Incredible Fortunes.

You ever wake up and just briefly consider the reality of your situation could simply be that Pam Ewing is really out there somewhere, dreaming nightmare versions of people’s lives?

To refresh memories or fill in pop culture voids…Pam Ewing was Bobby Ewing’s wife on Dallas. No, the original version. Season one ended with Bobby being killed. Season two was a shit show and season three started with Pam waking up to find her husband showering after a particularly vivid dream…of the entire second season.

The audacity!

Or that maybe you are her, and one morning you come to wake up to find that the worst was all in your subconscious?

Absolutely insane. It was almost enough to wipe our collective consciousness clean of Fonzi jumping a shark on water skis. Almost.

Anywho. I swear that’s me lately. And, frankly, I don’t know why I haven’t made time to buy a lottery ticket.

This life that I deride and take for granted…well, it’s serving me constant reminders lately that while the bad stuff may not be going on in Pam Ewing’s dreams, it’s not the star of The Xtopher Show that I call my life.

Cases in point:

I think I mentioned I was going to another free concert a week or so back. I was incredulous to have notched another free pass onto my 2022 entertainment belt.

And it was incredible…despite a rocky start.

The Shins were playing two shows downtown and I had won tickets from a local radio station. I had said I wanted tickets to the Friday night show, giving them Thursday night to warm up. I got my winner’s waiver the Monday after winning my tickets and was told further info would follow. It did not. Well, by the day before the show, I finally double-checked that I’d submitted the waiver correctly and then sent an email to the station that I’d won the tickets from using the “contact us” link on their website.

Several hours later, at around 2:30, I got a BCC email from the station saying “Congrats Winners!”, leading me to believe someone was having a really long Monday at the station. It went on to tell us that our tickets would be at Will Call and the gates were at 5, show at 6…that evening.

My mental needle skipped.

Luckily, I live about 9 blocks from the venue. I worked until 4:45 and then set out on foot for the show.

Turns out, the venue is all General Admission. Still, when the guy asked if I needed both tickets – after watching me walk up alone and casually scanning my area as he went through my info – I said “Yes”.

What? I wanted them both. I was definitely going to find a way to take up two spots in GA. Plus, that was just rude, right? It’s not like I had a bogey hanging out of my nose and he asked if I wanted a Kleenex. No, this was him rubbing my nose in my solo-ness. Boo, sir.

Because it’s Portland and this venue is a public plaza when it’s not a venue, there were food carts on the periphery of the fence. I hadn’t eaten, so I grabbed a huge sandwich for $12 and a 16 ounce beer for the same price. That amphitheater where I saw Styx can shove it’s $18 beers right up it…area.

I sat on the brick wall at the back of the venue and ate my sammie and drank my beer while the opening band did its thing. It was another Portland band (I know, The Shins are from New Mexico, but they’ve been in Portland long enough to be called locals) named Joseph. Two sisters with a third woman make up the band named for the Oregon town the sisters’ grandfather was from. I’d heard a couple of their sons on the radio before and liked them, but their 45 minute set was amazing. It’s really just guitar with the sisters’ amazing vocals and that’s it.

I was so mesmerized that I barely noticed the Guy Candy that was obviously hitting on me sat right next to me to nosh on his own sando from one of the carts.

Joseph’s set ended and the roadies started prepping the stage for The Shins. I figured I better grab another beer and stake out a place to take up two places near the stage. While I was in line, a true Portland weirdo native offered me a picture of her cat out of the blue.

My guideline when dealing with Portland’s kookier kooks is “humor them, they might be dangerous”, so I took the proffered pic. It’s now hanging over Myrtle’s food station, just to keep her on her toes. A reminder that there are other cats in the world – versus mine, who seems to believe a week isn’t complete without at least one protest poop or other non-litter box evacuation.

This was me, sipping my fresh beer in my taking-up-two-spaces space by the stage; reflecting on the Guy Candy, the Crazy Cat Lady and watching the sun set while nervously eyeballing the 20,000 crows flying around looking for a place to roost when someone tapped my shoulder.

No, it wasn’t Guy Candy guy. I’m lucky…but not that fucking lucky.

It was Sarizzle, someone I’d worked at Sur la Table with when I lived in Shittatle. I ran the market’s hero store in Kirkland (yes, it’s a real place!) and she ran the original store in the Pike Place Market. I knew she’d moved back to our mutual hometown, but we’d never managed to connect. Just two natives catching up on social media now and again. We hugged and caught up in real life a bit – while I behaved awkwardly because I was still in all my WFH glory and now turn into that person who runs into people they know wherever they go. Eventually, she said her goodbye to go back to her husband as the roadies started wrapping up and the stage hands started turning instruments.

Actually, after running into not one, but two groups I knew at the Bonnie Raitt show…maybe I am one of those people who runs into people I know figuratively everywhere I go.

Not long after Sarizzle left my to my own devices, The Shins took the stage and didn’t give it a rest for about 90 minutes. Their music has a pretty chill vibe, but the lead singer’s voice is haunting, something I figured was a product of some sort of modulator. I still think that, but was impressed that they were able to replicate it in real life.

Their set was so good that for about the first half, I was convinced at a minimum the lead vocals we lip synced. Joseph had come out to sing back up after the first few songs, so I knew it wasn’t the whole setup, but just how was it possible to recreate the lead singer’s otherworldly vocals?!? I enjoyed clicking off the hallmarks of live music that occurred in the set to disprove my suspicion that the lead was dubbed. Just crazy little tics, like singing toward Joseph at the back of the stage and losing the mic’s pickup briefly – nothing too overt.

I enjoyed watching the crowd really get pulled into some of their bigger hits and take over the heavy lifting of vocals or just get caught up in a call and response with the band.

But I’m a native Portlander and I go to shows to watch the show, not be a part of them. To that end, I stood there and tapped my foot, swayed a little and clapped after every song. That’s it. A true Portlander would never risk diminishing someone else’s experience by being overly enthusiastic. I’ve actually been to some fantastic shows where virtually all the crowd did until the end of the show was sit there and clap between songs.

Playing Portland must be an interesting experience for musicians. Well, not as weird as it was back in the day…there’s so many transplants now that the overly polite Portland crowds have been somewhat diluted. Sarizzle and her husband eventually crept closer to the stage and I saw her being true to our concert-going DNA, too. Her husband would occasionally throw an arm toward the sky or do that rhythmic hopping that people do at concerts, but she was doing pretty much the same low key sway in place as I.

The tour was basically a 21st birthday party for the band’s first breakout album, and they played it all, with a few extras sprinkled in here and there. At one point, the band riffed on Rod Stewart’s Do You Think I’m Sexy for a few lines between songs. Just, out of nowhere fun – for them as much as us. No one knew where the idle strumming was going until it careened into that pleasant little surprise.

Another fun moment happened during the encore – unlike Bonnie Raitt, I stayed for this one. No dogs to walk, no parking mess to get ahead of, so I just stayed and watched them completely blow the non-existent roof off of Pioneer Courthouse Square. The next little fun nugget was working a couple refrains of Tom Petty’s American Girl into the middle of one of their songs. I didn’t recognize the song, but I was definitely in the minority.

The following Sunday, I had to set an alarm to wake up and drive out to Hood River – by far the more scenic piece of our wine country. Little Buddy had two tickets to an event at one of their wine clubs called Reds, Whites and Blues. No, we haven’t started making blue wine in our notoriously blue state – the event featured a blues band to listen to whilst stuffing your face with BBQ and sipping on the vineyard’s reds and whites – not in that order.

Sadly, her husband, 2.0, had been tapped for a two-week trip to Germany for work and had to leave that morning, so Little Buddy had a – wait for it…free ticket. Fuck yeah, I went! I even set an alarm to make a day of it – we got a hike in before the event, which was just idyllic.

They set up the event beneath oak trees that are hundreds of years old in the middle of their vineyard and we drove up, parked by some vines and sat under those trees stuffing our faces and listening to blues in the middle of a sea of vines. Not even a barely visible Mt Hood through the smokey haze from our minimal forest fires could dampen the epicness of being immersed in such gorgeousness.

I’d love to sit around and let more of these experiences wash out of my memory and into my blog, but my drinking buddy’s buddy backed out of their plans to go to The Doobie Brothers show tonight this past Thursday. Luckily, I was sitting a barstool away when the text came in, so I’ve got to get ready for another show.

Another free show.

Second row from the floor on the stage side of the second section from the damn stage. It is going to be…epic!

Incredible Fortunes.

The Password is: CULTURE

Celebrity Host: Yogurt.

Me: <blinks>

CH: Kombucha.

Me: <blink, blink>

CH: Live performances.

Me: THINGS I SEE FOR FREE!

CH: Oh! Wait, what? No. I’m sorry, we were looking for “culture”!

Me: Same, yo…but not on my budget! Someone else gonna need to pick up that tab.

CH: No parting gifts for you. Can someone get my agent on the phone!

Ok, my skinflintiness is situational. I’m choosing to be amused by the pattern. I’m also choosing to be grateful for the opportunity to see live performances again.

It had been too long before the pandemic started. Tack on two pandemic years to that too long and you’ve got a real risk of Xtopher returning to some devolved Appalachian form of human.

Don’t get me wrong, I know my problematic drinking made me luckier than most during the pandemic. Geez, that sounds like a line from a winning entry for a free stay at Betty Ford…

Tis true, though. My former old standby, the Big Legrowlski, hosted music during the pandemic.

Daily.

It was quite…the salvation.

No, I wasn’t there daily, thank you.

But a couple times a week. I’d go and sit in their three-sided tents outside and watch people perform through the 10 foot windows, doors open and speakers on the sidewalk.

Plus, fire pit. It was the mental health booster I needed during the lockdown. Sorry for anyone who thought “alcohol” was the correct answer there. Close second, but…no. And that’s despite the fact that many of these mental health boosts happened in 40 degree weather, oftentimes with rain running in under the tent wall and right under my feet.

So when I was working from home and heard one of the DJs from my local radio station – Kink.fm – say he was giving away tickets to a Saturday morning performance at the inaugural re-opening of their live music lounge…I was on that phone! Despite the fact that refreshments were being sponsored by Coors Light.

And I won!

And that’s why I was out of bed before noon a few Saturdays back.

Tom Odell, that is, not free Coors Light. (Sorry, dad!)

Seriously, having a chance to see live music for the first time in over two years…we’ll, I thought Indigo Girls playing at the Pioneer Courthouse Square would get me fixed up. But that show isn’t until June. And I’d have to buy my tickets. I still might. Or I’ll just go hangout on the sidewalk, since the venue is literally a brick plaza on a city block.

Proof Portlanders use umbrellas?

Legitimately seeing live music for free, though? Highly recommend. And as if free wasn’t an awesome enough incentive? The free libations included some Topo Chico hard seltzer options, so I had some. Partook of the two free drink maximum, did I.

Booze Bracelet!

Then there’s the reality that this venue holds less than 100 people. I tried to count seats, and I don’t think it has 70. It had 7 rows of seats. I chose to stand close to the bar in the back, since I was alone.

Free, boozy, intimate…well, I doubt I’ve ever experienced those three adjectives simultaneously before.

Plus, Tom Odell has a seriously distinctive and evocative singing voice. The first note off the piano made the hair on my eyes stand up and when he opened his mouth, tears started welling up on my forearms.

Wait. Something’s not right in that paragraph…here, don’t think too much about that. Look at these pics, instead.

Ok, his voice and fingers do all the heavy lifting. He doesn’t have to rely on visual distractions like dancing and pyrotechnics to give a killer experience. But it does make for a dozen pics that look almost exactly the same.

But just look how small the venue is!

Pre-show audience games

Best part – besides standing in a room with a few dozen strangers having an aurally stimulating experience? When I turned on the car, guess who was playing on the radio?

Right outside the station, no less. Quite a meta-moment, if you ask me.

This is all top of mind for me right meow since I just got home from a show with Little Buddy. I was her +1 for Freestyle Love Supreme this afternoon. Yay for married season ticket holders with busy spouses!

That’s right, I am spoiled and got to see a second live performance in less than a month for free! I wasn’t super into seeing the show, but I was super into a social fix with Little Buddy. It’s always too long between visits, but since she moved out to the Columbia River Gorge, it’s even further between visits.

Don’t get me wrong, she invites. I think I’ve taken her up on it twice, although one of those might have been prior to the full-time residency. But it’s home to some of the best wine in Oregon – and that’s saying things! – so it is somewhat problematic for this light weight…since it’s an hour away.

So on the second-nicest day of the year so far in Portland, I donned my dress-Chucks and went to the theater.

Hey, it was over 70 today…I almost wore shorts!

For a show I wasn’t jazzed to see – call it a variant of something every younger sibling knows too well, since this was co-created by Lin Manuel Miranda and (through some scheduling miracle) playing at the same time that Hamilton was in town – this was pretty damned entertaining.

The premise is that it’s all pretty much improvised based off of audience feedback, hence the “freestyle”. There’s also a lot of hip-hop vibe going on with that improv. There’s a beatbox guy, a couple MC folks, not in the Master of Ceremony vein, rather the MC rappers tack onto their stage names.

And then a bunch of middle-aged or better white women from the suburbs yelling out suggestions.

FWIW, my word was gonna be orgasm – but some of these Karens brought proof they’d had sex with them. Since I have a modicum of decency, I didn’t ejaculate yell out my contribution.

I think part of the fun for me was judging what people did yell out.

Two people yelled out answers that one of the MCs had used as an example. Friggin’ brainiacs, those two.

Several others yelled out variations of things like “singing” or “dancing” and I was all, “Really? We’re here to watch some hip-hop improv and your subject matter suggestions are ‘singing and dancing’?!?”

Mouths shut, husband’s wallets open, ladies. That’s all the contribution to the arts you need to worry about.

Makes me regret not yelling “Orgasm!” when they were taking suggestions on the “Something you can’t live without” theme. Seriously, someone yelled “Banana”…to be fair, I think it was the sibling of the STD that yelled out “Monkey” when the MCs were looking for verbs as a cue. But who can’t live without a banana?!?

Despite my audience members doing their best to prove they are barely more tolerable only being seen versus heard, I’m in the mood for more super spreader events live entertainment.

Given my aforementioned pandemic “live entertainment loophole”, I can only imagine how exciting these past few weekends were for others. I can overlook them not fully knowing how to audience appropriately.

And, damnit…now I’m in the mood! I may need to pick up a rush ticket or two over the coming month. Who knows, I might even troll Craigslist for an Indigo Girls ticket.

The Password is: CULTURE

Three Act Plays

That’s what they all are, right?

Plays.

Three acts is the norm. Sure Billy S did some shit back in the day. Then there was the occasional epic endeavor, like Angels In America, that had so many kicks to the heart balls to deliver that it needed to be broken up into two three act plays.

But overall, three gets the job done. Two, and people feel blessedly cheated. Four, and no one likes you.

Plus, there’s the whole “I can nap at home for free” chestnut among reluctant theater-goers. Four acts seems less like a nap than an entire damn night of sleep.

At least for my nearing-geriatric sleep patterns.

Why is this on my mind tonight?

Well, I just poured my third glass of wine. Emptying the bottle.

Heavy pour.

But it is in deference to a Silver Nugget – a phrase coined by Little Buddy about the secrets people started sharing with me when I turned 50. She – Little Buddy – is not yet 50, but enjoyed my sharing of privileged information here on this blog, and felt compelled to come up with a name for these aged secrets.

Being the Little Buddy that she is, this process involved an evolving train of thought on a text thread.

It was impressive, and I know I’ve failed to retrieve the best of her efforts from the impenetrable vault that is my memory. The fallout is mine to deal with.

The Silver Nugget in question came from my sister, who was not yet 50 at the time of this nugget’s disclosure. It was more of a hybrid wisdom: things of a life hack nature combined with parenting perks.

In this case, it was my sister pulling the epically resonating parental sacrifice offset of having my tween nephew refill her wine glass for her. He comes back into the room heeltoeing his way to her throne chair in order to avoid spilling anything from a glass that was filled so full, its meniscus existed only on a theoretical plane.

Being a highly decorated and multi-faceted snob, I had to make mention of the situation. It was also helpful – and I credit my Catholic upbringing for this skill – in deflecting my own uninhibited imbibing. An ongoing situation – clearly – for another time.

Being a mother, my sister coolly spared my judgment a total of zero fucks and set me straight.

“Why waste the trip?”

Fair point, but my snobbery was feeling robbed of a Karen moment.

Being in high end kitchen retail for several of my career years, I knew things.

I knew that a bottle of wine held five pours.

I knew that a proper pour was five ounces.

And I knew that wine glasses came in varietal sizes, designed to enhance the drinking experience by combining the sinuses and the palate for an optimal flavor experience. Overfilling the glass defeated these design endeavors.

Adding a total of zero additional fucks after hearing my objections, for a total of…<carry the none>…yes, zero actual fucks, my sister completely poo-pooed my criticism of her life choices.

I now know that was a mom life hack.

And now embrace it.

On a Monday morning, approaching 2 A.M.

And as I watch crappy movies from the earliest of aughts featuring the best of actors, I find myself wondering if I’m enjoying my wine in three acts better than these movies in their own three act efforts.

I think I am…but now I’m on my last glass and still have an hour and a half of Under Suspicion left to go. I think I should have made sure to have some backup spiked seltzers for this crisis.

Here’s one of Little Buddy’s bronze nuggets – which evolved during a fit of pandemic drinking: anything under 5% ABV is hydration.

So my spiked seltzer backup is…health food.

Technically?

Don’t argue with your elders.

Three Act Plays

Today’s Menu

Server at Breakfast: What’ll ya have?

Me: I’ll have an order of “Doing Something I Really Don’t Want To Do” with a side of “Too Little, Way Too Late”, please.

Black Sheep Bro: And I’ll have an order of the “Crow”, which I’m just going to push around my plate to make it look like I’ve eaten some of it.

Family is tough sometimes. Just like any relationship.

I understand – in a strictly theoretical manner – that BSB’s decision to come back to the family is something my parents are pretty much powerless against. I often say that parenting is a job you never take a day off from, and my parents certainly do not. I also imagine for the past nearly twenty years, that job has been pretty much shitty pain for them where my estranged brother is concerned.

On the flip side, my other sibs and I are afforded the luxury of viewing this like any other toxic relationshit er, relationship. With all the protection afforded by a hearty Prove It shield.

I’m the guinea pig amongst the sibs. Which is unfortunate, since I’m probably the most prone to a default forgiveness setting and possess a rarely-pays-off sense of optimism.

Remember, I like to gamble.

If you want to get a taste of the past damage BSB has brought to my family, there’s a hashtag around here somewhere.

The menu for the rest of the day is much less choretastic.

At 10 I’ll be hitting the road to visit Little Buddy in the Columbia River Gorge. If you think that’s code for “Wine Tasting”, you’re wrong. It’s not code at all…it’s simply synonymous.

Friend time, wine tasting and eating my weight in charcuterie and 3 foot breadsticks?

Yes, please!

So basically, my day’s post-breakfast menu is all dessert!

Today’s Menu

Don’t Call It A Recap…

Especially when recrap would be a much better way to sum up 2020.

And since it’s 2020 we’re talking about, I’m just going to talk about the last two months – really, the last month, outside of an early November mention. The whole year would run 20000 words, I’m sure.

Truth be told, I’m just going to bitch about a few things that broke down and then express a little post-holiday gratitude. This shouldn’t take long,

All in all, I’d summarize 2020 as a year in which if it didn’t break, it probably died.

Here’s a few things that gave it up in the last weeks of the year:

My laptop. As I geared up for NaNoWriMo in early November, my laptop started shitting its pants whenever it stepped off a high curb. I’d planned a non-fiction piece about job searching in my fifties. Fortunately, after a few hours of online tutorials, I was able to coax my laptop back to the land of the continent. That NaNo project, though…never did quite manage the download from brain to laptop. The Silver Fox stood by helpfully – virtually – while also acing his best friend duties by offering up the MacBooks he saw at Costco as a potential solution. I thought about it, even looked at one online in my most frustrated moment, but just couldn’t pull the trigger. The Costco offering was ~$800 and an Air model. In hindsight, that would have layered in what turned out to be unnecessary excuses for not tapping out a NaNo entry this year since the Air just doesn’t have the memory for writing like the Pro does.

New Pros run $1500-2400 and a used one is gettable for around $400. That’s what I did last time I replaced my laptop. I ended up with a refurbished model that was a year newer than my old one, so on balance I’m netting up two years of use…and counting.

After that brush with disaster, it looked like smooth sailing.

This being my life, that didn’t last long. The second and third weeks of December made week one of November look like a snowball next to their avalanche of misery.

Let’s see…

This is probably a clunky segue after my snow analogy, but it started to rain in the second week of December. Hardly a surprise in the PNDub, but I mean it rained. Like, people were walking around with expressions that said, “All that pandemic home improvement we did and we didn’t think to add pontoons?!?”

That type of rain.

I didn’t really notice it outside hearing things like “two inches in the last 36 hours” on the radio.

Until…I came home from running errands one day, took off my shoes, kicked up my feet to watch some Seinfeld for a couple hours and then – when I put my shoes and socks back on so I could go drive, my socks were wet. Flipping over my shoes, I was greeted with the thought, “How long ago did I get these?!?”

Walked the hell out of them, I did.

Off to NikeTown I went.

I was shocked by a couple of things:

First, my new shoes were only $130. I say “only” because that is about what I remember paying for my last few pairs – further reinforcing my suspicion that I haven’t had these last shoes that long. In reality, I recollect it being about 2 1/2 years, so they had more of a life than old Phil and his shareholders would like.

Second, the kid who helped me with my purchase was both unnecessarily tall and flirty. I’m not mad about that last part.

Next, as I rushed to get to the Festivus episode of Seinfeld before Christmas, my TV crapped out on me. It just started shutting off after an hour or two of play. I’d reboot it and it would come back…for a couple days. Then it just stopped powering on altogether. Haven’t been able to revive it yet using the same Internet U continuing education resources I did with my laptop. I might need to actually get someone on the horn to figure it out.

Then again, the other U – as in Universe – might be trying to tell me it’s all for naught. Last night, my final ride was a pick up at Video Only, a local electronics chainlet. While I waited in front for my passenger to emerge, I had prime seating for the TVs playing right inside the door.

Also, now I know that my car will hold a 65″ TV.

But in a fit of mixed messages, the guy wasn’t a tipper, which I’d interpret as the Universe steering me away from a new TV after putting me in front of Video Only’s temptations. And this is a rather significant sign since on top of having to figure out the logistics of getting a large object into a small space (merry Christmas, Diezel) this ride was from the far north end of town – literally, the Oregon border – to the far southeast quadrant of town…over 30 minutes, thanks to an accident on the crosstown. Yeah, by all means, feel free to drag your huge TV away from that scenario with no feeling of gratitude.

Let’s see…laptop, TV, sneakers…what else?

Oh!

Angela. This would be Pat the Patriot’s replacement from last February, who I don’t write about often because she doesn’t spend an average of a week in the shop each month like Pat did. Still, the other day – Christmas Eve – I got in the car to drive a bit and my low tire pressure alarm went off. Looking at the vehicle status screen on the onboard, I saw that the back passenger tire was the issue, but it was only a half PSI off of the next closest pressure level. I chalked that up to the morning being rather colder than the more recent days and planned to monitor it as I drove and fill it when I parked later. Sure enough, as the tire warmed up, the pressure crept up but still needed an eventual top off.

Undaunted, after eight rides, the Universe tossed me another grenade.

I pulled to a stop at a freeway exit and while I waited for the light to change, Angela made a sound I’ve not heard before. Let me tell you, I love the onboard computer, but the alarms are not subtle.

Everything is DEFCON 4.

“Hey, dummy…get gas!” makes the same sound as “Low Tire Pressure”. That’s also the same sound as the warning for low outside temperature…which is triggered at an unalarming and balmy 37 degrees.

However, the sound Angela made at that off ramp made me debate running away from the vehicle. On top of that, I was treated to my dash display and my onboard console display both changing screens to tell me my brake pads needed replacing.

It was rather a stimulation overflow.

Hell, with all that fuss, I’d have thought the wheels had come completely off the vehicle.

Nonetheless, I managed to both proChristinate getting gas and filling the low tire, so when I got in my car later that day – to go searching for wrapping paper, which was harder to find on Christmas Eve than crapping paper was in March – I was treated to a deafening cacophony of alarms that lasted about two blocks.

Sweet Jesus, Germans…calm the hell down.

But, as of Christmas morning, the only alarm still regularly greeting me is the brake pads warning. It is, however, pulling double duty. I hear it when I start the car and again when I switch it off…so, someone is looking out for my C.R.S. Hoorah?

Not for nothing, I check my mail midweek, generally. Last night, for whatever reason, I checked it when I came home.

Yeah…pretty sure that’s a ticket. The city is pretty good about screaming the purpose of its mailings if you pay attention. Sometimes it’s as easy as seeing the bold type that screams “City Arts Tax Statement” and others, it’s just knowing that the mailing address is the County Health Clinic just down the way. Not that I’ve ever gotten a letter from them…

The vagueness of this letter – only a “Response Requested Within Thirty Days” to guide me – made me think “request” was meant to trick me into opening it. Like I’m getting invited to the Mayor’s re-election party or something. And I do remember driving one night and seeing three strobe like flashes out of the corner of my eye. I looked at my dash and saw I was doing low 40s in a 35 MPH zone, but wrote it off as paranoia since I was also on an old state highway versus at an intersection where one usually sees red light cameras.

Heck, I don’t even know if Portland uses photo radar for ticketing. I can’t wait to find out when I open this sometime next July.

Now, just to make sure that you’re not all looking longingly at your own balconies or googling “macrame nooses” – that might just be a Portland thing – remember, I did get a pair of new sneakers out of the ordeal.

Plus, then there’s the actual good things that happened in the last few months, no wait…weeks, no…wait hours of the year. Optimistically, I’m choosing to accept these as net positives despite the fact that the Universe tends toward Lucy behaviors to my Charlie Brown existence.

For instance, when I checked my mail last week, I got a Christmas card from Little Buddy.

I know it’s hokey and completely against my typical on-brand bitterness, but just look at that grandpa playing Santa with his grand baby! It just made me tear up again!

Also mail related: when I checked my mail last night, I found that the City of Seattle had gotten its shit together and sent me some unclaimed money.

Mind you, Portland had theirs resolved weeks ago. Like pre-Thanksgiving. But on the upside, I was expecting $100 and got a check for $123, so…I’m not complaining. Hopefully that maybe-ticket isn’t too much more than that. Actually, if the maybe-ticket turns out to be a not-ticket, that check can go right into my New TV Fund!

The actual bummer here is that I don’t want a New TV Fund. I’d been hoping to have January bills squared away last week so I could maybe splurge on a Peloton-like bike for home. My 2021 non-fiction project is going to be a bit of a redux to my Fitfy blog theme. I figure that will nicely close the loop on my aging series of non-fiction: dating, working and fitness.

Anyway, I digress. Now we’re up to Christmas Day!

I’m not kidding when I – again, against my Early Onset Grumpiness brand – say that seeing my sister and her family of three for the first time this year had me feeling things. My attendance at family Christmas was (secretly) predicated upon the size of the gathering.

Our Thanksgiving had been four – mom, dad, youngest bro and I – from three households. State guidance was no more than six – pass! – from two households – fail! Those guidelines held for Christmas, too.

That said, Christmas was set to be that same group along with the welcome addition of my sister’s family from central Oregon and the unwelcome addition of Black Sheep Bro and his two teenaged sons, whom none of us have ever met.

From Texas.

If the pandemic weren’t a thing, I’d still have “put my foot down” level issues with this occurrence.

After screwing up my courage – not in an alcohol related way – I took my shot with the parents. It’s not that I begrudge them their parental – and grandparental feelings – which I will never experience first hand, but my shot was that Christmas should be a repeat of Thanksgiving.

I know. This is why people sometimes call me the Voice of Treason.

But I figured not saying anything would be the real problem. And I didn’t want the Christmas follow up conversations to be:

People: What did you get for Christmas?

Me: Dead Family. You?

So, I said it.

What I offered was to do a same day drive over and back to drop off and pick up gifts for my sister’s family…on the additional condition that we all *not* miss BSB for another Christmas. As expected, the results were like my favorite joke* and resulted in BSB being cordially disinvited but my sister still coming over.

That suited me fine enough. Although I was chagrined-ish to run into my brother in law and nephew in the drive when I arrived, on their way out to walk the dog. After exchanging greetings and getting a brief update, my brother in law says to me, “Are you going to wear your mask in the house?” I’d completely put it on out of habit before getting out of the car.

At least I’m consistent.

Now, what you should know about my family is that we are terrible Americans. At least as far as Christmas goes. We have a small family. I’d say our “core” census is seven: mom, dad, sis, brother in law, nephew, brother, me. Even adding in what I’d call the extended family – my uncle’s family in Texas and my 98 year old hermit of a grandfather – only adds five to that.

Then there’s BSB trying to add in his brood of three to our numbers now that the wife he basically left the family for has left him. Allegedly for something that comes with a cork in it. I shared a bedroom with the guy growing up, though, and I’d say the wine was a cure and not the cause my BSB would have us believe.

But that’s another blog.

The reason we are bad Americans at Christmas is that we draw names for our gift exchange versus just buying everyone gifts from everyone. However, the upside is that between breakfast and dinner, we only have to open ~7 gifts instead of four or five dozen, so there’s very little disruption to our holiday feeding frenzy.

On top of that, we make lists. Whoever draws our names basically has a cheat sheet. My youngest brother, as I gather – having not seen his list, even put down websites. That guy came to Thanksgiving prepared!

Me? I came to Thanksgiving oblivious. When I learned the routine for this year, I was stuck completely in “What the fuck do I want?!?” mode.

I vamped my way through my list of 3-5 things before coming up with something useful:

1) Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice

2) Skateboard

Here’s the explanation of those requests. Really, though, I hoped I didn’t get those items because I’m old and hips are expensive.

3) This Tee

And then my brain kicked into gear.

4) An InstaPot.

There had been an InstaPot at last year’s Christmas, but it was a White Elephant style exchange and it got stolen by mom. But I loved the Brady Bunch Inspired gift I brought home…

I present to you the real reason 2020 has been such a shit show!

Now, this year’s rules mandated that the gifts be given anonymously – which I missed, so my brother in law knew I was his Santa – so when I opened my gift, I didn’t know who to check for smirkage.

Because it’s me, and I didn’t just happen, I was completely open to my Santa being someone who knew I’d never buy myself an InstaPot and that I was disappointed to not walk with one last Christmas. Heck, I’d gone rogue and bought my nephew a gift card to a sporting goods store and debated putting it in a box with some rocks to weigh it down, so I couldn’t reasonably expect my Santa to not have had the same notion.

But, not knowing who to scrutinize for tells, I was left with opening up the outer box for verification.

Blammo!

Apparently, not only can you find one for $100 – that’s another rule – you can find one that connects to goddamn wifi and can be controlled from your smartphone. What an amazing time to be alive!

I finally found out that my Santa was my sister. When I told her I was worried my list was either entirely gibberish or over the price limit, she gave me a humblebrag about her ability to “find a deal”. Whether that meant she’s a legit Coupon Queen or threw me a bone and bought the only thing on my list that wasn’t snarky, despite having to bend a rule is unclear. I am pretty sure she honestly found a deal. She is good like that.

Now, I just gotta decide what to make and then screw up my courage to do it!

All in all, it’s a year that makes me think “I should have moved into a unit on a higher floor” whenever I stand on my balcony. Luckily, the year is nearly behind us, so I don’t think I will be worrying whether a four story drop would qualify as a landing I could walk away from or not.

Now, for all of you who waited patiently for the *, here’s my favorite joke of all time:

What do you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic?

Halfway.

Keep in mind, I heard this joke as a pre-teen on the friggin’ Muppet Show. That Fozzy Bear could bring a house down, I tell ya. But four decades later and I’m still carrying his torch!

Don’t Call It A Recap…

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before…

So, last night while I *wasn’t* sleeping – seriously, it was like…3 in the friggin’ AM – I wandered into this secret FaceBook group I belong to.

Trust me, I belong with these people.

And actually, it was 3:30. I remember Little Buddy checking my recent sleep habits from an earlier conversation today while we were enjoying what I referred to as a breakfast beer since it was the only thing I’d had by 4 PM today besides my energy drink. Waking up at noon puts your whole day into a surreal spiral.

Anywho…in the group, I found this post

Naturally, I laughed loud enough to make Mistress Myrtle look up at me from her position by my thigh.

Shut up, hooman. I need my 20 hours of sleep a day or your life is in jeopardy!

Like I needed that reminder.

And, as if you needed a reminder about my sense of humor. What one Silver Spoon Suitor from my days in Shittatle once referred to as “blue”. Ugh. Genteel people. Gawd save me.

But this post reminded me of an old joke. One of my faves. Me – a giver – felt compelled to share it. Since it’s a secret group, I’ll save you the trouble of trying to find it.

You’re all welcome. Don’t forget to pray for me on Sunday. Maybe say an ejaculation – as one misguided nun at my prep school unfortunately phrased a group prayer from our class in honor of an ailing priest at the Grabby Abbey.

This is my life people, and fortunately, that’s the closest I ever came to harassment during my Catholic School career. 😉

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before…

I Don’t Like Anyone

Congratulations if you’ve made it to this point in my life and I like you.

Or even worse (for you) I call you friend.

Because I think the “like” department is either out of stock or never reopened after the Partial Government Shutdown.

I started thinking about this a couple weekends ago, after back to back dinner parties. But yesterday, it really crystallized for this old grumpopotamus.

I haven’t enjoyed the company of new people at all for at least a month!

Friday, I had an interview with MudBay. Again. Having breakfast with my parents beforehand, they even seemed caught between optimism and incredulity that this interview process was still going on. To be fair, I started with one DM in November and then got switched to a second in January after nothing happened with the first.

It was fine by me, DM #1 didn’t leave me feeling like she liked me as a candidate. This was after she just happened to be present when I did a drop in with a Store Manager that a former colleague recommended I talk to.

DM #2 and I seemed to really jive during our chats. So I was excited about Friday, even though the pay is pretty meh. It’s still seeming like a company that 99% aligns with what I’m looking for in a company.

So I show up out in BFE yesterday to have what I hoped was a final interview.

DM #1 was unexpectedly in attendance.

FFS.

Our conversation this time – she did more of the talking between the two of them – seemed better. DM #2 swoops in at the end to say she’ll be calling all the people they speak to in this round by Wednesday to let them know their status. I would hope that means a yea/nay on the job offer front. Regardless, it was specific. That’s way better than the way DM #1 left me hanging after our surprise first meeting.

I’ll call you when we’re ready to move forward with interviews!

Too chipper.

Also, I didn’t know this was an interview, so she didn’t have my resume to walk away.

So she didn’t have my contact info.

Or. My. Last. Name.

I can find you in our applicant tracker!

Too chipper.

By first name? You said you got hundreds of applicants. From a job that posted in June of 2018…and it’s November.

I can search by referral source, since you were referred by an employee!

Too chipper.

Plus, she should have said Muddy, since that’s what they call one another.

Well, that might narrow down the applicants with my first name. Assuming she remembered it. Or the Muddy’s name that referred me…

So, while I can at least appreciate that this conversation was a good one, I’m still a little rankled by the Shanghai Round Robin style interview.

Mostly, because I don’t like people anymore, it seems.

I actually got to have a spur of the moment lunch with Little Buddy a few days later while she was in my hood doing errand-type things. She was detoxing some family stuff with some fun adult lunch time.

I’m glad I can be that person for someone!

But, naturally, I ruined it by telling her I didn’t like the new people that came to her dinner party.

Why not? They are amazing people! So accomplished.

I dunno. The woman seemed intent on being the star of the party.

Pish. She’s fine, she just didn’t know anyone but me. You know how we can be in a group.

Fair point. But it all seemed like showing up to a wedding in a prettier dress than the bride to me.

I’m pretty sure we left that at a neutral assessment that I am just crazy.

Since it snowed here this week – with an anticipated 4″ on Friday – the wine event LB, 2.0, the Silver Fox and I were all going to Saturday got canceled.

Of course.

Naturally, the snow never materialized…

My walk to f&b for coffee was completely un-treacherous. The Fox joined me and we couldn’t decide if there was an unusual amount of families passing by outside or if there was just too few not families out to dilute their presence.

We were decidedly the only two people in the cafe for the most part until he left at 1:30. There was a couple of ladies who walked in and declared they had a half hour to kill and could they just hang out.

It had started snowing. Big, fat flakes. But, still…no! Buy a goddamned coffee and wait. Sheesh. These ladies looked to be 60-ish.

But the type of 60-ish that are entitled and well to do. Terrible combination. In my opinion, that question cost more in dignity that a $3 cup of coffee would have cost them.

I’m probably just mad because I know the cafe is struggling. Their rent is going up and likely to cut their barely double digit profit margin in half, making it likely they’ll close.

All because they’re in a convenient rendezvous area. And too nice to say

Buy a goddamn $3 cup of Joe or GTFO. Ma’am.

At two, I said goodbye to the staff and wandered next door to wash the taste of coffee out of my mouth with a Pallet Jack. Since I was in the area.

There was a cute and nice couple at the bar when I walked in. They chuckled at the catch up conversation the bartendress and I had but settled up, decanted and left shortly after I sat down. That left me, the bartendress (I’ve gone so long without giving her a nickname that I’m afraid she’s just going to become The Bartendress Without A Name…I guess I could call her T’Bwana, thoughts? It’s an acronym portmanteaus!) and a couple at one of the two tables by the window.

We continued our chatter while T’Bwana did her side work and tended the occasional need of the couple.

A third couple came in with a Plus One from New Zealand. They were fun, but not from around here, so I was over them quickly. Another regular came in and sat at the table behind me, reading.

Then.

It.

Happened.

Eight people came in. Fine. Whatever. I’ve made my peace with this illogical occurrence. Party of eight walks into a bar of mostly two-top tables.

What.

Ever.

I get it, you’re entitled, too. Maybe you’re looking for the old gals next door?

What ticked me off was that they pulled the last two tables in the main bar together for a sit down. The entire room next door – The Rug Room – is empty!

Oh, no…wait, I forgot!

This whole tome, there’s been a couple in The Rug Room. They came in, ordered drinks and went into The Rug Room. T’Bwana went in to check on them a while after and came back in with that “I’m So Sure” head tilt girls do.

What?

Is it weird that there’s 8 tables and 15 chairs in there and those two are sitting cross legged on the floor?!?

Kum-bay-yes! What the what?!?

Regardless, plenty of room for this octet in The Rug Room is the point. Instead, they decide to become a black hole in the middle of the main bar.

And they pulled the last two tables together crooked so there’s no good path around them that doesn’t involve a hop on one foot.

Naturally, I finish my beer and leave.

Loudly.

I might have mentioned something to T’Bwana as I was settling up.

So, I could make an anonymous call to the Fire Marshall for ya…I know you work for tips and can’t piss these oblivious bastards off.

T’Bwana texted me later saying they’d left shortly after me.

Huh.

Ok, one last example of how I don’t like anyone…and it’s my favorite story from the last couple weeks, so I hope you hung on.

This could only happen to me.

The Silver Fox had a dinner party. Me, him and his new neighbor. His new neighbor is having trouble making friends. Now, normally I’d give this type of invite a wide berth, cuz it’s an obvious setup, right?

Well, The Fox has me covered

Don’t worry, you aren’t his type, he likes younger guys, too.

Ouch.

But he’s right. He’s seen a guy I flung with once getting off the elevator on their floor. Me, being the Devil. No. Devil’s Advocate, mention that maybe the NY transplant gay couple on his floor are Portland-ing it up with a random third?

They’re in Palm Springs.

Nertz.

His assumption is solid.

I meet this guy from LA and – more recently – down the hall and he is just so friggin’ so.

Precious.

I’m calling him Jimbo.

A) because he’s from New Orleans, originally.

B) he would hate that nickname. And,

C) if you pronounce the “J” with a Spanish accent, you get “himbo” or a male bimbo, and he was!

He monopolized the conversation with unamusing anecdotes about how precious he is.

He has two houses in New Orleans.

He wants to buy a house in France when he retires. But not alone! Why not? I’m sitting here with you and my best friend, and I’m feeling pretty alone!

His BMW is hard to park in this little garage.

He can’t believe that condos in this building are selling for a half mil more than his house in the Hollywood Hills. Thank god he rented that instead of selling!

Why?

Topping it off, he has a friend visiting from Seattle soon.

Ok, that’s all your problem in meeting friends. No one compares to you. You’re fresh off the boat from the west coast city with the most superficial people, importing people from the west coast city that has yet to learn how to deal with its near instantaneous wealth and living in the chill city trapped between them.

Yeah. That’s your problem.

Shortly after we finished dinner – asparagus risotto and what must have been 24 ounce steaks! – he was talking about a shoe dilemma. He’d just mentioned he was a clothes horse.

The Fox gamely interrupted with a question about Marie Kondo. I loved that.

Of course, since Jimbo’s name isn’t Marie Kondo, he didn’t have time for the question and went back to his shoes. Apparently, they’re his faves but he needs to have them resoled and worked on.

I haven’t tried the guy you recommended, but I just can’t find a good shoe guy up here.

Welp, at least you’ve clearly overwhelmed yourself by turning over every stone.

He went on to share his decision on his ultra first world problem…

I have to go to LA in a few weeks for work. I’ll just take them to my old shoe guy. But I’m gonna tell him he has to get them done in a day.

Because, obviously.

One couldn’t trust this gifted shoe tradesman to be able to mail a shoebox. No, Jimbo needs his shoes now. This guy is so lucky to have a customer like Jimbo. I’ll bet he threw a party when she left town,

The Fox gave his dog, George, a doggie downer before the guests arrived. It had kicked the hell in.

Hard.

George was stoned out of his doggie brain.

And nuzzling my crotch while I scratched his butt.

The Fox got up to get dessert. I was so full, but…dessert!

You know what, G? I’m so full! But I’m still eating my dessert! Yeas I am. Yes I am! I’m just gonna fart to make some room and blame you! Yes I am!

A few minutes later, I pick up a decidedly not doggie scented fart coming from Jimbo’s end of the couch.

Oh, FFS. Really? You’re a precious homosexual…could you please act like it?!?

I debated telling him I was just joking about farting and blaming the dog. I may lack a certain – or any couth, but I have manners.

I can hold a fart – usually – until I get home.

Then he did it again.

Oh, this. This!

I really don’t like most people. But the ones I don’t like most are really amusing. For sure, not in the previous way that they think they are amusing, either. And the people I do like enjoy the shit that happens to me just as much as I do!

Because, it really would only happen to me…

I Don’t Like Anyone

Tappa-Kegga-Day

That was what we called kegger night in college.Literally.

Ok, maybe just too old for a birthday on a three day weekend. Because the MLK day/Xtopher’s birthday alignment means my birthday was celebrated for four damn days.

Today is a day of rest.

Also, I have a handyman here (not) fixing things.

Having been busy yesterday, I just checked the Facebook for the first time since…maybe Saturday? Friday?!? Oh, the social media birthday love. It motivated me to share some of my weekend with you, which I wasn’t planning on.

My brain is fatigued and more than slightly pickled, though…fatigued from three weeks of daily writing. Im thinking of hanging that initiative up this Friday or Saturday. My goal was daily blog posts for a month. Would the 1st-26th count?

My original goal was to wear myself out writing so when I go in to try editing my book again, I make notes on what I want to edit. Last time I went in to try and edit, I started adding and fracked up my timeline.

I figure wrap up my January writing initiative, take a few days to read a book a blog buddy sent over – I’m seriously burnt out on words enough that I’m barely reading the blogs I follow. When I sat down to his book, the only opinion I had was

Nope. Cannot do.

(I’m sorry, Phil, I’m working on it!)

So, take a few days to read my friend’s work then get cracking on some damage control on my own.

Anyhoo, I’m sure you’ve already figured out the pickling problem.

Or, not-problem.

The unexpected outpouring of well-wishes I encountered on the Facebook surprised me, as usual. It also kinda washed over me and extended my birthday feels another day.

Friday and Saturday were pretty low key, drinks and shenanigans with my own version of Fox & Friends. Little Buddy shot me an invite, all spur of the moment, to go see a Power Point Improv show we’d discussed a while back. I couldn’t make it, prior engagement.

Birthday weekend shenanigans…

I debated not telling her it was birthday-related. I really am low key about my birthday. Swearsies.

Saturday when I was out with the Silver Fox, I asked him

My family has been quiet about my birthday. Are they up to something? If they are…I kinda feel like I should get a haircut.

He assured me that they were not. Then he casually remarked that I might want to get a haircut, though.

Jerk.

Hehe. I assumed he was commenting about my overall shagginess.

Resolutions for the new year?

Not exactly my thing. But when I do make them, they are me all the way.

1) Write and post a blog entry daily, which you all know.

2) Not cut my hair.

I’ve been trying to grow out a longer style for the last six months or so. Around June, I figured if I wasn’t going to work, maybe I should indulge my back of mind musings on having crazy old man hair.

Why not?

Only, the last few times I’ve gone in to get it cleaned up around the edges, I’ve ended up long on top, trimmed back to above the ears and looking like a Flock of Seagulls refugee.

So, I gave basic hair maintenance two tries and then embargoed it til the end of January. When I make up my mind about these types of things, I always feel bad for my friends. They’re the ones that have to look at – no, endure the fallout.

Anyway, I don’t care, my family isn’t planning anything, so I don’t give it much more thought. A little later, my mom texts me and invites me to brunch on my birthday.

Perfect. Nice and low key, just the way I like it.

For Sunday afternoon, The Fox and I had just planned on going to the hotel bar next door for a few beers. Then we were going to come back to my place and watch some Grace & Frankie. It was a perfect plan.

When we meet up on the corner, he announces that Owl X had texted him that Pallet Jack was back at Big Legrowlski.

Well, I guess we’re going to BL!

I’m laughing and crossing Everett before I even finish the sentence.

All things being equal, it’s Sunday afternoon. I know either bar will have some of my favorite staff working – all of whom definitely fall into the Guy Candy category. But Joey at Legrowlski is in his last couple of weekends before leaving the country to work overseas and has a habit of “accidentally” oversharing the most scintillating personal details. Unless the Tanner Creek boys are working in jock straps for my birthday, Pallet Jack and Joey win!

We walk in and I’m immediately irked by the twosome sitting in the corner. They brought their dog in. I love the dogs that come with or walk by at The Fox and I sit outside sipping away the Summer.

But not inside.

I’m trading hellos with Joey while I hope the Rug Room isn’t too packed, cuz I don’t want to sit on the small bar side with a dog.

Are you surprised?!?

I’m debating how to answer:

– Surprised you let a dog – other than me! – in?!?

– Surprised that I don’t see Pallet Jack on the tap list?!?

Don’t let anyone tell you that being a grumpy old man is easy.

Decisions, decisions.

The Fox is pulling me out of the way. I’m trying to look behind me to see whose way I’m in and he’s shoving me into the Rug Room.

Surprise!

My parents, siblings and brother in law are tucked around a pub table in one corner. Their table, I notice, is blocking the fire exit. The Fox is standing behind me, trying to get me into the group. They certainly know me.

Little Buddy, 2.0 and JOrtis are sitting around a low table, looking pretty happy with themselves.

Diezel and Linda Belcher are wrapped into the far corner, flanking some other guy. It’s kind of dark and the walls are all black in the Rug Room, but I really don’t know if I don’t remember him, can’t see him well enough to recognize honor if someone brought me a present.

Nah…that would be weird.

Not unwelcome…just weird.

What I should have said is:

Do you know what this could do to a man my age?!?

Or,

Surprised someone throws a surprise party for a something-ty-first birthday?!?

But instead I just stood there with my mouth hanging slightly open.

The Silver Fox is chuckling contentedly behind me and still nudging me, so I begin hugging my way into the room. As I’m finishing, people start shifting their comments toward birthday beers.

It’s not that they are out of Pallet Jack, it’s that in order to ensure they have Peej for the party, they’ve been sitting on a keg for the past two weeks! Owl X and I had even discussed it the prior week as I was leaving, neither palleted nor jacked and she said, “See you soon!”

You got any Pallet Jack on order?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure. Brendan” – the owner and Dude enthusiast – “said he wanted to keep it on tap always, so probably?”

Sneaky.

Joey takes me into the walk-in and I’m resisting saying anything about Three Minutes in Heaven. Somehow we manage to get about five people into the walk-in to document the transition. Several of us are lecturing Joey on how tapping a keg used to be a lot harder than what he talked me through…when we were your age.

I’d actually seen the new tap mechanisms back in my grocery working days a few Great-Job-Hunts-ago.

The Fox was talking about Rent Parties that we would have in college. Get a keg for $35 and invite your friends over for a $5 all-you-can-drink night!

I was telling Joey how we would have to manually pump the taps at those keg nights.

My sister was angling for a good pic. Hint: I no longer have a “good side”!

But here ya go…

Birthday Boy with his birthday beer!

A little later someone rectified the situation on the tap list, too.

That eventually – after we got booted from the rug room three hours later so the band could set up – evolved into having a Secret Tap “for the regulars”. A few of them stopped by over the course of the afternoon and evening and shared a pint with the party. Owl X had been a little late arriving and missed the tap moment, but she found the light controls and smoke machine! Karaoke was briefly discussed and abandoned.

I think we’d held the festivities – and the bar side – hostage with our sheer number of people for another hour before people started heading off into the cloudy evening. No Blood Wolf Moon viewing here in Portland!

Diezel and his date – the stranger was his. I mean, geez, D, it’s my birthday…you gotta let me unwrap something! – had another birthday party to go to and we’re the first to leave. I got to chat with them a while and I have to say, I’m glad Diezel may have found himself a good old keeper.

Not to jinx anything. Since I’m not involved, I think it’s safe…

Little Buddy took her guys and headed off toward the ‘Couv. She has a kiddo at home to think of feeding. I forgot to ask how the Power Point Improv was, but in retrospect, I think it may have even been a red herring!

My family was the next to go, but almost the last to leave besides The Fox, Owl X and I. Mom was “taking one for the team” as my sister put it and acting as the family DD. Still, having her driving after dark on a cloudy night was a little hard for me to be 100% comfortable with.

On the other hand, I hadn’t been drunk with my siblings since…I dunno. Maybe my sister’s wedding? But I don’t think we were out of control for that. My brother rarely has a beer, let alone what we decided was four for him that night. My sister shocked me by jumping in head first with her first beer. Since Peej was not yet available, she had a Notorious Triple IPA…just an 11.2% alcohol by volume concoction.

Hats off, sis!

My dad took a break from his canned water of choice (Coors Light, which I heard they were giving away in Flint for hydration, j/s dad!) and enjoyed some of Oregon’s Finest.

Tastes a little apricot-y.

My favorite moment of the night!

I’d said the exact same words to Little Buddy the first time her, 2.0 and I had gotten together for beers. LB and I were working together again, her and 2.0 had just decided to give the dating thing another go and I’d been convinced to try an IPA. I’d notoriously hated them for 20 years, opting instead for Ambers and Reds.

They were surprised by my statement.

Well, it’s definitely got a stone fruit note to it.

They humored me. Well, maybe they agreed that I had a weird mouth and I agreed to ignore their assessment.

“It must just be a weird palate thing with your family”, Little Buddy said.

This is why we’re friends.

Joey’s shift had ended and my other favorite bartendress had reported for duty, sneaking a crowler of the good stuff into my goodie bag.

Linda Belcher was the last non-regular to leave. Although, since she passes the bar on her way rom her office to the bus stop, she’s known to wander in looking for me on occasion.

Sometimes she sees me and joins me.

Other times I’m not there.

Still others, she doesn’t see me.

I think I enjoy the times she sees me and joins me most, but those times she doesn’t see me are pretty friggin hilarious.

We got to sit in the Rug Room and chat a little. The band was really good, just a him & her type duo. Not too loud, so we could enjoy both the music and some talk. Her husband – Bob Belcher of Bob’s Burger fame, obviously – is in Nepal for several months and I’ve been meaning to check in on Linda Belcher for a couple weeks…just…life.

There were some folks I’d have loved to see present. Some – like Filipina Fox and her husband – were out of town for the weekend. Others, the Silver Fox just couldn’t contact because he didn’t have their contact info. He’s not on social media, so he couldn’t use Messenger as a tool to reach out to my other known associates.

The biggest shocker wasn’t how well he pulled this off – starting with hiding the keg weeks ago. No, it was that he kept it a secret. That’s truly impressive. He’s always accidentally giving away the twist in a movie or show. I think the years that we’ve been friends have caused some of my sneakiness to accidentally rub off on him.

I woke myself up on my actual birthday morning because I’d been smiling so hard in my sleep that I think I couldn’t actually be unconscious and simultaneously that happy.

There’s worse ways to wake up.

We finally got to watch some Grace & Frankie last night. I know you were worried.

Birthday breakfast.

Birthday lunch.

And then the bottle of wine The Fox got me last year at my birthday to round out the birthday proper while we binged on Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s old-age misadventures.

I was exhausted after four days of friendly camaraderie and about a month’s worth of alcohol in that same timeframe.

My low key day today brought all the feels back just by opening Facebook. I’ve been doing a good job of only checking in once a day. Actually, I’ll miss days now and then.

Yesterday was one of those days.

That big old birthday smile came back. For some, maybe it’s not a big deal…but to me, having over 100 folks take time out of their day to wish me well is a big deal.

Touching.

Even Portland’s former mayor dropped me a note.

Replying to these messages is what made me think to blog about my birthday in detail. Plus, this gave me a chance to prove that I didn’t drink too much!

I remembered!

It started out about like this blog…

Then got sweet…

I didn’t even know I had birthday wishes! Outside of the lottery win that refused to comply…

Actually, there was a little WTF moment when I started responding. Check out the background…

Hmmm. <unfriend>? Actually, it fits my personality. Well, not the “god” part. But, it’s the thought, right?

And speaking of my personality. One of The Fabulous Baker Sisters has to weigh in!

And, I’m case you worried, we had more than a few Myrtle mentions…

So, here’s to another year of surviving Myrtle’s Gulag, life and the occasional happy surprise.

Thanks for reading, every one of you!

Tappa-Kegga-Day

TIL #9: Picking Your Battles

Having a strategy is a good thing. It sure beats careening around from one day to the next. But I’m not talking about those long game strategies: school, career, relationships, kids…picket fences along the way as you will.

No, I’m talking about those short game strategies that ice your life cake.

Think of these smaller strategies as if they are putting in a game of golf. You may get on the green in three on a par 5 hole, but if your short game is weak – or worse yet, sucks – you’ll be lucky to make it off the green with a par, probably a bogie.

But if you’ve got a good short game, maybe you come in with an eagle, at 1 under.

Now, Oldie Hawns have been openly indulging in this short strategy for decades – much to the enjoyment of more recent generations.

Namely, the early bird special. Dinner at 4:00? Trading cocktail hour for a food happy hour…that’s a good strategy. Home in time for a Wheel of Fortune binge before bed time.

Right

See? That’s what we do instead of learn from the professional lifers, we make fun of the situation.

Maybe it’s cute.

Witty.

Maybe they’re sitting there watching Wheel making fun of us stiffs that are still struggling with a homeward commute while they have a Dove Bar for dessert at 6:00. Yeah, who’s the sucker?

But, as most of us are living that Synchronicity nightmare while our shrinking senior citizens are settling up at Old Town Buffet – trapped like lemmings in our shining metal boxes – it’s not a great example of a viable short game strategy, right?

Well, here’s a few better ideas. Some I’ve learned by watching, others by doing, and others by trial and error.

Sidenote: now that I’ve gotten all wound up, each of the ideas I wanted to talk about…<pffft!> Gone. Let’s see if I can mind palace my way to the end of this entry…

Of course, the Silver Fox has inadvertently mentored me. He recently had an unusual experience at the doctors office. He had a 10:00 appointment and figured he’d be home for coffee at around 10:40, not 10:45…10:40. The man has routine down.

Except

His normal routine is to snag the first appointment after the office opens. Of course, because he’s a slave to what I call Fox Time, he’s usually – I imagine – sitting in his car 15 minutes before the doors are unlocked.

His claim: get in and out before they have a chance to fall behind.

I get that, I do. It makes sense…except as a worker bee, I don’t want to get up an hour early so I can go to the doctor before work, I want to build in a short day with an afternoon appointment! If it takes longer than expected, so much the better…I don’t feel so guilty about not going back to work, right?

But here he is, one of my favorite retirees: up and at it early when he has literally all the time in the world.

It is a sound strategy, though. He surprised me by not having an early appointment the other day. When I tried to get to our cafe on Fox Time, it backfired on us both. I sent him a pic of my coffee at 10:45 and he replied that he was still in the waiting room…45 minutes after his appointment time!

Proving his point…

One of my favorite strategies is Thursday night movie releases in DT Portland. Turns out, downtown theaters are empty on a “school” night!

Getting a jump on blockbuster weekends, the studios usually do a 7-ish and 10-ish Thursday night showing. That’s their strategy to boost release weekend ticket sales without cutting all the way back to Wednesday releases, like they used to.

Me, loving large crowds like I don’t, used to wait until Monday or Tuesday after the release and just avoid water coolers until I saw whatever I wanted to see. Now, I can be the first to see a new movie and there’s maybe two dozen people in the theater with me.

Captain Marvel.

Avengers: Endgame

Spiderman: Far From Home

You know where I’ll be on the Thursday night before their official release! It’s worth missing out on half price popcorn Tuesdays.

Hell, who am I kidding? I’ll probably see two shows those weeks…I’d hate to miss a sale.

However, if I were a patient person that didn’t have any hint of FOMO, I’d just wait a few weeks and catch the flick on a Tuesday as it’s box office stay wound down, right? Nah…you know I’ll double dip if it’s any good. I’ll probably see Captain Marvel on Tuesday before I see Avengers; likewise a second fix of Avengers before I get my Peter Parker European Vacation on Thursday.

I tell you one thing, if Marvel didn’t manage a Chevy Chase/Beverly d’Angelo cameo, I will be slightly bummed.

The dwindling crowds at movie theaters as a movie’s run winds down is one thing. I’ve learned through trial and error, though, that the same does not follow for theater.

Closing night/day performances at Portland Center Stage are just packed…definitely not my favorite thing. But theater dates with Little Buddy and JOrtis are my thing, so it’s a tough call.

Nah, it’s not really.

Theater with some of my favorite peeps is a no brainer. Especially when they cry earlier and more than me.

I know that theater is packed because they have a finite run. Movie theaters don’t have a Leaving Soon campaign. Movies will just start showing less frequently, going from a showing every hour to a showing every three hours and then two shows a day…and then <poof!> they are just gone.

And these last play performances really feel different. It’s like the last chance for actors to deliver in these roles and they tend to leave everything on the stage.

Which makes the waterworks with me and my theater compatriots even more dramatic. We joke about having theater scarves to blot our eyes. Maybe we’ve just figured out why scarves are such an accessory at the theater.

Oh, gawd…what if my friends and I are slow?!?

Probably PCS just needs to change the filters in their HVAC system so shit stops blowing in our eyes…

So, what are your strategic life hacks? Sharing is caring…unless it’s an STD, that is.

TIL #9: Picking Your Battles

Tse Tse & Me

Isn’t that lil bugger adorable? Not sure what’s going on with the tail end condensation there…maybe he got ahold of some olean products.

Cute, anal leaking or not, this guy has been in my mind the last couple of days as I’ve found myself succumbing to spontaneous involuntary bouts of unconsciousness. I’d guess that I’ve slept 34 out of the last 48 hours.

Realistically, since I am sleeping at night, turning in around my normal midnight bedtime and easily sleeping through until ten AM, when Myrtle’s hungry, bitching meows finally succeed in waking me, I know it’s not Sleeping Sickness. The Tse Tse Fly bite generally causes nighttime wakefulness, prompting daytime slumber.

I’m only suffering from that last part.

On Sunday, I woke at 6 AM after heading to bed at 10 the night before. I was unusually relaxed after three beers at Tanner Creek Tavern next door to my house. A couple of months ago, they stopped ordering Breakside IPA, a favorite of The Fox and me as well as a top draw for us to belly up. The staff is fantastic and pretty easy on the eyes, but y’know…what I can drink up with my eyes is a minor part of my bar allegiance decision making process. Discovering that Tanner Creek had brought in a Barley Brown IPA to placate our Breakside Boycott – an act of resistance that included the Silver Fox and I walking into the bar with 22 ounce bottles of Breakside that we purchased from the Brodega across the street – lured us back.

That the new addition was also an 8.5% ABV promoted a nice, early bedtime after three doses.

I didn’t think much of my early rise, since it was a legitimate eight hours of sleep. Still, I managed to procrastinate my way through the morning until I had to get ready for a noon:30 meet up with Jortis and Little Buddy for our semi-regular theater going at Portland Center Stage.

The show was at 2:00, but we were meeting for…brunch, yeah…brunch at 12:30. I sat down on the couch to kill time while my hair dried and woke up at 1:30. I’d fallen asleep in a seated position.

Ridiculous.

I rarely nap. I want to say “never”, but when I’m sick, it happens. Or when I’m getting sick. Confused from my unconsciousness, I texted my apologies to Jortis who had sent me a text when I was 10 minutes late, which is kind of unlike me. Not that I’m not usually the last one there, since I live closest and usually head out on the four block walk at our designating meeting time…

A couple hours later I awoke to a response text reminding me that the show started at 2:00 and at the time it landed there was still 30 minutes before showtime.

It was 3:30.

Having failed at making my only plans for the day, I put on a movie and promptly fell asleep again on the couch.

When my excessive sleep followed me into a second day, I began to shift my neurotic hypochondria to more realistic sources – having not been to the Congo recently.

I spent some of my few waking hours wondering if the teenage dream disease-slash-excuse for doing nothing for an entire school year had actually caught up with me.

Out of all of the symptoms listed, I was only experiencing malaise and fatigue. I for sure wasn’t experiencing any loss of appetite, having made a pound of pasta and 18 meatballs on Sunday night, finishing it for breakfast on Monday morning.

The Fox posited that my symptoms might have been a result of my return to exercise greatness last week. I was experiencing some good delayed onset muscle soreness, but was reluctant to chalk my excessive sleep up to exercise. Knowing me and my tendency to procrastinate at the drop of a hat, it was a problematic diagnosis.

Having successfully not only remained awake for a solid three hours straight but also cleaned myself up and dragged myself out of the house, I’m beginning to accept the notion that what had me down the last two days was something much simpler.

Last week was the end of Portland’s first real week of Fall weather. Lots of rainy afternoons. That, plus 4 PM nightfall could easily trigger a little SAD in the most diehard PNW natives.

And I’m not much of a diehard…I even use an umbrella! But only when it really rains.

Pair that basic root cause with what is likely to be my last attempt at dating for the year – if not ever – and I can see where my defenses against a torpor spiral could have failed me. Especially when I think of how my persistent seeming unhireability contributed to weakening those defenses.

Ugh, and then there’s the holiday.

Maybe Portland’s first Fall Storm was just the icing on the perfect emotional storm cake that’s been baking in my psyche these past few months. But at least my response was to simply ride it out with a nap, I’m pretty sure that could have been worse.

Like I said earlier, I’m out and about today, which is a good change of pace. I’m looking at other changes in behavior that I can stop/start/continue to maintain an upward emotional trajectory.

I think dating can easily fall into the stop bucket.

Enough of that emotional mayhem.

I know, emotionally exhausting as it is, that I must continue my job search. I need the sense of purpose work provides. However, I’m kind of battling the whole mentality of the pursuit. I want a job that aligns with my interests and values. Jobs like those pay me every day versus every two weeks. But my phone – and the job search alerts it sends me – seems to be pointing me in a different direction.

Really, LinkedIn? Three decades of retail management work experience and you’ve managed to scrounge up an open position at 7-Eleven? They also like to throw a management job at a local gas station/convenience store chainlet at me once or twice a week. That job has been open for six months!

Talk about a red flag.

The struggle for me now in my job search is not applying for jobs like that out of a desperate mindset. While they pay 1/3 of what I’m realistically worth, and half of what I accepted when I embarked on my last professional misadventure, the last thing I need is to be rejected for a position for which I’m grossly overqualified.

So, unfortunately, job search falls into the continue bucket. I just need to silence the voice in my head that is chanting the definition of insanity.

Maybe the start I need in my career search is developing new skills. I’ve been low-key exploring getting a professional certification in Human Resources after my last job. Generally, I hold an organization’s HR department in fairly low esteem, having experienced the execution of their dual responsibilities – the best interests of the employees and protecting the organization they serve – manifest as pencil whipping their job description. I’m not eager to sign up for professional impotence. If I want a poor return on my efforts, I could keep dating.

Then again, it pays well…even if the pay off isn’t professional satisfaction.

Alright. So I’ve got some vague marching orders. The local cafe has chosen to not play music today and the corner I’ve tucked into to enjoy my coffee while I write my way out of my torpor has now been surrounded by cubicle dwellers escaping for lunch.

All of those misophonia triggers have positioned themselves close enough to me for me to smack them, as their poor table manners require…so I should GTFO of here before I end up accidentally assaulting someone with my empty mug.

Off to the gym!

Plus, I just farted.

Tse Tse & Me