Why Do Drag Queens Hate Me?

News Flash: they don’t.

Well, not any more or less than the usual person.

For some, I’m an acquired taste.

But as we flit into Pride weekend in Portland, I figured drag was as good a topic to reflect on as any. And I’ve had kind of a funny history with drag queens. Or DQs as I’ve referred to them in the past, since saying two words is so damned hard.

Actually, in thinking about this, I realized that maybe DQs should hate me. Maybe just a little.

You see, I realized that in my early gay days, I was kind of embarrassed by people who did drag. Reflexively, I want to give myself a pass for this early discomfort, since it is something that I know was happening when I was first working to overcome my own gay shame and internal homophobia.

This was the late 80s and early 90s. My knee jerk (or just flat out jerk) reaction when seeing a drag queen in a Pride parade – about the only place I ever encountered them – was “Welp, that’s what will lead the news story about Pride”. My thinking – or frustration – with that obvious reality was that Pride parades were supposed to help normalize our culture for the flyover states. Showing the most flamboyant elements of our culture was doing more harm than good in that battle.

Then I realized a few things:

First, unless we’re naked, we’re all in drag. This is some Grade A DQ wisdom. And it’s dead-bang spot on, especially once we start dressing ourselves. We dress how we want to be perceived in the world.

Second, and piling onto and expanding that sense of expression, drag is a frigging art. If you’ve never watched one get into face- as it’s called – find a YouTube video and be prepared to be amazed. Drag Queens are equal parts self expression and performance art. Regardless of whether they are on a stage or socializing, when a DQ is in face, they are performing. That’s not just Jeff in a Dress you’re seeing. Jeff has a different name and persona once he slips those stilettos on.

Third, our community’s most extravagant fringes should be our ambassadors to the Normie Culture. Accepting anything less than our wildest representations is acceptance with conditions, like that friend who accepts that you’re gay as long as you don’t do gay stuff around him.

Bitch, when I’m being your friend…that’s me doing my gay stuff.

So, flash forward to me overcoming my own homophobia. It only took me leaving the LBC for Florida, living in Texas, moving back to Long Beach and landing back in my hometown of Portland.

Easy-peasy.

Except…not so fast.

When I move back to Portland in ’96, I lived on the Willamette River. This was back when Stark Street was commonly and crassly referred to as Vaseline Alley because most of the gay bars were clustered along a three-ish block stretch. Not the closest gay bars to my home, of course. That was Embers.

Half dance bar, half drag performance venue…I would bypass it for Stark Street unless I was out with a group of friends that wanted to shake their booties.

Interestingly enough, I credit this balance between my “safety in numbers” approach to Embers and my early onset grumpiness with helping me develop a comfort and then appreciation of the drag community. You see, I would go dance at Embers with my friends, but being an evolving grouch, I could only take so much crowding and being stepped on before I had to give myself some alone time on the drag side of the bar.

Not that it was empty or even less crowded. But it was quieter…if only by comparison to the dance side. I’d stand in the back and watch the show for a bit or throw a $20 into the video lottery or grab a beer and enjoy it solo.

Ok, I usually did that last thing with either of the first two while the walls buffered the thumpa-thumpa of the music next door and I decompressed.

It was here that I first saw Linda Lee, Raven, Poison Waters and many other performers that showed me the breadth of our drag personalities.

Linda Lee simply refused to tuck as part of her prep. Usually you could count on at least one flash of a pantyhose encased crotch during her performance. She also didn’t really bother to learn the words to the songs she was lip syncing. When she got to the end of the words she knew, rumor – or legend now – had it that she’d either start mouthing “fuck you” over and over until she found another chorus or treat us to an incredibly obscene tongue display.

I remember seeing Linda out in public one day. Well, part of her, at any rate. It was a summer day and I was driving around doing errands and had one stop downtown before heading home. I was looking for parking and realized that I’d just missed an opportunity in the shape of a car door being carelessly flung open in front of me. I’d just rounded a corner and stopped versus trying to change lanes to avoid taking the door off. The door started to close again just as the driver’s leg was coming out. It was a thick, varicose veiny old man’s leg and it caught the door to stop it from amputating the leg as he tried to exit the car.

That was when I realized the leg was attached to a subtle pump, maybe a tasteful 2″ heel. It was midday after all. Gradually and awkwardly, Linda pulled the rest of herself out of the old car, her skirt riding up as she scooched of the driver’s seat, turning to hold the door open with her half exposed ass as she gathered her stuff off of the passenger seat.

Another signature Linda Lee show.

Raven was another story. For a crass as Linda was, Raven was to opposite to the point of genteel. The first few (hundred) times I encountered her, I was sure she was hitting on me. She’s Native American, so right up my alley. She’s also about 20 gay years older than me, so that alley ends at the end of a pier. Gradually, I got comfortable with her overtly flirty style and would just enjoy our occasional chats from her perch at the bar for what they were: low key social interaction. Those “I’m talking to a man in a dress” conversations were what really helped me embrace drag as both an art form and lifestyle that was an integral part of our gay community.

Still, neither of my experiences with these DQs prepared me for the time a performer ended her number by jumping off stage and making her way directly toward where I stood at the back of the bar. She was smiling like a crazy person and barely broke eye contact as she navigated the tables between us, prompting me to basically do one of those look-to-both-sides-then-mouth-“me?” things like the cool guy I am.

It was me she was headed for.

Apparently, I was distracting her throughout her number and I was to be chastised, thanked and asked out on a date.

In my stunned and flabbergasted state, I agreed, forgetting my Groucho Marx motto about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have me as a member. That carried over to finding fault with someone who was attracted to me…I wasted so much time hating my beautiful younger self.

This was somewhere between hereand here

in my 20s.

<sigh>

Anyway, we went out. I can’t remember his name, but I do remember our date started with me picking him up at his place and ended at my place the next day.

Being a good American conspicuous consumer, I appreciated that I was picking him up at his place in an old two story 20s-era apartment that I’d probably just about kill to live in. Tile roof, stucco exterior, arched doorways and fantastic landscaping. I was jealous and impressed…drag obviously paid better than I’d thought. Turns out, his day job – and family, black sheep that he was – set him up pretty well. Drag was just an expensive hobby, as his second bedroom turned sequin gown filled dressing room attested.

He was a beautiful boy outside of that fancy dress, but it was that second bedroom – and the later realization of that thought about the dress – that made us a bad match at the time. Both my faults. I’ve often wondered where he ended up…he was a really nice, fun guy. Too bad FaceBook was still a decade away.

After my decade long Seattle exile, I moved back to Portland and re-settled myself near the remnants of the now scattered gay bars. Stark Street has been rendered unrecognizable from the enclave of gay bars I’d left, only one remaining. Gentrification touches everyone…but I’d positioned myself close to my primary gay watering holes: Embers and CCs, which had the added bonus of being close to Hobo’s and Fox & Hounds for when I wanted to eat with my people and/or be left alone, respectively.

Embers and CCs has a steady stream of Drag Queens because they both had a drag component to their bar environment, CCs even has a Drag Queen Bartender

which is truly a rarity, I believe she’s one of only three in the US. Every shift is a completely different incarnation, each a very elaborate artistic creation.

Major drag bars aside, my favorite interactions with DQs occurred in settings that reminded me of my barside chats with Raven all those years ago. The Fox & Hounds is around the corner from CCs and on the opposite side of the block from Darcelle’s, Portland’s own world famous and Guinness Book of World Records holding female impersonator. This provided a steady stream – trickle, really – of drop in drag queens who, like me, wanted a drink in relative peace.

Even though I’m pretty sure all three bars are semi connected by Portland’s underground network of Shanghai Tunnels, most DQs would work the sidewalk around the block, chatting and taking in a casual smoke on their way to Fox & Hounds for their “break”.

I’d casually chat with these performers about where they were performing or whether they were just out and about for the night as well as what was going on. Sometimes, we’d just sit quietly, sipping in the camaraderie, others we’d play some video lottery and urge each other toward victory or commiserate our losses. Still others, we’d talk about our town and the community and the subculture that is drag.

At the end of the day, our struggles were what united us more than our sexuality. After one evening of winding down at Fox & Hound, I’d decided to wander around the corner to CCs to see what was going on. It was the first day that weed was legal for recreational use in the great state that is Oregon and there was a palpable – if not subdued, for some reason – energy in Old Town. There was a group of people from all walks of life planning a sort of smoke in on the Burnside Bridge beneath the ubiquitous Old Town sign

I learned this as I was passing CCs’ hostess in residence. Our relationship had run the gamut from enthusiastic, gushing fan when I saw her at my first Pride after moving to Seattle – a welcome bit of my hometown – to our current low key drive by greetings as she worked the crowd at CCs. This particular night, she acknowledged me by offering me a hit off her joint. I passed, but thanked her. She reminded me to go to the bridge later to celebrate. End of story.

My absolute most favorite DQ story happened shortly after this. I was meeting a friend at the Mock Crest tavern for a drink after work. I was working a few blocks away in North Portland at the time and got off work around 11. Oftentimes I’d chill with a beer or two before catching – or missing – the last bus home. We were sitting in this little shotgun of a hole in the wall bar, enjoying a beer and listening to the three piece band that they’d managed to somehow cram into this tiny space as we talked.

It was very pleasant, which I know is a surprise coming from me.

As we’re sitting there chatting, in walk a couple of Drag Queens and I’m wondering how the hell they got so lost as to end up in a dive bar in NoPo…only to realize one of the two was friggin’ Raven!

It’d been nearly 20 actual years since I’d seen her and my presumption was that she’d died, like her counterpart Linda Lee had. I bought her and her friend a beer and learned that she wasn’t dead, “just in my 60s!” as she’d put it. We chatted for about a half hour before she and her friend took off for town. They had stopped in to mentally prepare themselves for the evening out on the town seeing friends while navigating the crowd of “bitchy kids” as she put it.

I apologized for having been one of those bitchy kids when we first met and she gave me a big kiss, hugged me and told me I was always a delightful companion at Embers.

Not bad for a future grumpy old man.

As if that wasn’t enough to put a smile on my face, I’d also missed the last bus of the night. Naturally, I stayed and closed the place before grabbing an Uber home, reflecting on how life really is just such a rich and delightfully strange and unpredictable journey.

Back to my titular (hehe) question. Drag Queens certainly don’t hate me. If anything, some might say the opposite. In the best possible way, their collective acceptance of pretty much anyone they come across helped me to become a better human. Certainly, the acceptance I have felt from the drag community over the years has helped me accept – and stop hating – myself.

The things we learn in unexpected ways…

Why Do Drag Queens Hate Me?

BikeTown Chronicles #2

Over the past week, I’ve been missing being active as my foot heals up. It’s provided me the opportunity to live actively vicariously through myself…my memories of being outside and active, at any rate.

It’s also gotten me thinking about the unfortunate side effects of getting back on my bike. Back in the saddle, if you will.

The muscle soreness, I look forward to. Achey knees, I’m able to tolerate…literally walking off the cumulative shock in the hours or days after a ride.

That saddle rash, though.

Short of getting a new seat, I’ve done what I can to minimize the occurrence of saddle rash. Wearing fewer layers of fabric to minimize chafe. Wearing the right layers, ie: padded undergear. Post-ride care, including a bag balm, because some remedies have to make you question whether the cost of the cure is worth the cause of the malady.

Kinda like the old chestnut about only sane people questioning their sanity. So when I ask if applying salve to my taint-ish region is a reasonable post exercise recovery…I have to be able to affirm my cycling adventures. It’s not as worth it as it would be if someone else were (gingerly) working the cream into my nether area.

Shush, Diezel.

But, since that’s not a fun part of my cost/benefit cycling analysis – and since today is the first day old leftie is feeling like a ride won’t send my recovery backwards – I move past the potential discomfort into other areas of my recent outdoor adventures.

So I’m co-opting or resurrecting this draft of my second BikeTown Chronicles with a few things further onto the plus side of cycling in order to motivate me back out onto the road this afternoon!

I had gotten to the point where I would remember gloves. Actually, I was pretty proud, I remembered them after my first ride. My forearm soreness was pretty severe after my ride, but in a weird way. I also experienced numbness during and after my ride. I remembered the gloves recommendation from one of The Fabulous Baker Girls, who is an avid cyclist. She swore the padding in the palms of the gloves would reduce, if not flat out alleviate, hand and wrist numbness during my ride.

The fact that I experienced numbness up my forearm after the ride reinforced the need for gloves. I put them inside my helmet so I wouldn’t forget them for my next ride. My hands and wrists still get a little numb during my rides, but not until I’m about 10 miles in. I have a mountain bike, with traditional straight handlebars. I’m sure there’s an alternative bar that would afford me the opportunity to reposition my hands during my rides so that I can reduce this numbness even further, similar to 10-speed handlebars. I just haven’t done any research into those options yet.

Cycling took an unexpectedly social turn on my third or fourth ride of the season when I ran into – more accurately, he “caught up” to me – Casey Adler toward the end of my Springwater Trail ride. How he recognized me from behind, in cycle gear – including a helmet, Mom! – is beyond me. I don’t consider myself to be that distinct looking as to be recognizable from either that angle or at that velocity.

It was a nice surprise, though. We rode the last couple of miles of the trail together, catching up.

Honestly, though, there was a moment where “catching up” turned into “catching my breath”, when I tapped out and told him he needed to talk for a while while I wheezed and listened.

I’m old, I own that!

I hadn’t been in a situation where I needed to be cognizant of sharing the path as we rode two abreast and chatted. I’m usually the grumpy guy muttering “excuse me” as I steer to avoid such people. I was proud of the fact that Casey and I took turns dropping back to avoid colliding with oncoming groups that were also riding side by side, albeit obliviously so. Hell, Casey was even aware enough to see a faster rider coming up behind us and sped up so we were riding single file again so Speed Cycler could pass.

Our social cycling ended abruptly when we realized that Casey was taking a street route – presumably – back to his place in NoPo while I was peeling off to take the Esplanade back toward my place.

After we separated, though, I focused on his casually motivational comment when I asked where he was coming from. He simply said that he’d taken the path out to Boring and was on his way back in. I was inspired because that’s a 50 mile ride for me, probably closer to 60 for him.

It was just two rides after this encounter that I managed – and promptly swore off of – my own half century ride. I know I’ve got another 50 mile ride in me…at some point. I just need to figure out how to incorporate them into my cycling routine, since they are time consuming and do have quite a physical toll.

My Health App and Strava finally synced on this ride, too!

Prior to this, for whatever reason, there had been about a half mile discrepancy. My Health app had been shorting me a half mile in ride and doubling the total mileage post-ride.

Weird.

Interestingly, it had been – and still is – waaaay overvaluing my caloric burn. It measures the energy in kcal units, which as my simple mind understands metrics – is 1000 calories. For the ride above, Strava estimates a 534 calorie burn, while my Health app insists on making that a 534 kcal burn.

Sadly, I don’t see me burning a half million calories in a month of cycling, let alone a single day.

But like I said, maybe calories and kcals are interchangeable and I’m just an idiot on the subject.

Could totally be the case.

There are definitely a few things for me to remember as I psych myself up for a ride today. Negative factors that are beyond my control, unlike padded shorts and gloves.

The ride that prompted this entry originally occurred on Cinco de Mayo. I failed to connect the dots between the holiday and the fun zone idiots I encountered on my ride home along the waterfront. The path along the waterfront is mixed pedestrian, cyclist, skateboarder, roller blader, unicyclyer, jogger, segue rider and any other mode of transport you can imagine. It’s Portland! The city may as well put up bleachers on the path at Gov Tom McCall Park since the path runs between the river and the strip of grass that houses amusement park rides or tents during the many summertime waterfront events. This effectively renders the pathway unnavigable as lower functioning humans are stunned into a slack jawed, mouth breathing and quite stationary existence on the path as they contemplate whether or not to enter.

Sidenote: this is not happening anywhere near the actual entrance to the festival.

Since we are in the midst of Portland’s annual Rose Festival activities, the fun zone is in full swing. Luckily, there’s a path along both sides of the river. I just have to remember to take the right one on my way home!

Hey, did you know that Walkathons are still a thing? Apparently, most of them are in support of Rude People Pride since they seem to block the entire path…prompting me to admonish them to share as I weave and wobble through the crowd.

That said, a Monday ride is a ride free of Walkathons!

However

I need to be careful to time my ride so that I’m back before rush hour for Portland’s bike commuters. This is particularly important while there’s an event at Tom McCall Park since everyone funnels along the east side of the river to get home, bypassing the virtual bleachers on the west side of the river.

Generally speaking, I love catching the worker bee exodus of Portlander cyclists as they leave work for the day when I’m returning from a ride. It reminds me of what a great city Portland is to live in.

The only pinch point is the Steel Bridge.

This bridge was opened in 1912. One has to admit that at 106 years of age, it’s fared quite a bit better than more infamous technological marvels of that same year. Portland has also worked to integrate the bridge into its infrastructure plans to make sure it doesn’t cripple the city’s growth through the years.

Originally, this two-decked bridge carried vehicles on its upper span and train traffic along its lower span. When Portland introduced its commuters to light rail in the 80s, the upper span was repurposed to carry two lanes of car traffic and two lanes of light rail MAX trains. When the Eastbank Esplanade was created, the Steel and Hawthorne Bridges were selected to connect the east and west side waterfronts, each gaining a pedestrian and cycling path. For the Steel Bridge, that manifested in an addition to the lower deck. At about 5 feet wide, it’s half the width of the paths along the waterfront.

For all the ribbing Portland drivers get for being too polite, demonstrated nicely by Portlandia in its “No, You Go” sketch where two drivers at an intersection bent over backward to yield to the other, one of whom didn’t even have a stop sign or signal, the same cannot be said for its cyclist population. Especially bike commuters.

I’ve long suspected that being killed as a pedestrian by a cyclist would be the perfect manifestation of a Red Shirt worthy demise. Little did I realize that cyclists are trying to take one another out, too. During the Cinco de Mayo fun zone-slash-bike commuter rush hour, the Steel Bridge became something of a cycling Thunderdome. As I was crossing over in this last mile of my ~20 mile ride, the path was packed with slow-moving pedestrian and bike traffic.

I’m sure there was a very good motivator for what I experienced on the bridge this day, but all I can muster is either selfishness or straight up idiocy. We riders were all doing a slow pedal across the bridge as we navigated across with our walking counterparts. For whatever reason, an oncoming cyclist decided to pass a mother/father/stroller situation that was walking side by side across the bridge.

Mind you, at around 5 feet wide, this path is barely wide enough to accommodate three people across. This oncoming cyclist – in her irrefutable good judgment – decided rush hour was the day to make this a four person across path by bending the rules of physics.

She was partially successful, this typically stupid American. However, most of her success I attribute to me slow-crashing my bike into the hog wire railing of the pedestrian path. The commotion she caused didn’t cause her to slow down or rethink her judgment whatsoever. To her credit, it also didn’t cause her to speed up, so the chaos she created was maximized.

What a feckless cu…well, you get where that’s going.

So, hopefully the need for editing in this post is minimal, since I’m giving it less than that. You see, I have a 3 hour and 6 minute window for my ride before the bike commuter rush hour starts. I need to run.

Er…peddle.

BikeTown Chronicles #2

Fat Shamed By My Phone

I’ve been a little lazy lately. Kind of living the life of a shut in or hermit.

Lots of factors.

However, the two that led to this initially and then hooked me, eventually were:

A) The first of the season sunburn that I exposed myself to during my spur of the moment half century ride has kept me inside versus making it worse. I could simply buy some sun screen, but for now I’m living a literal version of “once burned, twice shy”…at least until I stop peeling!

And,

B) I hurt myself. Yes, again. Yes, while I’ve allegedly been inactive.

But there’s a story behind that Point B.

Naturally.

The Silver Fox was laid up a few days back and I offered to take his pooch out for his pre-bedtime walk. His dog is a good boy. Certainly a better pet than my Mistress Myrtle, who is currently in the midst of an Otter Identity Crisis.

George is 110 pounds of heart. Definitely more heart than brain, but as soon as I open the door he’s doing his “happy to see you” dance. It’s the same dance I get when I’m visiting and use the bathroom in The Fox’s Lair. Anyway, having been a slug for the past several days and wanting to make sure The Fox gets every opportunity to rest up by sleeping through the night, I decide to give the dog a good pre-bedtime run. We zip around the North Park Blocks in the darkness in between sniff and pee breaks so that he can get all the pup-dates the neighborhood dogs leave…the NPB really are like Canine Facebook.

Still, we ran up and down four of the five blocks of park in between Chez Galby and The Fox’s Lair, occasionally doubling back on ourselves as we ran and played. It was only 3/4 of a mile, but I knew it was more than George usually gets at that late hour and I could tell he was ready to settle in for the night when we were done.

I went to bed thinking, “You know, you could shuffle out a mile jog around the park blocks a couple times a week” and motivated to give that a try to see how my knees and lower legs tolerated it.

Of course, I woke up on Monday scarcely able to put my ever increasing body weight on my left foot.

Gotdammit.

So I’ve been relegated to the sofa most of this week…naturally, it’s also a week where my normal Monday morning acupuncture was cancelled because of the holiday.

First World Problem.

You’d have thought being laid up would give me plenty of writing time.

You’d have been mistaken.

I’ve been trapped in a daily Netflix Spiral.

But, ending the week on a high note, I am determined to tell the story of that time my phone fat-shamed me. It was also my last outdoor activity, a hike with Little Buddy in Forest Park. There might even be some pics, it was so long ago that I’ve forgotten if I snapped pics during that hike or not.

One of the reasons that I enjoy hiking is the natural setting, of course. That’s the same reason I enjoy cycling. The difference is that while hiking, I can enjoy the scenery a bit more than when it’s buzzing by at a whopping 15 MPH. Hence the potential for pictures.

My usual Forest Park hike is a ten mile affair, about 50/50 split betwixt sidewalk on the to and from and actual trail in the park itself. It’s usually a 3-4 hour endeavor, depending on how long I stay at Pittock Mansion once I reach this little urban summit. Little Buddy had told me she had a few hours between work and family dinner duties, so I stopped her from paying to park by my place when she rolls up, figuring we can park adjacent to one of the many entry points and start there.

I’m not just respecting her pending familial obligations, I’m also ensuring our post ambulation recreation at The Big Legrowlski: beer!

Here’s the rub, though: I’ve never driven to the trail, so I have zero clue where to direct Little Buddy. Being the slave to technology that I am, I google Forest Park and get directions.

This takes us in the complete opposite direction than I normally head off in when on foot, so I’m completely lost. I usually head NW through the Alphabet District – encompassing the Pearl District, Slabtown and The Conway neighborhoods – and then into Northwest and ultimately the forest on Thurman Street.

These google directions set us off toward Burnside, the primary East-West thoroughfare through town and really the first street in the Alphabet District, and the opposite end of the alphabet from my normal entry point. Mind you, Google Maps is – allegedly – going to provide the quickest route, so off we go.

Intrepid, no?

Here’s the payoff for struggling through those Portland neighborhood specific details…patience really can pay off.

We’re heading up Burnside, chattering comfortably away about her and 2.0’s new home escrow, an upcoming kitchen remodel in their current home and my parents’ kitchen remodel – it appears I literally have nothing to add to this conversation myself, so I’m ripping off my parents. But, being an okay son, when she mentions having a potential Quartz Guy, I tell her that my parents had wanted quartz but opted for marble because they couldn’t find a decent deal on quartz.

Sidebar: She literally just texted me this as I’m writing

Hehe…Wong’s.

This is my life, I cannot make it up any better.

End sidebar.

So, we’re driving up Burnside and our conversation is interrupted by directions, as is often the case when GPS is your friend. Or in this case, frenemy.

“In 600 feet, continue on past Taco Bell”…

As far as landmarks go, if you’re going to base them on businesses, Portland has a few iconic offerings along Burnside. For example,

Jim Fisher Volvo has been on Burnside since 1957 and its sign 60 feet over Burnside is nearly as famous as this guy sitting at the head of NW Burnside.

But, no, my phone had inherited my snarky and completely unveiled bitchy personality. Allow me to translate its directions for you.

“Hey, fatty, since you don’t drive and based on your drunken Uber history, the park you’re looking for is past Taco Bell…do not stop at Taco Bell!”

Little Buddy and I were so stunned by this out of character type of direction that it took us a moment to begin laughing our asses off. LB nearly drove into a truck. We were laughing so hard that we nearly missed the second warning at 400 feet. We’d regained our composure enough to enjoy the fact that google kept on shaming me until the “200 feet” marker.

As funny as that was – shituationally – I felt a little cheated that there was no congratulatory message once I’d successfully made it past my drunken dietary siren.

Somehow – after that amazing ab workout slash dose of the best medicine – we made it to our urban trailhead destination. I recognized it, as I’d crossed this road a few times on other adventures. After parking, we head out into the trail as I try to mentally adjust my map so I don’t get us lost.

We both quickly realize that we aren’t entering at the easiest point on the path…as we pretty much are silenced 300 feet into a maybe 12 degree (I’m guessing, not really sure how grades are measured…just assume it’s steep) climb when LB says something along the lines of, “Geez, how long is this hill?!?”

Basically, what I was desperately trying to remember. Wiping the streams of sweat from my face before turning to answer, I tell her that “I can’t actually remember” and that it’s “longer than I recall, I’m trying to remember which way to go at the top so I don’t get lost again”.

Now, this Little Buddy of mine, she’s pretty sharp.

Again?!?”, she asks.

This totally takes the pressure off the early phone fat shaming since I answer her honestly by telling her that I’ve only gotten lost in Forest Park twice.

This year.

This just happens to be one of the two paths I’ve been lost on.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’d guess that the initial climb was about 1000 feet and my treacherous phone told me we climbed 13 stories. One of my math-y friends can figure the grade out and tell the rest of us in the comments.

After that initial near death humility inducing beginning, the path leveled off into a more comfortable elevation gain and we were back to our normally chatty and much less wheezy selves. It was last Wednesday and we both enjoyed the relatively people-free trail as we absorbed the natural settings and caught up.

It’s one of those normally awesome experiences that is even better for the company. I’m glad she and I have had a couple of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company, being outdoors, some beer, a lil wine, great weather and surprisingly few other people. As a matter of fact, once we reached the mansion, I mentioned that this was the smallest crowd I’d seen up there in the three years I’ve been hiking these trails.

Less than a dozen counting us. Excluding us, maybe not even a half dozen.

Heavenly.

Naturally, two of the only other visitors were feeling chatty. And commemorative, asking me to get a pic of them in front of the overlook. LB took off for a shady spot in the corner while the tourists from Salt Lake chatted me up. I mentally praised her reclusiveness, even though I knew that I was projecting my early onset grumpiness onto her mom check in moment.

I can’t blame the tourist for wanting to capture the beautiful view, even if the mountain wasn’t out that day.

I swear, there is a mountain in that haze…somewhere. Maybe next time. I have that luxury, even though it’ll probably be so crowded up there when the mountain is actually out that I won’t be able to get a decent shot of it.

Oh well, first <ahem> step is to get my foot cooperating again!

Fat Shamed By My Phone

Why I’m Single #2

Despite what anyone says, I got no game when it comes to dating.

Zero.

When people try and tell me otherwise, I usually think something along the lines of, “Ain’t no game that I’m winning, at any rate”.

So, yesterday was a parental lunch day, which I always enjoy. Even though I see them whenever they come into town a few times a month for one appointment or another, it’s not often enough. It’s my own fault for refusing to join the family in the ‘burbs. But I just can’t see myself doing that without becoming a version of the pathetic, drunk, gay uncle of the family…mooching nightly meals off my parents and sister and overstaying my welcome in lieu of having a life of my own.

I’m not eccentric enough to pull that off.

The occasional lunch route is a much better way to go.

Plus, sometimes it evolves into a post-lunch excursion, which is also fun. My parents aren’t and weren’t hippies, so it’s ok to go with them to a secondary location.

We’ve gone on trips to the mall for exotic things like cell phone upgrades and eyeglasses. Yesterday it was to Globe Lighting since it was near The Dockside where we ate, although neither Mom-Donna nor I let Dad off the hook for making it not quite as near as it originally started out.

Mom and Dad need a new light for their foyer. Do people still call it a foyer? Anyway, it’s about a 20 foot high ceiling with a window situation up where the second floor would be if they’d built the second floor that far. This makes it a hard buy because you can’t look at a thumbnail on Amazon and click buy with any confidence.

We wandered in and neither parent dropped dead after Mom says, “Oh, that’s nice!” about the very first light on display, which earned a deadpan, “It’s $3700” from me.

To our credit, we also collectively moved deeper into the showroom, intrepid shoppers that we are.

We kibitzed around the first few vignettes seeing some fun ideas, knowing that most wouldn’t work for Mom and Dad’s situation, regardless of their appeal.

None of this is a “Why I’m Single”. Well, I dunno…”Hobbies Include Shopping w/Parents” could be, but it would be pretty far down in the list and more of an indictment of the person who deemed it a flaw, right?

We’ve been in the store about 10 minutes now and I turn to my Dad and say something like, “No one has come out from behind the desk to say hi to us yet, I’m kinda ready to go”. Honestly, it was probably way bitchier, closer to “They might sell one of those $3700 lights if they’d get off their butts and say hi to us” if I had to guess. I am my grandfather’s grandson.

As we got closer to the desk, one of the two guys hanging out behind it tosses out the failed salesperson greeting of, “Let me know if you have any questions” in a super friendly tone. Still my mental response as I’m transferring my focus from the adjacent display to the disembodied voice was, “That’s not how you do i…oh, hi sexy, tattooed ethnic salestwink!”

He adds that we should check out the open box section and I walk away with Mom grumbling something about how no one wanted to talk to us by the expensive light and “Now he’s pointing us toward the scratch and dents, what are we…poor looking?!?” while Dad went off in search of a loo. I think he was bored. Hehe.

We had a few questions, which SalesTwink answered in his really amazingly enthusiastic yet passive tone of voice, I was increasingly intrigued by this fella.

Not that it showed, I’m sure. <eye roll>

We did have a few questions about bulbs, drop lengths, what his chest piece tat looked like (maybe that one was just mine) and one specific question about chandeliers that were lowerable for easy maintenance. He cheerily answered them all, even though that last one included another indication that maybe we should know that Globe doesn’t take food stamps or bagged coin as payment when he said, “But it’s really expensive…like $1200”.

It’s like he thought we were looking at chandeliers for our two-story house with wheels.

I decided he was secretly crushing on me and throwing negs to draw me in.

Yeah, he wasn’t. Still, this homey don’t play that.

Ok, I totally do. But since this was all just an old man’s fantasy anyway, I played back.

When asking about a specific fixture, he came up with the notion to just write up a quote for me.

“Can I get your last name?” was followed by, “And your first name?”

I stressed that I was answering with my Dad’s first name. This actually made him look up at me and I swear that the look said, “C’mon buddy, help me out here!”

Nonetheless, when he asked specifically for my number I said, “Lemme look that up for you real quick”.

He “tried” a couple more times while I maintained our imaginary detente and tried to get a better look at his chest tattoo.

This behavior is a long way from from the days in Long Beach when I gave guys my bar name when they asked – Chase or Chance, depending on how I felt about the guy and whether he had one…and, yes, I am fairly pissed that my former bar names are now mainstream.

My favorite aloof bitch behavior of saying, “It’s in the book” when asked for my number was a real crowd pleaser among my friends and a real bucket of cold water for potential suitors.

Yeah, I was alive and still not dating when phone books were a thing.

The phone book response was always followed up with a pathetic “But I don’t know your name!” exclamation, which usually pissed me off because the guy was failing to realize he’d asked for my number before my name, making me feel like an object instead of a person. Not letting him off the hook for objectifying me, I’d reply, “That’s in the book, too” as I continued on with my evening.

Man, I’ve been grumpy forever.

Waaaaay before a social media apps afforded me the dubious privilege of knowing what a guy’s junk look like before he properly (virtually) introduces himself.

Anyway, this guy wasn’t doing that…he “tried” to get my name and number but I was enjoying pretending we were playing hard to get.

Maybe that’s the only game this Lost Boy knows how to win…

Anyhoo.

Not for nothing, we were able to whittle down the offerings to one definite maybe. We’ll see what happens.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go check Missed Connections

Why I’m Single #2

Dating Into Oblivion, ep2

Here we are…Bachelor Number 5.

Sorta.

If January was an embarrassment of no-shows, February was mostly a cluster fuck of bad timing.  Ultimately, Bachelor Number 5 had a lot more qualities about him that worked against our compatibility than just bad timing, though.

That bad timing was mostly a product of my being sick for a week, struggling to get fully recovered for another and then dealing with some pretty hostile BS at work for a third week.

The free spaces in the shortest month of the year outside of those three weeklong timeframes didn’t really leave much for me to work with.

Sidebar:  the only man on my early morning MAX to work this morning happens to be a cute, lil twink nerd.  He’s mostly sleeping a couple rows up from me, but just woke up long enough to stick his finger in his nose and then bite his nail.  

I’m screaming inside. 

Ok, so…Bachelor Number 5.

In a moment of questionable optimism – and probable inebriation – I created an OKStupid dating profile.

While it’s not overtly a hook up site/app, it still qualifies as asocial media in my book because of its swipe culture:  left to reject, right to express interest.  These swipes are encouraged based mostly on the picture, you don’t really get a lot of data about the person until you open their profile.  Really, we’re dismissing people based on looks here, aka:  fuckability.  But it’s got an addictive quality to it, this swiping.

Once you actually click on someone’s profile, you can see what they have to say for themselves.  What they like, how they spend their time.  People are encouraged to answer questions ranging anywhere from values to politics to dating to sex in order to help the algorithm determine compatibility with the most important person in the world:  you.

Still sounds fun, but it gets a little tedious.  Questions aren’t filtered based on the basics you provide in your profile, so I get questions like, “I think I would enjoy experimenting sexually with someone who is the same gender”

Definitely me.  ✔️

But in the case of Bachelor Number 5, I could also discover that we are both tops, so that was helpful…if not poorly timed since I swiped first and found this out later.

We had only traded a few messages beyond the initial “Hey, how are ya”.  It wasn’t something he was making a priority, a minimum of a day passing between my messages and his responses.

I tend to read that as a sign, part of my E.O.G. charm as The Silver Fox and Little Buddy have pointed out.  In this experiment, I was keeping that impatience in check.

Over the course of the week we traded messages, he went to visit Shittatle for the weekend.  I tried engaging him about what neighborhood, whether he goes up often, how I lived there for a decade, etc.  He still just gave me…not much to go with.  So, by the time he messaged me back on Tuesday after his trip, I’d learned he was a top and not really looking for friends.  At least not putting any efforts into creating friendship with me.  That partnered with his geographic undesirability – Beaverton, if you can believerton that – it was pretty easy for me to check him off of my list of potential mates.

Swipe.

But, February wasn’t a total bust.  I did finally get a chance to connect with one of my January Bachelors early in the month.

He’s a cute kid.  Twenty seven, now, not really a kid…but he hasn’t really come into his own yet.  I feel his struggle.  But I’m not engaging with it, as is my usual reflex.

So, y’know…coming out of last year without that habit was good for me.  

Remember, this particular bachelor is someone I tried to meet unsuccessfully three years ago.  To his credit, this time around he was dealing with my grumpy old man-ness with jovial alacrity.

Or not really paying attention.

Speaking of geographic undesirability, he lives about 30 minutes away in Vantucky.  With me not driving, that puts a lot on him, effortwise, if we’re gonna see one another.  Which is another solid plus for him since I don’t even have a parking space to offer a guest.

When we finally got together, it was just a shared bottle of wine at my place.  He took about a half a glass to warm up and then it was off to the races.

Talking, you depraved perverts.

Unfortunately, he was kind of just barfing out his life story, not conversing.  But we finished the bottle and I learned some stuff about him.  I didn’t get a lot of talking in, so he probably only learned that I could listen and decided I was cute…which is always nice to hear.

We decided to do it again the following week, so naturally, I had to get the plague that was going around.

Whaddyagunnado?

We texted throughout the week and he was gracious about my frailty, but over the next ten days or so…pffft.

His responses started getting further spaced.  And shorter.  There’s not much I can do with “Hey” greetings or “Yea” responses.  So…I don’t.

Maybe we’re just meant to be acquaintances.  Which is fine…but he is just so darned tasty looking – a feast for these old, lascivious eyes, if you will – that it is a little disappointing.  But ultimately, I want to nourish more than my libido.

Alas, poor Whorick.

Dating Into Oblivion, ep2

Birthday: Love

Impressing myself with my own delusional contortions while writing about all the food I consumed over my birthday weekend yesterday, I mused that I wasn’t full from overeating.  No, rather, perhaps my heart was over full from all of the birthday love I had gotten.

Let me set aside the amount of food I consumed – it was all of the food – and tell you how that little bit of pithiness has managed to kick around my noggin for the last day.

Can one be so full of love that they feel physically satiated?

Well, there’s a thought dripping with derp.

The sincerity that I experienced over the last weekend has probably (definitely) always been there with my friends, I’m sure this birthday of mine was just such a focusing agent that the emotions are lingering.  Definitely more present, even 10 days later.

But it’s been coloring my life view lately, too.

Moms with their kids.

Hell, families.

Young couples.

Dogs.

Old couples absolutely take the cake, though.

Mmmm.  Cake.

Seeing old couples tottering through the airport together makes me smile.  Always.  Moreso this last week, though.

Feeling it, I am.

Strangely, I can’t even imagine or conceptualize the type of committment and discipline that’s required to nurture a decades long relationship.

Check that.  I can conceptualize it, actually, it’s the life long partner that’s difficult to imagine.

You have to forgive me, though.  For 10 of my 30 years of adult dating life, I’ve been not dating.  That’s a measly one-third success ratio.  That may suffice for a pro baseball player (I dunno, does it?!?) but in relationship terms, that seems to lack any certain luster.

Especially when spread over two relationships versus one.

Fail.

Yet

I did end my last relationship with the forethought that I may have been ending what was – and has certainly proven to be this far – my last chance at a relationship.  That wasn’t reason enough to try and hold on to something that wasn’t mine, though.

And I think we’re both better for it.  The last thing – in retrospect – that I wanted to do was hang on until Rib woke up one day and asked himself how the hell he ended up with an old boyfriend.

Oldie Hawn, he would call me…and I kid you not when I say I loved it.

But me dying alone or not, at Myrtle’s whim or not, is not the issue that’s been on my mind.

Right, Myrtle?

For once.

Rather, it’s been…surreally, can one be so fulfilled with the experience of loving another that it sustains them through their lifetime?

Whoa.

Now, there’s a derp-full thought.

Tangentially, can one be sustained by less intimate love?  Without asking the question directly, I assume that’s what the cool septua and octa genarians are rocking these days…although Grace & Frankie would have me doubting that assumption.

Personally speaking?  I’d say maybe.  I knew Rib might be my last shot and I did what I thought right for us both.  Since then, I think I’ve followed my Orangatan spirit animal – which is often misconstrued as grumpiness – and just not tolerated foolishness in dating.

I’m starting a movement, too…there’s a legacy.

Sure, I’ve been hoodwinked a couple times. Mostly cuz I’m dumb.  And slightly weak.  I blame my penis.

But I still have a ripcord that I pull when shit gets too bovine.

But I find comfort in the comfortable warmth and familiarity of my Chosen Family…when sincerity sustains more than postcoital pizza or Ben & Jerry’s, I think you’ve stumbled onto something.

It’s made me take a longer, more thoughtful look at young widows and widowers who never remarried.  What is it they know that the rest of us haven’t had the misfortune to figure out yet?

It’s definitely food for thought.

By the way, after all the food I ate last weekend?  Look at what “holiday” my traitorously supportive calendar told me fell on my birthday.

Birthday: Love

Birthday: Food

My birthday was a week ago.

There may be (there is) a cake and fork situation in my refrigerator.  Only just barely, now, though…

But that cake is just the icing on a fantastic birthday celebration.

This is my big landmark birthday and it fell on a weekend.  The perfect recipe for breaking those diet resolutions I never bothered to make.

So.

Much.

Food.

Plus a secret gold star that I survived…but might be too big a shock for people who know me to survive.

The food started on Saturday with a solid four dozen peanut butter cookies that a couple of my co-workers made.  They were taking up too much desk space so I pared them down by a good half dozen in the first half hour.  

A full third were gone by day’s end.

At which point, I had to run out to get ready for my surprise party.

God bless The Silver Fox, but when Little Buddy called dibs for Saturday night, I knew something was brewing.  For his part, he kept the bond of trust, never admitting there was a jig, up with which to be.

And I threw out some doozy theories in the week leading up to the big day.  Seriously, I had the whole thing being filmed by any surviving Zapruder.

Little Buddy had told me she was inviting The Fox, who then made his apologies in advance for missing the get together because he had tickets to a play with Sallory.

“Like you won’t be changing those plans!”, I taunted.

I went on through the week with scenarios like, “The big surprise will be when I show up and announce that I’m only 40”.  

The Fox invited me to join he and Sallory at the hotel bar next door – he and I are…regulars – and kept changing the time.  I teased him with accusatory questions like, “How long does Little Buddy need to sneak in and decorate my place?!?”

It’s not that big and there’s nowhere really to hide.  But if that was the plan…I’m fortunate to have folks who would be bothered to go out of their way  for me.

He insisted that wasn’t the case, but when he had casually suggested the day before that we stop and get his Key Buddy key made for my new place…well, c’mon.  You don’t have to be an Olympic caliber conclusion jumper to arrive at the too easily drawn…conclusion.

All my scenarios be damned, though.

I show up at Tanner Creek Tavern and it’s just The Fox and Sallory.

We have a beer, they ordered food because somehow they hadn’t changed their tickets. There is only one opening night!  Even at The Armory.

I’ve been wrong a lot in my life, so I rallied pretty easily.  Plus, Sallory had brought me a present!

Presents: that which I secretly love but publicly play it cool.

This was still a nice upgrade from last year, though, when The Fox had bothered to be out of the country for my birthday.  I just love busting his chops.  He could light me on fire and he’d still be the best friend I’ve ever known.

This year, Rib and his new boyfriend had taken a page out of The Fox’s birthday playbook and gone to watch the Australian Open live, which inconveniently occurs around my birthday.

So, there we are, us three.  Beer and wine raised to toast the eve.  I’m happy to have them for even a little while.

And while I’m enjoying a simple moment with dear friends, I find myself following four eyes across the bar, focused on black balloons parading from the door and headed in our general direction,

Ok, that one I did not see coming.

Little Buddy.

2.0.

Breitbarb.

The good and getting better friend…he really will need a blog name at some point.

All parading toward our table.

Well, that can’t be a coincidence.

Wires having been crossed, I was expelled from the bar and left to cool my heels in the hotel lobby so our table could be staged with all the required fiftieth birthday party accoutrements.

You know, I’m lucky to have people I love in my life who also tolerate me.  Less surprising to me, but perhaps me alone, is that there’s a bar in my life that doesn’t mind setting aside a table for my friends to mark my pickled ass’ birthday.

On a damned Saturday.

In downtown Portland.

On the Onesie Pub Crawl weekend.

Whatever.  I was here first.

When I returned from my lobby exile, the Filipina Fox and her husband had joined the birthday melee.  So had a new instant friend that I’d met at LB’s and 2.0’s wedding last summer (more on that in a later blog, promise) and her younger, better looking and more Asian blooded version of my doppelgänger boyfriend.  Little Buddy had rallied quite a bar busting group for this lil surprise shindig.  

I was pleased.

So, Little Buddy had made this cake.

It was glorious, but also a shituation, as I learned.

She had been aiming to do a cake-homage to both my Star Trek fandom and my Red Shirt Diaries blog theme.  The red fondant hadn’t cooperated and she’d scratched it and taken it back to the drawing board for a slam dunk of subtlety that bumped the overt Enterprise shaped 30th birthday cake to second place in the Best Ever Cake category,

Sorry, not sorry, Sacha.

It was a Tribble Cake.

I mean, I ate a bunch of those tribbles and a healthy slice of cake.

And a second beer, duh.

Happy as I was, I learned that this party was portable.  There was a table waiting for us at Nostrana.

It’s a tres she-she Italian restaurant that I’d never been to.  I’ve eaten several times at the Pearl District sibling restaurant, but that’s just a front for $50 pizza.  Nostrana is a mother lode restaurant.

We ate the pants off that place.

Remember, I was full from beer and cake.  

Let that stop me, I did not.

2.0 started us off with a charcuterie plate that featured typical sliced cheeses and cured meats as well as a few terrine options and fucking lengua.

Yeah, that’s beef tongue.

It.

Is.

So.

Good.

Little Buddy corralled the Som for some wine.

We were also downing bread like Dr Atkins was heading our way in slo-mo with a scale.

Then.

Then…the pasta main course.

The plan had been to take my Michael Douglas ass out to a bar after dinner but the trifecta of the Onesie Bar Crawl, 2.0 comfort considerations (in a gay bar) and my grumpy old man refusal to pay cover to be ignored in a bar landed us back at my place drinking The Fox’s wine.

It was perfect.

But the weekend wasn’t yet done with my belly.

Sunday morning was brunch with The Fox. No doubt penance for not canceling his opening night plans the night before.

No.

Check that…obviously he shouldn’t have made those plans in the first place.

Obviously!

I mean… he knows how extra I pretend to not be.  It’s like we had never even met.

But a one on one brunch with my NSLP – Non Sexual Life Partner – was beautiful.  What a delightful way to usher in day one of my 50th.

It’s surreal to type that.

Post brunch plans included a pre-family dinner nap…and I kind of needed it.  One big meal left in my weekend and I was already ready for my food coma.

We were eight for dinner.  I definitely didn’t get too hungry for dinner with eight.  But I nearly ate my weight with those eight.  If only our table had been at 8:00, that could have been a seizure inducing alliteration.

Alas, my family all traveled the 20-30 miles into town to join me at the newest Pok Pok. This is a Portland “It” restaurant from years past.  I’d never been, so they had opened a new place “ten” blocks from my place to tempt me.  I’ve been meaning to get there for months since they opened.

This was the perfect excuse.

I think we split nine entrees between the eight of us.  They recommend an entree for two people to share, so we were a little over that ratio given our census.  But best safe versus sorry, right?  Plus, I think I forgot a few in my tally.

Here’s my gold star moment:

My whole life, I’ve been a picky eater.  My list of “No’s” for food looks – and probably is – longer than any single person’s list of disqualifies for potential mates.

And yet, I don’t starve.

Because in my years I have learned to think of others, I made sure that our order included the mushroom salad for my mother, who may have single-handedly in life made mushroom farming a viable vocation.  

Seriously.  She loses it for mushrooms.

One of my favorite mom/son bonding stories is of our family table growing up.  At our pre-Chuck family dinner table on La Cour, I had a side of our six top table to myself.  My sporty siblings sat across from me and I sat next to my mother on my side of the table, obvious gay son dinner table placement, right?

Me being the petsnickety culinarian and my mother making her food budget pennies scream to feed her Galby Five, there were a lot of what I would call lesser filler ingredients.

Onions.

The Peppers Bell.

Mushrooms.

My awesome mom would sit next to me and eat these Xtopher-only deemed lesser ingredients off my plate.  Right out of their individual and separate piles I’d created for each at the perimeter of my plate.

Talk about a Niles Crane worthy OCD moment.

Talk about symbiosis!

Obviously, I stipulated that this Xtopher anathema of a mushroom salad be placed at the end of the table nearest Mom-Donna, furthest from me.  You know that bitch mushroom salad ended up getting passed to everyone and ended up at my corner.

It was my personal hell.

Me, being both a newly minted legitimately grumpy old man and a dick, I quietly engaged in the dinner table conversation with my family while quietly – and for attention only – eating off the mushroom salad plate.

No,

One.

Noticed.

Goddamnit.

I even casually and without irony said things like, “I think there are mushrooms in this” and yet…nothing.

I’d only had a glass of wine and a complimentary glass of champers at Thelonious Wines before dinner and a cocktail with, so I wasn’t even buzzed when I made the decision to choke down some mushroom salad, defiantly.

And no one noticed.

So I went home and ate some of Little Buddy’s bday cake…planting a fork in it for future and what turned out to be frequent use!

I’m still full a week later.

And that’s my birthday.

Of course, with so many people I hold dear in my life turning out to celebrate, my grinchy old heart might just be so full that it’s pushing down on my stomach, making me feel that I’ve over eaten.  

Toss up, eh?

For your amusement, the song Pandora barfed out as I’m wrapping this up was Knocking On Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan…you can’t make this shit up.  It’s my life!

Birthday: Food