trust so that I can feel secure in their assurance that it will not happen again.

I can be graceful.

Ish.

I might trot out a “Well, that’s certainly not my fucking job” in the future to provide him with a good-natured poke, if our relationship happened to heal to that degree.

But in the ensuing near-month that has passed since The Incident all I’ve gotten was a couple weeks of silence and then some half assed attempts at getting me to tacitly agree with his apparent plan of pretending nothing happened.

Let’s just say that our office at Portland International Airport has been pretty well chilled during Portland’s recent minor heatwave.

Except – and this is what really reinforces that this whole thing is an epic shituation – for the dreams that have come in the wake of The Incident.

I was awakened when my dream turned into a scenario where my counterpart was storming toward me, yelling at me about an unresolved loose end that was his own responsibility.  It was a crappy way to wake up. But it was also pretty demonstrative of the environment that I walked into with this job.  There’s not a lot of accountability – internal or externally generated – with this fella.  My boss’s early words to me were “He doesn’t work a lot of hours, but he always gets his work done”.  Well, no…he doesn’t, he just gets away with not getting it done.  The scenario in the dream he was yelling at me for is an actual situation that exists at work, and has for a few months.  I went to work that day with a feeling of dread hanging over me because I had basically woken up with the certainty that this particular tiger wasn’t going to be changing his stripes.

That’s left my previous chill factor around the shituation behind and what I have now is an active feeling of dread…like I’m just waiting for the next unforeseeable occurrence.  Unless something happens to guarantee there is a reason to not expect another incident, I think it’s not an entirely unreasonable fear.

At this point, though…his absence is the only thing that would provide that assurance for me.

With that notion kicking around my subconscious self, my next work dream was even worse.

The shituation had been resolved.  My counterpart removed from the equation.

Fired.

Duly.

Did I mention he’s a hunter?  No?  Then I probably should.  He just returned from a hunting trip to Africa where he went trophy hunting.  Yeah, he’s one of those types.  I guess I could have told him he needn’t apply extra effort into losing my respect for him outside of simply pursuing his “hobbies”.

So, my more recent work dream ends with me standing on the MAX platform at PDX feeling relief in the knowledge that my sense of personal security at work would once again be made whole.

Yeah, he shot me in the chest from the parking structure.

Y’know, all things being equal, I have to say given the scenarios that have made me feel so uncertain of my safety this past six weeks or so…I think I’d prefer to go out heroically, like the men who demonstrated what Portlanders are truly like.  Sacrificing myself for the greater good, defending the defenseless.

Being blown up in a bar or sniped at a Pride Parade wouldn’t be that terrible…considering the legitimately decent buzz I would probably have I would presume I would be semi-oblivious to my being blown to oblivion.

But being taken out by a co-worker with an axe to grind?  Man, do I need a job like that in my life?  I acknowledged earlier that I know exactly what to do in my personal life with people like that…the money ain’t near good enough to make me compromise those values in my professional life.  If I wanted that type of work environment, I could get a job as a prison guard in Les Nessman’s jail.les nessman office

But, I have to say, between West Wing and a great Facebook status update…this afternoon has been pretty cathartic.  I’m inspired to be better.  A better example of a life well lived.  Instead of hiding on my couch with my values, I will challenge myself to participate in an actual life and let the trepidation I feel about my countrymen be a mental exercise versus a physical manifestation of the fear and discomfort our American culture engenders in me.  If I do nothing, well…I’ve heard that is all a good man has to do to assure evil a triumph over good.

So, I gotta be present.

But I’m still starting season three of The West Wing tonight.

The Red Shirt Diaries #12

Goodbye To Love

When your life is a Carpenters’ song…you know, let’s just say that there are worse things.  Because while the title-slash-theme to this blog entry may seem a little on the morose or even – since it’s me, here – maudlin side, you’ve got to remember that if the Carpenters are going to suddenly be revealed to be the folks responsible for scoring my life, I can also count on being On Top Of The World at some point.  And who’s to say that isn’t now?

So, there is all that.

But lest you think that this is a post about giving up, rest assured it’s not.  Over the last year, I’ve watched people start dating, stop dating, get married, get divorced and face all variety of conflict and joy in between.  Personally, I have had opportunities to participate in dating and romance and have – I think rather objectively – chosen to pass.

I (don’t) Need To Be In Love.

I see people my age dating after divorce following a long term marriage and absolutely loving the experience.  I know.  Dating is a euphoric rush.  I get a little contact high from following their sexploits.

Chrisism.

I think that contact high is enough for me right now.

Goodbye doesn’t have to be forever.

It’s not a statement that comes out of bitterness, I’m just focusing elsewhere.  I know that I had my chance and now it’s time to face my relationship status with the same grace as Hilary faced the tragic 2016 election results.

I had a wonderful relationship experience with Rib a few years back – even though sometimes it feels like it was Only Yesterday – and if that ends up being my final relationship, it’s not a bad note to exit dating on.  I think our time together helped make him the man he was when he met his current boyfriend, and for that, I feel a little pride.  For me, exiting that relationship in the manner that I did, with my eyes wide open, prepared me for the acceptability of being alone.  Even if it’s for the long run and I don’t date again.  And, like Hilary – who may never run for public office again after this past election cycle – went to the Traffic Cone’s inauguration, I would certainly be comfortable going to Rib’s wedding if the invitation ever arose.

So, there’s all that, too.

One of my recently single friends – Diezel – sent me this meme in a text the other day.  

I laughed out loud and told him so.

Of course, this was after a few minutes of thought about where the motivation for this text came from, he could have been standing on a building rooftop for all I knew.  He was pretty blindsided by his boyfriend’s sudden exodus.  While Diezel was thinking We’ve Only Just Begun, The Marine was considering that it was time to end (T)his Masquerade.

And he was kind of – totally not “kind of” but rather, completely – an ass about it, making what should have been a Christmas Song for the couple’s first Christmas together his swan song in the relationship and breaking up with Diezel over the holiday.

Like I said, The Marine was a complete ass in this matter.

So, when contemplating whether to share with Diezel that I had guffawed at his meme while at work – in the middle of a busy airport concourse like a completely crazy person – I also had to consider where he was emotionally.  I know the whole emotional overcorrection that is swearing to never date again.  But I trust Diezel’s emotional depth enough to differentiate between pushing tough feelings down and covering them up with a cast made of sweatpants and pony tails as you make a show of strength out of basically giving up on love versus taking the time one deserves to heal and get back to a place where he is a whole individual again and also not overcorrecting by jumping into a new relationship just to put a temporary salve on the emotional pain of a recent heartbreak.img_1748

My response to him ultimately, was what I try to always be with my friends – especially one that I consider family, like Diezel – respectful and honest and completely Xtopher.

“I know that’s your depression talking, but that’s still friggin’ hilarious.  I lolled.”

Because, when should one pass up an opportunity to paraphrase Under The Tuscan Sun?

Never.

Never is the correct answer, especially when the discussion is centered on relationship pain, as this one certainly was.  But that we could somehow shift gears from appropriate gloom to boy bands…well, like Diezel said in the subsequent texts, “It’s why we are friends.”

True fucking story, Diezel.

While It’s Going To Take Some Time for Diezel to return to his fully functional single self, I saw last night at our MNSC dinner that he was definitely well on his way.  And, no – since I’m busy trying to cram as many Carpenters song titles into this blog post – our meal last night was not Jambalaya.

For me, it’s my birthday.  I know…maudlin and morose timing, but that’s all it is, timing.  As I begin the final year of my fifth decade, I have a lot of other things in my life to focus on this year.  Things that actually define me as an individual, not things that validate my self worth.  That’s where I want to put my energy because it’s never going to be Yesterday Once More.  Those days past are behind me, and while there are always happy memories to reflect back upon, I’m not – and forgive the Bruce Springsteen intrusion here – ready to invest my future happiness in my Glory Days.  I’m forward focused and embracing the future because…

I’ve Only Just Begun, suckers, so watch out.

Goodbye To Love

Dinner Party: Chosen Family

img_1717Tonight is the January edition of the Monday Night Supper Club.

I know:  Friday.

Look, what can I say?  After I began ruminating on this little triptych of a blog entry, it became easier for all scheduled attendees to move the event off of Mondays and to Friday.  Apparently, it was my schedule that had pushed the whole Monday night plan, anyway.  So, when my work schedule changed to Fridays and Saturdays off, the gang took the opportunity to leverage scheduling to everyone’s convenience and not just mine.

Who knew?

img_1718So January’s get together was planned for last Friday, January 13 – which I loved, of course, because what could possibly go wrong?

Then one evening last week (I swear it was morning…but the timestamp disagrees) I received the text in the first screen shot from Diezel asking if we could push the dinner a week so he could go watch sportsball or something equally pointless for work.  My birthday is the 21st, so naturally, I was suspicious.

See also, text number two to the left.

This all ends with me sending this infamous pic after the second text exchange.  I swear, I was walking through the A concourse at work when I sent it and was laughing so hard that my eyes were watering.  Alas, I trust pictures over my swiss cheese memory, so I guess I’m mis-remembering that since I may work late, but when I start work by 6 am, I sure don’t tend to be at work at twenty to eight at night.

img_0589

Good old Admiral Akbar.

I guess I’ll find out if it’s a trap or not in a couple of hours.  But if it is, it’s bound to be awkward, since I’m not a big surprise enthusiast.  Although, I’d still like someone to try with that Five Pound Box of Money that Pearl Bailey once sang about.

I think for that I could rally, really…

If it’s a surprise party to be, it’s the thought that counts, and I could do a lot worse than having friends that would go to that trouble for me.  If it’s – as I would prefer – not a surprise party then all will still be wonderful, since I will be spending this evening with some of my Chosen Family, and that’s exactly what the impetus behind the MNSC was.

Birthdays were exactly the type of events that my earliest Chosen Family gathered to celebrate with a BBQ if the weather permitted – and in SoCal, it almost typically did.  Years later, back home in Oregon with the newest and most enduring incarnation of my Chosen Family, we had many months of weather that would afford us the opportunity to gather in the back yard at the Ricksonian for some grilling and celebrating, but during those months – like June-uary – where we couldn’t then these birthday dinners would be folded into the traditional Sunday night dinners that my neighbor would host.  As a matter of fact, I woke this morning to a text from Big Word Ben asking if I was free this Sunday night for just that.

I work, and I have a project planned for Sunday that might make leaving on time for dinner a dicey proposition, but I’m honored that they would invite me specifically for this Sunday’s dinner since I’ve been so geographically limited in my fishbowl existence since moving back to Oregon.  Not driving and not particularly being the biggest fan of car-sharing, my attendance at other Sunday night dinners has been spotty since I’m the only one of the group still in Portland proper, the Ricksonian has relocated to Gresham and BWB has lived out on the fringe of Portland and Beaverton for about 10 years now.  My enthusiasm for public transit has its limits.

But family – as my biological as well as my logical families continually remind me – forgives.  And I’m a lucky man for having these wonderful people in my life.  It was Big Word Ben and the Princesses Frode and Stacinea and The Curator of the Ricksonian who were the touchstone of the emotions behind the Monday Night Supper Club in the first place.  I had spent nearly 10 years with Sunday night dinners next door and holidays ending with a final stop wherever these fine people decided to gather for the evening.

It was a big hole to fill.

Once I started not dating, reflecting back on what contributed to my emotional well-being prior to moving to Seattle was a key to finding my happiness asa a single entity.  Sharing Sundays and holidays with these folks was definitely something I needed to recreate…and voila!  Monday Night Supper Club.

The brilliance of what I was replacing was the simplicity of the entire concept.  This was largely a group of single gay guys gathering for a ritual Sunday dinner.  Occasional birthdays celebrated.  Random sisters or gal-pals appearing.  Once in a great while, someone that someone was dating.

Largely, this rag-tag group that became my Oregon Chosen Family was anchored by The Curator and his partner, Big Doug.   They lived a few blocks from one another, in houses they each owned, after deciding that living apart was the way their relationship worked.

How’s that for not quitting a relationship?  Those guys found a way that it worked and it didn’t involve bringing in a third that could be the buffer that filled in the gaps in their relationship.  Sure, after Big Doug passed himself away one Thanksgiving, there were other guys for The Curator.  His relationships became just another funky quirk of what made the group special to each other.

There was The Curator, punctuating each dating story he experienced with “It’s the BEST sex I’ve ever had!”  It got to the point where I think the entire room – except maybe his sister, Princess Stacinea – was just waiting for that particular ejaculation to occur.  A smart Xtopher would have monetized the assuredness of the moment by starting a pool each week.  “Stop by my place next door on your way into the Ricksonian to place your bet” would be followed shortly thereafter with “Who had 8:16?”

Princess Frode…the eldest of the group.  Aging with the perfect combination of denial, flair and white privilege.  He was a drag queen in his younger years – he showed me pictures once, he looked just like a young Joanne Worley when he was in drag (google her) – which prepared him for the wig that he wore in his late 60s and 70s.  He ditched it for a while after Big Doug died.  Big Doug was a barber and he maintained both the toupee and the remaining hair beneath it.  After BD died, Princess Frode showed up without his piece one night and I was amazed at how great he looked with his remaining natural hair.  But, it’s not about the audience, it’s about the individual living inside the shell…now that he’s started wearing it again, it’s fine.  He found someone to take care of it, so his natural hair is blended with the wig.  And he’s happy, so who cares?  My favorite part about Princess Frode – well, it is actually two things:

First, his voice.  He’s so smooth with his slight gay drawl, you can almost always find the smile in his words.  His punctuation isn’t so much implied as in normal conversation, it’s audible.  You know in the way he stretches out words like “Fabulous” whether he’s going to elaborate or leave you curious for details.

Second, he is a Princess, damnit.  Combining seniority and fabulousness, this man doesn’t come to dinner, he is served.  Ok, he gets his own food, but once he says his hellos, he sits down and drinks are brought to him.  If we aren’t attentive enough to our Stonewall era friend, the ice gets shaken around its empty glass and that very glass risks a chip banging against HRH’s jewelry.  It’s sincerely such a warm memory, I can’t not smile as I try to use words to describe what I see in my mind’s eye.

Rounding out the core group is Big Word Ben.  If The Curator and Big Doug were the anchor couple of the group, BWB was our stalwart rock.  He was the one amongst us that I trusted to be the voice of reason, probably because we tend to be fairly like minded on important issues and norms, even though our hobbies would diverge.  His two recreational passions:  The Royal Family (outside of Princesses Frode and Stacinea) and The University of Oregon Ducks football team.  Oh, and the absolute infallibility of Fleetwood Mac.  He was also a fairly avid traveler.  Most frequently visiting the United Kingdom to nourish his Anglophile tendencies.  But for our leisurely differences, we shared a passion for movies and would frequently enjoy a movie or two a month either before or after a walk around the Eastbank Esplanade on Portland’s downtown waterfront.  And it’s that time spent that made me feel closest to him in our group.  He was one I could have a rational unreasonable conversation with after my relationship with Sacha ended and I needed level-headed Big Word Ben to listen to me, empathize where appropriate and talk me down when emotion overrode rationale.  The Curator was good for a sympathetic ear and a well placed, “Well, fuck him, anyway.  Fuck all men!  Who needs ’em, anyway, y’know what I mean?!?”  Which at times I wanted, but BWB provided me with the longer lasting reasonable grieving that my emotional self needed.  If not for him, I think I might have remained broken.

Speaking of movies…

Our usual after dinner activity was sitting in our little ring in the living room and watching a movie.  Or two.  Of course, there were more drinks, too.

They were almost always gay themed movies.  From way back before Brokeback Mountain made gay cinema watchable.  These were the B-movie at best films of the gay subculture and pre-Sundance indie film.

Portland’s own David Decoteau movies like Voodoo Academy and The Brotherhood.

Q Allan Brocka’s Eating Out franchise.

Mandingo.  Jesus, what were we thinking there?

Lots of camp classics like Girls Will Be Girls, The Women, Mame and others.

So.

Many.

Others.

We’re talking hundreds of Sunday dinners here.

Most movie nights ended with another of The Curators signature phrases:  “Well, that movie could have been greatly improved by 15 minutes of hardcore pornography!”  And then people put their chairs away and file out the door to their cars and ultimately their – or someone’s – bed, or in my case just next door.

It was closing time at The Ricksonian.

While I was away in Seattle, The Ricksonian closed for good and The Curator settled down with a new guy – “The best sex I’ve ever had!” – in extremely-east-county-Portland.  I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first visit to the new digs upon my return to Portland.  Once I saw this curious curio assortment, I knew it was as Ricksonian as ever.

Perfect.

Dinner Party: Chosen Family