Here’s The Poop

Hell, yes, this is gonna be a colonoscopy tale.

Command performance, no less!

For all of you tl,dr readers, here’s the punchline:

The evening you’re taking human grade drano to clean out your insides for your colonoscopy is not the time to watch Challenger: The Final Flight on Netflix.

Just hear me now and believe me later on that one, m’kay?

I mean, seriously – and you’ve got to believe that this was only a coincidence, this being the anniversary week of the disaster – a documentary about rocket boosters and failing O-rings?

Tell me that wasn’t accidentally brilliant foreshadowing.

Ok, now, for all you long form readers:

The Date

When the GI doctor calls, you answer the phone, ok? Just…pick up your phone and schedule the appointment.

My doctor is so cute, how he implores me to at least put on a veneer of self-care.

My response? “How long did you chase me around to take this damn shit – “

“Fit. It’s called a Fit test.”

Shit test?”

No response.

“Three years. At least. You think I’m just gonna let this GI guy off easy without making him work a little bit?”

“Just answer your phone and then this will all be behind you.”

“Pun intended. Look, this is all Chadwick Boseman’s fault. I only took the test because he up and died”

Sidebar: “up’n died” is southern speak for a sudden death. I picked it up when I lived down around the Gulf. Probably my one takeaway.

“Anyway, we both knew that I’d fail the damn thing after complaining about my come and go, passive-aggressive hemorrhoids for the last five years!”

“Just – “

“I know. Pick up the phone. Sheesh.”

So they called. Which I considered rude.

And I scheduled the damn appointment…probably nine weeks out, no less. But their earliest appointment afforded me an opportunity to indulge a dark behavior that I’ve kind of let slip away over the past couple of decades: scheduling consequential doctors appointments around my birthday. The earliest appointment available was on January 26th, my birthday is on the 21st, so this was close enough to be darkly satisfying.

The Foreplay

Now, I’ll admit that I scheduled the damn colonoscopy with near certainty that it wouldn’t actually transpire. I’m not saying I was intending to put any effort into making it not happen. It’s just…this is my life we’re talking about here, weird shit just happens.

Maybe my GI guy would get hit by a meteor. My life being borderline ridiculous, whatever might cause my appointment to not happen would likely be something even more Wile E Coyote worthy than that.

I certainly did not think it would be anything as mundane as me potentially losing my insurance. I did nothing to renew my existing coverage during open enrollment because…I was on the cusp of getting a PT job with Multnomah county that would start in December, with benefits kicking in on January 1.

Who’s life is it?

Right.

So…what happened with the job? Fuck if I know. Let’s call it festively colored tape. Mom would have been so proud, too. Alas…

A little more on point for my appointment being canceled: Snowpocalypse ’21! Native Portlanders shrug when snow is forecast for the valley floor. This is a stark contrast for the enthusiastic loosing of Portland’s collective shit – not to be confused with what I was about to experience: the losing of one’s shit – when snow is predicted in the mountains. Those local ski bums go nuts for those forecasts.

However, Portland sitting on the valley floor between the Coast and Cascade mountain ranges protects us from a lot of weather. The ranges frequently keep us insulated from the severe stuff on either side. Additionally, our famed rain comes from clouds that cover the valley like a blanket, keeping our temperatures too high to really foster a good snowfall.

Yet, here we were, a couple weeks out from my appointment and my weather app was showing four days featuring a ❄️ next to them. That still gave us several days before my appointment for things to clear up, but Google “Portland Snowpocalypse” and see what you get.

Never mind – the fun begins around 45 seconds in.

Nonetheless, Portland weather being the exercise in insanity that it is…those four ❄️ became two and then one and then two again over the next seven days.

And then…it just rained.

Cut to the weekend before my appointment and the whispers were starting again. I could barely hear them over the sound of my eyes rolling and supermarkets being ransacked for kombucha and kale.

I had other problems of my own making to worry about.

In addition to having a macabre sense of scheduling for impactful doctors appointments, I’m also loathe to be dependent upon others. Especially when it comes to driving. Having not driven for close to 15 years, I learned to mostly make do on my own two feet. Usually, when I couldn’t, I felt like a bother or a burden. These jokers telling me I couldn’t drive after my <ahem> procedure just kind of pissed me off.

Never a good ingredient to add to the mix of “I really don’t want to do that anyway” that I was already feeling here.

I wasn’t going to ask my parents because, ew. Also, they already do so much for me, their most pathetic favorite child.

This would have to fall to someone who was 1) in debt to me for performing a similar friendship task; and B) a close friend…no way was this falling to an acquaintance who’d not cleared the friendship bar.

Obviously, they had to be local, too. That made this a fairly small candidate pool. Plus, still ew. I’m not the type of person who is comfortable being helped. Particularly in such a helpless state that I’m unable to operate a vehicle.

I’d already predisqualified the Silver Fox, since he’d been isolating with his ex about 90 minutes out of town since last March. It was hard to do, too, since the colonoscopy transport tally was 2-0 in my favor.

The only other friend I’d consider a candidate was Diezel, who I’d taken to his LASIK last…spring? Maybe summer? I don’t even know. I just know that I had a credit in the ride bank. Mind you, this is a friend that had helped me move five years ago, truck and all. He also just replaced my rear brake pads for me, so asking him to give me a ride felt like extra ice cream on my neediness cake.

It was for that reason – those reasons? – that I’d said “Of course!” immediately when he’d asked me during my brake pad installation for a ride back to his LASIK doc to have one eye tuned up.

Just let me know when and I’m in…

I’m not taking bets that you know what happened.

What are even the freaking odds that his appointment would be within 90 minutes of my own on the 26th?!?

When I joke about my life…it’s really just my way of coping with the horror-slash-irony of my reality.

So I had to cave and ask the Fox.

But I waited. The bitter end has nothing on my proChristination. My pre-tooter-rootering call was two weeks before my appointment. Because of my insurance debacle – which turned out pretty well…I was automatically renewed in my current plan versus canceled when I did nothing during open enrollment – that call took place 10 days out instead of 14.

During the call, they asked about my ride home and I told them I didn’t have one.

“That’s ok, you can take a Lift. They have a medical transport you can use.”

News to me, being a Lyft driver.

You see the problem here?

Fucking homonyms.

So the Silver Fox got his shoulder tap maybe five days out. And, not that he would, but how could he say no two days before my birthday?!? Haha. I wasn’t remotely worried about that, simply neurotic over being a bother to him. He insisted that he’d come up that morning and then drive back down that evening, but that it was no bother.

Crazy bastard.

But I was ready to go. Finally.

The “Let’s Do It”

I’m not gonna lie. To this point in my life, I’ve never spent a night in the hospital and I’ve never had stronger sedation than novocaine. Naturally, my neurotic self had built up a mythology that had me believing that the cumulative shock of experiencing either would simply kill me.

Because: obviously.

Since I was assured that the anesthesia I’d get was nowhere near the level of a general sedation during my intake call, clearly I’d check in for my procedure and then immediately be hospitalized and surgery-ized by whatever terrors they discovered up in my dusty, old man claptrap during my scope.

I couldn’t imagine any other possible outcome.

Yet, there I was…sipping my preptail at 6 pm the night before my procedure. Watching Challenger: The Final Flight with zero irony.

I made quite the last hurrah of what I’d imagined to be my final meal – ever: Cajun Mac from my current favorite food cart, Montage a la Cart, and finishing up my birthday cheesecake.

Then I’d had a weedtini around 11 PM on Sunday night, resulting in my waking up at noon on Monday. I highly recommend being unconscious for as much of any day that requires you to fast or be on a clear liquid diet from the time you wake up.

By the time I sat down with my preptail at 6 PM, I had only been up for ~6 hours, yet I hadn’t eaten for 20 hours. Very tolerable.

Each episode of the Challenger documentary is about 45 minutes long, give or take a few either way.

The first episode took me 90 minutes to get through. About 30 minutes in, I was blasting off my couch to the can – still absolutely without irony. I’d had the wear with all –

Or is it wherewithal? I need to look up the ideology of that word. To me, it connotes a certain sense of smarts…something you would “wear” with anything. Why the “where” version is seemingly correct according to spellcheck is…completely off topic.

– to put on my jam pants and leave the bathroom door open so I wouldn’t have to mess around with belt buckles or doorknobs in what I had been forewarned would be a crisis. Still, my journey from blasting off the couch to a panicked, if not literal, splashdown on my toilet seat was bridged by what I imagined was some sort of manic looking forward moonwalk.

Apropos of the documentary I was watching; inconvenient, though, given that mental image made me chuckle along the way. Chuckling while trying to hold your guts in is not advised.

Within 90 minutes of finishing my preptail – which was nowhere near as horrific tasting as I’d been led to believe…barely more distasteful than cough syrup – my *output* was clear. Quite a feat, given my last supper. I also considered it to be a harbinger of good things ahead…like a fool.

The next morning, I woke to jokey texts from Diezel about my upcoming violation. For my part, feeling cocky about my clear stream that obstructions hadn’t predicted until after the second dose, I offered him my remaining prep solution to use…as he would. We enjoyed the humor that colonoscopy prep for his proclivities and peccadillos brought to mind, both knowing no one in Portland is *worth* that level of prep.

But like a good soldier, I took my second dose. I immediately started worrying – having absolutely no experience with what men who bottom during sex do these days for prep, outside of being the beneficiary of such preparations – that I would either not be completely clear for my scope or that I wouldn’t evacuate all of the liquid from my system prior to my appointment.

I am a neurotic mess, I tell ya. I think it’s my subconscious fucking with conscious Xtopher, but still…in my imagination I was envisioning laying there unconscious and the doctor experiencing something like the Log Ride at Disneyland as he went about his doings.

Erase that mental picture.

Of course, it snowed while I was sleeping. But only a slush. The GI guy had called while I was texting with Diezel and I’d answered with, “You are not closing your office!”

He wasn’t.

But someone had cancelled and he wanted to see if I wanted to get violated an hour earlier. Since The Fox was driving up, I passed. For his part upon hearing that option, the Silver Fox had encouraged me to take it. Because of course he’d be on Fox Time, despite driving 90 minutes to get me.

As it was, I ordered my take and bake pizza – and a salad! – to pick up on the way home and then just waited for the time to come nigh. I decided on take and bake since I would be enjoying my post-procedure meal alone, with The Fox slated to return to Monmouth after dumping my woozy ass off at home.

I tried to make “operating the oven” my biggest concern for the next couple of hours.

Sadly, my niggling fear of results and – oh, look…SNOW! – had me distracted.

I was watching pics/stories on Instagram of Portland getting some snow. Thankfully, my view was clear. On the other hand, the doctor’s office was on top of a hill with an elevation of all of 500 feet above sea level. Whenever there’s a chance of snow on the valley floor, this is basically the only part of town affected. Well, this elevation.

Once The Fox picked me up – 45 minutes before my appointment, and this is about a seven minute drive without traffic – I started to have some concerns.

Actually, that’s not a fair statement. Because I’m a petty bastard, if the Silver Fox insisted on picking me up 45 minutes early, I was gonna make him run an errand with me on the way. Just a few blocks out of the way to our bank so I could take some money out of one account and deposit it into another. It was two transactions at the ATM. We were back on track by 1:55 and my check in time was 2:30.

As soon as we got onto highway 26, heading up the 500 foot high hill, we started seeing what might be flakes. Halfway up, we were sure they were flakes. By the time we hit the top of the hill, it was as close to white out conditions as you’re gonna get in Portland.

It was 2:06.

You know my motto: What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, the Universe has an answer for that: Just you fucking wait.

Intrepid is hardly the word one would use to describe me. Still, after killing some time in the car, I began my reluctant trudge into the office at 2:24.

My intake paperwork was done by 2:40 and by 2:55 I was laying on a gurney with an open in the back gown, an IV line in my arm (another first) and a nice toasty blanket.

I was actually dozing on the gurney.

Around 3:20, the anesthetist wheeled me into the “suite”, as they called it. I noted that there were no adjoining rooms, so it wasn’t much of a suite and could I get a discount?

She laughed at my nervous banter and we chatted until the doctor made it to the suite.

He asked how my prep had gone and I told him how relatively easy it had been. I also told him my hemorrhoids had decided to just remind me of their presence the morning before, just so he wasn’t surprised.

If you’ve got a melon baller handy, feel free to scoop those mothers out, ok?

More chuckles…

The Afterglow

…then I woke up in the recovery area.

It was 5:00 PM.

Who slept like a champ?

I was mostly surprised about that since the anesthetist had told me that I’d wake up pretty much immediately once she stopped pushing the drugs into my IV. Either it took a long time or my being anesthesia naive affected me more than she’d anticipated.

That last point makes its own argument.

Here’s my argument for the former point:

Thirteen polyps.

Because, of course my colon would have 13 lucky fucking polyps. Adding to that that two were 12 and 20 millimeters in size – 3 to 5 times the size of the other 11 polyps and…well, there was some work to be done up in the old fart cannon. For what it’s worth, my thumb is 20 mm wide. That is certainly no baseball or grapefruit sized shenanigans but still seems pretty big.

But on the plus side, what I’d pretty much self-diagnosed as hemorrhoids, with my doctor’s non-visual buy in, had apparently been polyps. So…those are gone, now. And, unlike Challenger, my O-ring is now pristine.

Huzzah.

Now, maybe it’s that I slept until 5:00, but I swear, aside from a few wobbles in the recovery room and on my way out to the waiting room where I would be transferred to the Silver Fox’s custody, I didn’t feel a lot of aftereffects of the anesthesia. The Fox may have other examples of how I’m wrong, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Almost like the snow was sticking to the ground that afternoon.

How’s that for a transition?

The Fox decided – to my relief – to stay until morning versus driving back to Monmouth in the snow. Based on pics his ex wife had sent, it looked heavier down in her rural area.

However, a take and bake was fine for my post-procedure meal, but it simply would not do for a thank you dinner for The Fox. We stopped and picked it up – him declining when I asked if he was going in to get it, further proof of my functionality! I toddled in and then back to the car. Climbing back in, we decided on fried chicken from a local fancy schmancy restaurant that was still open for takeout. As the Silver Fox made his way, I ordered our meals through their website…again, coming out of anesthesia like a champ!

We picked up our chicken, made it back to my place, opened some wine and put in a movie. We both made it through the meh-movie (Outside the Wire on Netflix) but neither of us made it more than halfway through our meals. You gotta love coming off of what turned out to be a 48 hour fast with fried chicken leftovers and an entire pizza in your fridge.

Oh, and a salad. 😒

It took me a full 24 and then some hours to have my triumphant return to the poopatorium. A weird sensation, feeling your guts fill up. But, no issues – which was a pleasant surprise given what I was told about the effort required to get that 20 millimeter sized guy out of me.

Because – I suppose – of the size and effort of removing that fat bastard from me, the GI guy said he wanted to do a follow up in three months.

Hoorah.

Although, the paperwork he sent home with me said six months, so maybe it’s more a matter of he doesn’t know exactly when his kid’s tuition is due.

That’s what I’m going with. Unless, of course, pathology comes back with something I don’t want to hear.

Here’s The Poop

I Am Unresolved

But, still…one (this one, anyway) does like setting and achieving goals. Especially if they are fun or don’t require too much work.

That said, my goals are a mixed bag of those two…adjectives? Qualities?

I dunno.

Nonetheless, here’s a brief accounting of the goings down to date:

1) After Chadwick Boseman died last summer – suddenly, to out of the loop fans – I started putting pressure on myself to get my mind sorted on the Coming of Age test that my doctor had been pestering me about for several years. It’s cute that he thought getting ahead of my fiftieth for the test would provide results. He plied me with mail in poo test kits on every visit for a couple years, trying to sell me on “new and improved” collection methods.

Bless his heart. He’d only known me a couple of years at the time and was unfamiliar with my stubbornness.

When T’Challa died, I finally pulled one out of mothballs my pile of unread mail and stabbed a floater before sending it in.

Of course, I failed.

Since it tests for trace blood and I have ROH (randomly occurring hemorrhoids), duh…blood.

When he calls me with the results, I’m talking to a doctor that finally knows me.

I’m going to write you a referral. When they call, *please* answer your phone.

Hehe.

I replied by asking how many years he’d been chasing me about fondling my feces, which amused me way more than him.

It’s not funny, it’s just funny.

Anyway, my colonoscopy is the week after my birthday. AKA: at the end of this month.

2) At Christmas, after my mom unwrapped a bird feeder from her Secret Satan Santa, I remembered what I’d forgotten: I wanted a bird feeder for my Juliette balcony. Mom directed me to the shed, where there was a hummingbird feeder they had decommissioned some time ago that I was welcome to.

I’d posted about the minimal effort required to install it – basically a trip to the local hardware store.

Side Note: my local hardware store is the one that Anastasia Steele (what a douchey name, but what does one expect from such a masturbatory story?) worked at before becoming involved with the titular character in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Anyway…I finally got around to that. Now the waiting game begins.

She’s a meany. But I’m sure she’s nice enough to invite any takers into her Red Room.

3) And no Resolution List would be complete without a diet or exercise entry.

Diet is not that entry. Although, after reading about the prep for the impending ol’ tooter rooter, I’ll consider that diet.

But I’d seen the latest greatest resolution challenge floating around on social media – something about 100 Days of Motion or some such nonesense. While I consider goals to be a great thing, realistic goals are the ones you attain.

Somehow, 100 Days of Motion for this old bag of bones didn’t seem likely. Unless, of course, one counts getting out of bed as a sit up, on to or off of the couch a squat or some similarly unlikely rationalization a success.

I don’t.

Nonetheless, I committed to being more active, minimum bar for success set at five days per week.

I started with three sets of weighted exercises at home – my only real option in Lockdown 2.0 – and had at it. Any movement feels good after months of rather unfocused but still highly effective neglect. So I was satisfied…and increasingly motivated through my own accomplishments.

Then I did a mile of stairs in my building.

It was the end of the second week – which seemed reasonable. But my body informed me otherwise.

I mean…it seemed so reasonable. Then I walked weird for a week. Nevermind the reality of wheezing my way up and down six flights of stairs dozens of times in a mask.

In a fit of frustration over my soreness and lack of saw ownership, which would provide me the ability to cut off my legs, I ordered an e-stim massage unit for a little relief…I hoped.

I have a friend – who I will allow to remain anonymous – that has one he uses for personal massages. That particular endorsement doing nothing but sending my nuts fully back into my torso whenever the topic comes up, I also had one from Bubble Boy.

Not that his was much better. He’d found playing the part of “cowboy” to my “bull” (Ha, I wish) taxing after falling asleep with his attached to his rear a couple of days before one of our assignations. Not that his rear needed a workout, but the results of his nap on a high setting gave me hope for a therapeutic result on a low setting.

It most certainly did the trick! Not bad for a $30 solution to my million dollar baby problem. Here’s a video of the above situation if you want to see ol’ Chicken Legs McGee twitch…

I’d also seen a former colleague hosting outdoor fitness classes, reminiscent of my uber-fit days in Seattle, when I’d wake up at the crack of dawn and go to a boot camp overlooking the Puget Sound and then grab a doughnut before 7.

Anyway, she was doing Saturday morning classes (at a non-crazy hour) for $10 and I thought maybe I should participate. I missed the first week, but the second week I took my Jabba-esque physique out for a trundle. Hell, for all I knew, it would kill me and spare me the colonoscopy.

Upside.

Here is my post following the completion:

And I should be back next week. I was gratified that my former colleague bemoaned being 43 as we caught up, trying to decide “how long it had been” while also laughing at how long it had been. That’s aging for ya, it’s kind of amazing. Additionally, with her being probably exactly middle-aged for a woman, that lent itself to the majority of the participants being only slightly younger than me. So I felt comfortable.

On the other hand, the single attendee who was young-young was someone I was fairly certain that I’d chatted with on asocial media several years back and maybe only unfollowed this past summer. It’s hard to tell with masks and all, but I recognized some thigh tattoos and distinctive guybrows.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t recognize me – or my less-than-impressive thunder. Because, of course the class I went to so that my clothes would fit better started off with midriff-baring downward facing dogs. While that’s a position I would enthusiastically put him into, no one needs to witness my shituation in that same posture.

All that said, the class was great – despite the humbling nature of the endeavor and one errand exertion related fart – and I will be back next week. And I can still walk, thanks to my e-stim buddy.

4) And I nearly forgot this one: I raised my weekly Lyft goal by 50%. When I’d originally set it, my goal was just to minimize street parking expenses, since I don’t have a garage. I usually made that goal, but now that I’m not doing any part-time office gigs, I’m on the street whenever I’m not driving for Lyft.

Honestly, I normally blew that goal away, but officially resetting my goal to the 50% increase was daunting.

So far, mixed results. I’m averaging my new goal over the first weeks of the new year, but I have only achieved the goal itself two out of three opportunities.

There still work to be done. And 49 chances for success!

So that’s what I’ve got going so far this year…I still have my new InstaPot as an open/unopened goal to tackle. I’m sure anyone who follows me on social media will be assaulted by result pics know as soon as I start executing on that goal. I’d like to put it into weekly use…it’s just finding those recipes that will produce leftovers I’ll actually eat or that can be cut into halves easily.

It’ll happen.

How are your resolutions going? Tell me in the comments…

I Am Unresolved

COVIDness

COFITness?

How do you properly portmanteau COVID and fitness? Regardless, I should probably emphasize the “co” since what motivated me today was my obnoxiously fit friend’s – Filipina Fox – Instagram post yesterday.

Not mad, jealous.

She took a page out of my home workout book from back when I was obnoxiously fit. When I was living in Seattle, my condo was in the top floor of a 13 floor building.

See also: How to not make money in Seattle real estate – buy on the 13th floor and laugh about it.

Anyway, my home routine included running stairs. Including the basement flight, my route from 13-LL was 1/10 of a mile and I used to knock out a mile or two a few times a week when the weather was shitty.

Usually before catching a car to a bar.

Party-orities.

I’d been thinking about doing some what-I-call-running of the stairs in my building during quarantine, but have been expertly procrastinating. Not (only) because I’m lazy, but I started quarantine off with some reasonable exercise – starting with a couple of long walks in the early days followed by a HIIT home workout and a two mile hike later in the week.

Except

After that HIIT/hike day, I found myself sore. Just a reasonable soreness on day two, prompting me to reason, “Give yourself another day to fully repair and then get back to it on day three.

Except: part deux…

I was more sore on the third day after my work out. Clearly, I needed another day to get my next level procrastination excuses up and running.

Filipina Fox posted her workout story yesterday on day four of my HIIT/hike workout.

This morning, I woke up to a shame double-whammy. First, the traitorous Facebook:

Yeah, five years ago I could eat a 5 lb tub of licorice. At least, that’s what I tell myself these days.

Then the Filipina Fox has to chip in helpfully with this pro-tip:

Already knowing I was doing this, I playfully demurred hoping she would not have any of my resistance. Riding to the call, she fully enabled:

But I still felt I could balance the reward with a little exercise. I’ve got a decade plus on Filipina Fox, so I thought that afforded me the option to adjust my workout down by a magnitude or two.

But it was also a HIIT/stair workout, so there were six upper body supersets mixed in between each six floor stair circuit.

Forget COVID-19, I’m making this quarantine about CoFit-20!

Also, about pizza, beer and now licorice!

COVIDness

Scared New World

Welp, I made it three days.

I’ve no doubt that I’m good for weeks on end of self-imposed isolation, but once I’m told to stay home, my natural obstinacy kicks in.

Obviously.

Not that I haven’t been keeping track of the number of people I’ve been within 6 feet of at the same time.

Friday: 6

Saturday: 3

Sunday: 4

Remember, I drive for Lyft, too. My back seat is within my 6 foot bubble – so traffic is pretty far down back there. I’d definitely say that my back seat is performing worse than the stock market!

Saturday, I attempted to cajole the Silver Fox into a glass of wine at our local since he had told me that he’d already been cajoled by his sons into joining their mother in her self-imposed quarantine. Since he didn’t have a return date, I suggested a bon voyage drink. I also reminded him that he could be a carrier and spread the virus into his ex-wife’s safety perimeter.

That worked as well as my attempt to milk a wine out of him, so I ordered a pizza.

Five minutes later, he sent me a pic of a glass of wine at the bar around the corner.

C’mon!

Of course, I had to stay home and wait for my pizza to be delivered to my door – and then left for me to pick up once the driver had left.

Yesterday, I had plans to meet The Kids for coffee. However, after a Sunday morning of driving in a deserted downtown Portland, I canceled.

I had three rides in two hours. Sunday mornings are usually pretty slow, but that’s about 50% down from what I’d usually encounter. Usually people are leaving town and I’ll pick up a couple airport rides and maybe even a return from an arriving traveler. Perhaps a ride of pride, if I’m out early enough. For sure, I’ll pick up several brunchers.

Nope. Those days are over.

I took a guy to work at Laughing Planet – a local “good food” cafe.

I got called to a hotel near my place downtown. Pulling up, I expected it was either an airport run or a brunch drop off. Uh-uh…I was taking this traveling couple to pick up their car. They hadn’t even left it because they got hammered the night before. Nope, these shrewd millennial travelers were juking the system and instead of paying $40 a night to park their car at their boutique hotel, had left it on a residential street across the river where parking is free and Lyft-ed to their hotel and back for ~$10 total.

Including tip.

Smart!

And then I took a guy to work. Not a nurse, as I expected because of the time. He was going to work at NikeTown. When I mentioned he was going in pretty early for a Sunday, he told me there was a mandatory meeting to talk about Nike’s decision to close their stores until the Coronavirus was managed.

After that morning of trolling for rides along a deserted Broadway and MLK – which are busy thoroughfares, I thought maybe being out and about was at best, being foolhardy and at worst, being part of the problem.

So I canceled my coffee date with The Kids. Hell, the CDC had just updated its guidance for crowds from 250 to 50.

This morning was similar to yesterday. Still needing an income stream, I decided to drive the rush hour and at least help get some medical personnel to work. Usually, I’ll have at least one ride to a hospital or clinic in the mornings, probably two depending on my start time.

Sure enough, my first ride was at about 6:40 and was a nurse going up to Oregon Health Sciences University – OHSU for short. She was also the newest member of the 1% Club, people I’ve given more than one ride to.

However, after thanking her for all she does as she exited my car, I didn’t have another ride for 65 minutes. Again, the streets looked post-apocalyptic and I thought about going home. After pulling down $25 in two hours yesterday, I lamented my potential $5 Monday and stubbornly kept cruising.

Usually, my rule is to point my car homeward between rides and if I make it home, stop. That, or to shut it down if I go a half hour without a ride.

But I’m old, I’m getting rather good at stubborn.

One of the things I learned from The Fox while he was sipping his wine alone on Saturday evening was that our local had decided that day to reduce service to only five days a week from 5-9 pm. I was amazed, an emotion that turned to shock when I learned that they had furloughed about 70% of their staff along with that decision.

Of course, this turned out to be only hours ahead of the decision by Washington Governor Jay Inslee to close all bars and restaurants. An executive order that itself barely beat California governor Gavin Newsome’s decision to do the same in California.

That’s kind of what prompted my solo-coffee outing this morning. I know the seating at Nossa Familia is pretty scarce, and I figured with the way the city was looking, I wouldn’t have any trouble being socially distant.

I was not wrong.

Even when someone did show up – as it turned out, it was the customer behind me…the only other patron – but we were still plenty of feet apart. Of course, once she sat down, she made a show of dramatically clearing her throat.

Anyway, knowing Oregon’s own governor – Kate Brown – has promised her own decision on either a curfew or temporary end of service for Oregon’s bars and restaurants, I thought this could be my last chance to hang out in a coffee shop for a few weeks.

So here I am.

I’d invited The ‘Phew out for dinner tomorrow, doing my part to make sure that particular college kid has enough pizza in his diet to keep going. But now that’s seeming like it may not happen.

It would be a bummer if we had to put it off for the foreseeable future. I guess I could always invite myself to my parents for dinner and take him out with me…which would also be nice, but in a different way.

While all of this is going on and even sounds practical, it’s against the backdrop of exacerbated stupid American idiocy.

This was simultaneously hilarious and horrifying.

Hilarious, because Panic At The Costco brilliantly sends up both the name of the band – Panic At The Disco – and riffs on the one intelligible line from probably their best known chorus, which is a shouted

I chime in with “Haven’t you people ever heard of closing the goddamn door?”

Which some clever person co-opted by changing “closing the door” to “washing your hands”.

Horrifying because – well, lots.

First, because in 2020 we really are being confronted with how few people seem to actually understand the hows and whys of hand washing.

It’s pathetic.

Second, because Panic At The Costco is real. We’ve been seeing hoarding stories of toilet paper for a couple of weeks now. And that was before the shit really hit the fan last weekend.

Naturally, on top of Moronvirus, Portland weather decided to deliver snow last Saturday. Snow forecasts here will reliably strip a store of perishables. Add in an airborne virus and these stupid Americans will purge stores of all things crapping paper. Maybe it’s because their heads are so far up their asses that they suspect a runny nose could reasonably lead to diarrhea.

Who knows? I find it best to try and not understand this mindset too well. While I’m all for seeking to understand, somewhere in the back of my mind is my mom’s voice warning me about making faces when I was a kid.

What if my mindset gets stuck like TP Hoarders’ mind’s while I’m trying to find the logic in their actions?

I dunno. Maybe Stupid New World is a better name.

Scared.

Stupid.

Probably interchangeable in this current circumstance. Sadly, I am only reasonably certain that one of those adjectives will pass within the next month or so…

Scared New World

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!

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…