The Roto-est Of Rooters

I’ll need a photo ID as well as your insurance card.

A pleasant delivery doesn’t stop me from wondering aloud from behind the Silver Fox if they wouldn’t likely have a lot of imposters showing up to an appointment like his.

My pithy posit barely merits a side eye from The Fox, but I’m accustomed to my observations being met with an occasional absence of encouragement.

Today, you see, is a certain someone’s very special once-in-a-decade doctor appointment.

The dreaded colonoscopy.

You know it’s been longer than a decade since the last time we did this, right?

That was my question as I parked.

The Fox assures me that I’m wrong, but I remind him that a decade ago I was living in Seattle.

The email I got said it was my ten-year reminder!

As if that closes the conversation. I mean, “The email said” is a far better argument than “I read it on the internet”, but it’s far from authoritative.

Still, I let it drop, wondering if perhaps I took The Fox to his first “people pay for this experience?” appointment and perhaps there was a former boyfriend that filled in for me ten years ago.

It’s not unlike my best friend to be religiously early. We jokingly call it Fox Time.

Even for this. Closing in on his sixty-eighth birthiversary, if this happened to be his third procedure, I could easily see him justifying his first at a Fox Timely 48.

Of course, the problem there is that it probably only seems like we’ve known each other two decades. Especially to him, I imagine, given that he has to put up with me and sometimes I’m a little much.

For instance, we didn’t talk so much this morning in the our first of dozens of daily texts. I just sent him this:

So I dropped the timing question. No need to unnecessarily poke the bear, as the saying goes.

Or The Fox, in this case.

Poor guy’s about to get poked enough for a while, I imagine.

Besides, there’s plenty of other topical material presenting itself. As we step into the elevator, The Fox pushes to button for the top floor.

They’re on the top floor because everyone that goes there bottoms.

I could do this all day.

I did manage not to comment on the photograph of the canal hanging in the lobby of the office.

The gaping span framing a lovely waterway bordered by blossoming cherry trees.

Anyway, before the Silver Fox is done not responding to my initial query at the check-in window as to whether this office has a lot of imposters showing up for colonoscopies – it is Portland, the kinkiest city in America – I see this:

I cant help it. My derp thoughts just appear out of nowhere and without warning.

My imagination instantly starts creating this story where a translator is called in to break the process down into gay-speak.

Gurl, I hope you brought poppers because this. is. happening. Mmm. Git it.

And with a Cher tongue, flip of the imaginary wig and snap of a paper accordion fan, the consult is over and my best friend is led off by a GoGo Boy in gold lame hot shorts.

And the next time I see him, he’ll be all doped up and rubber-legged. I do recall that from last time…it was quite amusing to see my fairly dignified bestie a little worse for the wear.

But the light at the end of the <ahem> tunnel is food!

The last words he said to me were about how hungry he was. The last words he texted to me – a few moments after being led away – were about him being one pound inside his goal weight range.

That shut me up.

You know how many back to back colonoscopies I’d have to prep for to get down to the goal weight range that I abandoned?

Lots.

The staff would probably think I had fetishized a good snaking.

Like I said…it is Portland.

Now, I’d better go before they finish up and I’m tempted to write about The Fox’s behavior while he’s sedated!

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The Roto-est Of Rooters

Not So…Fast?

Do you ever do something or realize something and think,

That was exactly what I needed!

Yeah, well I’m not sure this post will technically qualify…yet, that is exactly what’s seemed to happen the last couple of days.

You see, by the time I eat dinner tonight, I will have subsisted on only water for the last 48 hours.

No coffee or soda.

No Mac & Cheese or pizza.

No booze.

Surely, I’ve lost my mind.

However, I met up with Diezel on Sunday afternoon and he just looked so good. He’s playing around with facial hair again, but now it’s got the best gray pattern. It looks great. He’s been playing sportsball with the gays, so he’s looking taut and toned, in addition to the endorphin glow.

Me? I’m sitting across the table, haven’t had a haircut in three months, opted to give my hair a day off from washing, to – which is allegedly good for it. But I still looked like Step One Of Dreadlocks.

I haven’t been to the gym for anything but cardio since before Christmas. And, trust me…the cardio I’m doing isn’t keeping up with my erratic diet of mostly beer.

In short: my self care was in the toilet.

I needed a change.

Nonetheless, Sunday night I ended up eating…I dunno what for dinner and then topping it off with ice cream. I was so full at bed time, that even though I fell asleep, I woke up two hours later and tossed and turned until it was time for work.

At work, I felt so full that I was worried any caffeine would only give me heartburn, so I stuck with water. At lunch, still feeling full, I opted to take advantage of the beautiful weather and walk the Esplanade.

I mean…why not?

So, all in I walked 6.1 miles that day and drank only water…on two hours of sleep. But my vitamin D intake was off the charts.

Not that kind, Diezel.

But, all that fresh air and lack of sleep had me in bed by 7 without dinner. When I woke up this morning, I decided to keep it going through lunch. My cafe wasn’t open yet when I walked by on my way to work – so, no caffeine.

Again.

It was a beautiful day here in Portland.

Again.

So, why not take another spin around the Esplanade? It’s a great way to kill the better part of an hour. Plus, I’d remembered my sunglasses today, so the ghostly white limbs and bare backs of the runners wouldn’t blind me.

Side note: the Portland Police and Medical Examiner were busy fishing a body out of the river as I walked by the midway point on today’s urban hike. No idea what happened, but I cautiously wondered if it had to do with too little caffeine…

So there’s the answer to my earlier question about why not walk the Esplanade at lunch.

Who knew?

Anyway, the positive here is that I accomplished what I suspect is a pretty significant fast. Plus, I didn’t even get hangry until today around noon. That’s saying something for me.

Additionally, toward the end of my workday, Diezel started texting me and making sounds like he might want to attend the lowest key gay pride event I can find this year…so now the pounds I shed the last couple of days get me within spitting distance of being nowhere near having a pride-ready body.

(How messed up is that? Gays feel like they can’t show their pride unless their bodies are show-worthy…)

So, while I want spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, I’ll probably obsess myself into baby carrots and water.

But maybe this is just the snap my mind and body need to get back in the groove.

Not So…Fast?

The Most Awkward Three-Way Ever

This just in from the Department of Awkward!

Ok, maybe it was a few weeks back…

It was the Second Last Hurrah before my diet began*. I was on my way to a solo movie and Chipotle date to carpet bomb my remaining cravings into submission. The First Last Hurrah had been some Pallet Jacks with the Silver Fox at the Big Legrowlski. They were nice and tasty, but three got the better of my judgment and after watching a couple episodes of Lucifer on Netflix, the devil got the best of me and I went to check out the new location of Portland’s oldest gay strip club.

Did ya follow that?

Silverado got booted off of Vaseline Alley – aka: Stark Street – quite a few years ago and made an inexplicable move from NW Portland to SW Portland. We’re talking a move of about 10 blocks, but suddenly their only gay bar neighbor was Casey’s, one of three tied for the worst gay bar in Portland**.

It seemed like a bad move.

But, they made a go of it. Even after their adjacent lousy gay bar neighbor went tits up. That persistent success is saying something, considering I usually wanted to wear a HazMat suit when I went there, yet here were these brave (read: desperate) young, gay men stripping.

Then, last year, they lost their lease. I can’t imagine – based on the above description of Cootieville – that the landlord thought they’d be able to get more for the property. But, that’s Portland real estate.

I figured I owed the new digs – three blocks from my place – a peek. Ironically, 20-ish years ago, this building was the first incarnation of Casey’s. I’ll let you all hashtag that ironic occurrence on your own.

So, the new space had a pedigree…I’m just not saying it was a good one.

The First Last Hurrah

Like I said, boredom and a few beers got the better of my judgment, so I took a lil stroll to check out the new place. It was clean. For another refreshing change of pace, it has bathrooms a respectable woman would at least hover in. They might even sit…

I didn’t recognize the bartender and wondered if some/all of the staff had been left behind in the old place. After ordering a beer, I took in the other half-dozen late night patrons, all gathered around the bar.

I took my beer and surveyed the rest of the ground floor. Big kitchen – that’s an upgrade. Some weird private tables tucked into structural grottos. They aren’t private as in private dances, as far as I could tell, they were actual 4-tops.

Besides, the only other thing upstairs was a karaoke set up. I flashed a quick look at those bellied up to the bar to make sure none of them had any aspirations. I think if I wanted bad entertainment, I could have stayed home, right?

I decided to check out the lower level, but only because it was 9:30-ish and the shows didn’t start until 10. It was small and had a low ceiling and a tiny stage. Definitely different than the old joint, where there was a huge stage that usually had two guys dancing and climbing around the large structural support pole. It was an atypical pole dancing set up. Guys usually did a mid-dance workout on it.

There’d be no workouts on this little stage.

There was a second bar downstairs, though. Someone knows their audience.

Yawn.

I’d taken a couple of sips of my beer and decided it was not the IPA that I’d asked for – at best it was a mass market lager. I went back upstairs and asked the bartender to redraw it for me. Hoping he just pulled the wrong beer.

My neighbor at the bar decided to get chatty while the underwear clad bartender demonstrated his displeasure at my request with his pace.

My new friend asked where I lived and – I don’t know why – I suggestively whispered that I lived right around the corner. Then I asked where he lived as the bartender placed my new beer in front of me.

Oh, I live out in southeast. I was just over here for dinner with friends.

“Don’t drink to much!”, I offered cheerfully before grabbing my drink and spinning away from the bar.

I half-suspected that the bartender had served me a spitter, he looked pretty smug when he put it in front of me. I tipped him anyway, but I wasn’t about to sip it in front if him.

I ended up at the lottery machines by the door, having likely alienated the “crowd” and the staff. I didn’t have a ton of cash on me or in reality, but I figured I could lose $20 while I drank my beer with my back to the bar.

I won $50.

Fine.

I’ll play this down to $50 and call it a night.

At $52 and change, I won a little under $100. I was slightly annoyed because my beer still tasted like shit.

Fine. I’ll play it down to $100, then.

Overall, I like problems like this…and then the lottery went down. Machine by machine…they were just powering down, heading right toward me.

I scrabbled to quit my game and cash out. Unfortunately, the blackout hit my machine before I could…fortunately, it auto-printed a cash out ticket.

I went to the bar and sat down with my beer.

How is it?

I was surprised the bartender cared, but he’d been nearby dropping off a cocktail for a new arrival a couple barstools away. I just wrinkled my nose and shook my head.

Well, what do you want me to do about it?!?

I was surprised by the escalation in his voice. I waved my cash out ticket at him and asked if his side of the lottery was working. He said no, so I pushed my beer across the bar, said, “Tell someone, that’s what I want you to do about it because I think your lines are crossed”, and left.

Sheesh. If he’s gonna be a snowflake…

The Second Last Hurrah

Of course this would happen to me. I’m all greased up and ready to start a diet the following day and the universe conspires to make me go back to a bar to pick up a lottery win. I debated waiting, but it was over $100 and, frankly, it would come in handy.

Because this is an old school Portland dive, they open early. I think it’s 9 AM, if you can believe that! 11 AM, at the latest. I booted around the house until noon, knowing that if I went, I’d probably have a beer…assuming they had bottles, that is.

But I really didn’t want a beer.

I kind of started obsessing about drinking a beer.

But I really didn’t want a beer!

I think it was a distraction technique, but I figured if I was on my way somewhere when I stopped in for my money, I couldn’t hang around.

Since I was picking up cash, I decided to be on my way to a movie. Great. Now I had a plan. The movie was at 4:15, so I’d leave at 3:45, cash in my ticket and be at the theater by 4:05.

What could possibly go wrong?!?

Well, plenty…this is my life, here.

I started thinking about popcorn. The voice in my head was whispering that I had extra money, go mad!

No, my last meal should be something halfway good. If I was going to limp into a diet, movie theater popcorn wasn’t going to be the last thing I ate.

I’m not even sure where the voice in my head came up with that idea.

I was writing, so I didn’t want to tank my momentum by going out for lunch. I decided to make a post movie stop at Chipotle on my way home.

That’s a fair compromise.

I’m starving when I get to Silverado. I walk in and am greeted with an overly chipper

Well, hello there, Handsome!

Great. It’s the bartender that always hits on me.

Every.

Damn.

Time.

I’d first met him at another bar, when we were both on the drinking side. He was with friends and he’d left them to come sit by me. Well, on me, actually. On a barstool.

How we didn’t end up on the floor, I dunno.

He ends up giving me his number and going back to his friends. Over the next few days, we text, but can’t schedule a meet up.

He’s the busy one. When I point that out and thank him for the attention, he throws

It’ll be easier next week, there’s just so much to do before the wedding.

Knowing nothing of a wedding, I ask who’s getting married.

Me, silly! Didn’t I tell you?

“Must’ve slipped your mind. But I’m glad it came out, I’m not what’s missing in your relationship.”

Now, you’d think that would send a pretty clear message. For whatever reason, I don’t see him for over a year after this. The next time I walk into his bar, though, he scampers out from behind the bar and gives me a big hug.

He’s wearing a jock strap.

For the love of…I’m only a man!

You never call! Where have you been?!? We need to get together!

I have a couple beers and then leave, thinking nothing of it, really. Bartenders hitting on me has lost its luster.

You left without saying goodbye!

I usually pay cash in bars. I didn’t reintroduce myself and only remembered his name when another patron used it to get his attention.

He remembered my name from two years ago and hadn’t purged me from his contacts list?!?

Alright, I can indulge this attention. When he asked why we never got together originally, I reminded him that he’d gotten married and said…something vague about being sorry it didn’t work out.

Oh, we’re still married! We’re just open. It’s no big deal.

How do you remember my name but not that I’m not willing to be someone’s side piece? I remind him.

You’re gonna pass this up just because I’m married?

He asked playfully, but as I was replying I get this…nope, never mind, it’s too graphic a pic to post.

I replied that I was, indeed, able to resist and bid him farewell.

But, phew. The only thing this kid has going against him is that he’s married.

The mere memory deserves another phew!

Nowadays when I see him, he greets me and calls me Handsome, but doesn’t overtly hit on me any more.

Anyway, he’s getting my cash for me and I’m waiting at the bar when someone beside me says

Well, look what the cat dragged in!

Sitting right next to me is The Stripper. I think I only missed the fact that it was him because he was sitting like a customer at the bar, wearing clothes and everything!

I swore that I wrote about him in one of my Dating Into Oblivion posts, but can’t find it now.

Here’s the shorthand:

I may be over bartender’s hitting on me at this point in my life. Believe it or not, though, I still fell for the same trick last year when a stripper grabbed my phone and texted himself, then saved the number.

That’s my real name. Gotta go dance, but you better call me!

He’d been chatting with me for about an hour, refusing both my offer of a drink and deflecting the attention of other guys. He had introduced himself as Jett and was surprisingly articulate. This, partnered with not accepting my offer to buy him an overpriced stripper’s drink – which is usually just something like cranberry juice and soda for $8 – made me think maybe.

Maybe he actually liked me.

Maybe he wasn’t just trying to lure me down for $20 lap dances on his slow nights…

He was, I guess. He never committed to my offers to get together. To his credit, he never asked me to come see him, either. Nonetheless, after a couple of weeks, I stopped replying.

I slow blinked and muttered something under my breath and then turned to say hi.

I could feel my cheeks flushing red.

Are you sticking around? I’ve got a double today, starting in about 15 minutes!

“Nope. Just stopped in on my way to a movie to cash that in”, I say, nodding at The Bartender.

You should let me show you around before you go!

He’s super friendly, which I want to think is just him being nice. The Bartender comes back and starts counting my winnings to me and I can feel pressure building up behind my eyes.

“I was down there last night. Small.”

Yeah, I bet you can touch the ceiling! It’s small, but I like it.

And I swear to god, with those last words, he looked right at my crotch.

I feel like I’m thirty seconds from completely unspooling between these two sexy, frustrating men. I make my goodbyes, barely even able to imagine touching the ceiling downstairs while Jett touches the floor.

Pushing my way into the waning daylight, I hit the bricks thinking, “Fuck it, I’m getting popcorn!”

Seriously, only I could get stuck between two feuding flirts and come away feeling like I’d done something wrong.

But movie theater popcorn and Chipotle made me feel much better about it.

* It didn’t

** All polling data is based on my own experiences and extremely subjective. That doesn’t make it inaccurate…

The Most Awkward Three-Way Ever

The Stoner Cafe

Longtime readers will recognize the name of this entry as what I named the vending machines in the basement of what my friend D-Slice called The Adult Dorm. We were neighbors there when I lived in Seattle.

The vending machines were on the basement level for five or so years after the building went condo. Maybe this was a construction leftover. However, since this was also the laundry level from when the building was apartments, something tells me they had been there quite some time before the construction guys arrived to rehab the building.

Also, there were Zagnuts in it.

Eventually, the machines were removed. This was actually a fairly sad realization for many residents, I learned. I had thought I was the only loser that frequented them, reinventing the walk of shame as I took my 14 floor elevator ride with a handful of change.

At least it was usually well after most of the residents’ bedtime, so I was usually able to do so undetected.

This nostalgia is top of mind again for me recently. Not because I sit around thinking about my glory days, no. Rather, because I have seemingly found a way to reinvent this phenomenon…if a vending machine can be considered a phenomenon.

Call it The Stoner Cafe 2.0.

Check that homepage out!

An aptly named app for my nostalgia, to be sure. The Stoner Cafe and this GoPuff app both wink at the reputation marijuana has for inciting the munchies.

Now, I’m not a big user when it comes to pot. Tried it in college, didn’t see the point. Tried it again when I moved from Seattle back to Portland, frankly, I’ve found that I can take it or leave it.

As I continue to struggle with an IPA induced increasing waistline, I wish I could actually “take it” – shut up, Diezel – in order to replace my beer penchant with zero calorie pot in order to unwind.

Alas…

The last time I used any marijuana product was 2016, and that was CBD derivative edibles rather than the THC counterparts. The THC being the intoxicating component of weed.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t get my own form of the munchies. Usually, this is my brain struggling to stave off boredom, versus any legitimate hunger. My mom pointed out this habit of mine to eat when I’m bored back before I even hit a double digit age. So it’s been around a while.

Knowing that about myself, I usually try to apply some discipline – believe it, or more likely, not – when purchasing junk food. I might pick up corn chips if I can fool myself into thinking I’ll make a nacho. If I go to the Costco, I’ll buy a big bag of snackage…because who can resist a good deal?!? Otherwise, I try to make my junk food consumption inconvenient so that I have to really want it.

Ergo, I’ll make myself get up and go to the store.

But a few months ago – maybe around Halloween – I discovered GoPuff. Seriously, did you see that pic of the homepage of the app? It’s like a convenience store on my phone.

I’d seen ads for this app while playing Words With Friends. I didn’t think too much of it at first, just a nuisance to be endured like all the other ads we put up with in our online lives.

Then one night, I was up…couldn’t sleep. There was no food in the house. Not even cheese, which usually goes a long way with me as a snack.

Or a meal.

I was trying to be good and hadn’t ordered a pizza or used Postmates to get some Thai delivered. I thought that if I could just make it past the restaurant’s closing time, I’d be out of danger.

My brain had other OCD thoughts in mind though. Once 11 PM hit, my cravings ramped up. Significantly.

Fine.

Amazon Prime to the rescue.

Nope. My earliest delivery option was the next morning.

Then I remembered…GoPuff.

Problem solved!

Salt & Vinegar chips. Check.

Pringles. Check.

Ice Cream. Check!

Monster for the morning? Check. Times two.

Frozen Pizza. Why not?

Oh, I can order beer and wine on this app, too? Don’t mind if I do!

Unlike Amazon Prime, there’s no extra charge for ASAP delivery. Again, consider the target audience. That means that I didn’t have to wait two hours for delivery.

On top of that, the prices are pretty solid. Somewhere between grocery store and convenience store. I didn’t have to feel guilty over anything but what was in my cart because I wasn’t overpaying.

This is on my mind today, of course, since I’ve been procrastinating a post-holiday diet. My white elephant gift was labeled

To: Fatty

From: Santa Claus

So, yeah…that’s great. It was also a Nutri Bullet blender and my sister helpfully pointed out that they juice great. What is that, a hint? Luckily, I’m meaner to myself than any helpful life tip could ever be.

I just needed to get to a point where I could do some self-care without any temptations. Er, distractions. I thought that would be last week, but then the Silver Fox suggested a Golden Globe viewing party and offered up three bottles of wine.

“It’s a long show!” he offered when I countered with two bottles. Fair point.

So, Monday, then!

Then I get a text from my ex, Rib. He’s got a 30 hour layover on Tuesday and we should hang out.

Yes. We definitely should hang out!

So…Wednesday?

Well, if I’m gonna shut The Fox’s drinking buddy down for the better part of a week…we should have a last hurrah day.

Thursday, it is!

I’m sitting here, writing this and eating the leftovers of my Pringles as a text lands from The Fox

BL at 3:30?

BL being Big Legrowlski…where our favorite beer, Pallet Jack from Barley Brown’s, is back on tap.

Junk food successfully consumed, a Pallet Jack send off, now I’m ready.

The Stoner Cafe

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy

Well, I’ve been sitting on this for a couple of months now.

Not that I’m pals with Julia Roberts, that would not be news I kept to myself. I’m totally that guy who would have a celebrity friend and always refer to them by their full name just to make sure no one forgot.

But let’s take a moment to acknowledge that this movie grossed $175 million back in 1991…on a film about escaping domestic abuse! That’s not Gone Girl money, but it’s about half of Gone Girl’s box office and I’m really not sure how you adjust that for inflation over almost a quarter century.

Anyhoo…that was quite a sidebar.

So, in August, I took a part time/seasonal job to get my ass off the couch. This was after watching all of the Marvel movies – except the Captain America movies – that I could get my hands on on Amazon over the course of two days.

This was after packing on 20 lbs in three months.

This was after my crisis of confidence that I’d ever be comfortable or capable of returning to work in retail management after trying – and largely failing – to cope with the feeling of betrayal my last job left me with for four months. I really think that this disease I carried with me when discussing my last job was a bigger part of why I kept finishing second in interviews than I’d been admitting to myself.

Maybe I was imagining that.

Maybe it was actually happening.

Who knows?

But what I did know was that something had to change. Doubting I would succeed in finding a company I trusted enough to risk going to work again, I opened up craigslist and just started scrolling through the jobs page.

No filters.

Everything.

Hell, anything.

I needed to change things up. Occupy my time. Jump start my confidence in myself and a future employer so I could let go of these feelings of distrust and worthlessness.

That’s the first connection that this experience had to Sleeping With The Enemy. I felt abused and devalued by my last job. Like Julia, I was going to have to overcome my fear in order to succeed – unlike her, I’d already escaped, but couldn’t let go of the trauma. She only had to learn how to swim – well, and then hide forever – I wasn’t entirely sure that I knew or could articulate exactly what I needed to overcome.

The second…correlation? Sure, let’s go with that – that this entry has to Sleeping With The Enemy is that I went to work for Amazon.

Escandoloso!

Literally, the company that has been the feared enemy of my brick and mortar retail career.

But, in reading the craigslist post, this was a seemingly win/win situation for old Xtopher:

There was no interview at all. Take a few aptitude tests on line, pick a schedule, go to work.

In.

Sane.

The job was at night. I took the 9-430 shift Friday night through Monday night. Why is this a win? Because it took me out of commission for the prime drinking days…something I needed to get away from.

Lastly, the job is crazy physical. It’s fast paced, too. Well, it’s set your own damn pace because there’s very little oversight…I choose fast because I expect myself to exceed expectations, so Bob’s your uncle.

Oh, here…

Anyway, I anticipated riding my bike to work since the busses don’t run until 5-ish in the morning and waiting a half hour when I could be home and in the shower in 15 minutes seemed stupid. So there’s basically four lunchtime spin classes a week just in the commute, which was a good start. But this job just kicks my ass on the daily whether I ride the bike or the bus.

And I’ve dropped at least 20 pounds since I started work there.

Technically, I guess this is a win/win/win…and I’ll take it!

Ok, so how does this job kick my ass?

I’m glad you aksed.

(Is it racist if I type in Ebonics? I’m going with “nope” because I friggin’ love that word.)

Its a warehouse job. This particular warehouse is a Sort Center, which is where the Fulfillment Centers route locally bound packages to be sorted for delivery. There’s three basic functions my role can be assigned to:

Unload: semis come into this Sort Center from Fulfillment Centers throughout the PNW and California. Hell, maybe even from other regions, too. No one tells me anything until 3 seconds after I need to know it. Trucks either need to be manually unloaded onto a belt or come palletized, then my job is to move the boxes from the pallets to the belt.

Puller: boxes travel down the belt, past 68 aisles on either side. Pullers look at each label as it goes by and pull packages for their assigned aisles – usually a group of 3, if we’re staffed up and we usually aren’t – and put it on a shelf.

Sorter: each Sorter is assigned two aisles – same caveat as above – that are about 21 feet long and are separated into six sections on each side, each section has three shelves. Four of these sections are divided into six totes representing different delivery areas, the other two are just shelves for oversized packages. The Sorter looks at each package and then scans it to log it into the correct delivery bin.

It sounds pretty easy until you think about how many semis it takes to deliver the 40-50k packages to our Sort Center each night.

There’s generally 8-10 people on Unload, so figure each of them will touch 5000 packages per night, that’s a lot of bending, twisting and lifting.

Pullers are the area that seems to get the least amount of compromising, it is a job that runs short as a last resort, so figure there’s about 45 people doing this job during a shift.

Then there’s the Sorters. Ideally, there are 34 in order to keep it manageable.

What usually happens is not that. If there aren’t enough Sorters, a set of aisles will be allowed to build up until its shelves reach critical mass. At that point someone will be pulled from their aisles and conscripted to put out the fire.

You can probably see where the disadvantage of having too little supervision and allowing people to set their own pace. Likewise, the extreme disadvantage of being a fast worker. Frequently, I’ll be asked to go take care of one of these orphan aisles, only to return to my own to find them in chaos.

Sorting is what I do most nights, and it’s a lot of fast paced walking, lifting, carrying, squatting and then more of all that. The aisles are about 20 feet long and I usually walk between 8-10 miles per shift, wearing a rut in the concrete floor.

Carrying stuff.

The pace goal for Sorters is to scan ~170 packages per hour into their respective delivery totes. That’s three packages a minute, which sounds easy enough.

Then you have to factor in things like scanner issues – believe me, holding the scan button tighter does not make it more likely to read a barcode – and replacing full totes with empty ones throughout the night.

I’m usually in the mid to high 200/hr range. That number will go up dramatically on nights where I hear things like, “We only have 5 Sorters on this side of the belt!”

FML.

There should be 16.

But somehow, at 430 in the morning, things still seem to have gotten done. Whether that’s because we managed to actually finish everything because we were staffed up or because the managers decided to pause the Unload team and push packages to the following day – which is never a good option – is not always clear to me. But at some point in the night – for whatever reason – the Unloaders will become Sorters, which always helps us get to the finish line.

Or close.

The culture of minimal supervision means that at 430, people walk away from their assigned areas and just leave.

I’ll cross the finish line in my aisles – clothes completely soaked through with sweat – and head toward the front to turn in my scanning equipment only to realize the silence coming from the aisles around me didn’t mean the aisles were done, just that the Sorters were gone.

Nice teamwork, right?

The latest I’ve ever had to stay is about 515, and that’s only been a few times. Generally, I’m on the road by 445, pedaling toward home.

But, what’s with all this minimal supervision, you ask?

Well…to run a shift, we need about 85 people, right? Call it 10 Unloaders, 45 Pullers and 34 Sorters.

We feel lucky if 75 people show up.

There’s days when you look around at the start of shift meeting – called a Stand Up – and it doesn’t look like there’s even 50 people there.

So, Amazon basically falls into the same staffing terror trap that my airport employer experienced. And they kind of deal with it the same way: unenforced expectations.

The only real hardline I hear people talk about is attendance, which at least puts them a step ahead of the airport. That’s pretty much out of their control, since points automatically accrue with missed shifts and tardiness. You hit the point threshold and you’re out. Beyond anyone’s control beside the individual.

I love systems like that.

But for the rest of the rules, enforcement is phoned in.

I hate systems like that.

There’s usually two shift managers who have maybe a dozen junior managers – called Ambassadors – to help keep things running in the different zones of the warehouse. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of expectations on the Ambassadors other than get the packages ready to deliver. Nor is there much development that I can see. I rarely see the shift managers away from their station at the front desk. Occasionally, I’ll see them with the Unload team or at the front of the belt, helping. Anything beyond that is pretty much run by Ambassadors.

The sad thing is that with the Ambassadors usually being self-directed, if someone doesn’t pull their weight, everyone else just has to work harder. Most of the time, I see Ambassadors strolling around in pairs, talking. Since most Ambassadors started as Sorters, they will occasionally hang out with their Sorting buddies from before they were promoted and talk.

I think the main criteria for being an Ambassador is “just be there longest” when an opening comes up. Fine, if that’s how you wanna do it, but it would be a lot better if there was a formal or better yet, executed training program for these junior managers.

But, remember what I said about my own development…it’s usually three seconds too late. My first night on the job was spent being shown safe working habits and how to Sort. Every role I’ve learned since then has been learned in the moment. Not optimal, but I can roll with it, I’ll care enough to figure it out. It’s just difficult to do what’s encouraged if I have a question – “ask an Ambassador” – since the vast majority of them rarely make eye contact and usually offer barely a grunt in response if you greet them.

Despite those obstacles and bad people habits, there’s still about a half dozen Ambassadors that I would call good. They got good because of their own drive and luck I’d guess.

Luck is never a good quality in a workplace…it always runs out.

If there was more of a drive to manage performance versus simply achieve results, night’s where we have fewer than 75 associates would be nights where we had everything we need rather than a crisis.

However, with the balance of the Ambassadors demonstrating bad habits to the associates, it’s no wonder we have the results we do. I’ve seen people just walk away from their aisles and be gone for 20-30 minutes. I’ve seen Pullers have an Ambassador cover their zone so they can go to the bathroom five minutes after returning from break. There is more than one associate who moves at a pace that suggests they are terrified their shoes will burst into flames if they walk too fast.

I’ve witnessed conversations that are completely not appropriate for work taking place. I thought long and hard about saying something about them – the favorite topic is speculating whether a small, heavy box has a dildo or other sex toy in it. Ultimately, I decided to just keep my head down and my focus on my work…this is a good strategy, since people’s hands move rather slowly while their jaws are flapping.

Anyway, it’s unfortunate that these issues are not addressed simply because people might quit. The adverse effect here is that the bad behaviors travel up the chain of command like a contagion, just lowering the performance bar. I even overheard one of our Shift Managers engaging in a dildo conversation with four other people. I was working across the belt from the other Shift Manager, a woman, and I looked up at her and her face registered absolutely no offense.

This bothered me…

The hell with that.

I sold myself on taking a job – any job – just to get off my couch. The emotional/mental benefits I mentioned above. The physical aspect of the job that I simply love…even though I feel broken for days after my four day work week ends.

The fact that it was a job at Amazon was an added benefit, maybe the exposure would allow me to stand out and be promoted or help out if another job I was qualified opened up. I think I’m at that level, now. I hear my name come up in positive sidebars. However, I don’t want to be an Ambassador if it means most of my peers suck at their job. I’ve been there and done that. Ain’t for me.

But the last benefit is likely going to be the most useful for me. When I left my last job, it was with what I considered good reason. The State of Oregon disagreed, so I’ve been denied unemployment benefits, which were part of my financial planning for my time off and job search. That disqualification is lifted once I’ve earned 4x my weekly unemployment benefit and then I can begin drawing unemployment bennies.

Well, when I took this temporary seasonal job, I didn’t know how long my assignment would last, because: no interview. What I found out is that I could be a seasonal employee for up to 11 months.

That’s a lot of seasons.

But if I quit once I reach my disqualification threshold, I’d be right back at square one with the great state again ruling that I quit for no good reason.

Oooh, conundrum.

I knew after a month that this job, four nights a week was too physically demanding for me to do long term. I wasn’t as sore as I’d been my first week, but my soreness was in my joints – from my fingers to my knees – and not in my muscles.

That’s no bueno.

Fortune smiled upon me when corporate decided to standardize work shifts. Instead of our station’s four day/9-430 shift, we were being moved to a three day/815-515 shift.

Three days…I could do three days.

Or…

We would be moved into a four hour shift, five days a week. There was going to be an 815-1215 shift and a 115-515 shift.

Out of those three possibilities, I got the absolute worst possible shift for me: 815-1215.

This was bad for me because, why?

Because we are always short staffed. I could easily see the, “Hey, can you extend to a full shift today?” conversation happening every. damn. shift.

This shift was also bad for mine, truly because I didn’t see getting home at 1230 as a benefit. A) I’d probably stop and close a dive bar at least once a week, which is counterproductive to my fitness goals; but, B) I also knew that I’d still need a shower before going to bed and that’s gonna put my bedtime closer to 2 in the morning after letting my hair dry. Two hours of prep time – between my 40 minute round trip bike commute and pre-bedtime shower – was half of the time I’d actually be getting paid to work.

Bad ROI.

Icing this scheduling cake was that it wasn’t sustainable when I return to work, which – despite my plotting against the fine folks at the unemployment office – I was/am hoping to do sooner, rather than later.

So, I told my dildo-talking boss that I couldn’t do the new schedule, even though I was taking the choice of shift assignment as a compliment.

He asked if I could do the three day rotation.

No.

How about on-call?

Hmmm…maybe!

I liked that idea. As summer weather gave way to less bike commuter friendly fall and winter weather, I could pick up as few as one shift a month and still remain on-call. That could work.

Added bonus, I can re-open my unemployment claim from the world of the underemployed versus unemployed. Also a good thing.

So, I decided to do that. My goal was to try and pick up three shifts a week until I go back to working full time and then at least two shifts per month after that.

We’ll see how it goes. And quickly, too…my last two days as a seasonal associate are this Friday and Saturday, then I switch to on-call.

If anyone wants to go play Sunday, let me know…I’ll have a weekend day off again!

And maybe – just maybe – I’ll be in the mood to celebrate a new job. I was one of only three people interviewed last weekend for a job with Columbia Sportswear. Here’s hoping that I finally break my Second Place streak.

I’ll know before Friday. Fingers crossed that I can celebrate a new job, successful transition to on-call at Amazon and not even needing my Machiavelli-esque earned unemployment.

Another win/win/win!

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy

I Guess It Looks Worse Than It Is…

About three weeks ago, I was out running some errands and after being mildly inconvenienced by a couple of reroutes found myself close to Washington Park. I had planned to take a hike to Forest Park that afternoon anyway, before it got too hot. Since I was probably less than ten blocks – that’s for you, mom! – from the entrance, I decided to just carry on since the temperature was already tending toward balmy.

I know from a similar errand-running excursion earlier this week that the my house<the Safeway<Freddy’s<home loop runs about three miles. Well, 3.4 with a coffee reward after Freddy’s. Factoring that out, I’m calling it an even three.

Freddy’s is only a block away from my personal google maps nemesis

So I had to successfully avoid that obstacle in order for my plan to succeed.

Figure that when I got to the entrance to Washington Park that I was about 1.5 miles into my errands plus another 3/4 mile from Freddy’s to the entrance, right?

It’s that last three quarters of a mile that’s the real killer. In addition to avoiding Taco Bell, there are also pretty steep streets up toward the park. What upset me when I got to the top of the hill was how out of breath I felt and how excessively sweaty I was.

Super not cool.

“Well, that’s probably just diabetes and coronary disease knocking on the door”, I pessimistically told myself. I opened up my MINDBODY app and bought a spin package.

I was also talking via messenger with the Filipina Fox, who is an obnoxiously fit friend and fitness instructor at not only my spin gym, RevoCycle, but two other studios in my neighborhood as well. Those are her second, third and fourth jobs in addition to her primary full time job. Then there’s the gym she belongs to for her personal workouts.

I dunno how she finds the time or the energy, but hats off to her! However, if I hadn’t been chatting with her, I probably wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on buying a spin package.

Nevertheless, there she was, providing me unintentional inspiration in my return to gym-centric exercise. She joked about the gym having an AED, just in case and I made another about having a DNR tattoo on my chest.

Then it was off into the park. I’ll write more about my walk through Washington Park in another post, it also is home to the Japanese Garden, which the Silver Fox took me to as a guest a few months ago. I want to share my beautiful pics from both visits.

For now, though, my point is that during my less than record breaking hike the temp went up 10% to 80 degrees at the end but I was just spent: I’d sweated through my clothes and was sucking air like a fish out of water.

No bueno!

The next day, I was at RevoCycle for my noon class. They call it Power Lunch and it’s just 30 minutes, designed to allow worker bees to get a ride in during their lunch hour. I wasn’t sure I could actually pull off a full “hour long” class, which usually runs 50 minutes. The half hour class allowed me to dip my toe back in the water.

I’d discussed my concerns – and reasons for my absence – with the owner and leader of the lunch class, Michael.

While I had been cycling and hiking pretty regularly through mid-June, my knees bothered me during and after the activities. Then, the powers that be had closed down my entrance to the Springwater Trail, which took away half of my exercise options anyway, since that was a major part of my cycling route.

The goal was to get salmon back to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife refuge by replacing a 70s era salmon culvert.

The culvert allows salmon to move protected from the Willamette River through the underground culvert and into the wildlife refuge.

It’s just a small project.

That completely closes down my access to my preferred cycling route.

And my back up route.

FML.

But, three months and $9 million later and at least the salmon will have a safe place to get their spawn on.

Meanwhile, that plus my persistent unemployment afforded me an option to gain 20 lbs. Most of which seemed to arrive in about an eight week period.

See the above FML.

So, Tuesday three weeks ago, I’m back at spin for a Tuesday and Thursday routine and I’m happy to say that I’ve only missed one class on the ensuing three weeks. I’ve also managed at least one hike per week and even one interval run!

Of course, after that, I couldn’t walk right for three days, but I’m happy that I accomplished it…proving to myself that what my acupuncturist has been working on – paired with running right for my body – has paid off.

The good news is that I’m down 8 pounds in three weeks and feel better, too! I’m not leaving a pool of sweat behind after my half hour class anymore and my knees are tolerating the intensity well!

Of course, since I’m kind of mean to myself, I have chosen a gym conveniently located two blocks away from the modeling agency I worked for in my late 20s. And, since it’s on my way home from the gym, I stopped off last week for a selfie.

Already looking better than I did halfway through my five mile hike to Washington Park two weeks prior to taking this! Still in no danger of anyone from my old agency chasing after me.

Plus, it helps to have a sweat towel…

In my conversations with Michael over the past few weeks, I’ve become aware of a few things:

First, the smoke and ash in the air recently has likely been mostly to blame for my wheezing and excessive sweat, especially on that Washington Park outing.

Second, the mental benefits from regular exercise are more immediate than the physical results. And the mental benefits feel great!

Third, it looks worse than it is. Yesterday, I faced a personal fear: being the only person in a class. Michael likes to focus on being present with your body during a spin class – it’s like the focus on mindfulness and breathing you experience in a yoga class – and usually checks in with the heart monitor wearers in class to see how they’re doing. I don’t wear one, but he kept asking me how I was doing, “How’s your breathing, pretty heavy?” or “How many words could you say right now?” types of things. When he asked me if I was at my max heart rate after one sprint and got a palms up response from me, he taught me this easy little formula.

220 – a person’s age = max heart rate

“So where is your heart rate at?”, he asked after timing off a pulse check in.

178

“What’s your max, I dunno how old you are…how does that compare?”

My max is 170.

“Great! That’s fantastic…you’re probably in better shape than you were worried about!”

I guess it looks worse than it is.

But I’m still ecstatic that I’m doing something physical that ties me to a routine!

I Guess It Looks Worse Than It Is…

Manopause

I’ve never felt bad for women who declare, “Oh, god…I’ve turned into my mother”. However, I never really expected the thought to flit through my mind.

But that’s exactly what happened last night.

No, I wasn’t drinking.

The thought had no sooner pasted a glimmer of a smile on my lips, than I’d dismissed the idea. I’m not becoming my mother – although, in my case, I wouldn’t understand why women make that sound so bad.

I settled on an even more insane sounding occurrence: I’m obviously pregnant.

Here’s the scenario: I was actually – well, let me save you some time.

If a picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words…you’re welcome. I’ve clearly spared your eyes some strain.

If you need a little more context to interpret those two pictures, I’m happy to oblige. Read on, I’ll be as brief as possible…

I was eating ice cream for dinner. Why? I dunno. It just ended up in my hands while I was looking at my fridge for dinner ideas.

I was actually standing there, staring slack-jawed at my options of almost literally nothing to eat.

Fridge door open.

Freezer drawer pulled out.

This had the added benefit of blasting me with cold air on yet another 90+ degree day in Portland.

Seriously, we do not need this information getting out, but Portland has beautiful summers. That rain for next Saturday? Yeah, we heard that promise last week, but the rain was only a rumor.

If it does rain next Saturday, that’ll be the end of at least a three week dry spell. If it doesn’t rain…well.

Ugh.

Things could be worse.

Anyway, back to cooling the house with an open refrigerator. Realizing I was doing so, I closed everything up and stood in my kitchen undecided. I was conflicted about cooking and heating up the house, but I didn’t want to order in.

Ice cream seemed like a really good triple whammy to that conundrum because it’s cold food, right? It had the added benefit of not being beer or wine, too. But I was having trouble rationalizing executing the decision to eat ice cream as a meal.

I blamed the Silver Fox. He’d invited me along to Trader Joe’s last week. Probably because he needed bananas – seriously, if he needs bananas: TJs; if he needs milk: Costco – and invited me along.

$55 dollars later, my fridge was full. Of course, I’d only needed one thing when I agreed to go along…

Actually, he’d needed to go for some chocolatey good treats for some chocoholic friends that were coming to dinner the next night. By his endorsement, Trader Joe’s has the best chocolate ice cream.

I chose a different path.

I was not disappointed in my selection. Additionally, I’ve had two servings and still have more. Take that Ben & Jerry’s and your single serving containers!

This is all about excusing my dinner decision last night. Truth of the matter? Once I saw the ice cream in my freezer, I couldn’t not think about it. I had to have it.

It was a craving.

I addition to Portland’s current heat wave driving me to not cook and enjoy frosty beers and chilled rose deliciousness too frequently, it’s also limited my outdoor activity.

Meaning: no hiking or bike riding.

Also, meaning: fat Xtopher.

Seriously.

Fat.

I’ve put on 10 pounds in the last three months. Actually, I put on 10 lbs in a month, I’ve just been holding steady for the last two…trying to limit the damage. That’s 10 on top of 10 that I gained in the first quarter of the year, by the way. Not a good way to follow up last year’s fitfy initiative.

It’s a real shitshow over here at Chez Galby.

I look pregnant.

Well, I think that’s about 1000 words on the picture of my Facebook post about last nights dinner.

Moving on…

I sat down with my ice cream supper and decided to watch the movie Battleship. There’s always a little time for a stupid Rihanna-slash- action movie and after seeing Mission Impossible: Fallout last week…I was jonesing for another Adrenalin hit.

I cried during the movie.

What.

The.

F.

I mean…I’m not super surprised. I cried at the end of Rocky. But at least that was a story about believing in yourself and accomplishing a goal against all odds.

Sure, Battleship has a tenuous similarity. But, c’mon…at least Rocky is quasi tethered to reality. I have an equal belief in boxers and aliens. However, I’ve yet to meet an alien, so that diminishes the reality aspect of the movie Battleship by comparison.

My last word on this crying jag? Copious.

Big, round, flowing tears. Not a quick hit of emotion like in other bouts of ridiculous crying I’ll admit to. This shit just kept on coming. I literally did not have the control to stop. As it was continuing to not end, the movie moves on to a scene – where I know what’s going to happen – and I’m so caught up in this ridiculous moment that I uttered “Oh, no!” before Rihanna comes out of nowhere to save her stereotypically every Irish person from Boston shipmate.

Craziness.

But, just like with the ice cream, I couldn’t stop myself.

Irrational emotions and emotional decisions.

I need pregnancy hormones to even begin to excuse my present shape and recent decision making history.

Since I’m stubborn I decided to watch a potentially feely movie after Battleship ended. It had dropped recently on Netflix called Like Father. I figured it had the potential to make me emotional and that might help me justify the emotional outburst.

I know. Completely backward timing, but I was just looking for a lifeline for my dignity.

It failed to deliver.

As I’m sitting there, not being moved to tears, I emotionally decide to make the French Fries from my freezer.

C’mon!

It’s after 10 PM.

As I’m watching my oven timer count down, my rational Hyde brain is trying to assert itself and take control back from my Jekyll emotions. He’s been trying to come back to the forefront of my personality lately. That makes me sad. Hyde used to be my default personality. Now, I feel like Jekyll is too present.

Enabling idleness.

Eating and drinking to excess.

I know that it’s depression about feeling driven out of my last job for expecting my fellow leadership peers to follow corporate policies. Naturally, compounded by the challenge of finding a new job. With just a dash of frustration at too often being passed over for an internal candidate.

Yeah, that’s a recipe for depression, right there.

But knowing that in some trapped, logical part of my brain as 10:30 approaches didn’t stop the irrational and sad part of my brain from eating that entire package of French Fries while I finished that stupid movie. No, it wasn’t a movie, it was a mehvie. Hehe.

So I woke up this morning – having slept a straight eight interrupted hours and picked up where I’d left off last night: something has to change.

During the last few weeks of not going outside, I’ve been thinking about rejoining my gym. My resistance there is two-fold: primarily my fear of re-injuring my treasonous shoulder joints; secondarily, I’m too cheap to pay the initiation fee again.

My alternative was to go back to my spin gym. I’ve been talking about it since January. Last week, I actually went back to look at class packages. I was unhappy to discover that the drop in rate has increased to $25.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

They gym seems to prefer class packages over drop ins. Fine. To that end, the owner offers 10-pack classes at a discount. That used to be $180, recently that increased to $190 and if I was having trouble pulling the trigger on the value of an $18 spin class in January…well, that extra buck didn’t help.

What was a surprise when I dug a little deeper last week was the offering of a 20 class package for $300. My grinchy fat ass can support a $15 class.

Except.

Budgeting goes well with no income. Splurging on a $300 luxury does not. I even joined AARP knowing that I was still too young to qualify for the Silver Sneaker program – which pays your gym membership in order to encourage us oldies to exercise – but thinking there might at least be a discount to get me by in the meantime.

There was not.

I’ve spent the last week or so vacillating between spending the money on re-joining my gym or buying a spin package or just forcing myself into the streets to cycle in extreme heat. Neither seems like a great idea. However, when I got back from coffee with The Fox this morning, bitching about my mild sweaty discomfort after walking just under two miles round trip in mid-morning heat, I decided on a compromise: I bought the lunch package of spin classes. They net out to $11 per half hour class. Not a great deal comparatively, but I was kind of fretting collapsing off my spin cycle during a full class, anyway. Hence the “compromise”. This will be a good compromise to get me back in the groove.

That’s what I’m telling myself.

This has the added benefit of pleasing the Filipina Fox, who teaches at the spin gym I go to. She doesn’t do the lunch class, but she’ll be glad that I’m at least getting back in the (bike) saddle.

Wish me luck…I’ve got work clothes that I’ve got to – hopefully – fit back into at some point. Time to push (mano)pause and banish my pregnancy body and Jekyll mindset.

Manopause

Fat Shamed By My Phone

I’ve been a little lazy lately. Kind of living the life of a shut in or hermit.

Lots of factors.

However, the two that led to this initially and then hooked me, eventually were:

A) The first of the season sunburn that I exposed myself to during my spur of the moment half century ride has kept me inside versus making it worse. I could simply buy some sun screen, but for now I’m living a literal version of “once burned, twice shy”…at least until I stop peeling!

And,

B) I hurt myself. Yes, again. Yes, while I’ve allegedly been inactive.

But there’s a story behind that Point B.

Naturally.

The Silver Fox was laid up a few days back and I offered to take his pooch out for his pre-bedtime walk. His dog is a good boy. Certainly a better pet than my Mistress Myrtle, who is currently in the midst of an Otter Identity Crisis.

George is 110 pounds of heart. Definitely more heart than brain, but as soon as I open the door he’s doing his “happy to see you” dance. It’s the same dance I get when I’m visiting and use the bathroom in The Fox’s Lair. Anyway, having been a slug for the past several days and wanting to make sure The Fox gets every opportunity to rest up by sleeping through the night, I decide to give the dog a good pre-bedtime run. We zip around the North Park Blocks in the darkness in between sniff and pee breaks so that he can get all the pup-dates the neighborhood dogs leave…the NPB really are like Canine Facebook.

Still, we ran up and down four of the five blocks of park in between Chez Galby and The Fox’s Lair, occasionally doubling back on ourselves as we ran and played. It was only 3/4 of a mile, but I knew it was more than George usually gets at that late hour and I could tell he was ready to settle in for the night when we were done.

I went to bed thinking, “You know, you could shuffle out a mile jog around the park blocks a couple times a week” and motivated to give that a try to see how my knees and lower legs tolerated it.

Of course, I woke up on Monday scarcely able to put my ever increasing body weight on my left foot.

Gotdammit.

So I’ve been relegated to the sofa most of this week…naturally, it’s also a week where my normal Monday morning acupuncture was cancelled because of the holiday.

First World Problem.

You’d have thought being laid up would give me plenty of writing time.

You’d have been mistaken.

I’ve been trapped in a daily Netflix Spiral.

But, ending the week on a high note, I am determined to tell the story of that time my phone fat-shamed me. It was also my last outdoor activity, a hike with Little Buddy in Forest Park. There might even be some pics, it was so long ago that I’ve forgotten if I snapped pics during that hike or not.

One of the reasons that I enjoy hiking is the natural setting, of course. That’s the same reason I enjoy cycling. The difference is that while hiking, I can enjoy the scenery a bit more than when it’s buzzing by at a whopping 15 MPH. Hence the potential for pictures.

My usual Forest Park hike is a ten mile affair, about 50/50 split betwixt sidewalk on the to and from and actual trail in the park itself. It’s usually a 3-4 hour endeavor, depending on how long I stay at Pittock Mansion once I reach this little urban summit. Little Buddy had told me she had a few hours between work and family dinner duties, so I stopped her from paying to park by my place when she rolls up, figuring we can park adjacent to one of the many entry points and start there.

I’m not just respecting her pending familial obligations, I’m also ensuring our post ambulation recreation at The Big Legrowlski: beer!

Here’s the rub, though: I’ve never driven to the trail, so I have zero clue where to direct Little Buddy. Being the slave to technology that I am, I google Forest Park and get directions.

This takes us in the complete opposite direction than I normally head off in when on foot, so I’m completely lost. I usually head NW through the Alphabet District – encompassing the Pearl District, Slabtown and The Conway neighborhoods – and then into Northwest and ultimately the forest on Thurman Street.

These google directions set us off toward Burnside, the primary East-West thoroughfare through town and really the first street in the Alphabet District, and the opposite end of the alphabet from my normal entry point. Mind you, Google Maps is – allegedly – going to provide the quickest route, so off we go.

Intrepid, no?

Here’s the payoff for struggling through those Portland neighborhood specific details…patience really can pay off.

We’re heading up Burnside, chattering comfortably away about her and 2.0’s new home escrow, an upcoming kitchen remodel in their current home and my parents’ kitchen remodel – it appears I literally have nothing to add to this conversation myself, so I’m ripping off my parents. But, being an okay son, when she mentions having a potential Quartz Guy, I tell her that my parents had wanted quartz but opted for marble because they couldn’t find a decent deal on quartz.

Sidebar: She literally just texted me this as I’m writing

Hehe…Wong’s.

This is my life, I cannot make it up any better.

End sidebar.

So, we’re driving up Burnside and our conversation is interrupted by directions, as is often the case when GPS is your friend. Or in this case, frenemy.

“In 600 feet, continue on past Taco Bell”…

As far as landmarks go, if you’re going to base them on businesses, Portland has a few iconic offerings along Burnside. For example,

Jim Fisher Volvo has been on Burnside since 1957 and its sign 60 feet over Burnside is nearly as famous as this guy sitting at the head of NW Burnside.

But, no, my phone had inherited my snarky and completely unveiled bitchy personality. Allow me to translate its directions for you.

“Hey, fatty, since you don’t drive and based on your drunken Uber history, the park you’re looking for is past Taco Bell…do not stop at Taco Bell!”

Little Buddy and I were so stunned by this out of character type of direction that it took us a moment to begin laughing our asses off. LB nearly drove into a truck. We were laughing so hard that we nearly missed the second warning at 400 feet. We’d regained our composure enough to enjoy the fact that google kept on shaming me until the “200 feet” marker.

As funny as that was – shituationally – I felt a little cheated that there was no congratulatory message once I’d successfully made it past my drunken dietary siren.

Somehow – after that amazing ab workout slash dose of the best medicine – we made it to our urban trailhead destination. I recognized it, as I’d crossed this road a few times on other adventures. After parking, we head out into the trail as I try to mentally adjust my map so I don’t get us lost.

We both quickly realize that we aren’t entering at the easiest point on the path…as we pretty much are silenced 300 feet into a maybe 12 degree (I’m guessing, not really sure how grades are measured…just assume it’s steep) climb when LB says something along the lines of, “Geez, how long is this hill?!?”

Basically, what I was desperately trying to remember. Wiping the streams of sweat from my face before turning to answer, I tell her that “I can’t actually remember” and that it’s “longer than I recall, I’m trying to remember which way to go at the top so I don’t get lost again”.

Now, this Little Buddy of mine, she’s pretty sharp.

Again?!?”, she asks.

This totally takes the pressure off the early phone fat shaming since I answer her honestly by telling her that I’ve only gotten lost in Forest Park twice.

This year.

This just happens to be one of the two paths I’ve been lost on.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’d guess that the initial climb was about 1000 feet and my treacherous phone told me we climbed 13 stories. One of my math-y friends can figure the grade out and tell the rest of us in the comments.

After that initial near death humility inducing beginning, the path leveled off into a more comfortable elevation gain and we were back to our normally chatty and much less wheezy selves. It was last Wednesday and we both enjoyed the relatively people-free trail as we absorbed the natural settings and caught up.

It’s one of those normally awesome experiences that is even better for the company. I’m glad she and I have had a couple of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company, being outdoors, some beer, a lil wine, great weather and surprisingly few other people. As a matter of fact, once we reached the mansion, I mentioned that this was the smallest crowd I’d seen up there in the three years I’ve been hiking these trails.

Less than a dozen counting us. Excluding us, maybe not even a half dozen.

Heavenly.

Naturally, two of the only other visitors were feeling chatty. And commemorative, asking me to get a pic of them in front of the overlook. LB took off for a shady spot in the corner while the tourists from Salt Lake chatted me up. I mentally praised her reclusiveness, even though I knew that I was projecting my early onset grumpiness onto her mom check in moment.

I can’t blame the tourist for wanting to capture the beautiful view, even if the mountain wasn’t out that day.

I swear, there is a mountain in that haze…somewhere. Maybe next time. I have that luxury, even though it’ll probably be so crowded up there when the mountain is actually out that I won’t be able to get a decent shot of it.

Oh well, first <ahem> step is to get my foot cooperating again!

Fat Shamed By My Phone

BikeTown Chronicles #3

How do I get myself into these shituations?

Oh, yeah…I’m stubborn.

And…competitive.

Fine, but I can still whine about this stuff, right?

After a gorgeous weekend through which I suffered through what The Fox likes to call bubble guts, I was feeling pent up. And, yeah, a bit frustrated that I hadn’t managed anything active during the good weather.

Sunday was our most beautiful and warm day of the year thus far and Monday was projected to be the same. So, I’d committed to getting outside after coffee. I was a little torn about completing some actual responsible tasks before my ride, but talked myself out of it since I was only planning a 90 minute/20 mile ride.

I’d be back in plenty of time to get to the FedEx/Kinkos to print out some documents for my unemployment hearing next Tuesday and get them in the mail.

Then as I was leaving my neighborhood coffee shop, the barista asked what my plans were.

“Bike ride! It was touch and go between bike or hike, but the ride wins out today!”, I told him.

The Fox had told me that our barista had been telling him about a 70 mile ride he’d done recently. “Told me” as in “I interpreted it as a dare”.

So, I leave the cafe after vocalizing my intent to take off on a little 20 miler. Saying it out loud makes me accountable, right?

Then I go home and get sucked into Netflix for an hour.

I end up leaving the house around 12:30, still plenty of time. Home by 2, showered and planted in Kinkos by 3, probably done by then, realistically.

My usual short ride out the Springwater Trail ends at the 6.5 mile mark, preventing me from having to cross any real major thoroughfares on my urban trail ride. It’s a 1.5 mile trip through the waterfront to the trail, so I come up a couple miles short of my 20 mile goal. I’ve offset that by taking a loop over the Tilikum Bridge and back around the waterfront to make up the difference.

I noticed my water bottle hitting my leg as I ended that loop and thought that I hadn’t placed it completely back in its cradle after my last drink.

Wrong.

I’d somehow lost a screw and that was causing the whole contraption – including my bike pump – to pivot on the remaining screw. I pulled over to tighten shit up and got back on the road, satisfied that I’d gotten the situation secured.

I get to the 6.5 mile mark and am feeling pretty good. My butt is tolerating the seat pretty well and I think, “Let’s just go to 30”. This is where my competitiveness and mild OCD kick in. I get to the 30 mile turn around point and it’s in the middle of the path, versus one of the park areas or major intersections. I decide to ride on so that I can fill my water bottle at my turnaround.

That happens at the 35 mile point and I think, “35 miles? That’s not a ride. No one does 35s”. I haven’t done a 40 since last year and decide to push on, thinking back to a conversation Little Buddy and I had during last week’s hike. She mentioned that most of her and 2.0’s rides were 40-60 mile affairs…so, why not?

I get to the 40 mile point in Gresham and think back to last year, when I was last here and decided not to push further to the end of the path. I also recall last weekend’s ride where I’d run into my friend, Casey Adler, and we’d rode along for a bit together toward the end of his ride.

He’d gone all the way to the end of the trail in Boring.

I was going to go, too.

This mentality is how I get myself into these situations.

The path out to Boring was lovely. It’s newer than the rest of the Springwater, so it’s also in really good shape, which is nice because my bum was beginning to ache.

At the 45 mile turnaround point, I do question my rationale for completing a ride that is 60% longer than my prior ride. Then I ignore myself and keep going because I’m gonna need to refill my water bottle, right?

I arrive at the Boring Trailhead Park and stumble off my bike in need of a little stretch. I walk it out around the little bathroom hut and realize that I’m not alone. There’s a “serious cycler” on the other side of the bathrooms getting ready to ride out. I decide to stretch until he leaves, not in the mood to be passed by a fit someone that is just starting his ride.

Once he leaves, I go to the water fountain to refill my bottle before getting under way.

Broken.

Ugh…I set my sights on refilling at Gresham City Park and gingerly head out. GCP is kind of new, I think maybe it was added when the Springwater was extended, but I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that there’s no water fountain.

I get back on the trail. I’m beginning to resent the overt associations the Springwater Trail has with…water as my thirst gets real. I think this as I’m cycling past signs telling me that I’m in the Johnson Creek Watershed.

Water, water everywhere.

Somehow, I manage to catch my fit serious cycler as I peddle toward the next park – a baseball field – in hopes of hydration. I’m in a mid-range gear in sprint mode because my knees are beginning to complain. I decide to follow him for a bit and ratchet my effort back to avoid overtaking him.

Yes, I’m judging him while also telling myself that he’s probably still in his warm up mode.

Then I see he’s wearing dress shoes.

Chuckling – and rejudging – I think that maybe he’s a bike commuter and forgot to pack his cycling shoes. It is Monday, after all.

No, I tell myself…

A) Who lives in town and works in Boring?

B) He’s gotta be on his way home at this time of day, so he rode to work in the same shoes.

Now I’m curious.

And passing him.

I pull into the baseball field and begin cruising around for a functional water fountain.

Jelly legs.

As I’m refilling my bottle for the second time after immediately draining the first refill, fit serious cycler guy cruises past and I mentally say farewell, absolutely setting my sights on not catching him again.

I succeed!

But I do run into a couple of other curious characters on my ride back in.

The first was a motivationally fit fella out on the path in just bike shorts.

Well, spandex shorts. When he’d passed me heading toward town, I’d appreciated his bare torso and turned to appreciate the rear view after he passed. No pads in his shorts!

This time, as he passed me on his return to whatever outer region of town he called home, I wondered, “Where the hell does he put his keys?!?”

Or his emergency $5?

Or his ID?

My parents raised me well. My zippered back pocket held all three.

Sexy and dumb. Maybe I should chase him down…nah. Peddle, Xtopher.

The second character I passed on my ride back into town was resting shirtless on a bench by my 30 mile turnaround viewpoint. He made some vague hand signal as I passed by that appeared to me to be an offer of oral sex but I convinced myself was some cycler code greeting.

He should have been wearing a shirt.

After passing him, I reach down for my water bottle.

Gone.

I’m not totally surprised, because it never fit snuggly into the cradle. Then I notice the cradle, too, I’d gone. As is my bike pump.

Fuuuuuuuck!

It’s ok…I’m inside the final 15 miles.

That optimistic thought evaporates as I pass the perpetually wet spot on the trail that I always amuse myself by thinking, “Here’s the spring the trail is named for” as I pass through it.

I pull off to stretch and rest my bum for a few minutes. Shortly after I get back to my ride, Shouldn’t Be Shirtless Guy passes me. I think that he must have been riding pretty hard to catch up after so long just as he drops his hand and makes yet another weird, finger waggly hand gesture to me.

What the hell is this guy on about?

I’m approaching the segment of the trail called Tres Bridges because there are three bridges in relatively short succession taking riders over some industrial land, train tracks and Hwy 99. After my prior four rides this season, I’m remembering the rhythm of the bridges’ uncomfortable bumps so I can stand to avoid the ass abuse they create. I don’t need that this far into my ride.

I’m in the final ten miles.

I come off the last bridge and the shirtless guy is there, pulled off at a bench again. This time, as I pass, he laughs maniacally at me and laugh tracks me from my approach until I can’t hear him any longer.

“Oooooh”, I think, “He’s a crazy”. Ok, that tracks.

It’s Portland.

As I come out of Sellwood and get back onto the last leg of the Springwater before it becomes the Esplanade, I begin to feel…crispy. It’s now that I realize my spontaneous 50 mile ride is going to come in at a smidge over four hours.

Without sunscreen.

In a sleeveless tee.

“It won’t be that bad”, I think, considering the base tan I’ve developed on my bikes and hikes from earlier in the season.

That thought was wrong.

Oh, well…might as well get my sunburn out of the way.

Plus, now I’ve crossed a half century ride off my summer bucket list. I’m also well prepared to talk myself out of future aspirational endeavors.

And, hey…there’s always the two-day mail option to get my unemployment hearing stuff in before the weekend!

Oh, btw, my fitness tracker is convinced that I somehow burned 1300 kcals on my ride. That’s 1.3 million calories. However, since I woke up still fluffy today, I’m going to choose to believe that my fitness tracker is either broke or crazier than Shouldn’t Be Shirtless Guy.

BikeTown Chronicles #3

I Live in BikeTown, USA

Don’t let the title fool ya, I’m a fair weather cyclist. Part of me dreams of being an intrepid cyclist type that commutes to work regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us.

But I’m not.

I had tentative plans to find the path to the airport and bike to work “once the weather got good” a few times this summer. Instead, I quit my job. The only thing worse than a bad job is a bad job that you also have saddle rash while doing, right?

Ok, maybe there’s worse things. Probably that’s no contest,

But outside of the weather, I’m leery of becoming a regular bike commuter for two reasons:

A) I saw a UPS truck going the wrong way on a one way street the other day.

Now, my faith in humanity is pretty low, I won’t lie. To that end, I look both ways before crossing a one way street. But I don’t expect to see a professional driver pulling a bonehead move like that.

B) Bike Commuters are mean. At the very least, intimidating. Probably to some degree because of their hyper vigilance on the road due to the folks in example A, but even within their own ranks, their pretty fucking judgy.

But, Portland has had its False Spring and now that nice weather has come around for the second time, I can reasonably expect the weather to be decent more days than not and I’ve trotted out the old bike to try and blend in.

That’s a lie.

I’m trying to pedal off my Winter Layer.

I’ve managed two rides in the last week and am heading out on my third this morning, but am also enjoying being trapped under Mistress Myrtle while sipping my Monster so I thought I’d tap this out before I go…I’ve just got to get out before all the Cubicle Dwellers finish their First Brunch of the weekend and get outside.

That was one of the many things I re-learnt on ride number one.

Second Spring arrived on a Saturday and I let my enthusiasm get the better of me and went out for an afternoon ride on the Eastbank Esplanade and out the Springwater Trail.

Mistake!

But it was only my first of this short ride.

Everyone was there. They also seemed largely to be suffering under the delusion that they were the only people on the planet. I expect the Esplanade to be busy with strolling couples on a weekend. Lovey-dovey shit going on is gonna happen. The only way I’ve discovered to avoid it is to be…y’know, me. But on top of those slow strollers, you’ve got the other fair weather athletes out getting their shakedown runs and rides on the books.

Oh, and the actual athletes that probably were hating on all of us.

But it was a shit show.

No one was paying attention to anyone past the immediate obstacle they represented. Sure, they were going around them, but not thinking past them to what might be ahead.

Around the figurative next bend, if you will.

Here’s an example:

A jogger comes up behind a slow moving couple walking hand in hand and moves around them by running down the center of the path. There just happens to be a cyclist coming the opposite direction, but it’s ok…the path is wide enough to accommodate four abreast.

Ok, that example NEVER happened.

It was close, but:

Maybe the couple wasn’t walking hand in hand and there was a person width gap between them.

Maybe the jogger passing the strollers was a fair weather athlete and as he passed, a real athlete came up and decided to pass him simultaneously, not realizing that jogger was passing a couple he couldn’t really see.

Maybe the oncoming cyclist was two abreast instead of single file.

Unattended toddlers.

Wandering geese.

This shit show created a lot of Matrix worthy action as everyone just carried the fuck on.

Meanwhile, I’m looking at oncoming traffic before I try to pass someone and occasionally hold up behind them until oncoming obstacles go by, only to see some jerk-wad pass me and the people in front of me and almost die in a head on collision with oncoming traffic he didn’t see ahead.

Sidebar: I’m not being sexist when I say “he”, we men are typically at fault when it comes to single minded selfish behaviors. Outside of nothing, I never saw any of the many women doing their fitness do any of this stupid alpha male bullshit behavior.

What really surprised me was that this general cluelessness continued onto the Springwater Trail. I wasn’t expecting this. The Springwater is a 25-ish mile long path that runs from Downtown out to the ‘burbs. It’s actually got an extension now out to the Netflix-famous town of Boring, Oregon, so maybe it’s even longer these days.

That said, it’s not a path that really affords a casual “let’s just get on the trail” type of experience. The entrance and exit points are fairly distant, so once you’re on, you’re on for a while. Seeing so much casual traffic was confusing to me because I couldn’t figure out their motivation or destination.

It became clear to me a few miles in when I encountered the first couple just suddenly reversing course.

No looking around before they turned.

No stepping to the side to let any trailing traffic pass and check to make sure it was clear.

Just, “we’re going back now” and <poof>, they were suddenly facing the other direction.

This happened three times on the Springwater during my nine mile ride on it – 4.5 out and the (after pulling off at a wide point by a bridge) 4.5 back to the Esplanade.

Really, I left the Springwater hoping for more Wandering Geese. At least I couldn’t fault them for their brainless behaviors.

That earlier sexist disclaimer aside, I cane upon a weird situation that just ended up being a racist stereotype trap by Oaks Park during my ride out.

There was a woman seated on her BikeTown bike seat walking her bike instead of pedaling. She was in the middle of the outbound half of the trail. The way she was moving, I thought she might be injured. I slowed down to make sure and check as I went by – on the right side of her. Naturally, the runner behind me just blew by on the left as some oncoming cyclists passed a slow mover on their side so we almost all died.

Turns out, the woman I thought was injured was just Asian and the slow mover in the oncoming lane was only her boyfriend trying to snap an “action” shot of her “riding” her BikeTown bike in front on the Oaks Amusement Park roller coaster in the background.

Idiots.

The rest of my Mistake Moments on this inaugural ride of the season were gear related.

Remembered: Helmet, tunes, water bottle and sunglasses.

I did pretty good for my first ride.

Forgotten: Padded underwear and cycling gloves.

Now, this was only a 12 mile ride. I was intentionally taking it easy because I’m prone to injury.

The injury I wasn’t prepared for was the hamburger ass I ended up with for forgetting my padded underwear.

It was ONLY 12 miles!

But, sure enough, every little bump on the ride back in was an exercise in agony.

Bicycle seat + cargo shorts + cotton underwear + my lame yet frustrating excuse for a vestigial tail = the perfect recipe for saddle rash. Regardless of the shortness of the ride. Add to that a good sweat on a nice day and you get “Oh, c’mon!” type irritation for your ride home.

As if my trail cohorts weren’t irritating enough.

But, lessons learned so that future rides were more enjoyable, right?

Sure enough, my second ride of the season was mid-week and much less crowded. Poorly timed, it seems, if only because all the shirtless runners were heading into town as I was heading out.

It took me the first three oncoming joggers to really relax into appreciating the oncoming displays of masculine beauty.

The first one was a slender but muscular runners framed guy with a smooth chest and impossibly thin waist. My internal pedo alarm went off and I warned myself against ogling truant high school boys.

The second jogger that came my way prompted the same perversion diversion behavioral subroutines to activate. I began thinking that I’d wandered out during a HS track team practice run and prepared to tuck my lascivious nature away for the duration of my ride. Just as I began to look for a place to pull off and put on some Indigo Girls music to tamp down my inner dirty old man, the third, fourth and fifth shirtless runners passed by, visually reassuring me that the first two were just flukes.

I was relieved. Guy-Candy is such a motivator for me when it comes to exercise. I enjoy being a fair weather cyclist. I love the urban nature Portland has to offer and I unapologetically consider shirtless athletes to be part of that urban nature.

So, motivational visuals safely intact and padded underwear securely in place, I confidently set my sights on a 20 mile ride.

It was great.

Not too crowded.

Actually, the best Portland stereotypes were out.

Recumbent cyclists.

Superfit granola-y type people in their 60s or better out slow-jogging.

Rollerbladers, because Portland Weirdos still do that.

Combination standard/recumbent dual bicyclists – that’s a new one one me.

No list of Portland’s finest would be complete without Segue Riders or the poor man’s Segue, the Razor Scooter.

All out on display on this gorgeous day.

Not too hot, but sunny!

Gorgeous scenery. The aforementioned male pulchritude and the riverside greenery and occasional wildlife.

My favorite part was the 5-way intersection on the way back by Oaks Park where the Springwater crosses a road. A driver coming out of Oaks had the right of way, I was next and then there was a car coming to a stop on the road.

Now, this lady could have been through the intersection before I even stopped at my sign. I was gauging this and thinking about whether I should stop just to be sure the second car didn’t pull a California stop and kill me in exercising my right of way.

But, no…this being Portland, the first driver waited for me to stop so she could yield her right of way to me in true Portland fashion. But I’m certainly not going to complain about someone being considerate!

Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get out onto the trail for my ride before it gets too people-y. I’ll proof read later.

Maybe.

Oh, PS: I still forgot my damn cycling gloves last time. This caused some good numbness in my forearms during my ride, but my achey knees made up for the lack of feeling in my arms. But I’ve got the gloves safely stowed in my helmet for today’s ride.

PPS: I’m thinking this might have to be a summer blog series…thoughts?

Ciao for now!

I Live in BikeTown, USA