The Stoner Cafe

Longtime readers will recognize the name of this entry as what I named the vending machines in the basement of what my friend D-Slice called The Adult Dorm. We were neighbors there when I lived in Seattle.

The vending machines were on the basement level for five or so years after the building went condo. Maybe this was a construction leftover. However, since this was also the laundry level from when the building was apartments, something tells me they had been there quite some time before the construction guys arrived to rehab the building.

Also, there were Zagnuts in it.

Eventually, the machines were removed. This was actually a fairly sad realization for many residents, I learned. I had thought I was the only loser that frequented them, reinventing the walk of shame as I took my 14 floor elevator ride with a handful of change.

At least it was usually well after most of the residents’ bedtime, so I was usually able to do so undetected.

This nostalgia is top of mind again for me recently. Not because I sit around thinking about my glory days, no. Rather, because I have seemingly found a way to reinvent this phenomenon…if a vending machine can be considered a phenomenon.

Call it The Stoner Cafe 2.0.

Check that homepage out!

An aptly named app for my nostalgia, to be sure. The Stoner Cafe and this GoPuff app both wink at the reputation marijuana has for inciting the munchies.

Now, I’m not a big user when it comes to pot. Tried it in college, didn’t see the point. Tried it again when I moved from Seattle back to Portland, frankly, I’ve found that I can take it or leave it.

As I continue to struggle with an IPA induced increasing waistline, I wish I could actually “take it” – shut up, Diezel – in order to replace my beer penchant with zero calorie pot in order to unwind.

Alas…

The last time I used any marijuana product was 2016, and that was CBD derivative edibles rather than the THC counterparts. The THC being the intoxicating component of weed.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t get my own form of the munchies. Usually, this is my brain struggling to stave off boredom, versus any legitimate hunger. My mom pointed out this habit of mine to eat when I’m bored back before I even hit a double digit age. So it’s been around a while.

Knowing that about myself, I usually try to apply some discipline – believe it, or more likely, not – when purchasing junk food. I might pick up corn chips if I can fool myself into thinking I’ll make a nacho. If I go to the Costco, I’ll buy a big bag of snackage…because who can resist a good deal?!? Otherwise, I try to make my junk food consumption inconvenient so that I have to really want it.

Ergo, I’ll make myself get up and go to the store.

But a few months ago – maybe around Halloween – I discovered GoPuff. Seriously, did you see that pic of the homepage of the app? It’s like a convenience store on my phone.

I’d seen ads for this app while playing Words With Friends. I didn’t think too much of it at first, just a nuisance to be endured like all the other ads we put up with in our online lives.

Then one night, I was up…couldn’t sleep. There was no food in the house. Not even cheese, which usually goes a long way with me as a snack.

Or a meal.

I was trying to be good and hadn’t ordered a pizza or used Postmates to get some Thai delivered. I thought that if I could just make it past the restaurant’s closing time, I’d be out of danger.

My brain had other OCD thoughts in mind though. Once 11 PM hit, my cravings ramped up. Significantly.

Fine.

Amazon Prime to the rescue.

Nope. My earliest delivery option was the next morning.

Then I remembered…GoPuff.

Problem solved!

Salt & Vinegar chips. Check.

Pringles. Check.

Ice Cream. Check!

Monster for the morning? Check. Times two.

Frozen Pizza. Why not?

Oh, I can order beer and wine on this app, too? Don’t mind if I do!

Unlike Amazon Prime, there’s no extra charge for ASAP delivery. Again, consider the target audience. That means that I didn’t have to wait two hours for delivery.

On top of that, the prices are pretty solid. Somewhere between grocery store and convenience store. I didn’t have to feel guilty over anything but what was in my cart because I wasn’t overpaying.

This is on my mind today, of course, since I’ve been procrastinating a post-holiday diet. My white elephant gift was labeled

To: Fatty

From: Santa Claus

So, yeah…that’s great. It was also a Nutri Bullet blender and my sister helpfully pointed out that they juice great. What is that, a hint? Luckily, I’m meaner to myself than any helpful life tip could ever be.

I just needed to get to a point where I could do some self-care without any temptations. Er, distractions. I thought that would be last week, but then the Silver Fox suggested a Golden Globe viewing party and offered up three bottles of wine.

“It’s a long show!” he offered when I countered with two bottles. Fair point.

So, Monday, then!

Then I get a text from my ex, Rib. He’s got a 30 hour layover on Tuesday and we should hang out.

Yes. We definitely should hang out!

So…Wednesday?

Well, if I’m gonna shut The Fox’s drinking buddy down for the better part of a week…we should have a last hurrah day.

Thursday, it is!

I’m sitting here, writing this and eating the leftovers of my Pringles as a text lands from The Fox

BL at 3:30?

BL being Big Legrowlski…where our favorite beer, Pallet Jack from Barley Brown’s, is back on tap.

Junk food successfully consumed, a Pallet Jack send off, now I’m ready.

The Stoner Cafe

Galby’s Grow Op

No, mom…I’m not growing pot!

She’d totally turn me in, too.

No, my grow op is my lil patio pot garden.

Mom totally endorses this type of grow op. Out in “the wilds” surrounding my family’s homes in Columbia County, there are three Galby Gardens. One for each of my parents’ and siblings’ yards. Having a hopefully lush patio is the least I could do to try to blend in from my urban abode.

Mom even made a contribution at our lunch this week, trucking this lil baby in with her and Dad.

Let there be salsa! Er…tomatoes. I know there’s no such thing as a salsa bush.

Most surprising to me after planting my initial garden over in 3C last year was how Myrtle left the plants alone. She had killed most of my indoor plants, Christmas Cactus barely survived. There are still leaves with Myrtle’s bite marks scarred into them, so I was surprised she hadn’t tried to kill last year’s or even this year’s patio plants.

Sure enough, she’s content to sit peacefully amongst the greenery.

Well, she was sitting peacefully until I went to snap a pic, then she went on high alert.

Crazy cat.

To further nurture my yard-ly yield, my absentee takeaway from last year’s white elephant family Christmas celebration was an AeroGarden, which I just decommissioned today after what I hope will be a successful transition from hydro to soil.

Wish me – and these lil babies – luck.

The mini-countertop garden kit came with basil, dill and parsley. I was most excited about the basil, since I grow tired of buying mine. However, this plant got monstrous on my counter and dwarfed the other two in the aeroponic setup. Probably, I should have done this weeks ago. I fear the poor thing is too top heavy at the moment to successfully support itself, hence the alley oop from the deck railing.

The basil is still that big and heavy after taking 1/3 of the plant off…fingers crossed.

After planting the three victims – er – herbs, I think the parsley is the prettiest. Being in the creative couple’s project pot that Sacha and I each painted half of certainly enhances the delicate beauty of the plant itself.

I love that damn pot.

Again, not pot-pot. The one that survived the end of our relationship, ten years of condo living with no deck after moving to Seattle and then the return move to Portland. I rather like having a tangible reminder of that relationship. What better reminder than something we created together?

Regardless of how the new additions take to their soil surroundings, I’ve still got the perennials that I added this Spring as well as my personal favorite – don’t tell the others! My olive tree.

The Silver Fox was over the other day and remarked that it was really taking off. That’s a big improvement over his earlier observation as Winter began to give way when he said it didn’t look like it was doing too well. He’s some sort of master gardener, so I usually pay attention to his advice and admonishments…even when he ends up being wrong!

Anyway, last night he was over to watch some TV and I took the opportunity to passive-aggressively ask his advice on the olive tree and how to/when to prune it. I think it’s getting a little shrubby looking.

“Google ‘how to prune an olive tree'”, he offered.

Touché, Fox. Touché.

Should I name my olive tree?

“Olive” would be too obvious, right?

How about “Carl”? “Carl the Olive Tree”, no one would expect that…

Galby’s Grow Op

Merry Christmas!

And Feliz Navidad!

My Christmas – low key as it usually is in my family, just mainly together-time and food! – was kind of crap this year due to circumstances I couldn’t really control.

Well…I could control them somewhat.  And I did.

But I still ended up working today instead of being off with my family.

What happened is that I had a couple of new associates scheduled to work today that called out sick yesterday, probably a pretty good indicator that not even paying them double time for working the holiday was going to motivate them in to work today.

So…I motivated them in to quitting.

Manipulate is such a negative sounding word and I really feel like my implied ultimatum was effective in getting these two off my team.  That’s important to me, because when people abuse our attendance policy, the rest of the team pays the price.  

Hard.

I was able and lucky enough to find an associate to volunteer to come in to replace one of their shifts.  But for the other shift I had to push our scheduled Manager On Duty into a store, which meant I got to be the MOD.

It’s fine.

Really.

Hold on, while I mop up the mess that sarcasm made.

Christmas plans scuttled, but it didn’t really break my holiday spirit.  I thought I’d try and put together a few of the Christmas memories that came into mind while I worked among the holiday travelers at PDX.

Christmasisms, if you will.

In no particular order…I really just hope to remember the thoughts I enjoyed today on my MAX ride home.

I’ll start with an easy one.

Ever since I took Spanish and Algebra in Junior High, I’ve amused myself by making a little equation out of the word Christmas.

Chris + mas (the Spanish word for “more”) = More Chris!

My staff today might disagree…hey, it’s double time!  I’ve seen enough war movies – both GI Jane and A Few Good Men! – to know double time means “fucking move faster, grunt!”.  

Yeah, that’s inside humor, Chris…

There was the Christmas that my grandfather gave us kids a foosball table.  Man, that was the shit.  I think we were so excited to see that sitting in the back of the El Camino that we collectively wet ourselves.  I didn’t even know gifts could be that cool.

But I did know that gifts could be the exact opposite.  When I was maybe ten, probably younger.  I got a gift that was basically this

As an adult, I’m ashamed of my ten year old self’s (maybe) behavior (definitely).  My paternal grandmother had bought me a suit.  I dare say it was my first suit.

It was very…brown.

Mom made me go into the bathroom and try it on.  I went.  I went and I stared at it, sitting there in its box.

I didn’t think of how little money my grandmother had, and that she’d chosen this while thinking of me.  Yeah, grandma totally knew ten year old me (maybe) was a Future Homo of America (definitely).

No, I didn’t think of that.  I thought of how brown it was.  I was apparently also hardwired to be a bitchy gay, too, since I waited an appropriate amount of time, rustled some paper and then went back out declaring it was, “Fine”.

I also learned at Christmas that gifts could be a rite of passage marker, too.  Like the Christmas Mom and Dad got us three older kids bikes for Christmas.  

Banana seats.

Handle bar streamers.

The whole shebang.

Wait…is shebang a sexist word?  Oh, well…if you’re easily offended you should probably be reading The Bible and not this drivel, so you really only have your delicate self to blame.

You know…the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether those bikes were Christmas gifts or just Awesome Parent gifts.  Well, it’s a good memory, either way.  I remember the three of us taking our bikes out for an inaugural ride, so if it was Christmas, it was temperate.  Riding around our cul-de-sac on La Cour, streamers flying.

Speaking of La Cour, the street I grew up on and fun little equations…my first pets name was Butch, making my porn name Butch La Cour.  <adult toy drop>

Ok…walking home on icy sidewalks now.  Just a couple more quick memories from today’s Christmas Snowmageddon.

I told you about my least favorite clothing gift of all time, how about my favorite clothing gift of all time?

Silk boxers.

Not for me, per se.  I agree with Kramer.

But I remember working a post-Christmas sale at Meier & Frank when I was managing Men’s Sportswear.  Alison, the Men’s Furnishings manager gives me a “Psst!  Hey, hey!” From across the aisle.  When I look up at her, she gives me directions via some crazy eyes that I correctly interpret as “Look over there!”.

Subtle, Alison.

I played it cool and was rewarded with a couple of barely college aged bros walking through the department in sweatpants.

Enjoyable – anytime – for me, probably excruciating for them on this instance since they both appeared to be learning that silk boxers are not practical attire until after you can no longer ejaculate over your own head.

I felt bad for them, but that wasn’t the only thing I was feeling, figuratively.

Gotta love silk boxer season.

Last one, swearsies.

Sacha and I – y’know what?  It’s Christmas.  I don’t want to think of Sacha anymore today.  

Plus, I’m home.  Let’s end this on silk boxers.

I’m gonna go inside, take off my pants, peel off my tights – proper Snowmageddon attire, bad walking ten miles at work attire – and sit on my couch with a pamplemousse La Croix and let my boys air out for a while.

Enjoy that Christmas visual.

Merry Christmas!

Peace on Earth?

How about peace in one’s mind?

The holidays are definitely my favorite time of year.  Mainly because of the spirit of the season.  Fuck gift giving.  I’m a capitalist, don’t get me wrong.  That said, I’m impulsive, spontaneous and probably more selfish than most…therefore, I buy what I want, pretty much when I want it.  My family is not the same, per se, but they definitely have shifted the focus of the holidays to the experience for the young members of our family and, oh yeah…just family.  Being together.  Cooking.  Eating.  Playing games.  Being together.  As.  A.  Family.

That’s what the holidays have meant to me since forever ago when I began living my life independently as an adult.

With a career in retail.

I’m sure you can see how that would potentially jade my pleasure during the holidays.

I only decorated when in a relationship.  I never made the time to write out the Christmas cards I purchased every year.  Usually from a co-worker’s child to help with fundraising for their school activities or summer whaling adventures or what-have-you.  I didn’t bake cookies or treats for my friends.  Nor did I particularly participate in gift giving.

My holiday experience truly existed in the spirit of the holiday.

I had to dig deep to find my pleasure in the holidays as working in retail simultaneously attempted to suck the pleasure right out of them.  It wasn’t initially an exercise in retaining my sense of the season as much as it was in resisting the urge to give people a good baby-shaking when they needed it.  Apparently, that’s frowned upon.

I looked at the innocent joy of kids experiencing the magic of Christmas (and other asundry religious holidays that occur around the Winter Solstice).  There’s some purity there, let me tell ya.

Then I would be reminded of the offset of kids being monsters the rest of the year.  Heck, if I took off my rose colored glasses, I could catch them being not so sweet and innocent around Christmas, too.

Damn.  Was it a small victory or an ample sized delusion to lay the mantle of my holiday spirit on kids?  Who knows…I dug some more.

My grandmother had managed to camouflage the fact that she was a grumpy old man by actually being a woman and having firm ideas on what social graces should and shouldn’t be.  Having her influence in my life resulted in a guy who is actually soft and gooey under his crusty exterior.

I open doors for people or hold them for those passing through after me.

I say “please” and “thank you” to servers.  And still tip decently, too.

I’m known to help people carry their bags if they are overloaded.  As a fellow customer.

Classic Portlander, too.  I’m going to give you directions on the street if I think you need them and wait out an awkward right of way situation at stop signs.

So, maybe this was a place for me to make some holiday spirit.  Those small gestures are so much more easily executed this time of year with all the shopping and visiting people are doing.  We need each other’s social grace to get through our holiday madness!

So, I did do just that.

Much to the consternation of my ex here in Portland.  He would get so grumpy when he’d turn around and see me stuck holding a door for an endless string of shoppers.  Forgetting that I also held it for him.

And it was all good an fun and fine.  Until cellular phones got smart.

And then there’s Amazon and other online retailing.

When people venture out for holiday errands now, they are usually plugged into their phone and paying zero fucks to anything happening outside that bubble, so they don’t seem to notice someone doing something nice for them…like not letting a door smack them in the face as they stroll obliviously through.  Because now we’re entitled and distracted.  Or the people out running errands kind of pissed that they couldn’t get it delivered and had to leave home to do something for someone else.  When I suspect someone falls into this category, I do muse about whether they couldn’t have just stayed home if they had been willing to pay for shipping on whatever they needed…and likely paid for parking when they came downtown to procure.  That’s a fun mental exercise:  how much would they spend on shipping versus parking and did they consider this?  Did they procrastinate too long and now they can’t have it shipped so they have to go out and shop in the real world?

Just musings, but not any that are productive for nurturing a holiday spirit.

Take three.

I tried appreciating the charitable workers making merry the holidays of those less fortunate.  I was in SoCal when my case of the bah humbugs hit me.  I would drive to work and see the bell ringers doing their thing at the mall entrances.  I’d empty my pockets of change for them every shift I worked; on my way in from the parking lot, on my way back after lunch or coffee breaks…just shekels, but still.  I would participate in the giving trees set up in the lobby of my bank.  For whatever reason, I’ve rarely done the Toys For Tots thing.  I dunno why.  Maybe it’s that I don’t find myself in toy stores that often.  Even with my nephew I tend to by clothes for gifts.  Yeah, I’m that uncle.  So my holiday cheer was somewhat convenience-based, I guess.

Then I moved from SoCal to Portland and from Portland to Seattle.  That’s when the shitcake really hit the fan.   Here I am, freshly primed for the holidays in a new town and looking for those bell ringers.

Empathy on high!

The problem?  When I moved to Seattle, my commute transitioned to a *ten* block walk.  That asteriskonomical ten is for mom.  She knows why.  Anyway, I’m giving all my coin to the beggars set up on each corner as I walk through downtown Seattle to work.  Not each intersection, each corner!  They are – fairly literally – all occupied by homeless people and street buskers doing their thing.  Well, except for the corner that Nordstrom takes up to build out its Santa Workshop.  Barely an open space for a bell ringer to set up a bucket and do their ring.  I start giving small denomination bills because I believe in their charity.  My first holiday in Seattle I nearly went broke.  I started resenting the beggars that preyed on my empathy.  My charitable spirit was intended for a different target.  A target that would probably deliver $.39 on the $1 to those in need, but still…

Maybe this thread of holiday cheer was wearing thin as it aged.

Back to the drawing board.

Then my grandmother died.

I don’t know why I associate her death with a shift in my holiday focus, but I do.  It could be that she was a holiday constant, my mom’s mom.  My other grandparents were divorced and shared visitation at my family’s home on holidays, whereas my maternal grandmother usually stayed overnight.  Maybe it was that she shaped many of the values that are part of my worldview today.  Maybe it was that I knew I couldn’t keep making myself feel merry by giving out loose change.  That’s as much a placebo as willy-nilly gift giving.

Again, who knows?

The important thing?  That I felt that missing piece of my family during the holiday.  My family had already changed its gift giving mentality prior to her death, we changed it up a bit every year.  It kind of evolved to where we are now.  My sister really drove the shift.  For a few years we drew names and bought a gift for a specific person; and the nephew.  She always seemed to break that rule…or drew my name a lot.  And my brother’s.  And then my parent’s, of course, but we all seemed to break that rule with them and them with us.  It was a good idea, but we weren’t really all that disciplined about it.  This year, we’re trying a cookie exchange.  I’m not sure how I feel about that…but it’s not about the cookies, right?

It’s about the family.  I know this.  I always got this part of the holiday, even with my weird and awkward divorced grandparents.  But something still wasn’t right.  And it’s always been one of those niggling little mental itches.

One of the other evolutions our holiday celebrating took was my parents’ ritual of spending a night at the Heathman when they came into Portland – that’s the hotel from Fifty Shades for all of you middle-aged and under romanced people out there – to shop for gifts.  Like I said, they  were horrible at following the gift giving rules.  Y’know, come to think of it, most of us were.  As exciting as the prospect of buying two gifts was, I think we all got a sense of enabling from just going out shopping for someone else and pretty soon, the tree was piled high with conspicuous consumption.  Anyway, my parents would spend a night or two at a nice hotel, shop, go to dinner, enjoy the seasonal immersion that downtown Portland has to offer.  It was special.

Of course, as kids do, I come along and ruin everything.  I moved back to town.  Literally town, not 30 miles outside of town like the rest of the family.  So, here I am in the hotel’s back yard getting invitations to dinner with them.  Which has happened a few times now, and I enjoy that and look forward to it as part of my holiday ritual.

This year, they even extended an invite to the Silver Fox.  Which enabled what I think might be the final evolution of my search for the holiday spirit.  It was nice for the Fox, too, since mom and dad wanted to go to Huber’s and he had never been.

It was the week that his ex was scheduled to be served a well-deserved restraining order.

Sad?

Break ups.

Scary?

Standing outside your ex’s window and throwing sticks at it.

Sending 30 harassing texts in the overnight hours.

Posting personal financial information and medical history on social media.

Extortion.

Cursing someone’s children and grandchildren.

Like I said, well-deserved.

Still sad.

Remember that sense of empathy that almost caused me to go broke when I moved to Seattle?

So, during dinner, the Fox gets a text from a concerned friend after they saw yet another installment in the defamation of my best friend by his (and it should be noted that I am not a trained psychologist, so this is strictly my lay opinion…regardless of its clinical accuracy) psychotic ex.  He glances at it with zero reaction and remains in the moment that our festive foursome is experiencing.

I knew nothing other than he had gotten a text.

When he told me later, I mentally golf clapped at his focus and ability to distance himself from such a painful and frightening experience.

And that’s when it kind of clicked in for me.

The peace on earth that we hear invoked during the holiday season seems purely sentimental.  A wish akin to that of winning the lottery, although I think most Americans are more active in winning the lottery than we are at creating any peace on earth.  Just a thought for another day.

But can it be attained without peace in one’s own mind?

This ex – who so needs a nickname, but I’m not sure he will have any permanence on my blog, so I’m pinning it for now – was creating such upheaval in my life, and I was only on the periphery.  I could not even imagine what my friend was experiencing.  But all the lashing out didn’t seem to be coming from a place of heartache.  It – and this was a pattern I knew from his behaviors toward me during his relationship with the Fox – seemed to me that the acts he was committing were from a place of insecurity and poor self-worth.

And that got me thinking…was my external focus on finding my holiday spirit merely an avoidance technique to shift the focus from my internal dissatisfaction with the holidays?  Or of my life in general that was amplified by the intensity of retail during the fourth quarter?

It’s either a crazy tangent or simply a moment of self-awareness-slash-clarity; yet, there it was.

Was I putting pressure on kids to be sweet and wide-eyed, charities to infuse my street corners with a sense of generosity and people to be just…not such raw versions of their lowest possible selves instead of being active in participating in creating the holiday spirit I wanted to experience?

Was there peace in my piece of mind?

And, honestly?  Yeah.  There was.  And has been all along.  But my thought on this is that really, the holidays are about more.  That more is external.  It’s the communal experience of the holiday.  The inner peace and external peace are interdependent for a solid holiday spirit to thrive.

Our holidays are populated largely by the same mass of humanity that we live with daily.  But that spirit is supposed to move us en masse to joyfulness.

We have decorations to remind us to celebrate that spirit.  But more often get caught up in being the best decorated…not for the elevation of the spirit, but selfishly for being the best.  ‘Murika!

Songs give our emotions a rhythm to move them from within us to those around us.  And headphones and earbuds either keep those songs in our own bubble by preventing their escape.  Or, perhaps worse…to keep the airborne festive songs out of our bubble.

But after witnessing the turmoil of my friend’s tortured ex-boyfriend, what I want for this year – and years to follow – is to be present in my own state of mind.  To experience and enjoy the holidays without allowing my dissatisfaction at the missing romance of a holiday spirit to diminish someone else’s experience of their holiday.

I’m fond of asking people if their behaviors are part of the solution or part of the problem.  Are your actions and words helpful or hurtful?  This commitment to my own presence of mind will hopefully allow me to experience the peace in my mind to fully enjoy the season versus pinning my enjoyment on one facet of that holiday spirit.  Watching the Fox compartmentalize his hopefully ended drama with his ex so it wouldn’t affect his enjoyment of a wonderful evening was a helpful example for me arising from what is obviously a hurtful moment in his life.

I am open to re-visiting the baby-shaking option, but I doubt that will actually be helpful to anyone but myself.  And the lawyers that defend me in the ensuing civil suits.

Certainly, though…if I can’t keep my typical Early Onset Grumpiness in check during the holidays…I’m a grinch.  And that’s not me being a part of any solution, in my opinion.

So, while I’ve obviously solved all of my issues with the holidays <eye roll> let me leave you with my wishes for a happy holiday for you and all of those you hold dear.  May they all enjoy peace within and without for another year.  Until Winter Solstice 2016, my gentle readers!

 

Peace on Earth?