The Red Shirt Diaries #21

The Big One edition.

I just got back from a quick escape to the coast with The Fox.  This is an important point, only because we specifically discussed potential caffeination strategies simply because of the beach house’s remote location.

Coffee wasn’t going to come handily.  Either you have to make the dreaded drip at the house, prepare to trek into town for whatever offerings you find or take some with.  

It’s a worthwhile trade off for this view, though.

The Fox is a Stok fanatic, which is a pre-made cold brew that you can buy in the store.  So, he was taking a bottle of that to get him through and offered to take a second for me.  I told him that I would likely just grab some Monsters to get me by.  I used to have a daily habit, but weaned myself off when I moved back to Portland and found worthy cold brew that was accessible on the daily.

Still, I spent the next several days listening to facts about how bad Monsters are and how they were named as one of the 10 worst things you can buy at the grocery.

Our route home from the coast was atypical for The Fox.  Normally, he will stop off in the hinterlands of Portland at the Costcos and Wincos to stock up for Armageddon. However, this time we stopped by the Fox Family Homestead to pick up Sallory – who is off on another family world tour and in need of a lift into the city and the airport.

No better reason to change the usual routine than that!

So, the usual Costco stock up and Winco Stok up run was put off a day.  I was asked if I needed anything and really could only think of hamburger.  Later, as we all played a pick up game of Where I Hurt – it’s a mental poker game I play when a group of us complain about our respective maladies – and my losing hand consisted solely of nightly calf cramps, I added magnesium.

The Fox rolls up to my front door with the ground beef and magnesium later as well as some back up lasagnes and a flat of Monsters.

Enabler.

I can find a place in my pantry for those!

However, it did prompt this question about our usual coffee date this morning:

My Earthquake Kit.

Of course, the big one is nigh.  There’s scarcely a month that passes without at least one of the weekly rags publishing some sort of article about life after certain death.  Most recently, it was a Dr Know entry about whether houseboats were the next big housing craze in Portland – after RVs and ADUs – particularly as a potential way to survive and ride out the aftermath of The Big One.  The response, I will leave to your sleuthing.

Because

This morning’s quandary for the Red Shirt was, “Would I want to survive?”

Even with the Monsters The Fox provided and the cash stash my parents taught me to have, I imagine Portland will quickly de-volve into some sort of post-apocalyptic knock-off version of itself.

Zoo Bombers will run the looter gangs.

Vegans will become cannibals before the first aftershock.

Yard chickens will become prophets – because it is still Portland.

And, somehow, I think all the little things about humanity that bother me will survive…even becoming amplified.

My inner optimist wants to believe that survivors will band together to create a better tomorrow.  Focused on making a community out of the ruins of our hipster culture.  But realistically, I think sacrificing myself by running into my crumbling building to rescue my neighbor’s (completely fictional, but give it time) balcony chicken will be the better move.

“All hail the prophet Cluckerella!” will be my last words as I fling my neighbor’s (again, completely fictional) balcony chicken off the balcony to freedom from our collectively crumbling roost.

The Red Shirt Diaries #21

PDX Weather…

Life in the PNW is low-key glorious.  We don’t want word getting out and even more people moving here to experience it.  They always bring their hometown tarnish with them and it harshes our mellow just a bit.

Let ‘em scratch their heads in confusion about life here:

Rain.

Without umbrellas.

Great food.

That comes from a truck on the street.

Great coffee.

That’s intimidatingly simple to order.

Beer swilling liberal haven.

Filled with inexplicably fit folk…

Being smart and right burns a lot of calories, m’kay?

Let ‘em think all that crap about us. As long as they stay there and don’t move here.

Come get a taste of the wonder, but be careful how you time your visit.

You can get a great hike in our in the gorge or cascades.

Or

You can watch horrified like the rest of us as our beautiful landscape burns at the hands of some punk.

You can enjoy our tasty brewed treats – caffeinating or intoxicating.

Or

You can question reality – and how strong that beer was – when you (think you?) see one of these characters.

Two of those are undeniably real, the other is a secret.  Not sure whether any of them are actually a reason to stop drinking or a better reason to start.

Again, it’s about timing in the PNW.

Just when you think you know all the potential traps to avoid when planning your exotic getaway to weird Portland, Orygun, you go to your travel agent and say something like, “Um, like we wanna go” – just assuming you’re from the San Fernando Valley for some reason – “for a weekend during Spring Break.  All the locals will be gone, but it’s not as touristy bad as summer will be.” only to find yourself wondering why your Travel Agent is giving you this face.

It’s because you can’t outsmart us.

Don’t.

Even.

Try.

It’s a little known fact that our summers here are simply glorious.

God’s Country.

Lit by the longest, most sunshiny days you can imagine.

An even less known fact is springtime in Portland.  Every year I wait for it.  It doesn’t happen every year, but when it does…it’s amazing!

It’s been on my radar since early this week, when people were talking about snow this coming Saturday – aka: tomorrow, at this point.

I have to check myself when I start to expect it, because you never know it’s coming.

Wrap your mind around this:  all four seasons in one day.

It almost happened yesterday.

I woke up and tried to plan my day’s attire.  Really, the mystery here is what type of outerwear I’m putting over my jeans and tee shirt.  It was 32 degrees.

Winter.

I’d gone in on my usual day off, but ended up arriving a few minutes later than expected.  I’d taken a later train than planned when I’d returned to my condo for an umbrella after hitting the street and discovering rain with drops the size of my head.

Aaaah, Spring.

And, yes.  We locals do use umbrellas.  We aren’t idiots, like the transplant that started that rumor.

I left work and decided that I deserved a margarita.

The Silver Fox joined me for my second and when we left, proving margaritas are a cure for what ails ya – working on my Saturday, in this case, it was sunny and golden bright out.

Summer.

For two blocks.

Then it was sunny and raining out.  It kept getting brighter and the rain got harder.  People were laughing and smiling as they strode the sidewalks of Old Town in the surprise – and gorgeously lit – shower.

“Sunshine drops!”, I yelled out, giddy over the prospect of hitting the weather lottery.

This is why people think we don’t use umbrellas.  You’re out and about and get caught be a sudden shower.  Others might step into a doorway and wait it out, Portlanders relish it and carry on about their business.

I went home and surprised Myrtle doing something she wasn’t supposed to do – sitting in one of my dresser drawers that for sure wasn’t open when I left.

But I was only home to grab a growler so I could get provisions for the evening and hole up for the finale: snow.

I went to the Big Legrowlski to fill up and chatted for a sample or two with one of my favorite Pearl District peeps as she filled my growler with a lusciously light triple IPA.  

As I was leaving: hail.

So close.

I woke up this morning to a reminder from Apple and Mother Nature:

PDX Weather…

The New American Psycho

Surprising no one, the way we behave toward one another bothers me.  As the voice of treason, I am not silent about it…pleasing no one.  I’m not any happier about it than you are, trust me.

But you’re either a part of the solution or you’re a part of the problem, right?

I’ve been looking for and ruminating on a root cause for this shift in behavior.

What is the bogey that enabled this new sense of…blithe disregard for each other?

Was it our increasing Short Attention Span?  Were we or are we becoming too SASsy for our own good?

Fidget Spinners, for instance.  I think most of us acknowledged the idiocy of this it toy from last year.  However, did you see parents explaining to their children that this was a stupid toy and a waste of $10?  

No.  No, you didn’t see that.  Because: shut the kid up is more of a parenting agenda than reasoning with ones child or developing critical thinking skills early on by making a child articulate why they want a toy.  Hint: it’s because everyone has one.  How about just making them earn their treats anymore.  

Definitely a part of the problem…but just a symptom, not the cause.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for using this as a tool to soothe a child or adult that pings hard enough on the autism scale that they can actually count the spins.  But face it, that wasn’t the target customer here.

But adults – parents included – have their own fidget spinner:  Pop Culture.

How about that Hozier guy?  Remember him, the Take Me to Church guy?  Good for him, being the “it” artist in 2014/15, replaced midway through ’15 and well into 2016 by Ed Sheeran.  

Poor Hozier…sold some records and then what?  Our collective OCD saw something else shiny and new to distract us.

Poor Ed, too.  Stealing the pop culture crown – only to learn that pop culture is basically a wood chipper when the mob learns you’re a great singer with a mild personality and not the Kardashian-monster-type personality we’ve come to expect of our pop icons.  All this from a guest turn on Game of Thrones, no less…speaking of pop culture run amok.  I don’t watch, but The Fox does and I spent the better part of two years waiting for the GoT shoe to drop whenever I was with him.  

Not just in movies or TV shows we watch or discuss.  The GoT obsession followed us to our local wine bar where somehow we learned that the co-owner and Som extraordinaire dated Jon Snow when she lived in LA.

But it’s not pop culture, again…that’s still just a symptom, methinks.

Ten-ish years ago, a friend of mine said this about relationships:  Relationships happen in the moment – which I believe.  However, he went on to say that you meet someone and hang out and hook up then never leave or nothing happens.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I’ve definitely experienced the back half of that assertion, a lot.  But the first part sounds so easy.  And not in a slut shaming kind of way.  The hooking up immediately part is pretty much The Gay Way, but the never leaving part sounds more like a relationship of comfort for a 20-something. I think that is sweet and helpful for providing security while one finds themselves and that these relationships can create some great gay adults – talk about an oxymoron, emphasis: moron – but what about the folks that doesn’t happen for?

Lol.  Ed Sheeran just came on the radio at my coffee shop.

Eventually, I think these people become institutionalized by the hook up and get used to nothing happening after.  They forget their hopes and expectations of more.

Wait for it

Enter asocial media.  The dreaded dating app.  By our gay 30s, we’ve been bred – hush, Diezel – to expect less.  And we’re Americans, so we want as much of whatever we can get as we can get.

Basically, we’re all a bunch of whores self medicating our loneliness with meaningless sex.

But that’s not good enough.  We’re still gay, so we’ve got to make it fabulous and then, beyond reason, this hook up culture of ours becomes aspirational.

JFC.  

Now straight people have hook up apps.  Whoopee!  Everyone can now experience a life of nothing happening.

Great, deep, connective virtual conversations with the one.  The one that you never end up meeting in real life.

Or the one that scratches your libidic – warning: that word has high Chrisism potential – itch and then you never end up hearing from them again.  

These realities happen over and over again and more than people finding reward from this cycle, I hear people giving up.  Returning to a focus on the friends that have been there time and again after either scenario.  That becomes their focus, and it’s not a bad one.  It’s just that – as a too longtime frequenter of bars and clubs…it’s their sole focus.  People are with their friends and they aren’t open to outsiders breaking in.

So…what’s the right balance?  I’d seriously like to know, because suddenly, the only thing happening in the moment is sex with no expectations.  We are becoming hopeless, as hopeless as any other addicts:  either we get our fix and that’s fine, or we go on the wagon and tell everyone about it in an innocently judgy-slash-superior fashion. 

I blame Vegans for that behavior taking hold in American discourse.

While I think this is another symptom of the problem, I think those that break the cycle and change their behavior bring us closer to the cure.

Enter my early morning reading today.  I read this article about a woman who thought she was confronting a Neo-Nazi in a restaurant I’d challenge a Neo-Nazi could scarcely afford.

She wasn’t.

She just didn’t know what the word Luftwaffe actually meant, which was what our alleged Neo-Nazi’s tee shirt was raping her snowflakey eyes with.  Jumping to conclusions – assuming the worst, if you will – she said something.  

Now, im one for saying something.  Kudos for that.  It’s what happened after that leaves her short in my ledger.

As this was happening, the husband of the owner was doing some Snopes-worthy googling and learned that while this is associated to Hitler’s Air Force, the term literally only means “Air Force”.

Not Jew Bombers.

Not Air Hitler.

Just…Air Force.

End of story.

He goes out to soothe the still unfolding shituation, barely getting a couple of words in before our erstwhile Nazi hunter storms out of the restaurant and takes to social media to decry the unfair treatment of our self-appointed hero, being thrown out of Katchka, and all.

Which was barely partly true.

There was a dude there in a tee shirt with a German word on it.

The rest is dramatic hyperbole.

But maybe this isn’t exactly the psychotic behavior that’s been bugging me so much as it is just telling of our decreasing national character.  Maybe it’s just another symptom of the problem that is eluding my pointing finger.

But then, no.  

I check myself by asking, what if we applied character to all of these situations above?

Parents being responsible and shaping their children into good humans instead of placating them and essentially creating a race of entitlement instead of a generation that understands the cause and effect of earning things for oneself.  Bonus points if they also teach them to think critically for themselves instead of simply following the crowd of consumers.

Adults taking that same critical thinking to analyze their in-the-moment self gratuitous acts and determine what the potential ripple effects could be before acting: swiping left or jumping into bed with a stranger.  

“Will this make me a better person?” – No One on Grindr, Ever.

How about our Katchka Failed Hero?  What if Deavon Snoke has stuck around, I posited this morning at coffee.

The Fox – probably spot on – asserted that she’d have endured furtive glances and whispers of other diners for the rest of her meal,

However, I challenge, what if she’d stay-a culpa-ed and bought our Neo-Not-zi dessert or a shot of Katchka’s much lauded horseradish infused vodka by way of apology?

She’d have demonstrated courage and character.  That’s what.

Alas, the only courage she possessed was publicly shaming what turned out to be an innocent person, then cut and ran to play victim on social media, likely damaging the restaurant in the process of showing up her ego.  In doing so, she showed herself to be more bully than hero, a designation that requires no character.

That’s the new American psycho, in my opinion…that right there.  Fuck everyone, so long as we look good.

Katchka by the way – the restaurant from this morning’s readings means “duck” in Ukrainian.  The restaurant’s owner never wanted to forget the word that saved her grandmother’s life.  In fleeing her home in Belarus as the German Exterminators stormed her hometown, she was stoped by a soldier.  She claimed to be returning home to Ukraine and definitively not a Jew. The soldier was skeptical but challenged her with a random test, what is the Ukrainian word for duck?

Luckily, it happened to be the same word in both languages, katchka…and life and death literally became a matter of a trivial coincidence.

The New American Psycho

Blocked!

Ok, it’s not writers block, per se.  It’s more a conflict of decisiveness.

What to write.

Whether or not to indulge my natural procrastination.

Subject matter.

My will

When I get stressed, I want to write about my stressors to therapeutically get them out of my head.  However, some of my readers are familiar with some of the sentient stressors in my life and I don’t want to put them in an awkward position of loyalties.

So, what am I to do as I sit in the coffee shop on my Saturday while the Silver Fox reads the interwebs and asks salient questions like, “What does ‘FFS’ mean?”

Get a refill, of course.

While I was up at the counter, an old co-worker popped into my mind.  Not because he stressed me out like some of my current work associates.

He was hilarious.  Mostly for the same reasons that he thought he was hilarious, so that was a nice confluence of opinions.

Mostly.

Dave was born in the Philippines, moving to the US for college. I worked with him at a hospital in Pasadena, CA after my boss – Mother Mary – moved there from Hoag.  She got me a job in procurement.  My new boss, The Hairpiece heads our four man team housed out of the bowels of the hospital.  The door to my office was literally a ramp.

I think I worked in the former morgue.

Anyway, The Hairpiece had an assistant who I replaced when he got promoted to whatever he spent his time doing…I never did figure that out.  I think he mostly spent his time sucking up to The Hairpiece while looking like a cat in a Rocking Chair Factory.  Quite interesting to watch since he was a fey man with a good case of nerves.

Understandable, since The Hairpiece was know to have a short fuse as well as Short Man Syndrome.  And that frigging rug fooled no one.

Who has a convertible (Le Baron) in SoCal and  never puts the top down?

His hairline used to sweat…all 360 degrees of it.

Rounding out our team of four was Dave, the Filipino.

And that, that right there was what I remember most about Dave.

Philippines.

Filipino.

Dave’s accent used P and F equally interchangeably.

He was in charge of distribution, my counterpart to procuring.  Really, I’ve no idea what The Nerves did.  I bought stuff, Dave passed it out, The Hairpiece randomly screamed around the sectioned off concrete pit we called an office and The Nerves just stood meekly in a corner with darty eyes.

Because Dave’s lair had actual owned product in it, his area was locked and controlled access.

My office – literally at the bottom of the ramp, versus around a corner like everyone else’s – was unlocked, usually with the door wide open.  I would keep my door closed during the SoCal so-called winter, but didn’t like having to, I weighed comfort against comfort.

Closing the door kept me a tad bit warmer.

It was a door with a frosted glass insert – no name on my door – on the top. This was pretty much headlight level for vehicles pulling up to the procurement office, I liked to see what was coming my way since having a glass topped door made it impossible to pretend I wasn’t in.

Plus, the water cooler was in my office.  If the Arrowhead man lost control of his load – shut up, Diezel – coming down the ramp,  I wanted to know how many 5 gallon water bottles were careening my way.

Because the water cooler was in my office, and because Dave the Filipino’s office was always locked, the coffee pot ended up in my office.

This made me the de facto office Coffee Bitch.

Which brings me back to my refill this morning, which is now half gone.

Dave was a coffee drinker.  Seriously, he had a problem.  The Nerves started out high strung and Dave the Filipino started out with an urgency I could appreciate.  A good quality in a co-worker, unless he’s an occasionally over caffeinated Asian.

Occasionally I would be off my game in the morning or he arrived early, he’d storm into my office with his usual urgency for his morning hit.  Finding the pot empty, he’d bring the empty vessel to me and shake the carafe at me screaming, “Chris, Chris!  Where the puck is the pucking copy?!?”

Of course, I’d have a few minutes of fun with that.

Depending on my mood, I’d engage him in friendly conversation while the coffee brewed, substituting as many Fs for Ps or vice versa as possible.  If I was feeling more devilish, I’d pretend that our copy machine was missing, asking The Nerves if it was here when he arrived or The Hairpiece if we should file a police report.

The latter usually earned me a fading litany of “Puck you, you pucking round eyed pucker” as Dave retreated to his office.

I’d always deliver him a fresh cup as a peace offering afterward.

Blocked!

My People

This morning while grabbing my coffee, I was reminded of a time in my life where I had “people”.  That is how I used to categorize folks who were my friends because of a bond that formed through a business relationship.

My Hair Guy.

My Barista.  Back in the dark ages of coffee when I drank SBUX.

My Nordie’s Guy.

My Doula.

My Trainer Guy.

My Bartender.

My Car Guy.  For buying.

My Car Guy.  The grease monkey one.

Obviously, it was hard for me to find common ground for a friendship with my grease monkey guy.  But, me being so awesomely me…I managed.  My Car Guy was a mechanic who worked across the street from the first gay bar I ever went into, The Silver Fox in beautiful downtown Long Beach California. silver-fox

OK, not downtown.

Man, while you’re picking your jaws up off the floor over the irony that my best friend’s blog name is also the name of the first gay bar that I went into, I’ll amuse myself with now much the exterior of this joint has changed.  It’s deco palace exterior is quite different from the vanilla So-Cal stucco basic-ness from when I was a boy.  And those windows?  They used to run across the front on both sides versus the little peek-a-boo business that’s going on now.  It’s a good thing, because even at…21 – yeah, that’s it – your dear Xtopher had a dark side, and walking in past those windows I remember thinking that they were ideal for a drive by hate crime.  It was Long Beach in the early 90s.

Yeah, I never sat by the windows.

So, anyway, I bonded with My Car Guy over comments of his like, “Why don’t you have a drink across the street instead of hanging out here for an hour?”

That hour was always better spent in the care of the lascivious Mr. John Barnes and his free pours.

Ok.  Had enough time to recover?

So, I caught myself leaving Nossa Familia this morning after a prolonged chat with one of their awesome baristas, thinking, “Man, my coffee people are the best” and remembered my old habit of referring to service industry folk as my own belongings.  Why?  She told me this great story.

I hadn’t seen her in particular there for quite some time.  Since going back to work full-time, I’ve only managed to get into the shop twice a week, at best.  I go to work at 5:00 and they don’t open until…later.  I’m actually not sure what time they actually open.  I do know that they’re just a bunch of layabouts since they aren’t at work when I need them.

Obviously.

nossa-exteriorNossa Familia is more of a roastery than a coffee shop.  Their Pearl – and I think only?  ok, only one that I care about – location is where they roast and package their beans for retail distribution.  They also have this cute little walk up coffee counter.  It’s located behind the flimsiest of doors, that happens to be a wall panel with a single door cut into it.  That panel is covering a roll up garage door and hangs on a track and can be slid to the side during the summer months.  The whole space is about 144 square feet.  Annoyingly, they also have coffee classes on Saturdays, which is the only day that I know I can always make it there.  Sometimes I am – and by “sometimes” I mean every damned Saturday, regardless of what time I go – lucky enough to be walking in to order my coffee to a room of home brewers waiting to be taken back into the roasting room for their class.

“People take up a lot of space” ~ Hitler

nossa-doorwayLike I said, this morning I got to see my favorite of their crew.  A cute little blonde woman whose sass reminds me of one of my old assistant managers.  She was also a shorty.  And, as it turns out, they both have girlfriends.  I learned that about My Barista just this morning during her story.

And all I did was ask how she survived our recent Snowpocalypse.

Ready?  Here goes…

The Snowpocalypse coincided with her day off, starting the day before her scheduled day off and extending it to a full “weekend” due to its overnight shenanigans pretty much shutting down the town on Friday.  She casually mentions that her and her girlfriend had gone to see Magical Beasts Thursday before the snow and freezing rain began – at which point she ignored the question her new co-worker (I had never seen her before) asked about how the movie was – when they came out and saw that the snow had finally decided to make a showing, they went and got a bunch of comfort food fixings and went home to wait it out.

Pretty basic couple stuff.

I was pretty jealous.

Especially after the evening of IMing and drinking I had had the night before with an old friend of mine.  It resulted in my waking up wondering if I should hold him to the commitment we had to get together when we weren’t drinking.

It also resulted in a tasty new screen saver for my phone.  <wink>

But this is hardly the time for a sidebar.

She talks about how frustrating it is to drive in the snow and ice anyway and how her car’s door lock had gotten frozen over the last time we had ice and she broke it trying to stab through that ice with her key.  I interjected that she was super-polite to make it easier for people to break into – very Portland – and reminded her that if people wanted to break in, they were going to get in.  A broken lock just minimizes the damage.

She goes on to tell me “Wait, wait…it gets better!” and described being awoken by a car alarm in the middle of the night during the ice, her girlfriend sleepily asking, “Is that our car?”  Upon deciding that it was their car’s alarm, they open the windows to see a guy cautiously running off.  The weird part, she says, is that the dude only stole the most random stuff.  She’s cataloging the personal items of hers that were in the car and not stolen:

Her golf clubs.

Her trumpet.

How did I not know this woman was a lesbian, I’m thinking to myself.

Her parking change.

The guy just stole a bunch of papers.  The car was a little neater-looking, to hear her tell it.  Also very Portland, tidying-up thieves.

“Weird…” she says.

Punctuating the end of her story by turning her head slightly toward her now butt-hurt-looking new co-worker, but cutting her eyes all the way, and saying, “It was really good, you should go see it” in a perfect deadpan.

Told you she was sassy.

Me, I’m chuckling at the passive-aggressive smack down she gave her interrupting co-worker while mentally picturing her thief running off in a snow and ice storm with a set of golf clubs and a trumpet.

I’m hoping you all know that doula thing was a joke.

 

My People