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

I Should Be…

Sleeping:

It is 2 AM, after all. But I went upstairs after dinner to charge my phone and woke up at about 1 AM. After tossing and turning for a while, I came downstairs to do something productive.

So fat – er, far – I’ve had a bowl of Kettle Chips and a Coke Zero.

Job Hunting?:

My sister asked me a few months back if I’d ever considered expanding my job search to Bend, Oregon versus just waiting for a position in Portland that I want.

Yeah, but now that your kid is getting ready to move there for college, I gotta wait a couple years so it isn’t weird.

I never claimed to be a reasonable person, a non-claim I fully embrace since the State of Oregon rejected my unemployment claim on the grounds that a reasonable person would not quit a job simply because a company failed to enforce its policies from its own employee handbook. Given that measurement, I’d rather be unemployed and unreasonable.

The thing is, now that I’m with the whole fam-damily in nearby Sunriver, all I wanna do is not leave.

Ergo, I should at least see what jobs are available here.

Reading:

I’m about two decades behind – ok…only a month -on my WordPress Reader content. I should be better about that…if only because there’s no easy way to go back a month to the last entry I read.

Scroll, scroll, scrolling I a-go!

Writing:

Yes, I know that I am writing…as a procrastination tool. I’ve got several V.O.D.s that I could be working on cleaning up – particularly one about visiting my cousins when I was young that’s been on my mind this week as I reunite with my family. The entry is about my second cousins, but having my first cousins around this week has pulled me back to it…

There’s also several new blog ideas that I’ve got in draft mode – V.O.D. stands for Very Old Draft, incidentally – that I’m putting off: a lil something about how I’m trading my time for money these days, a piece on Crazy Rich Asians that is morphing into a diversity piece as it sits being neglected and a Dating Into Oblivion update/catch up piece.

Instead, I turned on the fire, read a bit, snacked a bit and jerked this place-holder piece off into the blogosphere…I’m on vacation, after all.

Now, since I opted for caffeine over alcohol with my chips and ergo – won’t be sleeping anytime soon…back to reading!

PS: “ergo” usage count in this blog entry – 2. No, 3!

#lazywriting

I Should Be…

Spice Force

Well, Portland shut down its OccupyICE camp last week.

It was time. Actually, it was over-time. I’d been watching from the sidelines, as is my style, for the last couple of months while Little Beirut did what it does.

Protest.

In many ways, we did good things that made me nod in appreciation. Then there was the OccupyICE movement which started out fine, taking our protests from the streets and parks to the front door of those we protested.

In past years, this has led to marches that shut down freeways and damaged property. That was avoided this time, but I was still disappointed in the evolution of this protest. When I would watch video, the protesters were not behaving in a way that made me proud to be associated with their message. While their actions were not violent or destructive, their words still were.

Shocking no one, words are important to me. Maybe we’ve learned as protesters that actions speak louder than words, but I think our next evolution needs to ensure that our words are matching our non-violent and non-destructive actions.

This was not the case with the OccupyICE protest at the ICE facility in southwest Portland for the last several weeks. Just like the Occupy Wall Street movement from years ago, what started out as a hive of like minded social activists morphed into a homeless camp.

Ironically, the Garden Party I attended over the weekend had two radio hosts at it whose offices were right in the thick of the OccupyICE imbroglio. They echoed my relief that the camp had been shut down. However, while I was relieved that it was shut down and would no longer be a threat to our collective credibility, they were relieved that it was no longer a threat to their personal safety.

We come by our Little Beirut nickname pretty honestly here in Portland…unfortunately.

Meanwhile, though, elsewhere in the city we were staging protests in a much more constructive fashion.

The Silver Fox and I had occasion to mix with folks in our collective front yard last month as they held a rally in the park to protest the separation of immigrant families.

It was extremely peaceful.

It was organized.

It was huge.

The rally was set to take place in front of the former US Customs House on the park block just diagonally across the street from The Fox’s and my homes. It ended up spilling over and filling half of the park block in front of our houses as well as on the other side.

It was a simple enough affair with a good mix of the usual local politicians and activists speaking as well as former military people and just parents spreading their heartfelt message of resistance. There were roving petitioners circulating to garner support for whatever ballot measures they were advocating for and even someone there with resources to help get voters registered…just in case.

But in addition to the words spoken, what was left behind has peacefully influenced passers by in the park blocks for weeks after the rally.

Sidewalk Protests.

The sidewalks around the park blocks as well as the brick paths through the park blocks themselves are covered in chalk. Literally hundreds of messages scribbled out to remind us every day that our government has committed these horrifying acts against immigrant families.

Committed.

Not supported or ignored, committed.

And that’s not ok.

But what’s even heartened my heart more than Portland getting its protest act together has been the activity of a certain business – and namesake inspiration for this post – in recent months.

Penzey’s Spices.

If you talk to business leaders about mixing politics or religion with their businesses, I’m sure you’d get a high 90% of them saying that it’s a bad idea. Indeed, when it comes to politics, most businesses usually play both sides of the fence by donating within the mandated maximums equally to political campaigns.

Then Citizens United happened.

That decision resulted in limitless spending by corporations to advance their agendas and support their interests. Obviously, this benefits Oil and Pharma more than retail business interests. Corporate spending follows those same divisions with retailers having little to no interest in changing their political spending, for the most part.

However, Penzey’s has done better than just doing what they’ve always done. They went out on a branch and literally risked putting their money where their mouth is. In recent months, their email marketing – written by Bill Penzey himself – has flat out declared its opposition to the actions of our government. Specifically calling out the Republican – Ratpublican – Party for its continued endorsement of Trump’s actions, whether it’s open approval or tacit through lack of condemnation.

Their stance is simple. They are a spice company and spices are used in the most basic demonstration of familial bonding – meal prep. Therefore, it follows that keeping families together would be a natural interest for them to endorse.

Boy, howdy…have they ever!

The picture above is a giveaway they did back in April. It was a shareable promotion for their email followers. Sallory – who lives way out of town- asked The Fox to pick hers up. He then signed up for their email list and invited me to go with him. Of course, if I’m walking four blocks, I want the free gift, too!

I’ve shopped at Penzey’s off and on for the last decade or so since they opened their Seattle store. I was living with a culinary student and working at Sur la Table, of course I’m going to a spice store! When I moved back to Portland, I just happened to end up living practically around the corner from their store. When I need something for my turn cooking for Monday Night Supper Club, I hustle over to Penzey’s. When it’s not my turn for MNSC, I usually go over to buy something to sprinkle on my popcorn…I cook for other people, not myself.

But I’d never signed up for their email list.

Boy, was I missing out!

Not only do they have great promotions, the free giveaway actually had laminated recipe cards in it with ideas for using the free spices, but the emails themselves are inspirational.

Bill’s words have actually motivated me to nurture my own spirit through cooking…just for me. As a person who famously hates leftovers, that’s really something. I have always enjoyed comfort food leftovers. Lately I’ve been reminded that all food can be a comfort.

In today’s US of Hey, How The Hell Did This Happen we can use all the comfort we can get.

And for Penzey’s their stance is paying off. Their words encourage resistance with a reminder of what values are core and important…people are important. We are urged to take care of people versus interests through their occasional emails. I can only imagine that their subscription list has swollen considerably in the first quarters of this year. They ran out of the April giveaway within hours of opening and their online fulfillment wasn’t far behind in being depleted.

Instead of pulling out the whole “while supplies last” chestnut, they fulfilled every last online order and store raincheck they had. The same thing happened earlier this month, even though they had significantly increased their on hands for their next promotion. I think they even put a minimal purchase requirement on the second promotion…like $5.

After both events you didn’t hear from them for several weeks while they caught up with orders. Sure, that’s what it’s all about, right? They’re a business. Marketing – especially with a giveaway – costs money.

But I can’t tell you how happy I am to get an email from a company that bravely stands up and says “This Is Wrong” to its customers that reinforces the fact that Americans vote.

Even if it’s just with their dollars. I’m glad that the rewards justify the risk and horrified that I just acknowledged that a company supporting an obvious truth – families should not be separated by government – was a risk. Their business has increased 80-fold.

That’s not 80%, it’s 80 times better year over year.

To illustrate:

An 80% increase on $100 in sales equates to $180.

An 80-fold increase on $100 in sales results in $8000 in sales.

Nurturing people is good business.

Facilitating a place – mealtime in this case – where people and families can come together to discuss what’s happening in life and the world is good for people, regardless of culture. But right now, America needs that safe place to talk.

Spice Force

Xtopher’s Rib

This here, ladies and gentlemen and all-gendered readers, is the oldest draft I presently own.

May 24, 2016…if you’re curious.

It’s been back on my mind because of my commitment to wrap up my open gay-jacent writing projects during Pride month. Also, Rib graduated Flight Attendant College last week and this was his first full week working as a Flight Attendant.

I sent him a text when I realized he had finished the 8 week course, which seemed to go on forever from where I witnessed it. I wonder what it felt like to him…although his occasional social media updates suggested he enjoyed his time there.

His response was, “Thanks, Dad!”

Classic Rib.

I should note that Rib actually provided his own blog identity after briefly wanting to change his name to Rib during Culinary School.

It is a name that has stuck with him, at least with my friends. The Silver Fox spied this restaurant on a trip through Spain and Portugal and demanded I forward it to Rib.

I initially started this post after I participated in a Writing Workshop that the original Fabulous Baker Sister had suggested to me.  It was my first such experience and I found that my ex had been a topic that came to mind during a couple of the assigned exercises.

Not knowing what to expect of the workshop, I arrived just the slightest bit anxious.  Also, the teensiest buzzed thanks to a spontaneous happy hour with my parents.  I love my mom and dad. The pre-funk helped me relax into the exercises.

I had been thinking about what – or if – to write about that experience.  It was really amazing.  There were four exercises we did and two of them had ended up involving the best of my ex boyfriends.  Later in this same week, he moved into his first home with his partner, so he’d kind of been center stage in my consciousness for several days around the week of the workshop.

Regardless of how readily he sprung to mind after the prompts given at the Writing Workshop, the blog entry kind of stalled.

Limbo.

Truth be told, I had actually started this draft the year before the date I quoted earlier…that was just the most recent edit.

The summer before, Rib and his boyfriend had come down for a spontaneous visit. I think it was near the end of Summer. They live in Seattle and had been to dinner at one of Rib’s former classmates from Culinary School. She lived in Olympia and when I got the call, he said that they had decided to pop down to Portland since they were so close.

Ok

Seriously, though, that type of spontaneity in a relationship is just fun.

They checked into their hotel and then popped over for a nightcap. We may have gone out for a Spanish Coffee at Huber’s that night because that’s what you do with out of town guests in Portland.

It was a fun evening, connecting with them as an actual couple, like adults. I admit that when we all lived in Seattle and ended up together, I’d recreationally by the boyfriend shots just because I knew how he suffered the next day.

To his credit, he was at least a willing sport, borderline good sport about it.

The day after their surprise visit, we went wine tasting in the valley. They had just bought a humongous orange Jeep. I was kind of jealous, never having really gotten over getting rid of my own Jeep at Sacha’s urging back in ’02. He hated it, granted it was a piece of shit…but the boys’ Jeep was certainly enviable.

We hit three different wineries and had a wonderful afternoon tasting at the different estates, two of which were simply breathtaking. I can’t believe I don’t have pics from that day at my fingertips…checkout my last post for a little insight as to how those might have gone missing.

Anyway, after the Writing Workshop, I was all jazzed up to share my Rib relationship story. Then I saw an article in the Huffington Post suggesting that people who were friends with their exes were either narcissists or psychopaths.

Great.

Here I was, 45-plus years on, feeling proud to finally have an ex that I was able to remain friends with. I’m off brand for friendship with Sacha. The Mulligan has the bad manners to die.

So, yeah, no pressure, Xtopher…but I felt Rib was my one last shot at exercising the concept of actually maintaining a post-relationship relationship with an ex.

You see, here’s the deal, Rib and I were never supposed to date, anyway.

We’d met in a bar one night when I wandered out for a solo beer in Seattle, as was my weekday ritual. There was this ginger nugget of a guy siting at the corner, right near where I ordered my beer.

We chatted while I waited to be served, so I ended up sitting next to him. Rib was sitting around the corner of the bar and occasionally interjected during our conversation.

Sassy.

He eventually drove the other guy away. As I watched him leave, I realized that he was actually meeting the bartender, Rock, at the door and they left together.

Glad I could help pass the time. Hehe.

Then it was just Rib and me. He’d still blurt out random conversation as I sipped. Eventually, I realized that hidden by his hedgehog hairstyle were earbuds.

“You’re listening to your own music?!?”, I said realizing now why his additions to my earlier conversation had seemed so erratic, they had come as he overheard our conversation between songs.

Seems he didn’t appreciate the bar’s music. When I asked why he didn’t go to a bar that was more his style, he admitted that the bartender gave him free drinks here.

“The one that just left with the guy I was talking to?”

We chatted a little more, learning that he’d only been in town for a few weeks, having moved from SoCal. He liked it ok, but had not yet adjusted to how hilly it was, gesturing to his feet, where there was a large pair of high laced combat style boots.

Apparently, they were pretty heavy to lug around, especially after a few drinks. He admitted to having fallen just recently and blamed the terrain.

It was cute.

He ended up coming home with me that night – nothing happened, you pervs! I’d gotten him – with Rock’s help – a little too relaxed to safely haul his boots home.

Interestingly, and DP will tell me that he told me so, he never really left after that first night. DP’s relationship philosophy, as he’d described it to me once, was that you meet someone and take them home…they either never leave or you never see them again.

It’s admittedly jaded, but also truer than I’d like to admit.

However, while Rib was right up my alley as far as my tastes in guys go; I wasn’t ready to blindly accept DP’s sage dating advice at face value.

Over the coming days, I learned that Rib had chosen Seattle because his sister lived here and he’d wanted to get out of his mom’s house and onto his own two feet without totally forfeiting an actual safety net.

Made sense.

In SoCal, he’d gone to college for a while and then dropped out and moved back into his mom’s house. For the time before deciding to move, he’d been taking care of the family cats and cooking meals for his mom while she worked.

I asked what he was doing since getting to Seattle.

“Oh, y’know…taking care of my sister’s dog while she works and cooking dinner for her”

“Good thing you got out from under your mom’s skirts”, I joked.

Obviously, we weren’t a good match. I’m grumpy old me and he was just this endearing Lost Boy. I told him that and when he asked why, I told him that I expected a boyfriend to have a job.

Dating younger guys, I hardly expected them to have similar professional accomplishments, but I expected them to at least be working toward something.

Thinking that was that, I was surprised that he went out and got an interview at a local candy shop-slash-tourist trap.

Go, Rib!

Ok, that was kind of impressive and before you know it, we’re six months in.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. We’d have talks about serious stuff – how to continue his upward trajectory toward being an adult – that would end in big, slow rolling tears. It was strange to navigate those talks. They usually started with a Rib mini-tantrum, something like him hating his job.

He’d just blurt out, “I hate it! I’m quitting!”

I’d counter with something like what he hated about it and he’d yell “Everything!” or complain that he didn’t get paid enough for what they expected him to do. He’d eventually settle down and pull his knees up to his chin as he gained an understanding of what he was struggling with, arriving at the realization that he needed to be able to stick it out at a job he “hated” until he found something else.

He didn’t like it, but he understood it.

My rule of thumb when dating younger guys has always been “leave ’em better than you found ’em”. Rib surprised me by being pretty open to the perspective I had to offer – despite occasional tough conversations like I described above – when he encountered challenges, either at work or just in getting his feet under him in a new city.

Like I said, he’d grown frustrated with his job and somehow – I think through another co-worker – gotten hooked up as waitstaff for the private club behind my condo.

It was a challenging job jump because it was a pretty exclusive, high touch club. But he took to it.

He really got excited about the environment, from learning about high end wine to serving in a fine dining environment.

At some point in those first years we were together, education came up. I’m not sure how. Probably, I was a bossy jerk about him completing a degree.

Given his enthusiasm for cooking – for his mom, then his sister and now me – and food in general from his experience at the club, he was thinking about Culinary School.

It made sense, too. The boy was a complete geek whenever he came to my kitchen store. His passion and enthusiasm were obvious and my team loved seeing him pop into the shop to explore or take a class. Soon enough, we were having Thanksgiving dinners at the condo with his mom and aunts visiting from SoCal and the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico.

Rib actually managed to complete his culinary degree debt free because of his Native American heritage. It was a big plus for him an took a lot of the stress out of his decision to finish his education.

His graduation was a big deal, as it should be. It was shortly after his Chef of the Day project. His mom came up from SoCal, his Seattle-sister was there, obviously, and my parents and sister drove up from Portland in what turned out to be the winter storm of the century. It had turned their three to four hour drive into a nine-plus hour affair.

Luckily, Rib went all out for his CoD and the menu included baby octopus. Prepared as obvious octopus. Everyone forgot the travel journey and seems to only remember that. But in having so much of our respective families present, it really felt like a family affair.

After graduation, he floundered. What he’d realized in college was that he didn’t want to be a cook.

Ok

When pressed during conversations about it, he’d articulate how he wanted to use his education to be able to design menus, but he was getting more and more interested in the front of the house experience he was picking up at the club.

His boss at the club ended up connecting him to a restaurant in Pike Place Market. It was fine dining and Rib was pretty excited about the change. It ended up being a good change for him. He was working part time hours and with the tips he earned he was making high $40k a year.

Waiting tables.

I was a little jealous!

This Lost Boy that I’d picked up in a bar a scant few years earlier that had had no job or inclination was now a college grad and making a respectable living for himself.

I was proud of him.

Even not realizing what was ahead for us.

Oooooh, foreshadowing!

So…right, even with all this growth, the boy still had quite a bratty streak in him. It was a constant in his personality and part of what I loved about him, but occasionally he’d take it too far.

Frequently, we’d be out with friends and – depending on the situation – he’d get bored because my friends did boring “old people” stuff and he wanted to dance and carry on or we’d do stuff with his friend and I was too much of an “Oldie Hawn”. We each enjoyed the others friends, but when he wasn’t into it, it could really get stressful.

It was on one of these nights out, us and DP, where I don’t remember what exactly was going on, but he wasn’t enjoying it.

Oddly, we were headed to his favorite late night food spot for some pozole, but he was still not having it. He was literally dragging his feet and bitching from a half a block behind us about how lame we were.

It was then that I realized that for all of his growth, this was as far as he was going to grow with me. I sent him home and went to dinner with DP.

I don’t know what he did when he left, but he was home when I got there, sitting on the floor somewhere between a pout and guilt. I told him that his behavior was unacceptable.

He knew, he flashed a couple of those big, sad, trauma tears and I told him we should break up. I could see that he was maxed out on growth, having taken a big step in moving from SoCal to Seattle, but he hadn’t really given up the security of having someone else in his move from Mom to sister to me. My thinking was that until he had to really bear the burden of his own responsibilities, this was as close as he was going to come to becoming his own man.

It was a super hard conversation. Flashing through my mind as it was happening was another conversation. We’d run into a friend of mine at The Cuff and he was chiding me about Rib being so young. This was early in our relationship, they were just meeting for the first time. In response to his trading, I’d said, “What? He’ll be 30 before I turn 50!”

It earned me a laugh and an eye roll at the time, but in breaking up with Rib it was playing in my mind as I admitted to myself that this could be the last relationship of my life.

I know…so dramatic.

Still, I knew that Rib would eventually get bored stagnating in this almost state. He’d come to this same conclusion eventually, then he’d leave me. Whether it was six months or six years later, I was certain it would happen and then I’d resent him. I’d react indignantly and overemphasize the sacrifice of my leveraged happiness that I’d made by selfishly staying with him.

Y’know, like I did with Sacha.

It took me a long time to get over my anger at him for leaving me. Part of that was the way that he’d left me, the other part was jealousy that he’d had the balls to leave me when I’d stayed with him out of fear of being single at the time.

So, I knew what I was talking about in this situation.

We set up a timeline for finding him his own place and within a few weeks, he was looking at furniture and settling in. I sent a lot of good kitchen stuff with him that we’d accumulated over the years together, but I knew that he’d get better use out of it than me.

His sister – unhelpfully – set him up on a date about three weeks after he moved out. She’s a serial dater, so I wasn’t surprised. However, I thought he really needed time to get to know himself as an individual before really dating again.

That disagreement – and Rib’s subsequent sudden new boyfriend – caused me to lay down a six month embargo on contact.

I needed time to heal and adjust myself.

Well, not “adjust myself”…y’know, just get an answer to “Who is single Xtopher?”

At the end of that timeframe, we found ourselves drawn together on occasion. Sometimes randomly, running into each other at a bar, cue shots for the boyfriend! Others, I’d get a request for a solo lunch date and we’d talk about struggles: work, boyfriend, what have you.

The boys still come to town – not enough in my opinion – and I’m happy to let them treat me to a $300 dinner…has anyone seen my pride? Usually, though, I see them pop up on social media. It’s a pleasant vicarious surprise, seeing them post from Flushing Meadows or Australia as they attend an Open. A sudden trip to Germany with the fam for Oktoberfest.

I’m glad to see him thriving with his new boyfriend. Now, particularly seeing him become a flight attendant after trying to get into the program for three years. That was something that came up seemingly out of nowhere, but he didn’t let the first two experiences discourage him.

And now he’s done it.

Anyway, I can’t think of a better way to wrap up Pride month than completing a project about a person I was lucky enough to spend some time with and am privileged enough to still be a part of his life, albeit just as a friendly little narcissistic and/or psychopathic sliver.

Right, HuffPo?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go be alone forever.

<dramatic sniff>

Xtopher’s Rib

Portland Pride

I said I wasn’t going to go.

I wasn’t in the mood, borderline depressed.

It’s not my crowd, I’m too old.

It’s not safe, why put myself in a place where I’m a potential target?

My “Pride” body is in mothballs.

I went.

…and came away friggin’ renewed!

Don’t get me wrong, when I first showed up, I was mad. Since this outfit sets up in and around the North Park Blocks, I’m immersed in the Pride parade going-ons.

Even the day of, I left my house and went to my coffee shop for my morning joe, coming out my front door when it was just early bird parade prep stragglers.

I was convinced that sitting in my coffee shop perch would be the extent of my participation. However, as I watched the Park Blocks populate from straggler-status to party-mode, I kinda got inspired.

Then I left the cafe and went home.

Ugh…so people-y.

I sat on my couch and booted around the interwebs and the Netflix for a while before convincing myself around 11:30 to just go watch the Dykes on Bikes. They always kick off the parade and their ability to get the crowd pumped in a great boost.

The parade started at 11 this year.

C’mon!

I’d missed the Dykes.

But there I was, in the same spot I always occupied when I went to the parade. Standing on the edge of the parking lot across from the former Embers. Sun beating down from directly over me and radiating up at me from the asphalt I was standing on.

Convection Cooked Xtopher.

I missed the opportunity to go across the street for a quick beer to cool off. During other Portland Pride parades, I was amazed to walk into Embers during the parade and see how nut-to-butt packed it was. Post-standing-room-only, whereas I usually felt like I was the only non-homeless, non-employee, not wearing a dress patron there. But as everyone else waited in their best guess as to where a line was for the bar, I could usually count on standing still and getting a beer handed to me.

Ah, the occasional perks of being a regular.

I’d only been at the parade for 15 minutes, but could already feel myself deciding to stay. The frustration at missing the opening act was wearing off. And even though I couldn’t wander across the street for a beer, Portland’s local pubs had floats that at least refreshed me with the idea of a beer.

It was fun – as usual – to see the local businesses participating in this show of community. Not too long ago, these parades were really just processions of floats with go-go boys from the local bars, support organizations for our community and the occasional business from a city’s Gay District. It really reinforced the theme for the parade.

While “LOVE” is indeed the word, the participation by these businesses demonstrated that love is a word with many definitions. Obviously, for the parade overall, romantic and familial love was the primary meaning, but this participation by the community reinforced the less specific, global definition of the word.

They loved us.

Because love is also simply about a degree of acceptance. Taking the whole – don’t make it dirty, Diezel – good, bad or ugly.

Even our sports teams got in on it. Naturally, there were the local gay teams, like the gay soccer league team. But seeing our Blazer organization representing, that felt good for some reason. Not that I’m a sports fan or participant. But maybe because I’m not…having spent much of my youth feeling ostracized from my peer group because I didn’t have a head – or physical aptitude – for sports.

Of course, not everyone loves “us”. I had decided to make my way from my perch toward the head of Broadway.

This year’s Pride haps were pre-marred by the ominous yet vague threat that alt-right Proud Boys would be lurking outside Pride sponsored events to harass attendees as they left. Basically – Pride being an unapologetic party – they were openly declaring that they were gonna beat up drunk gays.

Proud Boys ruining Pride.

I can see why they’re so proud.

There were a couple of dust ups in the week leading to Pride weekend – most notably, three guys pulling their small penis mobile over on Broadway in broad daylight to beat up a gay – or at least gay enough looking – guy.

Profile much?

But that still lent credibility to their menacing promise. It kept me in. Maybe that was their real purpose.

Still, I was happy to hear about increased security, including the Portland Police, at Pride functions. For the second time in the years since the Pulse massacre, I was glad to see the parade head at Broadway and Burnside blockaded against vehicles.

Two heavy duty dump trucks were there to prevent any vehicular menace. A sad statement to have to make, but heaven forbid these alt-right people read a newspaper and figure out what terrorism in Europe is looking like these days.

Of course, dump trucks keep out cars and whatnot. But not all of the refuse.

As always, the “God Hates Fags” crowd was there. I think they really did a great job of rallying the three remaining members of their hate group for the parade.

My photography leaves a bit to be desired, but it really was three guys, two signs and a bullhorn.

They really weren’t a match for the horns and sirens of every emergency service provider in the Portland area, who blasted them and drowned their hate-speak out as their vehicles rounded the corner of the parade route.

Do you see the vehicle ID on that ambulance?

Awesome!

Eventually, the haters gave up. More accurately, they probably moved down to the waterfront festival ahead of the parade’s end so that they could be ready to assault the crowd as they entered the festival after the parade. I don’t know who writes their stuff, but what I heard in between siren blasts makes me suspect one of their group is a self-hating homo.

“Instead of getting down on your knees to suck dick, you should get down an pray to God!”

“God hates you, you cum gurgling homo!”

…hearing them was really starting to make me feel proud to be a part of a community that has an annual party to promote love.

Surprisingly, dovetailing nicely on that feeling were at least a dozen religious groups sending delegations to march. Usually, I expect the MCC to be there since it’s “the gay church”. This year, though, I really noticed the participants from other religious denominations.

Because it really reinforced that with mutual love and respect for one another, we are all taking part in a global community and by extension, family.

I swear those balloons spell out “FAMILY”. A nice throwback to the Marriage Equality slogan, “Love makes a family”.

I decided to keep moving backward along the parade route to short-hand the remaining floats in the procession. Partially because this was turning into an all day event for me when I’d originally committed to viewing one entry. Notice how ungrumpy I’m seeming as I write? The same was also happening in real time as I watched the parade.

Catharsis!

I also wanted to head back toward my coffee house to see if they were still open. Normally, they are closed on Sundays. From what I’d witnessed earlier in the day, today was looking to shape up as one of their best days ever. I like seeing my local businesses thrive…even if a constant line to the door means I might not get a timely refill on my cold brew coffee.

Remember what I said about being a regular at my neighborhood gay bar? Yeah…well, it worked with coffee, too! The Fox had joined late, not believing the cafe would be open. He’d walked in – amazed – to a line to the door. Liz set him up with a cup, but was so busy that he didn’t get a chance to pay until the next day. It’s these local businesses with such good people working there and investing their personalities in the community they serve – these relationships – that I want to see thrive. I’m proud to be their customer.

Even still, it’s nice to see big business participate, too. Nike, Adidas, T-Mobile, even Wells Fargo…despite the road apples their crew didn’t manage to get entirely removed! It was odd that a few companies were conspicuously absent from prior years: Macy’s and Alaska Airlines being a couple of the standouts.

Maybe I just missed them, but then again…they do set up right in my front yard. Macy’s kind of makes sense, having shuttered their downtown store this past year. But Alaska would be a strange absence, given that they are a local PNW company.

But none of that is actually why I brought up the big business participation.

In order for these large companies to have a delegation in the parade to represent them, they’ve got to have employees that want to represent them. These global behemoths like Nike and Adidas, for instance. Sure, they both have Portland World Headquarters, but internally they have an environment of inclusion…specifically for their LGBT+ employees. That effort to make their employees more than just a minion helps them to attract and retain good talent.

But it also gives me hope that no matter how big the company, they are striving toward that scrappy small business value of their individuals being what drives their local success, like my friends that work at my favorite caffienation and inebriation stations.

By this time, I’d actually made my way back to the corner that f&b is on just in time to see the final floats heading into the route. Led by the Human Rights Campaign and Portland’s own Gay Beards, whose procession had a ball playing red rover under their huge flag.

Not to be too Portland about it, but the Witches Against Capitalism were well represented. As was our local Rocky Horror Picture Show enthusiasts…whose group presented zero g-rated picture opportunities, so enjoy the witches.From witches to Red Dress…I’d have a tough time finding a dress for the actual Red Dress Party – although I don’t since I’m not a size 12 anymore. These guys trotted out a dress for the Pride Parade…and you know they can’t wear the same dress twice!

That’s commitment.Sure, let’s have a float for sex workers, too.

Actually, while I don’t disagree with their sign – that looks like it was made at breakfast and they just spontaneously decided to be in the parade over brunch – the reason I’m including these pics is two-fold:

A) there is a guy dressed as Deadpool wearing a straw hat right behind that blue tutu…WTF? Like I’d put it past Ryan Reynolds to show up for a random Pride parade appearance.B) I’ve had a “real” job my whole life…where’s my fucking boat?!?

Maybe I need to re-examine my vocational trajectory.

Oops…maybe that ship has sailed. (See what I did there?)

Then there’s random unicycle dude outfitted in pink and pulling a bike trailer with a giant “?” on it as if to say, “I don’t even know what I’m doing here…”

But that pink curly thing? Not a tail on his costume…it’s a whip.

If only I had a good action shot of it.Which brings us to the end of the parade. Since Dykes on Bikes open the procession, it seems only fair that’ll white guys on motorcycles finish things off, right?

Call it Dawgs on Hawgs…

Luckily, my backward moseying had brought me back to Big Legrowlski.

And this adorable little fella!

I was actually pretty parched, so I stopped in for just one.

Good old Silver Fox joined me for a second round.

Then Liz and the f&b crew stopped in for a quickie to cap off a huge day of business for their cafe. I had to stay and help celebrate that success!

Right?!?

The Fox being the reasonable person he is chose to duck out at this juncture. That turned out to be a good call since moments later – swigs later? – the gorgeous 80 degree day gave way to a biblical friggin’ rain storm.

Drops the size of my head.

Thunder!

I decided to wait it out. Unfortunately, the only rain break was awkwardly situated in the middle of a beer.

What’s an out of date Frat Boy to do?

Me, being the optimist that I am, stayed and drank until I’d hit six. Then I began to wonder in those God Hates Fags guys were right and worry that a flood was coming.

Not really.

But it was getting on to Mistress Myrtle’s feeding time. I asked Alex if she had any lost and found umbrellas. She jokingly provided me with this

which I proudly escorted back to my place while wondering how a bar ends up with a child’s umbrella.

The days that followed Pride have been fun exercises in immediate nostalgia. One of the best things about Portland Pride is that it’s always in the middle of Pride month – the worst thing is that it’s on Father’s Day. What this means is that we have a lot of pre-Pride festivities to warm us up and that we still have two weeks left in Pride month.

It’s like foreplay and afterglow.

My favorite part of this reality is that I have little reminders of Pride – like glitter all over the road in front of my home or this sticker I saw yesterday in front of Powell’s.

This whole surprise Pride participation has been just what my waning sense of self-pride needed.

Gay-men to that!

It was just the necessary kick in the butt to stop feeling worthless in my unemployed-ness and get my ass off the couch and back into the land of the living. More of that to follow!

Love and pizza, yo!

Portland Pride

TransDating: Part I

Sooooo…The Facebook, right?

Coming through for me the other (early) morning when I couldn’t sleep. I was scrolling through my newsfeed, I had probably cruised through the previous 36 hours worth of newsfeed-algorithm-worthy posts when I happened upon the “People You Might Know” feature.

Probably, this is where the ZuckerDrones are looking out for me, “thinking” this is what usually makes him throw his phone down in disgust so I could get back to sleep. Little do they (or DO they?!?) know that I usually at least look at the top recommendations before throwing my phone down in the aforementioned disgust.

Today, though, today…I’ve clearly got time. It’s 5-ish am, I’ve been scrolling for 45 minutes, “Why not see who the Facebook thinks I should know?” I think, before doing a deep dive.

I was a good 10 minutes into the PYMK section when I saw it.

Ok, given the name of this post, that was a poorly chosen pronoun due to the ease of exploitation that “it” allows. Well, exploit it for humor, we got no problems…we’re obviously chums for a reason. Exploit it for its vaguely gender-vague crime-worthiness and, well, you can fuck right off and then keep on humping.

Because, what I saw was a “who” that I crushed all the way out on while I was working at the airport.

One of the Fabulous Baker Girls has probably already used her super sleuthy skills to figure out who I’m talking about, she’s that good.

For the rest of you…this is a person I used to see a couple times a week because he managed a store out at PDX while I worked there. Still does, if the Facebook is to be believed.

And, believable or not, the Facebook was giving me the profile of a super sexy fella to scroll through as I debated “friending” him.

If he’d remember me or accept said friend request…TBD.

As I scrolled, I was rewarded with those validating pics young folks post…showcasing their natural gifts and/or the fruits of their gym labors.

Oh, right. I forgot there was also significant tattoo-age. They were all spelled correctly, so the attraction was preserved.

What it took me a few extra minutes of scrolling to realize was that the muscle definition and tattoos both served to draw the eye away from some very artfully concealed scars…of the double mastectomy variety.

Well, shit-fuck-damn.

I’ve always held young people unreasonably accountable to having a better physique than I, however…where gender reassignment is involved, I give a hall pass.

Does that seem fair?

Well, I don’t care. Ask your mother if life is supposed to be fair.

Back to me.

Trans-folk get a hall pass on body stuff because they are fighting an uphill battle. Whereas young cis men have hormones helping their physical accomplishments, trans-folk have what are likely the wrong hormones working against whatever correct hormones they may be pumping into their bodies. It results in a battle of science vs nature toward physically expressing their true selves.

I’m not judging that.

No way, no how.

Plus, in the case of this fine fella, and I’m sure many trans-men…should they put their minds to it, they could kick my ass twice before I knew the first ass whooping was happening. I’m smart enough to not make enemies, let alone enemies that could actually harm my favorite person.

But my trans hall pass has always expired where the appreciation of their physical accomplishments meets the reality of my Kinsey 6 sexuality. Top surgery and potentially hormone assisted physical accomplishments aside, at the end of the day I can’t get my old school homosexuality around the “beaver in my bed” scenario. I’m an ass man, through and through…but frontside foreplay is still a part of the routine, because…well, because it is.

Enter Anachronistic Xtopher.

It’s been a decade long entrance, in case you thought this was a fresh struggle.

You see, when I moved to Seattle back in ’06, I spent more than my fair share of time getting to know my new bevy of gay bars slash neighborhood watering holes. I really loved all of them. Little did I know that a lot of this euphoric experience was relative to me being fresh meat (at goddamned 40 years of age) in a relatively small dating pool’s bar scene.

Still, by ’08, I was well past that…the blush was off the proverbial lily.

It was then that I’d found myself out for a weeknight wee bit.

<Interior: The Cuff, upper bar…because they don’t bother opening the lower dance and patio bars on a goddamned Tuesday>

I’m swilling quietly, minding my own obliviousness at the end of the bar, when a brick shithouse of a dude in all his construction worker drag walks in, sits down by me and orders a beer.

Now, we all know where this is heading, because: title spoilers, but suspend your disbelief.

Jesus. Rough crowd.

I’m sitting there thinking, “Sure, on a four-sided bar, this is the only place to sit where you won’t have an unwelcome crowd form around you”.

It’s also a Tuesday, so crowds would be a no.

It’s also the side of the bar furthest the door.

Ergo: it’s also the only side of the bar that you have to pass all three of the other (service) sides of the bar to get to.

All of this conspires to convince me that this placement is intentional…for whatever reason.

Nevertheless, there was a beer or two of conversational foreplay before I trot out this gem, “How does it feel to be the best looking guy in this dump?”

“Well, it is a Tuesday…but still pretty damned ok”, he says, laughing.

“I was gonna offer to get your next beer, but as the second best looking guy in the bar, I realize that puts you in a tough place.”

“Drink up. I got this one, since you look smart enough to not waste your aspirations for bar dominations on a Tuesday night. But you’re definitely on the hook for the next one!”

“Thank god this isn’t a Wednesday”, I reply, thinking that this guy’s humor is right in line with mine. I’d love to have an equal in sass…not as easy as one might think since you have to factor overall disposition into the equation. I don’t mind an overly queeny sense of sass near as much as I’d run away from or flat out fail to appreciate a guy with hard up bro-sass.

That struggle? REAL.

Anyway, we chatted a bit about what afforded us the luxury of drinking on a Tuesday night in a bar people only cared about on the weekends. Some other stuff. He was a lot of fun to talk with, truth be told.

Comfortable.

Easy.

However, on beer four – my fifth, just to be completely honest – he disclosed that he was FTM (female to male, for the uninitiated). Now, sexually, my heretofore growing chub lost volume…for previously mentioned Kinsey 6 reasons.

Still

I was really enjoying this guy’s company. Obviously, having lived in Shittatle for two years and still finding myself drinking alone on a Tuesday night, I was in need of friends. If our schedules aligned to allow a regular social coalescence…that’s a good ROI on my Tuesday night of drinking.

Right?

Well, I never heard from him again, so fuck me. What are ya gonna do though? This person was – after two years in Seattle – literally within the first six people I’d given my number to.

He didn’t use it.

It’s been 10 years since that eye-opener of a night. But in a decade, I have realized that easily navigated complexities sometimes only end up being precursors to significantly more complex situations. Situations whose ramifications extend way further than the least crowded side of a four sided bar on the least crowded night of the week.

Well, when I put it that way, my ’08 encounter seems…easy. But, trust me…it wasn’t.

Not in the moment.

Reductively, it’s choosing between clams and sausage on the sexual menu. But in reality, clams vs sausage is an argument that a very, legitimately very small percentage of our population known as bisexual ever actually engages in. For the rest of us, that sexual argument is rarely ever brought front and center on a casual night of drinking. For me, dropping my pole in a decidedly gay watering hole for a drink generally results in “I got a drink” at best and “top or bottom?” in an unexpected better than best at the worst.

Having to navigate original plumbing in this fishing hole scenario made me think cats were my future.

Don’t worry, Myrtle has made me realize there’s no love to be found in a truly hopeless place.

Which is pretty much where I was earlier this year when I ended up chatting with Liz at my local caffeination station about proper gender pronoun usage. It was one of those conversations where I not only felt relief that I wasn’t the only person confused by what pronouns were socially acceptable for everyday polite usage, but also a conversation that left me thinking, “Nah, you should stay at home forever” once I realized that if a multi-unit coffee shop manager easily ten years my junior in goddamned Portland, Oregon can’t figure it out then I had – really – no hope.

Like, literally zero chance.

She was referencing customers – well, a specific customer – and in talking about them, acknowledged her confusion about correct pronoun usage.

Why?

Because she was using them – a pronoun heretofore used in a plural sense – to reference an individual. It made things…complex. And not just conversationally.

We each acknowledged the pronoun struggle by way of clarifying the actual object of her statements.

Why is this a big deal?

Well, let’s jump back to my awkward night at The Cuff. What if I happened to take my spontaneous drinking buddy’s bathroom break as a moment to confide in the bartender?

“Close me out, I think I’m gonna take him back to my place.”

Yeah, that’s how early 21st century conversation looked.

Ah, the simplicity of the aughts. We’re in the teens now, though.

Fuck simplicity.

Nowadays, I’d have to say, “Close me out, I’m taking them back to my place for a night cap.” Of course, I’m referencing an individual while using a plural pronoun…this is confusing!

Not to mention, unsafe.

Sure, we’re a decade back for this example. Nonetheless, what if this happened while I was talking to someone that the bartender knew to have a chain smoking boyfriend that never made it into the bar? I suddenly end up looking way cooler than I ever was in my original 40s. But I also end up probably equal parts likely to have an unplanned three way as I end up being rolled by an unexpected third or beaten up by a jealous, unknown boyfriend.

There’s a lot of downside to these vague, politically correct repurposing of existing pronouns.

But, by all means…let’s put personal safety aside for recreational contrariness of a sexual minority. Whatever happened to the pre-turn-of-the-century s/him for men veiled in feminine dress?

Was that so offensive, somehow?

My money is on the difficulty in creating the gender appropriate version of a pronoun for a woman out and about with her masculine flag flying. I’ve been semi-thinking about this for over a decade. What would that new pronoun be?

I think that – in a very weird turn of events in gay-phobic America in the second decade of a new millennia – that an inverse Crying Game scenario based on gender appropriate pronoun confusion would create a larger kerfluffle than Jaye Davidson could ever imagine.

That said

Of course I get a text from Diezel a few weeks ago asking if I’d ever date a FTM guy.

<eyeroll> “Why is life so hard?!?” – Me

Still, since I adore Diezel and also kinda try – as long as it doesn’t put me out too terribly much – to be a good friend, we chatted a bit about it. I knew this wasn’t one of those random questions, rather one borne of a specific circumstance – this wasn’t a random Monday Night Supper Club conversational topic like Intersectionality was – after all.

But our little chat took us through this whole decade-long arc of mine.

In mere moments…

The crux being, “What’s the point of plumbing, anyway?”

Honestly, for me, in about ten minutes…nothing. I think we get to a point where the sex is secondary to the connection.

Sexondary – Chrisism!

But as humans, as sexual beings…that secondary connection doesn’t happen until the sexual connection is either satisfied or mitigated. There’s a simple statement. Mitigating that sexual connection is simple…give it a few decades, then who cares?

BOTH OF YOU! That’s who. Since you’ve now both lived through a relationship where neither of you got your rocks off. Obviously, that scenario doesn’t necessarily or easily work. However, it might work if you’re in a post-sexual time of life.

Mind you, I’m <cough> in my sixth decade and my best friend is in his seventh…not sure when sexual compatibility moves to the back burner. But, goddamnit…I hope that this is a thing. Maybe these much maligned – at least in this blog – millennials will figure it out, this sexual conundrum.

<belly laugh interlude>

Better? Maybe you need another minute…

How’s it going? Oh, still wheezing?

Walk it off.

Focus on taking deep breaths through your nose, out through the mouth.

Sometimes Millennials figure things out!

Oh, gawd. It’s gotten worse!

I really feel like I should apologize. I’ll try and warn you before I say something like that next time.

Ultimately, I decided the friend request that motivated this whole blog-thought-exercise was a bad idea, since my desire to know him was initially sexually motivated. That seemed like a recipe for butt-hurted-ness…somehow.

So, for now? I’m leaving it with “I don’t know”. But I’m still thinking about it and trying to work my way through it correctly…

Stand by.

Lordy, I feel like this is gonna need a Part II…

TransDating: Part I

Galby’s Grow Op

No, mom…I’m not growing pot!

She’d totally turn me in, too.

No, my grow op is my lil patio pot garden.

Mom totally endorses this type of grow op. Out in “the wilds” surrounding my family’s homes in Columbia County, there are three Galby Gardens. One for each of my parents’ and siblings’ yards. Having a hopefully lush patio is the least I could do to try to blend in from my urban abode.

Mom even made a contribution at our lunch this week, trucking this lil baby in with her and Dad.

Let there be salsa! Er…tomatoes. I know there’s no such thing as a salsa bush.

Most surprising to me after planting my initial garden over in 3C last year was how Myrtle left the plants alone. She had killed most of my indoor plants, Christmas Cactus barely survived. There are still leaves with Myrtle’s bite marks scarred into them, so I was surprised she hadn’t tried to kill last year’s or even this year’s patio plants.

Sure enough, she’s content to sit peacefully amongst the greenery.

Well, she was sitting peacefully until I went to snap a pic, then she went on high alert.

Crazy cat.

To further nurture my yard-ly yield, my absentee takeaway from last year’s white elephant family Christmas celebration was an AeroGarden, which I just decommissioned today after what I hope will be a successful transition from hydro to soil.

Wish me – and these lil babies – luck.

The mini-countertop garden kit came with basil, dill and parsley. I was most excited about the basil, since I grow tired of buying mine. However, this plant got monstrous on my counter and dwarfed the other two in the aeroponic setup. Probably, I should have done this weeks ago. I fear the poor thing is too top heavy at the moment to successfully support itself, hence the alley oop from the deck railing.

The basil is still that big and heavy after taking 1/3 of the plant off…fingers crossed.

After planting the three victims – er – herbs, I think the parsley is the prettiest. Being in the creative couple’s project pot that Sacha and I each painted half of certainly enhances the delicate beauty of the plant itself.

I love that damn pot.

Again, not pot-pot. The one that survived the end of our relationship, ten years of condo living with no deck after moving to Seattle and then the return move to Portland. I rather like having a tangible reminder of that relationship. What better reminder than something we created together?

Regardless of how the new additions take to their soil surroundings, I’ve still got the perennials that I added this Spring as well as my personal favorite – don’t tell the others! My olive tree.

The Silver Fox was over the other day and remarked that it was really taking off. That’s a big improvement over his earlier observation as Winter began to give way when he said it didn’t look like it was doing too well. He’s some sort of master gardener, so I usually pay attention to his advice and admonishments…even when he ends up being wrong!

Anyway, last night he was over to watch some TV and I took the opportunity to passive-aggressively ask his advice on the olive tree and how to/when to prune it. I think it’s getting a little shrubby looking.

“Google ‘how to prune an olive tree'”, he offered.

Touché, Fox. Touché.

Should I name my olive tree?

“Olive” would be too obvious, right?

How about “Carl”? “Carl the Olive Tree”, no one would expect that…

Galby’s Grow Op