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

I Can’t…Please Don’t Ask.

So, this landed in my Lyft app yesterday.

Here’s a more detailed explanation from the drill down

Basically, you give 114 rides, you get a $182 bonus. Not super great, it’s about $1.50/ride on top of whatever the driver’s fare share, tips and any surge bonuses are for each ride. But, once you hit that 114th ride, you are eligible for a second tier bonus of $70 on your next 21 rides. That’s more like an extra $3.25/ride…that is kinda something.

Let me just start out at the top here by saying that there will be earnings numbers in this post. That does not mean that they are typical. Far from, to be honest. But as the Silver Fox likes to encourage me, these are examples of “making hay while the sun shines”.

So don’t hit me up for any loans.

I usually give somewhere in the 40-50 ride range per week. It takes me about 20-25 hours.

But, since the new year, I’ve raised my weekly financial goal by 50%. I figure, if I’m not going back – read: being asked back, also known as “hired” – to professional work, I may as well support myself with my driving income versus bankrupting my future.

For instance, here’s my breakout from the last week, which ended Sunday.

You might notice I hit – exceeded, actually – my financial goal in the 65 rides I gave. And that was in only 22.5 hours.

Crazy.

What was also crazy is that I felt guilty about taking time off – more on that in a sec – last week, so started off Friday with a bang

It was also the first time I’ve ever seen this

…so, oops, I guess? Even though that 12 hour day was split up over two drive shifts – morning and evening – hitting that 12th hour and rounding my way to 13 became a no drive zone.

Anyway, most of those earnings were a combination of surge bonuses and Lux rides. Usually, I feel lucky to get one Lux ride per driving shift, Portland just isn’t a Lux market. Seattle, now that I could see being a Lux market. Much more image conscious – with the excessive compensation to bankroll their brand building tendencies, too, that lot.

But that first part, the surge bonuses, that’s pushing people to Lux…for the value.

It’s crazy. Have I mentioned how nuts this feels?

With the enhanced unemployment that gig workers were allowed to dip into last Spring, many drivers have opted not to drive in lieu of free money and reduced COVID risk. Originally, they were given around $1200/week. Now it’s more like $900/week, a big drop from almost $5k a month, for sure.

But it’s still $3600/month to do nothing! Last year, I’d say my “take home” averaged about two-thirds that number. Not free money, mind you, but I felt very little time or effort was required.

This unemployment potential means that there aren’t a lot of drivers on the road. That creates surge pricing and long wait times for standard Lyft cars. Since I have a BMW, I can get either standard or Lux rides or opt for only Lux rides. Doing both, I can usually expect 2-4 rides per hour, depending on the length of each ride, versus about one ride per hour if I toggle over to Lux only.

That means in many cases currently when demand is high, it’s cheaper – and oftentimes faster – to call for a Lux.

And it’s not just Lyft that is struggling to get drivers on the road. Uber is having a rough <ahem> road of it, too. On Friday night I picked up a couple women around closing time (ok, that sounds seedy) at a bar in close-in SE. They were doing a split Lux ride, dropping one off about 18 blocks away from the bar and the other pretty deep in North Portland’s St John’s neighborhood. That’s where this iconic Portland bridge lives

…and it’s pretty hard to get to. It’s a freeway ride to almost the state line and then a long potholed surface street journey into the bowels of NoPo.

The St John’s passenger told me that just her ride home with Uber was $120, so they checked Lyft and with the slightly out of the way drop off of her friend, it was still less than 2/3 the Uber rate.

So, why am I mad? Well, I’m not. Not precisely.

I love driving and chatting with people and being “in service” to them. I call it my social paycheck, but really, it’s filling in a void I wasn’t prepared for after inadvertently leaving my retail career.

It’s funny, the things you miss. Funnier that these realizations caught me so off guard.

However, not being mad aside, I only drove Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week. I intentionally took off Monday through Thursday because I was tired.

Also, the Silver Fox was in town getting his second COVID vaccination…but that’s not the point!

I had just come off another challenge week the day before The Fox came up to town. That challenge was three tiered versus this week’s two tiers: 95 rides/$118 + 10 rides/$50 + another 30 rides/$84, for a total of $252 in ride bonuses for 135 rides.

Same number of rides and bonus potential as last week, they are just making us work for that first carrot.

Of course, this being my life, my 135th ride on the last challenge week ended in BFE. Me being loathe to drive home for free when I could get paid to drive home, switched my app to Destination Mode and caught another ride to my neck of civilization.

After 136 rides in almost 50 hours, I needed the rest. But I’d low key wanted to nail one of these challenges for over a year. With the Silver Fox out of town, I really had no excuse. Actually, I was a little mad that it took this long, but it was more bad timing than prochristination.

I swear!

But here’s the humble brag receipt:

And there were cash tips that aren’t showing in those numbers.

Yeah, if anyone with no skills beyond being able to operate a motor vehicle is looking for a job that pays $125,000 a year…I’ve got a hot tip for ya.

I do not want to earn that much. Well, honestly, I don’t want to work 50-plus hour weeks anymore. Thirty years of that bullshit was plenty.

Ergo, I’ve happily arrived at a point where my three ~10 ride days a week plus my long Friday, which I call either a double or a triple since it usually lands between 20 and 30 rides, sustain me. Added bonus: my favorite local station has a Friday night program called Party Out Of Bounds that is all 80s & 90s music from 8-midnight.

Yes. Please.

Wait…have I gotten around to why I’m mad/not mad yet?

It’s just too soon, this week’s challenge! I don’t know if it’s based on a preplanned calendar or in response to driver census in a certain area or something else altogether, but it seems this type of thing only happened a few times last year. Every other month, at most.

Every other week? Twice a month?

So much! Stop throwing money at me…I’ll respond!

But the retail manager in me – that apparently won’t die – wants to meet or exceed goals set by my employer. Even though Lyft’s technically not my employer in this relationship…when they call, I tend to answer.

If I get home after my 10 rides and my app tells me ride demand is high, I might sign back in for another five rides or so. Especially if they’re throwing surge bonuses onto rides – one of my rides this past Saturday included a $31 surge bonus. For one lousy ride! But generally, the surge bonuses are more in the $1.50-$4 range.

Nevertheless, my concern here is that even with the Silver Fox in town again yesterday and today, Angela going into the shop on Wednesday and a get together with Bubble Boy Thursday…I don’t really have the time to answer this call.

But I bet I end up trying.

Just watch.

Apparently, you can take the boy out of retail, but you can’t take the retail out of the boy.

I Can’t…Please Don’t Ask.

The C.R.S. Chronicles #3

Singledom vs. The Aging Brain

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

Such as they were, in lockdown.

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

1) A nine month supply, easy; or,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, dishwashing detergent!

Oh, mania…my steadfast companion.

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

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

Except

I was also out of liquid dishwashing detergent.

Ooooh, fuck…

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

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

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

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

Probably, I should.

But that’s not the point.

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

I love little prizes from Past Xtopher.

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

Thanks, Past Xtopher!

The C.R.S. Chronicles #3

The Red Shirt Diaries #30

It’s not hard to absorb the knowledge that I’ll likely never be in the 1%.

What’s harder to deny – given my “it could only happen to me”-ness – is the reality that I’ll probably easily find myself in the 3-5% club.

That club being populated by folks who were not protected by the COVID vaccine.

That’s right, folks…grumpy, old Xtopher got hisself a vaccine today. Isn’t it nice to see me embracing life like this?

I’m half convinced that they missed or didn’t even stab me. I didn’t feel a thing and the nurse couldn’t see where to put the bandage afterward because I didn’t bleed at the injection site.

Seems highly suspicious.

Anyway…use my jaded and twisted sense of humor as a reminder: this isn’t a cure. Just like flu shots, the COVID vaccination is a protection against COVID. Every year, I get a flu shot and sure enough, at some point I get the flu. It’s just a lighter illness than I would likely get otherwise.

It could be the same with COVID. So to share some advice an old friend used to give me: Don’t get dead. Get your shot and then behave responsibly. Keep washing your hands. Don’t take unnecessary risks. And please, stay home if you feel sick.

The Red Shirt Diaries #30

It’s My Anniversary

Of sorts.

The Facebook reminded me of a personal milestone when I checked in this morning.

Two years…

I’m really conflicted about this.

On the one hand, this life event was the culmination of leaving professional work in April of 2018 and giving myself time to indulge in my hobbies. Well, hobby: writing. More specifically, story telling. It turns out that my only other hobby turned out to be rage hair growing.

That Fall, I participated in National Novel Writing Month – aka: NaNoWriMo – for the first time. I’d sat it out the prior six years because it occurs in November and that’s just hell with a retail career.

After completing my 50k word goal, I fleshed out my story over the next couple of months to around 90k, took a swipe at editing and declared my story “good enough” for the telling.

Then I started exploring publishing options. Because I wanted this to be a hobby versus a career, I was quickly and easily turned off of traditional publishing. The horror stories of deadlines didn’t daunt me as much as the stories of writers getting fired by publishers after fulfilling their contract.

If I wanted to get dumped, I’d date.

So I leaned into self-publishing. I reached out to social media contacts around the world to pick their brains about their experiences. There were plenty of holes in my knowledge of the process, but I felt I understood it enough to take a stab at it.

The cover you see in the pic above was that stab. I decided to take a practice swing at the process by collating a blog theme from WordPress and going through the process. Ironically, the blog theme was about dating, which was a personal growth challenge I’d undertaken for the entirety of 2018. Effectively, my practice run at self-publishing was about dating and I’d decided on this route to avoid getting dumped by a publisher down the road.

I can mentally bend over backward for irony.

Anyway, it was a surprisingly intuitive process – even for a tech-naive Oldie Hawn like me. Sure, my first few orders shipped with blank backsides, but that’s all part of learning.

Right?

Since that initial foray, I’ve published two additional books. I have also completed three other drafts. All of that took place by the end of April 2019, so I feel like I embraced my storytelling hobby rather enthusiastically.

By the end of that April, I’d finished the draft of my third work in progress and had a timeline for release of all three.

Then the world basically ended. Or came to a screeching halt just short of meeting a calamitous end.

You’d think lockdown would have been a perfect environment to hole up and write, but I rarely wrote at home. As a matter of fact, finishing the draft of that third W.I.P. was a real challenge. I don’t have a comfortable writing nook here and used my daily caffeination or intoxification outings as the settings for my creative productivity. So, being forced to stay inside really curbed that process.

While I was home, not writing, I was also watching my third book not sell well and indulging in some good old self-doubt. My concern was that the cost of printing a 500+ page book was high enough that the lowest price I could charge (garnering me less than $1 in royalties, mind you) was too high to be palatable by consumers. I reached out to some early readers about my concerns and was assured that all was good, despite the story sales were telling me.

By the end of the year, I had decided to split the piece into two books. So now I really had five W.I.P.s and no mojo or pathway to publishing.

And that’s where I’ve been since January.

Sulking.

Not even proChristinating, just good old fashioned sulking.

I could dress it up and call it a writer’s ennui

I’ve taken a couple of runs at recommitting to this blog. Trying to get at least a couple posts up a month. This week, I low-grade challenged myself to publish daily…a challenge I’d abandoned yesterday because I was worried I couldn’t follow through with regular posts after the fact.

Then that darned Facebook memory surfaced. Thanks, Fuckerberg.

But while I’ve been writing this, a news story dropped saying that the House had re-passed the most recent stimulus package, sending it on to the White House. President Biden is expected to sign it by tomorrow and stimmie checks should start going out by month’s end.

Assuming I get one this time (I didn’t get the second one, somehow ending up in the group that gets to claim it as a credit on their tax filings) I’d been vacillating between buying a Peloton or a new couch with the $1400. This was dependent upon achieving my goal of exercising more consistently.

More exercise = Peloton, less = couch for further potatoing.

Oddly, that is the theme for my third non-fiction installment: fitness. I’d blogged about it in the year leading up to my 50th under the fitfy hashtag and thought it was due for a revisit as I enter my mid-50s.

So now I’ve created a nice, vicious thought cycle for myself:

New couch could easily morph into a new desk set up at Chez Galby so I had a space for writing.

Which would keep me off of my couch more, in turn reducing my need to replace it.

But would inhibit my ability to buy a Peloton to reward myself for being more active and propel my fitness efforts further forward…giving me more to write about.

I swear, sometimes I feel like I’m not so much a “Friend of Dorothy” so much as I am Dorothy Gale and my mind is the cyclone that swept her away to Oz…only for us all to learn it was all in her/my head in the first place.

Maybe I should just start an OnlyFans where I can livestream a fundraiser. In it, I’m naked at the beginning and put on clothes as people donate.

I’m sure I’d make enough to accomplish all three purchases!

It’s My Anniversary

Valentimes Part One

Yeah, I posted Valentimes Part Duex before I posted Part One. Also, I’m posting Part One after the big day. I’m not offering a defense of my timing, either way. It’s my blog and…

So, there.

Anywho…I’ve given between 3500 and 4000 rides since I started driving for Lyft about 18 months ago.

There’s been fewer than expected drunks.

More than anticipated Tinder “dates” – and you’d be surprised how many people pay extra to spring for a Lux ride to take them away from said “dates”…

Rides to funerals and memorials.

Countless healthcare and essential workers during the – sadly – ongoing pandemic.

A couple of unapologetic bastards conservatives.

Trips to or from the E.R. Too many, in fact.

Side note: how sad is it that our effed up healthcare system makes it necessary to take a goddamned Lyft to an E.R. instead of calling an ambulance?!?

And exactly two women who made me cry either during or after their rides.

Goddamned widows. Rubbing my perpetual singledom in my face.

I was actually okay at one widow.

Specifically, the one whose husband died a few years back. He sounds like he was a great husband, I heard their love story – which lasted 41 years.

But he sounded like a fucking badass, too.

Not because he drove a vintage black Mustang convertible.

Nor because they were high school sweethearts.

Or clearly wealthy. Particularly because his widow seemed like she was continuing to live a modest life after his death in honor of his memory, suggesting that the pleasures of their lives together were similarly modest.

The more exciting adventures I learned about during our ride were short bursts compared to the simple daily joys she described.

Their first date. Birthdays. Humble chivalry.

These were the things neither of these people took for granted in their relationship. They didn’t use one another in pursuit of the next big thing – either as an excuse or a means.

Her story was one of a satisfying life together. Inspiring to me in its endurance, something that I fear too few even aspired to in today’s value system.

The second widow was actually the first. Hearing her story made me think I should write a Valentine’s Day post. But it was the second widow who made me realize that the universe wasn’t going to let me off the hook.

Writing a book about my dating misadventures or fictionalizing my own ideals of relationships in my No One Of Consequence book series wasn’t going to cut it.

The least I could do is write an account of true love, even if it was only second hand.

Widow Number One earned her title when her husband had a major heart attack on Valentine’s Day last year.

Strictly going off visual cues, I’d say she was late 70s. I was taking her to work. She was looking like she’d be her own badass, and ended up being a heroic example of living a life for me.

Fret not, I picked her up in the South Waterfront neighborhood, which is pretty high rent. Ok, it’s fucking high rent, so she wasn’t working at nearly 80 because she had to.

Turns out, she doesn’t drive at all. Her husband used to take her to work before he died. Luckily (?) the pandemic closed the office down before her bereavement leave put her back to work. Now, she only had to go to the office once a week to ensure things were running smoothly. Normally, she figured she’d take the bus, but…pandemic + late 70s = bad combo.

She was enjoying Lyft, though, and the way she said that made me suspect she was enjoying it as a throwback to her husband taking her to work. I’m pretty sure her return to the office after this all ends will include at least an occasional escort to work.

She told me that when she was going through her husband’s things, she found several Valentine’s Day cards he’d made for her. I thought it was weird that he’d kept them, not her. But as she continued on, I realized these were unused cards.

That got me.

On top of being the kind of guy who encouraged his wife to work a part time office job after their kids left the nest, then celebrated her success when her search for post-child rearing purpose earned her a promotion to office manager after several years – she told me proudly that her employee number was 13, so she’d been there a while.

This is the guy who found his own post-retirement fulfillment in driving his wife to and from work to support and nurture her happiness.

This guy spent his in between hours working on his art. He was a post-career artist. Why would I be surprised that this guy made or was in the process of completing future Valentine’s Day cards for his wife?

Putting myself in that mindset, I got it. It wasn’t about making a card instead of buying one. It was about making one that appropriately captured the depth of feeling he had for his wife. Something that expressed the gratitude one must feel toward the person who accompanies you on the journey of a literal lifetime.

You might not always get that on the first pass. She said these cards were, of course, beautiful and I could tell that finding them had touched her very deeply. But I could easily stay a while in that position her husband must have found himself in – even now: not fully being able to express how this woman made him feel. Abandoning a card because it wasn’t good enough for his wife. <sigh>

But it shows how attitudes and behaviors have changed over the decades. I don’t think I’d have to defend the additional statement that a lot of those changes might have been for the short term good, but long term bad of the individuals.

And I can’t even get a return text.

While you’re here: If you haven’t yet and are curious about the writing works I mentioned earlier – Dating Into Oblivion and No One Of Consequence – check out my author page: https://www.amazon.com/Christopher-Galbreath/e/B07PLNKTHB/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1 for a view of my work. All books are available in paperback or e-book formats – and the e-books are cheap and the pages don’t fall out as I’ve heard from one of my supportive blogging buddies! It’s also a good way to keep up with the blog, since they post to my author page as well as here. I can’t say the same about the consistency of my Facebook author page…

Regardless, thanks for stopping by!

Valentimes Part One

At Least We Tried?

The poor restaurant industry in Portland.

They just can’t catch a break.

After going into Lockdown 2.0 in mid-November, Multnomah county was announced as meeting re-opening thresholds for COVID infections last week. Specifically, falling below 200 cases per 100,000 residents. The re-opening date was set for Friday, February 12th.

Mother Nature decided to bloop a lil dose of PDX weather on us, though:

Being a native Portlander, though, I view a potential winter weather event as an either/or proposition. It’s either something that happens or completely fails to materialize. Unless, that is, the forecast is off by just enough that we’ve already eaten our way through our kale hoard and then it’s

So by the time the 10-day forecast had gone from an unheard of six days of snow to only four, I’d written it off. I felt that cavalier position was merited when the predicted Thursday noon start for snowfall had passed and that we were heading for a big buncha nothin’.

Of course, my more reasonable friends told me, “Oh, no…they bumped it back to 4:00″.

So, four o’clock comes and goes. Nothing.

Then, just before nightfall, I see one lil lonely flake drift down into my balcony courtyard-slash-well and I think, “There you go. Snowpocalypse ’21!”

The next day:

Bloopsie-daisies.

That was about 4″ at 2:00 after I trudged over to the Safeway to get Myrtle some wet cat food, y’know, since I’d decided it was going to be a non-event and didn’t stock up.

Then I went inside and did what you do on a snow day – or what college kids do every day – got baked and took a four hour weed nap.

Of course, I woke to not only a text from my mom asking if I was “bored yet”, but after I didn’t respond for a couple hours, she set dad off on a text mission. I woke up around 8, I think, to a “Hello?” text from him and had to mea culpa for being such a lightweight stoner.

Last night, when I stepped out onto the balcony to assess the “disaster”, though, I could feel freezing rain hitting my skin. If you’ve never had the pleasure of feeling freezing rain, boy howdy…it burns.

I stood there getting pelted by icy, burning rain and pondered the irony of the situation: Portland is finally allowed to re-open indoor dining at 25% capacity and then the city basically shuts down because of snow and ice.

Following last night, I woke up to this new forecast:

Great…more pain for the service industry. A whole day of freezing rain.

Unless it’s not.

Of course, as I’m writing this, a buddy of mine texts to tell me the Last Restaurant Standing in the neighborhood is open.

It looks like they are at capacity, too…given the guidelines. But I’m still feeling guilty that I haven’t showered, so can’t really bop over there to give a lil support. Even if it meant sitting outside in a tent.

Hell, I’ve got five and a half hours to drink think about it…so maybe I’ll rally and then grab a pint and a snack before closing time.

At Least We Tried?

Don’t Call It A Recap…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s see…

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

That type of rain.

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

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

Walked the hell out of them, I did.

Off to NikeTown I went.

I was shocked by a couple of things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh!

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

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

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

Everything is DEFCON 4.

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

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

It was rather a stimulation overflow.

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

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

Sweet Jesus, Germans…calm the hell down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Texas.

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

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

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

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

People: What did you get for Christmas?

Me: Dead Family. You?

So, I said it.

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

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

At least I’m consistent.

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

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

But that’s another blog.

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

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

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

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

1) Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice

2) Skateboard

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

3) This Tee

And then my brain kicked into gear.

4) An InstaPot.

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

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

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

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

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

Blammo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halfway.

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

Don’t Call It A Recap…

The Red Shirt Diaries: #25

Well, it’s been a minute since I’ve posted under this theme.

Maybe it’s been 100 years, maybe only 9 months. If I’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that time is excruciating relative.

Another interesting thing about 2020 has been how the mentally lethal distractions that inspired this theme – based off of the pre-credit scenes in the original Star Trek, where some extra in a red shirt always seemed to die after beaming down to a strange, new world – have shifted. Before the quarantimes, these mental deaths were always near misses with my own mortality.

Now?

I’m projecting.

Lunch with my parents?

People emerging from lockdown 1.0, unsure of how to navigate life in “the real world” again?

A friend’s small wedding?

Family gathering in Central Oregon for my nephew’s 21st?

Bubble Boy not texting back in a timely manner?

Yeah, they all died at one point or another in my neurotic mess of a brain.

It’s fascinating that my prochristination has me finally getting this out of draft on Thanksgiving Eve. After shaking my initial misgivings about meeting my parents for lunches on their trips into town, I still get a little heebaliscious when thinking about dinner at their house tomorrow.

I overcame my original disease with lunches after just admitting that with the Silver Fox in isolation with his ex-wife about 90 minutes south of Portland, my own isolation was poised to redefine the term lonely. Knowing that I was either at home or driving made me realize that my parents were likely the only people I would actually see intentionally and with any regularity during the lockdown.

Even though I was driving with Lyft ~20 hours a week, I felt like the table between us was buffer enough, since I was completely masked up while I drove people around. Still, it took a few months before we ventured back into hug territory.

Knowing that dinner tomorrow would be just my parents and youngest brother, I agreed to the pandemic indulgence. I still took this past week off from driving, on a doctor’s advice. Right now, I feel like the biggest risk to our meal is a nosey neighbor calling the cops to report our gathering. The Governor has set a 6 people or less from no more than 2 household rule on the day. We will be only 4, but from 3 households. Since the Guv has gone the shocking extra step of encouraging people to report their neighbors if they suspect a violation of these guidelines, I’m thinking maybe I should pick my brother up along the way.

And because my parents are like poster children for great parents, Tuesday evening I start getting texts about coming out tonight to have a special dinner and spend the night.

It’s quite a nostalgic pull from the days when I lived out of state and would fly in early for holidays. But this year, I just can’t get there. I’m missing the rationalization that would make me comfortable spending that much time in their home, potentially exposing them to my city germs.

Also, there’s Myrtle. She’s kind of a situation.

After getting her, I took the advice of friends and family with cats and left her for the night with extra food – with a healthy 50% bump just to be sure – and went to my parents’. Myrtle being Myrtle, I came home to cat puke everywhere – none “fresh” – and a starving cat.

Stupid animal.

The next phase was taking her out with me.

That was an exercise in animal cruelty. She screamed the entire trip out in her cat carrier. Once we arrived, she stayed under the bed the entire visit. Emerging, from what I can tell, only once for some water and to shit on my parents’ hallway carpet.

It’s not easy being her.

So, for many reasons, I demurred on the invite for tonight. Then I woke up with a sore throat today, because that’s just my neurotic brain having fun with me.

But having skipped my nephew’s birthday, dreading the following two weeks and filling my dreams with sole survivor scenarios where my nephew, younger brother and I were the last of our clan, I wanted to go to Thanksgiving dinner.

But now the dreams are back.

COVID has messed up my sleep schedule pretty good. I won’t mix my syzzurp sleep aid with alcohol, so if I drink I’ve resigned myself to bad sleep. But it’s been next level bad these past two weeks. I’ll stay up too late and then get woken up by Myrtle around 9, after logging 4-5 hours. Or, I’ll go to bed around 10 and wake up around 2, wide awake. On the days I can fall back to sleep, it’s usually not until 5 or 6 and then Myrt still wakes me up around 9.

It’s crap.

I think Myrtle just wants the bed. But still, I don’t want to be at my parents’ house with this crap going on and accidentally wake their dogs with my late night meanderings around the house – because then everyone is up.

But I know that part of my recent sleep problems are due to bad dreams. I just want them to remain bad dreams, I don’t need the reality my brain tries selling my unconscious self.

But overall – and I think this is something I need to acknowledge gratefully – no one close to me has died from COVID. Friends of Facebook friends is as close as its come to touching my life in reality. The back of my mind is screaming that I’m due, but I’m shushing it for all I’m worth.

No one got sick from my nephew’s birthday.

No one died after the wedding I dipped on.

There’s been plenty of non-COVID close calls because people forgot how to live after 1.0 ended, but again, nothing in my direct realm.

Then there’s Bubble Boy.

Just so I don’t bury the lead, he’s still alive.

Lil fucker got himself stabbed, though, so it’s not like he’s coming out of this unscathed.

No. I did not do the stabbing. Well, not the literal stabbing. <wink, wink>

Bubble Boy is someone I’ve hooked up with a few times over the years since I moved back to Portland. No, he is not a part of the Dating Into Oblivion blog theme or subsequent book – since we don’t date so much as we mate. He’s not interested in dating and he’s not boyfriend material if he were. But he’s a hot little nugget of a man, I’ll tell you that.

So when lockdown hit and he was up to meet, I decided – after the first three months – to go for it. It took me that long to rationalize a guy in his early 30s having the discipline to isolate or take reasonable precautions during a pandemic.

Sure enough, we start connecting a couple times a month versus our every month or two pre-lockdown rhythm. Then he goes quiet in August. After one missed assignation and a couple unreturned texts, I arrive expeditiously at the obvious conclusion.

Dead.

Then I spend a week re-isolating, assuming – irrationally, I know – that he is in hospital or dead from COVID and that I’ve been exposed, symptoms lacking be damned. Also 1000% not surprised that this might have been the case that my psyche is trying to make to me.

When he finally blips back onto the radar, my reaction to learning he’d been in hospital was “Naturally” and to mentally pat myself on the back. And to be relieved he survived.

After he misses a couple more text replies and another “date” with the explanation that he’d been back in hospital, I ask if he’s sure he should be making plans to meet.

Oh, yeah. I’m fine, my stitches just keep getting infected is all.

Oh, okaaaay.

But, c’mon. You just know that I had to demand an explanation after that overshare.

Stabbed.

“Oh, is that all?” – Me.  Really, it’s so not shocking I ended up alone.

Sure enough, desperate times did indeed breed desperate measures and he’d been mugged one night on his way home. I didn’t press for details, rather assuming it was from something acceptable like essential work.

Plus, I’m enough of a Portlander to know that we are a stabby lot.

You think I’m kidding.

Poorly, by the way. His attacker stabbed him in the collarbone. Of all the…I mean, I’ve never stabbed anyone, but I think I could do so without my blade bouncing off a collarbone, FFS. Although, admittedly on his 5’3″ self, I’d have to work to get down to gut level and avoid ribs and whatnot.

Ok, I’ve clearly put too much thought into that.

But that’s kind of the point of The Red Shirt Diaries – an overactive and macabre imagination.

To redeem myself, when we did successfully meet up post-stabbing and he interrupted the usual commotion involved in our involvement with a caution to be careful of his stitches, I replied by pushing his face deeper into the mattress with one hand, telling him this was his idea and smacking his ass with my other hand.

My little freaky-deaky f*ckbuddy seemed to rather enjoy that. But I also think he knows me well enough to know that I was, indeed, more careful of his stitches after that.

So…one more day to get through and then a couple weeks of what I know will be a neurotic red shirt-esque death watch and hopefully I can sail into the new year with a still-full compliment of friends and family, despite my relatively empty quarantine bubble.

But let’s face it, this being my life, you just have to know that I’d be the one to die of COVID in my circle. How I can’t get there with the people actually in my bubble probably goes back to being raised by great parents who taught me to be concerned for others…

The Red Shirt Diaries: #25