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

Lockdown 2.0

Welp. Here we are, it’s round two of stay at home orders here in Oregon.

Two weeks for the state and it’s looking like Portland’s home county – Multnomah – will get a bonus two weeks. Here in Portland/MultCo, we’ve been running about 1/4 of the daily cases for the entire state. Our ICU beds are at over 80% capacity, although in our defense there, we do have either the lowest or damn near lowest inventories of ICU beds in the country on a x/1000 residents basis…

Through that lens, I’d say we deserve the extra two weeks. No, we need the extra two weeks.

Looking at it through the Stupid Americans lens, I’m curious how we will execute the extra two weeks of isolation with the rest of the state resuming its running around like COVIDiots. Ok, we’ve been hit pretty lightly by COVID compared to the rest of the country, but still, Portland proper touches three counties: Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington. How does this compliance pep talk go?

Governor Brown: Ok, everyone but Multnomah county residents can resume Phase 1 or 2 activities, but stay out of Multnomah county unless you live there!

Oregonians: It’s fine, we’ll wear masks if we have to go to Portland!

GB: Wait. Weren’t you wearing masks this whole time?

Oregonians: Well…<looks nervously at Clackamas county>

GB: I’m waiting. <taps shoe>

Oregonians: You’re looking for a “yes” here, right?

GB: …

Nothing has made me more nervous than having rides in east county or Clackamas – with the higher population of morons Trump supporters that live there. Indeed, it’s where the Trump Trucks staged prior to running amok around town waving guns, flying Trump, Back the Blue, Confederate and other racist flags from their trucks while spraying onlookers with bear spray and indiscriminately firing paint balls.

I keep thinking about that wall…I know a decent alternate location.

Anyway, knowing we’d be in lockdown again, with restaurants back to takeout service only, bars and gyms completely shut…I prepared. Once again, I did not run out and stock up on Crapping Paper, nor did I hoard food stocks. Although, I’d found stocking up on my go-to soda difficult. The local grocers usually have Buy x/Get x sales three weeks out of the month, so if I look around, I can stock up on Coke Zero (take that, V!) for a month at a time on the cheap. Not this time. After checking three stores close to me and finding them out of stock, I had to fall back to Diet Coke.

Optimistically or stubbornly, I only got one 12 pack. You decide. Of course, then I come home and settle into the couch to watch both Deadpool movies, binge some SNL, watch movies made in/around Portland (ugh, that means Twilight, too) and play Words With Friends over the next month. Only to be trolled by the WWF ad algorithm. Here I am, ready to ring the alarm about a local shortage of Coke Zero and I’m getting ads like this on WWF.

Bastards.

But I did avail myself to my local watering hole returning to beer delivery. Big Legrowlski is doing $10 crowlers (32 Oz filled on site cans) of their best of Oregon beer taps again. Two crowler minimum. Of course, I got Pallet Jack!

Well, two.

I joked and told the owner I wasn’t stocking up, I was getting one for each hand!

They kept the 22 Oz bottle of another of Oregon’s best – which I liberated from the Silver Fox’s fridge last time I collected his mail – company. Honestly, I thought they wouldn’t last the night when I picked them up last Tuesday.

I’ve surprised myself, though. One on Wednesday night. The second last night (Saturday) with my pizza night. Both nights, I expected to deplete my stock. You know what, though? That pilfered 22 Oz bottle of Breakside is still literally chilling in the fridge.

Yay, moderation!

But I really did intend to support Big Legrowlski with a 2x/week order, so I’d best get busy getting back to form. Or I could be perfectly content drinking less.

I did supplement my first order with the possibly limited edition Big Legrowlski face mask!

I hope The Dude abides. He didn’t seem too put out by my current favorite mask when I visited a few weeks back.

Still, now I can suck up to The Dude when I pick up next week’s order, right? I washed the BL mask before using it the first time. I gotta say, it felt like a Speedo for my face! It’s so sleek. Maybe I’ll save it for special occasions. Regardless, it does increase my mask inventory by 25%, so now I have more options when a couple are in the wash.

Not that I’m going anywhere anytime soon, but I’ve got a “Little Black Mask”, now…just in case I get invited anywhere formal once we are released from Lockdown 2.0, so there’s that.

Plus, beer delivery! Ok, just beer, I guess, since I pick it up.

Lockdown 2.0

Ohai…

No wrong answers here, but did you miss me?

Look, procrastination takes a lot of effort, ok? So I’ve been busy…not being busy.

I’ve somehow managed a few words here and there on my NaNoWriMo project for this year. Few being the key word. I should probably be closing in on 40k words and I have barely cracked a fifth digit.

Less surprising is that I’ve watched Ally McBeal, The Last Ship and the most recent season of The Crown in their entireties. Plus a few less memorable other series, I’m sure. And I’m current on season two of The Mandelorian. Not to mention starting Brooklyn 9-9 and restarting 30Rock.

And…even less surprising, haven’t found the mojovation (Chrisism) to exercise or bother with a blog entry in the last six weeks.

To that end – and to further my open secret procrastination goals – I’m committing to posting a blog entry each day this weekend. And seriously, with my mixed results enthusiasm for portmanteaus, you’d think I’d have come up with prochristination before now!

With all that in mind, and not wanting to hurt myself by starting out with too heavy a topic right out of the gate, let’s talk about my Murderous Myrtle. I promise, we’ll get to the Stupid Americans and Red Shirt Diaries posts I’ve been kicking around soon enough!

Last week, Facebook was kind enough to remind me that it was mine and Myrtle’s Cativersary. A nice welcome back to the platform after sitting out the election cycle as part of a study on how social media influences information sharing.

She was such a cute lil new and newly abandoned momma kitteh when we met. We’ve both piled on a few body positivity pounds in the ensuing five years we’ve shared. I’m sure there’s a hashtag around here somewhere if you want to track our misadventures together.

Hint, hint: it’s #MistressMyrtle

To mark the occasion – and put the $150 Amazon gift card I got for participating in the aforementioned study to good use – I got Myrt a new cat tree. Behold: cat tree 2.0!

Let’s face it, it needed to be done. Cat tree 1.0 had seen better days!

Her original, five years abused (and already once recovered by my sister) cat tree was a “welcome to your new home” gift from the Silver Fox. Seriously, look at the shredded rope on the lower post and just wonder why I sometimes call her Murderous Myrtle. Now, imagine what my lower legs look like.

Anyway, don’t be too surprised that I haven’t gotten the old cat tree out of my unit yet. I still have my retired area rug to get rid of.

This is the rug I bought in the Spring of ’19 – not to be confused with the Spring of COVID-19 – to replace the rug Myrtle ruined during our first two years together. That first rug was a nice coco-fiber number that I’d had for…almost two decades?!? Is that possible? Yeah, I think that’s about right. I bought my house in the Spring of ’99 and bought the rug shortly thereafter. I pitched it after growing tired of cleaning up balls of shredded coco-fiber from Myrtle sharpening her claws on the damn thing. Plus, the bald spots were trip hazards for my often over-indulged ass. The newer rug was just an uninspired industrial low pile affair in geometric grey shades. It lacked the rewarding claw sharpening experience, so Myrtle used it as a “powder room”. I could spot treat the affected areas so they didn’t stink or stain, and yet she persisted, so I just rolled it up to remove the temptation – extra emphasis on the “p“.

Both it and the now redundant cat tree 1.0 need a trip to the basement of my building for disposal. But as one of my still unfinished Red Shirt Diaries entries would establish, I have developed a growing fear of falling down as I’ve aged. Those stairs to the bowels of my building are steep!

And narrow!

I’m not sure adding carrying bulky things to them is good for what my doctor calls my apparently surprising condition: Persistent Survival.

So here they sit.

For her part, Myrtle gifted me a new wallet for our cativersary. My old one was nearing critical wear and tear.

The tearing from the top edges was only millimeters away from meeting the poked out holes in the corner seams. Luckily, upcycled bicycle tire tubes are surprisingly resilient.These tears had been slowly growing over the years. But this wallet by Alchemy Goods – in case you can’t see the company name on the card – has lasted since about 2007, so we had a good run.

Myrtle must have noticed the same Night Out style wallet on Amazon while approving the new cat tree options and added it to the cart before I checked out. Sneaky lil cat. But the replacement is in use and performing beautifully!

Everything you need for a night out, right? A window for your ID, in case you get carded – how retro – and a pocket for your credit/debit cards. That’s all I carry, so this is a great style for me. Plus, “night out” is a great way to shorthand my lifestyle.

So here’s to another 13 years of wear and tear. For my new wallet, from me; not from Myrtle to me…just to be clear. Since Myrtle is ~7, now, I figure this won’t be her last new cat tree. Still, I’m not sure we have another 13 years together, so her cat tree 3.0 or 4.0 might be bought by whomsoever takes over her care should she succeed in facilitating my demise in any of her possible future sneak attacks on my lower legs…

In the meantime, after a few uncertain examinations, Myrt seems to be warming up to her cat tree 2.0.

And, finally

Although, that last shot might have taken some covert dried salmon treats to accomplish.

Ohai…

Stüpid Uhmericnz

I can beat this drum all day. Not because it’s fun – although, often it can be funny to witless witness – rather, because it’s quasi therapeutic to not let these moments pass unrecognized.

Also, I like that people are coming around to my way of thinking. It’s about damn time. One is, after all, either a part of the solution or else part of the problem.

I’ve been kvetching about how cities protect themselves from skateboarder liability suits for over a decade. You know those little metal pucks that cities put on the corners of railing/benches/dividers to keep sk8ers from doing tricks on them?

Yeah, those gotta go.

If for no other reason than cities haven’t managed police reform to protect their BIPOC citizenry from police brutality – and they are willing to suffer those wrongful death or excessive force suits without taking action to correct the problem. I say “Why? Why, then shall we protect the city from lawsuits from injured skateboarders?”

Let’s face it, skate culture is – in my observation – largely a white guy thing. And they choose – free will and all that crap – to perform tricks on these public constructs, using them in a manner that is not intended. Without helmets, I might add.

For that matter, I haven’t seen one person get ticketed on those e-scooters for violating the terms of use and riding helmetless, either. But the City hasn’t outlawed e-scooters.

But, no…these little metal pucks are somewhere on virtually every block downtown. Not in neighborhoods, mind you. Liability there rests with homeowners. On public property, though, the City is potentially liable for injuries on its property, so it protects itself from frivolous lawsuits from parents of brain damaged teens or spouses of the paralyzed father of their children (proving that we really need qualifiers for parenthood beyond the almost involuntary ability to attain an erection) by installing these pucks to help prevent injury.

No, what we need here is a justice system that is a little more bitchy.

Hold on a second…you raised a child without enough common sense to wear the recommended safety equipment and bought them the skateboard and let them out of the yard unsupervised and they hurt themselves on City property. Now they are a vegetable and We The People are expected to shoulder the blame?

Yes.

Ok, bitch. First of all, the correct answer is “No”. “Hell no, even”. Secondly, the key phrase there is “they hurt themselves. Periodt. We The People had nothing to do with it, this is totally a “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” moment.

And, lastly, We The People think that we owe it to ourselves to ask if you need a date to the Darwin Awards, because we have a feeling you’ll be invited…and we’d really like to go!

Seriously, there really should be a public ceremony – if those are ever allowed again – actually awarding the families of people who improved humanity by removing themselves from the gene pool.

Maybe then we’d stop seeing unqualified humans released into the world unsupervised. Just a couple generations ago, we’d lock our less fortunate family members away in an attic to protect them from themselves and the family from the fallout of any potentially untoward behaviors.

Now, we lack the commitment to our families and our neighbors and buy them skateboards or smartphones, which allow them no end of potential trouble. And then we sue a third party if when shit goes sideways.

Also, now…we have these skateboarder-type people who cheated death and survived what likely should have been last words – think “Hey, watch this!” – and grown up.

And <shudder> procreated. Because wearing condoms was as much a violation of their rights as wearing masks during a pandemic is.

And, worst of all, 70 million of them have now been duped into thinking they were qualified to make an informed opinion about who should lead our country.

Why am I surprised? How long have we been putting the Surgeon General warning on cigarettes…40…50 years? Yet I still see people in their 30s and 20s smoking.

Like I said, I’ve been a proponent of letting Darwin sort it out for quite sometime. Alas…

But that affords me the opportunity to observe and report on the stupid things we do as a culture to help – or exploit – those poor, stupid, Stupid Americans.

Luckily, what I see is usually more entertaining than watching anti-maskers during a global pandemic or white supremacists vote.

Don’t believe me?

Maybe that’s for the best, since now that I’ve made the sad supporting case, the things I’ve ruefully chuckled about when I’ve witnessed them over the past weeks are <poof> gone. I knew I should have taken pictures.

The vagaries of aging…

Things like the sign I saw on the side of a cart in the local Kroger outlet, Fred Meyer. It was on a piece of merchandise handling equipment for an employee gathering online orders:

Free In-Store Pickup!

Um, isn’t that always the free option?

Mentally bending over backward, I know what they were attempting to say. F for execution, though. I get it, you’re trying to differentiate your online shopping/in-store pickup service from say…restaurants, right? When you’re too lazy to cook and order takeout or – for those of you old enough to remember – go to a restaurant to eat, you pay a premium to have the work done for you.

An example of this from my personal history:

I love pasta. It’s a genetic trait passed from mother to child, as far as I can see. Hehe.

But sometimes I just don’t want to expose myself to my own lack of discipline by preparing a full batch of pasta – which I always do, because who wants half a package of pasta in their cabinet and a half jar of sauce in their fridge? And what if you improperly dose out the sauce and don’t have enough left for the second batch?

Ergo, I cook it all up. Because pasta is one of those few foods that I will eat as leftovers. But then…I eat the whole pound of pasta in one sitting.

So to me, it’s sometimes worth paying the markup for a single serving.

To my ex (Rib), though – a chef – it was a non-starter.

I’m not paying $15 for something I could make at home for $.25!

I feel the same about eggs, so I get it. Although, when someone else is buying, I shut up and eat eggs! He stuck to his guns, though. I think I successfully ate pasta in a restaurant once while we were together. Hehe.

So what Freddy’s is saying is that they will shop for your groceries for you and not charge you extra like that chef that boils water for you does. But as far as marketing goes, I wanted to stop and argue with the cashier that made me pay for my groceries.

But, but…it says “free in-store pickup and here I am! Why are you making me pay?!?

Buncha meanies.

Although, since I was picking up cat food and a plant, arguing that I had “groceries” might have been tough.

The plant was “free”, because I’ve long wanted a fig but didn’t want to spend money on one, thinking Myrtle would just eat ruin it anyway. This fig – working name Figly – represents 300 recycled cans and bottles, of the Coke Zero (take that, V!) and craft beer variety, save the occasional fizzy water bottle. Thus, it was “free”. Since all of my Myrtle-free Zones are either too small, too dark for plants or already occupied by other plants like Cornelius, my corn plant, I had to improvise to protect Figly.

I’ll figure out something better. First, I need to get dear Figly a permanent pot, then I’ll rearrange furniture to create a better Myrtle-free Zone. Right now, I’m busy not spending money on a pot for my new plant that I “picked up in-store for free”.

In other stupid news, there have been a few public works projects around my home specifically tailored toward protecting our dummies.

First, with our new trend toward outside dining to protect against COVID spread while also supporting the restaurant industry and also definitely not curbing our right to not prepare our own food…I’ve noticed some issues.

Mostly, I love the City responding to the public need by allowing restaurants to use two to three parking spaces adjacent to their doors as outdoor dining areas. A few non-essential side streets have been turned into on street dining plazas and beer gardens. This has allowed restaurants and bars to add not just seating, but in order to create a dining “experience”, some restaurants have added foliage to their street dining rooms. Now that the weather has turned from False Fall to Actual Fall, sided tents and heaters are being added to the mix – just in time for Lockdown 2.0!

Hey, it even helps the air…plants take CO2 out of the air and release oxygen. That’s a bonus, even though I couldn’t say with any scientific certainty that COVID particles ever get absorbed into the plantings with the CO2. It’s pretty, and that’s enough for me.

But then I see this bar next to my house setting up their outdoor area. They’ve built picnic tables and benches, built planters and then stained them so patrons have a nice area to enjoy their fare.

Then they posted this sign to help people not get stains on their clothing.

On a GD tree. Gourd help us all. I doubt Bob Ross was actually responsible for this apparently recently-painted tree.

Mind you, they built all this on a day they were closed, so they wouldn’t have been ruining customers’ clothes. Just lazy bastard passers’ by clothes who copped an entitled squat on the bar’s work in progress arts and craft project.

More global city-wide cures for stupid that I’ve seen recently involve solutions for one-way streets.

Personally, I think these signs should be replaced with something like…

If you haven’t seen the original Total Recall, the head explodes right after this warning. I think drivers going the wrong way down a one-way street should be prepared for something equally damaging.

But, not Portland. No…

In our bicycle-friendly little burg, where cyclists are expected to follow the rules of the road, we’re creating bike lanes on both sides of one-way streets.

Why?

Well, so we have a bike lane for travel in each direction…on a one-way street.

For the cyclists that are supposed to follow the rules of the road.

Sidenote: the song Warning Signs just came on my Of Monsters and Men Pandora station. My Pandora app isn’t even open while I’m working on this?!?

I’m not sure it’s perfectly clear here in the 4:30 PM darkness, but this is a two lane one-way street. See? No yellow line down the center. It used to be a three lane, but in order to protect retired skateboarders cyclists from their own inability to follow rules, the City removed a lane and added a second bike lane for against flow riding. The left-hand bike lane is inexplicably bordered by yellow stanchions instead of white, as on the right-hand with traffic flow bike lane.

Please. How is this possibly expected to work? We’re trying to protect a public who refuses to put forward an accountability for their own well-being.

Note of interest: yes, I was standing in the door of Portland’s oldest strip club – Mary’s Spot – as I took this pic.

Not to be outdone by cyclists, I saw a traffic accident the other day. I was getting on the freeway and a Trump Truck pick up truck exited the freeway on the on ramp I was attempting to use, experiencing a solo spin out and coming to rest pointed the wrong way against an overpass pillar and canted out into traffic so it blocked one lane and almost all of the second lane.

Good citizen that I am, I squeezed by and continued on my way, leaving the situation in Darwin’s capable hands. I also wanted to confirm my recollection that the next ramp on this freeway was actually to – or from in the case of this particular idiot – another freeway. Either this joker successfully drove the wrong way on not one, but two freeways before unsuccessfully exiting on the on ramp I was trying to use or he (I just chose the dumbest gender, I didn’t see that the driver was actually male) drove for multiple exits on the one freeway going the wrong direction.

These are our people…

I do not like them.

Not one bit.

But I like even less waiting for them to show me that their heads are full of shit.

What do you think, do I have a future as a Dr Seuss For Dummies author?

Why can’t families go back to locking away their embarrassing shortcomings, both genetic and/or rearing failures? I figure it’s a toss up, should what I ask for come to pass. With 70 million voting age Americans voting against rationale, science, basic rights and common sense, I know it’s almost as likely that I’d be the one living in my family attic.

At least there’s more than just books to keep me company. I would have the interwebs and social <shudder> media. Words With Friends and I could even take up video gaming!

Hell, maybe that should be what my long game is. My sister has a much nicer home than mine…maybe I should give into it!

Stüpid Uhmericnz

Paul Simon May Want To Rethink A Thing Or Two

Namely, the whole “Call Me Al” situation.

Why?

I’m not sure Al is what anyone really wants. Specifically the “Al” located in equality and separating it from equity.

What? You thought I wouldn’t bend over backward for a cryptic blog title?

Pish.

All summer long, I’ve heard cries for equality from marginalized communities. Not just in Portland, certainly, but from all across the country. Don’t get me wrong, this is perhaps not a rallying cry that originated in Portland – but we certainly picked that baton up and ran with it.

Our unofficial forecast doesn’t get to be “Cloudy, with a chance of protests” for nothing. Although, to be fair, as the kinkiest city in America…one might wonder if we mistook that baton for an adult toy. But that’s a rabbit hole for another time.

No, the Al/equality issues I’ve been observing this year have their origins in Minneapolis. The protests against Police Brutality and the calls for an end to Systemic Racism in America after George Floyd’s murder this past May started a nationwide movement that – thanks in no small part to our country and economy being shut down since March – have sustained like never before.

Thank gawd.

It’s an idea whose time has come…or rather, that should have come back in 1865.

Not to be left out, while we joined in those protests, there was another battle or two surging here in Portland. Remember, “Cloudy, with a chance of protests“, that’s plural. So we’re helping with carrying the banner for the Black and BIPOC communities. But simultaneously, there is a movement that I’m considering two separate battles, despite a significant population overlap.

First, Trans Rights.

This folds into the outcry from the Black/BIPOC communities, to be sure. The cause of this issue points back specifically to trans-women being murdered across the country. The astonishing majority of these murder victims are people of color. Icing that crap cake is the shit frosting that while no one is asserting that these women were murdered by police, they are not crimes that are given seeming equal gravity and diligence by police.

On the heels of that shituation is a phenomen that I think is definitely more important locally: Sex Workers Rights.

What can I say? We love our strip clubs here. I’d say grabbing a drink at a strip club – regardless of your gender – is as much a part of our town’s fabric as Food Carts. If there’s not a naked dancer basically within an arms reach, what’s the point?

But our local Sex Workers have been seeking legitimate standing as part of our work force for quite some time. The COVID-forced shutdowns of the clubs only exacerbated their frustrations.

The basic root or mascot of all these movements? In a word (or three)?

White, cis-males.

On second thought, maybe if Paul Simon was referring to an Al of either the Sharpton, Green or Jolson variety, he may not mind sticking to his guns on his “Call Me Al” take. But, if his Als were of the Bundy, Gore or Chipmunk varietals then, yeah…maybe it’s time to set those aside.

But I digress.

The irony of this targeting by these minority communities is that I don’t think any of those individuals would want to swap lives/situations with your run of the mill white, cis-males.

Which is why I try to focus on using words like equity or parity versus equality.

Take Gay Marriage as an example. It was called the fight for Marriage Equality, but what’s the first thing we do once we have it?

Open Marriages.

Pick a blog post or three from my archives at random and read them. I’ll bet at least one mentions some form of my observations of relationships in the gay community.

Basically, once The Gays had Marriage Equality, they changed it to suit themselves versus conforming strictly to established institutional norms.

We didn’t want Marriage Equality, so much as we wanted Equity. We wanted the same right to marry as heterosexual couples, but we didn’t want what their marriage had morphed into over time and religion.

Do you get the difference I’m trying to highlight? Cuz, it’s a fine point, and it’s late…and I had my syzzurp…so maybe I’m not doing the best job of articulating it.

I had to take a sleep break last night. Didn’t want to be blogging under the influence. (He says, sipping his beer)

Ok, so let me try another take on the point I was trying to make last night re: equality vs equity.

Let’s just say for the sake of argument that reparations for slavery were granted. Set aside any thoughts you have on awarding damages centuries after the crime…it’s just an example.

Now, let’s say that some lawmaker rips off my blog and decides that those reparations will be awarded in the form of a poorly named cracker box style suburban home with a nice little white picket fence and a new American made minivan in the driveway.

Sure, you might have some takers. Folks that realize something is more than nothing.

But.

I’d wager a large percentage of settlees would look at that settlement wondering what their net would be from selling those items…because culturally what the Black community values isn’t necessarily a direct translation to what white people would consider “The American Dream”. Actually, add “American Dream” to the list of systemic racism than needs dismantling.

Seriously…all you people that assert you can’t be a racist because you have a Black friend, ask your Black friend. Actually, ask them what Black people stereotypically think about white people.

One of two things will happen:

First, you’ll find out that they aren’t your friend, they are just friendly toward you because they are nice, possibly slightly scared of you. But, maybe they don’t actually trust you. You’ll know if this is the case because they won’t tell you anything. They’ll look at you like this

And then you know you’ll be needing to go back to the drawing board and read the things you’ve just been reposting to social media as an ally and take it in, do the work, build their trust.

The other thing that might happen is that they will absolutely unload on you with a machine gun of hilarious stereotypes that will make you second guess the validity of the statement

Stereotypes exist for a reason

Because…when you hear white peoples stereotypes, you’ll realize how bizarrely inaccurate racial stereotypes are. It’s way more than Karen asking to speak to the manager.

I had a Black co-worker back in the mid-80s. She did something embarrassing one day at work and absolutely fell out laughing. When she caught a breath, the first words out of her mouth were, “If I was white, I’d be red”, meaning she’d be blushing.

That’s when I started laughing, because: hilarious. Sheila – my friend – on the other hand, heard herself and stopped cold.

No more laughing.

Whites visible all around her eyeballs.

“What?”, I asked.

“You weren’t supposed to know that…”

“Because it’s a secret that Black peoples don’t ‘blush’? I wish I had your cover…I’d be way cooler.”

Then she laughed again, shaking her head as if to suggest that I could not, indeed, be cooler cool under any circumstances.

Ok, ok…I know a lot of you nonracists might not have Black friends to validate your status as an ally. But maybe ask your Asian friend what white people smell like. If they don’t say “Butter”, then go back and reread all the crap you’ve been blindly reposting to social media and work on building your ally trust.

Because white peoples are hilariously boring, and notoriously ill-humored about it. And, yeah…kind of have a butter-y odor we are nose blind to.

Shit, some of the hilarious things my Black friends have told me about white stereotypes…the funniest thing about them is my reflexive denial and eventual admission that they were more accurate than I’d like to believe.

We don’t have flavorful foods. We’ve ripped off plenty of cuisine from other cultures and then diluted their flavor profiles with cheese. Don’t even get me started on how we confuse heat for flavor.

We don’t make a big deal during sex, which is particularly strange since we make such a big deal about sex.

We actually can’t jump. Who saw that coming?

I’ve learned that nothing beats admission to the ally club faster than being able to recognize ones own cultural foibles. As is the usual in my life, I process through laughter.

Pain.

Joy.

Awkwardness.

Laughter doesn’t give me a clean slate of credibility when it comes to ally-ship. But it builds a lot of bridges. If people understand that I’m not so bad, then they’ll forgive me the trespasses of not being a perfect ally. It’s an unfortunate truism that people who fancy themselves the best allies are probably doing more harm than good by wearing the badge proudly amongst their friends and actually setting a poor example.

Me? I view ally-ship through the same neurotic filter as everything else in my life, so when people criticize me, my default response is definitely not surprise.

I feel like – despite my weed cocktail induced restful night – I’ve drifted away from my point.

Oopsies.

Well, let me try and salvage wrap this up with this thought:

Equity is I think the pragmatic and clear way of approaching these equality calls we encounter.

People asking for equality don’t necessarily want what “we” have. I think it’s more powerful when we encounter these calls for equality to examine the things we take for granted that are at the core of that ask for equality. Then realize that they want the equity to live their lives as blithely as we do.

Case. In. Point.

I didn’t get pulled over last weekend.

I was out doing my Lyft schtick. As is always the case, I got a call for a ride while my car was in motion. I was driving down a four lane road, two lanes each direction, when the call came in. I looked down, hit accept, looked back up and I was in a turn lane that I didn’t want to be in.

Checking my rear and side view mirrors – and looking over my shoulder! – before zippering in between the two cars I remembered being in my immediate area.

But I didn’t signal…

To get to my passenger, I needed to reverse course and head back the way that I had come from. Of course…so I took a right and a left and then another left and then another left to get headed back in the correct direction.

The car I’d zippered in in front if followed me the entire way.

Well, it’s either a cop or I’m going to get murdered for cutting someone off.

It was a cop.

Now, here’s the thing: an hour earlier, I’d been driving downtown in one of our many three-lane and much maligned one-way streets when suddenly, a (sorry) rice rocket changed lanes from my right hand lane to the far left lane and then slammed on his (gender profiling) brakes at the stoplight.

Right in front of a cop.

Me, sitting at the light, caught the bored cop in the passenger seat’s eye and pointed out the car sitting directly in front of them, suggesting maybe the cops should do something about their flagrant moving violation.

Nothing.

Not even a glimmer of an acknowledgment that they too had witnessed the wreck-less-mess of the situation.

Well, there’s my tax dollars at work.

So, jump cut to an hour or so later when these headlights are following me around a residential block and I’m actually erring on the side of being murdered rather than being followed by a cop.

Here’s the thing you need to understand about me. I really do try to live according to the motto “Do the right thing, even when no one is watching”. So not signaling my earlier zippered lane change had me feeling neurotic anyway for failing to meet that standard. But that same neurosis jumped over the likelihood of being followed by a cop right to being followed by a murderer.

Because: me.

I debated pulling over and parking until the car passed, but opted for pulling into the right lane, forcing them alongside me at the next light.

Sure enough, cop.

I just can’t catch a break. A small-dicked, gun toting hothead that was angry over my earlier lane change would have really done wonders for my retirement planning.

Anyway.

I smize (smile with my eyes) knowingly over my mask at him and he nods at me from behind his own mask, making what I thought was a vague hand gesture. I drop my mask to one ear and give him a palms up. He does the same, repeating his confusing hand gesture.

I roll down my window and he does the same. I resist saying “Occifer” by way of greeting-slash-demanding-an-explanation, because I have a bare minimum of maturity.

He asks if I’m doing ok and I assure him I’m fine, just got lost in the traffic pattern change. Of course, he has to be one of those cute bastard cops instead of one of those stereotypical fat, doughnut aficionado bastard cops.

This is still my life we’re talking about, after all.

“You gonna be able to get home ok?” I know he’s inferring I’m driving drunk versus offering to accompany me home. I take my Lyft light off the dash and flash it at him replying that I’m trying to make sure everyone else gets home ok. Then we both head off once the light changes.

Nothing I appreciate more than consistency. Sadly, this is not an example of that. I mean, seriously, in the course of an hour I go from watching someone careen across three lanes of light traffic in 100 feet, slamming on their brakes in the process and cutting off a cop; to white cis-male me, changing lanes without signaling and barely avoiding a traffic stop in the process.

The original cops were partnered up and looking bored, but continued straight ahead after the other driver turned in front of them. I get followed for five blocks before manipulating my more curious but still apathetic cop into a confrontation.

Ugh.

Ugh.

But the biggest “ugh” isn’t the inconsistent inquisitiveness or traffic violation follow through. No, it’s the certainty that I was absolutely profiled by my cop and that affected how I wasn’t pulled over.

Those original cops were just apathetic. Either not even aware enough to have witnessed the violation or just didn’t care enough to be bothered by it.

To be honest, they bothered me more than the (perhaps only situationally) short-willied driver they ended up narrowly avoiding rear-ending.

But I don’t for a second doubt that if I’d been cruising in a hooptie instead of in Angela, I would have been pulled over and most likely hauled in for my moving violation – at best.

So, while I firmly resent the pigmentally-challenged Al group that I fall into, I don’t for a second take it for granted. As a matter of fact, I resent the cop who let me off with a “warning” almost as much as I do the apathetic cops who are just cruising their way to a fat PERS retirement payout for 25 years of doing a shitty job.

Neither is doing society any favors. Because I know that if these cops had been in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 25th, 2020…their behaviors would have been as derelict in their duty as those cops standing by watching George Floyd die instead of tasering Derek Chauvin’s cracker ass.

This little slice of life bullshit cop behavior that I witnessed over the course of barely an hour perfectly highlights the injustice Blacks and other minorities experience at the hands of the cops. I don’t deny that lane changing without signaling is not our society’s most pressing issue…but in this instance, it’s an example of greater issues. Knowing Black peoples have died at the hands of the police for far lesser infractions makes me mad. Not because I want a ticket, for sure. But I’d like to live in a society where everyone received the same grace as I do. Or the same latitude those punk kids cruising in the rice rocket daddy bought them – undoubtedly for some inane high school sports accomplishment – received.

Until that happens consistently versus haphazardly and likely as a product of not profiling…I’m not gonna be happy being any version of an Al.

Because, while I am bothered by the professional inconsistencies I see and experience from cops, I know it’s nothing compared to the potentially life ending things experienced at the hands of cops by BIPOC folk.

And that really bothers me because it’s just wrong. That should bother everyone. Despite what my mother tells me, I’m not special. If I can see this inequity, then anyone and everyone should be able to.

It’s enough to make me wonder if people would rather just not see it…

Paul Simon May Want To Rethink A Thing Or Two