My Type of Double-Header

Don’t make it dirty. I know that’s hard if you’re at all fagmiliar with my shenanigans, so I don’t blame you.

Maybe I should title this Bookends? Nope. That doesn’t work either.

And really, this turns out to be a surprise triple-header, anyway – if we carried the analogy through to the end. Does that ever happen in sports? I don’t know anything about it, really. I went to a double-header baseball game last summer, but that was just for my dad…and after a couple innings, meh.

Boys in stretchy tight pants only go so far as far as my attention is concerned. It’s like, how many times do you want to consecutively have the same thought as Bill Murray in Caddyshack?

Wow. I’ve wandered rather far afield. Shocker.

What was I saying?

Oh, yes. The double-header.

A couple months ago, my local radio station got a new DJ – Iris. She does the 8-midnight. At 9 pm she does a new music feature where listeners are encouraged to give it a thumbs up or down vote and maybe you’ll win a pair of concert tix for your effort. This particular night she was giving away Barns Courtney tickets at the Wonder Ballroom.

While I was there, I decided to enter my name into the guest list drawing for the band’s appearance in the station’s Live Music Lounge, figuring my chances of being one out of ~100 winners was better than the one out of one winners for the show at the Wonder.

Remember, this is all happening against a backdrop of the country losing its mind over a Powerbottomball jackpot that built to $2.04B, so odds and chances were on my mind.

Well, a day or two later, I get an email from the station.

That’s right. I was the one of one winner!

And if the title hasn’t clicked into place yet, a couple days later I got the email telling me I was on the list for the lunchtime show in the Live Music Lounge, too!

Double-header!

Well, the on-air talent that hosts the events in the LML usually warm the crowd up with a little trivia, prizes are…concert tickets.

I wasn’t particularly interested in the first couple bands because I don’t really know them. The Barns Courtney show was enough adventure in expanding my musical palate since I couldn’t name a song of his off the top of my head. I always like them when I hear one, but it’s just not in heavy rotation. Musically, I’d put him somewhere between Cage the Elephant and The Heavy.

Unintentional entendres.

The third question offered tickets to Arcade Fire, which is a band I’d love to see…but it’s in Shittatle. But the fourth question offered an opportunity to stay home and see a great hometown band: Modest Mouse. So up went the hand, and – thanks to my knowledge of arcane news from New Mexico circa 1947 – I won.

The answer was a weather balloon incident, by the way.

Turns out, they would have also accepted alien crash-landing, but c’mon.

Then it was showtime.

These guys took the stage and I found out that they don’t fuck around.

Barns Courtney came out last wearing all off-white, down to him platform boots. Even the sunglasses, long beads and scarf he accessorized with were off-white. Only the (hopefully faux) fur betrays the color scheme – but it really brought the outfit together.

This guy definitely dressed like a rockstar. And his mouth looks like proof that somewhere Steven Tyler’s or Mick Jagger’s blood line has mixed with Carly Simon’s.

This is a small venue. Smaller than small. Barns Courtney filled the space with his persona.

Physically, the stage barely held the four of them and their drum kit and took up an entire wall of the room. In Barns Courtney, apparently if you don’t play drums you’re required to play guitar – so add three of those to the mix.

Seriously, this is at least 20% of the space –

This band is everything you want from a rock band. Literally, sex (look at them), drugs (you had to hear the interview to understand) and rock-and-roll (obvs).

Here’s a dump of the other pics I snapped during the show.

I have to say, this five-song set left me both sated and ready to finish out my work day and eager to see what they could do in a full venue. As showtime drew nearer, I debated not going to the show. I had a friend lined up to go, but they’d backed out – no doubt for a chance to get dicked down if their current track record is any indication. Indickation?

There was another friend who’d accepted an invitation I hadn’t extended who I knew was disappointed to not be going, but I just opted to go alone. I’ve been in a weird space lately anyway, so being in a crowd was likely going to overwhelm my tolerance for people without adding in the feelings and needs of someone I know.

I forced myself out of the house. First the the local watering hole for a pre-show drink. I shocked everyone there by closing out when my beer arrived, which only made me want to stay. But I’d had my motivator-slash-reward, so across the water I went, entering the venue about 815 for the 830 show.

An opening band. Who knew? I was not expecting that. I honestly didn’t think Barns Courtney was big enough to warrant an opener. So that was my Today I Learned moment.

They were a foursome of kids from Oakland. I mean kids – I swear they weren’t old enough to drink, even though I also swear I saw one of them tipping back a beer as they broke down the stage after their set. He was also doing it while carrying the pad from under his drum kit under one arm and the stool he’d been seated on, which had a water bottle balanced on it.

That right there is a dexterity that barely outlasts one’s teen years: first you’re all gangly and uncoordinated as you recover from your puberty growth spurt, then you’re running around doing impossible feats that lead to the words “Hey, watch this!” escaping your mouth and then you’re dead. Either because your last words were “Hey, watch this!” or you hit 30 and life is figuratively over.

Anyway, these kids were surprisingly good for an opener. Kinda a one-key sound, but the drummer and guitar players put on a show to offset the lead singer’s narrow range. I’m not complaining, that one-key was reminiscent of some Deathcab/Postal Service songs.

Nothing to complain about there.

But the highlight of their stage presence – and further indictment proof of their youth was the statement “Thanks to Uncle Kevin for letting us stay at his place tonight”. These kids aren’t even old enough to rent a hotel room. Haha. Ha.

Then the headliners room the stage.

Well, first their stagehand spent 40 minutes dicking around with equipment, making sure everything was just so. Their name – intentionally keeping pronouns neutral for them, dressed masculine-ish, but if I learned anything from Shakira, it’s that hips don’t lie – is Sexy Patrick. I’d been introduced to them at the afternoon show when they brought out a guitar for Barns Courtney and picked up their discarded sunglasses from the stage floor and got a load of what I hope was good natured teasing. Sexy Patrick demurred the attention, but it’s hard to know why. The nice thing is that you got some insight into the process behind putting a show on. Maybe I shouldn’t refer to it as dicking around, but I was getting a little antsy as the venue filled up with people who apparently knew there was an opening act. I had chosen my spot intentionally.

I think it’s there so people don’t accidentally get pushed down the stairs right there. Maybe it’s there to provide grumpy old men like me a place to stand alone amongst strangers – without being too amongst. Who knows?

For the second time that day, I watched Barns Courtney take the stage for a show. Well, the band took the stage. Drummer and the two guitar players proceeded onto the stage and settled in. As soon as they beat out the first couple of notes, Barns Courtney exploded onto the stage. Seriously, from behind a curtain at the back of the stage, he leapt in a seemingly blind fashion onto the stage.

“How does he do that without falling?!?” – Me

It’s not accurate to say that this was the least dangerous thing he or the band did all night, but my curiosity for how or what they could do with a full-sized stage was definitely answered over the next 60-plus minutes.

And I’ll tell you now that my camera skills are not fast enough to catch the antics. As if the quality of my photography didn’t make that obvious. I did manage to catch one of the guitar players on top of a speaker, though.

It doesn’t come through as well as when they were both on speakers at opposite ends of the stage. Or when Barns Courtney stood on the drum kit. Stood. This was a sustained position, not a hop up and get pulled back down by gravity moment. He maintained position until he was done with his musical moment and then leapt back to the stage.

In platform boots.

Pretty amazing showmanship from these fellas.

They’ve got the talent and presence to have a long career together – like the potential father of the lips bands. But who knows what the future holds? I don’t see 20-something musicians (or any Gen Z-er) having the discipline to maintain a lifelong relationship of any kind, even if it involves fame and fortune. But I’ll definitely remember these shows for a good long time.

I’d had a good enough time, and even though I’d gotten Doris Day parking – I was ready to go. I’d heard every song I thought I knew, so I started heading for the back when what felt like the final song began. I don’t know if they did an encore or not – but I had to stop in spite of my grumpy old self before I hit the doors just to appreciate how this guy whipped his audience up.

I don’t see how this larger than life persona could be brought to you by anything but exactly the right amount of cocaine – but I’m glad o got to witness it.

Twice.

Two weeks until Modest Mouse – with a potential for a short set by Noah Kahan next week in the Live Music Lounge. I’m eager to see how this year of mostly free entertainment wraps up!!

I know. Me…excited about life.

My Type of Double-Header

Falling Apart

I have to admit that this could be it: the best I’ll feel for the rest of my life.

That might sound dramatic, but compared to the thought I had the other day about houseless people and warmth…maybe less so?

What prompted my musing on this age of slow decay?

Well, my toothache last weekend, for sure. Then, the other night I was sitting on my couch watching Mythic Quest (highly recommend!) and casually rubbing my face. Unsurprisingly, I found the usual psychotic puberty-era throwback oily skin. Along with that, though, were these oddly placed patches of dry skin. Not the usual T-zone dry patches…these were weird.

This, mind you, is on top of the still randomly rampant maskne. Why that needs to be hanging in a year after mask mandates dropped, I’m not sure. Probably karma.

Anyway, this new facial geography kinda felt like it would just flick off with a little lift.

So I did.

I don’t know why it made me feel better to accomplish something as small as removing dead skin cells, but there I was. And because the universe is a sonofabitch, there it was.

I’d explored the area under and around my eyes – and then was just kind of tracing the outline of a nostril with my fingernail and found something I’d never have seen. It was right there where the nostril meets the cheek, so the curve of even my unflared nostril would totally obscure it – if it were even visible to my aged eyes.

All thoughts of the randomness of these flaky, dry skin cells completely and instantly disappeared as blood started cascading out of my face.

And that’s only borderline hyperbole.

So, y’know, I get up and go get some tissue, dab it, drop it in the toilet and make my way for the couch.

Oh, no…that’s pure hubris. That fucker bled and bled and bled.

Nothing like these little shaving accidents that throw out a perfect orb of blood and then clot or are satisfied being staunched by a scrap of one-ply TP. No, this was more like – well, have you ever had your ear (the pinna, not the lone) accidentally nicked during a haircut? Yeah, it was like that.

I didn’t entirely rule out bleeding to death.

It took a return trip to the bathroom – I waited this time – applying pressure until the tissue was saturated. I waited during the second application of direct pressure instead of returning to the couch because it wasn’t slowing.

Finally, I opted for a double wad of TP to staunch my not-life-threatening wound and went back to the couch. I finished my episode of Mythic Quest before tentatively removing the pressure.

Finally.

I mean, sheesh. That was a lot of blood wasted. And wine! Well, not wasted wine, but wine drinking time wasted. Still, I wasn’t going to risk spilling or spoiling my wine, so I waited.

Seriously, though. Should it take 20 minutes for blood to clot? And that’s when it hit me, that this was probably the best I’d ever feel for the rest of my life. I’m sure the best age related physical shenanigannery (Chrisism, boom!)I can expect is massive bruising when I casually bump something.

Fun!

Falling Apart

Shrinkflation

Gas prices have fallen for about 90 days in Portland. I’ve heard that in many parts of the US, gas has dipped under $4 for the first time in six months.

Here, it’s still averaging well over $4 for a gallon of regular, but I’m happy the mid-grade I use is under $5. That’s still about a buck more a gallon than I was paying in January.

However, I’ve noticed a couple of amusing returns on my gas investments recently.

First, when I was being a pre-vacation grump and refusing to put more than $20 worth of gas in my tank at a time – not sure if that’s denial or self-preservation. I had done just that and was headed out to mom and dad’s for a smoker-q.

Side note: I’ve been thinking about drugs lately. Specifically that moment in drug history where cocaine had faded from popularity and made a resurgence in a smoke-able versus snort-able form that everyone called crack cocaine. I think we really missed a portmanteau opportunity by not calling it smocaine.

Anyway, I remember doing the mental math on my round trip with my almost half tank of gas. I figured I’d come back and park Angela with a quarter tank. I enjoy these mental math games of speculation. Especially when it pits me against technology – like gas gauges and “miles to empty” projections.

This particular instance was a draw. After my ~60 round trip, I was still around 3/8 tank. Saving me face, though, was the “mikes to empty” reading had only dropped by 12 miles.

When I went on vacation and drove to the high desert, I had to give up my grumpy old man ways and fill up for the 168 mile trip.

I remember the mileage between here and Sunriver because it’s my birth month and year. Another thing my brain likes to pass the time noticing. Anyway, I figured filling my tank would be a cathartic exercise to start my vacation. I was shocked when I looked at the “miles to empty” as I pulled onto the road.

Angela usually teases me with 500 mikes to the tank, delivering somewhere closer to 430. I’m not sure what she was trying to pull telling me I’d actually get my money’s worth for the $100 I’d just coughed up.

Maybe she was just trying to make me feel better.

Of course, that projection ended up more like this…

More so than normal, that is. Surprising no one.

It was, in my mind, a pleasant turn from the shrinkflation I’d been confronted by daily throughout the summer, though. I’d noted my reluctance to pay retail prices to water manufacturers in the past instead of something closer to wholesale prices.

I mean, where do they get off?!?

So I was proud of my La Croix loyalty because I could get a 12-pack for $4.

Not anymore. Welcome to shrinkflategate!

Now I can’t find a 12-pack to save my life.

It’s 8-packs or nothing these days, my friends.

But don’t worry, it’s still $4. If you’re lucky.

My mind – noticing the patterns it does so naturally – reflexively does the math and can’t quite find where inflation is 8%. I mean, at best the price is flat. But the damn package is 1/3 smaller!

I’d like to speak to the manager.

At least Angela has my back. The prices all around me are rising. Groceries, restaurants, services…everything is going up. But Angela tries to make it all better by giving me hope that a tank of gas will magically stretch further.

Shrinkflation

The Year of FREE Music

No, this is not a nostalgia post about my Columbia House membership.

Whilst working from home yesterday, I was planning out my weekend. The focus was getting my weekend blogging goal back on track as well as my exercise regimen – which has been off track since my vacation. Add into that the Silver Fox’s return to town. And this is still on top of wanting to maintain my regular weekend misadventures.

But it was also Flashback Friday on my local radio station. Back when I was living that #LyftLife that meant I listened to the weekly Party Out of Bounds radio show from 8-midnight while driving Friday nights.

All 80s and 90s music for four hours? Yes, please.

Now that I’m living the WFH life, I listen to the morning show until 10 Monday-Friday and maybe switch to a pandora station later in the day. But on Flashback Friday I might put in a little longer on the show because they give away tickets to upcoming live shows from 80s and 90s bands every hour.

I’ve set my limit at 5 calls per hour, if I’m able to call when they throw it out. Sometimes I’m on a Teams or Zoom call and can’t.

It’s fine. I’ve already won seats at their free in studio performances twice this year, so if I miss out, I’m still having a pretty good live music year. Some of the shows though…Jane’s Addiction, Garbage, Crowded House. There’s about five shows to choose from each week at a variety of venues: The Moda Center (where the Blazers play), Edgefield (one of our larger outdoor venues), Crystal Ballroom (if you wanna experience a concert on the third floor of a hundred+ year old building, this is your place – and let’s hear it for feeling the floor move beneath your unmoving feet!), or Pioneer Courthouse Square (aka: Portland’s Living Room).

Moda Center
Inside the Moda during concert mode
Edgefield – looking back from the 4th row. More on that in a minute
Crystal Ballroom – home of the “Floating Dancefloor”.
Pioneer Courthouse Square from the air…or an office tower across the street

I’ve been to shows at all of these venues over the years, but my attendance was stagnant recently – pandemic closures notwithstanding. I’ve been to Moda many times, including Fleetwood Mac on three separate tours. I saw Everclear back in the late 90s or early aughts at the Crystal and was “recently” (aka: five-ish years ago!) invited to Echo and the Bunnymen there. Pioneer Courthouse has a couple different summer music events each year. The first is just a “Portland is awesome” type of thing…a free Lunchtime Concert Series every Thursday at noon. Back when our downtown had businesses operating in it, people would throw open their windows in the neighboring non-skyscraper buildings to lean out an watch. People on the streets would be drawn to this packed city block brick plaza. I’ve seen several shows there, too. Notably, the Indigo Girls back in the 90s and I was sad to miss their return to this venue this year. There have also been a couple of community concerts featuring our local Pink Martini to mark holiday tree lightings or punctuate a local event – like a protest concert or to honor the life of a colorful former Mayor.

This is our former Mayor, Bud Clark. I missed his memorial at Pioneer Square, but if it was half as entertaining as he was…

Which leaves us with Edgefield out of the venues listed above. It’s a 7000 “seat” outdoor venue at the edge of town, owned by the same family that owns the Crystal Ballroom, so the music gene is strong. The official name of their music program is Edgefield Concerts on the Lawn…hence the apostrophes around the word seat earlier. I’d been decades ago when it first opened. It was fun to go and cop a squat on a patch of grass with a date or maybe as a foursome with another couple.

But that was decades ago, and my lawn squatting days are behind me.

Enter my drink buddy neighbor. He’s kind of my spirit animal for having a life as a single old man. I don’t know why this eludes me so. I think it might partially be a willful ignorance on my part. It was only a few – ok, closer to ten than five – years ago that I regularly wrote under the blog theme I called the Yes Game. Now I’ve got Jessla fresh off her divorce and recently moved back to the city from the coast talking about her Year of Yes as well as my drinking buddy reminding me that life is meant for living, not waiting for the end.

Anyway, my drinking buddy has adult children with a couple of grands that keep him busy, which is a resource I don’t share. Outside of that, which is plenty for most people, he also has this great life of solo adventures that have inspired me recently to do more than just carouse my way to the grave.

He’s the one that invited me to the Loverboy/REO Speedwagon/Styx show a couple months ago. That, in turn, motivated me to not be resigned to the sidelines of life. I remembered when doing things alone was a source of empowerment for me when I was younger. As I’ve aged, I’ve avoided that source of power while eschewing the source of one of my biggest frustrations: people.

It was good to be reminded that I can do both by planning strategically. While it will take a lot to get me back to the Moda Center for a show, post-pandemic. It was the show that I lucked into last week at Edgefield that highlighted the reality I’d been missing out on.

My drinking buddy ended up triple-booked on a Friday night: a family thing, a Timbers match (he’s a season ticket holder) and a show at Edgefield that he’d been raving about for weeks. It was the last-minute realization that he had a match that Friday and the laster-minute family thing that ended up with me being gifted his tickets to the Edgefield show.

To Bonnie-freakin’-Raitt, no less.

I couldn’t possibly say no! Even though I’d already said yes to walking the Silver Fox’s pooch while he was at the same show. And yes to walking Jessla’s dogs while she was out of town for the weekend.

On top of having a lunchtime doctor appointment…this was going to be quite the Friday. So at lunchtime I put my Out of Office on and hood it over to my doctor. That runs late, so I go right from there to Jessla’s pups afternoon walk. I’m back in my chair just before 130. At 430, I set my status to offline and head up to Jessla’s for a quick pee walk and dinner for her pups. Then I hop in the car and head east to Edgefield.

Did I mention that this free seat is in the 4th row of Reserved Seating?!? But I still have to wait in line with all the picnickers before the show starts at 630, thanks to this post-9/11 mass shooter gun violence world in which we live.

Getting 7000 people through metal detectors takes a minute. Factor in Bonnie pulls a Boomer crowd and you’ve got a real shitshow of a line scenario.

The venue is up there in that stand of trees, this grass will soon be covered in cars

The Fox had been insisting my seats were good, but the seats he had in the Sponsors Section – courtesy of his nephew, owner of Wyld, a cannabis edibles manufacturer – were better. Well, they came with reserved parking and free tacos and drinks, so he was partially correct. Otherwise, we both learned that they had moved the Sponsor Se ruin sometime in the past couple of decades. Here’s a view from my not-worse-than-his seat.

He’s under that white tent…

But that reserved parking was legit. After standing in a line for 45 minutes, what was I finally greeted by when I was able to branch off the mainline to the two measly metal detectors dedicated to Reserved Seating ticket holders?

I’d know that snow cap anywhere. He hadn’t responded to my bored-in-line inquiries about his whereabouts. Probably because he was driving out so he could walk right up to the Reserved Ticket Holder’s entrance. But it amused me – while I was ignoring my darker inner thoughts that he’s seen me and was ignoring me – that he was so focused on the venue that he didn’t notice me until moments after I sent this…

Remember the basement scene in Silence of the Lambs where Bill is reaching out in the dark behind an unsuspecting Clarice?

Anyway, we were both entertained by his level of surprise. A phenomenon I would repeat as I beat a hasty retreat during the encore to get back to Jessla’s pups for their evening walk and ran into the Fox’s former partner’s parents – with whom he’s still friends. The dad was wearing his Timbers jersey, showing support for his team as a season ticket holder since he’d made a different decision than my beneficiary. So we got to chat a bit until we made for our separate grassy parking spaces – turns out, they left early to get home to their dog, too. Since it’s an outdoor venue, I put down the windows and opened the moonroof to listen to the encore as I queued up to exit the lot.

I’m not the guy who runs into someone I know everywhere I go. I’m always the guy with the person who runs into someone everywhere there go. Seriously, it happened at the top of the Eiffel Tower. But in between this happening to me twice in one night, I saw an incredible show. A week later, I’m still in awe.

Mavis Staples was the opener. Let me tell you, at 83 this woman is absolutely killing it. She’s not tall enough to have ever ridden a roller coaster in her life, but onstage? Well, let’s just say that you can’t miss her – even though it was a good minute or two before I saw her head because it was behind a mic-mounted iPad.

What? I didn’t see her take the stage because I was getting a beer! The McMenamin’s brothers started out as beer makers, not concert promoters.

I watched Mavis in awe. Her band and back up were amazing on their own, but in no way making up for any diminished capacity in Mavis’ talent or skill. She might have had to sit down a couple of times during the set – 83 years old! – and the band didn’t lose a beat, but when she was ready to come back, she let ‘em know that the stage was hers again.

I will never not think of this performance when I hear a cement mixer’s engine idling while its tumble turns. That a voice that big comes out of such a small human. Epic.

If that was all there was to this show…it was still a bargain at twice the price. But wait…there’s more!

Bonnie-freakin’-Raitt!

In my concert-going career I’ve been to myriad shows. Folks touring to promote a recent album, storytellers on tour, spectacles of a show that hid lipsyncing artists, intimate venues, stadium tours, has-beens on the State Fair circuit, perennial favorites, career touring acts…and much, much more!

And it’s not like those options are mutually exclusive. It’s more of a Venn diagram.

I’d always thought of Bonnie as a storyteller on tour given my knowledge of her history touring with the likes of Lyle Lovett and John Prine. In this instance she was that storyteller on tour, touring to promote a new album and perennial favorite. I wasn’t super-excited to learn about the new album since that usually draws focus from the library I’m familiar with. For someone whose first album came out 50+ years ago, though? She is still creating amazing content.

Case in point, after talking about touring with Prine and reminiscing about them performing Angel From Montgomery together and how she can’t imagine performing it without him since his death, she tells how that history and loss inspired her to write a song with a similar story behind it. She’d heard a story about a man who showed up on a woman’s doorstep years after she lost her son in an accident…to thank her for the gift of life her son’s heart gave him.

Being an emotional sap is another good reason to go to these types of shows alone.

A few songs later, she performed Angel From Montgomery, and I think everyone was crying when she hugged her guitar to her like it was her lost, dear friend.

Starting the encore

Like I said, I beat feet at the encore, but didn’t miss anything but a 45 minute wait to exit the lot in doing so. Hearing her voice through the trees in the night air of a perfect PNW summer evening while idling in a grass field? It gave me time to think about what I take for granted: the future. Not for granted, so much, more something I look forward to with a sense of dread or contempt.

But this coming-up-on-73 year old and her 83 year old touring companion showed me that people can continue to give to the world around them well into the years of life when others have left their careers. And my Generation Jones aged drinking buddy is giving me an example on how to live life as a single-person without waiting for someone to live it with to enable it – and without caring what others think of my solo-status.

I am kind of happy about my reluctance to return to larger venues for this reason, too. Fringe benefit of going solo to smaller venues alone? I stand out as alone easier in a smaller setting. Hey, if I’m going it alone, I want credit for the finger I’m giving my failure at achieving an enduring relationship. Can’t get that in a crowd!

All of this is by way of telling you that on my fifth attempt at winning tickets in the Flashback Friday offerings yesterday, I succeeded!

Jessla would point out the time was a triple number as an indicator of this luck

You’ll notice it took 22 attempts – versus the weeks of effort that came before yesterday – but someone finally answered the phone! A few minutes later, I was the proud owner of a pair of tickets to the upcoming Shins show at Pioneer Courthouse Square and could not have been happier. Until a few minutes later when the texts started rolling in…

The year of free music rocks on, friends!

The Year of FREE Music

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

This Is My Life…

I’m bellied up for a lil post-Thor: Love and Thunder beer at my usual watering hole. Just, y’know, minding my own amidst the flyby conversations that happen to me here.

The perk/curse of being a regular.

I’m not complaining – this time.

But that ancillary type of conversation has its hazards.

For instance, when I walked in, the bartender asked how I was doing.

Me: Oh, y’know. Holding steady.

Him: <looks confused>

Me: <waits>

Him: <laughs awkwardly>

Me: <purses lips…here we go>

Him: What?!? You are not. <laughs again>

Me: What do you think I said?

Him: You’re not old!

Me: I said, “Holding steady”, not old and steady!

Him: <laughs raucously and minces off>

Hey, at least he didn’t question my sure-footedness.

But with that…we were off to the races. Before I even finished my first beer

Still working on #1, and yes…that’s Him in the background. 🤭

…we’d had another incident.

He has a habit of nattering incessantly verbally processing while he works. He was making a drink for someone and telling himself that something was missing. After his second verbal prompt, I jumped in to help.

Me: What are you on about?

Him: It’s missing something and I can’t. quite. <looks at me> Bitters!

Me: Glad I could help.

Him: <cackles> Nono, it wasn’t…

Me: Just. Don’t.

To be fair, there is a cluster of six bottles of assorted bitters just on the other side of my beer. I’m still taking credit for the alley-oop, though.

Im convinced that this would not happen to anyone else!

This Is My Life…

My Kind of Conversion Therapy

I got a call from my boss yesterday afternoon. She gets me. Here’s how the pre-call planning went via Microsoft Teams chat:

Boss: Hey!

Me: Quit screaming at me.

Boss: Call me.

Normally, my neurotic ass would immediately spiral with that enigmatic command. But like I said, she gets me. We have a…rapport.

She starts our conversation off with “Guess what?” Even though her tone suggested good news, that opener is cryptic enough that mentally I replied, “You need me to bring back my laptop?”

It was just the opposite, though. She told me that the CEO had finally signed off on my Offer Letter.

I probably added a “finally” retroactively where there was not one in reality.

Seriously, though, it had taken three months to get my Offer Letter put together and approved. I know this because I found it hard to take her seriously when she asked if I was interested in converting from a contractor to a core employee…since it was April 1st.

When I pointed that out a couple weeks later during our weekly touch base, her response was, “Wait, did you mean it when you said ‘Yes’?!?”

And this is why we get along.

I probably could have shared my thoughts on this surprise (to me) development with my boss. Thoughts like, “Thank gourd for The Great Resignation making employers desperate enough to hire a grumpy old bastard like me!” or “You could hire millennial or Gen Z folks for less than me…if you could actually hire anyone from those generations”. (Sorry, Vee!) Actually, I’m confident she would have beat me to the punch on that last part.

Anyhoo…she’d warned me it was gonna take a while. “We move slow”, she had admitted. She did not undersell that.

I just never imagined it would be a longer process to complete than the tenure I had as a temp with the company at the time she had issued that warning. I’d gotten the exploratory offer at two months.

Two weeks later when she’d “updated me” about my salary expectations, I’d told her that was faster than I’d expected. Two weeks after that, she’d confirmed that HR was starting on my Offer Letter.

Ok

Five weeks later I hear that my Offer Letter was on the CEO’s desk for his approval and I’m all, “Eureka!”

Three weeks go by. Mind you, a week after I heard the CEO had it, his Admin called me to check on some expense reports “he’d” submitted.

I had patted myself on the back for not quid-pro-quo-ing his expense reports and just told her that I process expense reports on Fridays. It was Thursday…so the next day I reimbursed his $25,000 from four months worth of expense reports. Before the day ended, the Admin was back in my inbox telling me “she’d” completed the last two months of reports, so I added another $15k to his reimbursement before beer:30 that day.

You know how you know someone makes too much money? Not just that they can get by submitting expense reports only twice a year, but that they can do it by letting an average of $7k a month ride.

Oy.

Anyway, I’m glad I coughed up his dough because it took a scant two more weeks for the Offer Letter to find its way back to HR. No telling how long it would have taken if timing hadn’t worked out like it had!

But someone was impressed enough with me to throw a couple extra percentage points on my salary from what my boss had said she’d try to get for me – which was less than I’d asked for, but more than I was making as a contractor, so I wasn’t mad. But seeing it come back just a shade off of what I’d asked for made me feel it was worth the wait.

Mind you, this is still a 45 hr/week base at about 60-65% of what I made last year driving with Lyft. I’ve been doing some DoorDash deliveries to help bridge the gap, too – but that’s another shituation. I can max out at about a dozen hours on a good week with DoorDash, that’s about half as many hours as I drove for Lyft and on a good week I earn about a third of what I made driving for Lyft.

All that boils down to me working more than twice as many hours this year over last and maybe making 75% of what I earned driving <30 hours a week for Lyft. Since it’s July, I don’t think it’s premature to declare that this is gonna be a financially tough year.

But the first six months of this year have helped me get back into a budget mindset. Between that and the 16% bump I’m getting converting from contract to core, I think I can stare down the balance of the year without having to steal from my parent’s present retirement fund.

Anyway…here I am, the guy who swore he was done working for Da Man back in 2018. Didn’t quite make it five years before I found something that appealed enough to me that I could sell myself back to an outfit long-term.

Maybe this company is the conversion therapy I needed to take away the shitty taste my last few professional roles left in my mouth.

I don’t want to shock anyone – I have more than a few older readers – but, yes…that was me sounding optimistic. I apologize for not warning you ahead of time.

My Kind of Conversion Therapy

Management Tools

Sometimes I have to distract myself from the anger and frustration of things I cannot by focusing on something else. Looking at you, SCOTUS.

That’s not fair, this week’s decisions prove that it’s a disservice to the words “supreme” and “justice” to consider those recently appointed to the high court as anything other than Extreme Court Injustices.

I should distract myself from their work by focusing on the irony that two-thirds of the court now represent the views and interests of one-third of the country.

But instead, I distract myself with lesser frustrations and injustices. Yeah, I focus on things that make me angry and frustrated that I can at least do something about when the things I cannot do all that much about get me down.

For instance…have you ever heard of Hint water?

It’s like La Croix, if you opened it and left it out overnight. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy both. It’s just Hint has – in my opinion – jumped the ethical shark.

If you look closely at the pic, you can see it’s an Amazon ad for a 12-pack for $20.99 – for water.

That’s $1.75 a bottle. You can still pretty much buy a 12-pack of La Croix for the price of two bottles of Hint.

I was first introduced to Hint when I was working at the airport. PDX is an amazing airport, for sure. One of the amazing things they do is make their businesses within stick to street pricing – so unlike LAX, you won’t find a $16 bottle of kombucha at PDX. They further require their business partners to be minority owned/operated or have a minority business partner. But that’s not the point. The point is that they make their business partners provide annual pricing audits to prove they are within 20% of street pricing.

The business I was with used the infamous Peterson’s convenience stores as one of their comparable stores.

So, yeah…my employer at the airport used a business that is notoriously 30-40% overpriced to prove they were “within” 20% of street pricing. If you’re on the wrong side of the street, though, that math won’t hold up.

But this is where I first tried Hint, which I think we sold for around $2-3/bottle.

Mind you, we bought it for a buck a bottle from our wholesaler. None of this bothered me since my rent at the airport was a percent of sales. Gross sales. And rent was 18% of sales, which was also…gross.

Sidebar: if you’re ever curious about how PDX can afford to consistently be the best airport in America or spend a cool billion on a remodel, now you know. They get 18 cents on every dollar spent there. Port of Portland ain’t messing around.

Anyway, well after I left there, I saw an ad on social media for Hint water. Three cases for a buck a bottle. They promoted it as 30% off, which I thought was a weird spin for a manufacturer.

But they’d jumped on the direct to consumer (DTC) bandwagon and this was their hook.

I bought some. But when I went to reorder, the best deal I could get was 20% off for a certain number of cases. Less than that, if only save 15%. So I stopped buying it.

And they’re still promoting it the same way, basically. Here’s a recent email promotion from them:

Get this, now three cases are $55.99! On sale! So only $1.55/bottle instead of $1.83/bottle.

But here’s why all this bothers me – I used to buy it from my purveyor for about a buck a bottle. That means they already had their markup on that price after buying direct from Hint. I’m guessing Hint sold to wholesalers for around $.75-.80/bottle, but that’s just a guess.

I don’t need this information. It’s just evidence of the stern fucking you get on a daily basis for the privilege of waking up in America.

Spitballing for inflation, a 400% markup to sell direct to consumers seems high. Especially when you think that the 30% off promo I took advantage of at a buck a bottle meant they normally charged $1.30/bottle at that time. Now their regular price is $1.83/bottle. Assuming for the sake of making a generous argument that all expenses raised by that same margin, they’re still making $.50/bottle more selling to consumers directly than they made selling to wholesalers.

Why is that fair?!?

Shouldn’t the reward of running a manufacturing venture and selling to the public as well be…more customers?!? Why do they need to be able to have street pricing be their guide in that arrangement. Seems like the only people that benefits is them. Their wholesalers lose potential business because of it, so they’re losing out. Customers pay the same price either way, so it’s a net zero situation at best for them.

But there’s Hint, pockets so full, they can’t sit down. That makes me mad. Pick a business model and run it.

But unlike the SCOTUS rulings, where all I can do is vote every chance I get which is every other year at best, I can do something about this. I can vote against their business practices with my dollars every day.

That’s a win for this grumpy old man. And for La Croix, apparently.

Management Tools

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!

Nostalgia Zone

When I first heard – years and years ago, now – that there was a sequel in development to 1986’s summer blockbuster Top Gun, I might have sprained something rolling my eyes. Admittedly, when news of production delays started trickling out, my surprise was hard to locate.

But once this year surprisingly finally arrived, bringing with it the promise of the Memorial Day weekend release of Top Gun: Maverick, I was…intrigued. Daunted, but intrigued.

Daunted because I had been psyching myself up for a post-lockdown return to theaters for months. There were shows whose marketing made me swear they would be the trigger to get me back yo my pre-pandemic routine of seeing 2-3 movies each month. After the marketing hype died down and the reviews started rolling in and showing the reality of that hype, those movies quickly faded from memory.

It was like the hyper intensity of losing one’s virginity all over again! I wanted to “give it up” for a worthy movie, not…The King’s Man.

Like Spider-Man – which I see makes my prior analogy creepy since this movie is about a high school superhero. In my defense, that could have been any Marvel movie. However, I’d given a Disney employee a ride last November and mentioned Black Widow possibly popping my post-COVID theater cherry and he encouraged me to save it and stream Black Widow.

In defense of ScarJo’s superhero swan song, I did stream it and it was quite enjoyable. Even the second time I watched it on Disney+.

The reality is, Spider-Man didn’t do it for me. I just couldn’t get to a theater for Peter Parker. None of the other seasonal tentpole movies got me there, either.

Strangely, it did end up being a Marvel movie that ultimately got me there: Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. It was…good, and I’m glad I saw it on a big screen, but at the same time understood the save it for streaming advice I’d gotten about Black Widow six months earlier.

But you know what made it the winner?

Top Gun: Maverick.

The gushing critical reviews were near-unanimous. It had a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

It seemed to be universally taking everyone’s breath away.

What, you thought the title would be the only pun in this post?

It had a Memorial Day weekend opening, 36 years after the original’s holiday weekend – I think the original had a July 4th debut – release.

But it wasn’t the hype or the reviews that bore out the hype that still failed to get me there. It wasn’t only the crowds I anticipated for a three day weekend blockbuster release that kept me away.

It was the PNW weather, believe it or not.

You see, when I saw the original, it was during the first summer I lived away from home after graduating high school. I saw it in an old-time one screen movie house in Manhattan on a sultry summer weekend night.

No AC.

No air handling whatsoever.

Movie magic induced adrenaline.

Sweaty hunks playing volleyball.

For so many reasons, those herculon-upholstered movie theater seats probably needed to be wrung out after this show.

But what will always stay with me about this viewing experience is the Basic Becky that stood up in the middle of both the show and and the theater and decided that it was more important for us all to see everything she’d consumed that day.

Given the presence of the humidity and heat, the absence of AC or any ventilation and the smell of co-ed puke and the underlying burn of stomach acid…an irreplaceable memory was created.

While I could certainly do without a Basic Becky reunion, I just couldn’t get behind a Top Gun reunion without summer weather. The PNDub let me down, having clocked our 10th wettest May on record. Seeing Maverick under those weather conditions would have been as weird as going to a movie theater and not eating too much popcorn!

So, Doctor Strange it was. It was an action that also indulged my desire to root for the underdog, since Maverick’s release was expected to knock Doctor Strange off of its two week reign of the box office. My ticket purchase didn’t keep it on top – nor did the other dozen tickets sold for that screening. But those conditions made for a comfortable post-COVID return to the movies for this grumpy old man.

Crowds. Who needs ‘em?

Carrying that strategy forward might extrapolate to my seeing Maverick this week…while everyone else is wrapping up the Jurassic World trilogy.

Nostalgia Zone