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

I Am Unresolved

But, still…one (this one, anyway) does like setting and achieving goals. Especially if they are fun or don’t require too much work.

That said, my goals are a mixed bag of those two…adjectives? Qualities?

I dunno.

Nonetheless, here’s a brief accounting of the goings down to date:

1) After Chadwick Boseman died last summer – suddenly, to out of the loop fans – I started putting pressure on myself to get my mind sorted on the Coming of Age test that my doctor had been pestering me about for several years. It’s cute that he thought getting ahead of my fiftieth for the test would provide results. He plied me with mail in poo test kits on every visit for a couple years, trying to sell me on “new and improved” collection methods.

Bless his heart. He’d only known me a couple of years at the time and was unfamiliar with my stubbornness.

When T’Challa died, I finally pulled one out of mothballs my pile of unread mail and stabbed a floater before sending it in.

Of course, I failed.

Since it tests for trace blood and I have ROH (randomly occurring hemorrhoids), duh…blood.

When he calls me with the results, I’m talking to a doctor that finally knows me.

I’m going to write you a referral. When they call, *please* answer your phone.

Hehe.

I replied by asking how many years he’d been chasing me about fondling my feces, which amused me way more than him.

It’s not funny, it’s just funny.

Anyway, my colonoscopy is the week after my birthday. AKA: at the end of this month.

2) At Christmas, after my mom unwrapped a bird feeder from her Secret Satan Santa, I remembered what I’d forgotten: I wanted a bird feeder for my Juliette balcony. Mom directed me to the shed, where there was a hummingbird feeder they had decommissioned some time ago that I was welcome to.

I’d posted about the minimal effort required to install it – basically a trip to the local hardware store.

Side Note: my local hardware store is the one that Anastasia Steele (what a douchey name, but what does one expect from such a masturbatory story?) worked at before becoming involved with the titular character in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Anyway…I finally got around to that. Now the waiting game begins.

She’s a meany. But I’m sure she’s nice enough to invite any takers into her Red Room.

3) And no Resolution List would be complete without a diet or exercise entry.

Diet is not that entry. Although, after reading about the prep for the impending ol’ tooter rooter, I’ll consider that diet.

But I’d seen the latest greatest resolution challenge floating around on social media – something about 100 Days of Motion or some such nonesense. While I consider goals to be a great thing, realistic goals are the ones you attain.

Somehow, 100 Days of Motion for this old bag of bones didn’t seem likely. Unless, of course, one counts getting out of bed as a sit up, on to or off of the couch a squat or some similarly unlikely rationalization a success.

I don’t.

Nonetheless, I committed to being more active, minimum bar for success set at five days per week.

I started with three sets of weighted exercises at home – my only real option in Lockdown 2.0 – and had at it. Any movement feels good after months of rather unfocused but still highly effective neglect. So I was satisfied…and increasingly motivated through my own accomplishments.

Then I did a mile of stairs in my building.

It was the end of the second week – which seemed reasonable. But my body informed me otherwise.

I mean…it seemed so reasonable. Then I walked weird for a week. Nevermind the reality of wheezing my way up and down six flights of stairs dozens of times in a mask.

In a fit of frustration over my soreness and lack of saw ownership, which would provide me the ability to cut off my legs, I ordered an e-stim massage unit for a little relief…I hoped.

I have a friend – who I will allow to remain anonymous – that has one he uses for personal massages. That particular endorsement doing nothing but sending my nuts fully back into my torso whenever the topic comes up, I also had one from Bubble Boy.

Not that his was much better. He’d found playing the part of “cowboy” to my “bull” (Ha, I wish) taxing after falling asleep with his attached to his rear a couple of days before one of our assignations. Not that his rear needed a workout, but the results of his nap on a high setting gave me hope for a therapeutic result on a low setting.

It most certainly did the trick! Not bad for a $30 solution to my million dollar baby problem. Here’s a video of the above situation if you want to see ol’ Chicken Legs McGee twitch…

I’d also seen a former colleague hosting outdoor fitness classes, reminiscent of my uber-fit days in Seattle, when I’d wake up at the crack of dawn and go to a boot camp overlooking the Puget Sound and then grab a doughnut before 7.

Anyway, she was doing Saturday morning classes (at a non-crazy hour) for $10 and I thought maybe I should participate. I missed the first week, but the second week I took my Jabba-esque physique out for a trundle. Hell, for all I knew, it would kill me and spare me the colonoscopy.

Upside.

Here is my post following the completion:

And I should be back next week. I was gratified that my former colleague bemoaned being 43 as we caught up, trying to decide “how long it had been” while also laughing at how long it had been. That’s aging for ya, it’s kind of amazing. Additionally, with her being probably exactly middle-aged for a woman, that lent itself to the majority of the participants being only slightly younger than me. So I felt comfortable.

On the other hand, the single attendee who was young-young was someone I was fairly certain that I’d chatted with on asocial media several years back and maybe only unfollowed this past summer. It’s hard to tell with masks and all, but I recognized some thigh tattoos and distinctive guybrows.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t recognize me – or my less-than-impressive thunder. Because, of course the class I went to so that my clothes would fit better started off with midriff-baring downward facing dogs. While that’s a position I would enthusiastically put him into, no one needs to witness my shituation in that same posture.

All that said, the class was great – despite the humbling nature of the endeavor and one errand exertion related fart – and I will be back next week. And I can still walk, thanks to my e-stim buddy.

4) And I nearly forgot this one: I raised my weekly Lyft goal by 50%. When I’d originally set it, my goal was just to minimize street parking expenses, since I don’t have a garage. I usually made that goal, but now that I’m not doing any part-time office gigs, I’m on the street whenever I’m not driving for Lyft.

Honestly, I normally blew that goal away, but officially resetting my goal to the 50% increase was daunting.

So far, mixed results. I’m averaging my new goal over the first weeks of the new year, but I have only achieved the goal itself two out of three opportunities.

There still work to be done. And 49 chances for success!

So that’s what I’ve got going so far this year…I still have my new InstaPot as an open/unopened goal to tackle. I’m sure anyone who follows me on social media will be assaulted by result pics know as soon as I start executing on that goal. I’d like to put it into weekly use…it’s just finding those recipes that will produce leftovers I’ll actually eat or that can be cut into halves easily.

It’ll happen.

How are your resolutions going? Tell me in the comments…

I Am Unresolved

It’s *So* Big!

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to handle this. It’s so much bigger than I expected.

I mean, you hear the words…10 inches and think you understand what you’re hearing. As if you can conceptualize the size of such a large unit. But then you see it and your mind just…🤯

Wow. That’s just…a bit much.

*cat pictured for scale

Wait. What did you think I was talking about?

So, yeah. I got a new TV to replace my problematic 55″ Vizio that I’d had for about a dozen years. For whatever reason, it just decided to die stop turning on.

The newby is an early indirect birthday gift from my parents, who rained shekels down upon me during a car-bound coffee date earlier this week. They’re so awesome, I joke about being their favorite child, despite my occasional feeling that I’m the most disappointing. Thank gourd for Black Sheep Bro, he puts considerable effort into being disappointing. If it weren’t for him, well…I think my personal list of achievements would be looking pretty grim.

I still suspect my parents’ actions with BSB makes him feel pretty fortunate, too, regardless of how hard he campaigns to look like a bastard and ingrate.

Anyhoo.

My parents being great parents and deriving joy from the happiness of their kids waited several hours before checking in to see if I’d gone TV shopping yet. So, yesterday I caved and took my search from virtual into the real world.

Mind you, this 36 hour delay is remarkable for me. Particularly compared to the reality of the still uninstalled hummingbird feeder that I made off with from my parents’ shed on Christmas.

All I needed to do was hit up a hardware store for a hook that would clamp onto my balcony railing…

Regardless, I’d been advised by a Blog Buddy to wait until after the StoopidBowl to shop because people are rubbish and will buy a TV to watch the big game and then return it after. He swore by the open box steal. Having been a career retailer – granted, not in electronics – I knew the phenomenon he was suggesting.

This new TV is a 65″ Samsung and it’s rather overwhelming. Watching it makes me feel like that guy from that vintage stereo ad.

Or was that a speaker ad? (I know who will know, so keep your eyes on the comments…!).

I knew there was room to play with a larger screen, since my old TV had plenty of space on the sides while sitting dead atop its perch. However, once I got the new TV upstairs – no easy feat, given my singledom. Thankfully, the salesperson took pity on me and helped me load it into the car. So at least there was that.

Once upstairs and in front of my TV console, I began to think I’d overestimated my space. The salesperson had suggested that the extra 10″ would shake out to about the width of a 2″x4″ beam on each side. A factoid/estimation that my high school math classes backed up. Still…this visual gave me pause.

But I told myself the screen wasn’t as big as the box. Which was only right by about 2″.

Magically, given the absence of anyone in their 20s or 30s to help, the set up was fairly breezy. It didn’t take long at all…

That’s a pretty quick and easy installation!

Now, it’s anyone’s guess how long it takes to get rid of the collateral debris.

My salesperson gave me a 60 day return window just in case it was too big or not the right TV for me. Unless it breaks, I think it will more than fit my needs. But should I still keep this stuff around for 60 days in case it breaks down?!?

Oh, and best part? That reader I mentioned earlier? He still had my back, even this morning. I woke up to an email featuring an ad that he was passing along. It featured a similarly sized Samsung for a few bucks less than what I’d paid last night – except it was a generation behind the one I got. As if that’s not enough to make me feel like good folks are looking out for me to make sure I get a good deal, here’s an ad from a competitor’s website for the TV I got.

Not a bad deal, especially as an open box…but I paid $275 less!

It’s *So* Big!

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

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

Eff Em El

I should probably type out the title to this post in all caps, but I don’t want to frighten you.

Which is also why I waited two whole – and surprisingly not run-on (oops) – sentences before dropping this lil chestnut on your eyeballs.

If I had any real friends, they’d shoot me.

Today? It would be a mercy killing. Not sure that’ll save anyone from the gas chamber, but maybe? If you pick the right lawyer…

And this day started out so promising, too.

I got my mail in ballot yesterday. Filled it out while I was waiting for my hair to dry today before heading to lunch with the ‘rents.

But, really…that’s the end of the upside. The rest of my day has been all uphill.

It’s so bad, I finally took the 50-something year old recommended poop test that my doctor has been nagging me about for the last three-ish years. I figured, “Why not? Today can’t get any worse…”

As if psyching out fate is a damn thing.

After dropping that off at the lab, I thought that since psyching out fate really isn’t a thing…maybe picking up that heads up penny I saw on the street wasn’t such a bad idea. And, yeah, back on that “if I had any real friends” thing? I totally maintained eye contact with the Street Rockefellers that were camping 3 feet away on the sidewalk so that they’d know that I was picking up money they were apparently too good for. Maybe they’d get mad that I was stealing their money and stab me.

So how does a day with such promise go careening off the rails?

Hard to say, really. Other than maybe the number of times that I’ve rhetorically asked “What could possibly go wrong?” have all hit the ear balls of The Universe at once – because, let’s face it, I really don’t know how any of that shit really works.

Maybe rhetorical questions go in the same category as “Letters to Santa” or “Prayers”…or maybe someone is actually listening and my rhetorical questions all arrived at their destination simultaneously, producing today as a single response to the cumulative inquiry.

  • My laptop seems to have crapped out. This morning, I woke to and email from the Genius Bar with a couple things that could rectify my issues. Of course, that didn’t work. I bought this refurbished Mac as a cheap and easy (on the wallet) replacement for my last laptop about two years ago. I was a little frustrated when it arrived to learn that it was only one model year removed from the Mac that I was replacing, so if I got two years out of it…that nets out to it lasted a year longer than it’s predecessor. See?!? How “bright side” was that statement?!? But, nooooo, my name is Grumpy, Old Xtopher and I am living in Fate’s crosshairs these days!
  • After lunch with mom and dad, I went out for a quick drive session, since I wanted to pull a double shift today. My usual shift is however long it takes to hit 10 rides. Somewhere between 3-4 hours. On double-days, I try to get a few rides in before rush hour and then hit the balance of my 20 in the evening. Keeps my ass from going numb.That’s right…on my second ride, my tire pressure warning goes off. I check the monitor and, sure enough, three tires are showing as 36-42 psi and my rear passenger side is showing 14…13…12.5…9…FML. I drop off my passenger at OHSU and then pull over to inflate so I can drive to Les Schwab for a patch. At least I was/am hoping it’s patch-able. The fact that I had to stop and re-inflate on the way to the tire shop didn’t seem too promising. I mean, the tire shop was maybe three miles from OHSU…I should know any time now whether it’s fixable or I’m fucked. I shouldn’t be too surprised that this is the second time I’ve been back for a repair since getting these new wheels back in…April? May? A blog buddy warned me that she’d had nothing but trouble from her Continentals. Still, I’m trying to find my Attitude of Gratitude by acknowledging that the Contis are doing far better with only two trips to the shop in 6 months, compared to Pat the Patriot’s six trips in 5 months.
  • I figured since I had 90 minutes to kill before I heard about Angela’s tire, I’d walk a few errands. First, dropping off my poo test. Second, third, I’ll swing by the post office and pick up a registered letter (don’t worry, it’s a gift card not a summons) and fourth…I’ll swing by the bank and switch a few nickels from one account to another in case I have to buy a new tire. Probably not the energy to be putting out there – practical as it sounded at the time. On my way from the ballot dropbox to the bank, I passed a spice shop and remembered last night’s craving for a seasoning for my popcorn. In I go! Unable to decide between cheddar and straight up popcorn salt, I pick up both. I head to the counter and…no wallet. Come on! I think I remember leaving it in Angela’s driver’s side glove box while gassing up. If that’s a fake memory, then I’ve lost my friggin’ wallet. Again. Upside: I need a new wallet. Downside: no popcorn seasonings. The guy was really nice about it, too. He offered to let me take the seasonings and bring cash back. Chuckling gratefully at the offer, I declined, thinking I’d probably get hit by an armored car on my way home if I took him up on the kind offer.
  • The most ironic thing about today? While I was at lunch, dad sneaks in one of those “I didn’t want to alarm your <insert parenting partner here>” type questions to make sure I’m doing ok.
  • At the time, I laughed it off, low-key complaining about my laptop. But I asked what had prompted the conspiratorial concern and he pointed back to an Instagram post from last week or so. The post in question was something like this:
  • But I had just shared it to my story from somewhere else on the ‘gram, so now it’s gone. But how lucky am I to have a dad that asks?!?
  • Even luckier to be able to answer, “Nah, just seemed like a good thought to share. With you and mom on my side, I never have to ask for help”! So, that felt good.
  • Everything else?
  • Annoying.
  • Now, I guess I best hoof it up to the post office – did I mention that the registered letter is at a post office branch 20 blocks away instead of the branch that is literally two blocks from my house? – then stop by Les Schwab and at least pick up (I hope) my wallet since it’s been 90 minutes and still no word. Might end up taking the weekend off…
  • Eff Em El

    Tappa-Kegga-Day

    That was what we called kegger night in college.Literally.

    Ok, maybe just too old for a birthday on a three day weekend. Because the MLK day/Xtopher’s birthday alignment means my birthday was celebrated for four damn days.

    Today is a day of rest.

    Also, I have a handyman here (not) fixing things.

    Having been busy yesterday, I just checked the Facebook for the first time since…maybe Saturday? Friday?!? Oh, the social media birthday love. It motivated me to share some of my weekend with you, which I wasn’t planning on.

    My brain is fatigued and more than slightly pickled, though…fatigued from three weeks of daily writing. Im thinking of hanging that initiative up this Friday or Saturday. My goal was daily blog posts for a month. Would the 1st-26th count?

    My original goal was to wear myself out writing so when I go in to try editing my book again, I make notes on what I want to edit. Last time I went in to try and edit, I started adding and fracked up my timeline.

    I figure wrap up my January writing initiative, take a few days to read a book a blog buddy sent over – I’m seriously burnt out on words enough that I’m barely reading the blogs I follow. When I sat down to his book, the only opinion I had was

    Nope. Cannot do.

    (I’m sorry, Phil, I’m working on it!)

    So, take a few days to read my friend’s work then get cracking on some damage control on my own.

    Anyhoo, I’m sure you’ve already figured out the pickling problem.

    Or, not-problem.

    The unexpected outpouring of well-wishes I encountered on the Facebook surprised me, as usual. It also kinda washed over me and extended my birthday feels another day.

    Friday and Saturday were pretty low key, drinks and shenanigans with my own version of Fox & Friends. Little Buddy shot me an invite, all spur of the moment, to go see a Power Point Improv show we’d discussed a while back. I couldn’t make it, prior engagement.

    Birthday weekend shenanigans…

    I debated not telling her it was birthday-related. I really am low key about my birthday. Swearsies.

    Saturday when I was out with the Silver Fox, I asked him

    My family has been quiet about my birthday. Are they up to something? If they are…I kinda feel like I should get a haircut.

    He assured me that they were not. Then he casually remarked that I might want to get a haircut, though.

    Jerk.

    Hehe. I assumed he was commenting about my overall shagginess.

    Resolutions for the new year?

    Not exactly my thing. But when I do make them, they are me all the way.

    1) Write and post a blog entry daily, which you all know.

    2) Not cut my hair.

    I’ve been trying to grow out a longer style for the last six months or so. Around June, I figured if I wasn’t going to work, maybe I should indulge my back of mind musings on having crazy old man hair.

    Why not?

    Only, the last few times I’ve gone in to get it cleaned up around the edges, I’ve ended up long on top, trimmed back to above the ears and looking like a Flock of Seagulls refugee.

    So, I gave basic hair maintenance two tries and then embargoed it til the end of January. When I make up my mind about these types of things, I always feel bad for my friends. They’re the ones that have to look at – no, endure the fallout.

    Anyway, I don’t care, my family isn’t planning anything, so I don’t give it much more thought. A little later, my mom texts me and invites me to brunch on my birthday.

    Perfect. Nice and low key, just the way I like it.

    For Sunday afternoon, The Fox and I had just planned on going to the hotel bar next door for a few beers. Then we were going to come back to my place and watch some Grace & Frankie. It was a perfect plan.

    When we meet up on the corner, he announces that Owl X had texted him that Pallet Jack was back at Big Legrowlski.

    Well, I guess we’re going to BL!

    I’m laughing and crossing Everett before I even finish the sentence.

    All things being equal, it’s Sunday afternoon. I know either bar will have some of my favorite staff working – all of whom definitely fall into the Guy Candy category. But Joey at Legrowlski is in his last couple of weekends before leaving the country to work overseas and has a habit of “accidentally” oversharing the most scintillating personal details. Unless the Tanner Creek boys are working in jock straps for my birthday, Pallet Jack and Joey win!

    We walk in and I’m immediately irked by the twosome sitting in the corner. They brought their dog in. I love the dogs that come with or walk by at The Fox and I sit outside sipping away the Summer.

    But not inside.

    I’m trading hellos with Joey while I hope the Rug Room isn’t too packed, cuz I don’t want to sit on the small bar side with a dog.

    Are you surprised?!?

    I’m debating how to answer:

    – Surprised you let a dog – other than me! – in?!?

    – Surprised that I don’t see Pallet Jack on the tap list?!?

    Don’t let anyone tell you that being a grumpy old man is easy.

    Decisions, decisions.

    The Fox is pulling me out of the way. I’m trying to look behind me to see whose way I’m in and he’s shoving me into the Rug Room.

    Surprise!

    My parents, siblings and brother in law are tucked around a pub table in one corner. Their table, I notice, is blocking the fire exit. The Fox is standing behind me, trying to get me into the group. They certainly know me.

    Little Buddy, 2.0 and JOrtis are sitting around a low table, looking pretty happy with themselves.

    Diezel and Linda Belcher are wrapped into the far corner, flanking some other guy. It’s kind of dark and the walls are all black in the Rug Room, but I really don’t know if I don’t remember him, can’t see him well enough to recognize honor if someone brought me a present.

    Nah…that would be weird.

    Not unwelcome…just weird.

    What I should have said is:

    Do you know what this could do to a man my age?!?

    Or,

    Surprised someone throws a surprise party for a something-ty-first birthday?!?

    But instead I just stood there with my mouth hanging slightly open.

    The Silver Fox is chuckling contentedly behind me and still nudging me, so I begin hugging my way into the room. As I’m finishing, people start shifting their comments toward birthday beers.

    It’s not that they are out of Pallet Jack, it’s that in order to ensure they have Peej for the party, they’ve been sitting on a keg for the past two weeks! Owl X and I had even discussed it the prior week as I was leaving, neither palleted nor jacked and she said, “See you soon!”

    You got any Pallet Jack on order?”

    “Maybe. I’m not sure. Brendan” – the owner and Dude enthusiast – “said he wanted to keep it on tap always, so probably?”

    Sneaky.

    Joey takes me into the walk-in and I’m resisting saying anything about Three Minutes in Heaven. Somehow we manage to get about five people into the walk-in to document the transition. Several of us are lecturing Joey on how tapping a keg used to be a lot harder than what he talked me through…when we were your age.

    I’d actually seen the new tap mechanisms back in my grocery working days a few Great-Job-Hunts-ago.

    The Fox was talking about Rent Parties that we would have in college. Get a keg for $35 and invite your friends over for a $5 all-you-can-drink night!

    I was telling Joey how we would have to manually pump the taps at those keg nights.

    My sister was angling for a good pic. Hint: I no longer have a “good side”!

    But here ya go…

    Birthday Boy with his birthday beer!

    A little later someone rectified the situation on the tap list, too.

    That eventually – after we got booted from the rug room three hours later so the band could set up – evolved into having a Secret Tap “for the regulars”. A few of them stopped by over the course of the afternoon and evening and shared a pint with the party. Owl X had been a little late arriving and missed the tap moment, but she found the light controls and smoke machine! Karaoke was briefly discussed and abandoned.

    I think we’d held the festivities – and the bar side – hostage with our sheer number of people for another hour before people started heading off into the cloudy evening. No Blood Wolf Moon viewing here in Portland!

    Diezel and his date – the stranger was his. I mean, geez, D, it’s my birthday…you gotta let me unwrap something! – had another birthday party to go to and we’re the first to leave. I got to chat with them a while and I have to say, I’m glad Diezel may have found himself a good old keeper.

    Not to jinx anything. Since I’m not involved, I think it’s safe…

    Little Buddy took her guys and headed off toward the ‘Couv. She has a kiddo at home to think of feeding. I forgot to ask how the Power Point Improv was, but in retrospect, I think it may have even been a red herring!

    My family was the next to go, but almost the last to leave besides The Fox, Owl X and I. Mom was “taking one for the team” as my sister put it and acting as the family DD. Still, having her driving after dark on a cloudy night was a little hard for me to be 100% comfortable with.

    On the other hand, I hadn’t been drunk with my siblings since…I dunno. Maybe my sister’s wedding? But I don’t think we were out of control for that. My brother rarely has a beer, let alone what we decided was four for him that night. My sister shocked me by jumping in head first with her first beer. Since Peej was not yet available, she had a Notorious Triple IPA…just an 11.2% alcohol by volume concoction.

    Hats off, sis!

    My dad took a break from his canned water of choice (Coors Light, which I heard they were giving away in Flint for hydration, j/s dad!) and enjoyed some of Oregon’s Finest.

    Tastes a little apricot-y.

    My favorite moment of the night!

    I’d said the exact same words to Little Buddy the first time her, 2.0 and I had gotten together for beers. LB and I were working together again, her and 2.0 had just decided to give the dating thing another go and I’d been convinced to try an IPA. I’d notoriously hated them for 20 years, opting instead for Ambers and Reds.

    They were surprised by my statement.

    Well, it’s definitely got a stone fruit note to it.

    They humored me. Well, maybe they agreed that I had a weird mouth and I agreed to ignore their assessment.

    “It must just be a weird palate thing with your family”, Little Buddy said.

    This is why we’re friends.

    Joey’s shift had ended and my other favorite bartendress had reported for duty, sneaking a crowler of the good stuff into my goodie bag.

    Linda Belcher was the last non-regular to leave. Although, since she passes the bar on her way rom her office to the bus stop, she’s known to wander in looking for me on occasion.

    Sometimes she sees me and joins me.

    Other times I’m not there.

    Still others, she doesn’t see me.

    I think I enjoy the times she sees me and joins me most, but those times she doesn’t see me are pretty friggin hilarious.

    We got to sit in the Rug Room and chat a little. The band was really good, just a him & her type duo. Not too loud, so we could enjoy both the music and some talk. Her husband – Bob Belcher of Bob’s Burger fame, obviously – is in Nepal for several months and I’ve been meaning to check in on Linda Belcher for a couple weeks…just…life.

    There were some folks I’d have loved to see present. Some – like Filipina Fox and her husband – were out of town for the weekend. Others, the Silver Fox just couldn’t contact because he didn’t have their contact info. He’s not on social media, so he couldn’t use Messenger as a tool to reach out to my other known associates.

    The biggest shocker wasn’t how well he pulled this off – starting with hiding the keg weeks ago. No, it was that he kept it a secret. That’s truly impressive. He’s always accidentally giving away the twist in a movie or show. I think the years that we’ve been friends have caused some of my sneakiness to accidentally rub off on him.

    I woke myself up on my actual birthday morning because I’d been smiling so hard in my sleep that I think I couldn’t actually be unconscious and simultaneously that happy.

    There’s worse ways to wake up.

    We finally got to watch some Grace & Frankie last night. I know you were worried.

    Birthday breakfast.

    Birthday lunch.

    And then the bottle of wine The Fox got me last year at my birthday to round out the birthday proper while we binged on Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s old-age misadventures.

    I was exhausted after four days of friendly camaraderie and about a month’s worth of alcohol in that same timeframe.

    My low key day today brought all the feels back just by opening Facebook. I’ve been doing a good job of only checking in once a day. Actually, I’ll miss days now and then.

    Yesterday was one of those days.

    That big old birthday smile came back. For some, maybe it’s not a big deal…but to me, having over 100 folks take time out of their day to wish me well is a big deal.

    Touching.

    Even Portland’s former mayor dropped me a note.

    Replying to these messages is what made me think to blog about my birthday in detail. Plus, this gave me a chance to prove that I didn’t drink too much!

    I remembered!

    It started out about like this blog…

    Then got sweet…

    I didn’t even know I had birthday wishes! Outside of the lottery win that refused to comply…

    Actually, there was a little WTF moment when I started responding. Check out the background…

    Hmmm. <unfriend>? Actually, it fits my personality. Well, not the “god” part. But, it’s the thought, right?

    And speaking of my personality. One of The Fabulous Baker Sisters has to weigh in!

    And, I’m case you worried, we had more than a few Myrtle mentions…

    So, here’s to another year of surviving Myrtle’s Gulag, life and the occasional happy surprise.

    Thanks for reading, every one of you!

    Tappa-Kegga-Day

    Visiting the Cousins

    I just called myself out on procrastinating my own writing.

    On someone else’s blog in the comments. PS: if you want a female perspective on dating, I dare say Doctor Maria might just be your gurl.How male doctors that look like ballsacks have a wife, a younger girlfriend and/or a trophy wife and this woman struggles is frustratingly representative of our culture’s myriad-standard. She’s a good contrast to my blog, proving that if I had a great job versus none, I’d still face an uphill dating battle.

    Still procrastinating…so, before I apply for a job as a bus driver and then get fired for changing the destination display to STRUGGLE, let me set today’s entry up for you:

    I started thinking about my cousins as topics last year, but never pulled the trigger. These were the second cousins I knew as a child. I just couldn’t get past where writing about the difference between our two branches of the family tree felt more like I was sitting on their branch with a saw.

    So I shelved it.

    Then, my first cousins joined the locals for our annual family vacation.

    I noticed the difference between my memories of the seconds compared to the present day experiences with the firsts.

    Maybe that was my blog.

    But it seemed like it had the potential to be a 5k word blog…any of you signed up for that?!? Yeah, I feel like I’m abusing attention spans at 2k.

    And that was before I noticed-slash-attributed the difference in behaviors of the family elder…

    So, maybe this is two blog entries, maybe it’s three. Hell, maybe I thought about it long enough to wear myself out on the topic and describing the struggle is all I have left?

    Until I stop procrastinating and start writing…none of us will know.

    <deep breath>

    The Seconds

    My family is small.

    I didn’t know much about family or family trees growing up. There was me and my three siblings, mom & dad and three grandparents. For a minute, there was a great grandmother running around my childhood saving me from beehives and breaking hips falling off couches. Mostly, though, it was me, the sibs, the ‘rents and the surviving grands.

    That’s less than 10 in what I would call the entirety of my family as a kid.

    Mom’s parents were…divorced? There’s an extended family there, but in Montana, so very distant. I think I met her dad once when he visited Oregon. Of her numerous aunts and uncles, I think two have visited. But not understanding extended family, younger me never really associated these folks with long term memories. Mom was an only child, for whatever reason. With my loose knowledge of grandma’s life before she became “the one with the tall hair and the cool toy closet”, I filled in blanks as to why. Not that there were blanks…it was just my naive mind filling in gaps with fiction instead of asking potentially sad-making questions.

    I guess…

    Dad’s parents were divorced, but still living. His grandmother was my beehive hero, but died when I was maybe eight.

    Not from a bee sting, for the record.

    His dad is still alive, 97 years old next month! Of course, dad’s mother was “the me” of her generation. A single recluse with an infamous death.

    Foreshadowing, but someone else will have to write that entry for me, obviously. I’ll put it in my drafts under: Fool-ogy.

    I forgot about my uncle. Dad’s younger bro by about a dozen years. He was always like a distant brother growing up, we were close in age. As a matter of fact, I think there are as many years between he and I as there are between him and dad. Anyway, that fleshes our my extended family of ten. He’s also rather integral to The Firsts, no?

    But then, in the perimeter of my family consciousness, there was this not well known nor understood and mysterious aunt-figure we would visit a few times a year. My family lived in the suburbs of Portland when I was growing up, specifically Milwaukie and Oregon City – which made it sound less suburb-y than it was and still is. Just trust me. My cousins, on the other hand, lived in what seemed like Alaska. When we went to visit, it was an exercise in “Are we there yet?” for my impatient self.

    In reality, I think they lived 20 minutes away.

    But it was on a farm.

    A real, live farm.

    Without a paved road, I’m not even sure whether it was an unnamed road or a really long driveway. You got to there house and just stopped the car.

    There were cows.

    Chickens.

    A donkey.

    A baby in a manger…oh, wait. It was just my perpetually pregnant aunt.

    Fields.

    With real crops.

    And cowpies.

    I don’t remember them ever visiting us in the “city”.

    Visiting them was like traveling backward in time. I think there was a lot of focus on being self-sustaining. There was a lot of chores. Homeschool was the only school. I wouldn’t know if anyone but us ever visited…but if I had to guess, I’d say they were church folk.

    Not that I knew that my cousins attended church. I just remembered what their house was like. There were bibles. Pictures of Jesus, Mary and assorted saints hung on the walls.

    My cousins weren’t really allowed to watch TV, aside from The Lawrence Welk Show.

    You’d think that’s as cool as one could expect out in the milds of the pre-suburban-sprawl of the Oregon countryside. You’d be right, unless you factored the family’s Wurlitzer jukebox into the equation. And you’d still be right – having a jukebox is just cool – unless you took into account that the jukebox was essentially filled with more Lawrence Welk type music.

    I’m sure, in retrospect, that it wasn’t all Lawrence Welk and Tiny Bubbles all the time. I’m sure there were Andrews Sisters and Hank Williams, Sr and whatnot.

    There were for sure nothing I understood as music from the current century at that time: REO Speedwagon, Queen, AC/DC…y’know, the devil’s music.

    So, what did we do after the five-day covered wagon journey to get to my cousins’ house? Well, sure…sometimes we cranked up that jukebox and hoped it was almost time to leave.

    Other times, we did kid stuff while mom and my aunt – I think by this time I had figured out that my aunt was my grandma’s sister – did what they did. Whatever that was. My cousins were two girls roughly the same ages as my sister and me.

    Sometimes I would make mud pies on the “road” with my sister and cousins. Other times we’d all play together in the fields or exploring a nearby creek. Still others, I’d go with my younger brother – just the older of the two, the younger still being a few years off – and uncle to do farm work.

    What a lark that was!

    We learned how to gather eggs and milk cows. Both skills I’d use in a much more modern and sometimes bastardized manner later in life.

    Sometimes, we’d just hang our arms over a split rail fence watching my uncle work. Other times we would play in the hay loft.

    Around the time my third cousin – a boy – was born, my brother learned that he didn’t like geese. Well, he learned – in a memory that is burned into my memory – that geese didn’t particularly like him. And that he liked running, at least to escape pursuing water fowl.

    Picture a goose chasing a toddler boy up a dirt driveway…that is legitimately one of my favorite and most terrifying memories of both my childhood and a formative reminder of man’s place in the food chain.

    Back before Portland made it popular, my aunt tried to give us a chicken to take home. Every visit, we would come home with eggs or bread and sometimes meat. I think we brought home meat…people seemed to always be giving us slaughtered animals when I was young. I’m pretty sure my aunt and uncle gave us beef. Some hunter-type neighbors – that’s how Milwaukie and OC North we’re back then – gave us venison. Venison was something I didn’t fully understand, but we always seemed to have it in the freezer.

    Anyway, I’m not sure whether my aunt gave us this chicken for its eggs or for Sunday dinner. My dad didn’t strike me as the slaughter-a-chicken type guy, so I want to say eggs is the answer.

    It turned out that it didn’t matter. In my childlike curiosity, I could not grasp the concept of us taking a chicken to the “city”. It was in a box in the back of our family truckster. Being pre-humane, my mother had put down the back window so there was air circulation for the chicken. Probably also so the car didn’t smell like chicken shit when we left.

    My sister and older cousin both assured me that, yes…there was a chicken in a box in the back of our family station wagon.

    But I had to see it to believe it.

    You know what’s scary? A chicken flying into your face out of a box you’re crouched over.

    It also kind of hurts…all that flapping.

    Thank god it wasn’t more bees.

    Anyway, the third second cousin was eventually followed by a fourth, another boy. I think it was between the fourth and fifth seconds that my youngest brother joined our little family, making us six.

    Somewhere in between knocking my aunt up, my uncle bought some land way out in the sticks. Eventually, this ended up being “just down the road” from the largest and most she-she of shopping malls in Oregon. At the time, it was all expansive fields with a Nordstrom sticking out of it. He parked a mobile home on his part and started building a farm. It kind of seemed like a hobby. Like a farmer with five small kids had time for side projects.

    Over the years between the expansion of families and land and when my family moved away…to Kansas, of all the ironic places, I also started to realize something.

    Or suspect.

    At best, my aunt and uncle were producing stranger and stranger offspring. Giving the term second cousins an unfortunate double entendres. To the point where we had a legitimate rocker in the family now. And not in the AC/DC way as much as I’m the “maybe mom and dad are related” way. It’s a thought that evolved, but I never followed up on.

    More questions you don’t ask, right?

    But this rocking cousin was enough to make me wonder about my other younger cousins. The girls seemed normal enough, given the setting. But were the other boys’ behaviors just normal boys-growing-up stuff or were they…

    I mean, a lot of little boys are bullies because they don’t know how to express themselves. But what’s bully behavior when a couple brothers away sits a quiet child, rocking back and forth to music no one else hears? Then there’s that middle boy, the one with a bucket on his head. All of the time…I swear, I never heard it, but I just know at some point my aunt said, “We don’t wear buckets at the table, sweetheart”.

    Bless her little house on the prairie heart.

    After we moved, we didn’t really see or hear from that branch of the family until grandma died. Somewhere in there, my eldest cousin announced her engagement to a boy she’d met at school. I’m not sure what was more surprising: getting married at her young age or that she had gone to a school.

    What I knew was surprising was the following announcement that her younger sister was marrying her fiancé’s twin brother. Maybe the girls got weird by circumstance or maybe they were always weird and just passed.

    Nature or nurture, right?

    All I knew was that it was weird…siblings marrying siblings. And I think it was a double ceremony.

    When grandma died, they insisted on holding a wake. My aunt was her sister, after all, so it made some sense.

    So, out to the now-complete farm that we had never seen.

    It was a compound.

    On a hilltop.

    My Black Sheep Bro and his girlfriend drove out with Sasha and I. Or vice-versa. We parked near the pole barn and walked over to the main house. My brother and I not sure what to expect. Nor how to appropriately warn-slash-prepare our significant others of the time about what they should expect.

    I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see a banjo playing hillbilly on the porch or my taxidermied grandmother standing in a corner…or both. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.

    We were welcomed in at the front door and taken past a hallway of bedrooms – that included a built in and lit grotto to the Virgin Mary at the end – to the living room.

    Introductions were…a blur. I met a cousin’s husband and his twin, the other cousin’s now-ex-husband. There was a surly looking young man sitting – I shit you not – on an overturned bucket and sitting at the piano, but not playing it, another young man…quietly rocking back and forth.

    My Black Sheep Bro and I exchanged a glance that said it all…actually, it said, “There better be booze”. We all socialized a little awkwardly, but pleasantly. I’m sure all the pre-marital sex and co-habitation and <gasp> homosexuality that we brought out from the city had more than one of them fighting the impulse to run to the grotto, but despite our different lifestyles and near-stranger status in each others’ lives…you could feel a connection in the room that evening.

    There was pleasant chatting. Patient catching up on life events that were semi-alien to the listening participants on each side. But the bond of family provided a warmth in the room, that while awkward was still present.

    Plus, a zebra-striped grand piano sitting in the middle of the room is always a great ice breaker…

    Visiting the Cousins

    Breakfast of Champions

    One of my favorite things about holidays is the time I get to spend with my family. Particularly, my mom and dad since I stay at their house.

    What excites me most is being able to cook. It’s something I simply don’t do for myself, for a variety of bullshit reasons…I just don’t.

    Cooking for others is just such a core reward. Since I don’t have anyone at home to cook for, outside of the maybe three or four times a year I host a dinner party, these escapes to the country are an indulgence for me.

    Plus, I’m pretty sure they enjoy it, too.

    Usually, it’s just a dinner or two since I’m generally only there a couple of days.

    This past Christmas, though, I was there for five nights!

    Bring Myrtle out, it’ll be great!

    …they said.

    Mostly, this was just my sister campaigning to get mom and dad’s cute little chihuahua family used to having a cat around before they move theirs in for a couple of months. Their home of 25 years just sold – it closes in a couple of days – and the retirement home they are building in Central Oregon won’t be complete for a couple of months…so they are packing it over to mom and dad’s for the next couple months.

    PS: they were wrong, btw. Myrtle was totally traumatized the entire time and I was a neurotic mess…but the dogs were fine!

    I think I put on 10 lbs in those five days.

    My absolute favorite part of the trip was cooking breakfast Christmas morning. Normally, the three of us will make do with coffee – or Monster! – and snacky bites until lunch time. Occasionally, we’ll go out for a breakfast, just the three of us.

    But Christmas morning, the whole fam damily was coming over. It’s not that big of a deal: mom & dad, me, my youngest brother, and my sister, her husband and their son.

    I take it back…that’s a big deal.

    We were only planning breakfast and dinner for Christmas, and mom wanted dinner to be easy.

    Not sure if I’ll get into that, since this is about breakfast, suffice it to say that I got a little Xtopher on dinner.

    But breakfast was something I ended up being quite proud of:

    Frittatas!

    I’m a huge dope, plus I was a tad neurotic about being responsible for feeding the whole family, so I forgot to take a pic of my frittata efforts…they were quite beautiful. Please accept the above ripped from Google substitute.

    Mine were so much better looking after five minutes under the broiler. They were such simple concoctions, too:

    9 eggs

    1 cup of broccoli florets

    6 oz of cubed ham

    1/2 a large onion

    6 oz of cubed cheddar

    Easy-friggin’-peasy!

    It’s basically breakfast pizza.

    But still, I fretted over my frittatas. Over simple stuff and stuff you should stress about, like flipping the damn thing into a plate. Mom was a super duper help, because that turned into a four-hand task.

    That was only the second funniest part, too. In my distracted state, I grabbed the frying pan handle about three minutes after taking it out of the broiler. I’ve got a decisive grip, too, so I got some air between the pan and stovetop before the burn registered.

    No worries, though:

    Are you still picturing four hands grabbing a skillet and simultaneously trying to secure an inverted serving plate to it while flipping the whole thing top to bottom?

    I assure you…pure grace.

    Dad helped me flip the second one. We were also successful, although mom is way more intuitive in the kitchen and I wasn’t super articulate that morning. Poor dad. What a game guy, though!

    I mention all this simply because I was struck by the disparity between the enthusiasm I felt making breakfast for my family Christmas Day versus the mess of a breakfast I made for myself this morning…

    The shapes are kind of the same…but, yeah. I made myself a frozen pizza for breakfast today.

    Actual breakfast pizza.

    On the plus side, the third burn I gave myself on Christmas Day – on a friggin‘ crock pot! – is finally healing.

    I used my knuckle to push the crock pot of lil smokies back on the counter. Who knew the outside of that thing was set to “Chernobyl”? I swear, I was in contact with it for maybe two seconds.

    Blister.

    Scab.

    Scar.

    Ugh.

    Hopefully, it heals before my solo self-care cooking makes my heart explode. I’d hate for this blister to give my knuckle a jump start on my cremation…

    Breakfast of Champions

    The Red Shirt Diaries #22

    Vacation Edition.

    Step aside, Myrtle. You’re not the only allegedly domesticated animal that wants to kill me. My brother’s dog, Buster, has a different animal psychosis that may prove equally lethal to my feline frenemy’s efforts at home.

    Alliteratively – definitely not affectionately – called Bastard by yours truly, he’s had nothing but vicious growls and barks for me since the second time we’ve met. How long do you think that takes to become tedious?

    Yeah. Not long.

    He’s vicious sounding, but I’ve never really thought he would intentionally hurt me. My uncle may think otherwise after having his fingers nipped by Bastard the first time they met. I think it was an accident. The damn dog seems pretty hapless in his predatory skills.

    But you know the saying, sometimes even a blind dog finds a bone.

    Still, I do try to maintain a sense of optimism. Well, about people anyway. And since Bastard is my brother’s dog…I give it a shot.

    Our vacation house is a six bedroom affair, two masters down stairs and four bedrooms upstairs that share two Jack and Jill style bathrooms. My uncle and his family are sharing one set of bedrooms and my brother and I are sharing the other with my sister and brother in law.

    And that’s how I died in my mind this morning.

    Because my siblings insist on traveling with their dogs, they lock them in the bedrooms when they are gone so they don’t bug the rest of us. They leave the water bowl in the bathroom between, which I think is wise given the inherent doofiness of dogs.

    However, that works against me when everyone else leaves before I shower for the day. I went into the bathroom to get ready for the day, cheerfully greeting Bastard when he saw me – AKA: growled at me – through my sister’s bedroom door. I also noted that the sister-unit had left two of the drawers on the vanity open while getting herself ready this morning, but really thought nothing of it…it’s just my programming from my days as an Ops Manager in a department store, those Cosmetics Girls were always reporting broken drawers and related leg injuries after running into open drawers full speed.

    Until

    I poked my head into my sister’s room to say hi to her dog, Rex.

    Bastard went crazy and started barking at me until I pulled my head back into the bathroom. Admonishing the insanine – insane + canine = insanine…Chrisism – to knock it off, I realized just in time that I was about to trip backward over the open drawers.

    Near miss.

    Fortunately, a side effect of living with Myrtle is cat-like reflexes. My life has literally depended upon them.

    That could’ve been a blow to the temple or impact trauma that would not have ended well for this Red Shirt. Keeping what was left of my cool, I closed my sister’s bedroom door and the vanity drawers and took my shower, thinking about how mad Myrtle would have been if I let another animal kill me.

    Better luck next time, Bastard.

    The Red Shirt Diaries #22