When Your Ex Calls…

Call me what you will: cynical, crazy…whatchu got? But when my ex – Rib – texted this morning asking if we could talk, my mind immediately went dark.

It’s been a few years since we’ve talked outside of random social media interactions. Even longer since we’ve caught up in real-time.

Note to self: chill that white burgundy I got on their wine tasting trip to Portland. That’s gotta be 6 years old now?!?

Anyway. Out of nowhere came the thought, “His mom died”, and I was immediately sad. Thinking about her in the past tense. Thoughts like “She was the same age as my dad!”

Was.

Welp, I’m happy to report that guess was wrong. But the dire spirit was warranted.

He’s getting divorced.

That was in my top two reasons he’d want to talk, but by all (observed) accounts, they were strong.

Despite the reason Rib gave for them getting married – he needed insurance, which is a typical Rib dodge to a question he doesn’t want to answer – they seemed pretty solid. They’d bought a house together a year or so after getting hitched. They recently sold it for $400k more than they bought it for and had an offer on a million dollar build.

They were able to get out of that with less hoops to jump through than Elon trying to get out of his Twitter deal.

But the benchmark of our relationship was that we ended as friends. I figured breaking up with someone 18 years my junior when I was in my mid-40s was gonna be it for me, relationship-wise. A prediction that has held up, but I thought finally having an ex that became a friend was a good high water mark.

Or I had inadvertently strayed into lesbian tendencies territory. I did avoid buying a Subaru when I went car shopping, so I think I’m not in any danger of losing my Gay Card.

Using it is another, less likely story scenario.

Another moment of…not pride, but, y’know…something pride-adjacent was that he wanted to talk to me before he spoke to his family.

Especially his sister. Ironically, she’d gotten married for the same reason. Hey, I never said Rib used original material. That union also ended in divorce. After living in separate states for most of the marriage.

When I’d ended my relationship with Rib, I’d laid out my view of his worldview pretty plainly: he’d moved from his mom’s house, to his sister’s to mine. He needed to figure out who he was before he could be a real partner for someone. “You need to get the shit kicked out of you by the world for a bit” were my exact words.

We found an apartment for him and got him settled in his new life. Two weeks later his sister fixed him up with his soon to be ex-husband and they were immediately inseparable.

I was pissed at her, not him. He was just doing what he knew. She should have known better.

Anyway, a decade later, hearing his plan for his fresh start and then him finishing with, “That’s what you told me that I should do when we broke up. You were right. I don’t even know who I am right now, much less what I want!”

He was a real brat when we were dating. Fun, but a brat. But when I told him I was t dating someone with no job, no education and living with his sister, he batted down my objections with actions. Well, two of the three, he got a job a few days later and a few weeks later was asking me for help filling out financial aid paperwork for college.

I was really impressed by what this guy could do when someone expected something of him. There wasn’t much I could reasonably expect from him on the housing front, but four years later, we fixed that. At least for a few weeks.

Now he’s closing another circle in his life and I gotta hand it to him for having the insight to be able to look at his actions the last time he found himself single and decide what he wants to do differently this time.

I may not have had kids of my own to release into the world, but my MO when dating younger ‘mos had been to leave ‘em better than I found ‘em. I’m happy that I was able to see the results with Rib not once, but twice now.

Here’s hoping I get to witness the rewards he reaps for the work he’s signing up for, too. But I’m not taking my chips off the square that says “Takes his half of the house money and moves away” either.

When Your Ex Calls…

Non-Practicing

You know how when you meet a lapsed Catholic and religion comes up in conversation? Eventually it comes up as, “Oh, you’re Catholic, what are your thoughts?!?”

The response? Well, obviously, it’s varied. They’ve left the cult and can now exercise free thought and expression. But it usually starts with a clarifying variant of “Non-practicing Catholic” before any deeper response is given.

It’s like “Let me be perfectly clear, here…”

Well, that’s me and my sexuality.

People usually want to know if I know their gay friend when they are introduced to me by a mutual acquaintance. “Oh, Chris-Chris?”, they ask. our mutual friend like my eyes and ears aren’t connected to my brain.

Mentally I add, “Non-practicing” before they even finish their sentence. But I have managed to perfect the mental eye-roll. A few of those made it awkwardly out into the wild. I wasn’t the first to realize it, either. Not even always the second. I had to ask myself a few times whether the person-I’d-been-introduced-to’s eyes widened before or after my friend’s overly dramatic coughing fit began to figure out the appropriate level of chagrin or combativeness to display.

I say all this by way of introducing my topic tonight: I deleted the sole dating app on my phone a couple weeks back.

Sidebar: This is dating not mating app I’m talking about. I rarely act on the opportunities that prostrate present themselves on the mating app, but I enjoy opening it to “see who’s around”. It used to be fun to surreptitiously open up Grindr while shopping or at a show with plenty guy candy present just to see if there were other gays around. Now, though, it’s so much easier to profile gays in a crowd. Well, queers in a crowd. What with the rise in visibility of gender fluidity over the past 5-10 years, I’m no longer wondering if that hot guy is gay so much as I’m curious if that guy wearing nail polish isn’t gay. This is what I lived through the AIDS crisis for? Seems like a lot of trouble in retrospect.

So, yeah. I deleted OKStupid a few weeks back.

Not like I was actively using it. But at least I could tell myself I had a line in the water, right?

Sports analogy!

Don’t get me wrong, I was completely fine letting them app linger, tucked away in the social media folder on my Home Screen. But a while back, they sent me this bullshit:

Yeah, GoPuff knows a lot more about marketing than the folks at OKStoopid. If I wanted manipulative behaviors like that, I’d date. So I ignore it thinking, “Save me the trouble, will ya? But, just like dating, they kept coming back like they hadn’t thrown down a failed ultimatum.

“No, they don’t.” It’s just the same Lost Boys I encounter in the bars or on the truly asocial media apps trying to assuage their shame by having an actual dating app on their phone. Poor stupid, stupid dears.

Or, channeling my inner Groucho Marx, riffing on not wanting to meet anyone who would want to meet me. In case you missed this the last 100-ish times I’ve used it…

The thing I didn’t like about this app experience wasn’t the caliber of the offerings – I’m sure it would surprise no one to hear that my expectations were set appropriately low and we’re still unmet. It was that the app was just a gaslighting shit show.

I’d keep seeing the same guys. My mental conversations would be something like, “I know I’ve swiped left on that train wreck before.”

Being <ahem> situationally charitable, I’d assume the best. About the app, not the person. When it came to the people, my thoughts would range somewhere near the “Who is this hard luck case (from me) trying to fool with a new profile?”

Turns out, it wasn’t the people trying to juice interest with a fresh profile, it was the app recycling people I had no interest in by presenting them as potential matches again. Like “It’s been 3 months and you haven’t met anyone, are you sure you can afford to be so choosy…at this point?”

Yes, I can. 1000%.

I finally gave them a hand and deleted the app myself after getting another “Your Profile Will Be Deactivated” email from them.

Yes, please.

I’m not kidding, the next day I got two emails from them. The first was another “Your Profile Will Be Deactivated” email that briefly made Gilbert Godfried my dominant personality.

The second email almost earned Apple a repeat sale on my phone. Check it out…

Two hours after a “WTF, I deleted my profile, why are you still sending me emails?!?” email, they’re trying to lure me back with my epically useless Super Like.

Hey, OKStoopid, I kinda super like myself – at least compared to any of the people you actively call Users. I think I’ll be ok.

That’s not a declaration I make capriciously, as I admit I am wont to do. Nono, this comes years after the 50th-birthday-party-turned-dating-intervention. That led to a year of focused dating effort – also where the loathsome OKStoopid app earned its place on my Home Screen.

That led to this –

Still active on Amazon…<hint, hint>

And it’s all been diminishing returns since then. Turns out, if I want oddly unsatisfying entertainment, I can binge watch a quirky series on one of my many streaming services. Cheaper than dating, less frustrating and much less potential for follow-up therapy! Plus, unless the internet goes out, binge watching always shows up.

Non-Practicing

Lucky Me?

Not to overthink the classics, but you’ve heard the old chestnut, “You make your own luck” or the not dissimilar “Luck is what you make it”.

Ok, well…could someone please explain what they fuck I’m doing?!?

Is it bad that I’m crowdsourcing that information? Check it out, though, and weigh in…because I can’t decide if the universe is flirty with me, sending me warning signs or possibly both.

It started with this:

Yes, I have an unread email from 2019…

Ok. Sure. Let’s make a Will. For all of you conspiracy theorists out there, this could be my own fault. I’d literally said “I guess I’d better make a Will” after I opened my parents’ gift from grandpa’s estate.

Not that I’ve got anyone to bequeath my plant collection to – but that’s another blog. Let the government have it. That’ll piss off plenty of folks…just letting the state have my shit. Not my family, of course. There’s perks to being the brokest bitch in my family. Well, outside Black Sheep Bro, that is. But anyone that knows me will tell you that self-referencing “bitch” comment was not figurative and that I’m sure as Hell not rewarding that history.

So, there’s that. I wrote it off to a not-incorrect coincidence and went on with my life.

Then things leveled up a bit.

I came downstairs last Saturday afternoon – thank you, good night sleep herb – and from well inside my lobby, could see bikes whizzing by on the street outside.

Racing bikes.

Racing the wrong way on my one-way street.

The street I was parked on the night before.

Fuuuuuuuuck.

All I’m thinking is that my car got towed. Then I’m incensed because shit goes on in my neighborhood all. the. time. So I know what to expect when something is happening..

This is out of the blue, though. Literally. I’d walked home from my around-the-corner bar the prior evening around 930 pm. Usually, when something of this magnitude is happening, I have – at worst – last ditch reminders…like they’re setting up booths and tents and johnnies-on-the-spot in the park the night before.

Nothing.

And this is the last ditch visual reminders. Before that, there’s No Parking signs posted on the trees lining the streets for weeks ahead of time. Plus flyers taped to the building doors so you can’t miss them.

This? This is gotten a flyer about a half dozen trips to the recycler ago. Ok, fine…it was a good month and a half back.

So, what was it?

They’re riding the wrong way on this street, too.

The Portland Criterion.

I don’t remember this happening in the six years I’ve lived in this building. Apparently, though, it used to happen all the time. Local legend has it that ol’ uniball (Lance Armstrong) used to ride it before he started winning Tours de France.

If you believe that kind of scuttlebutt.

Anyway, it’s a nine block course – if my mental mapping math is correct. A three block straightaway, up a block, back a block, up a block, over a block and down two to the start.

But did I mention that my car got towed?!?

(Un)Luckily, I’d run into the chattiest mailman ever on my way out. He was telling me that the parking situation was a real shitshow. He’d had to park a half dozen blocks away instead of right in front, as is his norm.

“Oh, all the bridge and tunnel folk?”, I asked, knowing full well he is one.

“Yeah! Well, that and all the cars they had to move off the route!” My ears perked up.

“Say what now?”

“Oh, yeah. They call it a ‘Courtesy Tow’, but it’s not doing me any courtesies!”

Ok, maybe my luck is on an upward swing. All I had to do was scour the neighborhood clicking my alarm remote until my lights flash.

Knowing my neighborhood, some crazy would flash me before my Angela did.

My car was right around the corner.

Luck: fully functioning.

I did whatever I’d needed to do that afternoon and then realized there was the neighborhood dysfunction to deal if I went home, and decided to kill some time.

Hello, app of Lost Boys.

It’s an indictment of my decaying subculture that a man my age, in my wavering physical condition can get laid with only a modest amount of effort on these loathsome asocial media apps. But there I was, finding a safe harbor to park my lil tug in to ride out the Criterion storm in my home port.

Fun!

I’m still offended.

It’s like I’m the gay equivalent of Groucho Marx.

Autocorrect changed “gay” to “fat” in the prior paragraph. Oy.

Nevertheless, I am heading home from my afternoon delight and my drinking buddy neighbor from the Silver Fox’s building asks if I wanna meet at the neighborhood joint for dinner.

Dinner. Tomato. Potato. VODKA.

This is also promising because somehow I conflated this with the Criterion being complete.

Good.

“WHOA!!!”

The car in the lane to my right’s bumper literally peeled off the car and flew right at me.

Interesting life choice for a car. Upon closer inspection, though, the car looked like it should have the theme from Sanford & Son emanating from it. Checking my bitchiness in an attitude of that-bumper-missed-me gratitude, I checked myself and admitted that this car was likely someone’s residence.

Oh, yeah, the bumper missed me. Mostly thanks to me not being where I was heading toward being once I saw it depart its logical location.

I pull past this “How is this street legal” moving violation and glance in the window.

Let me tell you, I’d just gotten laid in the first time in too long and my sunny disposition had nothing on this driver.

“So, great, she’s under the influence, too.”

I swear, this shit could only happen to me. A bumper leaves home a few feet ahead of me in a once-in-lifetime occurrence? Yeah, just me.

Nevertheless, I make it home without further whatthefuckness. Until I have to park, and then I realize the Criterion is not finished.

Go figure, my original towed-to parking spot on my “Street Closed” street is taken. Turning around, I pull across the intersection and part in a Loading Zone with 7 am – 7 pm restrictions Monday-Saturday.

It’s 650 pm on Saturday night.

“Fucking ticket me”, I say as I walk away.

Minutes later, when recounting the afternoon’s events to my buddy, I recall that this is exactly what had happened last time I gambled on that. But that was a pandemic ago…so who’s winning now!!?

The next morning, my tire was flat.

Here’s why there will never be a musical about my life: days like last Saturday. You couldn’t write a song about that day. There’s no rhythm to it. My fortunes that day were nothing if not psychotic.

By comparison, a couple Saturdays prior, I’d had breakfast with my parents, they’d cavalierly tossed out a check I with more zeroes than my dating history and they’d bought. Then I went home and watched movies and snoozed the rest of the day.

That’s plenty of Saturday for me.

Criterion Saturday? Do not need.

In other random “luck” housekeeping…

Yesterday – Payroll Monday, as I like to call it – turned out to be just Monday. No payroll. Too much other shit going on, so I decided to punt and process payroll today.

Payroll Monday? Nah, surprise, bitch…just MONDAY.

On the other hand, I got it done in 2.5 hours. This is something that appeared to be taking 16+ hours when I came on board, so there’s that.

Additionally, I arranged to have the local tire joint – who I have unpleasant history with – look at Angela’s tire today. I was betting it would be $100. The Silver Fox was telling me they did it for free whether you bought tires there or not. I just didn’t want to risk putting a can of Fix-a-Flat into the equation and then getting in the freeway to the Costco for the free repair I was entitled to after my tire purchase there.

Right?

Yes, ok!

So, here I am…still living haphazardly but thinking critically!

I’d called ahead and was told a patch was $20. Fine. Get it done.

I drop it off three minutes before they open this morning and hoof it home – cajoling Jessla into a coffee along the way…barely missing my “late” start time of 945.

At 1030, the call me – but I’m on a Teams call and can’t talk. Voicemail. When I get a chance to listen, it’s some guy you know is hot but totally selfish in bed and barely functional in life telling me they couldn’t find a problem.

I hold the phone away from my face and wonder aloud if they were looking at the wrong tire. I watched my onboard count down four pounds of lost pressure on my nine blocks up, eight blocks over trip to drop Angela off. So I call back and tell them to take another swing at it.

It took a few hours, but eventually I got a callback that said they were able to find the screw and patch the hole.

Huzzah.

At 415 I feed Myrtle her 15 minute overdue dinner. Well, half of it because I can tell she’s gonna eat like she’s never had a meal. I figure, I can manage that and feed her the rest after she’s had time to digest a bit.

We’re talking 1.5 ounces of wet food here…and she still threw it up before 430.

I tell my coworker over Teams that I’m fucking off to clean up cat puke and then go get my car. I know I’ll come in tomorrow to an arms length of cat rearing tips – none of which will be “Don’t adopt a cat three other people returned”, but still well-intentioned.

I hike up to the tire place and am told it’s complimentary. Just remember them when I need new tires.

Goddamnit, the Silver Fox was right!

For free…unlike the person they paid to tell me the wrong answer.

Mind you, writing this out, I know it’s all nonsense. I got towed, I got laid, I got a flat.

Whatever, right? Free range bumpers notwithstanding.

But here’s what I didn’t tell ya: I’m between waking up on Saturday and getting laid on Saturday? A lot more happened.

I wouldn’t have been leaving my house at all that day if I hadn’t woken up to this random text message “from my bank”.

“Here’s the one-time verification code you requested”…only, I hadn’t? But, also…I had.

Days before. It was an aborted attempt to link my main account to my car loan – since my car loan had revamped their app (for the better) but had t imported any sensitive data. Basically, I had to set it all up again – because what benefits them, fucks me. Natch.

Sadly, that all ended in tears for the poor bastard I made help me after three failed attempts to link my main account to their new and improved shit.

But did I get three verification codes or just two? Was this random text something their new-but-still-having-a-stroke system buried out after a few days of rest or a legit scam?

I call the bank. It’s noon on Saturday.

By 1215, I’m being told that my account has been closed – for my protection.

“So, basically, you’re telling me I have 45 minutes to get out of bed, shower, shampoo and shine and make it over to my branch to re-open an account before they close at 1 or I can be penniless til Monday?”

“We’re super sorry (inferred, they didn’t say that) but our grocery store branches are open until 3! You can try this one in Portland’s version of Alabama.”

I Google “my fucking credit union’s branches in grocery stores” and counter that asinine attempt of theirs at help with, “How about I just go to this store a mile from my house?”

So I do all of this and end up leaving the branch with a new account and new debit card. It’s 245. I’m dreading all the new debit card ordeals ahead of me.

DoorDash.

GoPuff.

Assorted bill pays I have set up to my debit card.

This is gonna be Billy Hell.

But they’ve assured me that my direct deposit is flagged to transfer. Me, being an adult, resist telling them that that is literally my job so I’m not worried or asking what they do with my money that has them giddy that the flow will be uninterrupted.

Fine. Maybe I’m a little bit of that conspiracy theorist I maligned earlier. But only for my own entertainment!

On my way out, I ask if my pending bank to bank transfers will flow through, since I suspect they are still incomplete. My “transfer to” bank shows the deposits are funded, my “transfer from” bank closed my account without bothering to ask.

“I don’t see anything pending, so everything is good!”

So chipper.

“You’re telling me you could see transfers initiated outside the credit union?”

“Yup. Everything looks good.”

It wasn’t.

I woke up today to an email saying my $3000 transfer (the max allowed) had been rejected because of insufficient funds.

“Or a closed account and idiot banker” I mumble to my phone. Whatever. It only cost me time – since my investment account doesn’t charge for returned transfers and my credit union seemed to at least know not to trifle with that after my Saturday ordeal.

And that’s why I wanted to fuck someone after leaving the bank on Saturday…I knew my own fucking was coming. At least it was gentle?

I swear, if I find out Pam Ewing dreamed this whole thing…well, that might actually explain a few things.

Lucky Me?

The “Literal” Treatment

BMW has entered the chat.

A chat I don’t want to be involved in, anyway.

Certainly a chat I don’t want brands I value to seek to be involved in, either.

But this is America. We ruin everything.

And as hard as we fight to not be inclusive, except when it comes to money, there are exceptions. Companies in America gotta get everyone’s money – so they’re gonna at least act inclusive.

One of my favorite examples of this is corporate rainbow-washing every June for Pride month. And then the month ends…

It amuses me – this observation, but it doesn’t bother me. Not because I think The Gays, collectively, have become unworthy of anyone’s support or pride (which is true) but because it’s also such an stupid American cultural reality. It’s the End of Christmas Morning Phenomenon: “Is this all I got?”

So, yeah. Complain, please…that you got a spotlight for a full month, you ninnies.

Anyway, then there’s BMW entering into a courtship with what is arguably America’s largest and most diverse subculture. Actually, it might be the unacknowledged dominant culture.

Idiots.

The “sub”culture, not BMW. They might be geniuses.

What are they doing?

Pandering to the group of Americans who ignore the squiggly red line under words they type…because spell-check is wrong, not them.

Those idiots.

How? Just how does a multinational – global, even – manufacturing company target an audience like this?

Believe it or not, it likely didn’t involve anything as spectacular as running head-first at full speed into a wall or ripping whip-its before sitting down to develop content. Very likely, I’d imagine it was rather organic.

Picture it. The setting: HR. Aaand…scene!

That’s it. Can you picture HR without the mental image of the employee it conjures being a ubiquitous Karen?

That’s all it takes. Someone who embraced the rampant misuse of the word “literally” so long that a dictionary gave the fuck up and rewrote its definition to align with the misuse.

You think they’re gonna hire people who would demand a high level of detail from themselves in their work? I’m talking in any department, too, not just in advertising.

I just don’t want you walking away from this post laughing at stupid creatives in stupid corporate America. I want you horrified, chagrined and slightly frightened of how pervasive the problem is.

Oh, you want to actually know what got me going on this? Not that the pic at the top of the post didn’t bury the lede, but…check it:

The caption says “Your BMW Has Our Undivided Attention” – italics are my addition, for emphasis…in case you’re one of them and don’t know it.

Call me crazy, but to me, undivided implies focus. Presumably, that guy is wrist deep in my BMW.

His hands are inside my car.

Where are his eyes?

Where?!? What are his eyes focused on?!?

Not watching what the fuck his hands are doing, that’s where.

So the collateral that BMW sends me to earn my business by demonstrating their attention to the service they provide is a picture of them not providing a commensurate level of attention to the service they provide.

Got it. Yeah.

Don’t mind me. I’m just over here observing shit.

What really bugs me is that I got this in the mail on a Saturday. My day off. Well, the one that overlaps with USPS service.

My day off from running payroll for a laser manufacturing outfit.

That’s five days of me seeing people that manufacture lasers but can’t manage to remember to punch back in from lunch. So I spend a good deal of time each week being surprised lasers work as intended, given the poor performance our employees have at such an entry level job expectation: making sure they get paid accurately for their time by punching a damn time card.

But, hey…if our lasers work on potentially nothing more than dumb luck, maybe that BMW tech will manage to not fuck up my car while giving it what passes for undivided attention while working on it?

Or I’ll pop the hood on Angela one day and find a windshield wiper where there should be a dipstick. Which scenario seems more likely?

Figuratively more likely, by the way. I know a windshield wiper would never literally fit where a dipstick belongs.

The “Literal” Treatment

Crappy Pride, Y’all!

I could probably just end this post at the title without leaving any mystery as to how I feel about how little my subculture deserves a fucking parade. Far be it from me to be succinct, though. But I also don’t want to bore you with my feelings about standing outside at a parade some stupid American would happily make a massacre of with a bunch of people who pretend both that I’m visible and that they’re decent people for one day a year.

Also, far be it from me to show restraint, so let the fact that I’ve been kicking this post idea around for about a month be known. Give that a damn parade. Rest assured, that’s not proChristination, either. I have literally been trying to decide whether posting a Pride month entry needed to happen. It didn’t last year, thank you for noticing.

Plus, being the volunteer voice of treason for my subculture has gotten me nothing but disavowed by said subculture. Not that I was expecting anything other than a culture I could feel pride in from those jokers. Me and my unreasonable expectations.

But that’s all I have to say about that. I’m Gay Kulture’s voice of treason, not their Don damn Quixote.

So I’ll just leave you with a little story. The Silver Fox has already kind of heard this – and I hate to bore my number one reader – although he may have unremembered it, as he likes to say.

Someone recently asked me if I had big plans for Pride month. Not sure how deep they imagined my pockets or clear my calendar might be when they asked, but it sounded like in their imagination, I’d be off traipsing around the globe, careening from circuit party to circuit party in some sort of cum-drunk stupor all month.

Ok, that grossed me out. Me.

Happy to burst their bubble – but with the style and panache a straight ally expects of their GBF – I set her, um…straight.

Here’s what I said, basically. She was rightfully near death when I finished.

“I dunno. I’ve been thinking about getting a haircut.”

I could see her translating my sentence from straight to gay and imagining me with rainbow colors died into my ‘do.

She needs a lot of setting straight. Straight setting? I don’t know what the proper Queen’s English would deem proper English syntax there…

“But then, I dunno. I’m kind of invested in the length at this point.”

“It’s never been this long before, has it?”

“Nah. Could’ve never pulled it off when I was working professionally. But that’s not the point.”

I see her confusion and debate dragging her along a little longer or moving in for the big finish. Knowing how tragically short American attention spans are these days – especially when the topic is not themselves – I decide not to risk losing my momentum to the “Squirrel! Phenomenon”.

“Yeah, at this point the rejection I get from trying to date The Gays just isn’t as fulfilling as it used to be.”

She’s starting to slow down during our walk, like a 70s-era robot being defeated by an illogic loop.

“So I’m thinking maybe – I dunno – maybe I’ll just grow it out to Locks of Love length and then try to donate it, because I’m sure they’d look at it and tell me in no uncertain terms that cancer patients would rather be bald than sport this stringy nest I call a mane. That seems like a man imminently satisfying level of rejection.”

Dead. She died right there on the sidewalk, dutifully swearing to me that my admittedly neglected hair was gorgeous. These are the types of transparent lies people who love me trot out…and that’s why I love them. That and their last gasp is apparently supposed to be an ego-boost to their favorite (only) homo.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go check the weather app to make sure it’s still gonna pour rain on Sunday’s parade. I will culturally fucking appropriate a dance if I have to…

Crappy Pride, Y’all!

K-GAY TV

Channel 1:

I had an unexpected palate cleanser of a TV experience last night. I watched – at the enthusiastic recommendation of a co-worker with dubious taste – Senior Year on Netflix. Since I don’t really know this person that well, I had to leverage her enthusiasm about the show with the unknowns of her viewing tastes.

I’m an Olympic caliber mathlete when it comes to rationalizing.

Plus, it was the Silver Fox’s last night in town, and he surprised me by taking his guts out for a tentatively exploratory drink with me. I hadn’t expected to see him since he had an afternoon wine date with some neighbors. But after jealously teasing him about what he planned to drink at this wine:30

…he followed up a couple hours later with “I’m saving my alcohol consumption for you!”

How could I refuse?

I had asked if he wanted to go out or stay in with wine and a movie. I think I might have mentioned – his imminent departure aside – that I wasn’t up for starting another series at the moment because, A) I can tell he’s itching to indulge one of his binge passions: subtitles. I can’t blame him. Regrettably, I’m already watching a 50/50 subtitled show and that’s giving me all the fix I need there, luckily it’s one based off of his recommendations so I’m in the clear as far as watching it without him. Back to that list, though; B) I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to invest in another series right meow. And it is an emotional investment. There’s the cost of simply committing to a series, for one thing, but then there’s subject matter to deal with.

We’d just come off of tearing through It’s A Sin on HBOMax and it was heavy! It’s the coming out/coming of age story of six friends who find themselves and each other in 1980s London.

Unlike Sex and the City, the city of London isn’t the unintended co-star. AIDS is. Hence the heavy.

I was glad to watch it, because: important. Even though I lived through that era in America, I needed it as a touchstone to the days when Gay Culture actually contained a culture versus <gestures vaguely> whatever these Lost Boys are trying to pass off as a community or culture today.

But lots of tears, speaking only for myself. So consider yourself warned.

But last night’s drink with The Fox ended up being an out of the house affair, sidestepping my fragility. At least initially. The topic of a movie eventually crept back in, but was ultimately rejected because of the time commitment. Today being a travel day, the Silver Fox didn’t really need to be up past his normal bedtime just to watch a movie. Me, having nothing else going, though…well, I was free to stay up and watch what I pegged as a little Brain Candy.

By and large, it was.

Cheerleader.

20 year coma.

Coma ends.

Cheerleader returns to finish high school at 37.

Brain Candy about brain trauma? Sure!

But the unexpected component was the wokeness of the project. The cast was diverse and the characters representative. I’m quite sure the male actors portraying gender fluid teens and dressing thusly will be quite the trigger for the vocal religious minority in the states.

It might actually account for the low rating on IMDb.

Might? Surely. It’s not a great movie, but the inclusivity that the movie portrays as today’s high school culture squares off nicely against the less-than-stellar experience high school was in reality for most any Millennial or older generational outsiders.

And I needed that optimistic thread in this story to offset the heaviness of It’s A Sin, which I’d say should be required viewing for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community before they’re allowed to take a pic of their junk or download Grindr.

It reset me to where I’d been when the Silver Fox rolled into town two weeks ago. Hopeful that the crop of gay dipshits I encounter every week might somehow collectively find their way out of the moniker Lost Boys.

Channel 2:

Before the Silver Fox made his return to town, I took another of his recommendations and watched Heartstopper.

Oh, my hell. <injects insulin> What a deliciously sweet story.

Goofy, gay art scene high schooler meets straight-but-secretly-questioning jock and they fall in love?

<sigh>

I am so jealous of the environment younger generations are living in. I mean, sure, I know it’s not all rainbows and unicorns…plus, they’re inheriting the planet we’ve all but destroyed, so they deserve a more idyllic youth. But this is exactly what my and the generations before me have been living toward these past decades: the ability to live life out of the closet and experience your true self in the open.

All those protests and pride parades and lobbying of politicians for equality under the law?

It was for this. So a couple of queer or questioning kids could fall in love.

Representation matters 100% – which is why people were so mad about Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law. Even more so about Disney’s initial silence over such a law going into effect in its backyard. You think your gonna make billions and billions on the back of our collective talent and get away with a shrug when we come under attack?

Au contraire.

TV, movies, theater and music…all of that art both imitates life and portrays the sometimes ugly truth of it. It’s cyclical. Sometimes art is a story or reflection of how something is. Others, it can be a representation of how it should or could be. In those instances, exposing non-allied individuals to something they are uncomfortable with through art can be a non-threatening way to introduce a topic and demystify or de-vilify it for them.

Again, representation matters…and with it, before long – a mere 50 years and counting in America – you’ll have boiled that taboo frog.

It was nice to watch a show – before I knew I needed it – that produced big, happy tears. I was so enthralled by the story and execution that I burned through all eight episodes in one night.

Again, it’s not like I’ve got anything else going on that would require me to be up and at it at a reasonable hour on a weekend.

The Fox’s return was pretty much hot on the heels of that viewing, so when he asked if I wanted to watch Young Royals, my answer was a heartfelt

Despite the fact that I suspected it was subtitled. Turns out, only dubbed. See? The Silver Fox challenges me to be a better me and me is rewarded with less work than me thought a better me would require. Of me.

Another high school coming of age/coming out story? Sure, why not?

And the trope isn’t totally monochromatic.

The boys in Heartstopper were both middle class Brits. This one was about a poor, working class Swede and a literal (well, in the show, not real life) Swedish Prince.

Totally different.

Ok, well different enough that it’s more of a fairy tail tale premise could be digestible for someone who couldn’t connect with a depiction of an uncomfortable topic in the shadow of their own class.

I know I’m aiming high to even think the representation these shows provide is on a straight line trajectory to the people that can’t/won’t/don’t accept the LGBTQ+ population.

I know.

But those who aren’t resistant, just underexposed can see this and be better armed against the hateful rhetoric that seems to be the default of that further out group. That we’re deviants or abominations or – even worse – have designs on their own perceived imperiled and precious little pooters.

No, thank you.

Even better, the representation these shows provide may equip the kids who are questioning their sexuality and where they belong on the spectrum of this intensely important part of the human experience. It might equip them to be able to start the conversation with someone who couldn’t nurture and enable their coming out as their true selves…especially if that someone is themself.

If the weather is t as glorious where you live as it is in Portland this weekend, treat yourself to one of these – maybe not It’s A Sin if you’re new to gay culture. I can’t promise you that you won’t tear up, but I can promise you some feel-good entertainment…and that it won’t make you gay.

K-GAY TV

I Can’t Have It All?

Part 2: What the hell was I thinking?

Damn universe, always teaching me lessons…like crippling humility.

So, there I was…having most of it. Gently nudged into balance by the Silver Fox. I’d gotten Angela all spruced up for her annual check-in with Lyft, but was focused more on those other pillars that make me feel like a normal person productive: writing and exercising.

No big news on the writing front.

Yet….

Couple blog posts. I re-read my prime WIP, by way of seeing where I need to tweak formatting before I hit publish. That’ll happen this month.

For sure.

So that’s something. Hoorah for lightly edited stories.

Also something?

I exercised twice as many days in March as I had in February. That ain’t nothing. April’s looking good, too, there’s a Class Every Day challenge and I’m on track. But balanced old Xtopher is keeping in mind that some days will be ride days, others will be strength…but mixed in will be days that are just a longer than my usual 5 minute post-ride stretch classes or even yoga classes.

Balance.

Also helpful? And this is where all that foreshadowing nonsense comes in: I got de-platformed by Lyft.

You read that right. Boy, they rogered me but good. Real good.

But that’s another blog.

I chose to look at it optimistically. The removal of a barrier to a balanced day.

The thing is, though, my temp gig doesn’t pay that well. I mean, I can’t complain, it’s not minimum wage – which I’ve certainly done as I explore non-career level employment. And it pays the bills. And-and, in a real Pinocchio twist, they started making sounds about converting me from a temp role to a real boy job.

The pay talk…we’ll see. I’m looking at it as a positive – even though the talk happened on April 1st. That’s just how my life goes. It was a good talk.

Except, the universe being the lesson teacher that it is, I was de-platformed by Lyft after dumping about $3k into little repairs for Angela that I’d been putting off. That was the month after the surprise $2500 I’d put into her in January, no less.

And after all that I had boldly (ie: no drink in hand) faced my taxes.

The day after I’d done my first draft of the taxes was the day I got the dry fuck from Lyft.

I’ll tell ya…I don’t believe in god, but I fully embrace the notion behind the phrase “If you wanna make god laugh, make a plan”.

And that’s what I had done. Made a financial plan that included making quarterly payments to the Feds for my $11k tax bill.

Thank god it was only a first draft. The second draft is a much less traumatic $8k, but it’ll still require an episiotomy after my main revenue stream gave me the same treatment it gave the driver that raped a passenger here in Oregon.

That seems fair. My punishment is the same as a rapist. My crime? I got two speeding tickets in a 12 month period. Yeah, well stick with “sounds fair”.

More on that later, I’m sure. You know how loquacious I can be when I get going on something.

Now, look…I may be seriously fucked right now, but I’m all Mr Bright Side, damnit! Even if that just means I jump off the bridge with the best view in town – that’s a tough one here in Portland – and don’t take anyone else out with me.

So that naive dumbass Mr Bright Side fella is looking at this as a way to achieve balance. Less opportunities for proChristination. Fewer distractions.

Bright side. Mr. Me.

But since my temp job doesn’t keep me in the happy hour budget I like, tax debt or no, nor does it afford the luxurious $30 treats Mistress Myrtle prefers…I need a second income stream.

Reluctantly, I signed up to be a delivery old man boy with DoorDash.

I hate it. It’s boring. It does give me that “in service to others” paycheck I found I missed after leaving retail. So, that’s a plus. And it pays around $7-10 more and hour than the temp job, so there’s that, too.

But it’s sooooo fucking boring.

Bright side? I can really only tolerate doing 5 deliveries in a shift. More than that is excruciating. Ok, that last part wasn’t very bright side, I admit. But, dashing out to do 5 deliveries after work a few nights a week and then a double or triple on a – singular – weekend day leaves me plenty of time for happy hour hangouts during the week – and it gives my budget the wiggle room to offset said indulgence. It leaves me the time for writing and exercising.

All. That.

There’s plenty to be grateful for. And since I hate it, the ~20 hours I give it each week balances my books. Well, excluding the G-men obligation. I might have to see if there’s a niche market for barely out of shape old men on OnlyFans to solve that problem. God only knows what weird shit passing as erotic that The Gays are lapping up these days.

Fucking morons.

But I think I’ve got a third draft of my taxes in me. I just need to make a phone call first. I think we all know how long I could drag that task out. So I’ll also file an extension…sometime between April 14th and 17th.

It’s good to have a plan.

And goals. Since my goals are work, exercise, write and not “pay less in taxes than Trump” I think I’m in a good place.

Fuck, being optimistic is a weird feeling. I should’ve stretched more before this post. Anyone else miss grumpy old Xtopher?

Don’t worry, he’ll be around. Until then, cheers to the bright side and cheers to you for reading. Thanks!

Look how my thigh is about the same size as my thumb in that pic. You go, Chicken Legs McGee!

I Can’t Have It All?

Well, Now I Feel…

Something.

Bad?

Nostalgic?

Accomplished?

Formerly accomplished?

Probably that last one. So…thanks, Facebook Memories.

Three years?!? How has it been that friggin’ long already…since I’ve had a date?

Kidding. Trying/not trying.

But I guess it’s just one more reminder that it’s been a long pandemic. If we factor those two years out, then it’s only been one year!

Don’t get me wrong, I tried to make hay out of the forced free time we all gained with the 2020 lockdowns. In April, I started NaNoWriMo – despite having two WIPs from prior NaNos still waiting for completion, then didn’t finish. Again.

I think I got derailed after a Twitter battle with a local stripper, who I’m sure knew nothing of my existence until I dared to correct him on his feed. Then I was all he could focus on, earning me featured status in his social media stories where he called me old and ugly. Not to mention a failed writer.

The young people are so woke – which seems to manifest with being disagreeable and combative. That’s regardless of the validity of their initial point. What moxy.

Sure, I’d only finished three books at that point, clearly, that’s failure in the eyes of a stripper who leaves the stage in a thong.

I actually finished all tasks associated with my job title, son. I have to imagine that a stripper’s job isn’t complete until they are clothes free. But what do I know? When I was a young man, tracing on one’s flesh was viewed differently than it is today – and I appreciate the evolution of sex work from villainized and humiliating to artistic expression and empowering.

This kid was – pardon the entendres – a dick.

Ultimately, that all stopped when he blocked me – the penultimate admission that he was wrong. The ultimate expression being actually saying it. But this is hardly the United States of Accountability, let alone Admittingyouwerewrong.

Anyway, as this was going on, I flirted with the idea of going to one of his shows and tipping him one of my books – yeah, I’ve got a few copies laying around. My overt grumpapotamus self imagined reading wasn’t high on his hobby list, see also: how he got to his current level of misery in his life.

Judgy.

The women strippers I meet driving with Lyft are all – every damned last one of them – such interesting people. Very engaging. Great stories. The male strippers I meet are all cunts. And not in that cool English slang type of way. At best, they look at me, and treat me like, I’m an ATM. Not that I go to strip clubs often…none of them have palatable beers.

I also considered going and tipping him $.02, since me giving him my figurative two cents was what set him off in the first place. Ultimately, I decided my absence was the best action for me.

Still determined to make some productive hay out of the lockdown, I pivoted to another project I’d been kicking around. When I finished my third book, it came in at a whopping 530-ish pages. I hardly consider myself a gay George R. R. Martin, so I sought out opinions from a few beta readers. They all told me it was fine.

But that length made printing costs pretty high and I think the lowest price I could charge was $19…and that was with me making less than a buck a copy. I knew there was a logical plot break that I could use as a kind of cliffhanger if I chose to split this into two books, I just hadn’t.

But with one half finished draft from April’s NaNo making me feel guilty, I decided this was the perfect time to tackle that split.

Obviously.

And I did it!

Well, “did it” so long as completing the split and edit of the first half. I knew I needed to flesh out the second half to beef it up a bit. It had originally suffered under the pressure of me knowing the page count was running high for one book. This was my chance to flesh it out.

But my first goal was to get the newly shortened second installation in my No One Of Consequence series back up online. Then I hit a formatting snag. Just a teensy one, but it proved to be overwhelming to my lockdown self and I never went back to finish it. I couldn’t imagine jumping to the third installment to get that story wrapped up, it just seemed wrong.

Four frustrating months go by. I spent a lot of that time considering the optics of dying during a pandemic with unfinished works. I thought it looked pretty good. Other artists somehow pull it off.

Margaret Mitchell.

Elvis.

No, wait…Hemingway! That’s a better comparison. I’m a drinker, not a druggie. And we’ve established the fact that 500+ page books are not my style, so…yeah. Hemingway.

That was probably my biggest self-soothe of the pandemic.

It carried me through the next three months. Right up to the next NaNoWriMo event, the big one in November. Now I can finish!

Or…start another work.

The following April?

Ok, this was pure motivation. And adrenalin.

I had just gotten my Peloton and was jazzed to pick up the autobiographical trilogy I’d fancied when I wrote Dating Into Oblivion. When I wrote that, I was nearing the end of a year long blogging theme that had resulted from a friendly intervention at my 50th birthday party.

Rude.

As a result of the collective will of my well-intentioned friends, I leaned into a blog theme I had just finished that I hashtagged fitfy. It was a play on fifty, an age I had been determined to reach with some progress toward accepting my aging self with a healthier attitude toward diet and exercise.

I’d been having trouble forgiving myself for not being able to eat and exercise like an idiot twenty-something. Naturally, my 51st birthday had involved me tapping a keg of my favorite beer at my then-favorite bar.

Anyway, knowing I had that “fitness in my fifties” notion in the back of my head, I decided to tackle dating in my fifties. It gave me something to do, at any rate. I figured the trilogy could round out with working in my fifties. It was a notion I rather fancied.

The problem was, there wasn’t much I could actually do since I’d just gotten my bike. I considered harvesting stories from my year of fitfy blog posts, as I had when I put together Dating Into Oblivion. But I considered that would have been only a portion of the project. I needed new content to complete the story.

Another partial credit NaNo for old Xtopher. PaCreNaNo? Kind of sounds like a pancreatic medical crisis.

Maybe that stripper was right.

Shudder.

Possibly, but improbable. Maybe what I needed was the motivation of writing something people might be attracted to en masse. My current accomplishments and WIP library all featured what I call gay shit – and I hate to break it to you, but The Gays aren’t known collectively as big readers.

It’s the pandemic – everybody else was pivoting, why not me? That sounds like a riff of a Cranberries album.

I picked a theme close to every Portland NIMBY’s heart: the homeless. Came up with a mystery plot. I even created a nom de plume based off of my parents middle initials and old world naming paradigms – JT Robertson.

Finally…in November of 2021, I completed a NaNoWriMo! Have I published? No. I’m mentally kicking it around, polishing it up. Completely retooling the voice. Flipping the plot 180 degrees.

Y’know…the basic writer’s nightmare.

April’s NaNo is weeks away.

Weeks.

I’m determined to finish something from my WIP list before adding anything else to it. I figure at this point, if my goal is to have a WIP library consisting of a prime number of works – it isn’t but I need to set boundaries of some kind – then I either need to finish one or add four!

I think seven is enough of a library. Let’s see if this Facebook Memories shaming is enough of a motivator to get NOOC2 published and back online. Lord knows that providing airplane reading material for a friend’s trip to Africa last month wasn’t it, so fingers crossed.

Sure enough, I woke up this morning, uncovered my laptop…and started organizing my tax receipts. Then I got this text

RUDE!!

So I wrote this, instead. I refuse to be so known by my best friend.

To answer my original question: seen. I feel seen.

Well, Now I Feel…

Must Distract TV?

I freely admit that my TV watchlist is certainly no “Must See” NBC Thursday Night Lineup, but a good many of the programs that streamers have put in front of me lately are barely presenting as fodder to keep me…let’s call it sedated.

While, not great shows for a variety of reasons, they are at least doing a fair job of keeping me disengaged from the surreality of the world around me. I can’t say that’s their explicit intent, but that assumption just seems slightly more generous than declaring them simply bad shows.

A sampling:

Leverage: Redemption

Maybe my memory of the original run of this show being “good” is clouded by the reality that it was shot in Portland. Maybe I’m just old and forgot that I didn’t like it originally, but tolerated it – see also: my first point.

Woo-boy, though. Lemme tell ya, the reboot sucks. Hard. Unless the point of the reboot is to showcase these actors’ skill in reading a line, then this is just painful to watch. And back to that whole “bad memory” possibility? I seem to remember thinking Noah Wylie could act at one point.

Just goes to show that acting is not like riding a bicycle…

Elite

Soapy and schmaltzy, this show is pure, dubbed brain candy. With a healthy side of nudity – which if I didn’t know these actors playing high school students were in their mid/late 20s, would make me feel weird. And since – as I pointed out to the Silver Fox – the nudity has a hearty, if not almost exclusive boy-butt-focus, that weirdness could be assuaged by handing me a priest’s collar, I’m willing to absolve myself.

And, boy…there sure are a lot of murders at this high school.

Grace & Frankie

I know…calling a show with such overt gay themes makes me a traitor to my own community. Again.

Me, the Voice of Treason.

But, again…it’s older actors demonstrating they can read a line off a cue card. Some of the writing is funny. Some of the scenarios are kooky fun. But it’s a little late in the game to reinvent the whole Lucy/Ethel trope which this show leans so heavily upon.

At this point, I just think it’s just Netflix pandering to older audiences to keep them engaged with Netflix as a viewing platform. If that’s the case, at least they are doing so with story lines designed-ish to appeal to younger, woke audiences: like the late in life gay story arc. In that regard, if they succeed with drawing Boomer and Greatest gen viewers, they are also engaging them with potentially mind expanding content.

There is a certain value to that.

The Snarky Car Insurance Commercial:

This was a surprise to me. But it’s a tip of the hat to the ridiculous horror movie writing paradigm.

Two couples run out of a corn field. One guy suggests they hide in the cellar, his girlfriend counters with the attic. A crying girl suggests they just hop in the already-running car, while her boyfriend popularly points out they could just hide out behind the wall of also-running chainsaws.

A masked man with dubious intent slowly shakes his head.

The voiceover states “When you’re in a horror movie, you make questionable decisions…”.

And when Americans are in lockdown, apparently, we do as well…medicating with stupid soapy TV (and plenty of booze, I’m sure) to make our way through.

As far as this commercial goes, though…can we just disable celebrating stupid? It’s like we learned nothing from 20+ seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Stupid people are not entertainment. If we can’t use the word retarded to describe stupid people, let’s stop airing what equates to mutually-exploitative content featuring people with intelligence that…has not progressed in pace with the majority of people of similar age. TV like this, celebrating vacuous nitwits has just seemed to drag its audience of already stupid Americans down to their level.

It’s weird, I started this post as a draft in October! Then, in typical creative old Xtopher fashion, abandoned it. But this week I realized that my TV viewing hasn’t necessarily improved over the past quarter.

Sure, there were some standout binges with – and thanks to for making the content decisions – the Silver Fox on several of his trips up from his self-imposed exile in the hinterlands of Oregon. Shows that were new seasons of proven winners like Hanna and Lost In Space. Or the coming tomorrow new season of Euphoria.

Then again, I only got sucked into Elite as a result of his content suggestions, so…<shrug emoji>

On the other hand, though, lay my own questionable decisions. Decisions that are either better or worse since they are movies versus entire seasons of TV shows, so at best I’ve only lost a couple hours.

Right?

Nah.

Because it started with an innocent viewing of Divergent after a late dinner earlier this week. But then I proceeded to immediately watch the next two movies in the trilogy, resulting in a 6 AM bedtime. That’s right, I pulled an all-nighter for a Young Adult movie series.

Blame it on the imminently watchable but better on low volume Theo James.

The worst part? I couldn’t immediately fall asleep because I couldn’t figure out if I disliked Shailene Woodley more than Jennifer Lawrence from the Hunger Games movies. I fell asleep at least knowing that I like Hunger Games more than these movies…

As a palate cleanser, I decided to watch 12 Monkeys after reading an article about Bruce Willis’ “19 Best Movies”. Plus, I missed my annual Christmastime viewing of Die Hard (#2 on the list, BTW). I remember thinking, “Well, he’s made way more than 19…” and then got distracted by not being able to find 12 Monkeys for free on any of my streaming apps. Having just spent ~$15 getting burned by renting the Divergent movies, I decided it was best to try to scratch my Bruce Willis itch with a free movie. On the plus side, it was less than 90 minutes long, so I’d be on with my day in no time!

Nothing. No satisfaction whatsoever. A Bruce Willis Itch FAIL. And, that was 90 minutes of my time I wasn’t getting back. Lesson learned: when Willis isn’t the top billed actor in an action movie, that’s a red flag. So the next day, on to another.

I began to wonder if this guy ever actually made good movies. When you read in the trivia section of IMDb that Willis shot all of his scenes in one day…maybe don’t let your curiosity get the better of you.

It’s like I didn’t believe myself when I said “If Willis isn’t the top billed actor in an action movie, that’s a red flag”. Maybe this just proves that old actors reading lines isn’t limited to just TV series.

Or maybe it proves that I didn’t want to watch 12 Monkeys so much as I wanted a shot at seeing Brad Pitt drop trou. Hard to say. I did finally manage to scratch my Bruce Willis cinematic itch by watching Looper. Now, that was a hidden gem. Or one everyone else knew about, but I missed. And with Joseph Gordon Levitt as a co-star, I got a collateral Hollywood Heartthrob fix to satisfy the Brad Pitt’s naked butt quotient.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read a book.

Must Distract TV?

Cue The Go-Gos…

And before I begin, congrats to the Go-Gos on their recent inauguration into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

For as much anticipation taking a year off of vacation and travel created for us all, I have to say that my own came and went without much fanfare.

In October.

Which was great on a couple different levels. First, I got to deploy all my snark when asked if I was participating in Octsober. Um, it’s a family reunion-slash-vacation, so that’s a big

The second great thing – and just to be clear, I’m enumerating things beyond seeing the foursome from Texas that I call my extended family. Truth be told, they are the only other family. Anywho, the second great thing was the timing of it all. We’d originally planned this for late June-early July of 2020. And then 2021. But the parentals ultimately decided to exercise their right to cancel/reschedule on the last day they could before everything locked in 30 days out. With COVID and Delta being what it was, they made a good call.

October was the reschedule. For whatever reason, the original date lined up with my youngest brother’s 45th birthday. The fallback encompassed my sister’s 55th. This, of course, brought up my unresolved – and equally heretofore unknown – issues around 70s and 80s coffee commercials. Y’know, the ones with the butthurt housewife that’s upset when her husband orders a second cup of coffee with his dessert. They even spoofed it in Airplane!

Why don’t we ever do family vacations around my birthday?!? Surely not because it’s in the middle of January and everyone is knee-deep in their resolutions.

But the real coup d’etat on the timing was the timing! October isn’t the summer anywhere in the northern hemisphere, nor is it yet fully winter. In the Oregon high desert, that means the resort town we meet up in is itself deserted.

Also, there are no crazy temps either way. Sure, it got down to the 30s at night, but the days were high 50s-low 60s. It was awesome. Light sweater weather during the day, at worst. Then at night it was cold enough you could leave the window open a crack to get that crazy cold air deep sleep going.

Plus, the parents were on the main floor. “Age Rules” being what they are, that means that in addition to playing the TV at the same volume as their ages, the temperature was set the same way. If I didn’t open my window, I’d have woken up looking like a Costco rotisserie chicken!

All of this really bubbles up to the reality that after 4 pm, all there really is to do in Sunriver in October is eat and drink.

Well, that and watch the neighborhood deer.

What? You thought that seeing my family would be the best part of this story to me?

Don’t get me wrong, my enjoyment of my food and beverage consumption was greatly enhanced by my family’s presence. Not just because they are my blood. No, because the extended family foursome I have are Texas residents, so you know one of them was unvaccinated – and proudly declaring her natural immunity from the COVID she survived. Given her Instagram stories, I can safely guess this was from spending her pandemic galavanting around the western side of the country.

Still, I am of the opinion that she should have been vaccinated. I expended a great deal of emotional energy during the vacation trying to not lecture my 20-something first cousin on this topic. Helpfully, we seemed to be seated quite near one another at every damn meal. Well played, family. Well played.

Our usual meal routine for family vacations is that breakfast is a drop in event, we’re on our own for lunches and dinner is a family time. Generally, each person gets a cooking night but since working folk might pop in or out during the vacation according to their schedules, occasionally couples can pair up.

Me? I’m always fucked. I mean, destined to cook alone – the one time I brought someone, his grandmother died the day we fucking arrived…the nerve. I mean, lesson learned. Not that the family minds my solo-cooking misadventures, particularly since their favorite pastime seems to be harassing me while I cook. Can’t blame them, though…I can generally be relied upon to do something entertaining while cooking.

Hey, in the grand scheme of things, two small fires out of all the vacations we’ve taken is a blip at most. Right?!?

There are food related vacation traditions involved, for sure – beyond my minor conflagrations.

The ‘Phew generally orders pizza for his night. And that’s usually the day we arrive so we can ease into it.

The lil bro usually grills burgers.

The bro-in-law usually grills steak.

Mom makes spaghetti.

Dad…well, dad takes us all out to dinner. Then, per family tradition, argues with his brother about whether he can chip in. Short version: he can’t. Long version: we all had another round while they debated.

And, me? Well, since I love cooking but hate cooking for myself, I go all out. I’ve been known to pack not just a favorite knife – turns out, my LTR ends up being cutlery – but even a 10 lb pork loin and most of the ingredients for a molé or a paella pan or what have you. Hey, I’m not starting a fire cooking Mac & Cheese, ok?

You might notice the Texas Foursome was not listed. Not a bunch of cookers in that group. The mom isn’t super domestic, so they come by it honestly. Since there’s usually more people than nights, this usually isn’t an issue, though. Myself, I think this was the first time I’ve stayed the full duration.

This time, my COVID cousin brought along her fiancé. It was my first time meeting him, but it seemed everyone else had met him before briefly at some family function I missed. To his credit, he took up steak grilling duties for one meal – which my brother-in-law regrettably but graciously abdicated. I mean, who wouldn’t cede grill master duties to a Texan?!?

Poor guy. He asked how everyone wanted their steaks cooked and then served us all saddles. I know the pain of going from zero to 60 on cooking. The fires I set are obvious. His was more subtle – merely cremating a cow carcass. Why he gets a pass and I get harassed…well, further evidence of how nice my family is.

Or how much more they…like me?

That all being the case, I still found myself using my extra family time relaxing into cooking for pleasure. I had planned a beef stew over polenta dinner, with an ancillary black bean chili type dish.

Texans, remember? I knew there’s gonna be extra nights. Plus, with COVID protocols being in effect, I was pretty sure dad wasn’t getting a reservation for 10+ anywhere.

I got my stew inspiration from a cook at the restaurant on my block. The recipe served 30, so I halved it. There was 12 of us that night – the ‘Phew brought a girlfriend for the night – and everyone got one serving. Yikes.

My hecklers’ fantasy moment? Making polenta. It’s pretty easy…boil some stock, stir in the polenta and then stir as it does it’s polenta thing. I made the full restaurant recipe, but chose the wrong pan. I chose a 4-quart saucepan and needed at least another quart of space, although in retrospect, I’d have chosen a 6-quart sauté pan so I had more surface area for the liquid to cook off.

So, I fucked up the polenta. Think of it as me being a gracious host and serving low hanging fruit to my loving tormentors.

Remember, to make up for it, I had a second meal up my sleeve!

Plus, my mom pulled her favorite “I have a gay son”/Thanksgiving trick on her cooking night – handing me the spatula. So I cooked up a bunch of spaghetti.

Then, in a fit of “don’t end up like me” life lessons, I made a breakfast date with my 20-something first cousins from Texas and made a date for a breakfast cooking lessons. That sentence was…ouch.

The menu? Frittata and home-style potatoes.

I told them around midnight – it was more of a dropped gauntlet than an invitation – to meet me in the kitchen at 8 the next morning. Then we drank for a couple more hours.

She looked perfectly put together.

Surprisingly, my youngest cousin was already there when I arrived. I’d set my alarm for 745 and brushed my teeth and threw on a ball cap.

When I expressed my surprise, she was all, “What? You said 8!”

For my part, I mumbled, “Well, we’re batting .500”…you know I was still drunk if I was credibly attempting sports analogies. I started in on how easy frittatas are – I mean, do you want to make more than two omelette ever? – and how it can be something you just throw together with supplies on hand, put under the broiler and then slice up like a pizza and throw on the table.

Easy-peasy!

Guess who showed up right about then? That’s right…COVID cousin!

I told them my default frittata: cubed ham, cubed cheddar and broccoli florets. Pro-tip: you can buy the ham pre-cubed and use frozen florets. Aside from that, you’re big decisions are what herbs you want to use. Garlic powder, maybe a red pepper flake and “anything green” were my loose guidelines.

I put COVID cousin on frittata prep and showed my younger cousin the potato ropes. Since we were nearing the end of the vacation, my sister – tasked with provisioning the pantry for each of these vacations and affording my uncle another opportunity to hone his “let me chip in” argument – was in high “use everything up” mode. To that end, I instructed my cousin to use the remaining potatoes.

Short cut for home style potatoes: quarter them and nuke them for 3-4 minutes to soften them up. Then cube them and throw ‘em in a sauté pan with some oil and…whatever spices you have handy!

Why? Because the M.O. for this Homo in the kitchen is “Because I can!” Pretty much everywhere else I’m my life I seem to can’t so this is cathartic.

Keeping with my traditions of affording my family opportunities to harass me while I cook and simultaneously making a near-critical-slash-comedic error, the 6-quart sauté pan I chose for my cousin turned out to be too small for that many damn potatoes.

Fuck my fucking life. On top of the ongoing Struggles of Xtopher, I forgot to get a frittata spread pic. Ugh. Will these humiliations never end?!?

But at the same time, this minor crisis allowed me the chance to show my cousins how to roll with the culinary punches. I’m no Julia Child – despite my default childish behaviors – but I’m all for her “no one needs to know what happens in your kitchen” confidence. If they walked away with any of that from my struggle of tossing 4 lbs of cubed potatoes in a 6-quart sauté pan…my work as a twice-their-age cousin is done.

Since they are in their 20s and I haven’t seen any home cooked meals posted on their Instagrams, I’m gonna guess these confidence boosting lessons will need a <ahem> booster shot.

Cue The Go-Gos…