*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

Fitfy:  fin

Well, it’s happened…my odometer has rolled over.  Today is the start of my sixth decade of good fortune and ridiculousness that I’ve trademarked as my life.

While I don’t know what my fifties will bring to me, I spent last year course correcting myself after reflecting back on my first five decades during the timeframe between the holiday and my birthday.  Realizing I’d spent too much time investing in things I can lose – job, relationships and wealth – with little control at the end of the day, I committed to spending the year brushing up my favorite human.

Or, who I realized should have been my favorite human and really wasn’t.

I don’t want to dwell on the pursuit/reward cycle I’d caught myself in, unawares.  I wasn’t happy to call myself on being trapped in that unfulfillingso-called lifecycle.  I can acknowledge that I slipped innocently enough into it, having ended a relationship, slogged through career transitions, physical injuries and retethered my base of operations back in my fabulous hometown of Portland, OR over the prior five years.

But it was time to get back to a life lived with a more massive modicum of intent.

Resetting lifestyle and fitness expectations from the far outdated ideals, habits and even rituals of my renegade bachelor 30s and 40s and find an equanimity with those expectations that would provide me emotional and physical stability in this late-middling part of my life.

Fitfy.

I’d reached late December feeling accomplished, having deconstructed a lot of the fitness patterns that led to repetitive injuries.  How boring those quickly become.  Having healed up and sustained, I had found a fairly functional regimen that was private, not going to the gym was providing a sense of accomplishment vis-a-vis home workouts and stair running.

Diet was a part of that accomplishment, plenty of treat-eating and reasonably balanced meals of salads, grains and protein.  Nowhere perfect or sufficiently sustained to declare victory, but definitely a good tragectory.

I should have known that the ingrown toenail I complained about at the start of the year was just a harbinger of obstacles to come.

I awoke one day after that had cleared itself with a tender and throbbing big toe.  Walking was a less than graceful exercise in ambulatory necessity.

I assumed I had kicked my table the prior night on a hazy trip to the head.  I’m not quite familiar enough with my new digs to make my usual nightly zombie bathroom walk without running into something.

Each way.

Getting through my 6-8 miles of daily walking at work was struggle enough, stairs were out.  At least for the week.

This past and final week started with me uneating at 4 am on my way to the MAX stop on my way to work.  Barfing on the streets of Old Town very early on a Sunday morning – or very late on a Saturday night – like a drunk white girl.  How humiliating.

Plus, I missed a day of work.

Two days of eating anything other than crackers and soda water basically had emotionally landed me here

Of course, I mention it to my substitute needle man that week.  

The disturbance in my gut.

My idiomatic toe injury.

Of course, I’m typical, snarky Xtopher when I tell her.

“I dunno.  I’ve got, like gout or something.”

“That does look a bit like gout, you should talk to your PCP about it”, she says, all too chipperly.

I miss my regular Needle Man.

I email my PCP when I get out of the office and he replies with the doctor-equivalent of, “Nah”.  You could probably interpret a fairly accurate amount of disdain for eastern medicine in his reply, but at least it’s back to being just another unconfirmed trauma in my life.

Plus, a couple days later and acupuncture has done its hoodoo magic and I’m back to 85-90% big toe function.

But I’m not self-soothing with junk food and booze like I had previously when injured.  That’s a good outcome for a year of inwardly focused intentions.  My injured physical self wasn’t adversely affecting my mental self.  

I was just injured, not physically depressed, and that injury wasn’t bleeding into my mental state.  

I’m still about 10 lbs heavier than I want to be, but it’s no longer driving me to punish myself.  And during the last couple of physically busted up weeks, I’ve legitimately held steady at the same weight.

That’s actually a fine place to set off on this fresh year and decade.

Imperfectly satisfied.

Who really saw that coming?  

Fitfy:  “Cheers, bitches.” <dumbbell drop>

Fitfy:  fin