Puberty…AGAIN?!?

And I mean, again. Of course, there’s the OG puberty. However, I’ve joked throughout my adult life about countless other random puberties – like the ear, nose or back hair growth puberties.

Well, with the return to indoor mask wearing a month ago, I’ve got another puberty to report. My old friend, oily skin puberty.

This is no joke. It goes beyond the casual maskne that many of us have complained about over the past 18 months.

My face is, at best, an oily swamp after wearing a mask for a couple hours.

Oily. Shiny. Tacky to the touch. It’s disgusting. I actually bought some facial cleansing wipes to give myself a lil refresh while I’m out doing a driving shift. Truth be told, though, by the time I use one, the oily mess my face creates has started to wick into my mask, so that feels gross when I put it back on – effectively negating my attempt to give myself a refresh.

Needless to say, I’ve tried to start carrying a spare mask with me when I know I’ll be out on the road for a bit.

When my scruff gets too long, it’s even worse.

You know I’m a talker, right? Well, all the hot air I expel creates even a more intense swampy feeling – my face feels like the inside of a car window with two teens going at it inside up on Lovers Lane.

It’s been enough to make me regret what I’ve been putting “The Boys” through all these years by wearing briefs instead of boxers.

Sorry, Boys.

And: sorry, Readers…that imagery will have you waking up screaming. Or moaning, ya bunch of pervs.

This maskne on steroids puberty has swelled my pores and created those gross, dense underground pimples that have all the “benefits” of visible pimples but never break through.

I try to resist picking at them – with mixed success. If I pick at them, I end up with a swollen and visibly irritated area of skin on my face. If I don’t, the pimple is eventually reabsorbed, but the skin over it dries out and becomes a bit crusty in the process, so then I’ve got some sort of soggy, oily pizza crust kind of thing happening on my face.

It’s great. No…really. So great.

I can’t forget those oversized pores, either. They put Portland’s potholes to shame, size-wise. I survey the damage in my mirror when I get home and see patches of black dotting my face, especially on my nose as it takes most of the contact brunt from masking up.

To amuse myself, I imagine planting some weed in the larger pores and starting a little grow op. Y’know, putting that hothouse effect from my mask to good use.

It’s a thought that bore some semi-therapeutic fruit yesterday while I was buying cat food. I ended up walking out of the store with this haul…

So, yesterday afternoon was a cathartic – and mask-free! – plantathon here at Chez Galby. It needed to happen, the balcony pots had never really recovered from our hottest-temperature-on-the-planet heat dome days from earlier in the summer. I’m trying to grow that Rosemary you can barely see in the pic above indoors…we’ll see how that grows goes.

I could get a better pic, and a snap of that third plant, but Myrtle is being uncharacteristically sweet and snoozing on my lap at the moment, so you only get underexposed evidence. Sorry, not sorry.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, writing this has given me the urge to give myself a facial mask.

Puberty…AGAIN?!?

People

…and other petty nuisances.

I kid, it’s just people this time. Or…once again?

I gave up on finished my driving “shift” earlier than I anticipated tonight. Usually, when I drive on Friday or Saturday, I’ll do “doubles”, meaning I’ll go out for ten rides early in the day, take a break and then go out for another ten later to get the Party People to the places they need to be. I’d planned to drive a double today, since it’s a holiday weekend and most folks are off tomorrow. But a regular ten usually takes about three to four hours. However, today that ran to five hours and I’m just kind of done. Thankfully, they were long rides, but since I had an idea of how my day would go – drive, home to exercise, second shower, eat and then drive some more – and that went off the rails, I decided to call it at 8 o’clock and catch a beer at my local, since they are closed tomorrow.

I walked in and there were two parties waiting for tables, no surprise. There were five stools at one of the corners of the bar – two on one side and three on the other – so I walked in and casually placed my order before my butt hit the stool.

I’d chosen the stool closest to the walk-through into the bar area, which was on the three stool side. My beer lands in front of me, I grind some salt onto my napkin/coaster to keep it from sticking to my glass as take a therapeutic lil sippy-sip.

Immediately, my bladder whispers “Hey, remember me?”, so I anon to the can to decant.

I return to find one of the waiting couples has wised up and decided to eat at the bar versus waiting for a table to open up.

Geniuses. Genii? I dunno, let’s go with geniuses.

Not so smart, mind you, that they’d each taken a seat on the corner so they can look at each other without craning their necks, as the Silver Fox and I do. Also, not so considerate that they sat on the two-stool side.

Yup…they chose to sit right fucking next to me. Now, because of COVID, they pulled the stools away from mine, so partial credit, but…still! You know what’s further away than pulling your stool away from mine? Sitting at the other two damn barstools!

People…<facepalm>

To make this perfectly horrible, the woman decided on the fish tacos, which I find particularly – and poorly – fragrant. Ugh.

I would like to assert that misophonia is contagious and mine has spread from my ears to my nose. The smell of these fucking tacos makes me mad. I suggested to the owner that he raise the price to steer people toward other menu items. Surprisingly, he didn’t agree with my logic.

Now, for the short observation behind this post.

Have you ever noticed the inverse nature of the relationships people have with their horn and their turn signal?

Seriously, I swear it’s a thing – and this is coming from a native Portlander, a city frequently called out for its bad drivers.

When someone wants to switch lanes, you can count on at least one tire to be in your lane before their turn signal is even activated. They’re changing lanes before signaling their intent…almost as if no one taught them the proper order. Let alone the entire process, teaching them to check their blind spots and then signal their intent before changing lanes.

<blink>

That’s right, then it’s literally one blink. I liken that to a civilized one-finger salute.

Conversely, let’s say you’re driving along and inadvertently make an error. Not letting someone zipper in on a merge lane, stopping too fast for a pedestrian…whatever, nothing life or death is what I’m saying.

Oooh, let the horn leaning begin!

These people, these fine, upstanding folk that will retroactively inform you of their intent to change lanes will honk like it’s literally a life or death situation.

What gives?

How can people who are so blithe about their responsibility to others be so egregiously offended when the same happens to them?!?

I ask here, because I assume it’s a safe space. At least a physically safe space. I know the interwebs can be a mentally abusive space.

This, by the way, comes from the guy who was menaced on the freeway today as he watched a motorcycle rider zig-zag in and out of traffic in his rear view mirror for about a half mile. Then he whipped right around me in a matter of seconds. As he passed, I saw his holstered handgun sticking out from under his jacket.

I guess when you drive like a jackass, you need some kind of backup. God bless the Second Amendment…

People

Upcoming Mask Mandate

One of the three counties Portland sits in announced it was implementing an indoor mask mandate, effective Friday, 8/13. The next day, the Governor made the same announcement for the state.

A while ago, I’d have made the joke that I’d prefer a masc man date over a mask mandate, but I don’t think it’s true at this point in my life. I’ve not fully given up the practice of masking up when I leave the house. I definitely put my mask on when entering a business. Well, before entering it – and I think that’s an important distinction.

The Silver Fox is in town for a while, so naturally I’ve been demanding he belly up with me as nightly as possible. Lost time and all.

Last night was no exception. We were sitting at the bar next door and I was low key astonished at how many patrons were walking in without masks and even moving about the restaurant maskless. I had my mask off while seated, which I get is nearly as arbitrary as the “smoking section” of bars back in the day.

Almost.

It’s as if these Stupid Americans have collectively decided to not see the rationale for announcing a start date. Namely, yo allow businesses to ramp to have policies and signage in place by the mandate’s start.

It’s certainly not a new restriction for patrons or businesses, just a return to a prior restriction. Anyone leaving their house should have a pile of these masks ready to go. As a citizen, our ramp should be immediate – although, I have heard stories of people therapeutically trashing their masks after the restrictions were originally lifted. That’s more of an exception, not a rule. Yet, here we are, customers largely running around businesses bare-faced and empty-headed until they are required to do the right thing.

So selfish.

Meanwhile, most businesses I frequent have had their staff back in masks for weeks – despite the latitude they had to behave otherwise. The grace period that I believe is for their benefit is largely unneeded.

At least I’m the businesses I regularly frequent.

This is why we’re all gonna die. Well, maybe. But it’s definitely the reason we’re all gonna be stuck in traffic forever if we do live.

Selfish animals, we are.

Upcoming Mask Mandate

Compassionate Yoga

Maybe it’s not even a thing…BUT I’M STILL QUITTING.

I’ll recreationally bend over backward to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition – witness, “There is only so much shit up with which I will put” – but I’m not aiming to be flexible enough to shove my own head up my ass. Maybe give it a light smooch, but no more than that.

I have had occasion to be reminded that I neither want to be emotionally flexible enough to reward willfully ignorant people with my silence. I’ll save my empathy for those it can potentially help.

There is, after all, only so much shit up with which I will put.

I know I wasn’t silent by any means during the Trump years, but in regards to COVID, I’ve decided to take a more assertive approach.

Here’s just three examples from this past weekend’s driving as to why:

Case 1:

Nothing new here, this is something I’ve been running up against since Oregon lifted its COVID restrictions in late June. People will approach my car and then either motion for me to roll down my window or actually get into Angela (my car) asking if they need a mask.

“Yes” – you nitwit – “you do”. That’s my retired polite response. I use Lyft as a passenger, so I know how it works. When you first open the app, you’re greeted by this reminder

Then, once you confirm your ride, you get this

Seems pretty hard to miss. Maybe I could see overlooking one reminder, but not two. Because they are magnanimous – or looking out for the safety of their passengers and drivers – they usually even send a text when your driver arrives that contains…a third reminder!

Frankly, I’m amazed my early onset grumpiness patience lasted this long with these Stupid Americans people. My favorite part of these exchanges is when they say they’re double vaxxed. Ok, first of all, you’re vaccinated. It’s potentially a two-shot protocol, saying you’re double vaccinated implies you got two of the available three (in the US) vaccines. But second, you’re expecting me to believe something as unbelievable as you “didn’t see” three reminders about masks…why would I believe you when you swear you’re vaccinated?

You know how many women became mothers believing men when they swore they’d pull out? Get the hell away from me with your feeble nonsense.

So I make them go get masks before I let them in. But last Saturday, I’d just had it. A guy walks out of a bar – you know this is serious, jokes always start with a guy walking into a bar – and pulls the whole innocent act. It’s 1:45 in the morning, I’m tired and working my way home. It’s also a 13 minute ride in the wrong direction, so I just tell him nope.

Compassionate Xtopher would have said, “There’s a 7-Eleven right next door, go buy one and we’re good to go”, but I’ve also noticed these folks don’t usually tip because I’m “mean”. Except the friend of the guy I kicked out of Angela because he called me a pussy for insisting they wear masks…she tipped me $20 up front to reconsider. And that was just an hour-ish earlier Saturday night, so I was already crunchy about the whole mask thing.

Case 2:

I gave an early 20s couple a ride to work on Friday. They work a security job at Nabisco – which is actually named something else now because they got bought by the company that owns Toblerone, but I’m not even gonna try to spell it – and were talking to me about their brutal schedules. I was in awe, and 60 hour weeks for me were nothing when I was working professionally. These youngsters were working six day weeks, 12 hour minimums with frequent extra hours. They estimated their average week to be 95-110 hours.

Then they asked me to tell anyone I know who’s looking to apply to their company, “They only have to be 18 and pass a background check”. We actually spent a good deal of our 42 minute rush hour ride discussing this, given my 30 years of people management. I think they felt good to be heard, and even validated by what I brought to the conversation.

Naturally, I got cocky.

I asked near the end of the ride if I could ask them what they thought about vaccine resistance in their age group. At first, the young woman declined because she said that those conversations always led to her friends yelling at her.

Foolishly, I assumed that they were yelling at her because she thought it was important…but I was wrong.

As we eased into the conversation, she said things that gave away her position. “This is nature’s way of culling the population” and “COVID doesn’t kill any more people than the flu does”.

I’d been gently pushing back against those statements with my own, like “I’m not sure where you heard that, but it doesn’t ring true with what I’ve heard”. As gentle as that response was, I could still see her pouting in the mirror. Young people want to be treated as peers and equals until you disagree with them, then they revert to absolute children. Some – not all, by any means.

Figuring if she were going to pout, I might as well make it worth her while, I loaded up a couple realities for her to think on.

“Look, your assertion that nature is trying to cull our population is certainly not the craziest thing I’ve heard, it’s even pithy, but if that were the case, wouldn’t a smart move be to try to not get culled?”

Her boyfriend laughed at this and she kind of lightened up at my question. Then I hit her with a hard fact. “The flu probably hasn’t killed 600,000 people in the US in the last twenty years. 60,000 would be a tragic year for flu deaths. A closer average would probably be 30,000 and in 2019 the number of US deaths from flu was closer to 20,000. Equating one with the other is just factually wrong. Whoever let you believe that did you an absolute disservice.”

The curious thing to me is that people lack the intellectual curiosity to even check the shit they hear. Of course, that’s a perfect lead in to…

Case 3:

This was a rider I’d had before. A member of my 1% Club, which I call them because my nerdy ass took the time to quantify the frequency with which I see repeats. In case you’re curious, three-peats are about 1/1000 rides and I’ve had one four-time rider in my 5300 rides.

But I digress.

I didn’t immediately peg him as a dupe until he started talking about his work – since I’d picked him up there. I asked what it was that had him working a Sunday afternoon and he told me he worked in radio.

That was when it hit me. I asked if I hadn’t taken him to work once, and remembered it being in the same building my favorite radio station was in. He said that was his other job, he worked for FISH radio out where I’d picked him up – which is a conservative Christian station.

He, in turn, asked me how I was feeling about my own personal safety since he obviously knew I’d been driving during the pandemic. I shared that I felt pretty safe throughout but also wouldn’t be surprised if I’d had a mild case of COVID at some point and couldn’t even presume to think I hadn’t had at least an exposure. The odds just aren’t there.

He told me of his own exposure through his live-in girlfriend – oh, those Christians and their tendency of cherry picking values…really, premarital sex? <gasp> – but that he hadn’t gotten it and was now vaccinated.

That led to a chat about why his girlfriend wasn’t yet. Apparently, she was relying on the natural immunity from having the virus. That perked me up, and I asked if she’d only recently had COVID. Her illness was back in January and I wondered if maybe that was far enough back that she could get vaccinated if she wanted to. He went on about how natural immunity lasts about 9 months, maybe longer. I listened to him, but when he finished I nudged him with “The last I’d heard – and I’m not paying that much attention currently, since we have a vaccine now – was that natural immunity started to fade at 2-3 months”.

He didn’t disagree with me, but veered off into mortality rates to dismiss the importance of vaccines in the first place. That was rather a needle-skip of a moment, but I let it play out. He was rattling off mortality rates of 3-5% for the flu and .004-.006% for COVID. I told him that I didn’t know those numbers offhand, but it seemed backward, causing him to interrupt me with an objection that made me almost drive off a bridge.

“No one knows the actual mortality rate because the numbers are all inflated!”

Me: <blink, blink>

“You shouldn’t count people who have diabetes or cancer or whatever and die of COVID because they were gonna die anyway.”

That old chestnut. I was in the middle of disagreeing when he interrupted me again. This was to be our pattern for most of the rest of the ride. I try to participate in the dialogue and he cuts me off.

“I’m not trying to be argumentative”, he eventually said, seeming to pick up on the rhythm of our conversation…and then I cut him off.

“Really? Because you keep talking over me and interrupting me. That seems like textbook argumentative behavior to me.”

That actually got him to back down a bit and we actually talked for the short duration of the ride. I told him that if I had COVID and died getting hit by a bus, that should absolutely not be a COVID death, which got a chuckle out of him. But I pressed on by suggesting that his own phrasing belies the point he’s making.

“How can you say someone with cancer died of COVID and not see the inherent fallacy? It’s right there in your own words!” He was thinking on that, but whether he was changing his mind or rewriting his talking points is not clear. I pushed on with the reality that, yes, these people could have probably died of their co-morbidities, but they hadn’t gotten the chance because COVID did the heavy lifting in their death. At the very least, COVID shortened their already potentially shortened lives.

“Besides”, I asked, “you surely know the Christians’ favorite argument against assisted suicide, right?”

He did not. So I told him that it wasn’t even that it was considered a mortal sin. Then I shared the argument that a cancer patient might have years of life with treatment, and the argument is that in those years a cure could be discovered.

Silence. I looked in the mirror and he was sitting there with his mouth open, but he wasn’t even trying to make words.

Check and mate.

Personally, these Stupid Americans presently dying from COVID should likely have “Dumb” listed as their Cause of Death, but maybe that’s just their comorbidity.

When I got to this guy’s destination, we were still chatting. I told him that his was the liveliest debate I’d had all weekend and thanked him. Not conversation…debate. But I still appreciated it because I felt like he actually started listening after I called him on his interruptions.

Yeah, he didn’t tip.

I’m wondering if tomorrow I’ll find out that I got my first ever non-5-star rating…

All that being said, even though I’m giving in to my grumpy old man-ness on this issue, I should still probably do some actual yoga. What could possibly go wrong?

Compassionate Yoga

I Pledge Allegiance

…to the trauma caused by the symbol of America’s freedom.

Is it just me or do other people have a little situational PTSD after the abuse our nation’s flag has endured in the last year? Usually, when I see the flag, I feel a swell of pride or nostalgia.

Nostalgia from the years of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag at the start of each school day. Or – also quite timely – from watching opening or closing ceremonies of the Olympics.

Pride from knowing our country’s history and what we’ve grown into in such a relatively short time as a nation.

But after last year…a twinge of shame and a flash of trauma have replaced those more positive associations.

Not that the shame isn’t somewhat warranted as I’ve witnessed the racial equity protests in my hometown over the past 16 months. Or watched as the GOP politicizes teaching truthful history that would reduce the cancer of white nationalism in America from growing as rampantly in future generations.

Knowledge is power.

Whiteness is not.

But the PTSD…after being caught in so many Trump Truck Parades last year, it’s haunting. People still fly various incarnations of the American flag, the Back the Blue flag or the Trump 2020 flag on their trucks as they drive through town. It’s more prevalent in the suburbs than the city proper, but I still see them on the highways close in and feel a sense of insecurity when they pass by. Also in the subs, you’ll find people flying American flags from their homes or fences in dubious proximity to their neighbor’s Black Lives Matter yard signs.

I truly and fearfully believe that it’s the leading ripples of the divisive wave that our Uncivil War will surf in on…

Our diseased national mental health crisis.

Not even the tiny flags that fire trucks – and I saw an inordinate amount of fire trucks while driving this weekend – gave me a swell of pride. I felt a little hope, but nothing that stuck around longer than it took for the fire trucks to pass by.

Honestly, the greatest hope – and I’m loathe to call it hope – I have for our country is for Darwin to throw an epic and devastating win on the board with vaccine deniers over the coming months. And I feel repulsed by the notion that a massive, locally concentrated death toll is what my “hope” is for these Stupid Americans snapping out of the gaslit hold the Svengali-like GOP and church have on their minds.

Help me, Common Sense…you’re my only hope.

I Pledge Allegiance

Update: People Still Dumb

My recent temp assignment ended last Friday. I wasn’t sad about it. Originally, my wrangler told me it was a four week, 9:30-5, Monday-Friday thing.

He knows how I feel about this.

But, having not been on assignment for 16 months, I took it, despite not wanting to commit full-time to anything. My rationale was twofold: first, it’ll change up my pandemic imposed only-driving schtick; and, as an added bonus might serve to get me a future assignment.

Work is about relationships.

Anyway, it turned out that this business was BiPOC and woman-owned, so I felt even better for taking the plunge. Despite the fact that the owner referred to it on day one as a six week assignment.

Once again, sticking it out played into my favor, because after the scope was explained to me – entering eight months of payroll data into QuickBooks – and I was up and running, it seemed like a fine way to go blind pass some time. Once I knew what I was doing, I even asked the owner how many pay periods she reasonably thought I should be able to get through in a day. She replied that two seemed about right…and I figured that I could do two pay periods in about six hours, so suddenly things were looking rather part-time for your favorite grumpopatomus.

Even better was the math suggesting that I’d be done in two week’s time at that pace!

Fear not…it was an interesting two weeks.

I’d drive a little on my way to the office, arriving at 10, well ahead of the owner each of the three times I saw her. Then I’d give a few rides on the way home so I arrived after paid street parking hours – I’m crafty like that. Really, I felt like I was having the best of both worlds, so I was content.

Until…because there’s always another shoe, right?

Oregon lifted nearly all restrictions just before the Fourth of July. The result was that if you weren’t certain where you were, you might think you were in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

Seriously, people were out in such numbers that they were packed to overflowing on the sidewalks. There were some corners where cars had to drive single file through a four lane intersection simply to avoid striking someone.

Because, somehow that would be the driver’s fault.

Anyway, I got a call on one such weekend night here in the Alphabet District to pick someone up a few blocks from my home. The pickup was on 14th at Hoyt, about two blocks from where a freeway exit dumps off about a quarter of the traffic of people coming downtown to party on weekends.

Of course these idiots take their full five minute wait time (and then some) to get down onto the street and into my car. Because when you’re getting picked up on a two lane road that close to a freeway off ramp, why would you concern yourself with minor details like how your lack of readiness impacts dozens of other people while your driver is double-parked in that five minute window?

Speaking of details, the app warns people of the company policy to protect its passengers and drivers – specifically, no one sits in the front seat and everyone wears masks. It pops up every damn time you book a ride.

Twice

Naturally, these considerate people are on a double date and ask if one of them can sit in the front. Since I was already done for the night and so close to home, I figured “Why not?”

I could be the cool mom.

Plus, I’d seen that they were only going to 9th and Couch, so it was going to be a quick ride…four blocks over and five blocks down. They quite probably could have walked there in the amount of time it took me to drive to them. Probably they could have even walked there in the six minutes I ended up waiting for them.

Naturally, once these inconsiderate idiots had piled in and we were underway, I saw that none of them had put on masks. After mentioning it, their leader said he didn’t know that was still a thing – and that they were all vaccinated.

I mentioned the above opportunities for him to have realized that it was, in fact, still a thing. Adding in that vaccinated or not, the safeguards were put in place to protect everyone, not just their privileged asses. But not wanting to harsh their mellow, I mentioned sometimes people miss things, like I had when it took two minutes for me to realize they weren’t wearing masks – while I was also driving.

This snot-nosed little shithead suggested that maybe my app needed updating.

Yeah, because this is my main source of income.

Sure

I was telling him that I was just being polite earlier and what a dumbass he must be for missing two reminders of the policies when we pulled up to the club and the line was around two corners of the block.

Two!

“Have fun!” I yelled as they slammed their car doors. I fully suspect they walked right up to the club entrance, pretending they didn’t notice the line.

Idiots.

Sharing this story with the only person I regularly saw at my temp assignment, I got a lil TMI that turned my amused rage into stunned discomfort. This person was the company admin, a real Jane of all trades.

She mentioned never knowing who was vaccinated and who wasn’t – which gave me an opportunity to praise the diligence with which she managed the temperature log for visitors and also tell her I’d overheard her coworker mention to her that her mother had been on her to get her vaccination done.

Thin walls, small office.

This is where the overshare came in.

I learned that the office manager – who I’d never met – was out for two weeks, isolating after her daughter was contacted about a COVID close call. And that she was also not vaccinated.

Then, this woman whose company I had enjoyed in the office during my assignment volunteers that she also is not vaccinated. That’s three of the six other people in the office. The remainders, I didn’t know whether they were or weren’t, but was surprised to realized that I’d just assumed they were.

Like a fool.

I check in to see if she knew that the black community was disproportionately affected by COVID – and she admits that yes, she knows.

I ask if there’s more truth to the distrust that blacks are reported to have of medical science than I’d given it. While she affirmed that those reports of distrust were true, that wasn’t why she hadn’t gotten her vaccination.

She somehow felt it was important to share that in addition to being late 50s and overweight, she also has diabetes and asthma.

I ran out of fingers to tally her co-morbidities on.

“I prayed about it real hard”, she said earnestly. “I figure if Jesus wants me to get the shot, he’ll put it on my heart and I just haven’t felt that.”

Ok, what the fuck.

You don’t trust doctors because they are exceedingly not black…but the old whitey who lives in the clouds is your trusted authority?

I can see the death certificate now. Cause of Death: FAITH.

It was all I could do to not say what I was thinking…I hope Jesus puts that vaccine on your heart before Mother Nature puts COVID on your lungs.

The next week, the owner calls out sick two days in a row and takes a COVID test the third day. It’s embarrassing how permissive people are when it comes to letting themselves look like fools.

Update: People Still Dumb

The Silence of the Ham

The Silver Fox was up last weekend. We went and ran some errands after coffee on…I want to say Saturday? I could be off a day or two, though. Time is a constant, my memory is not.

Anyway, while we ran his errands, he was multi-tasking by also ignoring my input about paint colors for his bathroom.

Sidebar: He’d already decided on Cable Knit Sweater based off the name alone, since there is some inside joke about that between him, his not-estranged-enough ex-wife and (unbeknownst to them) Taylor Swift.

That being the case, I was entertaining myself. Alternately looking at plants and seagulling him with unwanted opinions about paint he was pretending to consider.

This child was more excited than the Silver Fox

Somewhere between me finding an unusual looking plant and a hand painted planter to kill it in, I shared a story with him about Facebook. Since he’s not on any social media and he wasn’t listening to my opinions, we were basically punishing each other for sport.

The Facebook Story:

An old friend of mine – not as old as the Silver Fox, but “old” as in I’ve known him longer than The Fox…which is really saying something! – had sent me a late night text pointing out my conspicuous absence from Facebook.

The reason I had gone quiet was my own fault. I’d forgotten a major life rule: Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Honorable mention…a Mark Twain quote: Never argue with an idiot, they’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

The idiots and stupid Americans people in question were from a Facebook group I’ve been a part of for a few years called DamnedPortlanders. Usually, they post about neighborhood free libraries or new mandalas that appear around neighborhood intersections or cute hidden gardens.

Not this time, though. This time it was about Local Restaurant Chains vs Minimum Wage – read it, it’s a descent into over-educated liberal insanity.

But knowing I was missed caused me to end my Facebook embargo. Then I went in, quit some groups – starting with DamnedPortlanders – and deleted about 15% of my friends. Most of whom were just folks I’d met once or twice while amusing myself at bars, folks I knew only on social media because they were friends of friends or, in about a half dozen cases, guy candy.

As I said, sharing this story was simply an exercise in pyrrhic entertainment…and he didn’t much care. But I got a little humble brag in in the telling, some people miss me when I’m not around.

Subtle, right?

The best part about all this? He decided he also liked the planter I’d discovered and decided to buy one…right before telling me that I couldn’t buy one because between our respective coffees, the gallon of paint and his hand painted planter, we didn’t have enough hands to carry it all home.

I mentally debated arguing – again, just for sport – but decided that this was his errands mission. I could make a separate trip for mine…but I’m telling him they were on sale after I do!

What makes this phenomenon remarkable is how many others are going through similar situations. Just the other morning, I awoke to an IM from a friend that she had deleted both of her blogs and didn’t want me to worry about her silence. It was just because she was tired of the petty backlash she suffered when mentioning friends in her blog posts.

She, like me, used nom de blog plume type masking when mentioning her friends. Unlike me and the epic brand hawk, Sacha, all of her friends seemed to mind – even though very few (if any) people would bother or care to decipher the monikers she used.

Sacha has his own special code name in my phone book…

I’m fortunate, I guess, that I only have Sacha to worry about when I write. It’s entertaining, in a way…watching him bend over backward to convince me that he’s not reading my blog. It’s always some vague “mutual friend” from Facebook that allegedly tells him about a post.

Fun fact: My WordPress hasn’t been tethered to my Facebook page since last August, so when I wrote about him about a month and a half ago and he jumped into a shrill textapalooza with both feet…well, if it walks like a Sacha and lies like a Sacha – it’s a Sacha.

Aside from those stories about overly precious friends and exes, though, I was glad to hear my friend Benjamina espouse the same instinct to cull. Maybe that’s something that being in lockdown for 15 months has instilled in us. After all, if we spent that long incommunicado when distractions were at an all time low and entertainment was at a premium, then I think the onus is on the “friend” to prove they should remain on that less and less important friends list. For my part, if someone was a legit part of my life – usually meaning they were a schoolmate or a past work colleague – they got a pass, even if we didn’t presently interact much on social media. I made a few exceptions for active friends of friends and blog buddies, otherwise I dropped the unfriend hammer. Most embarrassing for the folks who didn’t make the proverbial cut would be the nearly half-dozen friends on my list who have died over the years. They may not have survived life, but they survived the friends list cull of 2021…I don’t want to let go of the last physical tether I have to them.

I was a little more liberal or sparing on Instagram, by comparison. After all, that’s really more of a “follow your interests” environment by design.

Of course, that immediately bit me straight in the ass.

There’s a kid from Glasgow that I know from his blog here on WordPress. He’s self-published several pamphlets books, so we have a couple of similar interests…three, if sexual orientation counts as an interest. Although, at this point in my life, I’d call sexual orientation a disinterest of mine.

I’ve even bought one of his books. $10 for less than 75 pages…that tracks for what too many millennials expect as an ROI for their efforts: minimal effort, maximum return. Conversely, my books are all well over that page count – by magnitudes – and my target price range is $9.99-12.99. I want to deliver bang for my reader’s dollar. And that apostrophe was intentionally placed in the singular possessive, thank you.

He’s actually a late-20s guy, not a kid. Despite his childish behavior in what turned out to be our second to last interaction on social media.

Like I said, it was Instagram. He’s posted a pic to his story with the caption “Time to shave”. In looking at the pic – which was an extreme close up of his chin – I saw some white stubble. I thought it was cute, a soon to be expired twink calling himself out for having white whiskers and playfully responded with “Do I see some white on that stubble?” Then I went to bed, because the PNW and Glasgow are in very different time zones, right?!?

I awoke to see him having made two efforts at responding “Rude” and following them up with “And now it’s deleted”. Then I saw that he’d blocked me.

Ok…wow.

He’s been very vocal about his bouts of anxiety and depression, both on his Instagram and in his blog. As a matter of fact, weeks after the Instagram incident, he posted about exactly that and how COVID exacerbated those conditions for him. And oddly how he’d noticed people coming out of their COVID hibernations with slightly wonky social behaviors – like they’d forgotten how to people during lockdown.

Of course, I completely agreed with him. Which led to our last social media interaction here on WordPress. I just couldn’t help but use the story of how someone had blocked me on social media for incorrectly guessing why they’d post a pic captioned “Time to shave”.

Not only did that story go over his head…

…but he liked it. As in, he completely forgot the entire episode and even reading my comment didn’t trigger his memory that I was describing his own broken behavioral shittiness.

What the literal fuck? I was embarrassed for him. Being so incensed that he not only blocked me, but deleted a post from his own social media. If that wasn’t a memory that stuck in his mind hard enough to recall after being directly reminded of the situation, I’m left to wonder if he wasn’t that offended or if he’s that offended by so many people that he cannot recall who got the block hammer and for what manufactured reason.

He should take a page out of Rainman’s book and keep a list…

Yeah, I went there.

And, for the record, I unfollowed his blog. That was something that actually made me feel bad. For my part, I think if I’m living in a society that it’s incumbent upon me – and each of us – to do our part to lift others up…to help them be better people or have an easier time navigating this life we’re living.

Imagine if that was our collective goal. What a world that would be.

My hope in making this comment to this guy was that he’d read my account of what he’d done and what my intention had been in making my comment on his Instagram story and he’d have an a-ha moment and we could bury the proverbial hatchet.

I thought that the worst case scenario would be that he just blocked me from commenting on future post to his blog. Nowhere in my expected response was that he would be so oblivious as to not even get that my comment was directed at him…and that he’d actually like my comment.

I really didn’t know what to do with that level of cluelessness. Like I said, I unfollowed his blog. I know what they say about the irreparable nature of stupid, but I don’t think he’s stupid.

Naive.

Maybe a little lazy brained…but not stupid.

I had led that horse right up to the water’s edge – not much more I can do, if it dies of dehydration I’m not sticking around to beat its corpse.

In a barely interesting corollary, I’ve noticed a lot more bogus follower activities. Y’know…obviously fake accounts following me.

Mostly on Instagram, but there’s been a few on Facebook, too. And you’ve got to admit, some of their tactics are hits – like the new Instagram follower named progressivevote or the blog followers whose blog descriptions are “alcohol” or “beer”…they know the target audience. That Jane_Vera0116, though. Swing and a really big miss.

But maybe they are relying on the incipient loneliness the past year-plus of lockdowns has created. Or the desperation what I’m imagining to be the obvious unfriending and unfollowing on social media is creating in people who don’t know their value without the “likes” to back it up.

If COVID only made us worse to endure, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t just let the GOP have its way on labeling Climate Change as a hoax…because maybe we aren’t worth saving. Because just as unfixable as stupid is, saving someone or some species that can’t decide it wants to be saved is a fool’s errand for any Samaritans amongst us.

Maybe it’s time this victim of his own self-described savior complex just shuts up and watches the world burn.

Nah…I’m more optimistic than that! I’ll go buy that plant and see if it will stay alive and keep me company.

The Silence of the Ham

Barf, aight.

Ok, admittedly, that possibly makes you work to decipher my post’s meaning.

It’s about a Bar Fight that I found myself unable to avoid last week. Don’t worry, though, I’m neither lover nor fighter, so before you worry…it was a non-physical encounter.

Words only.

Promise.

But seriously, if this type of scenario is how I finally punch the clock on life, someone needs to write the Redshirt Diaries entry on it, okay?!?

This just happened to occur the night after we emerged from Lockdown 3.0 here in Multnomah county. We came out of it on a Friday, but I did my usual drive time from 8-midnight that night because there’s an 80s music show on my local station that I like to listen to.

Plus, bars on weekends…<shudder>. My saying is “I don’t drink with amateurs”; so weekends, St Patrick’s Day, Cinco…all those big drinking holidays, you can find me comfortably situated on my couch.

For Kelly’s Olympian, though…I ventured out on a Saturday.

Solo, of course. But I was still there showing support for my local favorite. Plus, it was a Saturday in the ghost town that is downtown Portland these days, so I figured it would be pretty empty at 9 PM. I figured I’d go in, have a few beers and do a lil video lottery before the mandated 11 PM closing time.

It started off with the best of intentions. I walk in, chit-chat with the two bartenders after ordering my Pallet Jack until one of the other three customers comes up to order something. I make my way back to the video lottery corner of shame lounge area.

It. Is. Packed.

The six machines have been reconfigured in three back-to-back pods to promote social distancing with one two top bar table positioned by one of the pods. Strictly speaking, it’s not perfectly socially distanced, but it’s not usually heavily populated enough to make it that much of a concern.

Saturday night, I was a little uncomfortable, but less so knowing I was two weeks-plus from my second shot. I took a seat at the only free machine and started spinning, removing my mask only to sip. These minor inconveniences aside, I managed to make a little small talk with the two guys chowing down on bar food while a friend of theirs held court on my preferred machine.

“Held court” was too nice a phrase…he was full on bloviating. I hadn’t gotten a good look at him on my way in, because I know what my eyes can do even while I’m policing them. Adding a mask to that situation makes it worse.

And I hadn’t placed the Foghorn Leghorn quality of his voice yet.

You see…I’d run into this blowhard before. I just hadn’t realized it yet.

The last time – as would turn out to be the case this time – he had brought a co-worker with him. Throughout my stay there, he had pretty much bashed this woman into obliteration over work frustrations and stuff. She was pretty much on the defensive the entire evening, apologizing and trying to placate this fat old white guy. From the sounds of it, he’d brought her in on a project with his company and at best seemed disinclined to let her forget his role in her good fortune. Worst case, it sounded like she was outperforming him in their partnership and that was not something he chose to view as a feather in his cap for choosing such a great business partner.

For my part, I endured his booming drawl, letting him off with a few glares he chose to ignore. I was, however ready to say something if the conversation turned to sexual orientation in any way. Not to profile, but she had a very low maintenance haircut, if you get my drift. They also seemed to be in the construction or related type field.

On Saturday, though, as this blowhard started to alienate the other gamblers, I realized that five of the eight people in the lounge were with him.

Co-workers, once again.

The other two players gave up on peace and left. Apparently, I’m not the only person who doesn’t appreciate this guy using our bar as a WeWork.

Figuring I could manage his company for another hour before closing, I changed machines just to be out of the direct path of his sound waves. He’d already hit the ATM once, so I figured he was on the downhill side of his stay, anyway. I decided on the machine right by the ATM to be as out of his way as possible.

A couple of his captives cohorts went out to smoke and never came back. Another drifted out a few moments later for a drink. It was just him, one poor victim and me.

Somehow, he got louder.

Oh, it’s because he was standing right behind me at the ATM. Must be having a bum luck night. And have either higher withdrawal limits than I do or was tapping multiple accounts to finance his evening’s entertainment.

I turned and glared at him as he yelled across the room behind me. In a moment of self-awareness I was surprised he possessed, he realized I had leveled my eye beams at him.

“Oh, sorry”, he mumbled from behind his mask.

“I appreciate that. I just moved to get away from you.”

For whatever reason, he went back to yelling at his co-worker across the room. I went back to my trademark grumpy old man low key seething. Nothing worse than someone who apologizes for something and then keeps doing it.

That’s about when he started in on specific complaints about work. Apparently, he wasn’t getting his therapeutic value from generic bitching.

He pointedly began by reminding his sole remaining hostage that he brought them into the project. That earned him a little fealty.

But not enough, I guess?

Because his next move was to start talking about how hard it was for him, since his company was requiring minority business partners in the contracts they were awarding.

There it is.

Maybe it’s that the other four Latin business partners of his had seemingly permanently decamped to the outdoor seating so they could smoke…or not be around this dickwad, but fealty and deference from one Hispanic man wasn’t cutting the mustard. He’d ordered up five sycophants and was only getting one.

He started going in full bore on the manners in which this last guy – I’m guessing the boss or most senior of the group? – and his company were not delivering. In a fit of “no leg to stand on”-ness, in the 20 minutes I listened to this guy hammer away at this fella, he listed not one specific or actionable criticism.

Just…it’s hard.

Or…there’s so many other companies I would have chosen if I could have.

Nothing specific.

And this poor guy on the receiving end was just vaguely apologizing for equally vague complaints.

Me: You know, I’m not sure how your business is set up, but every organization I’ve ever worked for – as a people manager, mind you – has had private areas for these types of conversations. During business hours, no less!

Foghorn Leghorn <looking stunned>: Why don’t you mind your own business? This doesn’t involve you.

Now, the guy he’s been berating this whole time turns and gives me the most genuine look of relief I think I’ve ever seen. But then turns back to the guy in full suck-up mode. I felt bad.

Me: Since you don’t seem to have an inside voice and we’re barely 10 feet apart, you’re forcing your business on me. It’s non-consensual.

FL: Look, I don’t know what your problem is, we’re just trying to talk.

Me: And I’m just trying to have a few beers and blow a few bucks in peace. But since my complaint wasn’t specific enough for you: I’m tired of listening to you “you people” this poor guy. You’re a racist, I get it. I don’t want to hear it anymore. Shut up or go outside.

FL: <sputters indignantly>

His hostage assures him it’s ok, he understands. I didn’t. I realized that Foghorn was blaring something at me, but I’d been straining to hear what his companion was saying. I wanted to gut check my position, maybe I had heard wrong or blown something out of proportion – but I didn’t think so, I’ve been a victim and know what it sounds like. Foghorn’s victim not saying I misunderstood led me to believe my ears hadn’t deceived me.

Foghorn was still blaring at me about minding my own business. I cut him off.

Me: Look, it’s one thing when it’s an isolated incident, but I know that the last time I saw you here, you were doing pretty much this exact same act with a woman. So let me just say that, as a bystander, your misogynistic and racist bellowing is not ok. If you truly think I’m wrong, have me thrown out.

His co-worker was still in placate mode – although I saw the flash of understanding in his eyes when I pointed out I’d seen this behavior from Foghorn before. He said he was about ready to call it a night, and invited Foghorn to go with. Surprisingly, Foghorn acquiesced.

I breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed the next few minutes of peace.

The bartender came back to bus and I could tell he was smirking behind his mask.

“Sorry…I wasn’t trying to cause a scene or start anything. I just couldn’t validate his words with my silence.”

The bartender laughed and told me I wasn’t wrong. It made me wonder how often people in positions like his are put in similar scenarios…and can’t say anything because: customers.

That made me sad. It also clued me into this guy’s possible MO. Taking folks he secretly hates or resents out on his expense account to dress them down for not owning a dick or being non-white away from work. Curious behavior, but one I completely have no trouble believing.

What’s shocking is that none of his victims have complained over his good old boy head. Since I know this was his open tab from how he permissively encouraged the others to get another drink or round while I was present, it would put his actions under the umbrella of any anti-harassment or zero tolerance policies his company has in place. I hope one day this impotent skid mark of a human either gets his comeuppance or (preferably) sees the errors of his actions and makes amends.

Sadly, based on my own past experiences, I doubt either will happen. That’s a barf situation that is anything but aight.

But if you read my blog regularly, you probably saw my call to action at the end of a post a week or two back encouraging everyone to respectfully but firmly stand up and point out an unacceptable behavior from our stupider American country people. Maybe I was more buzzed less respectful than I could have been Saturday, but I am out there stumbling walking the talk.

Barf, aight.

The Fauci Ouchie

This is what my friend, Diezel calls the COVID vaccinations. Somehow, we became vaccination twins: our second shots both lining up on the same day.

I’ll tell you this, on the second day I’m definitely feeling the accuracy of that moniker.

First shot: nothing.

Second shot: well, I’m not sure it’s a legit malaise or my usual “my lazy ass”. I described it to Diezel as feeling like I was taken apart and forced back together.

Overall, completely acceptable side effects 29 hours in.

Which is great news for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which was a certain Bubble Boy with an itch that needed scratching. He had wanted to come over last night and had been trying to set something up since Sunday.

So, actually, he wanted to come over Sunday night.

Or Monday.

Or – please, please, please – Tuesday.

You know a boy is either hard up or sweet on a fat, old man if he’s that persistent. I hear him, though, when he complains about Grindr Gays in particular and asocial media in general – and it leads me to believe it’s the former versus the later.

Last time he’d been over – and keep in mind, this has been going on for about five months, now – he asked what the art in my bathroom was.

Not the painting of someone’s junk!

Fair point…that one is not mine, for the record fairly self-explanatory. He was talking about this one:

You’re kidding! You don’t know who REM is?!?

He was not kidding. It’s just a dumb album poster for a band, I wouldn’t call it art. But it’s something my youngest brother gave me for Christmas in the last century. He was just a kid at the time, and it meant something to me to be included in his gift giving – which came from his allowance and part-time job earnings. So I put it in a cheap little frame, which was all the rage for one’s framing needs at this point in time. It’s hung in every home of mine since.

The funny thing is that Bubble Boy always compliments my music when he’s over. Until now, I just assumed it was a statement of fact, kind of like agreeing that the sky is blue.

To be fair, that last point might be hard for Republicants to follow, since it involves science.

Once I realized he was unfamiliar with REM, I began to wonder if he liked my music like I liked my grandfather’s. Let’s just push that thought down, though, shall we?

Operating under my “Leave ’em better than you found ’em” mantra, I decided to widen his musical palate. To that end, while I was laying on the couch with a tiny and rare headache following my second shot, I decided to train a new Pandora station for his next visit.

What? I didn’t say it had to be an earth shattering improvement. Just better that they were before meeting me. Plus, music is important. It helps people <ahem> come together.

No other way I could have said that was as cringey or fun for me.

Anyway, since I was still feeling pretty good close to the end of his shift, I told him to get it while it’s (reasonably) good and he came over after work.

What? He’s chasing me down remember? I’m good if only for the simple fact that I’m available.

And I’m glad I had him over last night instead of betting on feeling better today than yesterday.

You know what didn’t friggin’ happen while he was here, though?

That damn station didn’t play a single damn REM song during his visit. Mind you, it’s on the third REM song (forth now, as I proofread) since I turned it on and sat down to tap this out.

My home network technology is kind of a jerk.

Ironically, neither Diezel nor I felt the same relief after our second shot as we did following our first doses. In texting with the Silver Fox yesterday afternoon, I shared that I thought my lack of relief was tied to a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop as far as side effects were concerned.

As in, the legends around who experiences side effects and why had me feeling rather sure that I’d fall into the side effects realm.

Needless to say, I definitely felt some relief last night around 11. <smiling devil emoji>

Waking up to just stiffness and soreness today also provided a little more relief. I’m not taking it for granted, though. Perhaps my side effects are just running on Gay Standard Time…so I’ll reserve final judgment until tomorrow night.

Plus, on the full protection spectrum, I know I’ve got another 12 days to full efficacy. I’m sure Bubble Boy won’t mind that I don’t have a lot of other social engagements to distract my attention from the maintenance needs of his libido for the near future.

Dying from COVID: meh

Dying in the service of a 29 year old’s hormones: <thumbs up emoji>

Keep your fingers crossed that this barely noticeable side effects trend continues.

The Fauci Ouchie

The Red Shirt Diaries #31

COVID vaccine!

So…Tuesday is the big day. Shot #2.

I only know one person personally who has had a bad reaction to the vaccination. That said, cocktail napkin mary suggests there’s a 50/50 chance at any given person having a bad response.

Obviously, the odds are against me, given my relatively unscathed friends and family.

This has been weighing on me. Specifically, how do I plan my last day of unvaccinated life?

Should I be responsible and get some driving done – which I would normally do on Mondays, anyway – I’m case I have a bad reaction and end up going down for a day or more?

Or, using some sort of Xtopher-style inverse logic, should I go out in a figurative blaze of glory? Maybe hit a casino or take myself out for some beers?

Decisions, decisions…

And, tipping the scale completely over, Bubble Boy started texting this afternoon. He wants to know when he can see me again. Responsibly, I told him Tuesday, so long as I wasn’t impacted by the shot.

I know he wanted me to say tonight or tomorrow, but…get used to disappointment, Bucko.

Two is enough options for me to vacillate between.

Getting ready to hop into bed, I cannot tell you which way this will go down. Waking up will bring a whole new adventure.

But in true Red Shirt style, my house will be clean by the time that needle goes into my arm on Tuesday…just in case I manage to buck the trend and spontaneously kick the bucket.

Wish me luck! Or…y’know, weigh in on how you’d spend your last day amongst the living.

The Red Shirt Diaries #31