When I first heard – years and years ago, now – that there was a sequel in development to 1986’s summer blockbuster Top Gun, I might have sprained something rolling my eyes. Admittedly, when news of production delays started trickling out, my surprise was hard to locate.
But once this year surprisingly finally arrived, bringing with it the promise of the Memorial Day weekend release of Top Gun: Maverick, I was…intrigued. Daunted, but intrigued.
Daunted because I had been psyching myself up for a post-lockdown return to theaters for months. There were shows whose marketing made me swear they would be the trigger to get me back yo my pre-pandemic routine of seeing 2-3 movies each month. After the marketing hype died down and the reviews started rolling in and showing the reality of that hype, those movies quickly faded from memory.
It was like the hyper intensity of losing one’s virginity all over again! I wanted to “give it up” for a worthy movie, not…The King’s Man.
Like Spider-Man – which I see makes my prior analogy creepy since this movie is about a high school superhero. In my defense, that could have been any Marvel movie. However, I’d given a Disney employee a ride last November and mentioned Black Widow possibly popping my post-COVID theater cherry and he encouraged me to save it and stream Black Widow.
In defense of ScarJo’s superhero swan song, I did stream it and it was quite enjoyable. Even the second time I watched it on Disney+.
The reality is, Spider-Man didn’t do it for me. I just couldn’t get to a theater for Peter Parker. None of the other seasonal tentpole movies got me there, either.
Strangely, it did end up being a Marvel movie that ultimately got me there: Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. It was…good, and I’m glad I saw it on a big screen, but at the same time understood the save it for streaming advice I’d gotten about Black Widow six months earlier.
But you know what made it the winner?
Top Gun: Maverick.
The gushing critical reviews were near-unanimous. It had a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
It seemed to be universally taking everyone’s breath away.
What, you thought the title would be the only pun in this post?
It had a Memorial Day weekend opening, 36 years after the original’s holiday weekend – I think the original had a July 4th debut – release.
But it wasn’t the hype or the reviews that bore out the hype that still failed to get me there. It wasn’t only the crowds I anticipated for a three day weekend blockbuster release that kept me away.
It was the PNW weather, believe it or not.
You see, when I saw the original, it was during the first summer I lived away from home after graduating high school. I saw it in an old-time one screen movie house in Manhattan on a sultry summer weekend night.
No air handling whatsoever.
Movie magic induced adrenaline.
Sweaty hunks playing volleyball.
For so many reasons, those herculon-upholstered movie theater seats probably needed to be wrung out after this show.
But what will always stay with me about this viewing experience is the Basic Becky that stood up in the middle of both the show and and the theater and decided that it was more important for us all to see everything she’d consumed that day.
Given the presence of the humidity and heat, the absence of AC or any ventilation and the smell of co-ed puke and the underlying burn of stomach acid…an irreplaceable memory was created.
While I could certainly do without a Basic Becky reunion, I just couldn’t get behind a Top Gun reunion without summer weather. The PNDub let me down, having clocked our 10th wettest May on record. Seeing Maverick under those weather conditions would have been as weird as going to a movie theater and not eating too much popcorn!
So, Doctor Strange it was. It was an action that also indulged my desire to root for the underdog, since Maverick’s release was expected to knock Doctor Strange off of its two week reign of the box office. My ticket purchase didn’t keep it on top – nor did the other dozen tickets sold for that screening. But those conditions made for a comfortable post-COVID return to the movies for this grumpy old man.
Crowds. Who needs ‘em?
Carrying that strategy forward might extrapolate to my seeing Maverick this week…while everyone else is wrapping up the Jurassic World trilogy.
Pure, adulterated – let’s face it, I can’t pull off unadulterated – stupid.
I went to coffee with a friend this morning, came home, worked out and then finally got around to cleaning my bathroom.
I’d been proChristinating it for too long. Almost as long as I’ve been putting off a haircut, and, no…the causal relationship between a messy bathroom and long hair has not escaped my notice.
But here I am, finally addressing one of those issues.
So I do the whole thing: toilet, sink, mirror, sweep, baseboards and then mop.
I was rather surprised that my back only complained a little. Mops and brooms are not really made for long people’s bodies.
Then I reward myself with a much needed shower and as soon as I pull back the curtain…
And I just didn’t have it in me to do anything more than stand there naked with the shower running and chastise myself for my completely-within-my-control level of idiocy. I stepped into the shower and just sulked about it.
Sadly, while standing there, I realized that this wasn’t even the dumbest thing I’ve done in the last several weeks. Instead of boring you with proof, I’ll skip right to the apex of my dumbassery.
My parents has this big that was going around a while back. It descended upon them the week before Mother’s Day, causing them to isolate that weekend. My youngest brother also came down with it around that same time, prompting the chicken/egg question no one wants to openly ask anymore – except me, apparently.
I wasn’t asking the question. I was observing.
They were down for about a week and change, then flew to Dallas to watch BSB’s kids while he was down for back surgery. They are gone for a week and then want to connect with me for breakfast – which I’m always down for with them!
I wake up that day feeling…things I don’t like feeling.
My head was at about 30 psi, but there was nothing else. No runny nose, no headache, no fever, no phlegm-y throat…just pressure. Oh, my eyes were all runny and light sensitive. I’d slept like crap.
Naturally, I just assumed I had whatever they had. I told them, they’d just had it and were game, so off we went.
Well, almost off we went.
First, I went foraging in my medicine drawer. I’m sick rarely enough that I never know what I’ve got for over-the-counter cures around the house. With masks the last few years, that rarely became even more so.
Finding something in a blister pack that didn’t look like pepto, I made my way to the fridge for a bubble water to wash it down. Remembering my crappy night of rest, I popped a GOAT Fuel – a locally made, BIPOC-owned energy drink – and washed down my mystery cure with a half can in one quaff. Then I put on my shoes and ran out the door to meet mom and dad.
By the time I sat down at breakfast, I was high as a kite. I felt amazing. Not normal amazing. This was like MDMAmazing, and if you know, you know.
Over the course of breakfast, I over caffeinated to compensate and live-streamed my physical status updates to my poor parents. They seemed to enjoy – albeit in a horrified parental way – my body’s goings on. I’m sure they were simultaneously wondering how I’d made it this far in life without somehow winning a Darwin Award.
Simple – not dead yet. But don’t count me out!
Surprisingly, my parents let me leave with my car keys. I kid, but honestly, up until that last cup of coffee, I’d been thinking I was probably best walking home. I was also curious to see what I’d taken and how expired it was.
I am use-my-camera-zoomed-all-the-way-in-to-take-a-pic-and-then-blow-the-pic-up-to-read-the-label years old.
Clearly, I’d lost the squinting game this time around.
When I get back home, I double-check the trash to make sure there’s an actual blister pack in there. I had begun to wonder if I’d accidentally taken that acid a passenger had tipped me back in my Lyft days.
Sure enough, there it was, one destroyed capsule package. I go to my medicine drawer again: allergy meds.
Ok, I can see that causing me to feel a little woozy. Ever since I have been on OTC remedies versus prescription, I’ve been a little more judicious in my use since they always hit me a little differently that they Rx stuff I took the first few years I had allergies.
Chalking it up to caveat dumbass, I decide to polish off the last of the GOAT Fuel from the fridge. Hey, the coffee seemed to help, right? When I open the fridge, I literally said, “Oh, for fuck sake” out loud.
If you’re wondering…my self-made attention deficit self had popped a can of 8% alcohol by volume White Claw and chugged half a can with an allergy pill on an empty stomach.
As humorous and simultaneously horrifying as that is, my brain instantly wondered if I’d just exposed my parents to the COVID since how would I not notice drinking alcohol if not for the loss of my taste?
Of course, I had to take several quick sips to see if I could taste the drink.
Knowing I was only a vector for stupidity and not a communicable disease, I laid down on the couch for a half hour and just reflected on what kind of dumb luck it must require to keep me alive.
Like, seriously…if guardian angels and god are a thing, how the hell many angels are tasked with saving me from myself just to keep me alive to endure my hellacious existence longer?!?
Then it hit me. Maybe I was dead and this is my purgatory.
CH: Oh! Wait, what? No. I’m sorry, we were looking for “culture”!
Me: Same, yo…but not on my budget! Someone else gonna need to pick up that tab.
CH: No parting gifts for you. Can someone get my agent on the phone!
Ok, my skinflintiness is situational. I’m choosing to be amused by the pattern. I’m also choosing to be grateful for the opportunity to see live performances again.
It had been too long before the pandemic started. Tack on two pandemic years to that too long and you’ve got a real risk of Xtopher returning to some devolved Appalachian form of human.
Don’t get me wrong, I know my problematic drinking made me luckier than most during the pandemic. Geez, that sounds like a line from a winning entry for a free stay at Betty Ford…
Tis true, though. My former old standby, the Big Legrowlski, hosted music during the pandemic.
It was quite…the salvation.
No, I wasn’t there daily, thank you.
But a couple times a week. I’d go and sit in their three-sided tents outside and watch people perform through the 10 foot windows, doors open and speakers on the sidewalk.
Plus, fire pit. It was the mental health booster I needed during the lockdown. Sorry for anyone who thought “alcohol” was the correct answer there. Close second, but…no. And that’s despite the fact that many of these mental health boosts happened in 40 degree weather, oftentimes with rain running in under the tent wall and right under my feet.
So when I was working from home and heard one of the DJs from my local radio station – Kink.fm – say he was giving away tickets to a Saturday morning performance at the inaugural re-opening of their live music lounge…I was on that phone! Despite the fact that refreshments were being sponsored by Coors Light.
And I won!
And that’s why I was out of bed before noon a few Saturdays back.
Tom Odell, that is, not free Coors Light. (Sorry, dad!)
Seriously, having a chance to see live music for the first time in over two years…we’ll, I thought Indigo Girls playing at the Pioneer Courthouse Square would get me fixed up. But that show isn’t until June. And I’d have to buy my tickets. I still might. Or I’ll just go hangout on the sidewalk, since the venue is literally a brick plaza on a city block.
Legitimately seeing live music for free, though? Highly recommend. And as if free wasn’t an awesome enough incentive? The free libations included some Topo Chico hard seltzer options, so I had some. Partook of the two free drink maximum, did I.
Then there’s the reality that this venue holds less than 100 people. I tried to count seats, and I don’t think it has 70. It had 7 rows of seats. I chose to stand close to the bar in the back, since I was alone.
Free, boozy, intimate…well, I doubt I’ve ever experienced those three adjectives simultaneously before.
Plus, Tom Odell has a seriously distinctive and evocative singing voice. The first note off the piano made the hair on my eyes stand up and when he opened his mouth, tears started welling up on my forearms.
Wait. Something’s not right in that paragraph…here, don’t think too much about that. Look at these pics, instead.
Ok, his voice and fingers do all the heavy lifting. He doesn’t have to rely on visual distractions like dancing and pyrotechnics to give a killer experience. But it does make for a dozen pics that look almost exactly the same.
But just look how small the venue is!
Best part – besides standing in a room with a few dozen strangers having an aurally stimulating experience? When I turned on the car, guess who was playing on the radio?
Right outside the station, no less. Quite a meta-moment, if you ask me.
This is all top of mind for me right meow since I just got home from a show with Little Buddy. I was her +1 for Freestyle Love Supreme this afternoon. Yay for married season ticket holders with busy spouses!
That’s right, I am spoiled and got to see a second live performance in less than a month for free! I wasn’t super into seeing the show, but I was super into a social fix with Little Buddy. It’s always too long between visits, but since she moved out to the Columbia River Gorge, it’s even further between visits.
Don’t get me wrong, she invites. I think I’ve taken her up on it twice, although one of those might have been prior to the full-time residency. But it’s home to some of the best wine in Oregon – and that’s saying things! – so it is somewhat problematic for this light weight…since it’s an hour away.
So on the second-nicest day of the year so far in Portland, I donned my dress-Chucks and went to the theater.
Hey, it was over 70 today…I almost wore shorts!
For a show I wasn’t jazzed to see – call it a variant of something every younger sibling knows too well, since this was co-created by Lin Manuel Miranda and (through some scheduling miracle) playing at the same time that Hamilton was in town – this was pretty damned entertaining.
The premise is that it’s all pretty much improvised based off of audience feedback, hence the “freestyle”. There’s also a lot of hip-hop vibe going on with that improv. There’s a beatbox guy, a couple MC folks, not in the Master of Ceremony vein, rather the MC rappers tack onto their stage names.
And then a bunch of middle-aged or better white women from the suburbs yelling out suggestions.
FWIW, my word was gonna be orgasm – but some of these Karens brought proof they’d had sex with them. Since I have a modicum of decency, I didn’t ejaculate yell out my contribution.
I think part of the fun for me was judging what people did yell out.
Two people yelled out answers that one of the MCs had used as an example. Friggin’ brainiacs, those two.
Several others yelled out variations of things like “singing” or “dancing” and I was all, “Really? We’re here to watch some hip-hop improv and your subject matter suggestions are ‘singing and dancing’?!?”
Mouths shut, husband’s wallets open, ladies. That’s all the contribution to the arts you need to worry about.
Makes me regret not yelling “Orgasm!” when they were taking suggestions on the “Something you can’t live without” theme. Seriously, someone yelled “Banana”…to be fair, I think it was the sibling of the STD that yelled out “Monkey” when the MCs were looking for verbs as a cue. But who can’t live without a banana?!?
Despite my audience members doing their best to prove they are barely more tolerable only being seen versus heard, I’m in the mood for more super spreader events live entertainment.
Given my aforementioned pandemic “live entertainment loophole”, I can only imagine how exciting these past few weekends were for others. I can overlook them not fully knowing how to audience appropriately.￼
And, damnit…now I’m in the mood! I may need to pick up a rush ticket or two over the coming month. Who knows, I might even troll Craigslist for an Indigo Girls ticket.
Probably that last one. So…thanks, Facebook Memories.
Three years?!? How has it been that friggin’ long already…since I’ve had a date?
Kidding. Trying/not trying.
But I guess it’s just one more reminder that it’s been a long pandemic. If we factor those two years out, then it’s only been one year!
Don’t get me wrong, I tried to make hay out of the forced free time we all gained with the 2020 lockdowns. In April, I started NaNoWriMo – despite having two WIPs from prior NaNos still waiting for completion, then didn’t finish. Again.
I think I got derailed after a Twitter battle with a local stripper, who I’m sure knew nothing of my existence until I dared to correct him on his feed. Then I was all he could focus on, earning me featured status in his social media stories where he called me old and ugly. Not to mention a failed writer.
The young people are so woke – which seems to manifest with being disagreeable and combative. That’s regardless of the validity of their initial point. What moxy.
Sure, I’d only finished three books at that point, clearly, that’s failure in the eyes of a stripper who leaves the stage in a thong.
I actually finished all tasks associated with my job title, son. I have to imagine that a stripper’s job isn’t complete until they are clothes free. But what do I know? When I was a young man, tracing on one’s flesh was viewed differently than it is today – and I appreciate the evolution of sex work from villainized and humiliating to artistic expression and empowering.
This kid was – pardon the entendres – a dick.
Ultimately, that all stopped when he blocked me – the penultimate admission that he was wrong. The ultimate expression being actually saying it. But this is hardly the United States of Accountability, let alone Admittingyouwerewrong.
Anyway, as this was going on, I flirted with the idea of going to one of his shows and tipping him one of my books – yeah, I’ve got a few copies laying around. My overt grumpapotamus self imagined reading wasn’t high on his hobby list, see also: how he got to his current level of misery in his life.
The womenstrippers I meet driving with Lyft are all – every damned last one of them – such interesting people. Very engaging. Great stories. The male strippers I meet are all cunts. And not in that cool English slang type of way. At best, they look at me, and treat me like, I’m an ATM. Not that I go to strip clubs often…none of them have palatable beers.
I also considered going and tipping him $.02, since me giving him my figurative two cents was what set him off in the first place. Ultimately, I decided my absence was the best action for me.
Still determined to make some productive hay out of the lockdown, I pivoted to another project I’d been kicking around. When I finished my third book, it came in at a whopping 530-ish pages. I hardly consider myself a gay George R. R. Martin, so I sought out opinions from a few beta readers. They all told me it was fine.
But that length made printing costs pretty high and I think the lowest price I could charge was $19…and that was with me making less than a buck a copy. I knew there was a logical plot break that I could use as a kind of cliffhanger if I chose to split this into two books, I just hadn’t.
But with one half finished draft from April’s NaNo making me feel guilty, I decided this was the perfect time to tackle that split.
And I did it!
Well, “did it” so long as completing the split and edit of the first half. I knew I needed to flesh out the second half to beef it up a bit. It had originally suffered under the pressure of me knowing the page count was running high for one book. This was my chance to flesh it out.
But my first goal was to get the newly shortened second installation in my No One Of Consequence series back up online. Then I hit a formatting snag. Just a teensy one, but it proved to be overwhelming to my lockdown self and I never went back to finish it. I couldn’t imagine jumping to the third installment to get that story wrapped up, it just seemed wrong.
Four frustrating months go by. I spent a lot of that time considering the optics of dying during a pandemic with unfinished works. I thought it looked pretty good. Other artists somehow pull it off.
No, wait…Hemingway! That’s a better comparison. I’m a drinker, not a druggie. And we’ve established the fact that 500+ page books are not my style, so…yeah. Hemingway.
That was probably my biggest self-soothe of the pandemic.
It carried me through the next three months. Right up to the next NaNoWriMo event, the big one in November. Now I can finish!
Or…start another work.
The following April?
Ok, this was pure motivation. And adrenalin.
I had just gotten my Peloton and was jazzed to pick up the autobiographical trilogy I’d fancied when I wrote Dating Into Oblivion. When I wrote that, I was nearing the end of a year long blogging theme that had resulted from a friendly intervention at my 50th birthday party.
As a result of the collective will of my well-intentioned friends, I leaned into a blog theme I had just finished that I hashtagged fitfy. It was a play on fifty, an age I had been determined to reach with some progress toward accepting my aging self with a healthier attitude toward diet and exercise.
I’d been having trouble forgiving myself for not being able to eat and exercise like an idiot twenty-something. Naturally, my 51st birthday had involved me tapping a keg of my favorite beer at my then-favorite bar.
Anyway, knowing I had that “fitness in my fifties” notion in the back of my head, I decided to tackle dating in my fifties. It gave me something to do, at any rate. I figured the trilogy could round out with working in my fifties. It was a notion I rather fancied.
The problem was, there wasn’t much I could actually do since I’d just gotten my bike. I considered harvesting stories from my year of fitfy blog posts, as I had when I put together Dating Into Oblivion. But I considered that would have been only a portion of the project. I needed new content to complete the story.
Another partial credit NaNo for old Xtopher. PaCreNaNo? Kind of sounds like a pancreatic medical crisis.
Maybe that stripper was right.
Possibly, but improbable. Maybe what I needed was the motivation of writing something people might be attracted to en masse. My current accomplishments and WIP library all featured what I call gay shit – and I hate to break it to you, but The Gays aren’t known collectively as big readers.
It’s the pandemic – everybody else was pivoting, why not me? That sounds like a riff of a Cranberries album.
I picked a theme close to every Portland NIMBY’s heart: the homeless. Came up with a mystery plot. I even created a nom de plume based off of my parents middle initials and old world naming paradigms – JT Robertson.
Finally…in November of 2021, I completed a NaNoWriMo! Have I published? No. I’m mentally kicking it around, polishing it up. Completely retooling the voice. Flipping the plot 180 degrees.
Y’know…the basic writer’s nightmare.
April’s NaNo is weeks away.
I’m determined to finish something from my WIP list before adding anything else to it. I figure at this point, if my goal is to have a WIP library consisting of a prime number of works – it isn’t but I need to set boundaries of some kind – then I either need to finish one or add four!
I think seven is enough of a library. Let’s see if this Facebook Memories shaming is enough of a motivator to get NOOC2 published and back online. Lord knows that providing airplane reading material for a friend’s trip to Africa last month wasn’t it, so fingers crossed.
Sure enough, I woke up this morning, uncovered my laptop…and started organizing my tax receipts. Then I got this text
So I wrote this, instead. I refuse to be so known by my best friend.
To answer my original question: seen. I feel seen.
Three acts is the norm. Sure Billy S did some shit back in the day. Then there was the occasional epic endeavor, like Angels In America, that had so many kicks to the heart balls to deliver that it needed to be broken up into two three act plays.
But overall, three gets the job done. Two, and people feel blessedly cheated. Four, and no one likes you.
Plus, there’s the whole “I can nap at home for free” chestnut among reluctant theater-goers. Four acts seems less like a nap than an entire damn night of sleep.
At least for my nearing-geriatric sleep patterns.
Why is this on my mind tonight?
Well, I just poured my third glass of wine. Emptying the bottle.
But it is in deference to a Silver Nugget – a phrase coined by Little Buddy about the secrets people started sharing with me when I turned 50. She – Little Buddy – is not yet 50, but enjoyed my sharing of privileged information here on this blog, and felt compelled to come up with a name for these aged secrets.
Being the Little Buddy that she is, this process involved an evolving train of thought on a text thread.
It was impressive, and I know I’ve failed to retrieve the best of her efforts from the impenetrable vault that is my memory. The fallout is mine to deal with.
The Silver Nugget in question came from my sister, who was not yet 50 at the time of this nugget’s disclosure. It was more of a hybrid wisdom: things of a life hack nature combined with parenting perks.
In this case, it was my sister pulling the epically resonating parental sacrifice offset of having my tween nephew refill her wine glass for her. He comes back into the room heel–toeing his way to her throne chair in order to avoid spilling anything from a glass that was filled so full, its meniscus existed only on a theoretical plane.
Being a highly decorated and multi-faceted snob, I had to make mention of the situation. It was also helpful – and I credit my Catholic upbringing for this skill – in deflecting my own uninhibited imbibing. An ongoing situation – clearly – for another time.
Being a mother, my sister coolly spared my judgment a total of zero fucks and set me straight.
“Why waste the trip?”
Fair point, but my snobbery was feeling robbed of a Karen moment.
Being in high end kitchen retail for several of my career years, I knew things.
I knew that a bottle of wine held five pours.
I knew that a proper pour was five ounces.
And I knew that wine glasses came in varietal sizes, designed to enhance the drinking experience by combining the sinuses and the palate for an optimal flavor experience. Overfilling the glass defeated these design endeavors.
Adding a total of zero additional fucks after hearing my objections, for a total of…<carry the none>…yes, zero actual fucks, my sister completely poo-pooed my criticism of her life choices.
I now know that was a mom life hack.
And now embrace it.
On a Monday morning, approaching 2 A.M.
And as I watch crappy movies from the earliest of aughts featuring the best of actors, I find myself wondering if I’m enjoying my wine in three acts better than these movies in their own three act efforts.
I think I am…but now I’m on my last glass and still have an hour and a half of Under Suspicion left to go. I think I should have made sure to have some backup spiked seltzers for this crisis.
Here’s one of Little Buddy’s bronze nuggets – which evolved during a fit of pandemic drinking: anything under 5% ABV is hydration.
I freely admit that my TV watchlist is certainly no “Must See” NBC Thursday Night Lineup, but a good many of the programs that streamers have put in front of me lately are barely presenting as fodder to keep me…let’s call it sedated.
While, not great shows for a variety of reasons, they are at least doing a fair job of keeping me disengaged from the surreality of the world around me. I can’t say that’s their explicit intent, but that assumption just seems slightly more generous than declaring them simply bad shows.
Maybe my memory of the original run of this show being “good” is clouded by the reality that it was shot in Portland. Maybe I’m just old and forgot that I didn’t like it originally, but tolerated it – see also: my first point.
Woo-boy, though. Lemme tell ya, the reboot sucks. Hard. Unless the point of the reboot is to showcase these actors’ skill in reading a line, then this is just painful to watch. And back to that whole “bad memory” possibility? I seem to remember thinking Noah Wylie could act at one point.
Just goes to show that acting is not like riding a bicycle…
Soapy and schmaltzy, this show is pure, dubbed brain candy. With a healthy side of nudity – which if I didn’t know these actors playing high school students were in their mid/late 20s, would make me feel weird. And since – as I pointed out to the Silver Fox – the nudity has a hearty, if not almost exclusive boy-butt-focus, that weirdness could be assuaged by handing me a priest’s collar, I’m willing to absolve myself.
And, boy…there sure are a lot of murders at this high school.
Grace & Frankie
I know…calling a show with such overt gay themes makes me a traitor to my own community. Again.
Me, the Voice of Treason.
But, again…it’s older actors demonstrating they can read a line off a cue card. Some of the writing is funny. Some of the scenarios are kooky fun. But it’s a little late in the game to reinvent the whole Lucy/Ethel trope which this show leans so heavily upon.
At this point, I just think it’s just Netflix pandering to older audiences to keep them engaged with Netflix as a viewing platform. If that’s the case, at least they are doing so with story lines designed-ish to appeal to younger, woke audiences: like the late in life gay story arc. In that regard, if they succeed with drawing Boomer and Greatest gen viewers, they are also engaging them with potentially mind expanding content.
There is a certain value to that.
The Snarky Car Insurance Commercial:
This was a surprise to me. But it’s a tip of the hat to the ridiculous horror movie writing paradigm.
Two couples run out of a corn field. One guy suggests they hide in the cellar, his girlfriend counters with the attic. A crying girl suggests they just hop in the already-running car, while her boyfriend popularly points out they could just hide out behind the wall of also-running chainsaws.
A masked man with dubious intent slowly shakes his head.
The voiceover states “When you’re in a horror movie, you make questionable decisions…”.
And when Americans are in lockdown, apparently, we do as well…medicating with stupid soapy TV (and plenty of booze, I’m sure) to make our way through.
As far as this commercial goes, though…can we just disable celebrating stupid? It’s like we learned nothing from 20+ seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Stupid people are not entertainment. If we can’t use the word retarded to describe stupid people, let’s stop airing what equates to mutually-exploitative content featuring people with intelligence that…has not progressed in pace with the majority of people of similar age. TV like this, celebrating vacuous nitwits has just seemed to drag its audience of already stupid Americans down to their level.
It’s weird, I started this post as a draft in October! Then, in typical creative old Xtopher fashion, abandoned it. But this week I realized that my TV viewing hasn’t necessarily improved over the past quarter.
Sure, there were some standout binges with – and thanks to for making the content decisions – the Silver Fox on several of his trips up from his self-imposed exile in the hinterlands of Oregon. Shows that were new seasons of proven winners like Hanna and Lost In Space. Or the coming tomorrow new season of Euphoria.
Then again, I only got sucked into Elite as a result of his content suggestions, so…<shrug emoji>
On the other hand, though, lay my own questionable decisions. Decisions that are either better or worse since they are movies versus entire seasons of TV shows, so at best I’ve only lost a couple hours.
Because it started with an innocent viewing of Divergent after a late dinner earlier this week. But then I proceeded to immediately watch the next two movies in the trilogy, resulting in a 6 AM bedtime. That’s right, I pulled an all-nighter for a Young Adult movie series.
Blame it on the imminently watchable but better on low volume Theo James.
The worst part? I couldn’t immediately fall asleep because I couldn’t figure out if I disliked Shailene Woodley more than Jennifer Lawrence from the Hunger Games movies. I fell asleep at least knowing that I like Hunger Games more than these movies…
As a palate cleanser, I decided to watch 12 Monkeys after reading an article about Bruce Willis’ “19 Best Movies”. Plus, I missed my annual Christmastime viewing of Die Hard (#2 on the list, BTW). I remember thinking, “Well, he’s made way more than 19…” and then got distracted by not being able to find 12 Monkeys for free on any of my streaming apps. Having just spent ~$15 getting burned by renting the Divergent movies, I decided it was best to try to scratch my Bruce Willis itch with a free movie. On the plus side, it was less than 90 minutes long, so I’d be on with my day in no time!
Nothing. No satisfaction whatsoever. A Bruce Willis Itch FAIL. And, that was 90 minutes of my time I wasn’t getting back. Lesson learned: when Willis isn’t the top billed actor in an action movie, that’s a red flag. So the next day, on to another.
I began to wonder if this guy ever actually made good movies. When you read in the trivia section of IMDb that Willis shot all of his scenes in one day…maybe don’t let your curiosity get the better of you.
It’s like I didn’t believe myself when I said “If Willis isn’t the top billed actor in an action movie, that’s a red flag”. Maybe this just proves that old actors reading lines isn’t limited to just TV series.
Or maybe it proves that I didn’t want to watch 12 Monkeys so much as I wanted a shot at seeing Brad Pitt drop trou. Hard to say. I did finally manage to scratch my Bruce Willis cinematic itch by watching Looper. Now, that was a hidden gem. Or one everyone else knew about, but I missed. And with Joseph Gordon Levitt as a co-star, I got a collateral Hollywood Heartthrob fix to satisfy the Brad Pitt’s naked butt quotient.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read a book.
You know I love a good song tie-in, even if it’s just a mis-heard lyric. But in the case of this post’s title, I’m riffing on Seal’s biggest hit: Crazy.
In it, he suggests that we’re never gonna survive unless we get a little bit crazy.
Smash cut to my morning – yes, I was up before noon – of news and email reading.
I came across this ad in one of my business newsletters. Now, not to suggest that anxiety is crazy, per se, just don’t get me started on the casual armchair self-diagnostics that I am often confronted by.
Yes, I ask. Also, I know that last paragraph ended with poor grammar. Anyway, I’m kinda over people minimizing legitimate affliction just to overdramatize their own petty struggles. So I demand – figuratively – a doctor’s note.
I don’t know why I don’t have more friends…
Anyway, what’s really crazy here is that this ad suggested that there are 284 million Americans suffering from an actual anxiety disorder. OUT OF 335 MILLION TOTAL AMERICANS!!!
Can we agree to ballpark that stat at an 80%? My blog, my rules, so I say we agree…plus, it’s not like I’m blithely self-diagnosing with a potentially serious mental health condition. I’m just doing some liberal rounding.
So what this ad is suggesting is that 4 out of 5 Americans is suffering from anxiety.
<looks around at America>
Yeah, sorry Seal…I don’t think getting a little bit crazy is helping us even thrive, let alone increasing our rate of actual survival. If anything, the type of crazy running around our country is decreasing our survival rate.
For instance, our COVID death toll as a nation stands somewhere between the populations of North and South Dakota. Think on that for a second, we’ve lost an entire state’s population to COVID in just under two years.
On the plus side – for Seal, at least – it’s not like our least populous states have any huge concert venues…
And before I begin, congrats to the Go-Gos on their recent inauguration into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
For as much anticipation taking a year off of vacation and travel created for us all, I have to say that my own came and went without much fanfare.
Which was great on a couple different levels. First, I got to deploy all my snark when asked if I was participating in Octsober. Um, it’s a family reunion-slash-vacation, so that’s a big
The second great thing – and just to be clear, I’m enumerating things beyond seeing the foursome from Texas that I call my extended family. Truth be told, they are the only other family. Anywho, the second great thing was the timing of it all. We’d originally planned this for late June-early July of 2020. And then 2021. But the parentals ultimately decided to exercise their right to cancel/reschedule on the last day they could before everything locked in 30 days out. With COVID and Delta being what it was, they made a good call.
October was the reschedule. For whatever reason, the original date lined up with my youngest brother’s 45th birthday. The fallback encompassed my sister’s 55th. This, of course, brought up my unresolved – and equally heretofore unknown – issues around 70s and 80s coffee commercials. Y’know, the ones with the butthurt housewife that’s upset when her husband orders a second cup of coffee with his dessert. They even spoofed it in Airplane!
Why don’t we ever do family vacations around my birthday?!? Surely not because it’s in the middle of January and everyone is knee-deep in their resolutions.
But the real coup d’etat on the timing was the timing! October isn’t the summer anywhere in the northern hemisphere, nor is it yet fully winter. In the Oregon high desert, that means the resort town we meet up in is itself deserted.
Also, there are no crazy temps either way. Sure, it got down to the 30s at night, but the days were high 50s-low 60s. It was awesome. Light sweater weather during the day, at worst. Then at night it was cold enough you could leave the window open a crack to get that crazy cold air deep sleep going.
Plus, the parents were on the main floor. “Age Rules” being what they are, that means that in addition to playing the TV at the same volume as their ages, the temperature was set the same way. If I didn’t open my window, I’d have woken up looking like a Costco rotisserie chicken!
All of this really bubbles up to the reality that after 4 pm, all there really is to do in Sunriver in October is eat and drink.
Well, that and watch the neighborhood deer.
What? You thought that seeing my family would be the best part of this story to me?
Don’t get me wrong, my enjoyment of my food and beverage consumption was greatly enhanced by my family’s presence. Not just because they are my blood. No, because the extended family foursome I have are Texas residents, so you know one of them was unvaccinated – and proudly declaring her natural immunity from the COVID she survived. Given her Instagram stories, I can safely guess this was from spending her pandemic galavanting around the western side of the country.
Still, I am of the opinion that she should have been vaccinated. I expended a great deal of emotional energy during the vacation trying to not lecture my 20-something first cousin on this topic. Helpfully, we seemed to be seated quite near one another at every damn meal. Well played, family. Well played.
Our usual meal routine for family vacations is that breakfast is a drop in event, we’re on our own for lunches and dinner is a family time. Generally, each person gets a cooking night but since working folk might pop in or out during the vacation according to their schedules, occasionally couples can pair up.
Me? I’m always fucked. I mean, destined to cook alone – the one time I brought someone, his grandmother died the day we fucking arrived…the nerve. I mean, lesson learned. Not that the family minds my solo-cooking misadventures, particularly since their favorite pastime seems to be harassing me while I cook. Can’t blame them, though…I can generally be relied upon to do something entertaining while cooking.
Hey, in the grand scheme of things, two small fires out of all the vacations we’ve taken is a blip at most. Right?!?
There are food related vacation traditions involved, for sure – beyond my minor conflagrations.
The ‘Phew generally orders pizza for his night. And that’s usually the day we arrive so we can ease into it.
The lil bro usually grills burgers.
The bro-in-law usually grills steak.
Mom makes spaghetti.
Dad…well, dad takes us all out to dinner. Then, per family tradition, argues with his brother about whether he can chip in. Short version: he can’t. Long version: we all had another round while they debated.
And, me? Well, since I love cooking but hate cooking for myself, I go all out. I’ve been known to pack not just a favorite knife – turns out, my LTR ends up being cutlery – but even a 10 lb pork loin and most of the ingredients for a molé or a paella pan or what have you. Hey, I’m not starting a fire cooking Mac & Cheese, ok?
You might notice the Texas Foursome was not listed. Not a bunch of cookers in that group. The mom isn’t super domestic, so they come by it honestly. Since there’s usually more people than nights, this usually isn’t an issue, though. Myself, I think this was the first time I’ve stayed the full duration.
This time, my COVID cousin brought along her fiancé. It was my first time meeting him, but it seemed everyone else had met him before briefly at some family function I missed. To his credit, he took up steak grilling duties for one meal – which my brother-in-law regrettably but graciously abdicated. I mean, who wouldn’t cede grill master duties to a Texan?!?
Poor guy. He asked how everyone wanted their steaks cooked and then served us all saddles. I know the pain of going from zero to 60 on cooking. The fires I set are obvious. His was more subtle – merely cremating a cow carcass. Why he gets a pass and I get harassed…well, further evidence of how nice my family is.
Or how much more they…like me?
That all being the case, I still found myself using my extra family time relaxing into cooking for pleasure. I had planned a beef stew over polenta dinner, with an ancillary black bean chili type dish.
Texans, remember? I knew there’s gonna be extra nights. Plus, with COVID protocols being in effect, I was pretty sure dad wasn’t getting a reservation for 10+ anywhere.
I got my stew inspiration from a cook at the restaurant on my block. The recipe served 30, so I halved it. There was 12 of us that night – the ‘Phew brought a girlfriend for the night – and everyone got one serving. Yikes.
My hecklers’ fantasy moment? Making polenta. It’s pretty easy…boil some stock, stir in the polenta and then stir as it does it’s polenta thing. I made the full restaurant recipe, but chose the wrong pan. I chose a 4-quart saucepan and needed at least another quart of space, although in retrospect, I’d have chosen a 6-quart sauté pan so I had more surface area for the liquid to cook off.
So, I fucked up the polenta. Think of it as me being a gracious host and serving low hanging fruit to my loving tormentors.
Remember, to make up for it, I had a second meal up my sleeve!
Plus, my mom pulled her favorite “I have a gay son”/Thanksgiving trick on her cooking night – handing me the spatula. So I cooked up a bunch of spaghetti.
Then, in a fit of “don’t end up like me” life lessons, I made a breakfast date with my 20-something first cousins from Texas and made a date for a breakfast cooking lessons. That sentence was…ouch.
The menu? Frittata and home-style potatoes.
I told them around midnight – it was more of a dropped gauntlet than an invitation – to meet me in the kitchen at 8 the next morning. Then we drank for a couple more hours.
She looked perfectly put together.
Surprisingly, my youngest cousin was already there when I arrived. I’d set my alarm for 745 and brushed my teeth and threw on a ball cap.
When I expressed my surprise, she was all, “What? You said 8!”
For my part, I mumbled, “Well, we’re batting .500”…you know I was still drunk if I was credibly attempting sports analogies. I started in on how easy frittatas are – I mean, do you want to make more than two omelette ever? – and how it can be something you just throw together with supplies on hand, put under the broiler and then slice up like a pizza and throw on the table.
Guess who showed up right about then? That’s right…COVID cousin!
I told them my default frittata: cubed ham, cubed cheddar and broccoli florets. Pro-tip: you can buy the ham pre-cubed and use frozen florets. Aside from that, you’re big decisions are what herbs you want to use. Garlic powder, maybe a red pepper flake and “anything green” were my loose guidelines.
I put COVID cousin on frittata prep and showed my younger cousin the potato ropes. Since we were nearing the end of the vacation, my sister – tasked with provisioning the pantry for each of these vacations and affording my uncle another opportunity to hone his “let me chip in” argument – was in high “use everything up” mode. To that end, I instructed my cousin to use the remaining potatoes.
Short cut for home style potatoes: quarter them and nuke them for 3-4 minutes to soften them up. Then cube them and throw ‘em in a sauté pan with some oil and…whatever spices you have handy!
Why? Because the M.O. for this Homo in the kitchen is “Because I can!” Pretty much everywhere else I’m my life I seem to can’t so this is cathartic.
Keeping with my traditions of affording my family opportunities to harass me while I cook and simultaneously making a near-critical-slash-comedic error, the 6-quart sauté pan I chose for my cousin turned out to be too small for that many damn potatoes.
Fuck my fucking life. On top of the ongoing Struggles of Xtopher, I forgot to get a frittata spread pic. Ugh. Will these humiliations never end?!?
But at the same time, this minor crisis allowed me the chance to show my cousins how to roll with the culinary punches. I’m no Julia Child – despite my default childish behaviors – but I’m all for her “no one needs to know what happens in your kitchen” confidence. If they walked away with any of that from my struggle of tossing 4 lbs of cubed potatoes in a 6-quart sauté pan…my work as a twice-their-age cousin is done.
Since they are in their 20s and I haven’t seen any home cooked meals posted on their Instagrams, I’m gonna guess these confidence boosting lessons will need a <ahem> booster shot.
Since I left professional/career level work, I’ve been low-key looking/not looking for an opportunity to get back in. For the most part, Lyft and the occasional Payroll/HR temp position keeps me engaged and feeds my need to feel productive.
Then I had to go and start thinking about buying a new place.
I had a plan: take the earnings off my savings in the 1st quarter of next year – which would equate to about 10% of the price I’m shopping in – and then save another 10% by adding 5-10 hours to my weekly drive schedule.
Then I talked to a mortgage guy who told me a self-employed worker really should put down 30% to get the best terms. I briefly considered lowering my target price, but really didn’t want to walk away from the properties I was seeing and trade down on amenities – which was a big factor in my moving considerations after a year and a half of being more of a homebody than I like.
I prodded myself to just keep to my plan and if I didn’t buy, I just ended up with that much more savings. Who knows, maybe I’d start a business with it.
Then October hit. And it didn’t pull its punches. I know part of this was the cumulative effect of spending ~$500 a month on therapy. While I felt it was helping me know myself and manage my triggers better, it was an extra hurdle each month.
Anywho, I took money out of savings to pay my monthly bills before vacation. Overused my credit card and generally felt the time I put in behind the wheel mid-month didn’t give much of an ROI.
I was a little underwhelmed.
Knowing that month end was coming up and assessing the demand for rides resulted in bleakness, I sold some more stock and prepared to cut into my savings a little deeper to prep for November. I also didn’t renew my therapy program for the month. If you’ve read my last couple posts, you know that the month went out like a lion and November started like it’s been the rest of the pride.
So I’m feeling a little optimistic, like I could feel whole and back-ish on track by month end. Hurrah.
Then I get a call about a job I applied for at the CVS around the corner from my place. In applying, I’d been my usual princess self: I wanted to walk to work and I wanted to be paid. I honestly figured there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d hear from them.
Oh, and they use assessments as part of their screening/hiring process. I loathe them and generally don’t do well on them because they ask the same questions over again later in the assessment to check for consistency. As a perceiver personality, that’s hard for me. I’ll read something and think , “Yeah, that’s what I’d do” and mark it down as an “Always”, but when it comes up again, slightly reworded, I start to find the gray area and lean into an “Almost Always” response.
I’m not making any pendulum swings in my response, but there’s definitely room to give context for my thought process but nowhere to do so. Hence, I don’t like them.
But I got the interview!
The manager said she had time the following afternoon if I was free. I told her I was and she suggests 11 AM.
“Well, that’s morning, but I can make it.” Like I said, princess. She laughed and it was a date.
I walk into the store and she’s the only person on the sales floor. She cruises by me with a hobo whose bottle returns she’d just counted, tosses a “This’ll be a floor interview” over her shoulder as she passes and gives the bum his cash.
Then she leaves the register with a customer standing at it, comes over to introduce herself and declines a handshake or elbow bump. She literally said, “We don’t need to do that”!
I ask if she needs to help the customer and tell her I can wait. She says it’s fine, he can use the self-checkout.
The store is a shit hole. An absolute shit hole. Four foot high fixtures at the front of the store were empty, save abandoned purchases that customers just dumped and walked.
She’s wearing a beaded mask. I can see her teeth and know that it’s a mask in name only, versus anything offering protection.
“You don’t have any retail experience, what made you apply for this role?” She started out guns blazing.
Which is the only way to do it when you’re also starting out wrong.
“This is my third corporate retail job, and let me tell you, this place will chew you up and spit you out. So I’m curious what made you apply.”
Babe, if that’s the way you feel, why am I here? You clearly don’t have time to waste. “Well, I wouldn’t call 30 years of retail management nothing.”
She tells me I should have put that on my resume and I resist the impulse to counter that she should have read it. See? My therapy is working!
This is how the interview goes, her preening about this being her third corporate retail position, how she’s fought to get security and the store’s operating hours reduced. But not really talking much about me.
I offer a few times to let her tend to her customers and she accepts once and waves the offer off the rest of the time. We are within earshot of the customers she’s blowing off. That’s got to make them feel appreciated.
I wave to the empty shelves and ask about staffing: specifically what her plan was.
She poo-poos that by saying this store is just like this. Then follows it up with some crap about how if you can get promoted out of this store, everything else is a cakewalk. Basically, it sounds like she’s putting her time in until they get desperate enough to pull her out.
I’m thinking anyone that doesn’t fire her should also be fired.
Then I tell her that I worked in this very building for the former tenant…and it wasn’t like this. I go into my HR experience and how I could help with hiring, training and retention. She tells me she prefers to do the hiring personally.
“Well, I have a track record of retention, and have never had a store as critically poorly staffed as this, so if I’m her candidate she should rethink that. I offer the opportunity to meet applicants I like for her gut check approval and she offers a maybe. Sister, your interviewing skills are less than special, and your staffing crisis proves it.
The thing is, she only hires by gut. She didn’t ask any follow up questions or probe for details on my answers. I could have replied “Because” to a question and I don’t think she would have followed up. She was just thinking of her next question while I answered her.
No wonder her store was in crisis. If this was a first date, there wouldn’t be a second.
She asked what my salary expectations are and I tell her that I’d like to be on the low end of the range I indicated on the online application.
She regroups and asks what I’m looking for as an hourly rate. I tell her that a minimum of $30 would be the low end I mentioned. This is me converting the annual salary option I was given online to an hourly rate in me head. She tells me this role has a cap of $21/hr, so she’d have to get approval.
“You’re not going to get that. Paying me 30% more than others in this role would get you into trouble with Lilly Ledbetter. As a matter of fact, to avoid the appearance of unfair wage practices, many corporations – and remember, this is her third – have stopped asking what an applicant’s salary expectations are and switched to telling them what the job pays.
Not this mess of a manager.
I kind of left the interview angry. This is exactly the culture of incompetence that I’d left behind at my last professional – in name only – job. If The Peter Principle wasn’t slightly sexist, I’d tell you that it’s still thriving in retail.
But, Bob’s your uncle I can tell you that incompetency is still rewarded in retail. In case you were worried…the people serving us in stores are apparently hired on their ability to fog up a mirror. This woman could do it without taking off her mask, too, so she probably got extra credit on that test.
I came home determined that I didn’t want the job and wondering why I didn’t tell her so at the end of the interview. I’m still torn on whether it was uncertainty in my ability to do so without going full Julia Sugarbaker on her or if was the potential for better mortgage rates.
Nonetheless, when I got home, I decided to withdraw my application. I went to their hiring site and was surprised to find this.
There is no option to withdraw your application from consideration.
Ain’t that America?
You can’t reject us. We can put you through the ringer applying and put our worst foot forward during the interview process, but our ego will not allow for the possibility that you wouldn’t be lucky to be offered a job with us.
No, this is not about my impending eligibility for a COVID booster – but you best believe I’m getting that sucker as soon as I am able!
This prick is a person. Not a bad person, I’m sure.
Just a guy doing his job.
And since it involves a badge of sorts, well, let’s just say that Americans no longer need power to be absolute for it to be too great a temptation for them to abuse.
This one was an airport cop. Not even TSA or the Port Police, either. He was a contract employee – is…I didn’t have him fired – working traffic detail in the Arrivals pick up area at PDX.
A little context, PDX has a two tiered front. The upper deck is the Departure level, where you walk in to the ticketing counters. The lower level is Arrivals, where you exit from baggage claim.
Outside of either, you have “islands”. The inner island, closest to the doors is for private vehicles to pick up or drop off. The outer island – called…get this, Island 2 – is for commercial vehicles, which is where I spend most of my airport time these days.
I’d say about 40% of the time when I have a ride to drop someone off at the airport, I’ll get paired with a ride back automatically. If I don’t, I just leave. It’s not worthwhile to chill in the holding area and wait, because usually there’s 20-60 other drivers in there.
And even smaller portion of those return rides I get paired with occur on my approach to the airport versus as pull away from the Departures drop off.
Why does it matter, all of this esoteric knowledge about airport ops at PDX?
You see, the round trip to get from the Departures level to the Arrivals level is about 4 miles and takes about six minute. Passing through and back into three different speed zones, no less:
Ironically, the route is rather parabolic in shape, so there’s a strangely soothing rhythm to the round trip.
Still, it’s wasteful. Plus, it throws unnecessary pollution into the air.
Sooooo…when I get that very rare return ride on my approach to the airport and happen to have that even rarer passenger that travels light – like, backpack light – I’ll ask if they mind me just dropping them on the Arrivals level. I mean, if they can work the Lyft app, I feel fairly certain they possess the competencies required to navigate an escalator.
I had one of these unicorn situations the other day. Since the passenger was also a Portland native, they easily agreed to my request tp drop them off downstairs. Hell, being a Portland native, they’d have fallen all over themselves to leave an arm behind if I’d asked.
We’re nice folks.
Passive-aggressive like there’s no tomorrow, but nice. We’re like the British of the US.
Anyway, I ask if she’d mind the whole “Departures drop off on the Arrivals level” and she’s game.
I pull up to the first of two crosswalks (from the parking garage to the terminal) and she hops out. As I’m waiting for pedestrian traffic to clear, this Officious Prick person walks over, points at my dashboard Lyft lamp and says, “You know Departures are upstairs, right?”
I tell him “Yes, but I had a pick up, so…”
“Well, next time you need to do it right!” Like there’s a wrong way to drop someone off at the airport that doesn’t involve the words “Tuck and roll!”
“I see”, I reply. “The environment doesn’t thank you”, I tell him pointedly. What a bunch of nonsense. Please, this is my job – as it were – trust me to apply some critical thinking to the situation, appropriately.
Of course, as I’m thinking this, he replies, “I work for PDX, not the environment.”
Yeah…I’m not sure why I thought critical thinking would enter any equation involving Stupid Americans, but here I am.
Fuck the planet.
Quick! Someone kill Greta Thunberg so she can roll over in her grave!