My Favorite Seattle Things

…all came to Portland last weekend. It was perfect.

Well, most of my favorite Seattle things. My ex, Rib, and his boyfriend were coincidentally in town in addition to the overdue but planned visit from my former Seattle neighbor and podcast co-host, D-Slice and her “new” girlfriend.

If DP and his boyfriend had come here instead of going to Greece and any of these folks had shown up carrying a Hot Mama’s pizza…that would have been perfect!

Surrealiously, who goes to Greece when you can visit Portland instead?

D-Slice had arranged an overnight visit a few weeks back, so I had taken the night off work – or what I’m calling work these days, but that’s another post – to spend some time with her. But, since I’m working graveyards, I wouldn’t get home until around 5 AM on the day of their visit.

No biggie, they were planning to arrive around 1 in the afternoon, so plenty of time for a nap before meeting up and then racing our way into the nearest gutter.

Enter, Rib.

He’d come to town, Rib-style a couple weeks ago with a text at around 8 PM saying that they were just finishing dinner in Olympia – about halfway between Portland and Shittatle – and decided to spend the night in Portland. I kind of envy that type of spontaneity, but since I was packing lunch and getting ready to hop on the bike for my evening commute, I had to tap out. This type of spur of the moment planning can also work against me since I prefer Happy Hour or afternoon drinking versus spending evenings out because bars are so people-y later. If I wasn’t due to work, I might have been finishing up around the time his text landed. <hiccup>

But, having been skunked two weeks ago, Rib gave me three days notice that he’d booked a trip with a 30 hour layover and would get in late Friday and leave early Sunday. His BF was gonna fly with him both ways. I think that’s a pretty fun piece of their relationship…kind of like spontaneously popping into town after dinner in Oly.

It makes me happy.

Anyway, Saturday morning rolls around and I get home from work, shower (very necessary), then debate just staying up for the day versus going to bed as the sun rises. With D-Slice and I, dinner and drinks can go a while. I was pretty sure I could go til 9 PM with no sleep, but not <gulp> closing time!

I popped a mellie and went to bed.

I awoke at 11 to a text from Rib. It was a picture of their Chicken Breakfast Sandwich, Chicken and Waffles and Cinnamon Roll breakfast at Tilt, right up the street from me.

Devil. Hate missing that!

Checking in, I learn they are at another Portland “in the know” experience.

Huber’s is famous for their dramatic table-side Spanish Coffees. Now they are iced, too! Well played, Huber’s…well played.

I missed two of those. But the boys were looking to meet up and get some US Open viewing in.

The request was rooftop bar. There’s only one (two, really…but one is too terribly bro-tastic to entertain) option in the Pearl, so I chased them that way while sucking down an iced coffee to shake off the lingering effects of my mellie before jumping into a pint.

They arrived just before I did, walked up to the rooftop, decided it was too douche-y and went back downstairs, heading out around the hostess station as I came in, went toward the stairs on the other side of the hostess station, got upstairs, groaned inwardly and then patted myself on my old man back for beating the youngsters to the bar.

Then I got their text.

Boo!

The important thing is that they validated my opinion of this bar. I’ve been there a dozen times in the 2-3 years it’s been open and never spent a dollar there because it’s just…so. ugh.

Back to the chase.

My whole life: chasing guys half my age.

<sigh>

I caught them a half block away and then amused myself be seeing how long I could follow them before they noticed me. Still texting them, of course.

We ended up back at Tilt because they have TVs.

And beer.

Two pitchers, some great conversation and one very upset Serena Williams later and we were caught up and ready for a D-Slice rendezvous.

It really was a nice couple of hours. Comfortably slipping between catching up, commenting on the match, chatting with the guys next to us and sniping at each other over beer choices – “anything but IPA!” – is a delightful afternoon, in my opinion.

But, why, Rib? Whyyyy would you get orders before heading to the bar only to come back with a pitcher of a craft version of Hamm’s?!?

Because he’s Rib. Naturally.

And because I’m me, he got a pitcher of IPA when I returned from the bar.

I was amazed that we had polished off two pitchers after their two Iced Spanish Coffees…oof.

But, in addition to the reminder of these young bucks’ alcohol tolerance, I’d been treated to an update of the new career as a flight attendant at the two-ish month mark. He’s been based in Salt Lake since graduating from flight attendant college, meaning he had to commute from Seattle to SLC for work. However, effective next month, he’ll be based in Seattle, so that’s a win.

There’s a vacation to Estonia next month, too. That reminds me of my relationship with Sacha. Collecting experiences and growing our world view together. It’s a priceless time in their lives and it excites me and gives me a nice nostalgic jolt.

Stories about the joys of owning a Tesla. Hilarious stories. OMG. I never realized the potential quirkiness of a car that runs like a smartphone! Just a quick for instance: the BF was telling me that he’d had to reboot his phone while driving and that had basically shut down the car’s computer for the minute it took to complete: no turn signals, no speedometer, no nothing…but you’re still driving.

Pass.

In addition to reinforcing my pedestrian lifestyle and dislike of the douche-y rooftop bars in the Pearl District, they also reconfirmed my condo-dwelling existence with a video of water bubbling up through their lawn from a burst water main. Poor kids. But, yeah…they are looking to sell the house and get into a condo or townhome situation. Thankfully, they have an Estonian getaway to look forward to after getting through their water main ordeal.

Anyway, there we were, heading off to meet up with the girls. It was a little intimidating – something I would have avoided 10 years ago…no, 20 – mixing new and old friends. Let alone my ex and my former neighbor’s new significant others. But I think that with the two newbies, there was enough history in their relationships to make meeting two to four new people comfortable. I refer to D-Slice’s GF as new, but she’s only new to me since they’ve been dating for a couple years now.

“Done with Voodoo Doughnuts, where should we meet?”

I’m heading to Big Legrowlski with the boys, you’re only a few blocks away!

“Of course, Big Legrowlski! Why did I even need to ask?”, D-Slice laughed in response.

We all had a couple of drinks at the BL and enjoyed a couple hours of lively, familiar chat together before the boys took off for their ritual Portland dinner experience at Katchka. They offered to take us along, but Russian food isn’t for everyone and it’s expensive – like last time I went it was ~$75 per person expensive – and then there’s the whole five people in a boutique restaurant makes for a crowded table…a pet peeve of mine is large groups forcing themselves into small venues. Plus, the girls and I needed some time for just us.

“I dunno, you just wanna grab a pizza, Galbs?”

Uh…definitely!

It’s all part of the podcast experience! Although, this podcast ended by 9 PM and without our signature podcast floor-aoke! I’m sure you can figure out that portmanteau…but comment if you need an explanation. I’m happy to provide in-person demonstrations, too.

We walked the few blocks between Big Legrowlski and Old Town Pizza – my all time favorite pizza joint.

We chatted the whole while. I love having people in my life – especially at this juncture in my life – that fit so comfortably. These people are my Chosen Family for a reason. Years can go by without a face to face meet up but you could not tell it from watching.

There was a “We’re vegetarians” hiccup at Old Town, but I rolled with it and in trusting their ordering skills ended up with a delightful pesto pizza that was so tasty. I’ll order it again, it’s perfectly reminiscent of Hot Mama’s Green Pizza (pictured up above). While they made the pizza order, I went to the adjacent bar and got drinks, meeting them upstairs.

We nibbled and sipped.

We talked about their new blended lives in D-Slice’s condo in Seattle.

I caught up on the band situation – D-Slice having pared her two band affiliation down to a single new band called Hourglasses. She sounds fulfilled in the new arrangement. Her GF also performs, which is how they originally met.

The surprising thing is that her GF is so stable. It’s a refreshing change over her last girlfriend who had closet mental issues…but, y’know, the crazy ones are awesome in bed.

Whuddyagunnado?

I fully expected a stable personality, no surprise there. But what did surprise me was how intelligent she was.

Well-spoken.

Confident.

Comfortable.

I was so utterly pleased for my friend. I expected her GF to be stable by comparison to her last attempt at dating, don’t get me wrong. Even though I personally don’t date because I have a knack for finding guys that are damaged – and sadly, crazy boys don’t bring it to bed like crazy girls do, in my experience – at worst and “will do” at best. I wasn’t projecting that gift of mine onto my friend. D-Slice looks to have found someone that clears that minimal bar of not being crazy by a wide friggin’ margin. Talking to her with my friend was an extension of that comfortable fit my Chosen Family and I share.

How friggin’ awesome is that?!?

As we were leaving Old Town, D-Slice pulled out her phone in the middle of the restaurant and reminded me of our podcast photo op tradition.

All of our podcasts are fantastic experiences. It’s a new and unusual sensation to both be leaving one so clear eyed and able to – y’know…walk.

I crammed a lot into my one day with these great people…I’m more than happy to have the next one not be as long in the making as this – I don’t think I’ve seen D-Slice since I was packing up my condo after renting it out for about 18 months when I moved from Seattle back to Portland. That was April of 2016!

I reckon the ball is in my court, though: the next podcast is gonna be in Seattle. It’s only fair.

My Favorite Seattle Things

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Disillusionment

No secret here, I love social media. It’s a great source of entertainment and usually makes me think more and allows me to engage more than just watching TV.

It’s also no secret that I loathe certain aspects of social media. Particularly the dating apps – which I call asocial media – that I believe are undermining our humanity as an American culture. Pretty much I blame the gays for turning dating apps into hook up apps and the straights for falling for the notion that it was a good thing.

Then there’s the Trolls.

And the social media sites that are just testimonies to ignorance or racism or bigotry.

So much ugh.

But there’s also snarky and amusing private groups on social media that I love being a part of. Places where the goal is just good fun, from who can be grossest to inappropriate-but-equally-not-serious racism and sexism to meme commentary on our political backslide.

I saw this the other day on one such page that’s called Seriously, Don’t Be So Serious. I can tell you the name cuz you can’t get in without a sponsor, so neener-neener-neener.

There’s a lot of layers going on here. That’s a key component to good humor in my mind…not that there’s anything wrong with a good Dad Joke!

First, this is a still from Mommie Dearest. The film version of Christina Crawford’s story of growing up as the adopted child of Joan Crawford, a notorious Hollywood monster from the days of the Silver Screen. She’s played to camp perfection by Faye Dunaway, who earned a couple of Best Actress nominations for her work. But the real validations were the Razzie and Stinker awards and nominations this film garnered. As a matter of fact, I don’t think it lost any Razzie or Stinker award that it was nominated for, including Worst Actress, Worst Supporting Actress, Worst Film And Worst Film of the DECADE!

It was destined to be a camp classic. Completely embraced by the gay community for Dunaway’s scenery chewing acting, but on a deeper level for the story it represents. Not Crawford’s fame and narcissism, but for the fact that her adopted children were able to survive it and find a life beyond it.

That last bit is something that anyone who struggles with adversity in their young lives – like accepting their sexuality and coming out – can relate to. At least those generations when coming out was an ordeal.

Not today. Gladly!

But on the other hand, it was funny because it exploited Trump being forced to walk back his support of Putin over his own Intelligence Community by saying he misspoke and meant to say he couldn’t see why it “wouldn’t” have been Russia meddling in our 2016 election when he had actually stated that he didn’t see why it would have been Russia. Even in his apology to America that wasn’t, he still managed to say that it could also have been so many other people besides Russia.

The internet lost its tenuous grasp on civility.

Twitter was aflutter with memes and commentary depicting the ironic opposite of things that have happened. Christina Crawford’s quote from Mommie Dearest was “I’m not one of your fans, Mother!”

And it was sublimely hilarious since – by her account – all mama Joan ever wanted from her adopted children was an extension of the same blind love and adulation her fans provided. She was represented as a true Covert Narcissist.

The comment thread was an amusing and harmless bit of cattiness and snark.

It was all good natured and in good fun, until this one.

What bugged me about this was not just that people had already posted a link to the movie for those folks who weren’t familiar – so he was commenting on this without reading the whole story – but that he seemed to go out of his way to age shame those of us who did understand it.

My response:

Maybe my frustration at the flippant and dismissive “I’ll ask my 70 yr old mother” is too serious for this thread…especially since the answer is in the thread.

Worse yet would be someone who truly might not know about why Christina Crawford’s story is important to the gay community as more than just a throwaway campy quote not having a peer group outside his mother that could help illuminate him.

That’s on all of us in the LGBTQ community.

What a tragedy it would be if gay culture had a shelf life of only a decade or so. We need to understand and embrace icons that do more than *read* each other for ratings.

Why people that had to overcome things like abuse – even losing their lives in some cases – provided us the visibility, representation and freedom we have today and not take it for granted.

If we allow our community to blithely joke about their own lack of generational continuity, we’re gonna lose sight of what our community is outside our own cliques.

So, kudos to everyone on this thread who said it’s not ok to not know stuff and bothered to share the knowledge.

Bigger kudos to anyone who was curious enough to want to understand and educate themselves.

Sorry…like I said, maybe too serious a thought for this group.

I’ll sashay away for now.

PS: totally giving a hall pass on the issue to straight people on this thread…😬

…I deleted my comment.

At that point, I felt frustrated and guilty. Also that I hadn’t stepped on a social media landmine by posting a too serious comment on a humor page. But that punk kid was under my skin.

Was he really participating in the dialogue without bothering to read the actual dialogue?!?

I know! I was being too serious. Still, I was bristling at my own pet peeve that if you’re going to bother talking, you have to be aware that listening is the price of entry. This kid not reading the comments before joining the conversation would have just made him look ignorant if he hadn’t gone one step further and intimated that no one under age 70 would understand this.

Too far.

But I edited my comment down to just a basic, “you shouldn’t have to be old to know about this, but maybe gay…and if you’re young and gay then it’s frustrating you don’t know because maybe that’s a sign of how our culture is broke down”.

Shocker, my actual comment was shorter than my paraphrasing of the comment…don’t bother acting surprised.

I also suggested that our culture might have more cohesiveness across generations if we didn’t spend Pride month partying our asses off instead of enriching our young people.

But then again, you can probably infer from my young heckler that there’s not a lot of respect for older gays from the newer versions.

I blame Reagan.

Then, of course, this happened.

It is ok to not like the same things. That’s not what I was taking issue with. I don’t for a moment think that living a life where you “don’t get it” is better than perhaps reading too much context into a situation.

See also: clueless

Also, see also: ignorance is not bliss

His response to my comment left me assuming this guy was at least straight-ish and very sheltered – possibly Quaker – growing up. Of course, this was also happening:

And I’m totally ok with that, from a straight person viewing a gay culture – albeit campy – moment.

Still, the bitchiness of the original comment led me to believe the guy with the 70 year old mother was totally gay. Furthermore, unless his mother was 45+ when he popped and locked his way into the world, he should have at least a glimmer of recognition when confronted with a screen portrayal of Christina Crawford. So, of course I felt I had no choice but to actually fully explain my frustration…thusly:

The comment was basically me bemoaning the fact that gay generations are typically pretty isolated from one another. There’s no passing of the cultural torch from one generation to another to create a tapestry of gay culture and history . The one time we can count on an open commingling of the generations is Pride. I wouldn’t say I’ve observed us fully interacting during Pride, but at least we all came together to celebrate a moment and party in the sun.

So, my point was that if we removed the Pride party atmosphere, we’d have a venue to interact, exchange stories and ideas, etc.

Think about how February works with Black History Month. Much more educational in my experience. But think about moving it to August…would you be surprised if BHM became a huge soul jam BBQ event? I wouldn’t – and I’d want to crash it! – but I don’t think it would maintain the same influence over black culture that I recall it having when I was coming up.

Plus, Pride takes place during the school year summer break, so we miss out on an actual classroom component of formally educating young people either on what will become their culture or on the acceptance of one that exists outside their own.

I know…too serious.

And, while I was beating myself up over getting too serious in what was supposed to be a fun venue, this happened.

…so at least I could feel like I not only salvaged a moment of over serious Xtopherness but that I’d also managed to reach someone and share a moment of alignment.

The original commenter never replied. I’m sure he’s very busy being completely and obliviously frivolous.

What a punk.

Ok…grumpy old man moment: over

I’ve got to decide whether or not to keep writing – about fun stuff now or go for a bike ride in 90+ degree sun. Either way, I’m for sure finishing this cold brew…

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Disillusionment

I’m Mad As Hell…

…and I’m just going to passive-aggressively bitch about it.

I’m from Portland, after all, and that’s simply our way.

But Pallet Jack is on tap at Big Legrowlski so I’m going to enjoy one of those while I rage. I’ve also been tasked by the Silver Fox to have one for him in absentia while he’s visiting the grand-family.

Should a third come on board…

A few Hemingway factoids:

He was 62 when he died. He looks way older than that! But in a good way.

He was born in 1899. Why does that shock me so?

Perhaps I can avoid Hemingway-ing if I stop the tangents and just get on with it.

This is me mad, btw. I’m pretty mellow. So, what is it that got me all riled up?

Portland made the news on Monday. What I’m assuming is a Proud Boy decided to take his impotence out on a lesbian couple that was out enjoying a walk in their neighborhood.

Look how proud he is, indeed, as he posts his IQ for the world to see. You know you’re dumb when you aren’t smart enough to shut the hell up when someone pulls out their phone.

Or you’re unable to control yourself even when your friends encourage you to hushify yourself.

Embarrassingly enough, this is our second incident of overt bigotry in just under a month, after this broad posted her IQ on her social media page.

My struggle is figuring out which of these folks is dumber, Lori or Nathaniel.

Lori posted herself being stupid, Nate – I feel like I can call him Nate, now that I know him so well – was just too stupid to shut his mouth.

But Lori lives in Corvallis, an Aggie college town, so she might be a hick…does that offset the stupidity of her action somehow?

Maybe.

Maybe I’m just extra Chris-py these days after months of the immigrant children situation and a week of fresh TrumPutin antics. Then there was yesterday’s outright fib fest as Trump tried to walk back his support of Putin by openly disagreeing with his own intelligence agencies by saying “I don’t see why it would be Russia” meddling in our 2016 election.

What a shitshow of an administration. His walkback statement was basically, “I meant to say ‘wouldn’t‘”. That’s how you earn this internet fame

I guess that’s a silver lining of sorts. In addition to phenomenal beer, seeing humiliating web occurrences like that – that you just know will accelerate his hopefully impending stroke – afford me some solace.

The fact that our country is basically a runaway train to hell is further offset by the fact that I live in Oregon. Seriously, the best state of any state I have lived…sure, I’ve only lived in six different states, but I’d put Oregon against any state for overall awesomeness.

Why is it so great?

How can I possibly think it’s that great with human skid marks like Lori and Nate in our mix?

Well, like someone once said, “Ya gotta take the good with the bad”, right?

Lori got fired from her Oregon Department of Transportation job. Her homicidal racism cost her a good government job and the awesome benefits that go along with it. Her termination was a direct result of her post.

Good.

After Nate Gate on Monday, a group of neighbors showed up to make some therapeutic chalk art in front of the house Nate was visiting.

They wrote nothing offensive, but the tenant still felt compelled to come out and hose down the street.

Guess what?

The neighbors came back and did it again.

And this time, someone alerted the media.

Meanwhile, the Facebook was on the case. I know some people who know some people. People who are sleuthy. That’s how I learned Nate’s name.

That’s also how I learned the name of the owners of the house this happened in front of.

…in front of which this happened?

I dunno, I don’t want to hurt myself saving a participle from dangling.

Basically, I’m waiting on the follow up that Nate got fired and his friends got evicted.

But I’m not expecting it. The Cronens have a reputation for being dirtbag property owners, so I’m sure they don’t care that their tenants bring them shit media attention. Additionally, Nate doesn’t look super employable or high functioning. I doubt his employers are worried about him inadvertently drawing negative press to their organization.

But I did wake up to this news this morning…

So, there’s that news to lift both my spirit and hopes for our country.

On a less retaliatory note, the plant in my beer pic is mint, and the aroma therapeutic value of sipping my beer next to it is calming my frazzled protected status.

Regardless of what happens with Nate and the King of the Dipshits currently occupying the Oval, I think there is something actionable to be done on a local level. In two recent high profile incidents of hate in Portland, the Portland Police Bureau has failed to act on hate speech. In both situations, they have actually stated that as long as they don’t escalate to physical abuse, their hands are tied.

Further, the officer responding to the incident on Monday said it was “his judgment” whether or not to even take a statement and that he had more pressing calls. That partnered with the reality of Oregon’s Hate Crime Law

is where we have work to do on this issue with Portland Police.

Why would an officer’s judgment call be to err on the side of a vocally abusive person who was so barely in control that his friends had to put themselves between him and his victim?

I think that in this situation as well as similar national situations, we need to err on the side of harshness. Sadly, with a leader that cushions his comments on illegal and violent activity by following up his mention of the guilty party with statements like, “but there’s a lot of people, it could be anyone” or “there’s bad people on both sides” we have our work cut out for us.

Jeepers, that was quite a sentence! And I’ve only just started into the Silver Fox’s beer.

There’s a lot of work to do. Honestly, I loathe spending my time and space on my little piece of the internet talking about this crap.

But, you know what?

I have to.

I can’t say nothing. Remaining silent gives tacit approval to these idiots. And we saw the power of these folks as an energized – or incited – group of people in November of 2016. Lest we forget the warning of the prophet George Carlin

So, I have to write about these things. Even though it weighs heavy in my psyche to do so – incredible beer and mint aroma therapy be damned.

My call to action for you readers is to talk about these things, too. Either to educate the ignorant or energize the apathetic amongst our voting population.

Just.

Do.

It.

Otherwise, we’ll never dig ourselves out of the shituation these stupid Americans have gotten us into.

I’m Mad As Hell…

Holman Lane Hike

Ok, first off: NEVER HIKE THIS TRAIL!

After ending up on this trail a few times by accident or happenstance, I intentionally set out on it this afternoon. Well, it was my Plan B after getting to my trailhead and realizing that my trail to Pittock Mansion was closed.

It was cloudy, anyway…no mountain view.

So, I took off on the Wildwood Trail in the opposite direction. I know after my accidental 15 mile hike that you cannot hike any distance in this direction and end up at Pittock, as I had imagined until just recently.

However, I was faced with a different struggle this time: branch out on Holman Lane and face the climb or attempt an equally challenging descent to finish my circular hike by staying on Wildwood.

Knowing how my knees feel after a 10 mile hike – and seriously, I stupidly keep thinking this will change the more I get out on the trail – I decided coming down Holman Lane would end with a near-certain fail. No…fall.

I now know that Holman Lane is 6/10 of a mile of straight-up-enough-hill. I’m pretty sure I left a sweaty water slide behind me as I wheezed my way up the trail. But unlike last time, I managed to haul my keg of a belly (I cannot make fat ass statements because: no ass) up to the top without doubling over midway to catch my breath.

So there’s that.

Actually, adding insult to injury on that last hike was seeing a rather fit petite woman running down the path as I climbed upward.

“Sure, take the easy way”, I thought, only to be corrected ten minutes later when she passed me from behind.

My life really is just an exercise in chagrin.

Oooh…right here, right meow, I’m being tickled by inspiration to try out a new Chrisism: chagrinagins.

Shenanigans that lead to humiliation…thoughts?

Anyway, this petite jogger got hers when I stopped at the shoe brush that you’re supposed to use entering and exiting the forest to prevent plant contamination. I had just used it – mostly as an excuse to catch my breath again – and as I turned around, she was blowing by me.

Without using the brush.

I know she felt the burn of my grumpy old man glare as she padded away.

From my prior visits, I know Holman Lane ends at Cornell Road up in Portland’s West Hills. There’s a 130 yard road surface walk to the Birch Trail, which will then take you back to the Wildwood.

I’m learning, Little Buddy!

I also know that there’s a creeper house between the shoe brush station and Cornell. I realize now that I don’t have a friggin’ pic of it, but it was seriously a Red Shirt Diaries moment for me when I first encountered it last year.

I’d spontaneously decided to take on the Holman Lane hill. Midway up, I realized I was following a couple of guys hiking the same trail in a meandering manner. I shifted into inspiration mode, like I did back when I was racing.

Basically, find a nice butt and let it pull you along like a tractor beam.

Once I was closer, I decided they were on a date, because: two guys in the woods not talking about sports is obviously gay. After I passed by them, I overheard their conversation turning to Grindr and Scruff. I presumed this is where they met and they had decided on a hike for their real life meet up.

I thought it was sweet that their real life meet up was an actual date and didn’t take place between someone’s sheets.

<ignores obvious Bush Bunnies potential>

Anyway, for some reason, I began to wonder if they had changed their conversation to asocial media just to mess with me after they saw and profiled me. I talked myself out of this brief panic, they were dressed too nice to be thrill murderers.

I think.

When I passed this house, with its No Trespassing sign and significant brush coverage, I started to doubt my judgment. Maybe they were baiting me…seriously, only the roof line of this house was visible.

As I’m writing this now, you know nothing happened, however, I swear I heard Dueling Banjos in my head as I panic-walked past the drive. The boys actually caught up to me as I stood at the Cornell Road trailhead wondering which way to run away – this is a pivotal moment in horror films and wrong decision results in someone hanging on a meat hook.

They were nice!

I was offered directions to what I now know is a relatively close reentry point to the Forest Park trailways.

Also, a ride back to town.

No, thank you.

Obviously.

Plus, if it was a date, I didn’t want to become a third wheel. Or a third

Anyway, this creepy house and leaving the trail for a street walk are both the icing on the cake for this too uphill of a hike. I try to avoid it, usually, but yesterday my hand was kind of situationally forced.

I used that as an excuse to have myself an exploratory lil adventure!

Now that I’m getting to know the paths and where they generally head, I decided to take off on this single track footpath prior to reaching the Creeper House.

This was a mistake.

I had figured, knowing how Holman ends and picks up 130 yards to the NW at the Birch trailhead, I decided to take it as a shortcut. Assuming, of course, that I would come off this little deer track on the Birch Trail in about a quarter mile.

This was wrong.

What I did find about 1/10 of a mile in was a park bench at a widening of the trail. It was right across from this

and I figured that some extras from Grimm had been living here since the show ended. The bench looked about 30 years old, based on style, but looked to have been “freshly” painted black sometime within the last few years.

I was somewhere – generously speaking – in the backyard of Creepy House. Maybe this was a fort their kids were making.

As I was wondering why that explanation should make me feel better, I kept walking. The narrow path became occasionally overgrown, but I could still make out my destination.

I worried slightly about spiders and critters as I walked. That changed to concern over being scratched by occasional blackberry brambles that protruded into the path. Next up was worrying that I’d lose my footing on a small descent or trip over a fallen branch and twist my ankle.

Ultimately, my concern should have been how far in I would have to go I order to connect with the Birch. I felt that I’d missed it and would actually end up on the Wildwood again.

That’s fine.

Except

Now I was starting to hear the noises of nature and tickling the back of my mind was the thought that a lot of extras on Grimm were supernatural creatures…

I was at a quarter mile off path. I decided to give it a little more time. My optimism was rewarded at the next bend in the trail with…no more trail! I thought I could barely make out where it picked up again and debated wading through the plants in that general direction.

No, there it was!

Ok, not playing that game. I turned around and made a hasty, totally not cool retreat to the main trail, half expecting to be confronted by the Predator.

But, obviously I made it. I proceeded toward Cornell Road, mentally tipping my hat to the Creepy House as I walked by and my panicked breathing returned to normal.

Comparatively speaking, the rest of my hike went without incident. I ended a little differently this time

calming my nerves with a beer at the closest bar to the trailhead I could find.

Then I wake up this morning to the suggestion from the Silver Fox that we see a movie. He suggests Leave No Trace – which is about a father who takes his daughter to live off grid in Forest Park.

Hard pass after yesterday…

Holman Lane Hike

Where Are They Now?

I’ve actually read a couple of blogs recently that have revived this snarky thought of mine.

It started a long time ago. Before the turn of the century, in fact. It began as a Where Are They Now for the gay “It” idols of the day – Kristen Bjorn porn stars.

Somehow this porn producer had managed to export every superficial SoCal gay attribute and imbue a cadre of Eastern European men with them and <ahem> whip out scores of videos that ruined positive body image health for gay men. Well, not single handedly, to be sure, but it was definitely a piece of the catastrophe.

Of course, the luster was short lived for me and I began to start thinking of these poor potentially exploited boys more like gayveal than physique role models.

Anyway, I just held that random “Where Are They Now” thought in the back of my mind as a reality check for the over- sexualized subculture of which I was a part.

A touchstone for reason.

This morning, one of the bloggers that I follow posted an interesting entry. His blog is a combination of short-form writing and pictorial entries. This morning’s was pictorial and caught me off guard when it included a pic of this guy

who was a gay-world famous underwear model after winning a model search competition from designer Andrew Christian.

To me, he – this model turned nobody – is symbolic of a couple of things:

First, these AC model contests were unique back in the early 20-teens but seemed to occur at the same time that Andrew Christian’s design was jumping the shark.

Suddenly, underwear styles were focused more on push up style structure or peekaboo openings and bare backsides…did we really need to reinvent thongs and jock straps? My gut told me that the marketing campaign was to distract from the functionality or even quality.

You’ve heard me bemoan people who seem to embrace the mantra, “It’s better to look good than to be good”, right?

Well, now you have.

Second, we – and I think I mean we as in American culture, not just gay culture – we’re making celebrities out of people whose only accomplishments seemed to be good genes and a rigid focus on corporeal development versus people with any appreciable skill or talent.

This is alarming in the gay community, particularly, because we already had a propensity to compensate physically for other – sometimes inequality imposed – shortcomings. It was almost like we represented our best selves using our bodies as a billboard.

No big deal.

Except

We seem to have gotten sucked into the industry of our physical selves and forgotten or minimized the importance of developing our inner selves.

Being good looking and physically fit shouldn’t be a bad thing, but somehow we found a way to ruin it.

Apologies to Michelle Obama.

Good looking men are making a living as go-go boys. Posting admittedly enjoyable pics of them in their underwear in exotic locations for Pride season all over the globe that are riddled with typos.

Redefining the phrase Peter Principle.

During the off-Pride season, too many of these guys end up shooting porn or escorting to maintain their lifestyle and – believe it or not – image.

Now, I’m no prude and certainly don’t condemn porn or sex work. It’s when either industry becomes predatory, preying on the desperate or unadmittedly stupid that I begin to take issue.

That’s not how I want my “Where Are They Now” question answered. I’ve seen too many so-called gay celebrities or community icons die after getting ground up in those industries. Yes, yes…this is all just an extension of my attraction to boys with broken wings.

How I’d like the question answered is with interviews of paunch-gutted male pattern baldness suffering men describing their post-over-exposed-beefcake successes. Six pack abs replaced by a keg sized beer belly and a story of how they built a successful local charity helping homeless gay youth off the street. Flawless skin overrun by a network of telltale drug-addiction scars but an inspiring long term relationship that saved a life by returning someone to not just sobriety but reality.

That’s a documentary that I’d watch.

Remember how this “Where Are They Now” throwback was credited to two recent blog posts that I’d read?

Yeah, well that was the easy one.

The second blog – and more challenging, to be honest – was a piece about good looking guys being shamed.

Didya?

Be honest…did you see that twist coming?

I hate to keep using that meme, but it’s so friggin’ perfect in so many instances.

And I really was not prepared for my thoughts after reading this blog post.

It is short, but in its brevity managed to take to task the people who troll people online that are simply showing off their physical accomplishments.

My thoughts – you know from reading above: slippery slope.

I came away from reading this blog with a yellow flag on my thoughts. I needed to remember that maybe the people who fall down that slope are the tip of the iceberg.

Sure.

I can admit that there’s just a lot of people in the world that are at a more disciplined point in their lives than I am. I’ve been there, I am not there now.

At the same time, I had to admit that I do unfairly criticize these people at times, even if it’s only mentally.

But.

While I’m internally committing to being more generative and appreciative of these physical accomplishments that I envy, I’m simultaneously struggling. Struggling with the reality that there are people who ignore me in my daily online and real life interactions because I am not one of them.

That’s tough.

I know when it’s happening. My less mellowed-with-age self would call it out. If someone ignored me online, I might have sent a final accusatory message that suggested they were bad people for their superficiality.

It wasn’t rewarding because I got to bitch someone out. It was rewarding because the response was usually one of two things:

A) I get so many responses, I can’t reply to them all

Poor thing.

I think the price of entry into the world of social media really should be that one is socially competent. Or at least…social.

It’s a lame excuse and one with an eight keystroke counter argument.

1) Hit Reply

2-7) Hit T H A N K S keys

8) Hit Send

This acknowledges the effort and largely discourages a response by closing the door to further conversation. In doing so, though, it remains social and even more importantly, preserves the self-worth of the sender. Sure, you’re gonna have those few people who don’t speak hint fluently, but that’s the cost of internet fame, eh? Everyone shouldn’t be treated like that worst case scenario.

Alternatively, if that’s too much of a burden, many apps allow you to turn off responses…maybe use those. Problem solved.

B) I’m only here for sex, not friends

Ok, that problem will just take care of itself eventually. Except it will perpetuate the negative and impersonal app-tastic culture we’ve cultivated over the last 20 years in the process.

So the hate and trolling that this guy mentions is familiar, I get it.

Is it a situation where one party bears the blame?

No…not at all.

It’s collateral damage to psychological warfare people don’t even know they are engaged in. I’d wager the majority of the trolls this guy is mentioning didn’t start out as trolls. They probably started out perfectly reasonable and over the course of being ignored repeatedly built up an intolerance that manifests itself by lashing out preemptively at the next sexy guy they see.

How screwed up is that?

Guys aspiring to a physical form that attracts social media attention ignore attention from their less attractive audience building up resentment that manifests itself as what then gets described as trolling or bullying.

Ok, first…make sure you aren’t calling someone a troll because they correct you on the not-overwhelmingly complex correct usage of there/they’re/their.

Second, maybe what we all need to do is infuse our social and real life lives with more compassion.

Point A above goes a long way. Be grateful you’re getting the attention you may not have admitted to yourself you seek. Know enough about interacting with humans to gracefully stop a conversation from progressing. Ignoring a conversation doesn’t make it go away, it alters it’s course.

On the flip side, maybe just stick to correcting real life friends on their grammar. Using the excuse, “They need to know” isn’t any less an abdication of responsibility than “I get too many responses to reply to them all” is when it comes to dealing with people online.

And…after all is said and done here? I realized that I don’t really care where most of these people end up. The great lot of them are Kardashian-esque Lost Boys, so maybe I should just do a little virtual housecleaning and make sure that I’m surrounding myself with people that enhance my happiness versus highlight the things about people that make me unhappy.

It’s been an interesting week in my head, folks.

Love and pizza, yo!

Where Are They Now?

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

The Mulligan

A Mulligan – for all of you non-golfer types out there – is a do over.

The Mulligan was my do over.

I’m on the left…

David was my second boyfriend after coming out to myself as gay. It would still be another five years or so before I completed the coming out process: telling my family, not making discomfort over my sexuality other people’s problem and then ultimately being able to discuss it as a non-issue. However, after my first boyfriend – who hit me and cheated on me – David was my chance to have a right relationship.

In other words, he goes back quite a ways.

Back to the days when people were officially “not dying from AIDS”.

Back far enough that when he didn’t die from AIDS – years after we broke up – I wrote about it on MySpace.

We had met at Ripples. Yup, another Long Beach story!

It took a while. I had to watch him from a distance for about 18 months before I worked up the nerve to casually bump into him at a Beer Bust.

Yes, I’d been going to Ripples before I was actually legal..

He was so cute. To me, at least. I liked the way his underbite made his head look like a peanut from the side.

I’m willing to admit that that might be an odd attribute to find attractive. But having watched him from afar for so long, I found that his mannerisms were also quite endearing.

He would flutter his eyelashes when he spoke.

The way he gestured. Casual and intimate, but not flamboyant.

I learned later that these mannerisms were part of his southern upbringing.

Genteel.

Perhaps not the most masculine adjective for a guy, but for me, this worked. It made me feel comfortable.

Eventually.

At first, I thought those fluttery lashes were more like bitchy eye rolls. This incorrect assumption was part of what intimidated me and kept me from approaching him. Later, I learned that they were just a conversational tic – y’know, the things you learn bar stalking people. Even later, I would learn that this was also a way for him to camouflage his disease when talking about things that made him uncomfortable. Effectively breaking eye contact so that he could assert himself when he was insecure in doing so.

It was interesting to get to know someone so well, on that intimate a level. Well, for me, anyway. Remember, I was probably 21-24 when we were together. Realizing that I could understand and know someone that well was new to me.

How could I not love him?

God, we did everything together.

Beach, movies, errands.

Wait, almost everything. He didn’t work out.

Still, the beach was the most important thing. This was SoCal, after all!

He was in the Air Force. OMG…seeing him in his uniform.

His roommate was an older guy and a civilian worker for the Air Force and they’d met and eventually begun living together when Rick’s original roomie moved out. They shared a two bedroom townhouse. Within six months, I was living there.

There were only four units in the row house, but they had the end unit which provided them with a small yard area where they’d have barbecues on the weekends or just chill with a cocktail after work. It was at these gatherings where I’d met many of their shared friends and eventually been adopted into the group. Les, Randy, the Billys Black and White…I’m still socially connected to some of these mutual friends through the magic of Facebook. These were good people to know. They helped me to nurture my identity as a gay man.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have three chosen families in my life. Groups of gay men and people who supported me emotionally and enriched my existence through theirs. Relationships that transcend simple presence.

This group of men was my first.

We had a neighbor in the row house that The Mulligan dismissively referred to as Bitch Tits. He was quite a little doughboy, but it was learning months and months after meeting him that the two had dated that made me understand the true emotion behind the moniker. This was quite a while before Fight Club came out as a book and Meatloaf’s character in the movie took the nickname mainstream. I sometimes amuse myself imagining The Mulligan crossing paths with Chuck Palahniuk and somehow influencing that character.

There’s a legacy…

One of the difficult things that I learned about The Mulligan was that he was super insecure. This manifested itself as an irrational jealousy.

At one point, he was even jealous of Bitch Tits. Usually, though, this was an issue for us after an afternoon at the beach or evening at the bar…when I spent the evening not talking to other guys.

I mention this because learning this about him allowed me to learn something about myself: I’m capable of being all in in a relationship.

The Mulligan was mustering out – does the Air Force muster? – and one of his benefits was being moved basically wherever he wanted since the Air Force has dragged him away from home. One of the other discharge requirements was a physical, which was when he learned that he had HIV.

His discharge from the Air Force was a pretty emotional time for this gayby. But I was so ga-ga in love with this guy…when he said he wanted to be closer to his family back in Mississippi, my thought was basically “Let’s get out of this place and away from your damn triggers”.

We’d been back to his hometown of Long Beach, MS a couple of times. We had been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras with his best friend and Long Beach was just a couple hours away by car. It didn’t hurt that in some strange irony, his best friend’s grandparents were snow birds that spent their winters on the Gulf Coast.

Neither of us were keen on living as a gay couple in Mississippi. We settled on the gulf coast of Florida. The beach lifestyle was one we were reluctant to give up, but the east coast was too far from his parents.

So…off we went.

We lived together for about a year in Florida before I learned something else: people don’t change because I sacrifice.

I realized this when I’d “done laundry” with a neighbor that he’d met actually doing laundry. The three of us had hung out after they became friends. Meeting up in the laundry room with a four pack of wine coolers to do laundry made the time pass quicker.

Being accused of having a crush on this friend he’d made kind of negated the joy that situation presented, so I stopped.

Funny, I hadn’t noticed him packing his jealousy when we left California.

Must’ve been in the trunk of his car…

A while later, he’d gone to visit his parents for a weekend. I couldn’t go because I was working. When he came home and asked me – what’s the opposite of nonchalantly? Challant? – how many times I’d cheated while he was away, I tried to make a joke out of it. It’s my way.

“Just the usual three-way”, I said, waggling my hands.

When women persist, it’s empowering and creates a political call to action.

It’s not usually so cool when men persist, especially insecure men.

This was when I learned something else about relationships: you can’t let someone else’s happiness erode your own.

I was so nuts in love with The Mulligan. I think part of that was me fully accepting myself and another person for who we were; good, bad and ugly. But I came to realize that I couldn’t bankrupt my own happiness in the hopes that it would infuse his. He wasn’t unhappy, but he was making himself situationally miserable by letting his jealousy ride roughshod over his emotional well-being.

And his relationship.

Realizing that a relationship should enhance my own happiness, I broke up with him. He couldn’t be happy with me – or anyone – until he accepted and got happy with himself.

Luckily, we had a two bedroom.

I felt like the biggest shit in the world for dumping a guy with HIV. It was pretty much still a death sentence in the early 90s, but my mental well-being wasn’t any more of a cure than the drugs available to him.

I was offered a promotion at work – well, at work in Houston – and took it.

I spent a year in Texas before getting promoted to California. Effectively working my way back to SoCal and my second hometown.

In late ’95, my boss offered me a lateral promotion to Portland. I passed, reluctant to give up my situation in the LBC. I was back in touch with old friends. I had a cadre of new friends, too. This was when I was living across the street from Ripples on one corner and the gay beach on the other. I was just a few blocks from where my dad lived.

I had it really good.

Made, one night even say.

My boss, being a pretty damned good salesperson – or one hell of a manipulator, depending on how you looked at it – somehow leveraged being close to my grandparents and a $5000 a year raise to get me to reconsider.

Sorry, Dad, gotta go!

I moved up to Portland in late January of ’96. I had rented a place on the river.

…just in time for the big flood of ’96.

Oh, well, life is lumpy.

This is what I wrote about on MySpace.

I’d gone to bed one night and was dangling between consciousness and sleep. As I lay there, I heard someone whispering my name.

Now, this was not an unusual thing for me. I had experienced this many times in my life.

Usually, I heard my Mom’s voice.

A couple of strange times, my Dad’s best friend.

I had heard the phenomenon summarized as an awareness that you were on someone else’s mind. They were thinking about you or worried or some such.

Mom = awwwww.

Let’s not go there on Dad’s best friend, m’kay?

Hearing The Mulligan saying my name wasn’t weird…but it went on so long. I rolled onto my back to get comfortable, not really thinking about it.

Floating above me was The Mulligan.

The ceiling of my room was gone and there was The Mulligan, looking down at me, smiling and casually moving his arms and legs like he was treading water.

He laughed at my alarm.

I asked – without speaking – what he was doing. He told me he wanted me to come with him.

Nice non-answer, buddy.

I asked again, adding, “Come with you where?”

Again, he didn’t answer me directly, just repeating his invitation by way of replying to my question.

This went on for quite a while, him drifting above me like he was floating on some current just above my ceiling. Well, where my ceiling should have been.

There was this enveloping sense of warmth and joy throughout. It was surreal.

I’ve never experienced anything like it.

You’ll be glad to know, though, that in true early onset grumpiness fashion, I eventually told him that I had to get to sleep because I worked early the next day, rolled over and closed my eyes. I squeezed them closed so hard that I could feel them shielding me from that warm light emanating from The Mulligan.

I remember before I “fell asleep”, checking with one eye over my shoulder to make sure the ceiling was back where it was supposed to be.

The next evening, I got a call from Black Billy. As soon as he identified himself, I blurted out, “He’s dead, isn’t he?” When Black Billy asked how I knew, I told him the story from the night before.

I could hear him thinking he should have called me before happy hour, but I was stone cold sober as I recounted the prior night’s experience.

That was almost 22 years ago. It’s still one of the weirdest and most amazing experiences of my life.

Occasionally, when I’m out having a drink by myself, I’ll think about him. I mean Ghost Mulligan, since ghost-him is old enough to drink now. In my mind, I’ll ask him what would have happened if I said yes.

He just smiles that peanut-headed smile and bats his eyelashes at me.

The Mulligan