Monstrous Mash

You ever have a moment where you feel like you should say something, but you just don’t feel like you have anything to say?

No?

Just moi?

Blogger problems, I guess.

Anyway, with nothing really to say in particular, I am undaunted. I also have this ginormous glass of wine to keep me company

So…yeah.

And other than a productive weekend for mine truly, I wasn’t celebrating anything. I just like to distress my doctor whenever he asks how my diet it.

I’ll be adding cheesecake to the lineup before this bottle goes into the recycler.

Wondering why I underlined that passage about celebrating? Because I wasn’t until I opened up my WordPress app to tap out this…whatever it becomes. I had a push notification, so I clicky-clicked it to see what was up

…which is really just code for WordPress telling me my annual domain hosting fees are due again.

Mmm. That’s tasty wine.

A blog buddy of mine – who I’d love to link to, but she has two blogs (one public and the other anonymous) and I don’t want to fuck that up for her – does this weekly recap she calls a Chex Mix post, I generally find that slice of life writing fun to read and hers are quick snd easy reads.

So, given my nothing-to-talk-about-ness I thought I’d try something in that style. Of course, I’m a tad verbose, so what she typically accomplishes in a few hundred words will probably run upwards of 2k knowing me.

Buckle up.

Seriously, you’ve been warned.

Writing

A while back I lamented that my writing mojo had mogone and I hadn’t done any work on my work-in-progress novels since last April when I completed a first draft of what I hoped to be the third installment of my No One Of Consequence series. After that admission, I tried to jump start my writerly vibe with daily entries for a week.

The end result seemed to be that I was at least back on the blogging bandwagon. That’s not nothing.

But it don’t pay the bills.

Not that the $20 or so that I rake in from book royalties each month puts much of a dent in my bills. But it usually covers my Natural Gas bill.

By the way, when I say “rake”, I meant one I found in my junk drawer from a desk top Zen Garden I don’t have any more…

I floated the notion back then that I didn’t have a writing spot at home, and that’s why it was hard to get motivated to write at home. Usually, I decamped to the corner cafe for a couple hours several mornings a week to get my productivity juices flowing.

Anyway…after a particularly profitable evening of “socially distanced” drinking a couple weeks back – read that as: I sat at a video lottery machine by myself and swilled beer – I was feeling a little flush and decided to shop around for a desk.

Notice at the top where you can barely make out that it says “redeemable at lottery offices”…yeah, bars typically only cash out winning tickets up to around a grand. So the next day, I drove down to Salem to pick up my winnings.

But due to the pandemic, the offices are closed snd I just had to drop my ticket snd claim form into a drop box. I’m still waiting for that lil check to arrive.

Feeling…unfulfilled after that experience, I decided to treat myself to a few beers. And since no one likes me we’re still socially distanced drinking, I went to another of my regular dive haunts.

Lighting doesn’t strike twice, so I figured I would give Kelly’s a break from my shenaniganery and hit Yur’s.

Too busy.

I decided on Marathon Taverna, which is on Burnside and 18th, so pretty much the farthest edge of my “a good stumble” roaming habitat.

Plus, neither Yur’s nor Marathon have Pallet Jack, so being further away that Kelly’s really works against them. The fine video lottery machines at Marathon seemed interested in making amends, though.

Like, really interested in making amends…

And I kept on winning. I felt bad after about my third trip to the bar to cash out, so I actually switched machines…my lightning strike logic and all.

By the time I left – three beers in – I figured I’d easily pulled $2500 out of the bar. At one point, the waitress told me she’d called the owner to come replenish her kitty.

Don’t get my wrong, I was tipping her well, at one point I left a $150 winning ticket as a tip for my beer instead of my pandemic normal $5 per beer tip.

I guess karma was pleased with my attitude of gratitude.

On my was home, I stumbled up a couple blocks and made three $500 deposits at my bank’s ATM. I woke up the next morning with $350 still on me, which felt nice. I was also strangely proud that that meant I’d payed over $500 back into the machines, too, according to my mental math.

Until last week…when I found $1000 I wasn’t expecting in a coat pocket. I’m not 100% sure that was a leftover from this particular night, but I can’t really think of where else it could possibly have come from.

Loathe as I am to admit my math skills may not be up to snuff after three beers, that is.

Maybe it was dad.

He can be sneaky. My family is quasi-obsessed with making sure we have “walking around” money. And the last few times he’s asked, I’ve proudly assured him my boat was afloat. A pleasant departure from earlier inquiries during my unintentional semi-retirement where the confidence of my responses was more like, “Sure. I’m ok…”

Still, I could see him getting the money in my pocket without my knowing, but not him getting the zipper up.

Blackout Mysteries.

Short story, long? Here’s the desk I ordered

Nice and simple, should be here by Wednesday.

I don’t know why I just said that. Now there’s a potential accountability expectation from you all.

<grimace emoji>

Homework

I have a small…apartment. When I moved back down to Portland from Seattle in 2015, I kept my condo up there and AirBNBed it for about 18 months. Meaning…that once I finally sold that place, I had two homes worth of furniture to fit into one 700 square foot unit.

First World problems.

I divested myself of several odd accessory furnishings at the time, but have since just dealt with the excess.

One big difference between my homes in the two cities is that my Seattle bedroom was huge.

Like, really big.

It was like a suite. I had a king sized bed (now gone), an eight drawer dresser, matching nightstand, a bench (also gone now) and a corner chair that used to belong to my grandmother.

To highlight the Portland home’s less-than-palatial bedroom, I know sleep in a queen sized bed, which is fine. But there’s not enough room in my bedroom for my dresser! I use it as a TV console in the living room…not that the clothes in most of the drawers fit me anymore.

Where is that cheesecake?!?

My unused mountain bike sits up against my kitchen bar because my utility room is too cramped to hold it and still be usually as a laundry room.

I mention this because creating a writing area by adding a desk was basically Furniture Thunderdome.

Something had to go.

Given that I eat in front of the TV, my pub table was the likeliest candidate. Plus, it was also the most reasonable position for a writing space.

I’d gotten this in about 2007 in Seattle after moving into my permanent Seattle residence. I wasn’t entirely sure that a 14 year old pub table would sell, but gave it the really old college try.

Girding my grumpy old man loins, I waded into the pool of CraigsList fuckery. Y’know, where you list something for sale and get responses like, “Can you hold that until I get out of prison?” or “Would you be willing to accept 20% of your listed price?”

That type of crap.

After a few hours and not even a pain in the ass response, I debated lowering my price from $75 to $50. Then I got a response. He wanted to look at it this morning and didn’t see why he wouldn’t take it home with him today.

No muss, no fuss.

Of course, Portland had my back to ensure shit got weird.

When I went down to get him, I opened the door…no one was waiting. I look around the column, homeless man standing there in what would be tighty whities on someone 50 lbs heavier than him.

And he was yelling at his shirt. To his credit, though, he seemed to only be changing clothes versus wandering around in a fat man’s underwear.

That was when I noticed a guy squatting down on the other side of the column, smoking crack. As glad as I was that my buyer wasn’t just showing up in underwear for this transaction, I hoped there was a third guy somewhere nearby.

My phone buzzed. It was the guy, boldly hiding out in his – wait for it – Subaru on the corner. I scared the guys down the block and my Subaru driving Vantucky neighbor came in.

And bought the damn thing, just like he said he would. No dickering, no hemming or hawing…he even had exact change.

You’re not from around here, are you?

Remember what I said about lighting not striking twice in the same spot?

Yeah, me, too.

Still, I was also still remembering living with too much or out of scale furniture for the last six years, well, four – I should my condo in 2017. That’s when shit got crowded.

That memory is far more ingrained than a gambling (for entertainment purposes only!) winning streak a couple weeks back.

Since I had some space, I figured I would do a little front room gerrymandering to see how to fit my writing desk into the equation. I moved my couch off the wall opposite the TV and positioned it facing the balcony. That meant the chair needed to go into the corner by the balcony doors…which I liked overall.

It even left a nice wide walkway between the living room and kitchen bar. I’d ordered a wall bracket for my bike, so it can stand against the wall on its rear tire, which I’d hoped my allow me to put my console table or desk behind the couch. The problem was, though, that my coffee table and side table were…redundant in my small living room.

So, I put ’em on CraigsList and two hours later was loading them into a Prius. Now, I could push my couch in almost a foot without my space feeling crowded.

Plus, I got to go buy a new coffee table – which I kind of love.

The hairpin legs make the space feel so much more open than my old side by side bases for the glass top coffee table I divested myself of a few hours earlier. My only regret, though, was not finding a matching coffee and sofa table. I’d wanted to use the sofa table as a TV stand and move my dresser back to the “blue wall” where my console table is presently.

Sadly, just like my console table, the matched sets I found while shopping today were about a foot too small for my TV. Well, there was one…but it was $700 for just the sofa table.

No, thank you. This fool wants to hold onto some of his lottery winnings. Or at least have some left over as seed money for my next socially distanced drinking outing.

The Green Loop

I know…you’re all dying to know how the three-quarter Wrong of Way intersection was resolved. Well, maybe just the Silver Fox.

Well, the other day, I saw a city worker carrying a stop sign on Flanders, heading toward the intersection in question on 9th! Mentally declaring victory, I went inside and, I dunno…opened a bottle of wine?

Seems like a safe bet.

The next day, I saw this as I was coming down 9th, preparing to turn onto Flanders for my preferred parking space.

Say what, now?

Cross Traffic Does Not Stop

Surrealiously.

After all that – at least three different days of dickering with signs, they’d finally put in the missing stop sign at the four-way intersection…and then removed the original two signs from when it was a two-way stop.

I can’t believe that I can’t get a job and whoever is running this shit show is getting paid with my tax dollars.

This should have taken a couple of “road closed” signs and an afternoon to move the existing signs 90 degrees. But, no…this is Portland, we had to make it weird.

Well, whoever had that bright idea needs to know that “weird” and “dysfunctional” are not synonyms.

They also, as of today, have yet to sandblast the white stop lines off of the new through traffic lanes, too.

Adding insult to civil injury, they removed the stop sign I used to park behind and moved it 90 degrees so that Flanders has right of way all the way down my immediate three block stretch of road. Not that big a deal, really, since the idiots going down my street usually yielded their right of way at Flanders by stopping on Park to let people who were required to stop for cross traffic…cross traffic.

Ugh.

Is that enough of a download to constitute a mash?

Nailed it…that’s 2300-plus words. But in a breath of fresh airness, only a minority of them were typed in a rant tone of voice.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a refill and some cheesecake!

Monstrous Mash

The C.R.S. Chronicles #3

Singledom vs. The Aging Brain

I’m no hoarder, let’s get that <ahem> straight from the get-go. So last year when everyone else was buying a garageful of crapping paper, I was blissfully going about my own days.

Such as they were, in lockdown.

That said, household supplies in my household exist on only two par levels:

1) A nine month supply, easy; or,

2) Oh, shit…I should have bought toothpaste yesterday!

If you want to know how much coffee you have to drink to cover morning breath, don’t ask me. My neurotic ass is convinced that I’ve never accomplished this feat. But I’d guess the answer is somewhere in the neighborhood of “a lot”.

All that being said, I took my CRS riddled brain on a little shopping trip yesterday with the mantra “Toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, dishwasher detergent” playing on repeat in said brain.

I knew I needed other things, but the mantra covered what I knew was urgent to remember. The rest of my shopping trips usually amount to grabbing go-to staples like Mac & Cheese and hamburger or assessing whether I’d eat something before its pull date (broccoli and salad kits are the primary aspirational purchases in this category) or actually eat it at all (anything else that’s borderline healthy or with a risk of too many leftovers).

So shopping with me is pretty fun. If you lose track of me, I’ll be wandering through the beer and wine aisles until someone comes to get me.

As opposed to shopping with the Silver Fox on one of the many times he’s allowed me to coattail on his Costco membership. We hit the cart corral and he’s off and running on his familiar shopping routine while I’m still standing by the roll up doors wondering aloud to no one about a pallet of electric toothbrushes.

Next time I look up, I see only the smoke and dying flames that his feet left. And that cagey bastard expects me to keep up, actively preventing me from retreating to my safe space.

All this, of course, is just my attempt at lede-burying.

I went to the fridge today and grabbed my last cold soda. Not wanting Future Xtopher to be caught without an appropriately chilled soda, I went to the pantry to grab another 12-pack: none.

No worries, I have back up 2-liters for just this…oooooh, fuck.

So, yeah…this is that second par level I mentioned earlier.

I even looked at soda yesterday as I grabbed a cart. Specifically, I recall thinking, “3 for $13.99, that’s a crap deal” and pushing on.

Toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, dishwashing detergent!

Oh, mania…my steadfast companion.

Back to this morning, having finished my one measly soda, I showered to be ready for an interview. Then I debated running out for a soda, energy drink or coffee; ultimately deciding there wasn’t enough time.

There was time, however, to do last night’s dishes. It seems most of what I used for meal prep last night was too big for the dishwasher, so…dishpan hands, here I come!

Except

I was also out of liquid dishwashing detergent.

Ooooh, fuck…

The only bright side here is that I know I would never have remembered six things in a mantra. I’d have had to write it down…and then find it in my coat pocket next fall.

You think I’m being too hard on myself? Well, my brain, at any rate.

When I went to get my first COVID shot on Tuesday, I took my coat off so they’d have access to this skin. As is my habit when removing my jacket in public, I checked my pockets to make sure they were zipped.

You don’t want something falling out of your pocket as it gets tossed around a coat rack or bed by others. Learning this the hard way, if you watch me in public, you’ll see me surreptitiously checking my zippers – coat pockets and pants fly, can’t be too careful – often enough you’d think I should be medicated.

Probably, I should.

But that’s not the point.

One of my zippers was open, so I zipped it as I was shirking off my coat. The other one was zipped. But, what’s this? There’s something in it!

I love little prizes from Past Xtopher.

I open the pocket while the nurse is readying my dose, boom…$1000.

Thanks, Past Xtopher!

The C.R.S. Chronicles #3

Small Comforts

We all need them, whether we acknowledge – and even more importantly, appreciate – them or not.

Doris Day parking.

Someone paying your coffee purchase forward.

A rain break when we forgot our hooded jacket or umbrella.

Chocolate.

A familiar face in a crowd.

Or, in my case…warm socks.

Yeah, turns out that’s what really does it for me.

As we leave winter behind and look toward spring’s arrival next week, I’m reminded of all the times I cozied up at home with a big, fuzzy pair of socks. It’s a great cure-all, especially after downing a couple in a tent on the street outside of a favorite bar – while it rains and cold radiates through your shoes and up your legs.

It’s a chilling, but necessary evil to maintain some sort of mental health self-care these days. But luckily, these days are becoming warmer!

Another thing that struck me as I was cleaning up my pics, deleting things I didn’t need and putting others into folders that make them no easier to find in the future, was that the women in my life were much better at providing this small comfort to me than I was at accomplishing it for myself.

Go figure, once again women are better people than men. Thank gourd mankind is not limited only to the male of the species or we’d really be rogered, but good.

Case in point: here are some $25 Keen socks that I bought myself five years ago. Wool, tech weave, lifetime guarantee…

…holes in both big toes.

Compare that to these Gas Monkey socks my sister gifted each of her male relatives a few Christmases ago.

Stop judging my chankles. Chrisism: chicken ankles.

Knowing my sister, she’s not dropping $25 on a pair of over-marketed hoopla socks like her frivolous brother. She’s got the money to, but she’s more shrewd than that. These were three-packs, and I bet she got them for $20 or less.

She’s proud of her ability to find a deal. I think this perfectly highlights the Hunter/Gatherer difference between the sexes, too. I find something and jump on it because it looks good. Or good enough. She, meanwhile, looks around and finds the best option.

Maybe it’s not fair to state that as an absolute difference between the traditional caveman era gender roles. Maybe she’s just smarter about her love languages than I am – and mind you, I’m just talking to myself when it comes to love languages. My sister is kind of Oprah, by comparison. At least where socks are concerned.

And then there’s the Crocodile Dundee of warm socks and love languages: my mom.

‘At’s not a warm sock, *this* is a warm sock! – Crocodile Momdee

She used to work at the local Kroger, Fred Meyers, which is an early inspiration for the present day Target and Walmart concept of adding grocery departments to their Big Box everything-but-grocery stores. Only Freddie’s did it the other way: grocery to everything else.

Anyway, over her 20 years there, all us (adult aged) kids looked forward to our annual Christmas stocking stockings. You see, as part of their Black Friday offerings, they did a crazy half-off all socks from some crazy early hour until the store’s normal opening time.

Mom stocked us up.

Because that’s what moms do.

The pair pictured above were part of one of my Christmas care packages during the time in my life when I lived away from my hometown. I remember these particularly well, since they came with a very mom-usual card:

For Those Cold Texas Nights…

Aw, mom.

So…yeah, my Texas misadventures were back in ’93, which I think must be pronounced 19-friggin‘-93. Meaning these socks that were maybe $9.99 regularly priced, that mom likely got for $4.98 and paid $4.49 for after her meager employee discount have lasted me 28 years.

Twenty-eight-motherfriggin‘-years!

The secret quality control ingredient is mom.

Jesus, I’ve had these socks over half of my life.

And these stupid socks that people who love me have bought me over the years make me feel as loved and cared for as anything I’ve ever been told or shown. Even knowing they’ve probably long forgotten the gesture, I remember it each time I go to my sock drawer and pull on a pair of chunky heavy socks for an evening in.

It really is the little things.

Small Comforts

The Haircut Saga: Fín

I’m sure I placed that diacritic backward. But I’m not here to talk about important things.

This is about me.

That came out wrong.

My neglect of my own hair maintenance is fairly obvious – in person – and just one facet of my ability to proChristinate that I’ve low key bragged about on this site. But given that this is my life, there has to always be some sort of Nth factor.

Finding that second link made me realize that I inadvertently lied to my new barber when I told him it had been 15 months since my last haircut. It has been two full years!

See also: how long my parents quietly suffered.

So, yeah…I got a haircut. Here’s a before:

Level of Neglect: Jesus

Level of Entendres: Double, speaking only about the hair. Sadly, no Jesus Level Abs detected in recent inspections.

Getting a haircut in this circumstance wasn’t just an accomplishment. It was a victory.

My old barbershop closed recently.

(Seriously, read that second link for why it was such an enjoyable victory for me. We’re talking layers of icing on this cake!)

It is a local chainlet, so don’t feel bad for them. It’s just one location. I’m not sure if the decision was pandemic related or if it’s more of a strategic business decision. For all I know, they got better lease terms in a nearby new building and will open a new shop in the area. But I’m still claiming the W on behalf of my stubbornness and self righteousness.

I’d recently been driving past a new shop on Broadway that opened in a couple of friends’ old gift shop location. Initially, I was curious that a barbershop using a single gender noun in its name could fly in liberal Portland, Oregon. Eventually, though, I decided to give Menspire the honor challenge of making something out of my nest of a mane.

Plus, you know I love a good portmanteau. And, really, Themspire is just confusing.

I wasn’t crazy about the $40 price tag, compared to my old shop’s $30…but think of all the money I’ve saved in my haircut budget over the last two years. Assuming I resume any sort of regular manetenance – boom, Chrisism! – with Menspire, I have a $240 cushion to pad my budget, or about 6 years of haircuts that I can offset with my “savings”.

Still, you know me…I went in dubious. It’s a hangover from the last two barber chains I’ve been to, here (Bishops) and in Seattle (Rudy’s). Also a nod to the whole, “if it looks too good to be true” trope, since both Bishops and Rudy’s are rather stylized. Menspire presents with a rather severe yet austere decor and I was wary that this would be a same old everyone gets the same stupid haircut schtick like Rudy’s and Bishops only with different aesthetics.

I learned that it’s a U.K. chain, complete with a training academy. Lil ol’ Portland is their first U.S. location.

Sure, appeal to my hometown pride, why don’t ya.

As I talked with Brandon the Barber, I realized several things:

A) The appointment lasted a full 45 minutes – and that’s normal, not a byproduct of my hair volume. Bishops appointments are so fast, the barber’s chair doesn’t even warm up.

2) They seem to default to razor cuts! I gave up on asking elsewhere because the answer was usually no. Additionally, I wouldn’t necessarily trust this particular old fuck buddy turned Bishops employee with a razor, so why trust anyone who associates with him?

C) Welp, in a fit of C.R.S. I’ve forgotten my third realization…<shrug emoji>

Neverthemess, I’d been debating my course of action with this cut: wade in with some shaping and styling or go balls out and return to a clean cut like this

I figured going all the way was overcommitting. So I waded in, figuring if I didn’t like an intentional long style, I could drop another $40 in a month or so and Bob’s your uncle.

I didn’t think to snap a pic of the fallout – probably because I was literally light headed – after the cut. Trust me, though, my follicular fallout was a good 8′ in diameter.

The cut ended up shorter than I’d imagined – explaining the debris field around me – and it felt…weird. I liked the look, though, and left with a smile.

Of course, then there’s the next day.

I wasn’t sure after sleeping on it and showering what I’d gotten myself into.

Was this some sort of resurrection of my junior High cut, the bi-level? Because I’m not sure that something that morphed into the dreaded mullet with all of its incarnations is worth the effort to resurrect.

The razor cut creates a lot of texture organically, probably by traumatizing the hair. But my hair has a natural flip when it gains any length. Otherwise, it’s pretty stringy and straight.

Looking in the mirror that next day I didn’t know if I loved my new style or if I looked like I’d scalped a young Meg Ryan and then had shock therapy. I felt like maybe I looked like a psychotic pixie and just hadn’t realized it.

Fortunately, things settled down up top over the next couple of days. While I was no longer accidentally ending up with the ends of my hair in my mouth while eating, those first few days required my eyes to adjust to the new length, which routinely had the tips of my hair poking me in them.

But things did settle down and I’m feeling pretty secure about the decision to stay on the long side. For now.

Of course, that confidence was rattled when the Silver Fox visited last week and said nothing about my cut. I had to passive-aggressively thank him for noticing on the second day of his stay.

I don’t know why I don’t have more friends…

Anyway, here’s a couple pics of the new ‘do. My selfie game is pretty weak, so…tough.

Now, back to the battle of the nose and ear hair! I’ve lost my ear hair camouflage and I suspect masks may go away soonish thanks to vaccinations, so there goes the old nose hair cover. Maybe I’ll try having those areas waxed…

The Haircut Saga: Fín

Valentimes Part Duex

You ever have one of those days?

Weeks? Months? Years?

Lives?

One of my favorite things to say back when I was giving 50-60 hours a week to the man was:

Today’s been one hell of a week.

Chrisism. Use it in good health.

I reworked it last year for quarantimes into “2020 has been a hell of a decade“, but it just didn’t hit as hard.

Anyway, 2021 has kind of started off distinguished only from 2020 by a singular event for me: the inauguration of an adult as president. Otherwise, SSDD.

Case in point, even though I declared my dating exploits over at the completion of the yearlong effort that led to Dating Into Oblivion (I swear that there’s a link to buy it somewhere on this blog page, should you be queerious), I still maintain a profile on Adam4Adam and occasionally recreate a profile on the human cesspool known as Grindr.

But, despite the Silver Fox’s assertion that I’m too hard on people, I maintain a standard when it comes to asocial media.

While that standard may look like me doing my damndest to die alone, I swear it’s really a filter that allows others to unintentionally self-select out of my dating pool.

Basically, everyone blocks me all of the damn time.

Por ejemplo, just last night, I had a guy launch into his schtick with me. For those of you wondering what a millennial gay considers a best foot:

Sup

No punctuation, no introduction.

Sup

I can reasonably assume that the string of vowels and consonants in his profile’s headline is his name, still…confirmation would be overly taxing? It looks both unpronounceable without a little guidance and vaguely Hawaiian.

Also, to his credit, there is blessedly, no butthole pic.

This is really what happens…do you think any reaction would be reasonably considered “too hard” on these friggin’ ass clowns?

Since Grindr is nice enough to alert users when someone looks at their profile, I cannot help but notice that Sup has not looked at mine.

So…I look at his, just to kill some time in case there’s somehow a backlog in what I’m sure is the very high tech and sophisticated alert system on this…mess of an app.

Uh-huh. We’re both tops – Google it – and he specifically calls out that interested parties should not be over 35.

Really, I guess I should be flattered that while my actual age is an anagram of 35…I am most decidedly not 35, but somehow made it through his filter.

Did you read my profile?

Impressively, he responds in the negative and enthusiastically says he will do so right now. Then logs out.

Fucking millennials.

My notifications are still showing me as invisible to The Gays, so I know he didn’t check me out and then – reasonably – run off into the woods.

Seventeen hours later he messages me back, seemingly having missed my anagrammatical eligibility to put Lil Xtopher somewhere I know he doesn’t want him.

I point out our disparate definitions of the term “right now” and…he blocks me.

Far be it for me to brag, but this happens multiple times a month. I know. Every month, I’m blessed to be able to demonstrate to people the benefit to themselves of not knowing me.

Namely, that without me in their lives, they can carry on blindly running full speed into pain walls that they themselves built. Heaven forbid, someone actually want to help another person become a better version of themselves. Or, y’know…a decent human being that contributes more to Gay Kulture than supporting their local STD clinic.

Remember…this is a Valentine’s Day post.

I really don’t know why I tease you by dangling that carrot shaped sex toy that – I hope – got mangled in the garbage disposal while awaiting its return to service.

That was graphic. Maybe now is a good time for a shot break.

This is my life, folks. And you wonder why I proChristinated my colonoscopy…

Except…every now and again someone seems to be looking out for me.

Now, a wise person – as I consider myself to be…shituationally – knows to take a fix up at about 1/1000 of its face value.

This is a brief tale about that one time a bar owner tried to set me up with the only other gay guy at the bar. And by “at the bar” I mean in the Pandemic Pivot of a Beer Garden that the owner of Big Legrowlski has managed to pull off. It’s really something. Five tents, broken into a group of two and three by a fire pit. Each tent has a physics defying heater mounted to the roof, meaning when I come out in December and January to support my local…I’m freezing my giggle berries off.

Anyway, last weekend, the bar owner comes over to keep me company for a second. He leads with a few seconds of small talk and then – in a fit of foreshadowing that makes me momentarily worried about the quality of his wife’s sex life – plunges into the real reason for his visit.

Hey, do you see that guy behind me?

Literally ever guy at the beer garden aside from he and I. I give him exasperated eyes.

To the left!

I look.

No mate, my left. Sorry. Sorry.

Cue up the Throwback Offenses!

Just as every Black person had likely heard a version of “I’m not normally into…but…”, every gay person has had a well intentioned abortion of a fix up from a well-intentioned straight friend who tries to fix up the only two gay people they know. Or, as in this case, the only two gay people in their general vicinity.

Argument against the existence of God: this phenomenon.

Somehow, this guy ends up joining us. Around my table, it’s: mine truly, the bar owner and then this…guy, and finally an empty seat in the clockwise position.

Buffers are important. Even when not needed.

I’d already told the bar owner “Hard pass” once we nailed down The Gay In Question. I’d even helpfully pointed out a few of the other guys at the fire pit that could eat crackers in my bed, just not this guy.

He was one of those classic “Is over 40, acts under 30″ gays.

How he ended up at my table – or why – was a short lived mystery. After being introduced by name by the bar owner but getting nothing in return (classic basic fag move) I also come to realize that this guy is a low talker.

It’s an exhausting – read: excruciating – 10 minutes. I should have just taken the hit and dragged Mumbles off to the giant elephant statue in the park for a blowie to get rid of him.

Glad, was I, that I did not.

As clumps of sand broke through my life force hourglass, I began to realize that Mumbles was into the bar owner.

The straight, father of two bar owner.

What an idiot.

Read the fucking tent, man.

Alas, this socially illiterate ‘mo starts playing grab ass with the bar owner’s nipples. That is something I will endure in a goddamned gay bar, but within normal societal watering holes, you keep that shit tight.

Not this clown college drop out.

Only minutes passed, I’m sure…but it felt like one hell of a week between meeting this guy and him crawling back into the sewer that birthed him. Small victories, though, I was still in possession of my table.

That’s enough for me. I might be perpetually single, but I can hold down a goddamned table in a beer garden in a rain storm.

You’d think that would be enough Dating Into Oblivion visitations for me for 2021, but no. Like a trooper – a. very. bored. trooper. – I maintain my usual divided attention at home while watching TV.

Shameless vs Words With Friends.

Then on the next episode, Shameless vs Adam4Adam.

Then on the next episode, Shameless vs Instagram and Facebook in a Battle Royale of short attention spans.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The end result being that maybe I got my own date.

Slated to meet this coming (all over) Sunday at the Big Legrowlski. He seems nice, but if nothing else, this purple haired, four off-the-ears-facial-piercings guy in his 30s – I know, so many piercings for a guy that age…but at least he can commit! – will serve as a visual aid to the bar owner as to the type of guy he should drag before me in the future.

Crappy Valentimes, errybody! And, yes…I know that Part Deux preceded Part Un.

Part Un is…special. Maybe bring tissue. Or your label maker and a box to store your jadedness in.

Valentimes Part Duex

I Am Unresolved

But, still…one (this one, anyway) does like setting and achieving goals. Especially if they are fun or don’t require too much work.

That said, my goals are a mixed bag of those two…adjectives? Qualities?

I dunno.

Nonetheless, here’s a brief accounting of the goings down to date:

1) After Chadwick Boseman died last summer – suddenly, to out of the loop fans – I started putting pressure on myself to get my mind sorted on the Coming of Age test that my doctor had been pestering me about for several years. It’s cute that he thought getting ahead of my fiftieth for the test would provide results. He plied me with mail in poo test kits on every visit for a couple years, trying to sell me on “new and improved” collection methods.

Bless his heart. He’d only known me a couple of years at the time and was unfamiliar with my stubbornness.

When T’Challa died, I finally pulled one out of mothballs my pile of unread mail and stabbed a floater before sending it in.

Of course, I failed.

Since it tests for trace blood and I have ROH (randomly occurring hemorrhoids), duh…blood.

When he calls me with the results, I’m talking to a doctor that finally knows me.

I’m going to write you a referral. When they call, *please* answer your phone.

Hehe.

I replied by asking how many years he’d been chasing me about fondling my feces, which amused me way more than him.

It’s not funny, it’s just funny.

Anyway, my colonoscopy is the week after my birthday. AKA: at the end of this month.

2) At Christmas, after my mom unwrapped a bird feeder from her Secret Satan Santa, I remembered what I’d forgotten: I wanted a bird feeder for my Juliette balcony. Mom directed me to the shed, where there was a hummingbird feeder they had decommissioned some time ago that I was welcome to.

I’d posted about the minimal effort required to install it – basically a trip to the local hardware store.

Side Note: my local hardware store is the one that Anastasia Steele (what a douchey name, but what does one expect from such a masturbatory story?) worked at before becoming involved with the titular character in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Anyway…I finally got around to that. Now the waiting game begins.

She’s a meany. But I’m sure she’s nice enough to invite any takers into her Red Room.

3) And no Resolution List would be complete without a diet or exercise entry.

Diet is not that entry. Although, after reading about the prep for the impending ol’ tooter rooter, I’ll consider that diet.

But I’d seen the latest greatest resolution challenge floating around on social media – something about 100 Days of Motion or some such nonesense. While I consider goals to be a great thing, realistic goals are the ones you attain.

Somehow, 100 Days of Motion for this old bag of bones didn’t seem likely. Unless, of course, one counts getting out of bed as a sit up, on to or off of the couch a squat or some similarly unlikely rationalization a success.

I don’t.

Nonetheless, I committed to being more active, minimum bar for success set at five days per week.

I started with three sets of weighted exercises at home – my only real option in Lockdown 2.0 – and had at it. Any movement feels good after months of rather unfocused but still highly effective neglect. So I was satisfied…and increasingly motivated through my own accomplishments.

Then I did a mile of stairs in my building.

It was the end of the second week – which seemed reasonable. But my body informed me otherwise.

I mean…it seemed so reasonable. Then I walked weird for a week. Nevermind the reality of wheezing my way up and down six flights of stairs dozens of times in a mask.

In a fit of frustration over my soreness and lack of saw ownership, which would provide me the ability to cut off my legs, I ordered an e-stim massage unit for a little relief…I hoped.

I have a friend – who I will allow to remain anonymous – that has one he uses for personal massages. That particular endorsement doing nothing but sending my nuts fully back into my torso whenever the topic comes up, I also had one from Bubble Boy.

Not that his was much better. He’d found playing the part of “cowboy” to my “bull” (Ha, I wish) taxing after falling asleep with his attached to his rear a couple of days before one of our assignations. Not that his rear needed a workout, but the results of his nap on a high setting gave me hope for a therapeutic result on a low setting.

It most certainly did the trick! Not bad for a $30 solution to my million dollar baby problem. Here’s a video of the above situation if you want to see ol’ Chicken Legs McGee twitch…

I’d also seen a former colleague hosting outdoor fitness classes, reminiscent of my uber-fit days in Seattle, when I’d wake up at the crack of dawn and go to a boot camp overlooking the Puget Sound and then grab a doughnut before 7.

Anyway, she was doing Saturday morning classes (at a non-crazy hour) for $10 and I thought maybe I should participate. I missed the first week, but the second week I took my Jabba-esque physique out for a trundle. Hell, for all I knew, it would kill me and spare me the colonoscopy.

Upside.

Here is my post following the completion:

And I should be back next week. I was gratified that my former colleague bemoaned being 43 as we caught up, trying to decide “how long it had been” while also laughing at how long it had been. That’s aging for ya, it’s kind of amazing. Additionally, with her being probably exactly middle-aged for a woman, that lent itself to the majority of the participants being only slightly younger than me. So I felt comfortable.

On the other hand, the single attendee who was young-young was someone I was fairly certain that I’d chatted with on asocial media several years back and maybe only unfollowed this past summer. It’s hard to tell with masks and all, but I recognized some thigh tattoos and distinctive guybrows.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t recognize me – or my less-than-impressive thunder. Because, of course the class I went to so that my clothes would fit better started off with midriff-baring downward facing dogs. While that’s a position I would enthusiastically put him into, no one needs to witness my shituation in that same posture.

All that said, the class was great – despite the humbling nature of the endeavor and one errand exertion related fart – and I will be back next week. And I can still walk, thanks to my e-stim buddy.

4) And I nearly forgot this one: I raised my weekly Lyft goal by 50%. When I’d originally set it, my goal was just to minimize street parking expenses, since I don’t have a garage. I usually made that goal, but now that I’m not doing any part-time office gigs, I’m on the street whenever I’m not driving for Lyft.

Honestly, I normally blew that goal away, but officially resetting my goal to the 50% increase was daunting.

So far, mixed results. I’m averaging my new goal over the first weeks of the new year, but I have only achieved the goal itself two out of three opportunities.

There still work to be done. And 49 chances for success!

So that’s what I’ve got going so far this year…I still have my new InstaPot as an open/unopened goal to tackle. I’m sure anyone who follows me on social media will be assaulted by result pics know as soon as I start executing on that goal. I’d like to put it into weekly use…it’s just finding those recipes that will produce leftovers I’ll actually eat or that can be cut into halves easily.

It’ll happen.

How are your resolutions going? Tell me in the comments…

I Am Unresolved

The Red Shirt Diaries #26: LyftLife Edition

Long story, short:

I still love driving for Lyft. It’s currently my favorite form of prochristination and cure for boredom.

Now…

Short story, long:

Last night was the second time I’ve thought, “Sheesh, that could have been it for you, son” after a ride.

Yes, I talk to myself like that inside my head. Well, mostly inside my head. I also have a “Mom Voice” and a “Dirty Harry” persona that make occasional appearances.

But out of ~3500 rides, two that could have gone from dicey to deadly ain’t bad, right? Also, check out that 5-star rating! I feel a Rain Man voice coming on, because…

Clearly.

Anyway, I never wrote about the craziest drive I ever gave because it:

A) was just about everything anyone who’s ever said, “I bet you could write a book about your experiences driving” would think it would be; and,

B) my actual mom would use her actual mom voice on me and make me get a real job again.

Also, maybe I’ll write a book about it.

So…

The Runner Up Ride:

First off, last night started out as a shit show. I picked up a guy on my first ride who tells me he was just leaving a friend’s place after a hang out. Assuming correctly that “hang out” was exactly the euphemism I thought it to be, partnered with the reality that this is a heavyset fella, I was immediately equal parts envious and Nancy Kerrigan.

I mean, really…whyyyy?!?

Then it got weird, when he asked if he could ask me an off topic and admittedly weird question. I’m pretty game for weirdness, so I chuckled and told him to get at it. Well, it turns out this guy and I worked together briefly at a local healthy grocery from which we were both fired – because that’s what this joint is like. In a fit of C.R.S…I have absolutely zero recollection of him.

His question could have been weirder, but my C.R.S. added just the right layer of awkwardness to the conversation.

We trashed The Gays for a while, since he’d mentioned his friend was a dude and 1 + 1 = a sword fight. Then, as he was exiting the car at the bar I was dropping him off at (a coping mechanism I completely understand) he says, “For what it’s worth, being a gay guy in his 20s is totally different than being a gay guy in his…” and waves his hand at my general state of being. Then he shows me a quarter slot as he hefts his way out of the back that could hold every damn quarter ever. That overly cheeky fat fuck…the nerve.

First person to throw up in my car? Me. Almost. Well, I did, mentally.

Optimistically, I thought, “Well, things can only go up from here” in my Dirty Harry voice.

Then I picked up a young woman who answered “Better…” when I asked how she was doing. She followed it up with “I’ve been throwing up all day, but now it’s mostly dry heaving. But I brought a plastic bag, just in case.”

So…that was a quick arc, from virtual to actual (potential) vehicle based vomit.

It turns out she’d drank an entire bottle of something that was lost behind and effort to stifle something else on Friday night – on an empty stomach, no less – and yesterday was a Bob’s your uncle type day for her. Fortunately, we made it to her destination without incident, Portland’s pot-holey roads notwithstanding. Her ride ended close to my home – and, in a completely unnecessary side bar, right across the street from a place I lived back in ’96-97 – and I though that maybe I should just give up and call it a night.

Clearly, the universe was trying to tell me to fuck all the way off something.

But the (recreational) O.C.D. is strong in me and I like to give blocks of 10 rides when I go out. My feeling was that even if I was going to short-day it, I needed to hit five rides so I could sleep. Hell, at least four, so I could true-up my total ride balance to a mentally comfortable multiple of 5 or 10.

Full disclosure: when I get into what I call “overtime”, that 10 rides block goes out the window. If I’m in the far reaches of Portland on my 10th ride – as is often the case, given the level of fuckery I endure from the universe – I’ll put my app in Home or Lux Mode and take rides that come my way, but not hold myself to ending on a multiple of 5 or 10…

Surely, I could manage two or three more rides. Right?

Again, optimistically, I thought in my Mom Voice “You never know, the next ride could turn everything around for the better”.

That was just plain, old foolhardiness, though.

Enter, my third rider.

A phrase that is as potentially foreshadowing as a depraved mind could imagine. Seriously, you wanna know how this turns out? Remove the comma.

Let’s call this guy Donnie Drunko.

I clocked his blood alcohol level as elevated as he wobbled toward the car. I also clocked his sexual proclivities as he gave a long hug to a male friend before heel-toeing it my way.

He seemed amused when I told him I came out to drive after giving my wine rack the side eye too early in the evening, unnecessarily admitting he’d had a few drinks. “Yeah”, I replied, “but knowing my night owly tendencies, I knew that if I opened a bottle at 6:30, I’d be opening a second before 11.”

I went on to mentally muse that there was also a $15 streak bonus at 9:00 for giving three rides between 9-10 PM and I wanted to start a second streak in that hour to add a $30 bonus to my night’s effort. That bottle of wine could wait until 11.

Well, that’s what my thought process had been. I was already second-guessing that moderation decision and by the end of this ride, I was going to regret not boarding the bus to Hammertown.

Let’s just go straight from his surprise that it was only 7:40 and he was firmly wrapped up in a booze blanket, bypass the fairly enjoyable conversation about owning a house as a single person and skip onto me pulling up to his curb, eh?

He seemed to have trouble getting his shit together before deplaning getting out of the car. Not an unfamiliar phenomenon – especially with relaxed folk. People want to make sure they have everything, and that’s just more of a production from inside a bottle.

I’ve learnt to display a detached patience when this happens, like I don’t notice.

Instead of struggling to get out of the car, I realized he’d been struggling to close the diagonal distance between us. From the back, he grabs my arm to pull himself toward me so that his chest is against the back of my driver’s seat.

Assuming best intentions – like a moron – I ask if everything is ok, like maybe I parked in front of the wrong house. Nope…right house, wrong ballpark, as I soon found out.

“Do you, uh…want a hand job?” he slurs at me, his masked face surprisingly close to my own when I turned to face him.

“Boy, did you read that wrong”, I replied, enjoying the chance to use one of my favorite West Wing quotes in the same manner – albeit far more X-rated – that Leo McGarry had used it when Josh had tried to hug the curmudgeonly Chief of Staff on the show.

Shrugging off my rejection like it was my character flaw versus the complete cultural abdication of class on the part of The Gays that it is, he gets out of the car. Eschewing my usual “wait until they get to their door safely” M.O. I drive off immediately, debating when I should 1-star this clown and lamenting the pathetic state of Gay Kulture.

Internally, I’m trying to talk myself into waiting until morning. Then I hit the Block Hammer wall that I encounter so frequently on asocial media. When I don’t align with someone’s self-indulgent world view behaviors and they block me for – and I’m paraphrasing here – telling them that they are basically an affront to anyone with actual retarded developmental issues.

I know…you’re just dying to know that if that was the paraphrased version of my online response, what is the actual content. Trust me, it’s usually full on Julia Sugarbaker-esque indignation.

Low grade concerned that this guy could effectively pull that same cancel culture bullshit on me that faceless gays do online when they block me, simply by lodging a complaint about me with Lyft, I pull over and pull out my 1-star rating for this Lost Boy.

I hate giving someone a low rating/review and think Lyft is a little overly cautious in its pairing paradigm. Out of five possible stars, the app will never pair you with anyone you rate 3-stars or less. I think that’s a bit harsh, but I understand that they are trying to make the community the happiest possible place for passengers and drivers by pairing you with seeming favorites. It’s cool with that perspective. Wanting to be a busy boy, though, I tend to rate riders thusly:

5: good/great ride with a tip

4: good/great ride

3: lacking behavior, self-aware enough to tip to compensate

2: lacking behavior

1: WTactualF

This guy got a 1…even though I woke up to a chubby tip. I’d have still not felt bad had he given me a fat or even morbidly obese tip…and here’s why: it wasn’t until I pulled back onto the road to fetch my fourth ride that I realized this guy pulling himself so close to me could have easily ended with him pulling a knife across my throat – remember, I live in Stabtown, USA – as it did with a clumsy offer of a handy. Needless to say, I was a little trembly when I pulled up to my next pick up.

Happily, and in a fit of Mom Voice vindication, ride four was a 25 minute Lux ride from the swanky West Hills to far less swanky Felony Flats on the east side of town. As if the $50 ride itself wasn’t enough to tilt things back into cosmic balance for grumpy old Xtopher, the guy was a great conversationalist…which is fucking priceless.

The post-credits scene:

Since you obviously want to know…having stayed this long; no, I did not manage to double up on the streak bonus. Ride number four in my streak efforts barely fell into the 9-10 o’clock hour, but by the time he ran out his five-minute pickup time, it was 10:03 so I couldn’t start a second streak.

Still, I’ll gladly take:

A) a $50 ride

B) restored faith in my riders’ behavior; and,

C) getting to my 10 ride goal after a really rocky start to the night as offsets to a second $15 bonus.

The Red Shirt Diaries #26: LyftLife Edition

Don’t Call It A Recap…

Especially when recrap would be a much better way to sum up 2020.

And since it’s 2020 we’re talking about, I’m just going to talk about the last two months – really, the last month, outside of an early November mention. The whole year would run 20000 words, I’m sure.

Truth be told, I’m just going to bitch about a few things that broke down and then express a little post-holiday gratitude. This shouldn’t take long,

All in all, I’d summarize 2020 as a year in which if it didn’t break, it probably died.

Here’s a few things that gave it up in the last weeks of the year:

My laptop. As I geared up for NaNoWriMo in early November, my laptop started shitting its pants whenever it stepped off a high curb. I’d planned a non-fiction piece about job searching in my fifties. Fortunately, after a few hours of online tutorials, I was able to coax my laptop back to the land of the continent. That NaNo project, though…never did quite manage the download from brain to laptop. The Silver Fox stood by helpfully – virtually – while also acing his best friend duties by offering up the MacBooks he saw at Costco as a potential solution. I thought about it, even looked at one online in my most frustrated moment, but just couldn’t pull the trigger. The Costco offering was ~$800 and an Air model. In hindsight, that would have layered in what turned out to be unnecessary excuses for not tapping out a NaNo entry this year since the Air just doesn’t have the memory for writing like the Pro does.

New Pros run $1500-2400 and a used one is gettable for around $400. That’s what I did last time I replaced my laptop. I ended up with a refurbished model that was a year newer than my old one, so on balance I’m netting up two years of use…and counting.

After that brush with disaster, it looked like smooth sailing.

This being my life, that didn’t last long. The second and third weeks of December made week one of November look like a snowball next to their avalanche of misery.

Let’s see…

This is probably a clunky segue after my snow analogy, but it started to rain in the second week of December. Hardly a surprise in the PNDub, but I mean it rained. Like, people were walking around with expressions that said, “All that pandemic home improvement we did and we didn’t think to add pontoons?!?”

That type of rain.

I didn’t really notice it outside hearing things like “two inches in the last 36 hours” on the radio.

Until…I came home from running errands one day, took off my shoes, kicked up my feet to watch some Seinfeld for a couple hours and then – when I put my shoes and socks back on so I could go drive, my socks were wet. Flipping over my shoes, I was greeted with the thought, “How long ago did I get these?!?”

Walked the hell out of them, I did.

Off to NikeTown I went.

I was shocked by a couple of things:

First, my new shoes were only $130. I say “only” because that is about what I remember paying for my last few pairs – further reinforcing my suspicion that I haven’t had these last shoes that long. In reality, I recollect it being about 2 1/2 years, so they had more of a life than old Phil and his shareholders would like.

Second, the kid who helped me with my purchase was both unnecessarily tall and flirty. I’m not mad about that last part.

Next, as I rushed to get to the Festivus episode of Seinfeld before Christmas, my TV crapped out on me. It just started shutting off after an hour or two of play. I’d reboot it and it would come back…for a couple days. Then it just stopped powering on altogether. Haven’t been able to revive it yet using the same Internet U continuing education resources I did with my laptop. I might need to actually get someone on the horn to figure it out.

Then again, the other U – as in Universe – might be trying to tell me it’s all for naught. Last night, my final ride was a pick up at Video Only, a local electronics chainlet. While I waited in front for my passenger to emerge, I had prime seating for the TVs playing right inside the door.

Also, now I know that my car will hold a 65″ TV.

But in a fit of mixed messages, the guy wasn’t a tipper, which I’d interpret as the Universe steering me away from a new TV after putting me in front of Video Only’s temptations. And this is a rather significant sign since on top of having to figure out the logistics of getting a large object into a small space (merry Christmas, Diezel) this ride was from the far north end of town – literally, the Oregon border – to the far southeast quadrant of town…over 30 minutes, thanks to an accident on the crosstown. Yeah, by all means, feel free to drag your huge TV away from that scenario with no feeling of gratitude.

Let’s see…laptop, TV, sneakers…what else?

Oh!

Angela. This would be Pat the Patriot’s replacement from last February, who I don’t write about often because she doesn’t spend an average of a week in the shop each month like Pat did. Still, the other day – Christmas Eve – I got in the car to drive a bit and my low tire pressure alarm went off. Looking at the vehicle status screen on the onboard, I saw that the back passenger tire was the issue, but it was only a half PSI off of the next closest pressure level. I chalked that up to the morning being rather colder than the more recent days and planned to monitor it as I drove and fill it when I parked later. Sure enough, as the tire warmed up, the pressure crept up but still needed an eventual top off.

Undaunted, after eight rides, the Universe tossed me another grenade.

I pulled to a stop at a freeway exit and while I waited for the light to change, Angela made a sound I’ve not heard before. Let me tell you, I love the onboard computer, but the alarms are not subtle.

Everything is DEFCON 4.

“Hey, dummy…get gas!” makes the same sound as “Low Tire Pressure”. That’s also the same sound as the warning for low outside temperature…which is triggered at an unalarming and balmy 37 degrees.

However, the sound Angela made at that off ramp made me debate running away from the vehicle. On top of that, I was treated to my dash display and my onboard console display both changing screens to tell me my brake pads needed replacing.

It was rather a stimulation overflow.

Hell, with all that fuss, I’d have thought the wheels had come completely off the vehicle.

Nonetheless, I managed to both proChristinate getting gas and filling the low tire, so when I got in my car later that day – to go searching for wrapping paper, which was harder to find on Christmas Eve than crapping paper was in March – I was treated to a deafening cacophony of alarms that lasted about two blocks.

Sweet Jesus, Germans…calm the hell down.

But, as of Christmas morning, the only alarm still regularly greeting me is the brake pads warning. It is, however, pulling double duty. I hear it when I start the car and again when I switch it off…so, someone is looking out for my C.R.S. Hoorah?

Not for nothing, I check my mail midweek, generally. Last night, for whatever reason, I checked it when I came home.

Yeah…pretty sure that’s a ticket. The city is pretty good about screaming the purpose of its mailings if you pay attention. Sometimes it’s as easy as seeing the bold type that screams “City Arts Tax Statement” and others, it’s just knowing that the mailing address is the County Health Clinic just down the way. Not that I’ve ever gotten a letter from them…

The vagueness of this letter – only a “Response Requested Within Thirty Days” to guide me – made me think “request” was meant to trick me into opening it. Like I’m getting invited to the Mayor’s re-election party or something. And I do remember driving one night and seeing three strobe like flashes out of the corner of my eye. I looked at my dash and saw I was doing low 40s in a 35 MPH zone, but wrote it off as paranoia since I was also on an old state highway versus at an intersection where one usually sees red light cameras.

Heck, I don’t even know if Portland uses photo radar for ticketing. I can’t wait to find out when I open this sometime next July.

Now, just to make sure that you’re not all looking longingly at your own balconies or googling “macrame nooses” – that might just be a Portland thing – remember, I did get a pair of new sneakers out of the ordeal.

Plus, then there’s the actual good things that happened in the last few months, no wait…weeks, no…wait hours of the year. Optimistically, I’m choosing to accept these as net positives despite the fact that the Universe tends toward Lucy behaviors to my Charlie Brown existence.

For instance, when I checked my mail last week, I got a Christmas card from Little Buddy.

I know it’s hokey and completely against my typical on-brand bitterness, but just look at that grandpa playing Santa with his grand baby! It just made me tear up again!

Also mail related: when I checked my mail last night, I found that the City of Seattle had gotten its shit together and sent me some unclaimed money.

Mind you, Portland had theirs resolved weeks ago. Like pre-Thanksgiving. But on the upside, I was expecting $100 and got a check for $123, so…I’m not complaining. Hopefully that maybe-ticket isn’t too much more than that. Actually, if the maybe-ticket turns out to be a not-ticket, that check can go right into my New TV Fund!

The actual bummer here is that I don’t want a New TV Fund. I’d been hoping to have January bills squared away last week so I could maybe splurge on a Peloton-like bike for home. My 2021 non-fiction project is going to be a bit of a redux to my Fitfy blog theme. I figure that will nicely close the loop on my aging series of non-fiction: dating, working and fitness.

Anyway, I digress. Now we’re up to Christmas Day!

I’m not kidding when I – again, against my Early Onset Grumpiness brand – say that seeing my sister and her family of three for the first time this year had me feeling things. My attendance at family Christmas was (secretly) predicated upon the size of the gathering.

Our Thanksgiving had been four – mom, dad, youngest bro and I – from three households. State guidance was no more than six – pass! – from two households – fail! Those guidelines held for Christmas, too.

That said, Christmas was set to be that same group along with the welcome addition of my sister’s family from central Oregon and the unwelcome addition of Black Sheep Bro and his two teenaged sons, whom none of us have ever met.

From Texas.

If the pandemic weren’t a thing, I’d still have “put my foot down” level issues with this occurrence.

After screwing up my courage – not in an alcohol related way – I took my shot with the parents. It’s not that I begrudge them their parental – and grandparental feelings – which I will never experience first hand, but my shot was that Christmas should be a repeat of Thanksgiving.

I know. This is why people sometimes call me the Voice of Treason.

But I figured not saying anything would be the real problem. And I didn’t want the Christmas follow up conversations to be:

People: What did you get for Christmas?

Me: Dead Family. You?

So, I said it.

What I offered was to do a same day drive over and back to drop off and pick up gifts for my sister’s family…on the additional condition that we all *not* miss BSB for another Christmas. As expected, the results were like my favorite joke* and resulted in BSB being cordially disinvited but my sister still coming over.

That suited me fine enough. Although I was chagrined-ish to run into my brother in law and nephew in the drive when I arrived, on their way out to walk the dog. After exchanging greetings and getting a brief update, my brother in law says to me, “Are you going to wear your mask in the house?” I’d completely put it on out of habit before getting out of the car.

At least I’m consistent.

Now, what you should know about my family is that we are terrible Americans. At least as far as Christmas goes. We have a small family. I’d say our “core” census is seven: mom, dad, sis, brother in law, nephew, brother, me. Even adding in what I’d call the extended family – my uncle’s family in Texas and my 98 year old hermit of a grandfather – only adds five to that.

Then there’s BSB trying to add in his brood of three to our numbers now that the wife he basically left the family for has left him. Allegedly for something that comes with a cork in it. I shared a bedroom with the guy growing up, though, and I’d say the wine was a cure and not the cause my BSB would have us believe.

But that’s another blog.

The reason we are bad Americans at Christmas is that we draw names for our gift exchange versus just buying everyone gifts from everyone. However, the upside is that between breakfast and dinner, we only have to open ~7 gifts instead of four or five dozen, so there’s very little disruption to our holiday feeding frenzy.

On top of that, we make lists. Whoever draws our names basically has a cheat sheet. My youngest brother, as I gather – having not seen his list, even put down websites. That guy came to Thanksgiving prepared!

Me? I came to Thanksgiving oblivious. When I learned the routine for this year, I was stuck completely in “What the fuck do I want?!?” mode.

I vamped my way through my list of 3-5 things before coming up with something useful:

1) Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice

2) Skateboard

Here’s the explanation of those requests. Really, though, I hoped I didn’t get those items because I’m old and hips are expensive.

3) This Tee

And then my brain kicked into gear.

4) An InstaPot.

There had been an InstaPot at last year’s Christmas, but it was a White Elephant style exchange and it got stolen by mom. But I loved the Brady Bunch Inspired gift I brought home…

I present to you the real reason 2020 has been such a shit show!

Now, this year’s rules mandated that the gifts be given anonymously – which I missed, so my brother in law knew I was his Santa – so when I opened my gift, I didn’t know who to check for smirkage.

Because it’s me, and I didn’t just happen, I was completely open to my Santa being someone who knew I’d never buy myself an InstaPot and that I was disappointed to not walk with one last Christmas. Heck, I’d gone rogue and bought my nephew a gift card to a sporting goods store and debated putting it in a box with some rocks to weigh it down, so I couldn’t reasonably expect my Santa to not have had the same notion.

But, not knowing who to scrutinize for tells, I was left with opening up the outer box for verification.

Blammo!

Apparently, not only can you find one for $100 – that’s another rule – you can find one that connects to goddamn wifi and can be controlled from your smartphone. What an amazing time to be alive!

I finally found out that my Santa was my sister. When I told her I was worried my list was either entirely gibberish or over the price limit, she gave me a humblebrag about her ability to “find a deal”. Whether that meant she’s a legit Coupon Queen or threw me a bone and bought the only thing on my list that wasn’t snarky, despite having to bend a rule is unclear. I am pretty sure she honestly found a deal. She is good like that.

Now, I just gotta decide what to make and then screw up my courage to do it!

All in all, it’s a year that makes me think “I should have moved into a unit on a higher floor” whenever I stand on my balcony. Luckily, the year is nearly behind us, so I don’t think I will be worrying whether a four story drop would qualify as a landing I could walk away from or not.

Now, for all of you who waited patiently for the *, here’s my favorite joke of all time:

What do you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic?

Halfway.

Keep in mind, I heard this joke as a pre-teen on the friggin’ Muppet Show. That Fozzy Bear could bring a house down, I tell ya. But four decades later and I’m still carrying his torch!

Don’t Call It A Recap…

Wordsmithery 101

Y’all know I like my portmanteaus. It’s fun…jamming a couple words together for the visual equivalent of an onomatopoeia.

But it’s a numbers game. Volume of effort contributes to ones portmanteau vocabulary. Anyone who spends time around me – whenever that’s allowed – knows that there’s a strong likelihood they will either:

A) witness these efforts in real time

B) hear an occasional successful attempt, followed by me yelling “Boom, Chrisism!”

C) leave the situation not knowing if that will actually land a spot in my portmanteau lexicon or end up a forgotten, situational one-off.

Still, for the standersby I imagine it’s kind of like sex…I enjoy myself. I only hope anyone around me – for the portmanteau efforts – has at least a little fun.

The hazard here it that the success rate is probably closer to 1% than it is to 100%. I leave a wake of broken words.

Case in point, I just tried to mash up “couch” and “slouch”. The result was potentially a brain sprain…which you’d think should also have a portmanteau.

But the process doesn’t work great with alliterative words.

If you attempt to graft the first letters of one word onto the last letters of another, you’re going to end up with the first word, right?

Couching.

Slouching.

I tried Clouching, but that seemed kind of vague and evoked half-hearted kegels, for whatever reason.

I ended up just hyphenating it to couch-slouching, because I was bleeding from the ears.

So, better luck next time.

Wordsmithery 101

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