Frayed

Is it sad that both of my parents are sick on Mother’s Day weekend and when I reviewed my “notes” about what I’d been wanting to process write about this weekend, both topics involved non-Mother’s Day friendly topics?

It’s true, though. One potential entry was the simple lessons we learn growing up – that are usually, let’s face it, imparted by our moms – that we fail to reach back to and just check in with to ensure we aren’t pieces of shit humans. Denial, am I right?

The other topic – this one – is literally closer to home.

It’s about Black Sheep Bro. More to the point, the collateral relationship damaged his sudden reemergence and desire to wreckoncile with the family is having.

At least as it appears from where I’m sitting. Which, strangely, is relatively on the sidelines.

Also, the last time any of us didn’t see him was when he ghosted us at mom’s house on Mother’s Day in the very early aughts. So his residency in my subconscious this week is timely.

I know I’ve mentioned BSB a few times over the years. Even recently, since his desire to repair his familial relations seem to have not surprisingly coincided with his divorce.

But here’s the deal, no one knows why he left. And when I say no one, I’m including him. I think he’s tossed out so many lies false flags over the 20 years he was MIA in his marriage to explain his estrangement, that he (conveniently) doesn’t even remember the truth. The reality of the situation – again, just from my personal interventions interactions with him during his estrangement – seems to be that when backed into a corner, he’d make something up. Probably something he presumed the listener would want to hear and just take at face value.

That certainly happened with me when I pushed him. My favorite story of his was blaming mom for his decision to leave. “She wasn’t supportive of me when I got my DUI” – and you just know he’s already on thin ice with me here for using someone else’s alleged poor behavior to deflect from his own law enforcement sourced actual bad behavior.

“How so? How was she unsupportive?”

“Well, when she brought me home, she sat me down and said to me, ‘I’m really disappointed in you’. That just was really hurtful at that moment and not what I needed to hear.”

Ok, well A) I think disappointed is the appropriate parental response after picking one’s progeny up from the drunk tank; but, B) that’s not what I remembered happening. I remember her running point on the collateral insurance damage, getting legal advice on BSB’s options and that type of supportive parenting.

And you know I told him exactly that,

“No, no. That was the first time.”

And…C) of course you have a second and secret DUI. But of course this is also none of your own fault. You are the victim. Yeeeeessssss.

Obviously.

And here’s a D) for ya –

I’ll take “Things to never say out loud” for $500, Alex!

– it doesn’t matter, because I don’t think any of it is true!

I mentioned he was a no-show at a family Mother’s Day gathering. Well, you can damn well bet I called him on the way home to low-grade chew him out over that decision. I knew he’d been thinking about “taking a break” as he had put it. Needing some time away to figure some things out he said.

This conversational thread came up several times during our weekend hang outs during the early part of that year. His former live-in girlfriend was my employee and they’d met through me. She was also great friends with my very own psychic herpes, Sacha.

He never really provided any detail, but I had a feeling his desire for distance stemmed from his breakup with his girlfriend sometime around the prior Thanksgiving. That was a shitty situation in and of itself, given the years-long relationship they’d had.

In true men-are-shit form, not long after that breakup, he’d taken up with his ex. We didn’t put any stock in the causal nature of her sudden reappearance on the scene. I actually knew it was the reality of the shituation. Everyone else in the family didn’t waste much energy on the chicken or the egg scenario BSB was trying to exist in.

But there we were, at mom’s for Thanksgiving and trying to plan Christmas. My sister started out trying to pin down headcount with my bro by asking him directly if the former-ex was coming. He replied cryptically, “She won’t be an issue” and then continued to stick to some variant of that vague BS every time the question came back around.

You see, we’re big White Elephant people.

Ok, that didn’t come out right.

We don’t try and play “hide the tree” with our gifts. We just try to have fun. We’ll draw names and do a gift exchange or pick a theme and then buy one gift that can be stolen…that type of thing. You can see where an accurate headcount being important comes into play.

“Don’t worry about her, I’ll deal with her”, honestly, I couldn’t tell if he was breaking up with her or disappearing her.

Suffice to say, no one present – haha – present thought there was a third option. Imagine our surprise when he showed up Christmas morning with the former-ex…and we’d followed his directions and not worried about her.

We were all pretty irked by his lack of follow-through. None more than my sister, who felt extra blindsided as the host.

However, flash forward to that last Mother’s Day and he’s not thinking back to that at all. He’s just laying it all – again, vaguely – at mom’s feet. “She knows what she did.”

Well, she didn’t.

She did know, as did we all since it was oozing out of every cell of her being, how hurt she was to hear that. Well, to hear it and have no idea what egregious wrong she’s committed that would earn her this retaliation.

That’s what she lived with for two decades, though. The pain working it’s way to the surface every family dinner or holiday, right there behind her eyes. Sometimes spilling out of them.

It got better over time.

Then it would get worse again because she’d somehow hear that he’d gotten married or that they started and then expanded a family.

But once they moved to Texas to be near the wealthy grandparents-in-law, I think we all expected that was the last of it.

Finally.

From me.

I’d been the one closest to the situation when he left. I was the point of contact after he started a family – since my job forced me to relocate to the city he was allegedly calling home at the time. That was a failed attempt.

Then when his kids started asking about his family, I was the one he and his former-ex-turned-wife reached out to.

With conditions.

You don’t have to know me too well to know that wouldn’t fly. And then there was the added murkiness of new but unimproved blame and excuses for why he left.

He and his wife were always drunk when they called me. And they were in Texas, so a couple drinking hours ahead and very late hour combined for some pretty abrupt ends to our conversations when I did what I did best: pulled at the logic threads until they – the arguments, BSB and/or his wife – unraveled.

Now, though, I feel like his resurfacing is starting to fray the fabric of my family.

Just who would have thought I’d be the one to take his BS best? I’m usually the least forgiving son of a bitch around.

Seriously, I can provide references.

I’m perfectly happy to point to the bed someone’s made themselves and tell them to get comfortable. At the same time, I’m able to treat this guy as a non-threat because he’s half a continent away and in a state I’m only ever setting foot in again if my plane goes down while flying over it. Then, of course, my feet are equally likely to be separated from my body, so…

Mom and dad, of course, are doing what amazing parents do. Parenting. I think they kept themselves fairly well insulated initially, which I respected – but still worried about.

A year-plus (maybe two-plus?) in, I know their defenses are down, I’m not surprised. I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent – let alone in a situation as painful as the one my mom has endured with BSB.

What’s caught me off guard is how tightly my sibs are holding on to this, though.

Then again, they also held on to the pain dad caused when he divorced mom. When he came back around – at the arrival of his first grand – it didn’t look good for him and his hopes to reconnect with his family.

In that case, though, I felt I had an emotional leg up over the sibs. While they’d moved back to Oregon with mom after the divorce, I’d stayed in California – because: baby gay – and eventually ended up living in the same city as dad. We had a huge lead over his relationship with his other kids. It was kind of symbiotic: I had to accept his tearing apart of the family and he had to accept my sexuality when it wasn’t a popular thing.

With BSB, though? I don’t fucking care. Honestly, I’m surprised he’s still alive. Not just because his ex-wife is a redhead, either.

If he wants to try to make brotherly with me, let him. If I respect his approach – and it rings true, which is a high bar for a man with his gravitational pull to pull off – fine. If his approach doesn’t pass my sniff test?

Well, just picture me as King Kong atop the Empire State Building swatting down his biplane overtures at reconciling.

But my brother and sister care. They are bothered. My working assumption up til this very week has been that they’ll eventually meet me where I’m at emotionally with BSB – however that looks for them.

Maybe they start texting or messaging him back when he reaches out. Maybe it wouldn’t be until they see him at the vacation mom and dad planned for him and his boys. They’re coming to Oregon to visit their other grandparents who live in a remote southern coastal town. They visit for two weeks every year, but their personalities are stricter than the ideal grandparent. That has manifested as shorter trips or, like last year, a week with my parents after a week with the in-law grandparents.

This year, it’s a week in Sunriver. I’m planning to go. My sister lives nearby but isn’t staying in the Sunriver house like she usually does. No telling what my youngest bro will do. So far, I think getting him to my sister’s house would be a good level of participation.

This, though…this is where the fray really began to show.

My parents were very transparent about their desire for their kids to all get along. They also admitted that they knew our relationships with BSB would heal differently than theirs.

I was comfortable with that being where things were with us.

But this vacation? It overlaps with the two weeks my youngest brother takes his solo-vacation around his birthday each year. The expectation hope was he’d join us for a week.

Fray.

Then BSB re-injured his back and was looking at surgery in the next week or two. He was supposed to get confirmation of that yesterday, so I don’t know where things stand there.

What I do know is that my parents canceled a trip to see my sister so they could be ready to fly out to help BSB with the kids while he recovered.

Huge fray.

That’s where we’re at on Mother’s Day eve. And I do not like it one bit.

Best part? BSB has sent me a couple of IMs while I typed this out…and one of the pushes I saw included an emotionally charged phrase that makes me…afrayed of what the full message will say.

Super.

Makes me wish the dead-to-me would cooperate by accepting their dead-to-me status.

Frayed

Settled Affairs

I think I mentioned a while back that my grandfather passed away. He was just weeks shy of his 100th, so I like to say that he pulled a Betty White. I also like to say he might have liked older women, so was sure to leave a cushion between them. I think she died 3 weeks shy of her century and grandpa had closer to 6.

Of course, as he handed off the patriarch title to my father, I also like to think he was teaching us one last life lesson: don’t get your hopes up. You see, I’d bet the family was a bit more excited about having a centurian in our midst than he was about being said centurian.

Why doesn’t spellcheck like that word – centurian? It wants to make it “centurion”, but grandpa wasn’t a gladiator. The spelling paradigm for other decades of age grouping is “ian”, so why not here, too?

Septuagenarian.

Octogenarian.

Nonagenarian.

Centurian.

Maybe there’s just not a word for it in the English language since it’s such a rare thing in Western culture. Maybe there’s another word for it. Look, I don’t have time to Google it…I’m making sauce!

Also, my place smells fantastic right now.

Anyway…he decided to die without a Will. My uncle had helped him draw one up while he was visiting years ago – along with a power of attorney – and all he needed to do was get them notarized. He managed to get the PoA completed, but just didn’t find the time to get the Will done.

I come by my procrastination honestly.

So my dad and uncle have been slogging through settling grandpa’s estate.

It wasn’t – or hasn’t – been too challenging, aside from dad being local and my uncle being in Texas. My dad’s goal had been to have the house sold by the time that he and mom went to my cousin’s wedding in early April. Then it was just a matter of waiting out probate.

My uncle’s goal was a little less defined. Actually, it may have not even existed. Honestly, I think he has separation issues. If I’m not mistaken, someone still has some of grandma’s stuff in their garage that he couldn’t part with. She’s been dead close to 20 years now.

But my uncle did manage to go through a lot of stuff when he was here for the service. Including a quarter of a closet worth of stuff he wanted to keep.

I get it, this was the house he grew up in. That’s a rare occurrence anymore.

That said, he was reluctant to commit to anything more than what was ok to donate. At the same time, he actively poo-pooed the notion of an estate sale.

But once he was on a plane, my sister and I got right to work doing just that. To hear my parents talk about it, we were amazing. Honestly, though, my sister was an absolute force. I don’t have her drive or determination. Plus, her round trip commute every day with mom and dad was close to 3 hours!

Hats off, sis. All the props.

Since mom and dad credited us equally, it was their pleasure to encourage us to liberate anything we wanted from the estate. In the interest of heirlooms and legacies, y’know.

Since grandpa’s house closed a couple weeks back – the didn’t quite make dad’s timeline, but they were signing papers at the wedding – and there’s about a month left on probate, I figured now was a good time to highlight some of the things of his I’ve brought into my home.

Also, I’ve done the work on my relationship with grandpa and feel like I can look at these reminders and think of the man he was without being reminded only of the good or bad.

Oh, quick sidebar: one of the things that my uncle found was the original advertisement for his house – which was new construction in the mid-60s. Let me just say that I think the reality of owning a house for 40+ years os a thing of the past. Americans can’t commit like that. At the same time, selling a house for 30+ times the original purchase price is also a thing of the past. At least on my coast.

Now that the sidebar is out of the way, you can probably think of some of the amazing things that gathered dust at grandpa’s during the last half of his life. Not to mention all of mine.

I swear, I don’t covet. Really, the one thing I wanted once it was pulled out from the back of a bottom cabinet was the cookie jar from my childhood.

I knew it was valuable – estimates put it at around $300 – so I was reluctant to accede to mom and dad’s encouragement. Dutifully, I posted it online. But when takers failed to materialize, well…it wasn’t going to Goodwill!

It’s so cool. And aside from grandpa bringing out his 5 lb coffee cans full of change for us to sort through during our visits, stuffing my hand into this cookie jar was very looked forward to part of visiting grandpa.

And that was kind of how I approached my heirlooting heirlooming. Make it available for sale, but if no one took it, it was up for grabs.

I say “kind of” because there was a slatted bench I wanted – despite having nowhere to put it. Grandpa had it at the foot of his bed forever, however, my bedroom isn’t as spacious as his. Still, you know how The Gays are with the mid-century aesthetic.

So, for me – for now – it’ll be a plant stand. Also, like the cactuses on the other window sill, this keeps Myrtle out of the windows, which means I can put the screens back up for the summer. Who knew that Myrtle would hate slats?

Don’t worry, she’s upped her pooping out of the box game to let me know she objects to the placement.

You can’t really see it well in that pic, but there’s also one of a pair of nifty ashtrays that I pinched. I don’t smoke, so really these were just nostalgic discoveries when we found them. However, when I turned them over to find my grandmother’s signature of them, they became a remote tray and place to drop my keys and wallet.

I’m not a smoker. That’s not to say they aren’t well used…luckily, grandma’s glazing game was right on, otherwise I’m sure the smell that went along with those nicotine stains would have been a nostalgia dealbreaker.

Yes, yes…dusty. I know.

Unbeknownst to us, grandpa had a thing for old bottles and insulators. Like an “entire kitchen cabinet full” thing. That being the case, I didn’t mind adding a couple of his to my own collection of glass whatnots.

That bottle is an old Old Bushmills bottle. The glass – in raised letters – says that “Federal law forbids the reuse of this bottle”. My limited pre-post-Googling on this topic hasn’t brought and federal prohibitions – see what I did there? – to light. I’m sure someone <cough, cough> Phil! <cough> will have a notion on the topic, so let me know in the comments.

The last instance of heirlooting I’m gonna share was both a last minute discovery and an “I’m grabbing that before the house goes on the market” type of thing.

No one in my family agrees with me that this had been in great-grandma’s kitchen when she died in the mid-70s. So I’m likely wrong, but that’s what I remember. Still, when we cleared away the project remnants from it and pulled the protective cardboard off of it, I think everyone was surprised by its presence in grandpa’s garage. Clever man had the wear-withal to protect its surface, despite its relegation to his garage…

I’m just stunned that no one snatched it up at the estate sale! So, that being the reality, once dad told me the date the house was going live on MLS, I did a midnight run and picked this baby up. If no one else wanted it, Myrtle can use it as a feeding station. Saves my old knees and back squatting done multiple times a day to feed the not-as-old-as-me bitch gal.

I mean, look at it. It’s amazing! And in better shape for its age than I – but I’m working on it! Since entertaining isn’t really a thing these days – at least in my life – I’m in no hurry to add chairs. But I will, I’m sure.

Someday.

Until then, I’m glad I have these mementos of grandpa’s. For as difficult as our relationship was after I came out as gay, these remind me of the amazing grandfather he was, even if he wasn’t always the best human. And on that last point, he didn’t change so much as he changed his behaviors. That says something. I knew in certain moments of silence that he was editing his responses, if not abandoning them altogether. An impressive feat for someone whose anachronistic behaviors had been written off by most as “That’s just how he was raised” things we would have to endure.

Well, I was watching, and I think he proved them all wrong. That’s both a memory and an example that I can embrace.

Especially as my family faces it’s next obstacle: bringing Black Sheep Bro back into the fold.

Settled Affairs

I Can’t Have It All?

Part 2: What the hell was I thinking?

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

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

No big news on the writing front.

Yet….

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

For sure.

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

Also something?

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

Balance.

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

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

But that’s another blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bright side. Mr. Me.

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

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

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

But it’s sooooo fucking boring.

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

All. That.

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

Fucking morons.

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

It’s good to have a plan.

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

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

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

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

I Can’t Have It All?

I Can Have It All!

Part 1: Everything’s fine!

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

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

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

The answer is simple: go fuck yourself.

Wait. That came out wrong.

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

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

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

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

But I did, didn’t I?

Because I’m a dumbass.

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

Stubbornly.

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

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

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

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

Ooh, foreshadowing!

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

Amazed, he asked how long that took me.

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

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

Me: <raises glass to self> Yupperz.

SF: Geez! You worked 70 hours last week!

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

SF: That’s amazing.

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

See? He’s obviously the devil.

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

Shift my focus, did I.

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

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

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

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

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

What? It was a long pandemic.

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

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

It was oddly liberating.

And motivating.

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

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

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

I Can Have It All!

Well, Now I Feel…

Something.

Bad?

Nostalgic?

Accomplished?

Formerly accomplished?

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

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

Kidding. Trying/not trying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This kid was – pardon the entendres – a dick.

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

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

Judgy.

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously.

And I did it!

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

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

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

Margaret Mitchell.

Elvis.

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

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

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

Or…start another work.

The following April?

Ok, this was pure motivation. And adrenalin.

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

Rude.

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe that stripper was right.

Shudder.

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

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

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

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

Y’know…the basic writer’s nightmare.

April’s NaNo is weeks away.

Weeks.

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

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

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

RUDE!!

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

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

Well, Now I Feel…

Near Misses

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

Makes sense to me. Literally.

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

Stupid, stupid Americans.

And we loved it. Iself, included.

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

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

I mean, at least say it ironically.

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

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

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

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

Near Misses

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

What *Is* In A Name?

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

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

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

Oliver.

“‘All of her’…clothes off?”

Anita.

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

Amanda.

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

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

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

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

What *Is* In A Name?

Pro-Chris-tination

I’ve long enjoyed the saying “Hard work pays off in the future, procrastination pays off today”.

That said, though, I’ve been proChristinating an oil change for about 5k miles. Having finished my drive challenge yesterday, I swore I’d get it done today.

Specifically, after my 930 phone interview.

I knew when I took the interview in bed that this was going to use a broad definition of “after”. Technically, 330 in the afternoon is after 930 in the morning, right?

This is what happens…

The manager just came out to tell me I was looking at at least an hour. That’s not even what made me mad, though – that white car is one of those Vantucky fuckers. They come over here for higher paying jobs or to dodge sales tax (which is the case here, I’m sure) and then bitch about us smart Portlanders wanting to put light rail on the new bridge between them and us and refuse to play ball. The side effect of this is that they build in a reason to bitch about Portland longer term: traffic, which they themselves create.

This is the second place I’ve come to and found this lineup, so I think I’ll try one more. If that doesn’t work out…maybe Tuesday is my day!

Pro-Chris-tination

I Can Do It. I Can Have It All!

Not to steal Liz Lemon’s thunder, but…I can. The Silver Fox even said so.

What is “it all”?

Well, nothing but kind of everything? Situationally, to me, at least.

First, there’s the Dry Happy Hour that I call work. Driving for Lyft. Seriously, I just sit around and chat with strangers. How is that work? Legitimately, if we had drinks it would be exactly what I do at Happy Hour when my friends aren’t around to join.

Well, I’ve struggled to get my mojo back since vacation in early October. I usually put in around 25 hours a week, but the second a third weeks of October, I didn’t always manage that. Plus, before vacation, I’d been putting in more hours to allow me to save for…a new condo next Spring.

I’m no longer sure that’s my goal, and I know that is part of my recent apathy: no clear goal. So the bonus that Lyft runs occasionally was a welcome jump start at the end of October. It’s an up to $377 bonus for giving 135 rides in a week. It usual means a 45-50 week of driving.

Then there was this day to ice that cake:

Yeah, I drove all night on October 30th and earned $1031! Not bragging, specifically, but I’m too amused y earning “Halloween” dollars on Halloween Eve.

Then Lyft dropped the same bonus for a second consecutive week. I was pretty wiped out from last week and only managed 16 rides Monday-Thursday. I’d kind of resigned myself to not meeting the 114 ride minimum threshold for the first tier bonus. Then I had an epic Friday night, where I “one more ride”-ed myself to a personal record of 40 rides in one night and suddenly the first tier was within my grasp.

Gotta love rainy weekends for lots of short rides.

I’m on my way out to wrap up the final 24 rides…but then I saw this in my app this morning.

A third week?!? Here’s what I sent to The Fox that prompted his all-caps support.

Ten thousand dollars in four weeks? It’s within reach, and would certainly help me get October’s derailing back on track.

Except

There’s the whole exercise thing. Since getting my Peloton, I’ve managed to work out about 5 days a week. Even during my vacation! But looking at my October results, you can see the struggle.

Ugh.

So my balancing act challenge has been to get in some exercise and drive. Pretty achievable…except October.

And now I think I can add in a third objective: NaNoWriMo.

Oh, the absolute hubris.

Fifty thousand words on a novel project in the month of November. I sat it out last year – because I struggle to do anything that I think of as “work” at home.

Writing straddles that line between work and hobby.

Blog? No worries.

Novel? Nah, that’s work…other people make money doing that type of thing.

But, while I haven’t been able to manage working on any of my story ideas at home, I’m capable of kicking around ideas all day long, no matter where I am. I hit the ground running – kinda, you should read that as proChristinating – with NaNoWriMo. Five thousand words in the first two days. Then I got back into gear with driving on Friday and have only added a couple thousand words since then.

It’ll come back, though. I wrote 50k on my first NaNo in two weeks. I’ve still got three weeks left in November, so I’ll definitely get across that finish line.

But the next week is gonna be a frenzied hell trying to manage all three of these goals.

Remember, though…I CAN HAVE IT ALL! At least for a week.

I Can Do It. I Can Have It All!